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Mile Two graduates already making a difference
In late 2015, with Christmas approaching and the winter cold setting in, CBC News told the story of a group of do-gooders who had repaired the fence of a Winnipeg woman mistreated by a construction contractor.
None of the Good Samaritans were named in the report, which was somehow appropriate. That they happened to be Mile Two Discipleship School students and faculty wasn't newsworthy. They were merely Jesus' hands, making a difference in the community and fulfilling the mission of the Providence-based program.
"Our local community looks different because of Mile Two," says Jeff Banman, Director of the Discipleship School since its inception in 2014. "Mile Two has made a difference. We've had students, for example, who have babysat for families who can't afford babysitters. We've had an impact at drop-in centres in St-Pierre-Jolys and Niverville. Inner-city Winnipeg looks different because of Mile Two."
And the woman's fence?
"We actually went back and did some painting," says Banman. "That place looks different, too."
An immersive, eight-month program that trains students to become disciples of Jesus Christ through biblical study, out-of-classroom, experiential learning, and the single-minded pursuit of God, Mile Two graduated its second cohort of students on Wednesday, April 20.
The 14 young people, says Banman, practiced community more "wholeheartedly" than any group he had previously been a part of.
"It was a group that practiced vulnerability and openness with each other," he says. "In their exit interviews a lot of them said they now understand the importance of community like never before."
Some of the Class of 2016 also gained a greater appreciated for church life, realizing that they "are," in fact, the church, and they are the church 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"It was really big for them to understand the call of Jesus," says Banman. "It's more than just salvation. It's more than just prayer. It's more than just a list of things you do and don't do."
Many Mile Two students also learned about themselves over the eight months; they began to understand their identity, who they are. And service placements at soup kitchens, shelters, and other urban centres reinforced their identity as Christ-followers—something that was further strengthened during a February trip to Israel.
Banman, who likes to say that visiting the Holy Land brings the Bible to colour, remembers the Garden Tomb and Sea of Galilee as being particular highlights for this year's group. As for a personal highlight, he recalls the way in which his students "deeply" contemplated the conflict in the region and would not accept "easy answers."
"We had a Palestinian Christian man who was our guide in Israel," he says. "He made the trip memorable by sharing about his own life and telling his own life story. There are different stories in that land, but God is at work in a lot of different ways."
Upon returning to Otterburne, many students marked in their Bibles the places they had visited. Scripture, for them, is now an experience in colour because of Mile Two. And their travels, their service, their study, and their experience of community living will go with them into the rest of life.
"Everything students do at Mile Two they can do when they leave Mile Two," says Banman, pointing out that the program was developed to be a reproducible model of discipleship. "There's nothing they've learned during the year that they can't carry with them.
Graduation, for Mile Two students, is really a beginning of sorts. What they've learned in their eight months at Providence they will now take into their further studies, their workplaces, and their communities. They'll made a difference. They already have.
They made it at small-town drop-in centres, in the inner-city, and in a Winnipeg woman's back yard.
(Top to bottom: the Mile Two Class of 2016; Jeff Banman; Mile Two valedictorian Timothy Hildebrandt.)
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