Students from Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask., spent Sept. 19-27 learning outside the classroom. While first-year students learned about poverty and homelessness by working in food banks and shelters in various cities, second-year students visited three Cree communities in Saskatchewan. Bethany College teams have been intentionally connecting with Cree communities for over a decade so that students can make new friends and gain greater understanding of the strength of First Nations communities and the issues they face.

Luke Heidebrecht, Associate Director of Missions, led a team to the Bigstone community in Air Ronge where students were involved in various activities including running kids clubs, clearing brush, over-nighting at a remote cabin, and visiting elders. Randy Klassen, Instructor in Biblical and Theological Studies, led a team to the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation. They built a tipi, participated in an elder’s panel, were involved in a local radio broadcast, and helped in elementary classrooms. Jerry Letkeman, Service Learning Director, led a team to Hall Lake where they played blind volleyball, street hockey, badminton and helped out in elementary classrooms. Both the Beardy’s and Hall Lake teams coincided their visits with an annual Culture Camp that the respective schools hold in September. These camps allowed students to snare rabbits, catch fish, eat moose meat, bannock and duck soup, create beaded bracelets, hear stories and have lots of fun.

“Each year the Beardy’s community has been wonderfully welcoming to our Bethany team,” said Randy Klassen. They share with us their stories, their humour, their food and their friendship. This year, as we listened to the elders and their stories of the residential schools, we learned about hardship and abuse, resilience and forgiveness. We see their reverence for the Creator, we pray the Lord’s Prayer with them, and we share the love of Jesus. It’s an experience of service learning that is already leaving a legacy in the Beardy’s community, even as it is reshaping our students.”