Love like No Other

In the two weeks that I spent in Tanzania with Young Life Expeditions, the amount of love I experienced was almost unreal.

As I left the U.S.A., my dad told me that :

“We were put on this earth to love and to live — in that exact order.”

And in the two weeks that I spent in Tanzania with Young Life Expeditions, the amount of love I experienced was almost unreal. From the acceptance of the Masai people while we learned about their culture to the encouragement and support from my fellow team members while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, it was an experience like none other I have ever had.

Three weeks ago, I thought I knew everything there was to know about love… turns out I knew nothing at all. I went to Africa with full intentions of being a reflection of Jesus and His love for all people, but what I didn’t know is that Africa would show me love and Jesus in ways that I could have never imagined before.

Victoria Minton

 

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This Is Africa

This past month has been one of of the biggest growing months for me.

I survived a 21 hour plane ride … I learned Swahili … I laughed with kids … I saw the most beautiful picture of community … I met some of the coolest people from Texas … I found out that hacky sack can get very intense … I watched kids come to know the Lord … We were given a live chicken … We went on a safari … We worshipped on top of a mountain with the locals … We built a concrete floor … We walked 5 miles to get water … We rapped Bible verses … I smiled until my cheeks hurt … and I cried my eyes out.

I learned that having a community of people who enjoy living together, eating together, praying together, and laughing together is far greater than any materialistic thing I could ever own. We play with iPhones, shop for expensive things, and constantly spend time and money on things that don’t really give us joy for longer than 24 hours. The people I met in Africa find life in kicking a soccer ball around, clapping, making up songs, and serving others.

Their love is so real.

Their love is so real. It’s not the fake love we show to be invited, to fit in, or to be more superior over our friends. These people are life seekers not life waiters. They find their biggest joy in the simplest of things, while enduring daily struggles of things that we don’t even think twice about. They walk miles to get water, eat the same one meal a day at school, and live in a metal box made from tin … but not once did I hear a single complaint about how miserable they were … all I saw were constant smiles.

I love Young Life because they consistently strive for more and don’t settle with ordinary.

About 15 years ago, Young Life didn’t exist in Africa and now today in Nairobi, Kenya Young Life is happening in 174 neighborhoods. And it all started with a man who had a vision of reaching kids, and it’s because he believed in something greater than himself that kids all over Africa are hearing the greatest news in the world.

There is nothing ordinary about that. It is simply incredible.

One of the coolest things I saw at camp was that every kid was individually prayed for during their time at camp. Kids were held tight, hands were laid on them, and each kids name was spoken personally. It was a moment of showing these kids that time means nothing when prayer is intentional. This made me think of this beautiful picture of just how much God loves us. He doesn’t pursue us as a whole but as individuals. He cares more about us as individuals and our hearts rather than just being in a group known as Christians. This was a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

I am overly thankful for the joy and gratitude that these people showed to me without even knowing my name. I really miss seeing the kids running after the bus all the way down the street, just to say goodbye to us for the 50th time. Although I’m back in the States, I can only hope and pray that we helped show kids that God isn’t a problem to be solved. But rather that He is a mystery to unravel, an adventure to be taken, and a loving God that is the same in the United States as He is all the way to Kenya.

T. I. A.   …   This Is Africa

 

— Written by Marissa Guimbarda

Experiencing the Kingdom in Haiti

The following blog post was written by Meghan Mitchell, a student at the University of Cincinnati and has recently been on a Young Life Expedition to Haiti!

As I stepped off of the airplane and into the poorest country of the world, I was sweating, nervous, excited and way out of my comfort zone.

As a group of 30 Americans, we seemed to have caught the eye of almost every Haitian that was in the airport that day. My nerves began to set in as we got stared at with confused looks that were questioning why we were in their country. Walking out of the airport and down a pathway with Haitians lining both sides, it seemed as if we were in a parade. And then, out of nowhere, two Haitians with the most joyful smiles on their faces and ecstatic shouts echoing around them came running our way with arms wide open. — It was at this moment, that I knew this week would be a great one now that we had our Haitian friends by our side.

Driving through a country with no traffic laws seems a little bit crazy huh? But, when you have Chou Chou as your bus driver, you gain a feeling of peace about it. He made sure you knew that you’d be safe when entering his bus. And his smile, wow, that smile was contagious! As if you could feel Jesus radiate through him as he honked his horn to navigate his way through the streets. After a four hour bus ride — with a few hours added on because our bus broke down on the side of a mountain — Chou Chou brought us to the little village of Maissade.
And little did I know, that this little village would very soon take hold of my heart, very similarly to how the kids whom lived there also would.
Throughout the week, we made our way to the Young Life camp property to dig holes, move rocks, sand and paint dorm buildings, and put up posts for a new dorm to be built. This work was hard and pretty exhausting when I look back at it, but Jesus gave us an insane amount of energy and positivity to conquer our tasks each day.
When our work was done for the day, we’d head back to where we were staying to eat and then make our way to the park! But — this park is not like the ones in America. Rather, it is a simple small area of gravel with a fallen down basketball hoop in it. Each day by going to this park, we got to play with the little kids from the community for about an hour and a half each day.  Through this, we discovered that they LOVE bubbles, jump ropes, and soccer! And as the week continued, the word spread throughout the community that we were there, so that by the time we would get there everyday, there would be several kids waiting outside for us to come out. They would grab our hands and we’d skip together with them to the park. As the week went on, it became harder and harder to say goodbye to them, but we had to eat dinner!

At the end of each night during the week, all 30 of us Americans, Haitian leaders, staff and occasionally club kids would sit in a circle together and worship Jesus in two different languages. Singing worship to Jesus in Haitian Creole was so powerful.
One night during the week, the power went out while we were worshipping in Creole, but, we just continued to sing in the pitch black of the night. We could see absolutely nothing, and all we heard were voices singing to Our God. This experience made me think of heaven and how we’re all going to be speaking the same language and won’t have to experience any language barriers.

The Lord is moving mountains in this country and I’m beyond thankful that I got to see it with my own eyes.
These friends of ours, who live in Haiti, live in such poverty. They have nothing else to set their eyes on but it seems as though they have learned to have their eyes completely set on Jesus and Heaven. Through every word that they say and action that they do it is so clear that they know fully, that everything on this earth will perish and that the only eternal thing is the Lord.
This trip completely changed the way that I look at my life here in the USA and my relationship with the Lord. I see how luxurious I live here and I try to humble myself.
“God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.”
James 4:6
I experienced Jesus in a way that I never have before; I witnessed the power of prayer and those prayers being answered, I saw God’s beauty in a country that is viewed as just poverty, and I continue to see Him working through the leaders and staff by giving them 6 camp trips this summer. The Lord has a heart that breaks for every single person on this planet. No matter your race, the country you live in, the language you speak, or the social class you are in. Our God is unfailing, He does not abandon, His heart longs for a relationship with every single person, and that was very evident in Haiti.
This Expedition changed my view on what I would possibly want to pursue as my occupation after college, how I want to love my Young Life girls, and how I want to pursue a relationship with the God of the universe. I was able to grasp a glimpse of the Kingdom that week, and I praise God that the little glimpse I saw is nothing compared to what it will be like when we are fully reunited with Him in Heaven.
This experience that I had through Young Life Expeditions will be one that I will never forget!

— Meghan Mitchell

Head-First Heroism

Cypress branches with knotted caution tape marked the trail, but we hardly needed blazes now. After so many trips down this particular path, we knew the way―the waterfall hike had become routine for all of us on Summer Staff. We lead every work team to the waterfall. Some groups fared better than others. One thing was for sure: the “success” of this hike was always more dependent upon attitude than physical ability. This group was challenged by both.

 

From upriver I watched them hike in, surging over the rocks and approaching the waterfall with excitement. Almost immediately, the boys located the route  through the water to the jumping point. Before I could even set my camera, half the team had taken the leap. I watched another girl scale the rock easily, and I paused for a moment to adjust the aperture before snapping her picture. That’s when I heard the leader shouting behind me:

 

“She won’t jump!”

 

Atop the jumping point stood the young woman, tear-stained, shaking and rooted to where she stood. A barrage of instructions shouted from below increased the intensity of her panic and echoed throughout the canyon. At this point, it was evident the leader knew his kid well: she flat out refused to jump. Several friends from below scouted routes for a downward climb, but an attempted descent of the rock face would be far more dangerous than a jump into the plunge pool. To jump was her only option.

 

Moving towards the water with heroic gusto, I heard myself mutter, “I’ll go!” envisioning the dramatic retelling of what I was about to do.

 

But my entry wasn’t graceful. Instead, I face planted into the water. With one last brave step towards the water, I slipped, splashing down on my face, knees and elbows scraping the rocky bottom below. The current swept me towards the walls of the cavern and the rock felt like ice against my back. Haley, our lifeguard, groaned at my failed rescue attempt and I laughed out loud at my own clumsiness.

 

After several bouts of laughter and a quick recovery, I swam across and climbed easily to the jumping point. I prayed with Jillian and we laughed at my lame jokes to forget the distance that loomed beneath us. On the third count, she leapt with the full force of someone about to conquer a fear, pulling me down unexpectedly into the water with her. This was my second face plant of the day, but I received it with joy.

 


 

This “salvation story” speaks to the mindset in which I have so often come in to missions work. I jump in with two feet, the hope of salvation hot on my heels, desperately wanting to rescue someone. What I am learning is this: God doesn’t need our help in accomplishing His work, but He delights in allowing us to participate in it. Think of it like a cosmic Take-Your-Kid-To-Work Day, when your dad’s job is to run the universe. I have full confidence that the Lord could have scooped Jillian off that rock and floated her down to safety. But when I landed face-first into the swirling waters beneath the waterfall, the Lord reminded me that I am not the hero of this girl’s story, He is. By his grace I was given the opportunity to be with Jillian waist-deep in fear and 12 feet in the air, to do nothing but love her.

 

So then, Christian brothers, because of all this, be strong.Do not allow anyone to change your mind. Always do your work well for the Lord. You know that whatever you do for Him will not be wasted.”

— 1 Corinthians 15:58:

pico escondido blog post

 

— Written by Katherine Bell, Pico Escondido Video Intern —

 

Meeting God in Kenya

The following testimonies are from girls that recently came home from one of our Expeditions trips to Nairobi, Kenya! We are very excited to share their experiences with you:


Traveling for ten days to Nairobi, Kenya, I was overtaken by the fact that the same God who loves and cares for me so deeply, feels just the same towards my brothers and sisters across the globe. Never once has He left the people feeling forgotten or abandoned. He comes through, He provides, and He never leaves us feeling hopeless. He is always consistent and reliable even when we are miles away from home and in an uncomfortable territory.

Watching the leaders in Kenya love their high school friends and remind them of these truths was one of the most life giving experiences.

If I could travel with my friends in Young Life time and time again, I would!

–Mackenzie Sisco


This trip was truly a blessing.

I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to go to Kenya and learn from, engage with, and serve the wonderful people there. Personally, my favorite part of the trip was getting to interact with the leaders and kids involved with Young Life. It was cool to see that despite the numerous differences between us, we all still worship and love the same God.

These people taught me so much and were also some of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Their happiness was so contagious and I loved every minute I got to spend hanging out with them. Below is a video from an all-day YL camp. As you can tell, everyone is beyond happy to be there and worshiping God.

–Nicole Rund

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Must-Haves in a Carry-On

The Expeditions Staff has spent some time over the years traveling to and fro, so we decided to compile some pointers when it comes to packing your personal carry-on bag! We understand that we all have very different tastes in bags so we’re not going to recommend a bag BUT we do advise you to make sure to clean it out before you begin packing and that you intentionally pack things that you need for this trip you are embarking on. So, take out your library card, the keys to your office, and the padlock for your bike — do you really need those on your trip?! We didn’t think so…

1. Snacks

We feel as though calories shouldn’t count while 30,000 feet above the planet… but best we can tell, they sadly still do. With that said, we prefer to bring healthy whole food kind of snacks!

Staff Favorites: Kind Bars, Lara Bars, Justin’s Almond Butter Squeeze Packs, bags of raw almonds, and one not so healthy favorite… Starburst

2. Travel Pillow

People are kind of picky about the type of pillow they like to travel with. We suggest considering whether your travel pillow will have double usage during your trip, so used not only on the flight but also once you get to your final destination. Memory foam neck pillows are pretty great, but a few of us over here are pretty partial to the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow and might admit that they have cuddled with it every night for the last ten years since they took this job… don’t worry, it’s washable.

3. Oversized Scarf

We believe that the oversized scarf can save the day on so many occasions. It keeps you warm if you get cold air blasted on you in-flight, it can cover your head or arms if entering a holy site, it adds some flair to an outfit in a pinch, and some even make it work as a very hip head scarf as to ignore post flight hair drama.

4. Passport Where for Art Thou?

How many times do you have a mini panic attack wondering where in the world you put your passport? Our insider’s tip: always keep your passport in the same spot so you never forget where it is. You’ll need to pull it out approximately 67 times in a single day of travel, so keep it in a place where you can easily grab it and don’t have to drop your bag on the floor dumping everything out in order to remember that you put it in your pocket… we’ve all been there.

5. Ear Plugs -or- Noise Cancelling Headphones

This is a must for both flights and for your local accommodations, so when the local carnival comes to town right outside of your window you can still get some shut-eye! ( Thank you very much little village in Cebu, Philippines! )

6. Change of Clothes

It’s always best to be overly prepared for situations in which the airline goblins have stolen your checked luggage. You didn’t go on this trip to spend your first couple of hours off of the plane buying all that was in your lost luggage so that you can simply survive a week or so!

7. Toothbrush and Travel Sized Toothpaste

Keep your travel companions happy and brush your tusks after long flights, they will be mentally thanking you!

8. Personal Medicine

It’s important to keep all of your health related medications with you as you travel and not in your checked baggage. What if you have to take them on your journey over? Or what about the airline goblins that we mentioned earlier? Medication is a little more difficult to replace than a t-shirt…

9. Water Bottle

Oh how we love our S’well’s, Nalgene’s, and Hydro Flask’s!

Bonus Tip: Ask your flight attendant to fill up your water bottle and/or if you’re lucky the airline might even  have self-serve water stations to go along with some good snacks during those longer flights.

10. Something To Do

Your Fidget Spinner, a deck of cards, Travel Boggle, a Yo-Yo, a book of questions, a paperback book, a journal — you’ve gotta have some fun and brain stimulation during the ‘hurry up and wait’ times of traveling! And we suggest to never rely on in-flight entertainment; it’s happened on more than one occasion where the seat back screen hasn’t worked and my friend was forced to stare ahead into nothingness like David Puddy in this classic Seinfeld episode —

 

Written by Michele Sbrana

Memories from the Philippines

This March, we sent an Open Team to the Philippines to engage with Young Life in another culture.

The team shared some of their favorite memories from the trip with us and we wanted to share them with you …

 



 

“There is a lot that I experienced on our trip… I felt God move in crazy ways and not only from serving but also by being served by the Filipinos, seeing their culture, experiencing so much love from all that were there and all in all through seeing the same God that I knew back home doing all of these amazing things halfway around the world.

 

Overall, my favorite memory that I will hold dear to my heart will be the last day that we were in the Philippines. The past week had been full of work and fellowship, and we had just gotten back to the Young Life center from club with just a couple of hours left in the country before we had to depart. Seeing something I would never forget : one giant long table filled with Filipino high school kids and their Young Life leaders sharing a meal together. It was a powerful scene for me as Filipino myself, to be able to see all of my favorite foods along with so many smiles, laughter, and conversation. I stood there and just thought, ‘ Wow… God is enough for them. They look so happy ‘. And in that moment, I realized that I just was able to witness a glimpse of the Kingdom of God and I wondered what the full glimpse will be like in heaven.

I will never forget this experience!”

Anton

This is a video that Anton created from his time in the Philippines.



 

“My trip to Cebu, Philippines for spring break hit harder than I imagined.

Initially, my guys from Missouri State and I had few expectations. We were mainly excited for the journey and to begin serving the people over there. However, God had different things in mind. Not only did our team of 11 people, from different states in the U.S., mesh well together and have fun, but we also connected deeply through sharing our stories and getting into deeper discussions with one another.

As I reflect on the trip, it felt so pure. I don’t know if words are even able to do it justice. But those people, those friends, and those followers of Christ, ended up helping us more than we helped them.Yes, we painted cabins in preparation for a work week and assisted them here and there. But ultimately, they lit up our hearts.

My biggest take-away from the trip was definitely to love first.

We heard many of their testimonies that seemed to be quite similar to some of our own through their struggles and finding their lives at a crossroads; but what stood out to me the most was their choice to put our Father above all no matter what their past reflected. When they could have turned to drugs or rooted their happiness in worldly things, they grabbed God’s hand from above. And it occurred to me, what they did was a byproduct of their relationship with Christ.

Having the opportunity to grow in deeper relationships with some guys over there struck my heart and made me entirely grateful as well as impressed with them all.

It felt as if God was speaking new wisdom and wonders to me everyday as we learned new games, played tons of basketball, ate amazing food, laughed until our stomachs hurt, and even went island hopping around the Philippines. We lacked nothing and were filled with so much of the Holy Spirit. I will never forget this experience. 

I will definitely be visiting Cebu in the future, but until then, Salamat ( Thank You ) God for my journey.

Cebu will always be in my heart.”  

Cory

 



 

” Getting the opportunity to go to the Philippines is something I never imagined would happen.I was able to meet and get to know the most loving people, sweat more than I ever have in my entire life as we worked, and not only see but also feel the love of God all around me.

This experience has changed the way that I view Young Life, relationships, and the power of God’s love.

There were many people from the trip that had a huge impact on me but one person in particular would have to be Mai Mai. She is from a city called Lapu-Lapu and is probably the most loving person I have ever met. We had the opportunity to hear her story and listen to her share about the hardships in her life. And being able to hear Mai Mai share how those things did not defeat her is something I will never forget.”  

Erica

 



 

“The Philippines adventure that ten of my friends and I embarked upon on March 9th, was an experience I will never forget.

Meeting and getting to know kids that were the same age as us, but who were living such dramatically different lives, helped me gain an immense amount of perspective. And it wasn’t even based off of the comparison of our lifestyles, but rather, the differences in our focuses.  Their focus was dead set on Christ, and I was continuously reminded of this throughout our trip. I got to see how centered these people were in God, and how trusting they were in His plan for them. Experiencing this taught me how much the distractions in our lives can stray us from the Lord’s  plans.

On March 11th we landed in the Philippines, and that night we stayed with host families. I stayed with a Young Life staff member named Mai Mai. She offered me my first look into this devoted love for Christ through opening up her home to me and my friend Kirsten. We had the privilege of meeting her family as well as getting our butt’s kicked in volleyball. I also got to attend her Young Life club and see how devoted the leaders and kids were to the word of God. It was so striking to see how incredibly happy they were.

The people I was surrounded by in the Philippines found so much of their happiness in Christ; which, I believe is a universal opportunity for us all. But the happiness I saw in each and every person I met in the there, exuded Christ’s love for them. It is this kind of joy that these people felt so deeply that I hope to emulate in my life for the rest of my days.

After my stay with Mai Mai and her family, we headed back to the city of Cebu, gathered together, and bused to the camp that we had come to paint in preparation for the several weeks of campers that were to come in the near future to hear about Jesus. The camp was in the middle of what felt like a jungle, with geckos and frogs all around. Over the course of the week that we spent working at the camp, we got to know a whole slew of people who shared their stories with us and by the time we had to leave, we left with countless new friendships.

The camp itself was fostered for something great — sharing Jesus and his love! —  and when I was discussing it amongst friends at the site, I felt that it was, in the best words I can muster, a sort of holy ground. As if you could feel God’s presence in every nook and cranny of that place, as cheesy as it may sound. But, it truly was a testament to that first impression I had gained from meeting Mai Mai, Bienz, Arrah, and so many other friends over there; it was all for Him.

In life I believe that it is easy to feel lost in all the things that require our focus every day. Those focuses can lead us astray from what is really significant, God. This trip taught me so much, but I feel that the most important takeaway I gained is to remember that the to-do’s, must-complete’s, and “oh no’s” in our lives really fall away in comparison to God’s plan for us. Trust His plan, because, things always seem to work themselves out in the craziest ways when we do, and it probably won’t ever be in the way that you would think either. The Filipinos I met had a much better grasp on this theme, and even after I landed back home in the U.S.A. this memory continues come into my focus over and over again.

So in conclusion, Salamat (Thank You!), Philippines!

If the opportunity ever comes to take a ginormous step out of your comfort zone, take it. I’m so glad I did.”  

Tate

 

 

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