Canada Outtatown South Africa

June: Learning about Diversity

This past year on Outtatown I learned that there can be so much diversity within one country, let alone the world. It would be easy for me to talk about the diversity and racial struggles in South Africa, but I’m going to talk about my own country instead.

Travelling across western Canada, I saw how many different groups that our nation beholds. Growing up in coastal British Columbia, I’ve always seen the beauty of Aboriginal culture, especially in artwork. While in Manitoba on Outtatown, we learned so much immersed in life on the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation community, through experiencing traditional practices like the sweat lodge, hearing from elders, and watching one man make carvings out of deer bones. All of this was incredible.

We also had a day of learning about their past and the struggles and the pain that they’ve gone through. I had learned about residential schools and how reservations came into existence, but never as in depth as I did in Winnipeg during our blanket exercise. Hearing just how excruciating and horrific my European ancestors made it for the Anishinabe and other Indigenous peoples brought me guilt and anger. That being said, I am very happy to see how strong and resilient this group is, and I hope that we can continue to show them the love and respect that they truly deserve.

Canada is a huge country filled with people from all corners of the Earth. It was really special to enter into others’ holy spaces and learn about faiths different from our own. As Christians, we are called to love everyone and we cannot let a difference in faith or religion stop us from doing that. I have loved having the opportunity to experience so many cultures within Canada and South Africa, and Outtatown is definitely to thank for that.

– Cole Stewart, South Africa student 2016-17

Outtatown South Africa

March: My Outtatown Experience

It was on my recent one-week taste of Outtatown Discipleship School in South Africa that I learned about giving yourself to a culture, learning from people whose life experience is massively different than your own. Kids in their desire to simply play with adults and have fun taught me to relax. Walking around Soweto and bombarding Outtatown’s South African partners inspired me to learn.

I talk about Outtatown like it's my job…because it is my job. As an Admissions Counsellor at CMU, I need to have a good understanding of our programs in order to explain them to potential students. This is why I went to South Africa: to experience Outtatown in person, so my excitement and learning about the program would translate to authentic conversation later on.

Outtatown gives students the chance to learn in a way that no university classroom or professor can offer. To gain perspective and deeper understanding of one’s self and of faith, one must get “out of dodge”, harbour a spirit of curiosity, and immerse oneself in something completely new. The people that Outtatown students connect to, inspire a desire to learn, and provide profound perspective on life.

Perspective starts with the little things. Arriving in South Africa, I couldn’t wrap my mind around driving on the left-hand side of the road. I exclaimed upon meeting the Outtatown group, “they drive on the wrong side of the road here!” One of the leaders, with sage patience informed me, “It’s not wrong—it’s different.” This was my first prompt to check my assumptions at the door and think before I speak. Dinner that night was my second prompt. Asking for ketchup at a restaurant won me looks of utter confusion from my server. From across the room, an Outtatown site manager yells to me, “It’s called tomato sauce, here!” I was humbled by my cultural ignorance, and steeled myself for a week of suspending all assumptions while assuming a posture of learning. This was not my country.

The next day we met Mpho, who has been a partner with Outtatown for over of a decade. He was our main guide when we visited Soweto. When I first met Mpho he spoke about his upbringing; that he was told where to work, where to live, who he could associate with. I thought he just had a really controlling family. Halfway through the conversation it dawned on me that he was talking about growing up under the rule of Apartheid, a system of oppressive governance instituted by the Afrikaans (white South Africans).

My lack of understanding was another perspective prompt; Mpho taught me that to understand the world, you need to engage with it—get out of your house and your community and talk to people. Conversation is transformative, and we need to seek it to grow.

I had to remind myself constantly that I was a visitor, a minority, and if I wanted to learn, I would have to embrace being uncomfortable. Humans don’t like discomfort—we like to have control, to understand what is going on around us. But when we relinquish that control we open ourselves to new learning and new life. God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. God calls us to love, to listen, to be kind—actions that take great effort and can cause great discomfort.

God will be found in the moments where we let our guard down and engage and embrace people who are different than we. This is what I learned in a week on Outtatown. To know myself, the world, and God in a way I couldn’t do at home. 

 – Mike Wiebe (CMU Admissions Counselor)

Outtatown South Africa

February: A Day of Silence

The simple act of laying everything at Jesus’ feet comes with a rich reward. During the first semester, we spent one day in silence at a Bible camp surrounded by the rolling hills of Alberta farmland with the majestic Rockies in the distance. I came into this week with so many doubts plaguing my mind and heart about God speaking to me. God shattered those doubts and removed my fears.

I started my day by watching the sunrise and saw the exact moment that a ray of light touched the snow-capped mountains. I was in awe of the majesty and beauty of creation. As I sat there watching night turn into day, I prayed about my doubts and fears and the barriers that prevented me from being a listener. As I was praying, I felt the vibration of a horse galloping. An Appaloosa from the barn was charging towards an electric fence. It stopped, became frustrated, and trotted away snorting. As this happened again and again, I saw this horse as an image of myself. I put all this effort into running to God, trying to please the Creator. Met by barriers of my own making, I fail to reach God, just as the horse couldn’t get past the fence.

I came into the day of silence very observant of events and divine “coincidences” that were happening around me. I decided to lean into those feelings and convictions and I prayed, “Father, help my unbelief, get rid of my doubt, show yourself to me. Rule and reign in my heart today.” God answered in the most unexpected way.

I fell asleep for the rest of the morning, which made me so angry, yet God knew that I needed rest. God was teaching me to rest, to cease striving, and the two words “be still” took on a whole new meaning for me. I went on a hike in the afternoon and found a field where I danced, worshiped, and sang. I felt like Maria from the Sound of Music! I was running around in complete abandonment, like a child just enjoying her father’s presence. God was with me and I lacked nothing.

Later, my thoughts started to wander and I remembered my grandma who passed away four years ago. She taught me how to play the piano and two of her favorite hymns were “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art”. The reminder of her that day spoke to me.Ten minutes later, our host played both these hymns on his trumpet!

I’m learning to live freely and lightly while I rest in the Lord's arms. Where will this lead? Only God knows, but my ears have been opened and I believe I’m hearing the voice of a loving God who wants a relationship with me.

 Naomi Wiebe, South Africa Student 2016-17

Outtatown South Africa

August: Finding Hope Through Hardship

A small part of the difficult and tangled history of Strandfontein was revealed to us as we lived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, a Coloured couple living in a well-appointed bungalow, nestled on a busy suburban street. Coloured is an official racial category in South Africa referring to people whose ancestry began with the intermarriage between couples of different races. At the Roberts home, we were welcomed with delicious Biryani, meat pies, and other delicious food, and our week of endless conversations about soccer, history, and Strandfontein’s struggles and triumphs began. 

Now in no way can you hope to attain a full understanding of a culture through one family’s stories and experiences, yet we learned so much. In conversation and through observing their life, we glimpsed a culture very different than our own. Be it through Mrs. Roberts’ fiercely imposed hospitality, or Mr. Roberts stories of segregation and political history, we were certainly immersed in a community that had been shaped by struggle, unimaginable hardship, and also hope.

Community so strong in fact, that tragedy produced tighter bonds and showcased this community’s graciousness and drive all the more. Weeks before we arrived, a strong community leader passed away – a leader from the Methodist Church who was a key figure in our homestay experience.  The fact that we were welcomed in the midst of this tragic loss showcases the community’s amazing hospitality.

Struggle and tragedy, however, is not the full story. It’s unfair, I think, to only remember stories of heartbreak or political corruption faced by the Coloured community and not remember our host family’s passion for soccer, for family, for close community, and for eclectic music. In hardship and joy, the Coloured community rallied together to create a truly memorable homestay experience.          

 – Sam Gillett (South Africa '15/16)

Outtatown South Africa

Remembering Rodney

Outtatown is built on relationships. As we travel around the world, it is our partners in the countries we visit that help make it safe for our students to learn and grow.

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of Rodney Dreyer, one of our long-time partners in South Africa. After suffering a stroke 10 days ago, Rodney passed away on Sunday morning.

Outtatown started travelling to South Africa in 2003, and Rodney played a significant role from the start, serving as one of two country guides. Rodney worked as a country advisor on matters relating to culture, history, safety, and local customs. He helped shape where we go and what we do.

Over the years, Rodney has continued to play a significant role. Most recently, Rodney was active in developing a program for our students while they are in the Cape region. This included overseeing the catering for our students while they are in the Simon’s Town region, as well as playing the role of partner in Strandfonein.

While in Strandfontein, Rodney made it his goal to give Outtatown students the best experience that would give them a well-rounded understanding of life for South Africans in the coloured community.

He would connect each student with a family to stay with for the week, and create opportunities for the students to serve alongside local organizations. Rodney also took time to share his passion for peace and conflict studies with our students in the form of classes and practical learning.

Rodney was an active member of Strandfontein Methodist Church, where he served as preacher, worship leader, choir director, prayer coordinator, and organist. He was passionate about creating education and work opportunities for youth and young adults, as well as working in the area of conflict resolution. Rodney always made people feel connected and at home.

It was an incredible privilege for Outtatown students and leaders to experience Rodney’s passion and heart for God, as well as the joy he displayed while telling stories of hope and reconciliation. We will miss him.

Please keep his wife Joyce, their family, and his community in your prayers.

Guatemala Outtatown South Africa

Check Out The New Site Videos!

Take a look at our sites end of year videos, these are snapshots of their year, from Canada to Guatemala or South Africa!

Site 1 – Guatemala

Site 2 – South Africa

Outtatown South Africa Updates

Special visit with Archbishop Desmund Tutu!

Click here to read more about Outtatown's privileged opportunity to visit with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu! This was truly an honour to meet with the man who is widely respected across the world as "the moral conscience of South Africa".