Graduates share stories and are challenged to ‘see differently’
Stories of love, hope, community, and transformation characterized the 2012/2013 Outtatown Discipleship School graduation celebration Apr. 14 as 61 young people graduated from the program.
“For years to come, we will be influenced by the experiences we’ve had as a community, as well as the things we have learned individually,” Ross van Gaalen, a student from Outtatown’s Site 2 South Africa group, shared with the crowd of family and friends who gathered to welcome the students back home after their semester abroad.
“No matter how impactful our relationships have been, no matter which crazy stories will stick with us, and no matter which lessons or insights will affect us most deeply, I believe this year has made us all better prepared to face the rest of our lives.”
Bethany Bustard, a leader from Outtatown’s Site 1 Guatemala group, shared that she and the students learned of God’s transformative love during their time together.
“God’s love is not passive or timid,” Bustard said. “It is a powerful and active force as Christ offers to live in us, place his love in our hearts, and empowers us to go forward giving, receiving, and finding love in both expected and unexpected places.”
The celebration included a time for worship as well as a message by Outtatown instructor Nathan Rieger, who challenged graduates to use their experiences from the program to look at the world differently.
“You have to see differently – that is the core of discipleship,” Rieger said. “To say, ‘Jesus, I want to see with your eyes.’”
Before praying for the graduates, CMU president Cheryl Pauls likened the university to a rich mosaic and spoke of Outtatown’s place in the mosaic.
“Outtatown is definitely a vital part of what makes it glistening and gritty, real and holy,” Pauls said.
Reflecting on the stories he heard students sharing about their experiences, Outtatown director Cam Priebe said common themes included hope, freedom, and the value of learning in community.
“Our own journey impacts those around us, and their journey impacts ours,” Priebe said, pointing to Outtatown’s mission to inspire students in their life of discipleship with Jesus Christ in a journey towards knowing God, knowing yourself, and knowing the world.
“When that’s done on an individual level, it’s one thing,” Priebe said. “But when it’s done with others, there’s incredible value in that.”
In addition to the South Africa and Guatemala teams, this year’s Outtatown program also included a team that traveled to Burkina Faso. That team graduated this past December.
The Outtatown Discipleship School is a unique and enriching program of serving and learning for students seeking a life-changing experience of adventure, travel, service, and Christian studies.
Through participation in Outtatown, students may earn up to 18 university credit hours for the academic work completed during their programs. Outtatown offers two-semester programs at site locations in Guatemala and South Africa, and a one-semester program in French Africa.
—Canadian Mennonite University release