High School Youth Trip

2023 High School Youth Trip – Saturday, August 12 – Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Ben Johnson

Thursday, August 10, 2023.

We awake to an early morning with alarms set to 5:15 to embark on one last adventure and one last moment of stillness…a surreal sunrise at Sarah’s special spot. Some awake eager to get back home; others wishing for just one more day, one more fire pit, one more basketball game, one last conversation.

In the cold morning air, we climb up the rock formations and settle into a comfortable spot, for optimal viewing of the beautiful sunlight sky. We sit in silence, sitting in this thin space, looking out over the majestic Black Hills, reminded one last time of the beauty of this place. This place, which started as an unfamiliar space as we pulled up to Outlaw Camp for the first time Sunday; yet turned into a place; a place of strangers and friends, laughter and tears, activity and stillness, but most importantly…conversation. Conversation between people who have never met and people who have been friends their whole lives. Conversation between young and old. Conversation between first time travelers and hardened veterans. And that is reverence.

Today, as we return home, we remember those conversations…those stories. The stories which inspired us. Stories from our friend Larry who spent years on the Pine Ridge Reservation, stories from Mark about the geological history of the land in which we were on, stories of traditions from a Lakota man and his family at Crazy Horse Memorial. And in every story, I see reverence. As Sarah has been saying all week, there are many types of reverence, and when we began our adventure, we all had experienced reverence, even if we had never heard of the word. Sarah also said, “creation is a canvas for stories” and each story we heard represented a type of reverence. It’s easy to have reverence for nature or a place, or a thing; but true reverence is reverence for people. The ability to look at someone, learn their story, learn their history, their beliefs, and then be able to honor that. Not through just words but through actions. One story embodying this was one told by a woman at Crazy Horse. She explained how although she is married to a Native American, and knows their culture, she refuses to participate in the ceremonial dances performed by her husband and children, because she is not native. It is not her culture, her story, her history; it is theirs.

That is reverence.

Again, I saw reverence in Larry’s explanation of the significance that food has at the Pine Ridge Reservation. At a gathering, everyone eats, and if you cannot eat, you share with someone else.

That is reverence.

In Larry’s words “we all know someone who is hungry”…and Larry was right.

So, as this journey comes to an end, here are some of Sarah’s life lessons that we should remember.

“Engage with your eyes to engage your heart”

“Focus on the experience not the souvenirs”

“Have a mindful presence no matter where you go”

“Were on the same trip, but a different journey”

But what is the end? What was this journey? What path are we on? As we carry these stories back home with us; stories of greed, lies, hardship, broken promises; stories of joy, song, fellowship, conversation; let us not forget experiences we’ve had, individual and communal. The sacred land of the Black Hills and experiences on this trip should empower us. We’ve made new friends, fostered new relationships, found ourselves, learned the history the right way…and honored it,

And that is reverence.

I hope that as we all follow the path of faith, we take time on our own journey to find a “thin space”, let our hearts wander where our feet plant us, and have reverence wherever we go.

“My feet are tired but my soul is wide awake.”

Thank you Good Shepherd and Goodnight.