Goodbye Winnipeg, hello Ouagadougou

I once saw a magazine ad in which a marooned traveller surveyed an airport departures screen. Every flight was cancelled except one bound for Ouagadougou. Clearly the creative team behind the ad had flipped through an atlas to find a city that sounded like it belonged in a Dr. Seuss book.

I laughed. I've always enjoyed my visits to Ouagadougou. I'm going there again this summer.

My time at ChristianWeek has come to an end. April 30 will be my last day in the newsroom. My wife Mona and I are embarking on a four-month trip to visit each other's childhood homes in Africa. She grew up in Sudan; I grew up in Burkina Faso. We plan to spend time with each other's families and see the countries that helped shape us. We also hope to learn something about which side of the Atlantic we want to live on, what our abilities are and where we can use them most effectively.

I've learned a lot about writing and about telling stories during the three years I've worked at ChristianWeek. Annie Dillard—perhaps the writer I revere the most—says anyone who wants to be a writer must love sentences. In other words, if you don't get an adrenaline rush from lining up a sequence of words and then reshuffling them like tiles on a Scrabble pew until they sing, you only love the idea of writing.

I'll confess that I get a kick out of sentences. But sentences need to tell stories. As a journalist I search for stories that are true (factual) but also truthful (full of truth.) Writing for ChristianWeek has given me the opportunity to retell the stories of icon painters and coffin-makers, heroin addicts and former sex-trade workers, peace activists and war deserters, comic book artists and residential school survivors.

These stories inspire, disturb, sadden and fascinate. Hopefully they also point to truth. I try to listen for the stories that aren't being heard and give them voice. This is difficult to do; I've been conditioned to hear the voices that speak through microphones and ignore the ones that whisper from sidewalks.

I hope to keep my ears open for more stories as I travel, and to sharpen my ability to write them. I'm grateful for what I've learned here at ChristianWeek and for the stories my co-workers have shared from their own lives. Jerrad tells stories from the soccer world; Kelly recounts the adventures of her inquisitive children; Doug knows seemingly every Christian in Canada (the ones he hasn't met he knows a story about).

I'll keep my ears tuned to stories as I travel to Khartoum and Ouagadougou, and the staff and freelancers who write for ChristianWeek will continue telling the story of the mysterious movement of God in Canada.

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