A Time to Reminisce // 2016-17

Where has the time gone?! Wasn't it only yesterday that the students walked onto campus to begin their PackYourBags journey?  This diverse group of 22 has been through one of the best and most challenging years of their lives. From the Pine Ridge Reservation to the inner cities of Chicago and Milwaukee, the vibrant South Africa and even the fascinating Holy Land of Israel; we have experienced the world in a whole new way. 

We want to share with you a recap of our year together:

The team began the year facing their fears, especially the fear of heights! Heading to Lake Metigoshe we had a team building weekend, climbing various high ropes, facing an impossible bells course in the rain, and an incredibly powerful worship/prayer night. And it was only the beginning!

The Pine Ridge Reservation was our first ministry trip of the year. Traveling to South Dakota we entered the small community of Wanblee where we would be spending the week helping in whatever capacity we could. Pastor Gus quickly put us to work and we spent our days doing service projects: cementing, fencing, and preparing for the Harvest Festival the church puts on for the community every year. We also ran various Kidz Clubs in the evenings where we enjoyed our time immensely with the energetic children. 


Our next trip was to the inner cities of Chicago and Milwaukee. Our view of poverty was challenged as we were able to help with ministries that specifically ministered to those in need in their community. Whether we were passing out blessings bags to the homeless on the Magnificent Mile or helping with a free Health Clinic in the heart of Milwaukee, each of our lives were deeply challenged and changed. 

Second semester held a new level of adventure for us all. Not long after returning to campus we traveled to the breath-taking nation of South Africa. Six weeks of ministry to young and old alike, the team shared their testimonies, preached sermons, played with kids until they were exhausted, prayed over the sick, and served in various other capacities. Seeing each of them grow in their faith and boldness was one of the best parts of this trip! We saw God move in the big and little things, showing His faithfulness throughout.

Last but definitely not least was our final trip; a tour of the Holy Land. Walking where Jesus walked and encountering such ancient and fascinating historical sites made this trip so memorable. It was filled with many nights simply exploring the streets of Jerusalem or sitting on the beach of the Sea of Galilee watching the waves hit the shore. It is vastly different from any of our other trips, yet we still learned so much with each day we spent there.

It didn't seem long after our return from Israel that we were preparing for graduation. And on April 29th, our team completed their PackYourBags Journey.

We truly want to thank every one of our students for choosing to be a part of this experience. PackYourBags is so much more than traveling the world. The year is spent learning in the class room, being a part of not only the community of Trinity Bible College but our own little family of PYB, and being daily challenged spiritually, mentally, and physically. Though we had so many wonderful memories throughout the 8 months, it doesn't mean that it is always fun or easy, but it is always worth it as each student grows in their walk with the Lord. And we are just so thankful that they took the risk and jumped into this crazy adventure with us. So though we have had to say goodbye (which is never easy), we look towards each of their bright futures as they move onto what is next. Our prayer for this team is that as they walked in the physical places in which Jesus did, we pray that they continue to walk in the ways of Jesus throughout their lives. Walking in His footsteps as they look to what the future may hold with Him directing their steps. 

To conclude, here is one of our recent PYB graduates sharing about their year:

"This year has been amazing. PackYourBags took me places literally and metaphorically. I grew so much with every trip we took, every class I sat in, and every relationship I made. I am so thankful for everyone that loved me through the process of this crazy year. God used PackYourBags to challenge me in ways I could have never experienced otherwise. God taught me how HUGE He loves and how great His plans are for my life. Thankful for this incredible year. I am officially a PackYourBags graduate!" - Jenna

Congratulations to the 2016-17 team for completing the PackYourBags Experience!

PackYourBags 2016-17 

Experiencing the Holy Land

Israel is filled with diverse people, landscapes, and a deep, rich history. Every single day we stepped onto a big bus to tour the sights and our minds were dumbfounded by the places we were seeing. To physically walk where the Bible took place expands not only your mind but your faith. Being there makes reading His Word never the same because you now see some of the exact places that you have read about so often. For many of the students, Israel is one of their favorite and most memorable of our trips and we wanted to share with you some of their personal reflections. 

Praying at the Western Wall

Praying at the Western Wall

"While we were in Israel we had the opportunity to see many things that dated back 2,000 years  and places that Jesus had been. All of which were awesome to see and experience but my favorite place of all to visit was the Western Wall (aka the Wailing Wall)...It was old and had definitely seen better days yet it held such a strong symbolization for these people. It was sitting there just observing the wall that I made one realization. The Jews are crazy devoted to their faith and they put everything they have into it and yet it is only half of the truth. We as Christians have the full truth and we struggle to get out of bed in the morning to go to prayer. It made me think a lot about how I have been living life and how I could be more devoted to my faith and God. It is still a work in progress but hey I can say I learned something valuable from a wall." - Colten

Hearing the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000

Hearing the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000

While at Tabgha, where it is believed Jesus fed the 5,000: "I did not want to leave this place I wanted to stay in that church forever and just picture the whole thing over and over again. For the most part I didn't want to leave Israel in general, I loved it a lot and it was so amazing to just picture everything, I do really want to go back and do it all again. It was just amazing." - Maddie

Olive Trees at the Garden of Gethsemene 

Olive Trees at the Garden of Gethsemene 

Visiting the Garden of Gethsemane. "By God's grace we are able to see even a few trees Jesus could have walked by or sat next to. The most impactful part about this site was the incredible church next to the garden...the best part is that the Spirit of God was thick inside that church. This place completely opened my eyes to the reality of what Jesus did for me. A lot of the time I get this idea in my head that God loves us so very much only when hanging out in Heaven. But Jesus loved me even when he was a human...That night praying in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus chose to take my sins upon the cross and be the ultimate sacrifice for me. This realization totally hit me hard while sitting in that church." - Jenna

The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb

"The Garden Tomb held a lot of significance for me in my Christian faith. Right away it felt different. When we walked in you could sense the reverence and quiet peace surrounding the garden...It didn’t feel rushed or flashy, but instead it felt like Jesus had been there, and his spirit still lingered in the area. After going inside of the tomb, I felt no sorrow in my heart. The joy I felt could only be explained by the realization that Jesus was no longer held by death, but he rose again as a symbol of hope for all people." - Kristina

On the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem

On the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem

Israel is near and dear to each of us and the memories we made there will be cherished for a lifetime. Now that our final trip is over, our students are looking to their next season. Hard to believe that the team will be finishing their PackYourBags journey tomorrow as they officially complete their experience. This past week we have been reminiscing over all of the good times shared and the lessons learned throughout our year. Truly these 8 months of adventure will never be forgotten.

One of our students summarized the PackYourBags experience so beautifully: "I can say with one hundred percent certainty that if I were to have taken this trip alone I would have not enjoyed it nearly as much. Part of what made this trip so memorable was my PackYourBags teammates. Who over the course of this year have truly became my family. On this trip and starting to plan for my future, I came to the realization that in life all I ever really wanted was to feel at home. I now know that I will never completely be at home, because a part of my heart will always be elsewhere. It will be in the sights I saw, and the people I have met. But I would do it all again, just to be with my PackYourBags family, who now hold a good share of my heart." - Ashley

Our South Africa Journey: Part 1

       This semester has run away with us! Hard to believe that our 6 weeks in South Africa has already come to a close. Our team of 27 experienced so much in that amount of time with lives being impacted and changed...especially our own. It is hard to put into words all that came to pass but what better way to give you a glimpse of our South African Journey than through the eyes of one of our students.

Becca overlooking the largest green canyon in the world

South Africa through Becca's Eyes:
"I honestly don't know where to start in describing the past six weeks of my life. I don't know how to communicate the things I have experienced. I don't know what to tell you or how I would begin to do so.
I am simply able to tell you what South Africa is to me.

  • South Africa is full of children that are smiling when your knowledge tells you they have no reason to do so.
  • South Africa is a place where servants of the living God are working hard every single day to care for His sheep and spread the good news of our Lord and Savior.
  • South Africa is a place where the sand gets in your bedsheets no matter what precautions you take.
  • South Africa is beautiful.
  • South Africa is full of memories I want to always remember.
  • South Africa is a place where the air smells different.
  • South Africa is where God took me to teach me more of His love and the implications of that love in my life. It's where God took me to tell me more of His plan.
  • South Africa is diverse everything -- it is especially diverse in people, language, culture, landscape, and lizards.


One of our precious lil friends from Lula Orphan Center
  • South Africa is where the people put butter on anything that has bread (e.g. hamburgers, hotdogs, and PB&J sandwiches)
  • South Africa made me feel older and different.
  • South Africa is a place where I was able to pick mangoes and eat them whenever I wanted to.
  • South Africa is a place where the great majority of the people will allow you to come into their house and pray over them if you simply yell into their yard and ask.
  • South Africa is where people hear your accent and figure you're either from America, Australia, or Switzerland. Who knows.
  • South Africa is where I saw houses without roofs and families without jobs and joy without explanation.
  • South Africa has sinful people that need God as much as I do.
  • South Africa is something I am thankful for." 

    If you would like to hear more of Becca's personal adventures, follow her blog - lionheartedlandloper.blogspot.com

This is only a glimpse into what these past weeks have meant to each of us. Every person we met and place we saw has left a permanent mark on our hearts.


More South Africa stories & pictures to come!!

Our Family of 27 

Our Family of 27 

An Inner City Experience

The Team at Victory Park in Milwaukee
It is hard to believe that our students have finished their finals, completing their first semester, and are now packing their bags to head home. So much has happened over the last 3 ½ months; we’ve already traveled 1,957 miles, with our last trip for the semester taking place in Chicago and Milwaukee.
From November 4-13, we packed our bags for Chicago and Milwaukee. This trip was filled with “firsts” for many of us. The first time being in an inner city, or being in a city over 100,000 people, the first time seeing so many in poverty and homelessness, the first time working in a soup kitchen, and so on. Each city, each experience was different and we made a lot of friends on the way. What was so special was while we were working with and for people of various backgrounds, very different from any of our own, we were able to see just how big the Kingdom of God is. We experienced ministry in a predominantly Latin neighborhood in Hermosa, and a contextualized Hindu service in “Little India” while in Chicago. From there we served alongside an organization called City on a Hill that works with youth and families that are in poverty in Milwaukee. It was such a blessing to see so many different people, of different culture, background, and even race work together to bring people closer to the Kingdom, and to our King.

Here are some of the team's personal experiences...

While helping with Grace and Peace Community Church in the community of Hermosa in Chicago, we were able to go out and minister on the streets. "In the period of walking just a couple blocks, we came into contact with many people. I noticed my mindset changed when I saw someone walking within the general vicinity. I wanted to run up to every individual and have a conversation with them. My eyes were opened to more of the world, and my heart was burning inside to know how so many people were living without purpose. A few people refused prayer, but as I came to learn throughout the week, I can’t let that get me down, but try to focus on the good soil." - Arianna

"While in Chicago, we were given the opportunity to pass out our blessing bags and pray for those on the streets. It was an awesome experience that gave each of us boldness and allowed us to pray blessings over those struggling in hard times. Walking the “Magnificent Mile” was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to people and getting a little bit of their backstory. Many of them poured a lot into my life and had some really wise words, so I enjoyed learning a little something from every person we talked to." - Olivia

We had the amazing opportunity to visit "Little India" and experience a Hindu contextualized service. "I never knew that Hindus had so many different rituals for worship and learning about God.  Learning about their culture really confirmed in my life that I am supposed to work specifically within that culture of people.  I have never felt God’s confirmation more in my spirit than I did during that time at the South Asian Friendship Center.  What the South Asian Friendship Center did was take a Hindu worship service and use it for worshipping God, rather than the Hindu gods.  They put Christ in the context of a Hindu service.  I believe that contextualization is biblical if there is a lot of thought put into how it is developed and accomplished.  Western Christianity is not “right” Christianity.  I think that the South Asian Friendship Center did a great job of staying within biblical context and boundaries and they made it very clear that these people were worshipping God and serving Jesus." - Michelle


"I learned so many things about poverty while I was at City on a Hill. A common phrase was that “a statistic can't be felt”. But for me, that wasn't true, I absolutely felt the statistics and I didn't realize I had so many misconceptions about poverty. Had no idea how many people actually lived in poverty, how many people were unemployed and how many children’s realities existed in this. I also had no idea how many times poverty and justice issues were mentioned in the Bible. This is always something that my heart has really gone after and I honestly had no idea that it was something that was so Biblically based. Though I definitely felt the statistics very strongly, the poverty simulation absolutely helped me to feel this in a way I could have never felt before." - Lyvia

City on a Hill's Motto

City on a Hill's Motto

"Our last full day in Milwaukee was spent helping with the Health Clinic. I was in the group that helped the eye doctors. We spent our time helping find paper work and helping others fill out paper work. The eye doctors were able to give out around seventy five pairs of glasses during the hours the clinic was open. I felt like the City on a Hill group was really doing what they can to improve their community. This health clinic was something that they would do every month. They were not only focused on fixing short term problems but they were more focused on fixing the long term problems." - Marcus

Helping the GAP Center tear down the tents that had been used for revival services & cleaning up the area where their new church will be held!

"Overall the trip was an amazing experience to be a part of and one that I will remember for the rest of my life. The team grew closer together through our trials in the poverty simulation, working together to pull down tents, and many other experiences we had. The trip challenged me spiritually by forcing me to trust in God when I stepped out of my comfort zone and trusting that he provides freedom everywhere and in every situation." - Colten

FullSizeRender - Copy.jpg

"Our inner-city experience was great and I am very glad I chose to be a part of Pack Your Bags this year. All the people I have met and memories I have made are just the beginning. God has grown me so much even in my own personal life and my life outside of Ellendale, and I know He only wants to do more. After Christmas break, we still have another semester with two weeks in Israel and six weeks in South Africa. Pack Your Bags is not over — in fact we are just getting started." - Becca


Holly's Perspective

Holly shares her story...

Holly shares her story...

As the team has been settling back into normal college life it is amazing to see how each of us have been careful not to forget the memories and experiences that we had, during our trip to Wanblee, South Dakota. Each member of this team had the honor and privilege to be a part of something greater than ourselves.



Personally, I loved being able to physically do the work of God and see the results of our work. Gus and Terry from Eagle Nest Life Center kept us all busy with tasks like repairing fences, cementing and replacing windows, and collecting trash. The fellowship and friendships that developed from our hard labor and challenges will last a lifetime.


As a team we had the opportunity to host what Gus calls "Kids Klub," where we sang a few worship songs, gave a Bible lesson and played "Simon Says" among other games. My favorite part during this time was the opportunity I had to speak life into a young girl who lived on the reservation. She was strong-willed, determined and a leader with such force. She was only in the seventh grade, yet she had aspirations bigger than any college student I know. Not only did she want to attend Minnesota State University, but she also had dreams of playing for the WNBA owning her own cafe and bakery. Did I mention she also wants to be a teacher?

In the few short days I had with her, this young lady shredded all the pre-conceived notions I had about these people. They are human first, and I think as short-term missionary students it is easy to forget that. We are on the same level as these people, if anything we should think of ourselves as less than them. Everything that could go wrong, does. Yet these children and families have a faith so strong it could move mountains. When our trip was coming to an end I had the opportunity to witness to her, and she was receptive and encouraged by the fact that she has a Savior who loves her and forgives her of all of her sins. I was humbled and honored to share the gospel with her.

As the weeks have passed since our return I have continued to pray over her and her dreams so that she would never lose the fierceness God has blessed her with. It is my hope that as the year goes on I can continue to push through with as much exuberance and passion as our team had on our first mission trip. It is truly an honor to be a member of this team.


The Beginning..

The year has officially begun! This diverse, fun-loving, compassionate, and bold group of 22 has truly become a family in just a few short weeks! Here is a little bit about what we have been up to so far!

Over Labor Day, we packed up and headed north to Lake Metigoshe for a weekend of team-building. Through various challenges we learned that to properly build crucial trust and effective leadership  within the team we needed to rely on one another; this type of cooperation has laid the foundation for our course of ministry ahead. Each team member rose to the occasion when it came to challenging themselves, all in all, making our “family” that much stronger.

This week we are preparing for our first ministry trip which will take place on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where we will be working in the Oglala Lakota Native American community. We will be partnering with Wings as Eagles Ministries to help with various kids clubs, services, work projects, and outreach events. The team is very excited to go on our first ministry trip as a group! God has been working in all of our hearts and we are looking forward to all He has planned for Pine Ridge. Please continue to be in prayer for us as we start this journey as a team. It's only the beginning of all that God has in store for this year!


The team at the Peace Gardens during our Team Building trip!

The team at the Peace Gardens during our Team Building trip!