Lessons From My Mission Trip To Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Lessons From My Mission Trip To Pine Ridge Indian Reservation


This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity of going on a mission trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota with my church youth group. We set out early on a Sunday morning in a caravan, anxious and not knowing what to expect, and we returned the following Friday evening, joyful and surprised by how such a short period of time could be so influential in our lives. It was an exhausting and busy week full of construction projects, worship, community involvement, devotionals, deep discussions, and games, and I ended up learning more from my experiences than I could have ever predicted. Below are just a few of the many bits of wisdom that I gained during this mission trip:

  1. I should be extremely grateful for all that I have. Our living conditions for the week were quite different than what we were used to. The place where we stayed did not have any air conditioning, and temperatures that week were often over 100 degrees. Thus, we had to leave the doors open in order to keep the air flowing, and this caused our sleeping quarters to be swarming with bugs at night. Besides this, we were sharing a single shower with 15 females (and very little free time to shower). As I struggled to fall asleep at night in the heat or waited for hours to take a shower after a long day of sweaty construction work, I became aware of just how blessed I really am and just how much I usually take for granted. This realization was only reinforced by the testimonies of the Lakota people on the reservation. Many of them grew up with alcoholic parents who were neglectful, limited education and career opportunities, and a low chance of ever leaving the reservation for a even a glimpse of the outside world. Overall, my eyes were opened on this trip to how thankful I should be in every moment of my life. I have a comfortable home, a warm shower, a loving family, and plenty of education and career options, but unfortunately, the majority of people in the world do not have all of these luxuries. Recognizing this not only makes me feel grateful for all that I have been given, but it also motivates me to bless others with what I have in order to combat inequality.
  2. Hope is necessary in life. As I demonstrated above, the circumstances on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are quite unfavorable. Alcoholism, drug addictions, teen pregnancy, poverty, and abuse plague the lives of many, and thus, a great deal of the Lakota people feel overwhelmed with trials and often suffer from an attitude of hopelessness. Unfortunately, this is an extremely harmful attitude because it prevents progress and improvement. When people believe that the obstacles on the reservation are insurmountable, they do not even try to transcend them. However, hope changes everything. We saw this in the eyes of the former Red Cloud Indian School students, who were headed off to some of the most prestigious universities in the country because they had refused to give up their dreams of a better life. We saw this in the legacies of the community members who found their hope in Christ, for they were positively impacting people all throughout the reservation with their different programs and initiatives. We even saw the power of hope in the reactions that we received while doing our mission work. On my worksite, the grandma of the family that we were serving seemed very excited about our work. She was eager to help, and her eyes lit up as she saw our construction throughout the week. We gave her hope, and this hope gave her joy and the motivation to do her part in improving the life of her family. Ultimately, after going on this trip, it is clear to me that hope gets people moving towards progress, even in the shadow of overwhelming circumstances, and thus, it is essential in life. This is why I will strive to show others the hope of Jesus Christ in every situation possible.
  3. You are never too old to act like a kid. On mission trips, the barriers that usually separate age groups seem to fade away. This is because everyone is working, worshipping, eating meals, opening up in discussions, stepping out of their comfort zones, growing their faith, and humbling themselves together. Titles and status symbols mean much less when everyone is rowing in the same boat. I love to see the results of such a unique atmosphere. Often, adults who normally like to keep their composure in public become much more willing to have fun! For example, on the first night of the week, all of the students and all of the chaperones in our group (even the doctor, the businessman, and the computer programmer) decided to play a game of 9-square together (9-square is like a crazy game of 4-square). To my surprise, the adults were more competitive and joked around more than the kids! It was quite entertaining to watch them play! Another time on the trip, my dad, who was one of the chaperones, actually participated in a game of “What Are the Odds?” with the students in my van. The game can get pretty ridiculous, and players usually end up publicly humiliating themselves as a result; still, my dad laughed and played the game with us for almost 2 hours! In both of these situations, it was easy to see that the adults were genuinely enjoying themselves as they became more carefree and childlike for a few moments. In a serious world where people are often expected to be reserved and businesslike, it can be extremely freeing to act like a kid sometimes. As I continue to grow up, I will try to remember this so that I can find more joy in my life.
As I stated at the beginning, these are just a few of the lessons that I learned on my mission trip to Pine Ridge. I couldn’t fit all of them into one article, so stay tuned for my next article, where I will share even more! Until then, I encourage you to look at the lessons above and think about how you can apply them to your own life!
Cover Image Credit: Allen Russell Photography

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A Letter To My Go-To Aunt

Happiness is having the best aunt in the world.

I know I don't say it enough, so let me start off by saying thank you.

You'll never understand how incredibly blessed I am to have you in my life. You'll also never understand how special you are to me and how much I love you.

I can't thank you enough for countless days and nights at your house venting, and never being too busy when I need you. Thank you for the shopping days and always helping me find the best deals on the cutest clothes. For all the appointments I didn't want to go to by myself. Thank you for making two prom days and a graduation party days I could never forget. Thank you for being overprotective when it comes to the men in my life.

Most importantly, thank you for being my support system throughout the numerous highs and lows my life has brought me. Thank you for being honest even when it isn't what I want to hear. Thank you for always keeping my feet on the ground and keeping me sane when I feel like freaking out. Thank you for always supporting whatever dream I choose to chase that day. Thank you for being a second mom. Thank you for bringing me into your family and treating me like one of your own, for making me feel special because you do not have an obligation to spend time with me.

You've been my hero and role model from the time you came into my life. You don't know how to say no when family comes to you for help. You're understanding, kind, fun, full of life and you have the biggest heart. However, you're honest and strong and sometimes a little intimidating. No matter what will always have a special place in my heart.

There is no possible way to ever thank you for every thing you have done for me and will continue to do for me. Thank you for being you.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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14 Kentucky Destinations To Visit This Summer

I'm in love with the history and beauty encompassing my old Kentucky home.


Kentucky has got to be one of the most notable states in the U.S. While it is most known for bourbon, horse races, and basketball, you can't deny the beauty of the history and nature that surrounds the state.

Kentucky natives often take for granted the importance of the locations that surround them. These destinations are easily accessible and should be noted a 'must visit' on your next day off.

For those who are travelers and are looking to tour the land of the "Bluegrass state," you won't regret making these KY places your next summer vacation destination.

1. Mammoth Cave National Park

mammoth cave

This park is open year-round with guided tours through the world's longest cave system. This cave is filled with tremendous caverns which are super cool to see, but the stories that are told about the cave through the tour make it an even more interesting experience.

Even if you decided to skip out on the cave tour, this national park is filled with other things to do. There are trails for hiking and biking, and they even have areas for various water activities.

2. Keeneland

keeneland racetrack

Keeneland is beautifully landscaped and located in the horse capital of the world.

While the best time to go is during racing season, I'd still recommend a tour of this famous horseracing arena.

3. Red River Gorge

red river gorge

Red River Gorge is home of the sandstone rock bridge known as the 'Natural Bridge,' and is also the perfect site for a camping experience. At the gorge, you are able to hike, bike, ride, and partake in a variety of other activities.

4. National Corvette Museum

corvette museum

Home to more than 80 models of America's sports car: the Corvette.

5. Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls

A huge waterfall that falls 60-feet before tumbling over sandstone bedding. It is truly a sight to see.

6. Ark Encounter

noah's ark

Located in Williamstown, KY is the massive, life-size ship made to resemble Noah's Ark. It is 3-stories tall with interactive exhibits to illustrate the biblical tale.

7. Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum

louisville slugger museum

Baseball, also known as America's favorite pastime.

Kentucky, also home of the Lousiville Slugger Baseball Museum and Factory.

8. Lincoln's childhood home

abraham lincoln's childhood home

Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th U.S. president. He was an important figure for many reasons, but most remembered for his Emancipation Proclamation speech that helped push toward the end of slavery, and his leadership of our nation through the Civil War.

9. Churchill Downs

churchill downs

Churchill Downs is another thoroughbred racetrack in Kentucky, most famous for hosting the Kentucky Derby. Tours are conducted by the Kentucky Derby Museum.

10.  Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

bernheim forest

Every year, Kentucky loses 50,000 acres due to land development. There are estimated to be over 3 million trees in Bernheim Forest, all of which are protected from development.

Today, Bernheim Forest is over 16,000 acres and will soon be celebrating its 90th "birthday" by revealing a new exhibit entitled "Forest Giants in a Giant Forest." These three massive sculptures, made of recycled wood are expected to withstand for at least 3 years.

11.  Berea Pinnacles

berea pinnacles

A hiking trail with a variety of difficulty levels, and a beautiful view at the end no matter how far you decided to travel.

12.  Woodford Reserve Distillery

woodford reserve distillery

Kentucky is famous for bourbon. So, why not take a tour of the oldest and smallest distillery in the state?

13.  The Kentucky State Capitol

ky state capitol

The KY state capitol is located in Frankfort, KY and is open to visitors/tours. Observe the areas where our chamber of the senate and house of representatives come together for the legislative process.

14.  My Old Kentucky Home State Park

federal hill mansion

Stephen Collins Foster wrote the famous composition 'My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!' which is now known as our state song. Foster's imagery throughout the song was inspired by the house and the land surrounding what was once known as "Federal Hill." It was referred to as "My Old Kentucky Home" once the U.S. entered the Civil War.

Today, you can tour the home that was host to many famous individuals (Stephen Collins Foster, Henry Clay, Aaron Burr, and more) and the inspiration to a monumental tribute to Kentucky history.

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