I think it's about sacrifice. It brings forth the blessings of heaven, right?
We'd not even been home a week from our East Coast trip when Caleb traded his typical basketball shorts and BYU t-shirts for long pants with suspenders and a straw hat. Alyssa wore a bonnet and ankle-length skirt instead of her usual leotard. The hours that would've been spent in gymnastics training, were filled with pulling a handcart over hills and through rivers. Her teammates thought she was crazy.
I gave up all contact with my two oldest children and traded a peace of mind that comes from knowing they are safe within the security of our own home for endless worry about their safety, comfort and enjoyment.
Their excitement about participating in trek made it a little easier to let them go.
"Why do you think trek has become a standard youth activity throughout the church?" I asked Jon one day as we reflected on the fact that neither of us had ever participated in such an experience. It's a rather new tradition, but one that nearly every youth now participates in at some point. "I think it's about appreciating our pioneer heritage," was Jon's answer.
I agree. But I think it's more than that. I've decided that I think it's to teach the youth that they can do hard things. They can leave their electronics for a few days. They can be strong when things are tough and uncomfortable. They can make sacrifices.
When I think of my children eagerly signing up for such a test, I can scarcely stand it. My throat gets tight and my eyes wet.
The YW of the Mill Pond Ward
Left to Right: Emma, Abby S., Abby A., Ashleigh, Rachel G., Anya, Sarah, Isabel
Alyssa, Linsey, Rylie (not in our ward) and Rachel S.
The first river crossing was only ankle deep. Caleb's straw hat can be seen at the front of the handcart. Before he left, I reminded him that as one of the oldest youth on trek, he needed to be a good leader and hard worker. I was so touched to see him so involved in the work.
The second river crossing was waist-high for full grown men. My tiny girl said she just had to hold on to the cart and kick her legs.
There's my boy at the front of his cart. Seriously, will I ever be able to look at this photo without crying?
The kids were awakened at 4:30 a.m. on the morning that the young men were called to "enlist in the battalion." They took their buckets and hiked up the mountain while the young women packed up the carts.
I'm incredibly touched by the strength of these young women:
When they came to a particularly steep hill, they paused to pray. It such a moving picture but it also makes me laugh because Alyssa is peeking. See her in the middle? The only one whose eyes are open:
My daughter is miniature, but she's mighty--in more than just physical stature. There she is in the front of her cart:
It must've felt so good to get to the top.
They can toil and struggle and smile through it all. These kids are strong. They really are.
They told me it felt so good to frolic in the river for a bit.
I couldn't wait to have my kids home. (Natalie really didn't like being an only child!) They returned exhausted, filthy and hungry but most of all, happy. They would insist that the experience was worth every bit of sacrifice.
And that's just how it is living the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's not always popular, it's not always comfortable, it's rarely easy, but it is always worth it.