A Family’s Adventure with Expeditions

Our family has been involved with Young Life for years and we are currently serving on the Committee for Hilton Head Bluffton Young Life. We found out about Young Life Expeditions while searching for a family trip we could all take together. Before our family of five departed for India, we were asked why we were led to go to a place so far away and different. To be frank, we struggled with a satisfying answer and stumbled through a few thoughts…we were looking for a life changing trip for our entire family; we were in search of an adventure; we wanted the chance to serve others while immersing ourselves in a new culture across the world.

Our trip to India answered the ‘why question’ and was everything we imagined it could be and way more.

We won’t sugar coat it, it was hard!

The flights were long, the driving chaotic, and the heat/humidity was oppressive (100+). The food was hard to digest at times and nothing was similar to home. We were all pushed well out of our comfort zones (often in unexpected & subtle ways) despite our experience with international travel and being prepared to have all of our senses overwhelmed.

But it was worth it!


Our kids (16, 16 and 13) were amazing in their patience and willingness to engage. The people of Young Life India seemed like instant family as soon as we got past basic introductions. They were able to show us India in a way that no tour guide could. We sang, prayed, laughed and played together. Hearing their personal stories was very inspiring with many struggling with families from different faith and ethnic backgrounds.

The young men, many Muslim and Hindu, at the first Young Life camp stole our hearts in Dehradun with their spirit and dancing. It was awesome to watch the joy in the faces of both adults and children at the first ever Young Life India Family Camp in Siliguri. We also learned about the many challenges of life in India – from human trafficking, poverty, treatment of women, divisions among the different religious groups, and a regional crisis with flashes of violence in Darjeeling (not far from Siliguri where we stayed).


The attributes that seemed consistent among everyone we met in India – love of life, persistence, a sense of community in the chaos and deep belief in their respective faiths. In an odd way, many of things we have lost at home. Our hearts are full from new friendships, eyes wide open for work to be done, and minds alert to our many, many blessings.


Some parting thoughts from Team Long:

Chris: It was so cool to see the whole family dive into a dramatically different culture with compassion and understanding. We left a large part of our hearts in India.

Christy: We accepted the Young Life Expedition challenge to GO, SEE, and ENGAGE. It was so worth it and we are changed because of it.

Wilder (16): I had a great time in India from riding motorcycles to playing kabaddi. I had fun getting to know the guys and would love to come back!

Isabel (16): I absolutely loved exploring the beautiful country that I’ve been wanting to go to since I was 7. We met so many amazing people, saw so many new things, and ate really good food! I can’t wait to go back!

Lillian (12): Getting to see all the little school kids just already knowing some of the songs we sang with them and that they knew them by heart.


Young Life Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Kyle Wood’s first response when asked about his experience serving on a long-term Young Life Expedition in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan over the summer of 2017…

“It was phenomenal! It was so sweet to be around the people I met—they were so much more welcoming than anything I’ve experienced, including in the States. It is such a family culture, and as soon as I stepped off the plane, they made me feel like one of the family.”

Arriving in June to a country he had only heard of when he heard about the internship, while speaking none of the languages of the area, was a big leap for Kyle. Expecting a lonely internship spent working for the Lord, all expectations were totally shattered within about thirty minutes of arriving. He was met by a joyful couple carrying balloons and enormous smiles. From there, Kyle was thrown headfirst into the action, growing close with the local team in the process. Throughout the summer he helped with a bicycle scavenger hunt, volunteer training at camp and served at Capernaum camps, sports camps, an English camp, hiking camp, and tent camp.

“So many kids met Jesus, and they are now in a position where their leaders can pour into them” – Kyle

Kyle’s experience with people with special needs was highly valued among the leader teams. In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the Capernaum ministry is powerful and deeply needed—in these countries, kids and young adults with disabilities are isolated, marginalized, and have no other social support than that provided through Young Life.

Central Asia Expedition Photo 3

“Kyle knew most everything about Capernaum camp,” said Sasha* (Capernaum director). “He had great Biblical foundations. Leaders would ask him questions and he had good ideas about teaching the Bible to special kids and volunteers. His experience was useful and very helpful. He talked a lot and was very good at doing everything that was asked of him.”

In Kyrgyzstan, Kyle spent most of his time with the Talas team and helped lead a hiking camp outside Bishkek. Talas is a very small, poor town in western Kyrgyzstan.

“Bishkek does amazing outreach to difficult areas, like to the remote regions of Kyrgyzstan and small towns with no outside communication, and some very poor Muslim areas,” Kyle said. “Many of the small towns and villages have a desire to do the work of Young Life and have a great desire to learn. I’d love to be a part of providing leader training with the Bishkek team in Talas next year would help the villages and small towns set up locals for success.

Central Asia Expedition Photo 1

One of the most important ways Kyle served was through sharing knowledge and ministry experience, providing encouragement to the leader teams. “The leaders talked with me at length about spending time with Jesus and being poured into as they, in turn, pour into kids. In return, I learned more about community and family in my seven weeks there than I have in years in the States.” he said.

Sasha said, “Kyle was a great example of encouragement, and an example to the volunteers. He shared with them about techniques in the States for reaching kids. The volunteers were eager to hear about different ways to do contact work.”

With a predominately Muslim population in Kazakhstan, there has been an increase in Christian persecution, but our Young Life leaders are determined to grow the ministry to kids, especially the poor, orphans, and those with special needs. They offer mentoring, Christian fellowship, scholarships, and spiritual care where it’s most needed. The Young Life Training Center provides a place for leaders from all over Central Asia to meet, encourage, and support one another.

In Kyrgyzstan, ethnic conflicts, civil revolts, economic troubles, and transitional governments contribute to political instability, and human trafficking is a heavy concern. Young Life has been a stabilizing presence during these times of unrest, providing support and care at the Young Life Center in Bishkek. Young Life also has a presence in the schools providing mentoring, scholarships, and transitional housing for the many orphans in this region.

Despite all of this, Kyle felt safe and secure throughout his summer in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. “I felt very safe—there were no problems with customs and I had a leader with me at all times,” he said.

Kyle’s experience in Central Asia was much more than a summer mission trip. The things that were seen, the people that were met, and the cultures that were shared have led to lives changed around the world and kids reached for Jesus. These experiences will not only stay with Kyle but impact the lives of those around him, from the remote villages in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to his home in Tennessee.

“The ministry is awesome,” Kyle said. “YL Almaty [Kazakhstan] does team relationships better than any American area I’ve ever seen. There was a real sense of blessing and teaching one another and I returned home feeling truly changed by the experience – used by God through my service.”

The relationships between Kyle and the leader teams in Central Asia won’t soon be forgotten. “The kids loved him and called him Uncle Kyle,” said Sasha. “They considered him a family member. He was not a burden, but a blessing.”

*Name is changed to protect identity

Encounter Young Life Africa

Ready for a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Looking to serve alongside Young Life Africa staff in Tanzania? Want the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free-standing mountain? Our Encounters trip to Tanzania is for you! 

This is our 11th summer sending teams to serve alongside Young Life Africa in Tanzania. The team will partner in a community outreach with local Tanzanian YL staff and leaders in a remote Maasai village, where Young Life has a growing ministry. At the end of the trip, you have the option to join either a Safari Trip to the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, to the top of Africa at 19,430 feet.

Alexis Kwamy, Young Life Regional Director in Tanzania said, “Young Life Expedition teams help us connect well with our local ministry and our local schools and sometimes even the government.  The service projects we partner in help our schools and communities. However, the one thing I really appreciate is the spritual connection we get and the long time friendship between Young Life Africa and Young Life in the US.  If it wasn’t for Young Life Expeditions our ministry would not be where it is today.”

Tom Mueller, an Encounters participant said, “Taking part in an Encounters trip has opened up a whole new door for us…for involvement…for prayer…for support. The Lord has blessed us but as we get older we need less and we want to do something that is making a difference, something that is having an eternal impact in the lives of kids. Our involvement with these Encounters trips through Expeditions has exposed us to Young Life on an international level.”

To learn more about our Encounters trips visit ylexpeditions.com or email ylexpeditions@gmail.com for more information.

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Young Life Serves

We had so much fun being together on YL Serves Day!

Our YoungLives mentors, committee, and their young children went to a pregnancy center to make some diaper cakes for new moms. Not only did they start a new relationship with the pregnancy center, but they also had a ton of fun. Our YoungLive staff person said that as she was leaving with her kids, one of them said,

 “Mom, that was so much more fun than I thought it would be!  We want to go back again sometime and help more!”.

I think it’s so cool how our ministry can have a deep impact on families and we can show even young kids that serving others can be fun.  Our Campaigner kids also gathered to pack 100 bagged lunches and 150 bags of toiletries for families in need.

I loved seeing our kids sacrifice time and money to buy supplies and pack these bags. We spent the majority of our time writing uplifting quotes, verses, and jokes on the paper bags so that whoever received the bag would know that they are valued and loved. Our group realized that we had run short on a few items, and one kid jumped up and volunteered to run to Walmart to buy about $25 worth of soap and shampoo. The enthusiasm and sacrifice displayed by our high school friends was incredible to watch!

Written by: Casey Carback

We’re In It To #Endit

Slavery still exists…right now…today. In fact, there are more people enslaved today than any other time in history.

Although globally outlawed, slavery is still present in more than 80% of the 195 countries that make up our world today…including our own schools, neighborhoods and communities in the US.

According to the Global Slavery Index more than 40 million people are trapped, trafficked, exploited and enslaved around the world. Of those, 55% are women and girls and 1 in 5 is a child under 18 years old.

These numbers are sad and staggering but, truth be told, one person existing in a situation like this today is one too many. Through awareness, prevention, rescue and restoration, there are good people doing the good work to make modern day slavery a thing of the past. This week, we are learning about the important work they are doing and raising our voices for freedom. Your awareness can help save lives, here are some simple ways to spot the signs.

To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).

Join us Thursday, February 22nd as we Shine A Light On Slavery.

A Glimpse of Young Life Haiti

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send?’ And who will go for us? And I said, ‘Here I am Lord; send me!”  Isaiah 6:8

In September, I was rooming with Michele Sbrana at a retreat when she asked me to consider joining a group of women to Haiti that coming January. Without hesitation, I found myself eagerly replying “Yes!”. I remember the moment so vividly – I had no details of the trip, hadn’t talked with my spouse or had any idea how we’d do childcare for our young girls, but there was a conviction in my heart that God wanted to me to go.  That conviction grew as the trip drew closer – the money was raised, logistics at home came together smoothly – the Lord was sending me to Haiti.

In preparation for the trip, we read a powerful book, “The Day Everyone Ate”, by Margaret Trost. It was helpful for me to prepare emotionally for the impoverished conditions and deep needs we would encounter. I was also aware that, while we might travel with our plans and ideas of how we can help, the Lord will take those plans and make them His own. Probably most powerful was the realization that while we go to help, bring resources and want to make a difference, the Lord will often turn the tables to impact big change in us.

On January 17th, Michele and I began a 24-hour journey from San Francisco to Port-au-Prince. A stop-over in Atlanta gave us a few hours rest before our journey in Haiti began.  We were greeted outside the airport by Lisberth, the wife of Young Life Haiti’s National Director, and two of her volunteer leaders – Mimi and Fabian. Despite the language barrier, I immediately felt welcomed by these kind, gracious women. Lisberth drove expertly through the crowded and bumpy Port-au-Prince roads, giving me a first glimpse of the devastation and poverty that has overwhelmed this country. We arrived at the Walls Guest House and met the other 6 women on our trip – what an incredible group the Lord had gathered together. Over the next five days we would share life stories, pray and worship together, and experience the deep love of God for us and the precious people of Haiti.

There were many sights, sounds, experiences and emotions during the trip.

·         The Good Shepherd School – founded in 1999 by a local pastor in partnership with Young Life staff Charlie and Mary Scott. The school sits in Pele, one of the slums in Port-au-Prince, and has 900 students K-10th grade. We visited the school on our first day and dozens of children surrounded us with love and hugs. These children are beautiful- inside and out. They are also the future of Haiti. Education is rare in this country so this opportunity is incredible for each child. We visited each class – they sit 8 across on wooden benches in cinderblock classrooms – the only thing on the wall is one chalkboard. It’s typically in the mid-90’s with humidity, but that doesn’t seem to distract them – they are so thrilled to be in school. We brought an alphabet craft to the 2nd grade – the squeals and glee to see colored tissue, alphabet letters and glue. In the end, they had a full alphabet for their walls – colorful and bright. They sang the alphabet song in Creole to us, we sang our alphabet song back in English. As we left, they sang “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”- oh my heart!


·         MIFYL – Young Life Club for Haitian Girls – While Young Life thrives all over the country (14 staff and 200 volunteers!) there is a specific ministry geared toward Haitian girls. With the poverty and lack of resources, it’s common for girls to sell their bodies for a few dollars to buy their family food. It’s heartbreaking and Young Life wants to come alongside with a message of hope, redemption and love of Jesus. We put on MIFYL clubs in 2 cities – for about 45 girls each. Each club had singing, games and a powerful message of the deep love Jesus has for them. At the end of each club girls stood and shared in Creole (we had a translator traveling with us) about how the message had touched them – they wanted to change their life for Jesus. Each girl represents a family that represents a community. We pray that this message finds its way to many who need to hear it.


·         Church Dedication – Charlie and Mary Scott first visited Haiti in 1980 and met pastor Tito in the Pele slum. That friendship blossomed into the Good Shepherd School as well as the church on its property. In January 2010, that church collapsed in the big earthquake. Last year, on Charlie’s 80th birthday, his only wish was to rebuild the church.  Donors came to help, the church was rebuilt and was dedicated on the Sunday of our visit. Hundreds of Haitians came for the service, I’ve never seen anything like it. The service was 3 hours of blessings, sharing and worship. It was UNBELIEVABLE to experience the worship – in word and song. These amazing people, in the midst of unimaginable poverty, love and worship Jesus with authenticity, passion, joy. Their voices are heavenly – like how I imagine angels sound in heaven. It was transformational to experience Jesus in this way.


As I settle back into life here at home, I can’t stop thinking about the things I saw, the people I met and how Jesus went clearly before us.

The big question for me is – “now what”?  What is Jesus calling me to do as a result of this transformational experience? 

Most certainly to remember and pray for the people of Haiti – for the people in the slums to have hope, the children in the schools to have a future, and the young girls to choose life with Jesus. In addition, I feel called to use the gifts God has given me – as a mentor and coach – to work alongside our US Young Life staff overseeing work in Haiti – to ensure their story is told, removing any barriers to the growth and reach in Haiti.

— Christie Valenzona, Personal Donor Development Coach



There is still time to join one of our 2018 Open Teams!

Each summer we offer one to two Open Teams per international division designed for people without a team of their own. Our Expeditions are typically designed for 18 years and above with the exception of the U.S. Expeditions.  However, we do make exceptions based on level of maturity and Young Life involvement. So if you are a junior or senior in high school and would like to apply for an Open Team we will need two references including one from a Young Life staff.

Journey to Kenya and serve on work crew at a Young Life Africa Campaigners Camp or travel to Colombia where you will help with two weeks of Young Life camp for students from Bogota.

Join a team serving in Asia, Europe or the Former Soviet Union…we have so many amazing places around the world and in the US for you to connect with.

For a complete list of all our Open Teams visit our Join a Team page.