2014 Colorado Hiking Trek

Imagine yourself standing at 13,000 feet, having just reached the summit of your third mountain in a matter of days, looking out at the most beautiful landscaping. This is the Colorado Hiking Trip: A 10 day 3-peak hike through the beautiful mountains of Colorado which will be an act of physical sacrifice on behalf on our friends at Deepgreen Threads.

We could give you 100 reasons why we think you should join this trek, but instead we thought we’d let you hear it from one of the 2013 hikers. Meet Venture alumna, Dana Gotz:

VE. Dana, what made you interested in Venture Expeditions?
DG. Over the past year, I was really in an emotional and spiritual desert.  I thought some type of experience that incorporated both adventure and spirituality might help me to move beyond this point in my life.  A Venture Expeditions’ trip seemed like the perfect combination of doing something adventurous, discovering my soul, and sacrificing for a greater cause.


VE. Why did you choose your specific trip to go on?
DG. I really had a desire to completely unplug from my day-to-day life and get away from everything to hear from God. The idea of being out in the wilderness in solitude, hiking five summits, and experiencing God’s creation in Colorado really appealed to me – and it did not disappoint!  There is nothing compared to being on top of a mountain feeling like there’s nothing you can’t do and nothing that can separate you from God’s love.

VE. We know Venture trips test you physically and mentally. How has Venture helped you grow spiritually?
DG. This trip was a sacred experience in my faith journey.  Our team was a group of individuals who were all at very different places in our faith.  I found them to be such an authentic group of people who God used to speak to me and affirm my identity and who He created me to be.  We really bonded through intentionally sharing our life stories and just getting through the highs and challenges of the trip.  In preparing for the trip, I was expecting God to reveal something profound to me related to where I was at in my life…what I heard Him say throughout the trip -both through my team and in my heart – was that it doesn’t matter what I’ve done or where I’m at, He loves me and nothing will ever change that.  Period.  Simple but profound.  At the end of the trip, I was trying to sum up in one word or phrase what the trip had meant to me and what I came up with was “life-giving”.  I felt so full after the trip – it restored me both mentally and spiritually.

VE. What advice would you give to someone considering joining a Venture trip?
DG. Do it!  Don’t be dissuaded by fear, finances, time, ability, or anything else that may be hindering you from such an experience.  In the V.E. Discovery Guide it says that sacrifice is God’s path to glory.  You will be rewarded mentally, physically and spiritually and God will be glorified – it truly is life-changing.


Are you interested in joining the 2014 Colorado Hiking Trek? Click here to learn more and to apply. We can’t wait to hike with you.


How Violence Plagues the Poor

“The locusts of everyday violence have been allowed to swarm unabated in the developing world. And they are laying waste to the hope of the poor.” – Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros in their new book, The Locust Effect

As we strive for Biblical justice we come face to face every day with the reality that poor people are vulnerable to violence. Globally, the facts are stunning. nearly 30 million children, women and men are held as forced labor slaves. One in 5 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape – and sexual violence makes everyday activities like going to school, gathering water, using a communal restroom or taking public transport dangerous. The truth is that 4 billion people – that most of the world’s poorest people – live in places where their justice systems don’t or can’t protect them from these kinds of everyday violence.

Our friends at International Justice Mission just put together this video that shows what the world is up against as we work together to help our poorest neighbors. Our fight against poverty is worth safeguarding. If you want to learn more about the #LocustEffect check out the new book by IJM’s presidnet, Gary A. Haugen, The Locust Effect.

This year you have a unique way to support the work that IJM is doing by participating in the IJM Freedom Tour, a 10 day cycling tour from Seattle to Portland. The purpose of the trip is to raise awareness and support for IJM and their efforts to fight modern day slavery.

Dallas Horne | The Discomfort of #PhysicalSacrifice

The HornesIt seems as comfort has become the socially acceptable state for most of us. We wear our comfy clothes, eat comfort food, sit around in our comfortable air conditioned houses on our comfy couches, and sleep in our comfy bed with our new comforter. Don’t get me wrong, those are not bad things. I have all of those things, but I feel that my heart is changing, and is revealing itself in a complete paradigm shift for my family and me.

The reality is that I live in the USA, a place where I have to consciously decide to live UNCOMFORTABLE. Another reality is that there are people in the world that have no choice about comfort. Their lives and situations do not afford them the opportunity to choose whether or not they want comfort. This reality makes my heart break and my passion stir as I think about how blessed I am to live in comfort.

So what do I do with this knowledge? Over the past year or so, my wife and I have felt God preparing us for something. We initially thought it was transition, but have come to discover it has been God changing our hearts. This change has been deep and complex, and we really feel it has to do with our level of comfort. By no means do we live extravagantly, but comparatively on a global scale; we are wealthy, which gives us the choice of comfort.

I always appreciate this time of year and what Venture does through their summer tours. There are teams of people CHOOSING to live uncomfortable for the benefit of those who don’t have a choice. Some are riding across America on bikes. Some are running across an entire state. Others are running various distances for other causes. However they are doing it, these feats of athleticism allow the participants to take on what the majority of the world already carries as their daily burden, being uncomfortable.

This attitude and posture is not new, but easy to never realize. Jesus gave us the perfect example by giving up His right to comfort, and CHOOSING to live in discomfort here on earth for the benefit of others. Ultimately, He gave up His life for us in the most uncomfortable way I can imagine, death on a cross. It is because of this example I believe as a family, and the Venture Community, we are being called to live with more intentional discomfort. Not to say, “Hey, look at us. Woe is we!” But by making choices that are against the norm and are uncomfortable, we are making room for God to use us to fulfill Biblical Justice through the very life He has blessed us with!


Daria Middleton | Branches In Pavement Cracks

In this life and on these journeys I have found that as the grips of this world begin to harden around me, those that The Lord puts in my life and in the trials and expeditions, He calls me forth on, He continues to grow me even in the most suffocating of seasons. He grows me up through the ruble and brings color and contrast to the dark and broken parts.

And even in the darkest of times there is patience and triumph as we wait for the pavement to crack and grow up through struggle of scratching the surface. I learned a while ago that God pushes me to be uncomfortable. He grows my comfort zones so that I grow more into the person He has called upon me to be. I could choose to ignore it and avoid it or I could answer, obey, embrace and pursue the truth of the expectations that God has for me because He created me with these things in mind.

Some are drawn to certain parts of the world. Certain cultures or struggles. I feel it is crucial to mix these passions in certain settings of adventure based ministry. To be pushed out of our shells. Working with personal and physical reaction and sacrifice. I am called out to be made uncomfortable at times because I learn and grow from things that are not of the norm. I in return am forced to sit, dwell and learn more about myself, my focus and Gods provision and lessons for me.

When I am stripped of comforts I am made raw and therefore lean on The Lord all the more. Not people (I have found that the battle with myself is constant). I am stripped, an open wound mending. In these moments, these treks surrounded by His creation and things that lurk with in it bring me perspective.
I could ride 90 miles on my bicycle and come around a bend, see a wall of a hill and call the van to come back and pick me up to bring me over this “wall”. OR I could complain for 7 seconds (because I’m human) about the realities of how I feel then look at that wall again and say, “OK”.
I’m certainly not climbing these mountains for self enjoyment. I don’t climb these mountains because my heart is into one part of the world than another or one specific cause. I climb because I know that each pedal stroke delivers hope. I climb and battle head wind and dance for joy at state lines because God is using me as a tool to build His kingdom. Either for our neighbors in Southeast Asia or my teammate struggling on a 103 mile ride next to me. These missions grow people. The physical and mental sacrifice of our bodies and time open eyes everywhere we go and Gods timing for those who we meet in towns we pass are equally inspiring and encouraging. That brings a ripple effect to this life that helps lead us down the narrow path.

Ministry is dead unless the leaders are growing too. These experiences and treks strip us of what the world layers us with. Opens eyes, sheds light and teaches us directions that should be taken or avoided. Leaders are never the best they can be at any point in their walk. There is no finish line crossed while we are still here. We learn to finish strong no matter what until we are called home.
My passion is to help and encourage anyway that I can. The majority of these ways is through my body. Through biking, hiking and showing creation to others. Being stripped by the elements of this earth, lessons of this life: put in the example, the possibilities are endless.
So when this cross country tour finishes, the tour that I thought was a once in a life time opportunity that happened twice, I will be embracing with yet another community that needs help.
The community of Adventure Leadership International (ALI) an organization that ministers to leaders to help them grow so that their own communities may grow and be strengthened. They provide training and deciple opportunities that help with glorifying God in His creation in the midst of physical sacrifice and self awakening for participants that partake.

Andrew Underwood, the founder of this organization and an amazing brother, has been working hard in getting these trainings rolling in the states for leaders in Ecuador and has plans in the making to begin leadership training this Fall.
In the midst of all of this in order for anything to be fruitful, seed must be spread, nurtured and tended to. With this on mind, Andrew, myself and a team will be summiting Mt. Shasta in …. California on August 24th along with many other teams who will be summiting 54 mountains in Colorado that are fourteen thousand feet. ALI will be teaming up with the organization that helps to make these opportunities possible. the project is called Project 54. Through this project, funding and awareness can be raised to help provide leadership training for ministries all over the world.
Self sacrifice. Time, physical and mental. These are tangible things that when pushed and stretched can create new perspective mixed with white flags. Allowing God to fight our battles knowing He will protect us and prosper. We learn, grow and teach. There for it spreads more seed and the process continues. We are tilling the earth with His love and mighty truth.

We have all been called upon to peruse different things. Instilled with different passions.
What’s in you?
If you would like to find out more information about Andrews mission and what ALI is all about please visit ALI “Blazing the trail”
And to see our team for Mt. Shasta’s progress or to donate please visit: ALI Mt. Shasta team
Keep Adventuring





Ali Carr | A Life of Risk

I was first introduced to Venture Expeditions in 2007 when my boyfriend, now husband George, was planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I was craving to engage in biblical justice in a creative way. When the next year rolled around I signed up in a heartbeat! I had never owned a pair of hiking boots or even knew the difference between a “Camelbak” and a camel back. Needless to say, I am one persistent 5’2″ gal and was determined to make it to the summit. The journey to the summit was deeply impacting but even more impacting was the people we met while in Tanzania.

Ali & George

AfricaMrs. Minnesota

Our team spent time working with local orphanages. I remember playing with a group of the girls from the orphanage and although we did not speak the same language, their joy and gratitude was contagious. The Lord often asks us to empty ourselves so he can fill us. The mission statement, “benefit the world, discover the soul” was now very real and personal to me. Participating in Venture was not just a one-time trip. I became a part of a community. A community that continually challenges me to consider the way I live, spend my money, balance my time, and engage in our community and world.

In 2012, I won the title of Mrs. Minnesota America and it felt only natural that I dedicated my year to sharing Venture’s story. I had the opportunity to speak at different expos and conferences about Venture Expeditions and how the experiences had impacted my life.

The lessons of my first trip with Venture Expeditions remain with me. My husband and I had been trying to go on another trip for a few years, yet life kept throwing us curve balls and as much as we wanted to try and force the opportunity, it did not feel like God’s timing.


Finally, an opportunity became very clear for both of us and we decided to lead the 2012 Venture Thailand trip. Hesitations set in for me when the trip was scheduled over Christmas.  My husband and family know firsthand that saying ‘I love Christmas’ is an understatement. I had to check my heart and my motives with the Lord many times. However, what felt like a sacrifice quickly became a gift when we shared the Christmas story with Thai and Burmese people for the first time.

Thailand 2Thailand 1Thailand 3

This past year has been filled with life lessons and learning to take risks. Competing for the title of Mrs. Minnesota America was the start of a year of taking risks and letting God lead. I had to let go of what I thought was logical and listen to His voice. With the support of my husband, I took a leap of faith and left my full-time job to embark on a new career and pursue my dream job. The risk was worth it. In December, we decided to spend Christmas on the other side of the world to tell people about Christ for the first time and it was more than worth it. What is God asking you to take a risk on? Where in your life does He want to take the lead?



Aaron Phaneuf | #InCommunity

At the beginning of my tour (Pacific Coast 2011) when someone had a flat tire you might find one other person lending a hand. In the closing days of our ride, you would find eight on the roadside. What changed?
We realized that it is nearly always more fun to do something together. Whether changing a flat, grabbing a snack, or refilling water bottles, by the end of our tour we just wanted to be together. Some of the most memorable moments of our adventure occurred during impromptu meet-ups on the side of the road. I recall dance parties, laughing till we cried, more crying, killer ant attacks. 
Long distance cycling creates lots of vulnerability. Biking can be dangerous. The longer you are on the open road, the more perils you discover.
Over time, we realized that our need created opportunities for God’s divinity to shine.
We witnessed and participated in numerous good-Samaritan moments. Like the day when a kind stranger showed us the way to our destination then bought the entire team pie. The best pie I have ever tasted. Or when a sweet soul cooked our food, encouraged our hearts, cleaned up and sent us on our way. When we strip away layers of ordinary, there is a much better chance of finding extraordinary. For most folks, riding your bike for weeks with strangers is not ordinary. 
I encourage those experiencing their own adventures this summer to stop often, lend a hand, dirty your hands and help. Even when the road is tough and the miles are chewing you up, be ready to dive in pause your progress. Cycling, like life, is more fun when shared.

Q&A | Being a Venture Tour Leader

As we plan for hiking, cycling, and running tours one important factor in making these trips a success is deciding who is leading them. We are always looking for quality individuals that have a passion for fighting injustice and care deeply about engaging the people around them in that same fight.

If you’re looking for an exciting, challenging, life-changing experience then you may want to consider becoming a leader for a Venture tour. Not quite sure what it means to be a tour leader?  Check out this Q&A on being a leader and then ask yourself if you’re ready to help make this summer an amazing one, not only for yourself, but for a team of people that are committed to seeing justice reign.

As a leader, do I get to pick my own tour or is it assigned?

We always try to match leaders with tours that are exciting to them. Prayer is our #1 tool for matching leaders with tours so occasionally we might have a tour suggestion for our leaders.

Do I have to lead a tour by myself or will I have a partner?

The number of leaders on a tour depends on the number of participants we have. We generally always try to have at least one leader and one co-leader per team.

How much time do I have to commit to being a tour leader?

A tour leader has to commit to the entire length of their hiking/biking/running trip with a few extra days on each end. Tour leaders also need to commit a few hours per week for the months leading up to tour to build relationships with their team. Don’t expect prep for your tour to be a full time job but the more time you can commit the better off you and your team will be.

Do I get to engage in the physical aspect of the tour when I’m leading?

Most of our tour leaders choose to also engage in the physical aspect of their tour. Occasionally we have had leaders that serve purely in a support role. This style of leadership is extremely valuable as well. A typical tour leader will have some days engaging in the physical activity and some days not.

Can I still lead a Venture tour even if I’ve never been on one as a participant?

We would handle a non-Venture alum leader app on a case-by-case basis. There are some aspects to leading a Venture tour that may be hard to understand unless you’ve experienced a tour. But we still invite you to apply for a leader position if you’re interested. We’d love to talk to you!

As a leader, is it my responsibility to recruit a team?

We do ask leaders to openly talk about their upcoming tour to anyone and everyone and try to recruit tour participants. A leader position is not contingent on recruiting but we do look for leaders that are excited to help build their team.

How do I apply to be a Venture tour leader?

Leaders are required to fill out a leader application and go through an interview process. If you want to apply, send an email to info@ventureexpeditions.org to get a copy of the leader app.

What is the tour leader interview like?

During the leader interview we will talk to you about your application answers and give you more details on what leading a tour looks like. We really want to know our leaders so think of the interview as a good conversation about pursing justice as a team.


Lydia Ness | Living #InCommunity Through Uncertainty

One year a go, my little blue civic pulled a U-Haul from southern California to Chicago. I completed undergrad, and I was going directly into law school, pursuing a dream of fighting human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the legal field.


Life was fresh, exciting and uncertain.


Shortly after I moved, I rode my first Venture bike tour from Cincinnati, Ohio to Washington D.C. to raise money for International Justice Mission (IJM), and their efforts fighting modern-day slavery and sex-trafficking. I knew it would be life-changing, but I could not have prepared for journey that ensued.


We rode for the oppressed and the voiceless, because we believe something beautiful happens when you sacrifice for others. We sacrificed our legs and time, so our brothers and sisters around the world may have a glimpse of freedom. We chanted, “freed people, free people,” and we were forever changed.


Just a couple days before we reached D.C., one of my fellow cyclists, a doctor, examined a lump on my neck. Without hesitation, she told me to see a doctor as soon as we finished.


I returned home, shaken to the core with passion for pursuing justice and more than ready to begin my law school career. I was convinced more than ever that I want to create lasting change in the world through law. I don’t want to just talk about issues; I want to do something.


The next few weeks were a blur. One day I was in the movie theater, seeing The Bourne Legacy when the doctor called me: “Lydia, you have thyroid cancer.”

I didn’t finish the movie. (Was it good?).


I had just moved across the country, and I was supposed to start law school in a matter of days. This was entirely too inconvenient. My doctor asked when I wanted to schedule surgery, and I asked if we could do it on a Friday, because I had school on Monday, and I was convinced that would be enough time to recover. The news of cancer didn’t change anything in my mind. Sure, this was a little bump in the rode, but I didn’t question for a minute if I could deal with it and continue pushing toward my dream.
“I don’t think you understand what is happening,” my surgeon said. “This is no little surgery, Lydia, you’re going to need at least 10 days for the surgery alone, and everything else that follows will take much longer…”


I heard what he was saying, but I was stubborn and convinced that he didn’t really know me. I could obviously push through this on my own and still complete my first year of law school—I was wrong. I reluctantly deferred my first year of law school. Looking back, I am thankful I did.


It has been a humbling year. While thyroid cancer is considered one of the most treatable cancers, my case has been abnormal from the beginning. I had my first surgery over a year a go, followed by about 3x the radiation a normal case receives. In my follow up scan, there was still cancer remaining, so I was referred to a new surgeon and hospital for a second surgery last spring.


Four weeks after my second surgery, I started law school. I took criminal law over the summer and managed to finish strong. I’m in physical therapy and I’m learning how to manage the pain and wavering energy levels (a result of no longer having a thyroid). At the same time, I am learning daily and challenging myself in ways I never have before. I am blessed.


I  “celebrated” my one-year diagnosis in August, started full-time law school, and then learned I need surgery again—another surgeon, another hospital. I should consider writing a dissertation on Chicagoland hospital food or something. Some hospital Jell-O is just superior, you know?


Since my body won’t respond to radiation any longer, surgery is the only option from now on. My third surgery is Thursday, October 24, and my biggest fear is losing my voice. While it is always a risk to injure the vocal chords in these operations, the risk is much greater now because of scar tissue and trauma from previous surgeries. Over time, injections and additional surgery can correct speaking problems resulting from such an injury, but correcting singing capability is not easy or really probable. As a musician, this is hard to stomach.


In all of this, I have learned how to set my pride aside and allow people to come alongside me. My Venture family has been instrumental in teaching me what it looks like to go through life in community. My natural response to struggle is to find the silver lining in each situation, but I have learned this is not always healthy. I am challenged to face suffering for what it is and recognize its difficulty. When I’ve allowed myself to do this—when I’ve truly felt the weight of this pain—I have experienced the beauty of the Gospel in ways I never could have before.


“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.” Anne Lamott


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