Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pioneer Trek

In lieu of a traditional youth conference this year, the stake put on a two and a half day handcart trek.  It was an enormous production, for everyone involved.  So much planning, organizing, sewing, and cooking.  It's amazing to me how much volunteer effort goes into our youth activities.  So many leaders lived and breathed trek for months on end to make sure it would be a positive experience for our teens. 

Not that they all went into it with stellar attitudes, mind you.  K was feeling a little homesick for her friends back in Cali this summer.  Girls camp was the last thing she did before we packed up and moved across the country last year.  And she wasn't sure how her experiences here would measure up.  She said to me, "If I survive camp, I'm going to die at trek."  No, she's never dramatic.

But happily, she did survive camp, even calling it "welcoming," which warmed this mother's heart.  And, thankfully, she also survived trek, despite her gloomy outlook on it.  She even enjoyed it and allowed it to change her.  Which was the whole point.

At the ward level, we had our hands full getting our girls ready for trek.  Everyone had to have two sets of pioneer clothing.  They had to be physically ready to withstand walking and pulling a handcart for 14 miles.  And they needed to be prepared spiritually, so they'd be open to the lessons that can be learned on such adventures.

Fortunately, good people stepped up to help.  One woman opened her home as a sort of one stop pioneer clothing shop.  She had fabric and helped us cut it, gave us sewing instructions, and even made a set of bloomers for every girl.  She was amazing.

Sadly, however, I find seamstress-ese completely incoherent.  I thought I would die of irritation trying to sew K's clothes, until youtube saved the day.  I found a video that walked me through what I needed to do.  Sewing still irritates the daylights out of me, but the video made a whole lot more sense to me than the paper instructions.  I guess I should have taken some sewing lessons back in the day.

We also had a couple from our ward that was called to be the Ma and Pa of a youth group. 
They planned a couple of hikes, even arranged to borrow a handcart, to help us get ready.  They're awesome.  And fun, which make them doubly awesome.
I was impressed that we had such a great turnout, even with such short notice.  J and I tagged along.  He absolutely loved it, didn't mind a bit being there with all those girls.  As long as they all ignored him, he was happy as could be.  I knew he would enjoy the hike, and if he was with me, he wouldn't cause trouble at home with S in charge while we were gone.  Win/win.
He was especially proud of all the wild onions he collected.  And he insisted on a picture in this exact spot "because it's so beautiful."  I love how intensely this boy loves nature.
But he wasn't about to pretend to eat cow bones, like these crazies.
Some s'mores came out a little challenged.
And some came out perfectly.
Everyone had fun.  They were even trying to plan another hike that would include camping out overnight.  It's fun to hang out with the youth.  Their enthusiasm is refreshing, even if it also sometimes exhausts me.  ;)
I love to see the genuine friendship and support they offer each other.
By the time the real trek was about to start, our youth were ready.  With the young women, we had even found a 10 day spiritual trek program which we had them do right after girls camp and right before trek.  We had just enough time.  Busy June?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes!  But it was a great way to get them thinking about what the pioneers went through in an attempt to get themselves and their families to a place where they could have true religious freedom.  Where they could escape the violence and hatred they encountered in the Midwest.
Our girls knew that trek would be hard.  But they also understood that it would be just a tiny taste of the true pioneer experience.  Everyone would have enough to eat.  And drink.  They had comfortable shoes.  There were no children to care for.  Winter wasn't on the horizon.  And no one would have to bury anybody.
This was the group from our ward.  Aren't those costumes awesome?  We had two other boys there, but I couldn't track them down.
I loved the fog that was hanging over the site as the youth got checked in.  And I was having a terrible time just dropping off my van load and leaving like I was supposed to.  I found myself suddenly, desperately, wanting to go on this journey with my girl.
But all I could do was take a few pictures and send her off with my love and the letter I wrote to all the young women.
As much as I share your distaste for no showers, muggy weather and too many creepy-crawlies, I wish I was going on trek with all of you. Truly, I do. Because I believe it will be an amazing experience. Not because it will be easy, but because it will be hard.

I want to witness the kindness that you will both give and receive. I want to see how much taller you stand as you look around and notice that you are part of an army of youth (some of whom might even be cute!) who are fighting for righteousness in a world that isn’t. I want to see your frustration and exhaustion fall by the wayside because your determination to push forward overpowers it. I want to see the look of humble understanding spread across your face as you begin to feel in a very personal way what the pioneers went through to stay true to their faith. I want to see the lump in your throat as your own faith and gratitude grow by leaps and bounds. I want to see the look in your eyes as you realize you are so much stronger than you knew. I wish I could experience your cheerfulness in the face of challenges. But most of all, I wish I could see your radiant smiles as you discover just how much joy can be found in a journey that is also so very hard.

That’s my challenge to you. Find the joy in this journey. And then, report back to me so I don’t feel so left out. ;)

Judging from the photos I took before my lonely drive home, I was pretty confident they would meet that challenge.
These next three pictures were taken by K's Ma during the trek.  There was a professional photographer along for the whole journey, who supposedly took lots and lots of photos that would be distributed to the youth.  But sadly, nobody seems to know anything about those alleged photos now.  So I'm forced to make do with the handful I have access to at the moment.
 I especially love this one.  It was during the women's pull where the guys had to sit out.  But even when everyone could pull those handcarts, I have it on good authority that K voluntarily pulled a whole lot.  She didn't lag behind and let the guys do all the work.  Good girl.  I've been telling her that she's stronger than she knows.  Maybe it's sinking in.

She arrived home dirty and exhausted.  And a better person for having done this.  Seeking to understand, in such an intimate way, what our ancestors went through gives her an opportunity to see more clearly who she wants to be.  It gave her the motivation to be more grateful for the abundance she has in life, and a greater ability to find joy in the journey.
And we were sure glad to have her back.  Even though it was terribly hard waiting until after a shower and a nap to hear all about her experiences.
Naturally, we ventured out for some photos before trek, once the pioneer clothing was finished.  My reward for sticking it out, I suppose.
I hope this experience will help my girl find the strength to be a pioneer, to stay true to her faith for the rest of her life.  Regardless of the challenges and hardships she may face.  And that she will find joy throughout her entire journey.

1 comment:

Mom said...

What an amazing experience this must have been! I missed a lot not being a member at K's age. What a BEAUTIFUL young woman she's become!!!