Seeds of Encouragement

By Hannah McNeilly and Emma Mitchell

As the first semester of this incredible program comes to a close, many students have expressed feelings of excitement, sadness, nervousness, and joy.  It’s been an incredible three months full of adventure, learning, and lots of challenge.  This past week has been focused on debrief and reflection regarding our experiences over the past three months. Our debrief took place at Camp Evergreen, Alberta, a beautiful camp where we had opportunities to go on trail rides, wall climb, shoot some arrows, and zipline. When we weren’t doing crazy activities, or hanging out in the bouldering room, we were spending time looking back on the semester together. We did various activities that helped us recount what exactly we did every week, which was helpful and super fun.  We also enjoyed watching Invictus together as a group, which aided us on our quest to discover more about beautiful South Africa and its history. We ended our time at Evergreen with a Christmas banquet, an evening that involved delicious food, a Secret Santa gift exchange, games, and Just Dance. It was a great way to begin the Christmas season!

A specific experience that impacted several members of the group was our Thursday afternoon session which was spent encouraging one another with the fruit of the spirit. Each of us chose the names of three people in the group and chose a fruit of the spirit that we noticed they had demonstrated throughout our time together. It was a very emotional afternoon, and by the end of the two hours of encouragement, there was hardly a dry eye in the room. It was a beautiful thing, hearing about how we have impacted each other over the last two and a half months, and how close this community has become. One person who was particularly impacted by this time of encouragement was our very own Ty Birrell. We’ve asked him some questions about his experience below.

What are you feeling now that the semester is coming to a close?

“Excitement, yet I’m upset about leaving everyone.  I am truly looking forward to next semester though.  I think I’d rather go six months without a break because I love these people so much, but I am also looking forward to spending time with family and friends.”

How were you impacted this past semester spiritually and personally?

“I feel like I’ve actually learned how to pray, and through that deepened my relationship with God.  I am learning that He surprises us in many ways, like answers to prayer.  Even though sometimes we don’t like His answers, we know He loves us. And personally, I have discovered more about who I am as an adult and I feel more confident in my ability to make decisions for myself and to not let others make decisions for me.”

How did the session based on the fruit of the spirit impact you?

“Expressing love for people I care about is an extreme pleasure and honor. Unfortunately, we only had the chance to encourage three people and I would have loved to encourage everyone in the community, especially Hannah McNeilly and Emma Mitchell (who wrote this post) because they are great.  Watching how other people expressed their love and appreciation for one another gave us all great joy and it made me realize how close this community has become. I felt especially honored when I had the opportunity to encourage my leader Chris.  He has been such an incredible mentor and friend to so many of us and it’s been a blessing to get to know him.”

What do you think is the most important thing you will take away from this experience?

“Don’t be afraid to try new things.  Adjusting is easier than you may think.  As much as I often feel uncomfortable by change, sometimes it’s important to face it because it can bring a lot ofexcitement and discovery.”

Ty’s experience is only one of 33.  We have all been hugely impacted by each other, God and our interaction with the world.  It has been challenging and exciting all at the same time, and we are all aware of how unique this opportunity has and will continue to be.  We look forward to the next few months of this adventure!



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Lake Louise!

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Worship and thanksgiving by the fire!


Wagon rides!


Site 2 love!



One thought on “Seeds of Encouragement

  1. Merry Christmas to each of you. You have learned so much this far into the year, imagine what you will learn when living in south Africa I’ll pray for all of you, Judy

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