By Bailey Brockman
Being one month into program, Site 1 – Guatemala has been adjusting to our unique community life. Some have conquered this challenge very quickly, while others have had a more difficult journey. Regardless, we’ve all struggled at times, and still do, but have grown as not only a community, but as a family.
This week, our site had the opportunity to do our first Urban Plunge in downtown Winnipeg. We set up camp in both One88 Princess (a church-run drop-in centre for homeless people) and transitional housing. We had the chance to meet with Levi and Karissa from MB Mission, who told us stories and helped us prepare for the week ahead. Comfort zones were, to say the least, challenged one way or another. For some, navigating around the city streets with a sheet of directions and a map is both frightening and unfamiliar. For those of us used to city life, this wasn’t as much of a problem; however, being told to intentionally interact with those around them, specifically those experiencing homelessness, was not something they were typically used to or felt comfortable doing. Despite what previous exposure we have had to both city life and homelessness, we were pushed to broaden our comfort levels, leading to a great amount of personal growth.
Being in the North End, which is perceived as the “sketchy” part of town, was a great learning opportunity which not only changed the perspectives of those in our group from Winnipeg, but allowed everyone to pass further judgement towards a specific area, or group of people, etc.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the group was split up, all going to different organizations and missions including, Walls of Freedom Church, Siloam Mission, Flatlanders, The Union Gospel Mission, IRCOM, and the Provincial courts. Students had the chance to work behind the scenes by sorting through clothing, preparing food for the next meal, or cleaning the facility. Others were able to serve through engaging in conversation and personally interacting with those experiencing homelessness and less fortunate people who were attending. The impact these two days had on our group was phenomenal. Everyone came back with stories about the new people they had met that day or the things they had experienced. One student had “such a change of heart and perspective in a 20 minute conversation” in which they learned to be open minded and free of judgement. Another group of students were told by a homeless man to not worry about tomorrow’s anxieties (Matthew 6:34) which couldn’t hold more meaning coming from anyone else.
Further, our time in downtown Winnipeg has really shown the group how much we have previously taken for granted. With Thanksgiving just passed, it was the perfect time to reflect on what it is that we are thankful for. It is sort of funny what we have learned to appreciate being on program for the last month. Due to our constant moving and sleeping in a new place typically every week, you learn to love the little things. For example, how close the nearest bathroom is, a hot shower, foot deodorant and dry shampoo when showers are just not an option, and even a little shelf to call your own.
Overall, we are all experiencing life in its realest state, and being thrown into uncomfortable situations so frequently has become, ironically enough, comfortable. This has altered our definition of what a comfort zone is. So much so, I wonder when we return to what we consider our regular lives, if we will find comfort in that at all.