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Shelley Kadatz

Two Weeks Left?!

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

It’s hard to believe there is just a little more than two weeks left of our Europe adventure together. This past week started in Rohrsdorf where the group spent some time drying out, catching up on assignments and enjoying many delicious oven-cooked meals. One of our highlights was getting to know Dani and Arno, the managers of the castle and permanent residents of the unique artist community that is there, who spent an evening sharing their story with us.

From there we moved on to Munich where we found more rain, a few slugs and great beer!  Perhaps the most impacting stop was the trip to Dachau concentration camp, a memorial to the thousands of people who were imprisoned and killed there during the Nazi regime. This stop is always the hardest one on the trip, though worthwhile to see now only WHAT happened (and when), but more importantly WHY it happened (and how).  The memorial site at Dachau moved us to tears and did much more than just exhibit the evils of the S.S. in these camps—it gave us resolve to never let it happen again, opened our eyes to injustice happening all over the world today and challenged us to never stay silent.  Remember to ask our travels about their experience when they return!

Munich also gave us a chance to connect with SSU alumni, Ingo and Gisela who had a few of us leaders over for an amazing meal. It was great to see their familiar faces and see how much their two beautiful children have grown. They say ‘hi’ to everyone back in St. Stephen.

From Munich we drove to Zug, Switzerland where we are currently staying. The group is happy to be at this campground on the lake, perfect for swimming, playing volleyball, biking and enjoying the outdoors just as the Swiss do.  For those who have been on this trip before–we are once again delighted by the company of Rolf, the campground manager who always treats us like gold here. He has become SSU’s biggest fan and looks forward to our visit every time. Yesterday we took a day trip to Zurich which has a rich history surrounding the reformation and Anabaptist movement. Kendall dazzled us with tales of Swiss banks and streets paved with gold. Yes, it’s true that this is one of the richest cities in Europe.

Last night we enjoyed yet another amazing meal from one of our cooking team, which was even more delicious when we found out that Julia Roberts walked 40 minutes to get salad dressing for it! Today was a non-program day filled with biking, hiking, swimming and LOTS of volleyball (and no rain!!).  Tomorrow we are off the Swiss Alps!

 

Until next time,

Shelley Perry

 

 

Hello from Saxony!

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I (Shelley Perry) am now taking over trip updates from Angela Stanley who has moved into the role of overseeing the entirety of the kitchen component of the trip.

We have now entered the second half of the trip and with it has come some changes. The group ended their time in Italy with the first real rainfall of the trip. Venice brought with it new leaders (Shelley & Kendall Kadatz and I) while testing us (and our tents) with a thunder storm. Unfortunately the poor weather continued as we crossed the Alps but spirits remained high as clips of the Sound of Music were played during the long bus ride to Zell Am See–a picturesque ski town in Austria.  There we took a day trip to Obersalzburg to a museum called The Eagle’s Nest which was once Hitler’s retreat centre and bunker. Now the site houses an extremely informative exhibit on the rise of the National Socialist Party in Germany and the effects of Nazism on Germany.  The campground, set quietly on a pristine lake was a stark contrast to the noisy, busy sites in Italy to which the group had been accustomed.

From there we made our way to what was once the cultural centre of the Holy Roman Empire, Vienna!  With espresso to die for, Beethoven, the waltz, Gustav Klimt and copious amounts of Baroque architecture, what more could we ask for in one city? We even had the privilege of scoring tickets to the Opera (standing room only) to see Wagner’s Die Walküre!  Vienna also brought relief from the rain and the arrival of Peter and Mary Ellen Fitch. Sadly this meant saying goodbye to both the Thiessens and the Barhams as the trip leadership officially changed for the second half.

From Vienna we made a brief stop in Prague, Czech Republic where we met up with SSU alumni, John and Roberta Bartos, currently living in Moravia. Students were intrigued to see evidence of a country still emerging from decades under Soviet rule. Truly it is a city where Eastern Europe meets the west. The visit to the Museum of Communism was particularly helpful in understanding the countries tumultuous past and relatively peaceful revolution in 1989 (the Velvet Revolution).

After some more rain in Prague, the group was more than happy to arrive at our current accommodations near Dresden, Germany.  This is SSU’s second time at Rohrsdorf, a castle that has been turned into a Christian artist community. Here we will spend our 4 days cooking gourmet meals (with an oven), sleeping indoors, and taking an intentional mid-trip break to catch up on rest and work.  Our only program time took place today with a phenomenal tour of Dresden with a new friend and guide, Grit, who enlightened us on Saxon history, the firebombing of the city by the Allies in 1945, and the complicated process of transition for East Germany after the unification.

All in all everyone is doing well and we (the leadership) are continually impressed with everyone’s positive attitudes and care for one another.

 

Goodbye for now!

Shelley Perry

Reflecting on St. Francis

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

You could almost hear the sigh of relief as we arrived in Assisi, the
self proclaimed peace capital of the world. After Rome, our group was
thankful for the laid back, quiet, and empty (relatively speaking)
campground of Assisi.  We spent a full day in Assisi and were
challenged to find some space by ourselves for reflection. Some found
it laying on the grass in an olive grove, others while sitting in Mass
at St. Francis Basilica or at a cafe, or wandering down quiet streets
and ally ways. It certainly felt like a ‘thin place’ gathered as a
group singing ‘Lord Make Us Instruments’, St. Francis’ prayer set to
music by alumni Holli Durost, at the place of St Francis’ conversion,
San Damiano.

We were welcomed in Venice by Shelley Perry, Shelley and Kendall
Kadatz, a new team of leaders for  the second half of the trip. We
were also welcomed by some rain in Venice, bringing us indoors for our
last chance to eat authentic Italian cuisine, shop for local Venetian
glass, tour the islands by water bus, and seek some shelter at one of
the magnificent cathedrals or museums.

Currently, we are en route to Austria where the hills are alive with
the sound of music… (It’s sing-a-long time on the bus!!)

 

Angela Stanley (for the Europe 2011 Leadership Team)

From Florence to Rome

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Whether Florence, Italy was an anticipated stop for us or not, many
were quickly enchanted by this city and its rich history, culture and
scenic and architectural beauty. One of our first stops, and arguably
one of the most memorable, was the Accademia, the museum that houses
one of the world’s most famous sculptures, Michelangelo’s David. This
sculpture, as well as other pieces we saw at places like the Uffizi
Gallery and Opera del Duomo, reminded us, as we often have, that
pictures in text books just do not do justice to these works of art,
and it really is a gift to be able to learn on the road as we are
right now. Also during our stay in Florence we made a day trip to
Sienna before stopping at a three century family owned winery where we
had the chance to taste some Chianti Classico wines and organic olive
oil.
En route to Rome we made a short stop in Orvieto, a quaint city atop a
mountain with spectacular views that stretches for miles.
Rome was another ‘long’ stop (4 nights!), but filled with planned and
unexpected adventures! Our stop coincided with the 150th anniversary
of Italy liberation. The streets and transit, as well as many of the
sites were bussling with people who had come to the country’s capital
to celebrate.  A stop to Rome would not be complete with out a trip to
the Vatican museum, Sistine chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica,
interestingly the same morning as the Pope’s address from that very
location. Other highlights included the Capitolini museum (which over
looks the ancient Roman Forum), the  Collusium (a AD 72 arena still
intact enough to catch a glimpse into what ancient Roman life might
have been like), the Pantheon (a temple built around the of Christ and
boasts one of the Roman’s most impressive architectural achievement,
the dome), the Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, and the Catacombs (said
to have been the burial ground of Peter and Paul for some time).
Our stop in Rome has led many to wrestle through the connection
between tourism and pilgrimage, causing many to realize the importance
of creating intentional spaces to interact and engage with what we see
both mentally and spiritually so as to not get discouraged or
overwhelmed with the tourism around us.

Angela Berry (for the 2011 Europe Leadership Team)

Au Revoir, France. (Until we meet again in a few weeks.)

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Our journey through the south of France brought us to Carcassonne, Avignon, and Nice.  Since leaving Spain we have been encountered much more with the travelling aspect of this trip, having survived a number of long bus days including some mountain stretches we could do nothing but applaud our bus driver Chris for bringing us confidently and safely through!

SSU's Infamous Group Picture in Carcassonne

In our last night in France, our group spent time sharing moments on the trip where we experienced a real sense of gratitude thus far. It was a great time of reflecting and realizing that each stop has meant something different to each of us along the way.

We had the opportunity to wander through the streets of Carcassonne, an ancient turret-topped fortress the evening we arrived in France.  Some watched the city walls light up at night while enjoying local cuisine from a cafe inside the walls and others watched from a distance to see the whole city.

In Avignon, we spent part of the day exploring the Pope’s Palace then making our way through the city, stopping at cafes, shops, and the famous Pont St. Benezet (immortalized in the ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon nursery rhyme). I think I can speak for everyone that one of our most thankful moments was arriving at Pont du Gard on a 30 plus degree afternoon, diving into the water and swimming below the three-tiered Roman aqueduct that is still, amazingly, exceptionally well preserved.

En route to Nice, we made a stop at the Protestant Museum where, as one student put it, we had the opportunity to “see where we have come from”, where many of our roots are found.

In Nice, we were welcomed by Joanna Marple, Rachael Barham’s friend who gave us a brief history of Nice as well as recommended to us some sites. Our free day brought different groups to different places; from Matisse, Chagall, and Modern Art museums to Old Nice market to pick up some lavender and herbs (some of the local specialties) and down to the beach for a final swim in the Mediterranean.

Angela Stanley (On behalf of the Europe 2011 Leadership Team)

Adios Barcelona!

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Below is an update from the Europe 2011 crew.

Today we said ‘Adios’ to Barcelona, our one stop in Spain. Since arriving, we have explored a variety of ancient and modern sites, architecture, and art. Susan di Giacomo, an anthropologist who works in Barcelona, guided us through part of the city, starting at Santa Maria del Mar, a jewel in Catalan architecture, and ending at the Catalan Parliament where she gave us a brief history of Catalonia as well as a glimpse into the current tensions in preserving the Catalan identity. Later that day, a group of students went to Omnium Cultural, an organization that is devoted to the practical application of preserving this identity. We had time to explore the city on our own, but for the most part were guided to some of the important sites around Barcelona for their religious, cultural, artistic, and/or political significance.

Our days have brought us to many sacred spaces. Some experienced this sacred space while sitting in Sagrada Familia, looking with wide eyes to the ceiling like a forest canopy carved out of stone, while others experienced it on a long hike to the top of one of the rounded mountains at Montserrat.  For some, it was while wandering in silence around the Barcelona Cathedral observing the ornate architecture and stained glass and others while sitting in the Montserrat Basilica listening to the ethereal voices of the boys’ choir. Some experienced it while exploring the ancient Roman ruins under the streets of Barcelona in the City Historical Museum and others while observing the artistic style of Picasso as it developed throughout his life, or wandering through Park Guell and being surrounded by nature, both in the literal sense as well as its influence in much of the architecture. We have discussed and contemplated the idea of being pilgrims, open to the collective and individual journeys God is calling us to and have been overwhelmed by the opportunity to be on this journey, in the company of good friends, with many laughs and of course good food and drink! There is a general atmosphere of positivity and excitement for what has been and what is in store for us in this journey.

Europe 2011 Leadership Team

Part II: Passing the Baton

By | 2011 - Kenya | No Comments

Right now, the team is thinking of all the tasks that are before us when we get home – picking up life and all of its responsibilities, challenges and opportunities.  But I just want to say thanks.  Thanks to Tim and Diane for sharing their home and their lives with us.  Thanks to the students for entering into this loosely defined course with such openness, honesty and vulnerability.  Thanks to the hundreds of people we met – mostly Kenyans – who likely will never have the opportunity to get on a plane and come to Canada, but who nonetheless welcomed us and allowed us to peer into their lives and ask probing questions.  Thanks to Dale for moving well out of his comfort zone to travel across the world with us, to also be a vital part of our learning community.  Thanks to SSU – the faculty and staff – for being open to entertain a trip like this at a time like this.  Thanks to Shelley K. for your practical support and your encouragement along the way.  Thanks to the broad and wonderful SSU community who supported this trip in so many important ways – you guys are great!  And finally, thanks to Kindred Home Care for your generous support of the team, not just financially but for understanding how important a venture like this is for the SSU community.  Thank you for your vision and your generosity!

Most of all, thanks to Geoff, Kyle, Laura, Jonathan, Crystal, Margaret and Nicola.  Thanks for being who you are.  Thanks for your willingness to be stretched and to stretch one another.  Thanks for your sense of adventure.  Thanks for just being so incredibly easy to get along with!  And thanks for helping me learn.

It always remains to be seen how participants in cross cultural learning will incorporate the lessons learned while they’re “away” but I am absolutely confident that the past two weeks has only been the beginning of the impact that this trip will have on each of us and on all of us.   I’ve had a lot of “Kingdom of God” moments these last few weeks and it’s been a huge privilege to be holding the baton with you.  Enough said!

Thanks be to God, the alpha and omega, beginning and end; and to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith;, and to the Spirit, our counsellor and teacher.

Lois Mitchell

Part 1: Baton Moments

By | 2011 - Kenya | No Comments

About 10 years ago I was at a leadership conference and one of the speakers talked about the importance of transferring leadership to the next generation.  I remember thinking that I was not ready to pass the baton just yet – actually I wasn’t even sure that I even had the baton!  It seemed like I had just begun to have a tiny bit of influence and it seemed a little premature to be thinking of sitting on the sidelines.

As I thought about an analogy, I thought of relay races and about the timing for a smooth transition of the baton from one runner to the next.  See, the thing is, both runners should be near maximum speed when the baton is transferred.  The runner who is going to receive it has begun to run long before the baton reaches their hand and the runner who is passing off has to maintain speed right through the pass.

From the outset (over a year ago) I knew that the “SSU goes to Kenya” team was going to be a great team to travel with – and it was!  Granted, everything went as smoothly as it could possibly go – no illness, no accidents, no major adjustments to the schedule, no events that even tested our ability to work together under pressure.   But beyond that, this team has been incredible.  I have learned with and from them and I have gotten to know them far better than I ever could in the classroom.

As I think back over the varied events and people that we’ve encountered over the last couple of weeks I’m so incredibly thankful for this time of intense learning and pretty idyllic opportunity to live in community.  I notice that my emotions have been very close to the surface and at numerous points I’ve struggled to contain tears of appreciation for the baton moments.  Moments like:

  1. Standing in the shade of an open courtyard in Eastleigh – a Somali shanty town in Nairobi – and watching the guys on the team engage in an impromptu soccer game with a bunch of young Somali boys at the school.  On the surface, it was just soccer, but for me it was SSU students enjoying an opportunity to communicate across cultures, faiths, and age, to interact with kids who so need positive male role models (I know that probably sounds a bit arrogant and maybe a bit culturally insensitive, but that’s the way I saw it after hearing about the number of single mothers in Eastleigh whose husbands are absent for long periods of time)…
  2. Sitting in the open veranda of a friend of Tim’s- a guy who is now in his 70s and facing health issues that are making it necessary for him to pass his own baton and return to the U.S.A – who has a deep and profound passion for lions.  I had this incredible sense that we had entered into holy space as he talked about the African lions and the impact of urbanization on their territory and as he talked with great humility and respect about the land and the lions.  It wasn’t even on our original itinerary – it was one of those serendipitous moments and it was rich on so many levels…
  3. Singing old gospel hymns out of small hymnals in the teacher’s room with assorted youth volunteers at a school for the physically disabled in Machakos at 6:30am on a Saturday morning as we waited for buses to arrive and take 180 or so disabled kids into Nairobi for a fun day.  As it turned out the bus was 3 hours late so we spent most of that time out and about with kids as they waited with amazing patience.  But it was another time of pretty raw emotion as I watched the students interact with these kids – talking, singing, laughing.  And then, when the buses arrived and the kids – many of them in rickety wheelchairs – were getting loaded onto the buses, a young guy showed up who had already (at about 10 in the morning) been into the moonshine, and watching our guys (and Tim) interact with him, and having that sense that God was there in the midst of it all…
  4. Sitting on Tim and Diane’s veranda for both random conversations and more structured debriefing sessions and hearing the students process and reflect on the experiences and observations of the day.   As we wrestled together with issues of faith and interpretation of Scripture and striving to truly understand the courageous efforts of churches and communities to see development and discipleship as integrated aspects of everyday life, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the privilege of being part of their spiritual formation – and through them, of my own.

I could go on and on.  But the point is, throughout the whole journey I was literally bursting with a deep joy (not the right word exactly but as close as I can come) at being part of this kind of collaborative learning community.

Lois Mitchell

For the Children

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Jonathan with children at Musoko School

Saturday we visited the Musoko School for Handicapped Children in Muchakos approximately 30 minutes southeast of where we’re staying at Tim Bannister’s.  We went there with the plan to simply show up and help get a couple hundred handicapped kids on buses by which they would be taken to Nairobi for a fun day.  We have developed a simply acronym since arriving here to explain away the unexpected, TIA – this is Africa.  So we had a TIA moment when we arrived on time and the buses weren’t there.  What we thought at first was merely a delay became a three hour long opportunity to interact with some of the most beautiful children on the planet.  At first we were just amazed at their smiles and playfulness, begging us to take pictures of them and then show us on the viewer how they looked on camera.  Groups of them surrounded us and we engaged them asking their names, giving our own, etc.
Being an introvert, I started looking for the small groups, the loners and tried to engage them in conversation.  I met a young man, who had a huge flashy belt buckle that said Akon all over it.  He was SO excited to talk favourite bands with me and quickly told me how much he loves Kanye and Akon and asked if I liked them too.  I couldn’t say no to him, so we talked about bands for a bit.  While we spoke, a young girl standing nearby listening to our conversation would help me understand him when his english was a little foggy for me.  A little while later I bumped into her again elsewhere and came to know the sweetest 14-year old girl (besides my own daughter!).  Her name is Rhoda.  When she was 7, her right leg was “sick” and it was removed.  She helped me work out the kinks on a song we were learning with the kids and taught me the second verse.  Her patience, sweetness and smile were breathtaking amidst the conditions I observed and the many disabilities all around us.  Later on, when the buses did come, I told her I would help her on the bus and her laughter surprised me.  I followed her around to the bus entrance and she was up those stairs  with a hop, skip and a jump before I could offer my arm to her.  I was able to help her wheel-chair bound friend into the seat next to her and their smiles were all the thanks I needed.
Seeing Rhoda and these kids has begun to change my thinking from a posture of we really have no place here as white people, to maybe we can help in small ways.  We can’t fix all the problems that plague people here but God is here, that is clear.
Thanks everyone for your support.  What we’re seeing and experiencing here is changing our lives.  May God bless you.
Jonathan Higgins

Malaysia and Beyond!

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

We were located at the YMCA in downtown Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia in the midst of what was recently named “Little India”.  This meant that we were surrounded by loud Indian Techno music, very busy traffic, Indian market stands, and crowds of people. We called it the city that never sleeps (although that could be applied to most places we have been). “Little India” was preparing for the Hindu celebration of Deepavali  (“Festival of Lights”) which celebrates the triumph of good over evil.  It involved a lot of selling of goods and wares from saris to fireworks/crackers at all hours of the night, concerts, and almost eardrum bursting music.  Staying together at the YMCA definitely made for a different experience from the Philippines, but it was nice to be together as a group. Highlights of our time spent in KL would include many visits to the Central Market, the exquisite architecture and the city tourist sites (Twin Towers, China Town, Large Malls, and Museums including the Islamic Arts Museum). The eight lectures from some of the leading academics in Malaysia, all from the University of Malaya, were excellent.

On one of our day trips, we went to the city of Malacca where we walked through museums and learned about the significance of Malacca to Malaysia and the rest of the trading world.  Some of our group explored the ancient city via a Trishaw ride where they were bicycled around the town to see different Mosques, Chinese Temples and shops.

We were also blessed to be reunited with Clarice, a former student of SSU, originally from Malaysia and afterher time at SSU moved to KL.  Clarice was a big part of organizing our time in Malaysia alongside John. We were able to celebrate her 30th birthday with her as well as enjoy some of the sites of KL from her perspective. Clarice was a good source for any questions about life in Malaysia and we are very grateful to have had this time with her.

One aspect of the trip that we feel played a significant role in the student’s perspectives while journeying through SE Asia were the devotional times. Debbie and April led a Celtic service that focused on communion and students read passages from the bible as well as quotes from Joel Mason’s booklet “People on the Move”.  During these devotional times, students were reminded of the difference between being on a pilgrimage versus being a tourist.  This was an encouragement to all, especially because we were in a very tourist city.  Later on that week, Debbie and April took the time to have a discussion about group dynamics which seemed to bring a more cohesive feel to the group. Overall, we have learnt a lot while being in Malaysia.

We are now currently in Thailand adapting to another new culture and are being exposed to Buddhism, Buddhist temples, Thai food, and markets galore!!   Also, Walter Thiessen, an SSU professor has joined us for the later half of the trip.  It has been great having him here.

The Asia Leadership Team