Burkina Faso Outtatown

May: Press On

Our last five days were spent at a youth retreat centre in Ecouen, a town just north of Paris, France, where we celebrated together and debriefed our entire experience on Outtatown. Throughout our days there, many moments were spent reminiscing about the profound and hilarious adventures. It was during that time that I realized how special our community was; the place of belonging I had found and how God had impacted each one of us in a unique way.

Our group leaders led a session on story sharing on one of the days. We brainstormed the significant memories from our three months and then we were challenged to share the best stories in either a 30-second or 2-minute time frame. The idea behind this was that as us students transition back home, not everyone is going to want to know the details of our entire journey on Outtatown. To understand a story better is to tell a story better. The activity pushed me to really reflect on what was the big take away in each story.

On the last night there, our worship committee led us in a foot washing ceremony. As Jesus washed his disciples' feet before he left them, we washed each other’s feet before going our separate ways. After the foot washing, we sang worship songs together and spent time praying for one another through intentional prayer. I found myself fighting back tears the entire evening, as I could no longer deny that Outtatown was coming to an end. I was going to miss my new family, the sense of belonging and the energy that each person brought to our group.

As I look back on my time on Outtatown, I know that I miss my community. Despite the pain of moving forward, I’m excited for the opportunities down the road. God challenged me more than ever before in my life; I know that if I grew through these challenges, I will grow during my next journey. As Paul and Timothy wrote in Philippians, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I leave that message with all of you: press on towards Jesus. For my brothers and sisters from Outtatown, you are stronger than you know, you can do more than you can imagine because He dwells in you. He is with you every step of the way; if that is the case, will you press on?

– Liam Kachkar, Burkina Faso student 2016

Burkina Faso Outtatown

December: Billy’s Talent

While in Montreal, our site saw how urban poverty shapes communities and the people within them. On Thanksgiving Monday we experienced the inner-city, watched how people went about their activities, as we had the option to engage with people on the streets. That morning I, along with two others, met a homeless man in his 50’s named Billy. We spent a fair bit of time talking with this very intelligent, clean-clothed, and gracious man.

Before leaving, we told him that if we were in the area again, we’d come say hi—little did we know that we’d have that opportunity that very afternoon. After lunch, our leaders gave us a few hours and a bit of cash to go back into the inner-city community to “make an impact in the local community.”

We started off our afternoon with a lot of walking, sharing food, and enjoying small talk with those on the streets. A few hours later we saw Billy a couple blocks away from his morning spot. He was very happy to see us and we began to engage in more great conversation. We mentioned how we hadn’t really explored Montreal too much, so Billy said he’d be our own personal tour guide!

After 25 years of life on the streets, Billy had learned lots and had so much to share with us: This was evident in how we seemed to be respected by others on the streets. One example of this was when another homeless person began to heckle my friends for money. He was quickly quieted by Billy who said, “Leave them alone, they’re with me.” When we said goodbye to Billy outside a Metro station, we were saying goodbye to someone who not only welcomed us into Montreal, but became our unlikely friend.

Despite the amount of time and energy he spent on us, he never asked for any money or food from us. When we did offer him food, he only took it because we had told him that we had food for ourselves.

Billy was definitely not perfect, but he shared a certain essence of Jesus with us in the way he welcomed and led us—despite him being a poor, recovering drug addict living on the streets. What will you learn if you spend time with the people on the streets whom you usually walk past?

 – Sarah Isaak (Burkina Faso '16)