Home Away From Home

It was so amazing to have arrived in a place we had never been that was filled with people that we did not know, and to have them welcome us into their homes. This past week we had the opportunity to live in the homes of people in the Strandfontein area, and it was been filled with so much hospitality, and caring that so many of us were able to feel a slight bit of home away from home. It seems like the relationships that we build with the people around us is a pillar on which this Outtatown experience stands, and a lot of this past week we were able to immerse ourselves in a few amazing relationships. The time that we spent with our homestays was accompanied by being able to learn a little bit about the area we were staying.



We also had the privilege to visit Robben Island, as well as the District Six Museum which is filled with the history of Coloured people in the Cape Town area.

“I’ve been wanting to visit Robben Island ever since I knew who Nelson Mandela was.  I’ve always been a huge history nerd and this experience gave me the full course history meal that I was craving to eat.  I brought Long Walk To Freedom along on the trip with me, and I read the section about Mandela being imprisoned on Robben Island the day before we went, as well as on the boat on the way to the Island.  It made the experience as a whole a lot more powerful and haunting.  We started off with a bus tour of the island.  Our guide told us all about the history of the island and how it used to be an island for lepers in the 1800s, and then obviously the infamous prison.  The interesting thing was that the island is beautiful.  Watching the deep blue water crashing up against the rocks, while walking on white sand littered with unique shells and being able to see an amazing view of Table Mountain and Cape Town was something I wasn’t expecting.  It was almost peaceful.  We drove past an old church, a leper cemetery, some old barracks, the building where people can stay voluntarily overnight (Mandela stayed the night there 3 times after he was released), and the quarry that had a pile of rocks as a small memorial.  It was all barren and quite haunting, but in a beautiful way.

“That part of the tour lasted about 45 minutes.  Then it was time for the heavier stuff, inside the maximum security prison.  The tour being given to us was lead by an ex-political prisoner who was imprisoned at Robben Island.  We entered a communal cell to begin the tour.  It was clear that the prison had been heavily renovated.  Our guide started talking about how he got arrested, and a bit of his time in prison, but he didn’t dwell on it too much for obvious reasons.  He talked about how the Black people got less clothing, food, and blankets than the Indian and Coloured people.  He talked about how the solitary cells (where the majority of the political prisoners were kept) were -if I’m correct- 2 by 2.5 metres.  On the weekends, prisoners would have to stay in there for 23 hours per day.  They had to use a bucket for a toilet.  He said that this was not only gross, but it’s embarrassing and shameful as well.  He showed us the straw mats the prisoners had to sleep on, and let me tell you, they were not much more comfortable than the ground itself.  Our guide also said that the inmates were given 3 blankets when they first got to the island and that it was not uncommon for them to be already infected with lice. 

“Then he took us outside to the concrete pad.  You know the one I’m talking about.  We stood on that thing. The concrete had been redone, but it still felt like we were standing on something much more powerful than a slab of concrete- and we were.  Our guide pointed to a window across the court and said: “You guys see that window? 4th one from the left? That’s Mandela’s cell.”  Oh man.  That’s his cell.  We went into this building and inside was a narrow hallway filled with tons of these 2 x 2.5 metre cells (all of which were repainted as well).  Then I got to Mandela’s cell.  We couldn’t go inside, but I grabbed onto those prison bars and stared into that room where he spent so much of his time.  He said in his book that if he stretched out on his “bed” all the way, he could touch wall to wall.  Some people’s mattresses are bigger than that cell was.  It’s crazy to think that a person who spent that much time in that place, was able to come out of it a sane and forgiving man; one of the greatest leaders of all time.  Time and time again it comes up that there is beauty in brokenness and I think Nelson Mandela is the epitome of that.   It was truly an unforgettable experience.” – Emma Martens



Service with a Deeper Purpose

Hello everybody! Last week was our second and final week spent in Stellenbosch and Kayamandi, and it was full of service and fun. Monday to Wednesday were spent working on our Kayamandi service projects, which included starting a garden at a primary school, painting a mural, spending time learning from and cooking with a local Gogo (or grandmother), and fixing up creches (daycares) and churches with members of the community. We also spent time getting in touch with our athletic sides by playing cricket, attending a university rugby match, and hiking Table Mountain.

Throughout the whole week we were focused on what we called “the real project”- building relationships with the people that we were working with and trying our best to impact their lives in whatever ways we could, not only through supplying materials for their projects. Our main goal was to make friends in Kayamandi, and I think we all left feeling like we accomplished just that. God really shone through our guides and our project partners, and it was crazy to see how God led us to amazing people and things this week. It really solidified Jeremiah 29:11 for me, that God is always in control, knows exactly what He is doing and will always lead us to great things.

Have a safe and happy week! God bless!

By Emma Mitchell

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Building Relationships and Making an Impact

Wow, this week went by so fast.  We started it off by reuniting with the wonderful Johan, a long-time Outtatown partner, who explained to us what would be on the agenda for the week.  I (Hannah) remember thinking to myself “wow, this is going to be a full two weeks, and they are going to be extraordinary”, and so far, our time here has been exactly that. 

Monday through to Wednesday, we were divided into six small “service” groups and basically thrown into the Kayamandi community.  Kayamandi is a suburb of Stellenbosch and a former township, meaning it was underdeveloped and segregated during Apartheid.  Our intent coming in was building relationships, making an impact, and empowering people.  Wow, what a mission. 

Personally, I was overwhelmed with even the thought of the upcoming adventure.  Every morning, we were dropped off at the Kuyasa Community Centre where we were joined by guides who were there to serve alongside of us in their own community, and where we received guidance from Johan and Simba – a leader at the centre.  Each group spent significant time in prayer as we waited for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as to where we were to spend time serving during the following week. The first portion of our time in Kayamandi was spent touring the area under the leadership of our guide Chuma. 

My (Hannah) team ended up getting to know the mother of a local creche (daycare), and we are looking forward to building a shelter that will hopefully provide more shade to the 40+ children who attend. We were very moved, especially when we saw the relationship between our guide and her son Soso who attended the creche.  He is a differently-abled child (a term used here instead of person with a disability), who knew how to laugh and love extremely well.  We have loved getting to know the many children, aged 0-5, who attend this creche.  We also loved the start of the planning process, as well as hearing the stories of those who worked there and having the opportunity to pray with the mother of the creche, Luleka.   

DSC_0623At the beginning of this week, I (Sarah) felt incredibly encouraged by what we were about to experience; Johan inspired us to look beyond surface level relationships and to look for a project which empowers and impacts people internally. This was going to be a lot more work than your average community project but I was so excited to see the ways in which God would provide opportunities to develop relationships with those in the community. Nolita, my group’s guide, had many connections throughout Kayamandi, two of which were the local Gogos. This is a term used to describe the elder grandmothers in the area. Our first Gogo was a fairly close neighbour of our guide. We were able to hear about her experience with Apartheid and her hopes for the future. The second Gogo was someone whom Nolita often greeted whenever she passed her house. We were also warmly welcomed as she shared a bit of her life experience. It was amazing how much joy and love she had despite a difficult past, and when I asked her about her reasoning to find joy despite past suffering, she replied that Jesus was her source. I feel blessed to have heard a bit of their wisdom.

Thursday and Friday were spent learning from two different guest speakers named Dion and Eric.  Dion touched on life in community and how culture shock can impact relationships, and we were blessed with the opportunity to hear Eric’s incredible testimony.  He grew up as one of the leading gang members and said that at only 13 years old, he had almost 600 kids willing to die for him.  After having been in jail several times before being 18 years old, he experienced hearing God’s voice for the first time in his bedroom with his bible open. He had struggled all his life with the belief that God was a “white man’s God” and couldn’t believe that God loved black men and women as well.  In an evening of desperation, he asked God to prove him wrong, and he was directed to a verse in Genesis that proclaims the truth that God is the God of ALL the nations;  Eric’s life was changed.  He now leads an organization designed to help young gang members, young prostitutes and their babies, and many other young people from all over South Africa.  He inspired us all with his story, which is living proof that God IS still working and IS still speaking to His children.  We were all blown away by his incredible testimony to God’s power and unending love. I (Hannah) had the opportunity to talk afterwards with Eric, whose gentleness and humility was refreshing to me.

We finished the week off with a hike and some time back on the ocean, which brought great joy to our community.


This is a long blog, I know, BUT, one last thing.  Sunday night, we had the opportunity to go to an on-campus church service.  It was a beautiful time of fellowship where we learned what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ.  This particularly impacted me, as I’ve been praying a lot lately about how Jesus is calling me to pick up my cross and follow him. I’ve been deeply impacted over these past few weeks regarding God’s character and how God asks me to respond to His love in obedience and in true discipleship.  I look forward to future intimacy with Christ and to see what this new call to suffer for the kingdom of God will look like in my life.

Written by Hannah McNeilly and Sarah Martens

Waddling our way through Simon’s Town

When one refers to an adventure a few things may come to mind, swimming with penguins just happened to be a part of the adventure that we had during this past week. Upon our arrival the excitement of being on the coast of Africa gave many of us a breath of fresh air. The views from our waterfront accommodations gave many of us a sense of thankfulness, and wonder at God’s creation. Our schedule roughly consisted of sky diving for many of us, showering in the ocean, and spending time in community. When coming into the Cape Town area we had also become acutely aware of just how scarce the water supply had become. If any of you do not know, Cape Town has been experiencing a drought that has been getting exponentially worse. We were informed months upon arrival, but during our time spent in the area we still had to be constantly mindful of our water consumption, and must continue to do so as we stay in and around the area. Despite the crisis, locals continue to be thankful that we are here; the region depends on tourism. It has been an amazing experience thus far, although many of us are still adjusting to the lifestyle of Outtatown community.


“Living in Community is a very difficult but prosperous experience. I am a person who tends to be able to speak and hang out with everyone comfortably so the “honeymoon phase” of Outtatown was a very exciting part for me. Now in South Africa people need a little more support from closer friends because of distance from home or culture shock, etc. That can go upside down or in a very positive way. I think our group is still trying to figure that out. I can see where our community is still trying to figure it out, however I think that everything takes time and growth and we just have to be patient before we can grow at an exponential rate.”

-Jonah BergIMG_6772

Although the lack of showering, intense heat, and adjustment to the lifestyle and culture here have been hard for some, God has continued to be good to us, and has provided us with opportunities to learn so much about the world around us.

Scribed by: Gil Greenway and Olita Elia

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A Bit of Home

By Emma Mitchell and Mathew Lancaster

Hallo! Site Two has spent the past week in Pretoria, learning about Afrikaner culture and history. Some very generous families opened their homes to us this week, allowing us to get a closer look at the life of an Afrikaner during the evenings, and to build close relationships with the people that allowed us to stay with them. Our days were spent listening to lectures on the history of Afrikaners, visiting various monuments and buildings around Pretoria, and, a highlight for everyone, spending time visiting a lion park, where we got to pet lion cubs and go on a game drive! By far however, the best part of our week was the time that we got to spend with our host families. We truly felt welcomed into their families and we are all sad to see the week come to an end! Below are some of the best things that we experienced with our host families during our week in Pretoria.

IMG_0826Emma Mitchell: “My host parents were an amazing couple named Rona and Nico. They invited six of us into their home this week- and anyone who knows our site knows that as a big group, we can be a lot to handle. Nonetheless, we were shown nothing but love by Rona and Nico this week. On our first day with them they took us on a safari at a nature reserve. I got to see wild zebras, rhinos, hippos, lions, and ostriches for the first time, which was the coolest thing ever. Every night we came home to a delicious home-cooked meal, some traditional foods, like biltong, and some foods we had been craving since leaving home, like pizza. On our last day with them, they took us to the zoo, and had their family over for a braai. Leaving them at the end of the week broke all of our hearts a little bit, but we swore to keep in contact, and we made plans to see them again before we all fly home at the end of the semester.”

IMG_0064Megan Dueck: “I think my favourite part of the semester so far was actually my Afrikaner homestay. Before the semester started I was already so stoked for the experience of living with a family of a different culture. Skylar and I spent our week with a couple and their two kids, enjoying the opportunity to separate ourselves from the larger group and be fully immersed in the daily life of this lovely family. We were able to learn from simple discussions, their view on what has happened and is happening in South Africa right now. It opened my eyes to how everyone experiences post-Apartheid differently, and how that means moving forward from it will be different for everyone. In a country of such diversity, embracing differences and creating unity despite the history of Apartheid will certainly be a long and difficult process. It takes longer to build after everything that has been torn apart. I only wish we could have had more time to build even better relationships with our homestay family.”


Sawubona Soweto!


Malcolm Mitchell enjoying the company of one of the many kids at the community centre

Our week in Soweto was FULL of incredible learning opportunities.  These included museums, monuments, memorials, university lectures, etc.  However, our first impressions of the place could not be described as academic.  As the bus pulled in to the community centre, we were met with the excitement and love of more than 50 children.  Our week overflowed with these kids and we could not have asked for better company every evening.

Sunday morning we all dressed in our best and loaded the bus for Orlando Baptist Church.  When we got there, we were welcomed by many who helped us integrate ourselves among the congregation members.  Everyone present would say the sermon was powerful, even though only some of us had a translator next to us.  There was passion that included tears of joy and of anger. At one point, the preacher invited two young girls up to the front to kneel at her feet as she prayed for the children of South Africa. This deeply impacted many of us.  Before and after the sermon, we joined the congregation in singing and dancing.  There was so much dancing, it would be hard to compare it to a North American church service for sure…. After the service, we enjoyed fellowship at a barbecue.


Students enjoying fellowship with congregation members at the church BBQ.

As the week progressed, we were led by longtime Outtatown partner Mpho and his student leaders – young university students from South Africa – in all sorts of activities and trips. They were an excellent resource to us throughout the week and many of us felt particularly blessed by our new friendships with these people. Over the course of the first few days, we were able to visit the Apartheid museum and the Hector Peterson Museum. We also visited Constitution Hill where, in the court room above the eleven judges chairs, there were eleven black cow hides hanging with a white spot in the middle of each; the black of all the cow hides was meant to represent the desired unity and equality among all South Africans, while the white spot was different on each one to show the individuality and uniqueness of every person.  I (Sarah) was impacted by all the monuments and art pieces containing symbolism to remind South Africa about how they are moving on from their hard past. I think this is a beautiful illustration of how we should view others.

We also had the privilege of attending a lecture at Witwatersrand University about South African education.  These sessions made many of us grow in appreciation for the freedom and excellent education opportunities we are blessed with back home.  It has been amazing to learn about all the transformations in South Africa and to see how it is still growing towards continued freedom and equality for all citizens.


Students listening to our guide during our Constitution Hill tour

For the last three days in Soweto, we were split off into smaller groups to serve at various different places including schools, orphanages, community centres, etc.  I (Hannah) was impacted by these few days, as I was blessed with the opportunity to serve at the Salvation Army Carl Sithole Children’s Home.  Coming from a Salvation Army background, it felt very much like home and I was able to connect with the officers there and several of the staff members that I spent time with.  It was particularly impactful to work in the kitchen with one of the student leaders named Mpho.  She taught me several Zulu phrases that I was able to put into practice in the kitchen.  We also learned from the wisdom of one of the kitchen ladies there who told us her incredible story, as well as what her life looks like now.  At the end of our time there, I could confidently call her a friend, and both Mpho and I look forward to keeping in touch with her.


We finished off the week with some pretty hardcore gardening followed by a party planned by us for the kids in the community.  It was an incredible week to be a part of and we will all remember the incredible memories made in Soweto.   Unfortunately this blog is written by only two of us, which means that you are only hearing from two perspectives.  There were MANY other impacts made on students in our community and we wish all could be included.


Our pretty hardcore gardening..

Written by: Sarah Martens and Hannah McNeilly

Together again in South Africa!!

And so begins… our first week reunited as a group. We spent the past five weeks enjoying our time with family and friends, and relaxing over the break. It seemed as if the excitement for our upcoming journey heightened the closer and closer it came to flying into Johannesburg. One of the things we have become accustomed to within the last week is a lot of heat and a constant sweat. This, however, pairs quite nicely with some ridiculously amazing waterfall adventures and hiking up Hiltons (hills/mountains). Friendly faces have really made the transition to South Africa so awesome because they seem to be everywhere since we stepped off the plane. We have gotten a taste of South African culture from being around some amazing people and places, and so far we are itching for more. God brought us together as a group of adventure-seeking individuals, and here we are at the start of potentially one of the greatest adventures we’ll experience.

“ I am definitely excited for the journey we are about to take off on, and I cannot wait for things like the homestays. This week when walking up one of the Hiltons, I tripped a lot on the way up, but the beauty that God showed me was worth every one of those trips. It seemed like God was there to help me reach the peak. Once I got to the top He showed me that no matter how hard the journey is He will always be there to help reach the goals that I set. I was stunned by the beauty of creation at the top, because it was unlike any view that I had experienced before. God is kinda cool like that. ” – David Risi

Although we all may take different perspectives on our experiences during our time here, each and every one is important to the many things we are about to learn, and the influence we will have on one another. So here’s to the beginning!

Scribed by Olita Elia and Gill Greenway