Surprises along the way to Guatemala

An update from the second Guatemala Global Partnership team, from Montreal and St. John’s:

Carla, Inter-Varsity student, doing art at the Creative Art Ministry site in Guatemala.

Carla, Inter-Varsity student, doing art at the Creative Art Ministry site in Guatemala.

It’s been more than ten days since we arrived in Guatemala. Sixteen of us have been participating at 7 Ministry Sites: Media, Health Care, Agriculture, Appropriate Technology, Sport, Creative Art and Micro Finance. This journey hasn’t come easy; especially for Carla from Vanier College. Here is her beginning of the journey:

“My trip was really an adventure and full of surprises from God. When I arrived on time at the Montreal airport to meet with the group, I was so happy. Everyone was checking in, ready to enter the US custom (our connection flight was at Miami). When it was my turn to check-in, the lady was looking at me with a strange look and told me that I couldn’t go to Miami with the group, because I don’t have an American visa. (Carla carries a Lebanon passport and she has a Guatemala visa) Getting shocked and disappointed by her comment after months of hard work and prayers. But Shu Yin (Inter-Varsity Ministry Director in Quebec), with great faith, told me, ‘Don’t worry, we will find a way!’

The group had to enter US customs and I could only wait outside anxiously. Long story short, Inter-Varsity’s travel agency was able to find me a new flight ticket going to Guatemala without going through US. After 15 hours eventually I arrived safely at Guatemala airport, but no one seemed was there to pick me up. Not knowing how to speak spanish made me feel very nervous; suddenly I remembered an Emergency Card was given to me when I arrived at Montreal airport. I immediately found a phone and called those phone numbers. At first no one was answering until the SI Field Director picked up the phone and told me that he will send his daughter to pick me up. So that was a long day from the Montreal airport at 4 am until at Guatemala 9pm, I was able to join my group again. Praise The Lord.”

Carla (right) with other students from Inter-Varsity in Guatemala

Carla (right) with other students from Inter-Varsity in Guatemala

Please continue to keep us in your prayer. Many of us are struggling to understand the poverty we see here at Guatemalan life.

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Update #2 from High School Ministry team in Guatemala

Cómo estás? Things are moving forward here in Magdalena, Guatemala. Our team has officially been in Guatemala for 7 days, 3 of which were orientation in Antigua, and the rest have been in Magdalena where we are serving.

 

Randy WSW-3

If you ever have a chance to talk to a North American who has visited Magdalena I am sure one of the first things that they will mention would be the fact that the town is built on the side of a mountain, or the large amount of stray dogs. They may mention the poverty in Magdalena and the surrounding communities, and how around 4:00pm men and women return from the surrounding mountains with their collection of firewood strapped to their backs.

However, what many people will also mention is that as you walk up and down the street everyone will say ‘Hola’ or ‘Buenos (Dias, Tardes, Noches). They will tell you about the amazing sense of family, the amazing views, and about how delicious the freshly made tortillas are.

Our team is quickly coming to love this town and country.  We are staying with host families with whom we eat breakfast and every other dinner. I am sorry to say that their english is better then our spanish, however the hospitality and love that we are trying to show one another goes beyond any language barrier. We are being blessed by their hospitality and patience.

Learning to wash laundry from the local women.

Learning to wash laundry from the local women.

Three people from our team are serving at a local school here in Magdalena. They are able to communicate not only through laughter, songs, and games but also in the ‘language of Math’. As the grade 1 & 2 Guatemalan students learn how to add and subtract, our team is learning how to count to 20 en español. We are being blessed by the children whom we are here to serve.

Please pray for our team as we are getting comfortable. Pray that we would continue to lean into the hard places. This trip is about serving the people here in Magdalena, but it is also about learning from God. We want to leave with more then just pictures and a few neat souvenirs. We want to leave with the names of people embedded in our memories, and have stories to share about how through our serving we actually learned more about ourselves, each other, the world, and God.

Adiós

Update from the High School Ministry team in Guatemala

GOOOAAAAALLLLLL! Cries of joy and sorrow erupted from the streets of Antigua, Guatemala as our high school team sat chatting on the roof of our hotel’s. There is nothing like being in Central America when the World Cup Final is happening!

There is also something very unique and special about taking high school students to a foreign country. This is Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship second year doing a high school global partnership. Once again, we are partnering with Student International to help serve and work in Magdalena, Guatemala. Before we go to Magdalena and actually begin working and living with the local Guatemalan people there, we have spent 3 days in Antigua learning about what it means to enter into different cultures and how to work in team. Below is one story from our time in Antigua.

Be Open, Watch, and Learn. These were the instructions for our team as we went out in pairs to the central square of Antigua. Surrounded by colonial spanish architecture and different shops students were invited to find a bench and ‘Be Open, Watch, and Learn’. The purpose of this exercise was to help our team begin to see beyond the tourists and shop stands and begin to ‘see’ the Guatemalan people. This exercise was framed with a study of the first half of this article (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/reject-apathy/things-no-one-tells-you-about-going-short-term-mission-trips) ending with studying Mark 9:33-37. With this article and Scripture shaping our experience, students pointed out all that they had seen and learned. They identified the different type of people groups who seemed to be walking around the square.

Students shared all the great things that they observed, and asked questions about the things that didn’t fit in their North American cultural worldview. Already, the team is growing in love and compassion for the people of Guatemala. Desiring to be open to the Guatemalan culture and to learn from it, but also desiring to move forward in reciprocal relationships.

It is Monday, and we are heading to Magdelana this evening to meet our host families and begin serving at our work sites tomorrow. There is a sense of excitement and hope in our team as we prepare to enter into the experience that we came here for. After our study of Ja’irus and the Bleeding Women, we are also aware that Jesus wants to restore us as well as those around us. Please pray for out team as we live, eat, serve, and laugh with the Guatemalan people and each other. Pray that God would soften our hearts for what he is trying to teach us about his heart for not only us but also the world he created. 

Montreal Urban Partnership update

An update from Stephen Schalm, Campus Minister of International Student Ministries at McGill University in Montreal and Director of the Montreal Urban Partnership.

Montreal Urban Partnership team of 14 students and 2 staff are exploring God's heart for the city of Montreal.

Montreal Urban Partnership team of 14 students and 2 staff are exploring God’s heart for the city of Montreal.

 Day 2 of the Montreal Urban Partnership (MUP) and already changing plans… While flexibility is the name of the game in a program like MUP, I was still nervous to announce to our team that we would be changing plans – turning a night of reflection and sharing into extended communal worship and prayer. I could already hear the potential responses, “But what I really want is alone time right now”… “What do you mean ‘cry out to God’?”… “Already showing how ‘P’ you are on the Myers Briggs, Steve?”… Regardless, it was obvious from some prayer preparation that God was asking me a hard question- will MUP run on human strength, solid teaching and thoughtful planning, good intentions? Or would it be fuelled by a move of the Holy Spirit? How deeply do we want to see the move of God to bring resurrection in us and in this city?

Many of you have been hearing about Montreal Urban Partnership for the past few years- we are at it again, this time through the month of July! A team of 14 students, 2 staff, with help from an ever-growing number of partners throughout the city, will be exploring the heart of God for the city of Montreal- especially for its more marginalized parts- searching for what it would look like for the shalom of God to break into places of brokenness, despair, poverty and injustice, and for us to participate in both receiving and partnering to bring resurrection here!

As we dig deeply into scripture, get to know some great partner communities/organizations, work through our own poverty and brokenness and learn to imagine urban redemption in Montreal, what we really need is Holy Spirit-renewal – Holy Spirit-driven justice, Holy Spirit- driven repentance and transformation, Holy Spirit-driven healing and deliverance, Holy Spirit-driven prophetic imagination… Pray for us through the month of July as we learn to cry out to God for an out-pouring of His Spirit among us to empower us to become a people of justice and righteousness who seek the shalom of this city we have been called to! And pray for Montreal- that it would be made whole again in the name of Jesus! Follow our team on Facebook!

Bangladesh Update #4

What does suffering for the gospel look like and how do we receive joy amidst suffering?
How do we appropriately engage and grieve issues related to people at our placements?
How do we hold positions of power and authority given to us as foreigners?

These questions and more are what we as a team are asking.  We’ve just passed the halfway point of this GUP. We’re beginning to feel more settled in Bangladesh,  relationships are deepening, and growth is happening and we are also challenged by the poverty that we see and are wrestling with questions as we encounter differences.

We’ve reunited as a team and welcomed back our Rajshahi conference team. David and the 6 students who went with him had an amazing time spending time with BSFB friends, leading Scripture and praying as 40 people made a first time commitment to follow Jesus!

The next 2 weeks will be busy as we reconnect as a team,  prepare for a manuscript camp we are hosting at Grace House, and continue to invest in relationships at our placements and with BSFB.

A recent trip to the Botanical Gardens with new friends.

A recent trip to the Botanical Gardens with new friends.

Camp Partnership: Rapids, Rain, Rescues… Rejoicing

Reflections about the Alberta Camp Partnership from Fran Purvis, Campus Minister at the University of Regina.

Kyle D., Danielle and Andrew staying cheerful on their canoe trip.

Kyle D., Danielle and Andrew staying cheerful on their canoe trip.

As we embarked on our second day of paddling down the North Saskatchewan River, one of our students prayed “Lord, challenge us beyond what we can handle, so we can learn to trust you with everything.”   Well, the whole day we chuckled at this prayer, as one misadventure after another came our way: cold rain, rapids, a rescue of one of our boats, tire-deep mud, keys locked inside a vehicle, a broken Coleman stove… It was indeed a day of learning to rely on Jesus, not only for practical providence and care, but for good spirits and humour.

As part of our team training time, Kyle McLean (Campus Minister at U of Regina), myself, 2 staff from Alberta and our 8 students from U of Regina made our way down the river last weekend on a three day paddling trip, which was part of a camp-campus partnership we are participating in.

Camp Partnership team stopping for lunch on their canoe trip - Sheryll, Kyle, Danielle, Andrew, Hailey, Sarah, Fran, Andrew, Kelsey and Darian.

Camp Partnership team stopping for lunch on their canoe trip – Sheryll, Kyle, Danielle, Andrew, Hailey, Sarah, Fran, Andrew, Kelsey and Darian.

During our trip down-river, our team experienced the love and laughter of the Holy Spirit despite undesirable (and for over half the team, quite unfamiliar) circumstances. Moments like snuggling 12 people into a 4 person tent to read Narnia and tell stories, helping teammates stay warm, the glimpse of beautiful sun on the water, and just realizing that we have it in our will to choose cheer and belief, instead of misery, were powerful experiences of God’s care.

We are now into our 3rd week of the Camp Partnership at Alberta Pioneer Ranch Camp. Camp is a powerful space in the way that it provides both special and life changing “away” experiences, such as our canoe trip, but also because of the endless ordinary moments where students (and their staff!) encounter Jesus through service and community life.

Camp is hard work: it is a highly scheduled, relational and deeply communal environment. Every day we are requiring, asking for and are experiencing in profound ways the strength and joy of Jesus in the simple things like doing dishes, learning new skills, teaching canoeing or climbing to kids, or spending time with teammates by the water, away from the internal and external noise of our lives. There is something about camp in the way that it pushes you to grow, and lets you know Christ’s strength in your weakness. Camp is also fun! It is a place that grows deep and lasting friendships, and where pure joy is to be had.

I’m reminded often of the scripture from Isaiah 12:2 where the prophet declares that God is, “my strength and my song.” God is providing daily not only the bread we need to get by, but far more: the rich fare of relationships, joy and growth that make life delightful and good! Our days at camp have already been so full of growth and life, we’re excited and expectant for what Jesus has for us as we do life here the next 6 weeks!

Fran (second from left) and her students Sheryll, Kelsey and Hailey sitting around the fire on their canoe trip.

Fran (second from left) and her students Sheryll, Kelsey and Hailey sitting around the fire on their canoe trip.

 

Vancouver Urban Partnership Update

Students and staff on the Vancouver Urban Partnership are spending four weeks living and experiencing the urban realities of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Here is an update from Christa Smith, the director of the partnership:
Students and staff resting on a beach in Vancouver.

Students and staff resting on a beach in Vancouver.

We are two weeks in, halfway! Between shelter-sleeping, public showers, line-ups for food, countless encounters and diverse partners, the heart of the city is deeply impacting our own hearts. Daily in this neighbourhood, we experience the overwhelming presence of Jesus and His shalom, and daily we experience the overwhelming absence of Jesus and His shalom.
Amos implores the Israelite people to let justice roll like a river and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. We are feeling confronted with a deep longing for this be true while seeing the lack of it in our own lives and communities.
In the midst of these questions and tensions, we find hope and joy in the promise of Jesus as the Fulfiller.
Please pray for the second half of the month:
  • Pray against apathy and complacency to our surroundings.
  • Pray for deep learning about community, holy discontent, stewardship and suffering.
  • Give thanks for our partners who work faithfully year-round in this neighbourhood with the marginalized.

 

Bangladesh Update #2 and 3

Since the beginning of May, we have sent out a few of our Global Partnership teams halfway around the world! These teams of university students and campus ministers will participate in cultural exchange, partner with local International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) movements, and they actively learn about God’s mission in the world.

Take a look at what our Bangladesh team has been up to these last two weeks:
Blog Bangladesh 2 and 3

TEAM UPDATE #3 (MAY 19, 2014)

we’re starting to see little sprouts…

Continuing in our agricultural theme, we’ve now just past our first full week in Bangladesh, and its been a busy week!

We began placements this week with our team dividing into 4 placements that we’ll visit and partner with for the next 4 weeks. We’ve been stretched as we have taught English classes at the SFC, visited and encouraged teachers at a HEED Bangladesh school, and grown in our capacity to love and share in the sufferings of the women and children of CUP and CTRDW. We visit placements 5 days a week, and we’re starting to see trust grow in these new relationships.

We also sent and received Queen’s University Campus Minister Ashley RS and her small group who visited and partnered with the BSFB ministry in Khulna. As well, Queen’s University Korean Christian Fellowship Campus Minister Ashley Chan’s small group traveled and participated in the Chittagong Regional Conference!

This week we’ll be sending 7 members of our team to the Rajshahi Regional Conference, continuing with placements and continuing to invest in relationships within our team and our new Bangladeshi friends.

Please pray that we’ll:
– continue to send and receive each other well and hear each other’s stories.
– ask good questions as we encounter cultural difference.
– continue to invest deeply in relationships despite language barriers, jetlag, heat, and sickness.

TEAM UPDATE #2 (MAY 9, 2014)

Mustard seeds are small.  Tiny.  Minuscule. Totally in the “if you blink, you’ll miss it” category.
 
But someday they’ll become bushes of epic proportions.
 
We’re in the mustard seed phase of this GUP.  Things are just beginning—exploring Dhaka, language lessons, the first hang-out with local students.  And a few inaugural bowel troubles. Pretty basic, pretty standard. 
 
But oh so ripe with Kingdom potential.  Already students are discovering their need for Jesus to come and interpret their experiences as they begin this cross-cultural journey.

We’ve got a full week ahead of us.  There are culturally-appropriate outfits to purchase, placements to start, and some much-needed language lessons.  Our first conference team heads to Khulna on Monday.

It’s bound to be an eventful and challenging week.  But certainly one where Jesus will meet us and begin to reveal the seed-locked potential of this team.
 
So please pray for us.

–Thank God for a safe arrival in Dhaka after over 24 hours of travel 

–Ask God for health and wellness as we orient ourselves to this new context
 
–Pray for a quick willingness for the team to seek Jesus as they encounter much that is new and foreign.

For more stories, you can also visit this student’s blog on the Bangladesh GP.

Top 10 Reasons from a 10-Year Mark Camp Veteran

Students studying scripture at one of our Mark camps

Students studying scripture at one of our Mark camps

by Communications writer Elsie Lee.

I remember clearly saying “yes” 10 years ago to attend the first Mark Camp in Ontario. I had just finished my second year at the University of Waterloo – I burned out after a semester on leadership with another campus fellowship, I ended a dysfunctional dating relationship, and I had nothing to lose when my friend Grace from the University of Toronto invited me to go to a week of Bible study with Inter-Varsity. So I said yes.

I have never regretted that yes. My feeble little “yes” began the journey that our every “yes” to following Jesus takes us on. In my years as both learner and teacher at Mark Camp, I have lived and breathed the story of Mark – the walks around the lake, the storms, the questions, the parables, the feedings, the cross, the resurrection…. Life with Jesus is incredible – incredibly challenging and joyful. It is filled with suffering, joy, pain, doubts and fears. It is by no means easy, but oh, it is so Good.

This will be my tenth Mark Camp in 10 years. I keep going back because studying the life of Jesus with a bunch of people for a week is amongst the most life-giving things I have experienced… along with lactose-free sour cream.

So take it from a 10-year Mark Camp veteran – say “yes”.

Top 10 reasons you should go to Mark Camp (register here):

10. It’s a good deal! $400 for 40 hours of instruction, that’s $10/hr! Not to mention a clean bed, three meals a day plus lots of snack food, camp activities (see #7), and oh yeah, life-changing stuff.

9. You’ll make new friends from other campuses. Who knows, maybe you will find your new BFF over your favourite colour of highlighter or your pre-study stretching ritual.

8. You’ll get in on the secret… 

7. You’ll experience a week at camp – kayaking, rock climbing, making art. But for grown-ups.

6. You’ll worship with a diverse group of people – from different schools, fellowships, countries, cultures, abilities and languages. A little taste of heaven.

5. You’ll receive prayer. You know that question you’ve been mulling over all year. Come work it out.

4. All your friends ARE going. The power of peer pressure is pretty strong.

3. Your summer job CAN wait a week. Ask your boss to start a week later, there’s no harm in trying. The worst thing that can happen is they say no. But they haven’t said no yet!

2. Your summer course CAN start without you. If it’s a semester long class, you will miss one lecture, usually the one where you get the course syllabus and get out early.

1. The only way to find out how good it is – is to go see for yourself.

Glimpses from my 10 years of Mark Camp (previously City/Script):

Young people thrive when good mentors invest in them

Young people have the drive, desire, and guts to make a difference in the world. What they often don’t have is someone who can walk alongside to coach and encourage them.

According to the Hemorrhaging Faith report, young people who were supported as they led felt affirmed and found joy in their service. When youth have the chance to lead alongside a trusted mentor, they grow exponentially in the ways they lead and invest in others’ lives.

Wasim, one alumnus, now works with Free the Children.

Wasim, one alumnus, now works with Free the Children.

Take a look at Wasim’s story. After graduation, his mentor from Inter-Varsity continued to walk alongside him as he made life and work choices. Now, in his work with Free the Children, he is putting leadership lessons into practice.

 

 

In Korea, Sydney learned new ways of praying with friends.

In Korea, Sydney learned new ways of praying with friends.

Take a look at Sydney’s story. He pursued his unique identity as a cultural bridge-builder to befriend international students and go on an exchange to South Korea. “My Inter-Varsity staff workers have been a tremendous influence,” he says. “Many of them met with me on a weekly basis.”

 

 

Carrie spends a lot of time investing in the lives of fellow staff at camp.

Carrie spends a lot of time investing in the lives of fellow staff at camp.

Take a look at Carrie’s story. She grew up going to camp and now works at Ontario Pioneer Camp full time. “I get to see people meet Jesus for the first time to challenge them to ask him questions, and to walk with them while they search for him,” says Carrie.

 

 

When she graduated high school, Ruth passed the leadership baton to her friend Ness.

When she graduated high school, Ruth passed the leadership baton to her friend Ness.

Take a look at the story of Ruth, Agape, and Ness. They realized their dream of starting a Christian fellowship in their high school and have returned as mentors since their graduation. “I want to see a group of students loving on others and not be afraid to show their love for God in school,” says Ness. “I want to see students grow.”

 

 

Read the stories of these young leaders, who are investing deeply in others because they have been mentored by those who came before them.