From South Carolina to the South Side of Grant

Andi Jacobs - from South Carolina to the South Side of Grant

Throughout high school I knew I wanted to do something different for college. I didn’t want to attend the same four universities that nearly everyone from my high school chose. So when my family was visiting friends in Toronto, and I learned about International Development, a degree that is not widely offered in the States, I felt the opportunity to take a different path. It sounded like it would be just the right fit for me.

After a quick search on Google, I learned about Canadian Mennonite University. Not only did CMU offer a degree that was different, but it also offered small class sizes and a real relationship with my professors, which was definitely something I wouldn’t have if I attend the larger state schools in South Carolina.

CMU also offered a schooling option that was affordable. It’s no secret that American schools are crazy expensive, especially if you are considering attending university in a different state or a private institution. So even though I’m an international student, CMU is just as affordable as staying in my home state of South Carolina. Not only am I going to a great school, but I will also graduate with relatively no debt (thanks mom & dad).

I’ll admit that I was a little nervous going to university so far from home, as this would be my first time living on my own. Not only was the school far away, but it was also in a different country, which was nerve-racking, yet also exciting at the same time. The unknown is what frightened me, yet the possibility for new friends and a new city to explore far outweighed the risks. Thankfully, the community I found once I arrived at CMU was more welcoming and supportive than I could’ve ever imagined. True to their stereotype, Canadians are a friendly bunch.

Another important factor in my choosing a university was whether I would have the opportunity to play competitive volleyball. I had never considered looking at schools in Canada, but I’m so thankful I did. Last January I visited Winnipeg (my parents wanted to make sure I had a chance to experience Manitoba in winter), toured the campus, and practiced with the volleyball team. My visit sealed the deal. CMU was a perfect fit.

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The support on campus for academics and spiritual growth is something I have already learned to treasure. There are both chapels and fellowship groups during the week, and the leaders guide us through different worship styles whether that is contemporary, traditional, or something different altogether. While this Christian community is a big part of CMU, you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want. Regardless of your beliefs, you will be accepted for who you are as an individual.

Not only are the people welcoming, but CMU’s location is a welcoming place too. It is a smaller, more traditional campus with wonderful scenery, yet it’s only a few short minutes from being in downtown Winnipeg. If I need some fresh air after studying, there are miles of walking trails in the Assiniboine Forest, right behind campus. It is really the best of both worlds.

I am so happy with my decision to come to CMU. It truly has something to offer everyone.

Andi Jacobs is a first year student from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Home Sweet Home: Why You Need to Visit CMU

If you’re looking for a post that tells you that I first encountered CMU on a campus visit day and fell in love at first sight, you’ve come to the wrong place. I grew up a 10 minute drive east of CMU, so to be honest, I can’t even recall the first time I laid eyes on CMU’s campus. Thanks to countless church picnics, sports camps, and the CMU CastleChristmas concerts that I attended on the campus as a child, I felt at home by the time I went to visit the campus as a prospective student, let alone my first day of school as a student.

So what about those of you who didn’t grow up within a stone’s throw of the castle? Or what about those of you who aren’t familiar with the campus? Well, no matter where you go to university, you’re going to want it to feel like home. So if CMU is on your list of potential school’s, it’s best to become familiar with it and make it start feeling like home.

It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to come to CMU for one year or five years; your university experience will be infinitely better if the school you go to feels like home.

That obviously pertains to residence students who spend all of their hours on campus. But that also includes commuter students too. Having commuted to CMU for four years, I can say from experience that you’ll still spend most of your waking hours at the school.

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But making a university a home has to do with more than just finding a place you like to be. You should also feel at home in the classroom and with what you are studying.

Part of that will come with getting used to university classes, but part of that comes with choosing a program that is fit for you. There’s no better way to find out about what programs are offered at a school and what they’re like than by going there and talking to the people who teach the courses, and the people who are taking the courses. At a small university like CMU, that’s no issue, and you’ll get a great sense for what the programs are all about.

But often it is the people you become close with that make a place feel like home.

AlexSo how are you supposed to know who you are going to be spending your time with before your university experience starts? Well, for the most part you won’t. But visiting a campus and making connections with the people who are there before you even get there will help you start to create that circle of people that will be around you when you start attending university. Or at the very least, they will be the people who will get you settled in to find that group of people that will help you create a home at your university.

So why visit CMU? Well, you’ll get shown the school, and the residence buildings. You’ll learn about the programs offered, and what might fit for you as a student. You’ll probably even get to sit in on a class. You’ll definitely meet staff and students along the way too. Those all seem like pretty good ways to start turning CMU from a university into a home.

Jason Friesen is our lead blogger, and is in his final year of a Communications and Media degree at CMU.

Tom and Jerry or True Thankfulness: An International Student’s View on Thanksgiving

Amo Pllumbi Thanksgiving Reflection

My first time experiencing Thanksgiving was while watching an episode of Tom and Jerry about the holiday.

The thing that caught my attention the most from that episode were the different and delicious looking foods that were prepared and left on the table. Another thing I remember from the episode is that Tom (the cat) was dressed in stereotypical Native American clothing, while Jerry (the mouse) was dressed in stereotypical pilgrim clothing, creating a rivalry between the two just like in every other episode.

After many shenanigans, some of which were probably offensive stereotypical gestures mocking Native American culture, the two have a truce and decide to enjoy the main meal together. That was a nice and rare moment, and those that have seen the show know that these two rarely get along with each other.  

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in my home country of Albania, so most of my experience with the holiday has been from pop culture. I always thought it was a holiday celebrated only in the US, because of the colonial history of the country. Many of the movies and shows that portrayed Thanksgiving had Native American and Pilgrim/Puritan cultures interacting with each other. That’s why I thought we didn’t celebrate it in Albania, as we didn’t colonize any land.

But when I came to Canada, I realized that Thanksgiving, while being influenced by colonization in North America, is also celebrated by other cultures around the world for either religious reasons, or just to celebrate a good harvest.

The first Thanksgiving I had in Canada, a friend of mine invited me to his house to celebrate with his family. I got to enjoy a nice dinner like the one in Tom and Jerry, and I got to meet new people.

At the end of everything I did feel thankful. Thankful that I was having a good time with good people, and thankful that I was experiencing what eating a meal with a family feels like again. As an international student, you are away from your family for a long time. You just start missing those small moments you had with the members of your family that you take for granted when you were with them, like eating a meal together.

During that Thanksgiving, I did feel thankful that I had those kinds of moments before, and that I still get to experience them now with my new friends in Canada. I still celebrate this holiday, and it’s not because I relate to any of the historical reasons it is celebrated, but rather the ideal behind it. Some days you need to appreciate and be thankful for all the things that positively contribute to your life.

Amo Pllumbi is in his fourth year of a Business Administration degree at CMU.

How One Step of Faith Led to a 600 km Walk

Leading up to the summer of 2017, I could never have anticipated the depth of transformation I would experience, and the alteration this would have on my daily life as a young, white, settler student, and as a Christian.

Colin Remier 2

As I prepared to work over the summer, Erin Froese (a fellow CMU student, and previous #myCMUlife blogger) planted a seed in my mind at a screening of the documentary film Split Lake last Spring, about entering the Indigenous-settler conversation more intentionally through the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights.

While I thought little of it at first, God pulled me in. After consulting with some of my spiritual advisors, I took a leap of faith and committed to the entire walk: 600 km from Kitchener to Ottawa.

Did I know what I was getting myself into? Was I prepared for God’s new, transformative path, of which he had begun preparing me for? Could I have anticipated being who or where I am now, from who I was and where I began last spring?

The answer? No.

With great joy and exhilaration I walked; learning along the way, first hand, what it meant to be an Indigenous ally, to walk the path of reconciliation, and what the struggles have been like for our host peoples over the past 150 years of colonialism. 

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Engaging with people of faith and walking day after day, I found a deeper connection and passion growing inside me for the pursuit of justice and reconciliation, believing even now that the church belongs here.

As I developed relationships with specific people such as Leah Gazan, Steve Heinrichs, and MP Romeo Saganash, this personal drive grew exponentially. 

Along the way, I contacted my parents and asked about my grandfather’s work with the Indigenous communities of Manitoba, and came to learn that my ancestry traces (at least partially) into the Indigenous community of The Long Plains. Recognizing that I am the grandson of honorary Chief White Cloud, and that indigenous peoples’ value ancestry very highly, I committed to reignite the reconciliation work my grandfather had begun back in the 1970’s.   

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Following the completion of the Pilgrimage, I found myself planning, but in a type of limbo as if waiting for some guidance as to the direction I should go. While developing a list of actions surrounding the Pilgrimage and Bill-C262 had been simple, taking initiative to provide local education and support in my hometown of Boissevain, Manitoba (Treaty 2 territory), proved to be quite challenging.

However, after several meetings with my pastor, various conversations with fellow Indigenous allies, as well as suggestions from mentors and my parents, I pushed hard for action in August. Since then, I have begun planning possible citywide events with Kerry Saner-Harvey of Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba around a variety of Indigenous issues, particularly those surrounding Muskrat Falls. 

Through the editorial assistance of a few individuals, I wrote and had an article published in the local paper, the Boissevain Recorder, where I discussed the relevance of the Pilgrimage, and the essential importance of Bill-C262 being passed. I have also become a Fellowship Group leader, leading a group on the study and discussion of Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, a book that tackles church-indigenous relations.

Last, but not least, since the latter half of the Pilgrimage to now, I have become an activist on social media lobbying for the Bill, for Indigenous Rights, and for the positive change that can and is happening.

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While I am back at CMU, I continue to lobby and participate in various actions surrounding Bill-C262, and am excited for the future of where this new path may take me. It is here that I have found truth to the phrase, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

I found joy on the Pilgrimage, and in discussion and writing over the summer, and I continue to find joy and see God’s grace in the love and community that I have returned to for another year at CMU.

Colin Reimer is a third year Psychology major at CMU.

From camp to CMU: Knowing God beyond academia

I’m not sure what wild whim it was last February that had me filling out and submitting and application for Summer Staff at Camp Mennoscah.

Lizzie Schrag (far right) with her roommates from Camp Mennoscah. Lizzie Schrag: knowing God beyond academia

Lizzie Schrag (far right) with her roommates from Camp Mennoscah.

My relationship with this Kansas church camp was shaky, at best. I hadn’t gone every year as a camper, and not all the years I had attended had been particularly good experiences. From what I could remember it was hot, sandy, and full of both poison ivy and extroverts.

So when I arrived at camp last June, I had come because it was something in which I believed. I had taken enough BTS courses at that point to have a vague recognition that, when set up correctly, Christianity could be positive and life-giving instead of horribly destructive, as my own post-high school experience had led me to conclude.

Camp, then, was the best example of Christianity being “set-up” correctly, that I could think of: an intentional community that broke bread together; worked, played, and rested together; had healthy intergenerational interactions; and defied gender stereotypes—all on a place set aside as holy ground by the life-giving flow of the Ninnescah River.

Lizzie Schrag: knowing God beyond academia

But what I didn’t bargain for when I arrived at camp was, well, the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God: that Grace, eloquently described in Hamilton’s ‘Unimaginable‘, as “too powerful to name.”

When I started working at camp, I viewed all those aforementioned aspects of Christianity as a check-list, as if I could simply mark them off once they happened. I saw them as practices that brought us closer to God. But I had gone so long without feeling that overflowing, overwhelming love, grace, and certainty in who I was as a child of God, that I couldn’t quite dare to believe that I would again.

But God has a way of overturning all our assumptions and our expectations.

Somewhere between buckets of compost, stacks of dishes, and a little turtle poop (I was the nature person after all), I regained trust in my own ability to be strong, capable, and loving in service—a living example of worship.

And between hymn sings and hug circles, notes of love from our director and quiet campers pouring out their stories, I regained trust in the loving goodness of other people.

And on my last night with campers, as I was hanging back at campfire waiting to put it out, I found myself talking to a camper whose difficult story was eerily similar to my own, and in ministering to her, (I guess that’s what listening, and sharing, and praying really is), I regained my trust in God, and God’s ability to work through what is messy, and broken, and seemingly irreparable.

Lizzie Schrag: Knowing God beyond academia

I went to camp because it seemed like a place to live out what I had learned in textbooks and lectures. But I left knowing God beyond academia.

I affirmed that I need a place to write and think, to make sense of God amidst all the dangerous, damaging religiosity I have, and continue to brush up against. But I also learned that God’s mercy forces us to reevaluate our doubts, God’s grace can sass our bitter cynicism right back, and God’s love can come in forms as small as a baby turtle, and as expansive as a prairie sky.

At camp I slammed into a God who is in all and through all. Even me.

Elizabeth Schrag is in her second year of a Biblical and Theological Studies major. 
This post was first shared in Chapel at CMU on Sept 12, 2017.

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