There is Joy in the Journey. This year for our Frisco Stake youth Trek, the theme was Joy in the Journey. This was my second opportunity to get to attend trek as an adult. Last time 4 years ago Brian and I were a Ma and Pa and had a great time together with our family, the Gardner's.
This year was a little bit different. Brian was in charge of a preparatory program called trail of faith, which was getting youth and adults ready spiritually and physically for trek. So he has been on the kids for many months working with the wards on this. It wasn't as successful as he had hoped as only 33 kids of the 400 completed it, but I told him it is because it is new and no one knows why it is so beneficial. Next time they will get more participation in the program for sure. So then on trek it self, Brian jumped on the logistics train. He attended all week being the helpful hand and working so hard everywhere. He was a stand in pa when one dislocated his knee, then the next day was a stand in "ma" for a family on the women's pull. Then he was just about everywhere. The best part about it was that he was building handcarts the Saturday prior to trek and was working with a chisel. He ended up chiseling his hand and needing 6 stitches right across his thumb. He is so lucky it didn't go deeper. Sean fixed him up with a pink cast for trek so that he wouldn't be held back from helping and yet protecting his stitches and injury. I cant say much about his experience although he says it was awesome...
What I can say though it how amazing my experience was at trek this year. I have been in the Stake Young Women's Presidency for 3.5 years now and so we had the chance to go as a presidency. At first, I was surprised at the amount of people that asked us prior to trek if we were going, if we were sleeping there, and if we were walking with the youth?!? WHAT??? Of course we are doing all of the above! We are the youth leaders and what an example we would be to not be there, to ride on a 4 wheeler all week or to drive home and sleep at home? I work with some amazing women and I love them so much. We have bonded in our time together as a presidency and I have grown to love these women so much. So although we didn't have a role like a ma and pa, and we weren't the cooks, or the medical team, we weren't the planners of the program, and we were not the amazing brains behind it all. Those roles were taken by the most incredible people in our stake. Thanks to every minute that the Argyles, and everyone else, put into this amazing experience!
So what was my role? At times it felt like no role at all, however I knew that as a Stake Leader I was there to make sure there was no drama, I was there to minister to the youth, and to help out ANYWHERE that needed help. This was the best role I could have had this time around. We walked along side stopping with all of the youth along the way. They had us split up to eat with a certain family the whole week and I lucked out and got to eat with the Jones, who I already know and love! I got to chat with their kids and spend meals with them. We were able to help on the women's pull day as there were girls who needed extra help. I pushed hard that day and am so proud of those young women for the hard work they did. They did not complain at all and I think they were excited to do it without the men, knowing that we can do hard things!
We got to walk the whole way, which I heard ended up being about 9 miles day 1, 7 miles day 2, and 4 miles day 3(about 20). We were up late and up early. We got to pray with and for the youth at and before the trek. We got to be with the amazing adult leaders for this and get to know these youth even better. So aside from the logistics of it all and the incredible time I had ministering and bonding with those around me, there is more to trek than this.
This was a Pioneer trek, so we were wearing what they wore (with our modern take obviously... I wore my Nike Free's which obviously they didn't have!) and I began to think about the shoes that they wore, if they even had them. I am sure some went without. The holes that they got and the tears and blisters. We got to know how it felt to work and walk long distance in a long skirt. Thank goodness for those aprons out there! I used mine to carry my cell phone just in case and my sun glasses. The Pioneers on the other hand used them as everything! I was thinking about the modern luxuries that we have and the things they didn't have then. I think that their apron because a all use towel and everything-er. We got to hear a story from one of the leaders about her ancestor who had a 2 year old little girl who was sick and the mother herself was pregnant with another. She carried her 2 year old in an apron while they walked for about 6 weeks straight. THAT is the way to use an apron! They probably had one set of clothing and maybe one set of underwear. I got to change into something new each day and new underwear every night and morning. I brought my deodorant, disposable toothbrushes, and dry shampoo.. they had none of those. They were probably so smelly and sickness was brewing all over the camps. I thought of the diapers they used and how they would clean them, and the different feminine problems and the way they would handle that. How about the lack of blankets when it was cold. I had a sleeping bag and a tent, and a pad to sleep on. I was freezing cold the first night and complained when I woke up and my ear plug had fallen out. That is ridiculous.
As I said before I got to eat with a family. They had 2 dutch ovens per family of about 8-10 people. They made chili and baked potatoes the first night and then funnel cakes for dessert. Potatoes and bacon with biscuits for breakfast the next day. Bread and honey with an apple and cookies for lunch on the trail, and soup with homemade bread for dinner. Breakfast the next day was cinnamon biscuits and eggs with sausage. It was all delicious. So when the food was made and the kids were served, I could see in their eyes that they were still hungry. I felt so bad that I was there to eat their food. There was this one boy who was a twin 16 year old in the group. I couldn't ever remember his name, and I like nicknames... so I called him hungry boy. He always wanted more and more but was too polite to say anything. He wouldn't ask I could just tell. I felt myself being so hungry from all the walking, but knowing that he was this hard working hungry teenage boy, I would rather him eat than me. I started to think about the pioneers along the trail and their severe lack of food. The flour that they would ration out to the families and how they didn't have much to make with it or from it. They would occasionally add water to make a paste. I began to put myself in the shoe of the pioneer mothers and decided that I would be a very hungry mom in real pioneer times. I didn't even know those kids but I wanted them to be fed and full. I would do the same for my real children. I would risk going hungry for them all day long. There was a pioneer story shared about this where they found an old hard small sea biscuit in a pocket that was too hard to even break off. The mother put it in a dutch oven and covered it with water. She knew that is Christ could make loaves and fishes for thousands that she could do something. She prayed and after cooking for a while she lifted the lid to find the dutch over was full of food for everyone there. What a miracle.
Like I was saying above, we got to play a different role this time around... well I loved every single minute of it. I didn't know the schedule or the time. I didn't now what was for dinner or what was happening on the trail. I knew that we were together and that we were moving together as a stake. We were split into 6 company's with about 9/10 wagons in each company. We had 56 wagons and families on the trails! Instead of always being worried about my family and what was for dinner and if we were on track for the right timing for the next event... I was able to sit back and "relax". I was able to observe trek and notice the sweet families. The service that happened and the love between ma's and their daughter, sons and their pa's and the sister and brothers. They all grew to love each other and to work together as a team. After coming into camp the second night we sat back on a little hill watching the families hustle around setting up tents, prepare dinner, and play in the river. They made up games of baseball with sticks and a ball made out of duct tape and an old sock I think. They played pioneer games and sang and walked together. They were not allowed cell phones at all and so they learned to talk to each other and look at each other! It was an amazing sight to sit back and watch as they all walked and ran around camp. I envisioned what the real scene would have looked like and what they would have been doing. I think all very similar. Some nights they must have been too exhausted to do much but I think they all helped out and where they could and made it fun when and where they could.
The last day as we were walking in and getting close, I think we were about 15 minutes from Zion, one of the handcarts completely broke down. The spindles on one of the wheels had broken off completely and the wheel wasn't able to work any more. The family picked up the cart finally after trying to push through, and moved it to the side. They happily and quickly unloaded. They didn't stand there angry or frustrated, They didn't murmur and complain, they simply picked everything up and quickly moved on. a few other families asked if they could put some things on their carts, but the family all had 2 arms fulls of stuff and happily continued on to Zion. As they walked away my eyes welled up with tears for them. To watch this abandoned cart on the side of the path it almost looked staged. I thought how hard it must have been to leave broken carts, or worn through clothing, oxen or horses that couldn't make it and of course what so many had to deal with was leaving a dead or dying loved on behind. I did cry thinking of the emotions. We get sad to loose something small like a wallet or sunglasses. I get sad to move or to give away some of my shirts or shoes I haven't worn in a year. How silly that I get sad and attached to those things when everything they owned was on those carts. Maybe it fell overboard at the river crossing and was washed away or maybe it was destroyed by the elements. Maybe your belongings were just too heavy a thing to carry and had to be left behind. There was no choice involved for them. They didn't have anything. They had each other, and they had their faith to get them through those challenging times. So I stood there for moral support for the families coming up the hill. I stood there and told them how to be grateful as their cart didn't break down. That there was hope and if you walk you are 10 minutes away from camp. Keep going you can do it!
Another beautiful and relatable story was told of a man who couldn't walk another step. He was so worn down and tired that he looked ahead at the mud or small hill and would tell himself he just had to make it to that puddle. Well he got to the puddle and just felt like he couldn't make it another step, the cart was too heavy and he just couldn't do it. It was then that he was able to push. It became easy and he says it wasn't him pulling the cart any longer but the cart was pulling him along. He looked back several times to see who was pushing his cart, and each time he looked he would see nothing. He knew that there were angels pushing their cart and helping him move on ahead. We may not feel the pushes in our life as obvious as that, but I know that there are angels looking out for us and helping us along our path. I know for me, I need to be more aware of this and more thankful for the times that I have been pushed through, when I am about to give up.
I had a wonderful experience at trek. I hope that I can go next time and the next and the next. It is so amazing and those youth need to know that they can do hard things and that there is Joy in the Journey, it is learning how to find it and share it.