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Missio Dei 2011

Journeying on the Refugee Highway

Removing stones from the "Refugee Highway"

Journeying on the Refugee Highway is sometimes terrifying, often treacherous and always time-consuming. This was the message students, staff and faculty heard at Missio Dei 2011 at Providence College and Seminary on February 2-3. Tim Nielsen of CityConnextions in Winnipeg brought the refugee’s perspective to the Providence community and his informative sessions were punctuated by the harrowing life stories of Indy Cungcin of Burma and Karuba Suvan of the Congo. Both of these men faced unbelievably difficult circumstances as they journeyed on the refugee highway to their eventual destination – Winnipeg. Their stories of courage and determination challenged and inspired the members of the Providence community. Providence President Gus Konkel was particularly impressed with sessions, “Tim Nielsen provided an incomparable educational opportunity to learn about current social and political issues in having Indy and Karuba share the history and conflict of their respective countries. The personal experience of these men was a challenge to everyone present as to how life under the most severe circumstances may be lived in the power of God.”

Missio Dei is an annual two day mission festival that celebrates God’s work in the world, as well as the wonderful ethnic diversity present at Providence. In addition to two plenary sessions led by Tim, Indy and Karuba, eight workshops were offered with topics ranging from church planting to a snapshot of North Korea led by a Providence alumna who has been teaching in that mysterious country.

"Beggars" eat together at the ethnic meal

Students, staff, faculty and mission representatives also participated in a number of events designed to highlight the ethnic diversity of our community. An ethnic meal was enjoyed by participants on Wednesday evening. The cuisine of six different countries was served and diners were able learn more about the customs of each country. But perhaps those who had greatest educational experience were the participants who were assigned the status of “beggar”. College student Matt Dean’s approach shifted as he begged for food at the various tables, “I was just as hungry as everyone else in the room, and yet I was shooed away from the tables dripping with exotic, mouth-watering food. Denied again and again, I resorted to putting on a show, drawing attention to myself so those seated around the tables would notice me, perhaps chuckle at my behaviors and scoop some rice onto my cardboard plate. Being in the beggar's shoes changed my perspective of the homeless from outcasts to simply hungry people with needs.” The meal ended with participants sampling food from all of the countries as “beggars” as well as seated diners shared their exotic dishes with one another.

A sample of the art on auction at the Marketplace
Heajin Jeon demonstrates a Korean game at the Marketplace

Perhaps the most anticipated event of Missio Dei is the Marketplace which took place in the evening on Thursday, Feb 3rd. The Marketplace gives members of the Providence community the opportunity to celebrate and show off their own cultural heritage. Various cultural displays were set up with food and beverages, music, games and cultural artefacts. First Nations bannock, Russian perogies, Brazilian cafezinho, and Turkish buttermilk were served. Participants also played Filipino cards, Korean games and lined up to get henna tattoos at the Indian display.
For the second year, the Marketplace also hosted an Art Auction with artwork submitted by members of the Providence community. Participants bid on paintings and pottery, quilts and collages. Artist Allison Dueck donated two pieces to the auction, both of which were sold after multiple bids. When asked why she chose to donate her art to the auction, Dueck responded “God has given me a passion for art and I desire to honour God with the gifts he has given me. When Missio Dei came along I thought it was a perfect opportunity to use my talent for God and help with raising money for the family in the Dominican Republic.”

In total, over $1200 was raised at the Missio Dei Art Auction for the Ben Sawatztky Foundation which will build a house in the Dominican Republic to be named “Providence House”. It is the hope of the committee that this will be the beginning of a long term relationship between Providence College and Seminary in Otterburne and the family that eventually will move into “Providence House” in the Dominican Republic.

From raising funds though art, to experiencing different cultures, to hearing stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world, Missio Dei is an important and formative event for the Providence Community made even more significant because it is a student run event. “Missio Dei is a time to celebrate the vitality of missions in our world today and re-evaluate how we can serve God best in the years to come” says Jana Neufeld, student coordinator of Missio Dei. “At Providence we strive to create leaders who will give their lives to God’s will, and Missio Dei is a part of realising what that will is.”

Missio Dei loosely translates as “the sending of God”. Whether we are sent across the globe or across the street, Providence College and Seminary is committed to educating the people of God to do the work of God.


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