A Night in Zambia

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By Robert Massey, YYCCM Team Member

A little over a year ago, my partner left on, at the time, a 9-month journey to Zambia to work with the SANI project. This had been a life-long goal of hers. She had wanted to return to the African country since her first visit there in 2008 on a trip with other Calgary-based youth in the United Church. This was her chance to go back and try to make an impact on a country that so deeply impacted her. What that meant for us was another long stint living in other places (this had become the norm in our relationship). But what this also meant was the chance for me to go and visit Zambia as well! And, of course, visiting Zambia meant taking a ton of photographs.

The trip was both eye opening, interesting, and amazing. It started with the longest travel days I've ever had and involved a 60 C temperature change (literally, it was -30C when I left Calgary & +30C when I landed in Lusaka). My partner and I did all the touristy things including visiting Victoria Falls in Livingston, kayaking down the Zambezi, and doing a three-day safari in South Luangwa National Park (where we also got to visit a local congregation). It involved nearly 48 hours riding buses (and two totally awesome plane rides) and seeing the brand new and highly undeveloped region my partner was working in.

But I didn't just want to see the pretty parts of this country. Be a drop-in tourist that just takes in the sites and leaves. I also wanted to do something while I was there, I wanted to volunteer or at least make some sort of an impact. So my partner arranged for us to do field visits with her team, where I'd take photographs and video that could be used in various media by the variety of organizations in charge of the project. These field visits, unfortunately, didn't end up arising for a variety of reasons. What this meant was I came home looking for another way to give something back. That is how this fundraiser came to be.

A Night in Zambia is an opportunity for you to learn more about this country, hear the stories from those who have been there, and admire and purchase some (in my totally biased opinion) awesome photographs all while supporting a Zambian Homecare Project and YYC Campus Ministry.

Before we launch into all the details about the night, let's take a step back. Back to 2008. My partner was part of the United Church's Youth Exposure trip to Zambia. She went for three weeks into the country's copper belt, learned all about the difficulties facing the countries people, and had an amazing and eye-opening experience. This trip is what led her to go back there and work once again. Fast forward nearly a decade to 2017, and another group of Calgary UCC youth headed off to Zambia. I couldn't do justice to what this group learned and saw so take a look here at a blog post written by our summer student Eden Middleton all about her experience. It's an amazing read, make sure you come back here though!

The leader of both of these expeditions was Rev. Vicki McPhee of Symons Valley United. She has a special place in her heart for Zambia and the amazing people there. She holds the country and the people in her heart, and when I approached her wanting to run a fundraiser for a Zambian project she was all over it.

And on November 17th at 7 p.m. at Scarboro United Church our fundraiser will be taking place!

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What makes this truly special for me is the night will be a gala-style sale of my artwork from Zambia. This is the first time I have hosted a whole gallery-sale to myself and I must admit that it both excites and scares me greatly. I love that I have the opportunity to show work that I have created, but beyond that, I love that I can use that work to make an impact. Every piece of art I bring to the gala will be for sale. From the large-scale prints on the walls to the art-cards, everything will be available and all the proceeds are going to be split evenly between the Zambian Project and the Campus Ministry.

The night goes well beyond the artwork, you will also get to hear from some of the youth and young adults who were on the Zambian trips. They will tell you their stories about being there, what they experienced and about the impact it has had on them. These are some amazing people, with spectacular stories. It is well worth the cost of admission just to hear them speak. Finally, if amazing speakers and beautiful artwork weren't enough, there will be drinks, appies, door prizes, and live classical music from three very talented University of Calgary students. So come on out and experience Zambia in photographs and in stories. It will be a one-night special that can have a lasting impact.

WHEN: November 17th, 2018

TIME: 7 p.m.

LOCATION: Scarboro United Church

TICKETS: https://nightinzambia.brownpapertickets.com/

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Consent Conversation Part 3

Facilitator and psychologist Jill Thompson

Facilitator and psychologist Jill Thompson

On Feb. 6, we were honoured to be able to present the next speaker in our consent series during the University of Calgary’s Sex Week. Psychologist Jill Thompson brought her facilitation skills to the Women’s Resource Centre for a workshop we entitled, “Sex, Shame, & Christianity.” This topic is something Thompson is passionate about and is working to bring more conversations about Christianity and sex to communities throughout the city.

From a Campus Ministry perspective, we knew we needed to begin addressing some of the problems that Christianity has contributed to. This topic, while difficult, is a very important one for young adults on campuses today. There is so much shame associated with certain types of sexuality and even the act of sex itself, and a lot of that shame has come from our church. We wanted to offer young adults the chance to address it in a space conducive to a positive discussion. And the response to the discussion was overwhelmingly positive. The 28 participants were able to tell their stories, and discuss their frustrations in a braver space; and in the end, were thrilled with Thompson and her workshop.

In Thompson’s view, this discussion is about sexuality as much as it is consent and power. And she knows that bringing problems to light is one of the best ways of dealing with something.

“One of the things I believe is naming something takes away its power,” said Thompson during the workshop.

To begin, Thompson asked participants to create two separate word association lists; one for faith and one for sexuality. Check out the wordclouds to see what words the group came up with.

Faith Wordcloud

Faith Wordcloud

Sexuality wordcloud

Sexuality wordcloud

While listing the words was important, Thompson wanted participants to see something else. That quite often you can switch words between faith and sexuality and they would fit in either category. Too often words, categories, aspects of our lives are put in the binary when really they fit in a spectrum or all over the place in our lives. Seeing this connection between faith and sexuality was a light bulb moment for some of the participants and opened the floor to very interesting discussions.

Following this, we discussed difficult jargon created by Christianity and the impacts this jargon had on the way participants view themselves, sex, and their sexuality. This is where participants were able to get very honest with the group and with themselves, leading to powerful and world-opening views being shared. With the diverse backgrounds of participants - from conservative Christians to liberal Christians, to Muslims, to atheists, to agnostics, and everything in between - we were able to see a broad spectrum of just how much Christianity's views on sexuality have reverberated throughout not just the religion but culture itself.

Despite the heavy topic, and heavy emotions being felt, participants were happy to have participated in this conversation. This was only the start, this was but a minor place for us to start discussing shame and Christianity. We need to start somewhere, and we couldn’t have asked for a better start than this. This workshop followed up two-panel discussions held last year on consent, and the Campus Ministry plans to keep offering up more topics like this in the future. Consent is a major topic on campuses right now and is something everyone should be discussing and understanding better and we will keep ourselves in this conversation to help us understand where the church’s role is in this matter and where our role is as a Campus Ministry.