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Thus far our Blog is filled with a journal of our 2014 mission trip… (we returned to the same site in 2015 but in 2015 all of our updates were posted on Facebook)…


Below is a daily blog summarizing the work of our Mission Trip May 3-10, 2014 in La Plant, South Dakota. We worked for one week with Simply Smiles to help the Native American community in La Plant.  We traveled with twenty-two volunteers representing churches in Avon, Farmington, Simsbury, Granby & Bristol, CT.  Nine of the twenty-two participants were from our church.

You can also read Simply Smile’s Blog for updates.

May 3:  we’ve landed safely in South Dakota!



May 4:  We had a very full and meaningful day today. We started the morning with a group devotional time, and reflected on the importance of our humility and love in all things that we do. We then had a tour of La Plant, and listened as the gifted Simply Smiles staff told us about important historical, cultural and relational aspects that impact our work and presence with the Lakota people.  After the tour, we had lunch and then began the day’s work projects:  one group worked on moving and reorganizing supplies; one group worked on moving one outhouse and installing a new outhouse; and another group worked on our big patio project.  Pictures will be coming!  Our day continued with dinner with the community and we enjoyed getting to know some of the people from La Plant and playing games with the children.  We closed our day reflecting on our day and on the days ahead of us.  Tomorrow we will continue with more work projects as well as start our daily after-school camp for the children.

What stands out from the first full day here?  This place and the people are very much in need!  A couple of us commented today:  “It’s difficult to articulate this place, people and needs to other people, so everyone just needs to come here and see it in person.”  And, simply being present with the people here is one of the greatest blessings one could receive.

May 5:  again we started our day with a group devotional. We talked about our hopes and dreams for the week, and reminded ourselves: we are the first volunteer group to be here in spring/summer 2014, so a lot of what we are doing is setting the groundwork for all the other volunteer groups that will follow throughout the remainder or the summer.  After devotional we walked a mile with people from the community as part of a “get active” program Simply Smiles has started here. Afterwards… Today we did a lot of spring clean-up around the community center, worked on installing new outhouses, started building a new storage shed, and continued on the big patio project. At 3:45 the children arrived for the after school camp. We had several stations of crafts, games, and other wonderful activities that the students enjoyed. Outside, we played basketball and kickball with the kids.  While our work projects are important, it’s truly the time with the children and the people of La Plant that is making this trip so meaningful.

May 6:  we began with devotional, morning walk, and breakfast. Then we continued work projects:  installing two garage sheds, fixing the outhouses, and the big patio project. We also had a crew doing clean-up of last year’s garden to make way for this year’s new greenhouse. We had one crew that went to Pierre to help some residents purchase groceries and supplies from Walmart. And we had another group that went to Gettysburg to help a resident pick-up a new door for his house. Whenever there is need for supplies, it’s at least a 40 minute drive and the Walmart trip is over an hour away.  Throughout the summer Simply Smiles helps people in La Plant pick up needed items from other towns, and has a weekly bus trip to Walmart so that residents can purchase affordable goods.

We had after-school camp and Tuesday night is Bingo night for the residents which was very well attended. We have posted a few pictures on the church’s Facebook page because it’s a little easier than posting on this site (we’re using a cell phone to post and we have limited time for postings each day). Check out our Facebook page for other updates and for pictures. And continue to keep us and the people of La Plant in your prayers.

May 7:  we didn’t begin the day with “walk on” (the official name of the “get active” morning walking program) because Wed is town-wide community breakfast day. We had about half of our crew devoted to prepping the breakfast, and the other half started first thing with continuing our outdoor projects:  the new community garden, the garage sheds, the outhouses, and the big patio project.  The breakfast was well attended and even had bus service to pick up residents and bring them to the meal. After breakfast, we continued with our projects. Wayne went on an outing with Josh to run some errands in another town, and the rest of us continued with projects until 3:45 when the after-school camp started. The daily camps have been amazing – the children love all of the various stations and activities that our group has prepared- we’ve had rocket building, board games, Legos, bracelet making, make-up, t-shirt making, kite building, and more!

After camp, it was time for our first and only group trip out of town during this week: we went to a town that borders the Missouri Ricer and ate dinner at a restaurant. Normally this trip to the river includes a frigid swim for those interested, but it was in the 40s (30s with wind) outside so it was a bit too cold even to attempt this year.

The patio is nearly complete! Check out our church Facebook page for pictures!

May 8: It was a cold and rainy day today. With a high only in the low 40s, with heavy wind, it felt like the 30s outside. Still, we got to work in the morning, one group finishing the patio; another group working on shelving for storage; and another group finishing the garage sheds. By noon, everyone was soaked and cold. We came indoors and worked on some indoor projects:  there was a cooking class being held for the residents, there were bookshelves to be built, and there was camp to get prepped for; we also made a few signs to place in the community room, including a large sign advertising the weekly BINGO game and this year’s grand prize. Soon it was time for after- school camp. Our volunteers had prepared such wonderful indoor stations that it didn’t matter that it was raining outside. There was bracelet making and t-shirt making and Legos and rocket building and an awesome trail mix snack- we had a ball! Meanwhile, there was a storage container being delivered outside and when the large delivery truck arrived it got stuck in the mud. We had a great crew go out and work and work until the truck got unstuck and the container could be unloaded from the trailer.

Another thing I haven’t mentioned thus far:  on two of the days, we have had local artisans come and sell their wonderful creations to those of us who are interested. One day we had bracelets, made by Shane, and yesterday we had a local artist – George- come and sell beautiful hand-crafted earrings.

Last night after camp and dinner, we had the local drum group come and show us traditional drumming. They played three or four songs for us, including a song which included us standing and dancing in the round. What a joy!

And this:  just before the drummers came, the skies cleared and we had a gorgeous sunset. Friday is supposed to be sunny and in the 60s which is wonderful because the students get out of school at 1pm and we’ll have a full afternoon of camp!

Remember to check out our Facebook page for pictures:

May 9: our final full day. It was gorgeous, sunny and in the 60s. We finished every project! (see previous posts for our projects) and camp started at 1pm. We had the joy of spending time with the kids at camp until 6pm. The highlight was shooting off the rockets that the kids built earlier in the week. We played lots of basketball, horseshoes, and other games and activities.  At 6pm there was a town-wide meal and clothing giveaway. And we got lots of quality time with the residents of La Plant!

After dinner we reflected on our week. One of the Simply Smiles staff, Sam, said she thought it was one of the most productive and fun weeks in all her time with Simply Smiles. Thank you Simply Smiles!

Check out this time-lapse video of the patio being installed, called “the all-time favorite Simply Smiles video”:  Simply Smiles time-lapse patio video on

May 10:  we travel back to CT.  What a wonderful, inspiring, moving, life-changing week!