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