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DL grad prepares for upcoming mission trip of a lifetime

Seth O’Neill is joining a mission trip that will take him to 11 countries in 11 months.

With college graduation and future plans looming in front of him, Seth O’Neill decided it was now or never.

This fall, rather than starting a job in his career field, the 2011 Detroit Lakes High School graduate is traveling to 11 counties in 11 months, conducting mission work around the world.

O’Neill graduates from Minnesota State University Moorhead this weekend with a degree in social work. And after a summer of working as a nanny, he will pack his bags and travel to Haiti, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

“I have never been far from home for this long,” he said. It will be hard to miss Christmas and stuff like that.” But it’s also the adventure of a lifetime.

He said it was a tough process to decide to go on the mission trip through Adventures in Missions because he was interning at Becker County Human Services and potentially could have had a full-time job after graduation.

“But this is the time to do it,” he said. For all those people who never got the opportunity to take a trip like this, “I’ll do it for them,” he added with a laugh. 

There are several different routes that participants can choose from through The World Race, and O’Neill chose South America, Africa and Asia because the destinations “seemed interesting to me.”

In July, O’Neill will travel to Georgia for some training, and he will meet the 49 other people from throughout the United States and Canada going on the trip with him. They have chatted via Facebook already.

O’Neill said he learned about the World Race from a post on Twitter. He looked into the program and decided it was the right fit for the adventure he was looking to have before settling into his career.

 During his time away, O’Neill will be helping do whatever mission work needs to be done in each location. That could be anything from building churches to teaching English, visiting those in hospitals and orphanages to reaching out to those in the Red Light Districts.

It was that variety of countries and activities that drew O’Neill to this program versus other mission trips.

“I’m kind of an adventurer.”

He said he doesn’t know the exact towns he will be working in because it will depend on the need when they get there. Plus, if there is any kind of conflict going on in that portion of the country, the World Race workers won’t go to that area.

For the first three months of the trip, someone who has participated in the program before will accompany O’Neill’s group. After that time period, someone within his “squad” will be chosen as the leader.

They will also have translators available since most of the countries, and even some villages, speak different languages.

For meals, O’Neill will get a monthly allowance through the program, or the people they are staying with and helping will feed them.

And packing is light.

“Everything you need, you bring in your backpack,” he said.

One thing he will bring is a laptop computer because all participants are encouraged to keep travel blogs so people back home can follow their adventure as it’s happening.

O’Neill said he will be able to keep in touch with family and friends back home through Facetime and Skype, but that also depends on Internet access in these countries.

To begin his journey, O’Neill had to raise $15,500, which he said was an intimidating number. He’s still working on it, but he’s dedicated to raising the funds.

“I read a lot of cool stories,” he said of checking blogs about the Adventures in Missions’ World Race and one thing he’s looking forward to most is meeting “the kids who are in orphanages and get to show them love.” He said he loves working with children.

Although the details aren’t solidified yet, there will be a send-off party for O’Neill in late August. He will post details on his blog when they are available.

For those interested in learning more about his trip or to support him, O’Neill can be reached at 218-841-1164 or

“I am thankful for this community and all that it does to love and support people,” he said.

O’Neill has already started his travel blog and will continue to update it before he leaves and then as much as possible while in the various countries. To follow his adventures, go to

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.