Category: faith life (Page 1 of 4)

Hilarity, Belonging, and Mission: An Interview with Two Summer Camp Staff Members

Ah, the summers of my childhood. Bike rides to the ice-cream place down the block, afternoons at the local pool, and best of all, summer camp.

For many CMU students, summer camp isn’t only a memory of summers past, it’s an everyday summer adventure as they make up the staff of camps far and wide! I interviewed two summer camp staffers (Marnie Klassen and Johanna Klassen) who recently worked with Camps With Meaning. We talked about past camp experiences, the word “average”, and how their CMU and camp experiences flow into one another.

_________________________________________________

Hey friends! Tell me a little about yourselves and your camp/CMU roles.

Johanna: My name is Johanna Klassen. I’m 19, and I worked as a Senior Counsellor this summer, at both Camp Assiniboia and Camp Koinonia. I’m currently in my second year of music studies at CMU, with the goal to pursue education.

Marnie: My name is Marnie Klassen. I’m in my 4th year at CMU, and spent the summer as the Bible Instructor at Camp Assiniboia, one of Mennonite Church Manitoba’s two summer camps. I’m studying Social Theology.

Did you go to summer camp as a child? Did that influence your decision to work at camp at all?

Johanna: Growing up I went to Camps with Meaning from as early an age as possible. I went to Camp Assiniboia when I was a younger child, and as got older I began going to Camp Koinonia because I wanted a camp experience that included more camping experiences, including canoe trips out on Max Lake and beyond.

Marnie: I only started going to camp as a pre-teen. At that time, my older siblings were both camp staff and my mom was on the board of the camp we were involved with, so in some ways I was more of a staff kid than just a camper. The sense of ebbing and flowing community really struck me and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to be part of something that combined hilarity with a deep sense of belonging and mission.

Why did you decide to work at camp?

Johanna: The main reason I began working at camp was because of the wonderful, inspiring, faith-forming weeks I had as a camper, and I wanted to make that a reality for youth in the future. I was encouraged by my counsellors the year before I could volunteer in the Day Camp Program at Camp Assiniboia, and I had a multitude of friends that also were planning to work at camp—I knew it would be a fun way to spend the summer! Now my friends have grown into a supportive community which has been shaped at camp, and I am lucky to be a part of it not only during the summer but also throughout the year, which is a big reason why I keep going back.

Marnie: This summer I ended up at Camp Assiniboia largely because I wanted to laugh more. As with most people my age, I’m learning a lot about myself and the world and came to a point where I realized I needed to take myself less seriously. So I went to camp to laugh more!

Johanna, middle, with CMU friends

Tell me a bit about an average day at camp.

Johanna: I don’t believe I had an ‘average day’ this summer, as I worked only one week with each age, every week with a different schedule. But, usually: I attend morning prayer, sit down to eat at least five times throughout the day, sometimes cook supper at campout, sleep outside under the stars, song-lead during Bible time, lead Camp Skills (including fire-building and natural tea making), run around with kiddos, and swap stories about God with campers and staff alike in the evening.

Marnie: A day in my role this summer could be compared to an obstacle course. You think you know what’s coming, there’s a ton of variety, and inevitably you end up being surprised by something. We started the day with morning prayer, breakfast, and staff meeting/devos, before Bible, which was my biggest part of the day. I was teaching about Community, based on Colossians 3:12-14, and we did tons of fun activities. Afternoons looked like filling in wherever needed, making sure that program was running and staff were getting their time off. In the evenings I facilitated Fireside, a time of worship and faith story sharing. I usually finished off the night either with some office work or a leadership meeting. Long, fulfilling days.

Wow! I definitely shouldn’t have used the word “average”. So what motivates you to work in such a high-energy environment all summer?

Johanna: Knowing that even though it doesn’t always feel like it, what I’m doing has a positive impact on someone. I know this because I experience it every day at camp myself, this coming from someone else. Spending quality time with people who raise important questions, are not afraid to be silly, willing to listen. Understanding the beauty of creation and community so well that I can feel it in my bones.

Marnie: It’s a wonderful thing to be part of faith embodiment. Every conversation is a chance to honor someone’s story or encourage someone. Yes, it’s exhausting. But it also matters. The energy of the staff and the delight of the campers is very fueling.

Marnie (right) at Camp Assiniboia

Did you see any of your CMU classes, learning, or experiences come into play while you worked at camp?

Johanna: More generally, my first year at CMU taught me to ask questions, and to be resilient in the midst of stress and confusion. More specifically, in the spring I had a camper who was quite anxious, and stuck to one staff member throughout the day. She wanted to sing in the talent show, but was nervous about where she would stand, what it would be like and the music itself. I suggested we practice, and because I had taken Music Skills, I was able to accompany the camp songs on piano more easily and sing with her. This made me feel like I could do something to ease her anxiety, and CMU gave me some of those tools.

Marnie: I certainly drew on my learning from Pastoral Care and Counseling as I spent a lot of time this summer in conversation with younger staff, helping them make sense of their stories. It was a huge honor to be trusted with those stories, and I think I was able to do that in part because of that class, as well as others that have touched on things like narrative theology.

Are there any stories or moments that immediately come to mind when you think about this summer?

Johanna: Every time I try to think of a moment to share, this one always pops up in my mind: one camper really stood out to me this year made me laugh more than any other, and also asked me the most thought-provoking questions. One evening before bed in a cabin full of seven-year-olds, she was sitting on her bunk, engrossed in the task of quietly putting on bug spray and sunscreen. When asked why? she replied, “I just like to.” I kept coming back to this situation realizing that sometimes, we do things even though they don’t make sense, just because we like to. And every time I think about it, I earnestly laugh out loud. On our walk in the forest to our campsite, she held my hand and asked, “why do the mosquitoes have such a nice home?” in moments of chaos and quiet, she was able to put a smile on my face, and remind me how much wonder is in the world.

Marnie: This summer was my first time working with adults with disabilities, and I learned oh so much. I learned about grace and communication and kindness and absurd and hopeful laughter and love. I will never forget listening to Roam by the B-52’s seven times and dancing with one camper as she prepared to go to bed. I’ve seldom known grace in such a way as that.

These stories are so wonderful and heartwarming. Thank you two for sharing your stories and experiences with me!

Chloe Friesen is 3rd Year Communications and Media Student

“So, You’re All Mennonite, Right?” A Reflection

“So, you’re all Mennonite, right?”

I should’ve began counting how many times I’ve been asked this question the first time I heard it. The number would be laughably high.

Most often, I receive the question in response to me stating that I go to Canadian Mennonite University. They hear the word “Mennonite” paired with the word “university” and their eyes narrow, the wheels in their brain spinning. The person I’m talking to has most definitely never visited campus; they don’t know what we all know.

If you head to the “Fast Facts About CMU” page on the CMU website, you get a quick rundown of what’s going on here on campus regarding faith backgrounds.

  • 44% of students are from diverse Ecumenical traditions
  • 37% of students come to CMU from Mennonite or Anabaptist related backgrounds
  • 19% of students disclose no faith or church background.

Wait a minute… we’re not ALL Mennonites? I laugh as I’m writing this, because I am Mennonite and I have met plenty of other Mennonites during the past few years, but I have also met the most culturally and religiously diverse student body that I have ever been a part of.

Last week in my Theology and Art class, we went around the classroom stating what our faith backgrounds were, just to get a sense of the different angles we would be approaching the art and readings we were about to dive into.

I began writing down what I heard, the “so you’re all Mennonite, right?” question surfacing in my mind. Here’s the list I gathered:

We're all different...

 “Pentecostal”

“Agnostic”

“Evangelical”

“Christian”

“Muslim”

“I’m still figuring things out”

“Not religious”

“Roman Catholic”

“Swiss Baptist”

“Buddhist”

“Mennonite Brethren”

“Mennonite General Conference”

“Anglican”

“Protestant”

“Ethiopian Orthodox”

The diversity of the list was interesting, sure, but what interested me more was the confidence in which these words were being said. No one felt like they were “wrong” or “an outsider”, and there was no perceivable judgement coming from the professor or the class. If anything, there was an feeling of gratitude emanating. If you’re a student or staff member here at CMU, you’ll recognize this feeling.

We all had this amazing opportunity to gather together twice a week, to have conversations about art and theology, and we were already being blessed with such rich conversations because of the religious diversity within our classroom. We were all different, and that was good.

I truly believe that CMU is a place for everyone, not just Mennonites. Yes, the university is built upon a foundation of important Mennonite values (check out the Mennonites and CMU page on the website for more info), but we’re a stronger institution when we recognize our differences. And students, professors, and staff all know it! My education has only benefitted from my conversations with and the contributions of everyone here.

So, are we all Mennonite? Definitely not. Am I thankful for that? Yes.

Chloe Friesen, 3rd Year Communications and Media Student

A Place of Belonging: A Thank You To Our Donors

CMU would not exist without the generous support of our donors, and for them we are so incredibly grateful. Many students rely on and benefit from financial aid, and every year CMU celebrates the people and organizations who make this aid possible! This wonderful speech was given by 3rd year student Marnie Klassen, who thanked our donors on behalf of the students this past Tuition Freedom Day. Enjoy!

Marnie KlassenNearly three months ago, I sat behind the steering wheel of my friend’s car, driving towards Winnipeg after a summer home in BC, and listening to an interview with social researcher Brene Brown. She was talking about true belonging and said, “Fitting in is when you want to be part of something. Belonging is when other people want you.”

I grinned at the passing prairies because I knew that was exactly what I was returning to.

CMU is a place of making connections, and a place of belonging. I’d like to tell you a bit about my experience with these things, and how being able to make connections has created a space of belonging for me.

I arrived at CMU two years ago, pretty sure that I knew what I was doing. I would major in Communications and Media, and double minor in Biblical and Theological Studies alongside Peace and Conflict Transformation. Yeah…that didn’t happen. After a few classes, it was clear which conversations made me come more alive. My plans were upturned.

Since abandoning my 18-year-old-self’s plan, something miraculous has happened – I have begun seeing and making connections. What does this look like exactly?

Technically, it means that I’m pursuing an interdisciplinary degree in Social Theology with a communications minor. But technical terms don’t tell you much—let me instead tell you what I’ve experienced here at CMU.

I lived in dorm for two years, and was drawn into a community full of commonality and difference. A few months into my time here, I found myself a part of a group of friends all studying different things—there was the composer, the music therapist, the philosopher, the poet, the peacemaker, among others. There we were, sharing cafeteria meals and constantly gleaning from each other’s learning. I still sometimes forget that I did not, in fact, take Business Ethics last year, for all of the wonderful and intriguing tidbits that permeated dinner conversations.

"CMU is a place of making connections and a place of belonging"I didn’t only eat with peers. Eventually I began eating a lunch or two a week with professors, and realized that not only was I developing relationships with them and the ideas they brought to the intellectual table, but they had their own relationships that they were happy to welcome me into. I would eat quiche with faculty members Kenton Lobe and Chris Huebner, and would be drawn into conversation not about sustainable development or Michel Foucault, but about cyclocross racing. The people and ideas I was dovetailing with were also constantly connecting.

The real learning came when the connections began to move from conversation to classroom to experience.

In Introduction to Sociology, I wrote about bicycle commuting, interviewing three winter cyclists from Winnipeg and postulating that their interaction with their place increased the ways they were able to build social relationships, rooting their identity as neighbour in their concrete neighborhoods. At the time it was very theoretical for me, as I felt I did not have a neighbourhood, living at CMU and all, and I was not a cyclist. Months later, in The Study of Voluntary Simplicity, I took up a simplicity practice. In an effort to discover what this simplicity business was all about, I began to spend time outside every day. Suddenly I had a neighbourhood. The trees of the Assiniboine Forest and the deer prancing frantically across Grant Avenue were my neighbours, inviting me into their space of belonging.

This fall, I am living off campus for the first time, and while my academic work is still significant, I wonder if my most important work is not my walk to and from church each week. The theoretical learning in which I partook a year ago has translated into the way I live my life with others, the very grounding notion of belonging in a neighborhood, to a community rooted in its place.

This is not a small thing. Entering a space at CMU where I can make these connections between disciplines, and between academia and my own life has allowed me to find a space of belonging. Coming from three provinces away, it is no insignificant feat to build a home in a place. And yet that is what I have been enabled to do here. I keep coming back to a line from a friend’s thesis which she presented two years ago. She wrote, “Learning is a practice in community,” and I think that’s exactly right. We would not be able to learn and become in the same way in isolation.

And so, dear donors, government, and churches, thank you. Thank you for making possible this space where not only can we students learn to read and write and study well, but where we can make connections to the other parts of our lives and learn to belong to each other. Thank you for your prayers, your participation in our community, and your generosity of heart and resource. May we receive these gifts well and continue to create spaces of belonging, as might fit in the Kingdom of God.

Seeing God Through a Fish | Guest blogger: Sara Wolowich

This past summer I had the opportunity to do my practicum with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg.

carmine shiner minnowOver the course of the summer I learned so much and experienced what it would be like to be a research scientist. I began working with Rachel Krause, Assistant Professor of Biology at CMU, on a partnership project with DFO studying carmine shiners, a type of minnow, and the parasites found inside these fish. DFO wanted to continue this project over the summer and they hired me to conduct dissections.

The field research brought me to Birch River, where the elusive carmine shiner can be found. This species is endangered, and this project is an effort to know more about the species and its changing metabolic rates related to temperature and climate change. In short, what we did was go out to the field (or river) and conducted respirometry experiments by placing the fish in tubes and measuring their oxygen consumption. These experiments are being done in the fall, spring, and summer, to measure metabolic rates related to temperature. In search of a relationship between metabolic rate and parasite load, the fish were then examined for parasites.

Sara Wolowich field workI also had the opportunity to go out and do nearshore surveys in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg, learn about fish tagging and receivers, and bathymetry. It was very cool to be working in a place where everything I learned in my CMU ecology classes was so relevant.

God was also brought into this summer in a weird variety of ways. I have always believed that whatever I do I am working for the Lord. Somedays in this job it felt so real.

There were times when I stood in the river for hours, as we were running experiments, and just got to stand in the middle of creation and admire it. I stared down the mud and what the small invertebrates crawl around. I watched tadpoles and small fish. I listened to the birds and the water flow by and enjoyed the sun. I took time to see all the life around us that we usually ignore. I remember one time just looking at one drop of water and seeing multiple things move within it.

Sara Wolowich conducting testsWe are part of a world and a creation that is intricate and so much bigger than what we see. I never imagined myself dissecting fish, never-mind looking for parasites, but it was very fascinating. When you are studying something for a period of time under a microscope you see how intricate and amazingly created it is. Once you know more about something you want to care for it and protect it.

I also encountered God in the lab as I was faced with questions of life and death. It broke me to take these little fish that thrive so well in their natural environment and euthanize them so I could look for parasites. One surprising question that arose for me during my time at DFO was do I really have the right to experiment and in many cases take the life of different organisms to hopefully gain insight to help the rest of the species in the future. I found myself asking for forgiveness and apologizing as well as praying that each fish we killed would protect more of its kind in the future.

Sara Wolowich Lab WorkI also struggled a lot with working alone in the lab looking through a microscope for days. This work is not simple. Science is not easy and the questions we ask about the world around us are not easy to answer. I dissected fish all summer long and I still found new parasites. Somedays I needed to show up at work at 7:00 AM a few days in a row in and work long days in order to complete field work.

I also was pushed in the type of work I did in different environments. I love being outside but have never been an outdoorsy/back-woods type of person. Though, this job required me to work in a waist deep river in the cold rain seining for fish. It also required me to walk through the bush carrying heavy equipment needed for data collection. I learned that rain, bugs, mud, and sometimes sleep is not important in order to gather the information to the questions you are asking. I gained strength physically and mentally. And I know that God gave me strength to do this work.

Sara WolowichAnother lesson I learned was that there is a lot of work that must be done to plan and prepare for going out into the field, and that once you are outdoors you are at mercy of the environment. As scientists we do not control the environment we go into and we must adapt and be creative in order to make our projects attainable in the field. I feel that I gained valuable skills of planning out a project and also being able to think on my feet when actually carrying out the experiment.

I have read so many journal articles for class and in those papers the emotions, the work, the failures, and frustrations are not shown. Science is objective but there has to be emotion in it. Why do we do things like protect these tiny fish that seem to have no known value to us?

Because we believe they are innately valuable and in my mind this value is given to them by God. He gave them life as he gave us life.

That is why I am so grateful for my faith and for this experience, because when I was in the river or at my microscope I could seek God’s Kingdom first.

Sara Wolowich is a 4th year Environmental Studies student.

The courage to be vulnerable

Jason Friesen - The courage to be vulnerable (Portrait of Jason Friesen on the Marpeck bridge wearing a grey long sleeved t-shirt with the CMU logo across the chest.)

Most of us don’t like to be in vulnerable spaces. The uncertainties of those spaces leave us with butterflies fluttering around in our stomachs. Conceding power is uncomfortable. Yet CMU is a place that exemplifies and guides us into those vulnerable spaces.

Let’s start with the classroom. One of CMU’s largest selling points is the small class sizes, which allow students to interact personally with their professors. This is completely accurate, but just saying that to a prospective student at a campus visit day doesn’t fully capture the connection between professors and students.

CMU students are not only treated to professors who interact with them, but professors who make themselves vulnerable.

I still remember taking Interpersonal Communication in my second year with sociology professor Rod Reynar. The very first class, Rod told us some of his life story. Hearing about Rod’s chronic back pain caused by inflammation around his spinal cord, and how that kept him bed ridden for years sent a strong message on its own. But his actions sent a message that would set the tone for the rest of the semester. The classroom was to be a space of sharing, where personal experiences were a valuable asset to learning. How could we students not follow suit and share of our own lives as well?

Students seated at a desk in small classroom at CMU, engaging with a professor across from them.

That invitation to make those kinds of connections is not isolated to a class focusing on Interpersonal Communication. It quickly becomes something we expect in the classroom at CMU no matter the course. Here, professors constantly ask students to connect what they are learning to their own lives, and to share those connections.

If you stick around CMU beyond class times, you become familiar with another place of vulnerability – the many student council events on campus, from the GOlympics, to coffee houses, to Film 60. Though these events are definitely aimed to provide student entertainment, there is something else going on in these spaces. It’s obvious when you see student Zach Stefaniuk perform at a coffee house, as he pipes up on a goofy song, and brings a room to a roar of laughter like only he can.

And then there are music students: they start out understandably timid in their first Thursday recital, and blossom into fine, expressive performers by the time their grad performance rolls around. 

At coffeehouses, recitals, and everything in between, students are opening themselves up to potential praise and critique. Yet students keep signing up and showing up!  They seem to like making themselves vulnerable and equally appreciate it when others do the same.

Not all acts of vulnerability are as public as the classroom or CMU events though. A space where I have seen the most vulnerability is on the volleyball team.

Jason Friesen - The courage to be vulnerable (The CMU mens volleyball team line up for a team photo after winning the MCAC championships for the second year in a row.)

This past year, our team committed to doing weekly Bible studies. We read scripture, watched videos of athletes like MLB pitcher Clayton Kershaw and NHLer Mike Fisher tell their faith stories, and shared of our own experiences. And I know for a fact that we were not the only group of students doing this on campus.

Whether through fellowship groups or late night discussions in a residence lounge, signs of this type of vulnerability are scattered throughout campus, sometimes hidden in spaces most will never see.  

What is significant about these examples is that only the first scenario involves CMU faculty or staff directly. The other examples show students choosing to put themselves in vulnerable spaces. The culture of the classrooms at CMU encourages students to be vulnerable and to walk alongside others as they do the same. This culture fosters that type of living throughout students’ lives!    

We live in an age with many examples of strength associated with power and dominance. But CMU is a university that cultivates students to challenge the norm, to think critically about what we see in the world, and to draw our values from scripture rather than popular culture.

The Theologies of Power course with Irma Fast Dueck, and a reading from theologian Walter Wink’s “Facing the Myth of Redemptive Violence”, follow that trend. The belief that the ends can justify any amount of violent means surrounds us in films, TV shows, and almost every story we encounter. But not the narrative of scripture. Jesus lived a life full of courage and strength, yet none of it revolved around the type of power we are used to. Instead, he showed strength through coming to earth as a child and living a life of service, and he showed courage through sacrificing his life for us. I can think of no better examples of courage and strength, and at the same time can’t fathom any greater displays of vulnerability.

Author and theologian C.S.Lewis perhaps puts it best. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” My hope is that as each of us branch out from CMU into the world, we would take the risk that Lewis is talking about.

We come to CMU as vulnerable newcomers, and when it comes time to leave, we will walk into many more situations that need vulnerable people. A friend of mine, accompanies her email signature with a quote that reads,  “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to grow? Because that’s exactly what courage, strength, love, and vulnerability call for.  Embrace that and continue to create those vulnerable spaces.

Jason Friesen wearing his black graduation cap and gown on the day of his graduation from CMU's Communications and Media program.Jason Friesen is a 2018 graduate of CMU’s Communications and Media program, and this year’s Valedictorian. He was also the lead blogger for #myCMUlife in the 2017-18 school year, and this post was adapted from his valedictory address.

Page 1 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén