We are now accepting applications for our 2018 Open Teams! These are trips you can join next year to places like Armenia, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Portugal, Russia and North Dakota.

Kellie Simon traveled on one of our Open Teams in 2017 to Standing Rock, North Dakota and it left her speechless…

After 9 months of preparation and one week of going, how do I describe this experience in such a small space, when the Lord did so many big things?

When someone asks me, “How was your trip to North Dakota?” I can only say, “It was absolutely incredible” because truly… I was left speechless.

I stop for a second and flashback to the week I spent on the Standing Rock Native American Reservation. A smile comes to my face and tears somehow always fill my eyes when I think of my team and the community that embraced us. In one short week I experienced overwhelming growth personally and as the trip leader.

The week was a chance for me to “let go and let God” as He was going to use this time to strengthen me and help me grow in areas of: patience, flexibility, and giving up control.

It didn’t take long for me to begin this process as I missed my flight to Bismarck and had to stay the night in Chicago while the rest of my team arrived in North Dakota without me! I wasn’t exactly sure what we would be doing on the reservation but God was in each and every moment. Over the course of the week things fell into place as I learned to give Him control, to be patient and flexible, open to the things He had in store for our team.

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During the trip I also saw immense growth within our team. A phone call can only tell you so much about someone as I met my team face-to-face for the first time in North Dakota. Some members were really shy and others were really outgoing. As each let Jesus move in them, they opened up, becoming more vulnerable with one another and pursuing one another in love. They also fiercely pursued the community of Standing Rock, not only through their service but also in a willingness to engage and connect in relationships. I was amazed at how God hand-picked each one of us and how our gifts and talents complemented each other so well. Watching our team listen to God and follow Him was truly inspiring.

Returning after a year of being away made my heart smile so big. I was reminded how Standing Rock Native Young Life leaders love kids on the Reservation so well. It’s not an easy place to lead and there are very few leaders trying to reach a large population of teens. Our team had the chance to partner with these leaders and helped run a “mini” Young Life camp. Kids laughed, sang and began to open up, asking questions about life and faith.

Preparing for this Expedition, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew we were going to share Jesus with the community of Standing Rock, but really this community (especially the Standing Rock Young Life leaders) shared Jesus with me! It’s not easy living on the Reservation where drugs, alcohol, and suicide are common. Through these hardships, they don’t lose hope and constantly fight for it. They don’t give up on the youth and recklessly chase after them as Jesus does.

Honestly, my heart longs to be back with my team and the sweet people of Standing Rock. They changed me. They inspired me. They humbled me. They loved me. They are family — each and every one of them.

— Kellie Simon

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