Thursday, March 27, 2014

Youth Conference Rocked

Wow, that was a ton of work but it turned out great. Our plans fell through on several things but we stayed flexible and positive and everything worked out great. For example, our special speakers changed twice before getting the ones we did--but as they say, they third time's the charm. We had planned to have a giant bonfire in the dry lake bed in Boulder City, a common activity; however, very recently the city has put a stop to that and no bonfires are permitted (we found that out a week before). Good thing we did though because nothing would have put a damper on the festivities like a police raid and a hefty fine.

Our theme was Come Unto Christ, which is also the Mutual theme for 2014. So Friday night was a mini-bonfire (aka a fire pit) at a member's 5-acre property. We were privileged to hear from our special speakers, BYU football player Adam Hine' and his awesome wife Cassidy. The volunteer coordinators at BYU said this couple was the most excited of any they have ever sent out and I could tell--they had so much enthusiasm for and interest in our youth. They gave great talks and the kids loved them.

It was way colder than they expected it to be!

The Hine's, the Youth Council chairpeople (Ryan and Lynsie), and the music people (Tyce and Ziggy).

Fire. It was hot.

We had a great turn out! Over 150 youth.

One of the highlights of the night was the kids writing down something that kept them from feeling close to the Lord (a sin, a distraction, a relationship, a habit) and threw the paper in the fire. As they watched it go up in flames they let that thing go, committing to stop or remove that practice from their lives. In addition they wrote down something to start doing to come unto Christ (for example, reading scriptures, attending seminary, praying). Brother Hine' encouraged the youth to put that goal in a place they would see it every day.

They kids also roasted marshmallows, ate smores, and listened to Tyce and his friend Ziggy play guitar and sing. (They were fantastic.)

Tyce and Ziggy at Homecoming.
The twins came and were awesome. They made dirt angels and played with the extra wood like blocks. They asked the Hine's to sign their boards and our boys were absolutely delighted with their souvenir of the night.

Cute little dudes. It's not every 9-year-old who gets to go to youth conference.

I wish Mary would have come but she was in a "I want to be alone" mood and elected to stay home and draw.

Saturday dawned bright and early with breakfast starting at 6:30 a.m. I feel for the YM presidency who cooked the food because they got to the church at 5:30 a.m. Maybe even earlier. I waltzed in at the last minute with Mary, who--if you can believe it--actually got up and ready. (How did she do it? She pulled an all-nighter.) I was so very happy that she came that I didn't even care that I was running late because of her. I worked the check-in with Bro. Southwick. We handed out t-shirts and colored wrist bands to separate the kids in to 9 "families". After awhile we realized we are the worst team for that job--we are both too nice. When kids wanted to trade groups to be with someone else we couldn't take a hard line and say no. So we had two giant families and seven other small ones. Oh well.

The job we failed at. Can we get props for keeping people happy?

Breakfast provided by our fabulous food committee: pancakes, sausage, fruit, etc.

Three amigas: Mary, Taya, and Sara. 

Oh, hello, you're not BFFs with the Hine's like we are? Ah, too bad. They are awesome.

After breakfast the Hine's spoke to us about being a standard bearer. The flag is an important part of the BYU football team because it symbolizes spirit, honor, and tradition. Each "family" made their own standard with a core value each person committed to living. They each signed the flag and became standard bearers throughout the entire 5 mile walk to the temple. (We drove to a trailhead several miles from the stake center, then walked the remainder of the way.)

In conjunction with the focus on the temple, each youth walked in memory of someone who had passed on; they wrote that name on a piece of duct tape that was taped to the back of their shirts. Many youth said that that was a really special way to feel connected to a grandparent or ancestor.

At the trailhead. 

They staggered their leave times.
These cuties are in my ward: Courtney, Samantha, Emily, and Savannah.

They asked me to take a jumping one--yeah, it only took me 6 shots to get this.

Cam and Harrison were in the first group and they RAN.

There were three stations along the way, where the families refueled and received a challenge. From the scriptures someone read the designated verse that told them what ailment someone in the group would endure: blindness (the blindfolded person had to rely on helpers), famine (no snack at the station--that was a hard one!), broken legs/paralysis (a person had to be carried). I was positioned at the temple itself so I saw firsthand how hard it was for the groups to carry their injured person up the hill, so close to the end of the journey. Some were carried by two people, some by one, and one paralyzed girl was carried awkwardly by four! (I didn't envy her.) Harrison and Cameron both took turns being unable to walk and I think their family was glad to have some smaller kids in the group.

Finally they families made it to the temple.

A welcome sight.

A place of love and beauty.
I had a long time to think before the groups came through. Bryce was at one of the other stations. I was glad when Sister Crum came to join me.

The twins' group. Endurance.

The group Mary was in. Compassion.

Tyce's group. Integrity.

Nick Wheatley! Virtue.


Industry (aka refrain from idleness).

After all the groups had made it to the temple, they made their way further up the hill to the desert where they had lunch, and a final message from the Hine's. (We tried to reserve four{!} different church buildings near the temple to accommodate us but they were all busy. So the dry Nevada desert was our resting spot.)

We were so thankful that the Hine's were able to come. They were wonderful! They had to leave after this and we all missed them terribly.

Cassidy and Adam, such an amazing young couple.

We have such wonderful kids in this stake. We also have fabulous, hard-working adults who bring the youth committee's vision to life. I am in awe of all the work that went in to make this a great experience.

Tired and hungry. Sack lunch never tasted so good.

A lot of the kids lined the wall, and a lot sat on the sidewalk across the street.
Here are some of our wonderful youth.

One of the goals of the conference was to have the youth invite friends--and we had at least 10 come. That is awesome. One of them, Ziggy, told Bryce that he really loved the time to reflect and feel the Spirit. Another one, Austin, said that he loved seeing the temple. Bryce also told me that at his station, as the groups came by the person who jumped at the chance to read the next challenge from the scriptures was always a non-LDS friend. They added such a great feeling to the conference.

Later that night the kids went to the regional dance at Green Valley. Their stake Young Women's president wrote an email to all of us detailing the statistics (how many attended, brought dance cards, etc.) and included this sweet line:

Lake Mead Stake, we loved your youth conference t-shirts and your youth's beautiful sunburned faces!! They hiked all day and danced all night! 

At the insistence of Taya and Sara, Mary actually went. This was her first dance and she even danced with a BOY!!!! She was both delighted and mortified.

Sunday night was truly the culminating activity, a testimony meeting. It was wonderful. There was a choir made up of LDS and non-LDS kids, Abide with Me. It was so nice to be able to enjoy our shared love of the Lord through song. And of course the youth had such sweet experiences to share about the weekend. Hearing that they strengthened their testimonies and made strides to come closer to the Savior--man, that made all the work worthwhile. The closing song was the Mutual theme song for the year, Come Unto Christ. They kids sang it several times during youth conference but it was amazing to hear them sing it one last time.

So that was youth conference, a spiritually uplifting weekend spent with some of the best people in the world.

1 comment:

SweetmamaK said...

Love this youth conference. I love that you did it in your own back yard. I was re4cently released from the stake yw and am teaching seminary. I was really hoping we would do a "small" youth conference like this where the youth could invite friends and feel the spirit, here where we live. They are going to take a trip to Palmyra, which will be fantastic, but I still worry that the youth will think they need something big to get closer to the spirit.
On a "i love rebecca" side, I am so happy that you don't let Mary's free agency drag you down and that you are still happy and go forward. That is your greatest example to me (and beleive me sister, there are many) I only know her through your blog (to me she's still a little three year old ladybug) and I would love to have her as a daughter in law because of your loving and truthful descriptions. She is a valiant spirit and it may seem rebellious at times (to us that THRIVED and LIVED for church experiences) I have confidence that she will do extraordinary things in the kingdom. I reflect on your love and patience and ability to let her shine and grow as I raise my daughters, one like me and one not quite like me- I always always appreciate you Rebecca, I'm so glad we met for a short period, so many years ago-
Love ya- Kareena