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Lifetime disciples

Former students keep the learning alive after one-year discipleship experiences

One-year discipleship training programs that combine learning, service and adventure can be an important time of growth for students who participate. But what does discipleship look like when they return home?

Ellen Paulley took part in Canadian Mennonite University’s Outtatown Discipleship School during the 2002-2003 school year, spending the second half of the year in Guatemala. She says that one of the key things she learned is that discipleship is about being in relationship with others.

“We’re created to be in relationships by God, so that kind of experience allowed me to explore my faith in a setting that was encouraging and safe,” Paulley says.

For Paulley, discipleship after Outtatown has included finding a church community where she can keep exploring her faith.

“It’s about finding people … that I connect with who can help me ask the questions about how my faith impacts the decisions I make daily, and how [that] translates into a lived experience,” says Paulley, who attends FaithWorks, a Mennonite Brethren congregation in Winnipeg. “Currently [that means] a lot of discussion, and I’m grateful for a good group of friends and family who are open to figuring out the practical implications of the faith we profess.”

For Andrew Stock, another Outtatown alumnus, discipleship doesn’t mean doing ministry-oriented works or memorizing theological points—it’s about living each moment the way Jesus would.

“Part of Jesus’ discipleship was showing the disciples how to live every day,” says Stock, who participated in Outtatown 2003-2004. “The way that I live life is intentional and yet kind of slow and subversive—respectful of the humans and the inherent dignity we all have.”

That attitude serves Stock well on the job. He’s a mental health worker with the Portland Hotel Society (PHS), an organization that provides safe, supportive housing for people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The PHS also runs Insite, North America’s first safe injection site.

Stock is proud to work at a place where marginalized people, like drug users, are accepted for who they are.

“It has been a dark place to work—it’s very sobering sometime—but at the same time, I enjoy it because people know that we’re not judging them,” Stock says. “They let their guard down, they show us their humour, they show us their pain and what they’re dealing with at the moment.”

Accepting people like that is a big part of discipleship for Stock.

“It’s about how we live our lives and how we treat each other, and how we usher in Shalom, the Kingdom of God, right now,” he says.

Cam Priebe, director of Outtatown, says he and his staff work hard to equip students to continue a life of discipleship after they leave the program.

“We encourage students to ask themselves: What are the pieces you can take with you?” Priebe says. “For example, finding a community to grow in and be together with might be one thing they can do.”

Mentorship can also be a good source of continued discipleship, he adds.

“We do encourage them to find a mentor when they get back,” Priebe says. “Go and find this type of relationship with someone who’s older and more mature and ask them, Hey, can we walk together through this?”

Being a mentor to someone else, and passing on what they have learned on Outtatown, is another way students can carry on in discipleship, Priebe adds.

Dan Boon, one of the program leaders for Quest, the discipleship training program at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., agrees.

“Ultimately, our [attitude] from the beginning is that we’re only together for a time, and that what they learn is to be passed on,” Boon says of Quest’s attitude toward discipleship.

“We have a specific discipleship class. Everybody gets a notebook and every class, they’re given resources as we go through various topics so they can keep it all in one place. Our intention is that the notebook be utilized as they go into whatever setting—church, small groups, Bible camp, etc. The intention is to work through the material and equip them to use that material in another setting.”

Quest students have gone on to work in a variety of different professions. Boon says he and his fellow program leaders hope that no matter what they go on to do, they model Christ’s love in all aspects of their lives.

“That would be modelled from the outset by our staff,” Boon says. “Regardless of what career or what opportunity they find themselves in [after Quest], our hope would be that this would be a way to continue to live life—investing in people.”

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About the author


Special to ChristianWeek

Aaron Epp is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer, Musical Routes columnist, and former Senior Correspondent for ChristianWeek.