Guatemala Outtatown

Gringos Meet Carnaval

The day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is usually celebrated as Pancake/Fat Tuesday in Canada, but the Guatemalans like to celebrate it a little differently. Site 1 had the chance to take part in a bit of Carnaval festivities. The day started at Spanish school, like any regular day for us in San Juan del Obispo, but this school day was different as our leaders surprised us with pica picas. Pica picas are dried out eggshells that have been painted and filled with confetti. The goal is to smash them on people’s heads.

It is tradition in Guatemala that Carnaval is the last day to celebrate with pica picas before Lent begins. Many students will testify to being attacked by host moms, siblings, and even grandparents with pica picas that day. It’s a very fun tradition to be part of, with everyone laughing and colourful by the end. It’s a pretty beautiful sight seeing people of all ages with confetti in their hair and smiles on their faces.

Two members of our site, Ada Krahn and Aaron Johnston, really enjoyed the pica pica game so much that they decided to buy a bag of pica picas to attack different Outtatowners at the central park of San Juan del Obispo. What they weren’t expecting, is for another group of Guatemalan high school students to be doing the exact same thing to their friends in the park. Ada and Aaron took a chance and decided to get the group of Guatemalans with some of the pica picas they had bought.

It was a pretty wild scene to watch, with everyone screaming and running around until they were all covered in shells and confetti. But the group of high schoolers weren’t done yet and, before Ada could stop her, one of the girls whipped out a raw egg and smashed it on his head! Ada relentlessly chased her through the park to try to break even more pica picas on her head. A little while later, Ada got his revenge by smashing a raw egg on her head as well. The battle ended in lots of laughter.

That day was a unique experience that I’ve never seen in Canada. One thing I have taken from Guatemalan culture is the strong sense of community encompassing the country. You can sit on a park bench and be unsurprised if a local woman sits down next to you and chats about the weather. And it is custom to constantly acknowledge anyone you pass on the street with a “¡Buenos Dias!” in the morning. The interactions I’ve had within such a broad community will be a huge part of what I will miss when I go back home, but it’s also something our whole site wants to challenge ourselves to bring home as well. Overall, having fun with pica picas was an awesome way to experience a part of the culture and to get into the spirit of Carnaval, even if we are still a bunch of clueless gringos.

– Kyla Willms, Site 1 Guatemala student, 2018-19

Doing Life and Discipleship Together

Cam Priebe has been Director of Outtatown, CMU’s discipleship school, for the past eight years. June 1 marks a big transition for him and the program, as he leaves his position and becomes the Provincial Director for the Manitoba Brethren Church of Manitoba. Cam recently reflected on his journey with Outtatown:


What impact has Outtatown had on your life?

The first thing that comes to mind is relationships. I’ve worked with almost 60 site leaders over the course of my time and I’ve been inspired by being around these people who are committed to their faith, to loving those they’re leading, but also loving those they’re working together with. Sometimes you couldn’t find a group of leaders more different than one another, and to watch them work together in a spirit of unity has been inspirational. The other thing I think of involves the many partners I’ve gotten to know. I think of Luis Carlos in Guatemala, who’s involved in after school youth ministry, recently started a church, and has a big love for his neighbours. Another is Stefans, who has been the bus driver for our South Africa site for over eight years and is with each group for three months. The way he serves and genuinely cares for our students is amazing. He refers to them as his kids.


What will you take with you from this experience to your next position?

The importance of doing life and discipleship together. We never designed this discipleship journey to be an isolated thing. When I’m thinking of the churches I’ll be working with, I’m thinking of the remarkable example of these student communities doing life together as they journey. Forgiveness is essential to community, and I’ve seen it played out time and again on as students seek out reconciliation with one another. I hope that this picture of what it is to share in forgiveness together will stay with me.


Where have you witnessed Outtatown changing lives?

Watching the faith formation experience of leaders has been profound. To watch leaders grow in the knowledge of what it means to walk in faith, and know that doesn’t mean that everything’s going to turn out right. It means rather to recognize that God will be faithful and be with us. This is one of the transformational experiences I witness and am part of. Another way I see this is in students having the profound experience of learning to understand people who are different than themselves. To watch students embrace that and sit down with people and listen, whether it be a person living on the streets in Vancouver or our friend Peter from Roseau River First Nation or a Guatemalan host family, is pretty exciting.


What are your thoughts about the transitions coming up for Outtatown?

When I think about Outtatown and what we’ve been trying to live out, I think of our mission statement: to inspire and nurture students in their life of discipleship with Jesus Christ. There are going to be some changes, but that commitment isn’t changing and that has me filled with hope, because that’s the key to who we are and where we’re headed.

– Cam Priebe interviewed by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe, appearing in Spring 2019 Blazer