I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week camping with 22 amazing young women from my church. One of the things I love so much about the church we go to is their emphasis on our youth. When they asked me about 6 weeks ago if I would accept a calling to serve as our ward's Girls Camp Director I have to admit I was a little nervous. I have three sons, my camping experience is Army and Boy Scouts what was I going to do with 22 girls? Having not grown up in the church I have never been to a week such as this. I decided to trust in the Lord and go with it.
I felt comfortable with the logistical aspect of it, making my lists, doing some shopping, packing and all of that. I was nervous about how to interact with the girls. I didn't want to come off too strong but I didn't want to appear as a push over either. I prayed and hoped to be able to be the person I needed to be to give them all a wonderful experience.
I feel like I got more from them than I gave to them. We were out on some beautiful property, camping in tents and eating over open fires, out of dutch ovens and with propane stoves but it was awesome. I watched as the girls served one another, I saw them reach out to those who might have stood outside the circle and I watched them laugh, hug and cry with one another. I enjoyed watching them braid each other's hair, walk back up the hill for a forgotten item and serve one another meals. I heard more I Love You's than I have ever heard in my life and they were said with sincerity.
I watched girls grow in their self-confidence and self-worth. The reoccurring theme throughout the week was knowing who we are and how we can recognize the worth in ourselves. I saw girls who thought they had no friends circled in loving arms of strangers. It was remarkable.
There were many fun things that happened that weren't as intense with the emotions but still life changing. I had the opportunity to go into a cave with a group of girls. It was so much fun. I saw girls overcome their fears of darkness, of pushing past the cold water and trudging forward with their friends. I watched as girls held their hands out for the others and cheered each other on each step of the way. My heart filled with such love when they thanked me over and over again for being willing to take them into the cave when they couldn't find another adult leader to go with them. I even loved them when they decided to get into a mud fight and I got hit in the mouth and neck with a pile of mud.
I can still close my eyes and see their smiles as I picked up my own mud and threw it back. I thought at that moment that life was too short to be upset over mud but it was worth creating a memory.
I have since coming home tried to tell my husband or the boys or other people what the best part of camp was and each time is something different. There were so many amazing memories made, ones that will keep my heart happy for a long time.
I want to share probably the best memory and I hope I do not cheapen the experience with my words. In our church our young women work on a program called Personal Progress. It is designed to help them learn how to apply the gospel into their daily lives. There are 8 values that they work through and the goal is to be completed before you turn 18. If you complete your Personal Progress requirements you receive your Young Woman Medallion to wear as a reminder of who you are and what you stand for.
During camp we were asked to participate in a service project for one of the girls in attendance. She is a beautiful young lady who has Down Syndrome and she has worked hard on what she could do in her Personal Progress book. There were some things however that she just could not complete. During our 4 full days of camp, all of the girls and leaders did the rest of the requirements for her by proxy. We completed the reading that was required having each girl read a chapter out of the scriptures. My girls sang two different songs to fulfill that requirement. When we sang I could hardly sing because I was so choked up with emotion.
During the closing fireside ceremonies they got everyone in a circle (160 or more people) and as darkness fell upon us each girl had the opportunity to hold for a second the medallion that was going to be presented to Therese. It was so special to watch the girls hold the medallion that they had an opportunity to help earn for this special young lady. As it came to me and I held it in my hands I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I broke down. When the medallion reached her father, you could see the emotion on his face, it was very touching. When the necklace was put around her neck, you could hear all of the quiet sobbing. It was truly an honor to be a part of such a great act of love and service.
Girls Camp was a wonderful experience and I feel truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to go and serve the amazing young women in our church and to have met so many other amazing women who aim to serve the Lord and their fellow sisters.