The God Squad Immersion Trip to the Standing Rock Reservation

Posted on August 19, 2014

Each summer The God Squad brings together East Bay youth from the Diocese of California for an Immersion Trip*. The God Squad is a consortium from All Souls, Berkeley; Christ Church, Alameda; Church of the Resurrection, Pleasant Hill; St. Paul’s, Walnut Creek; and St. Timothy’s, Danville.

This summer, from August 3 to 12, The God Squad returned for the third time to the Lakota Sioux Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. The group was comprised of 30 high school youth and 10 adults, including the rectors of four of the participating churches and six lay chaperones, four of whom were volunteers. The God Squad discovered shared stories and experience with work, meals, and relationship building between their community and the Lakota community.

Traveling to Standing Rock via plane and caravan, the group arrived at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church, Wakpala, South Dakota, and settled in for a busy week. There the youth worked hard and played hard. Each day the group participated in several different manual labor projects. They built new fences around, and tended the cemeteries of, St. Elizabeth’s, Good Shepherd, and Holy Spirit Episcopal Churches on the reservation. They scraped old paint off and then painted the face of St. Elizabeth’s and lit the steeple cross. They patched the roofs of three homes in Wakpala. And last but not least, they held vacation bible school for the children of the community.

The underlying current of the trip was to build relationship with Lakota brothers and sisters in Christ. Every project and interaction The God Squad undertook was intended to help strengthen their ties to Standing Rock and build relationships. This included basketball games, attending the Rock Creek Pow Wow, worshiping together, and learning from presenters about traditional storytelling, food, song, drumming, and dance.

The God Squad, by going out into the world, is building up the youth of the Episcopal Church. Through these trips, the youth are being taught, and by their example DioCal congregations are being taught, that being a Christian is active and not passive. In all, the work The God Squad does provides a venue for youth to wholly claim their faith. They take the word of God and put it into action. The significance of this is truly immeasurable.


Want more? A video by Ryan Mahoney on the Immersion Trip is available here.

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* What is an Immersion Trip? Immersion is a renaming of the traditional Mission Trip. Mission has a connotation in which historically a dominant group helps a minority group. In contrast, immersion reflects the intentions of a mutual relationship in a service learning model.