^^^ Sierra after coming home from trek in North Carolina, circa, 2008 ^^^

"The Lord isn't asking us to load up a handcart. He's asking us to fortify our faith. He isn't asking us to walk across a continent. He's asking us to walk across the street to visit our neighbor. He isn't asking us to give all of our world possessions to build a temple. He's asking us to attend regularly the temples already built. He isn't asking to die a martyr's death. He's asking us to live a disciple's life."
 ~M. Russell Ballard

This quote has been on my mind since I saw it on pinterest last week. With today being pioneer day I figured this would be the perfect time to write about my feelings in regards to how I view this quote, and why this day means so much to me. 

When my oldest daughter sierra was 14 she had the opportunity to experience trek before moving to New Jersey. We were so grateful that the leaders and youth of our ward in North Carolina made the effort, and time to plan this wonderful event.  

When my daughter came home from trek tears of joy began to stream down her face as she she was expressing her stories, and describing her experiences that she endured during those three days of trek. The way she explained her journey was somewhat similar to what the pioneers experienced. There was singing, lessons given by leaders, and lots of praying. Of course it was not as excruciating, or severe as what our pioneers went through such as real deaths, or starvation, or even exposure, but I'll tell you this...the reenactment in those instances really made her appreciate what they went through, and in the end got a bit of a taste of what they experienced. Especially when one of her "sisters" in her "family" became dizzy from the sun that she had to lay inside the hand cart and continue to trek on their journey in the outskirts of North Carolina. It was amazing when Sierra mentioned how at first it was hard to push the handcart with her in it, but then all of a sudden after saying a prayer the hand cart felt light! That was one of my favorite stories that she told us, and luckily Cassie was fine in the end! It truly strengthened her testimony at the time, and I know it has been an experience she'll never forget. 

Just as a young girl shaving her legs for the first time is a rite of passage in their youth, commemorating trek  has become somewhat a coming-of-age rite within the youth of the church, and i hope that one day our children will be able to experience that. 

As i drive around parts of souther jersey as well as areas in Pennsylvania, and how there are areas where we could have it, and how many youth in our stake can benefit from it literally brings me to tears. Regardless of how time consuming it may be, how many phone calls we'd have to make, how many handcarts one must attain, and how much planning it will take I know that in the end it would be beneficial for everyone to experience it, and well worth it! 

My husband was telling us about his experiences as a youth when he did trek with his family. It is something that he will always remember. After listening to his story of his ancestors I realized that there truly there is a legacy of faith that comes through those experiences. His ancestors were part of the willie, and martin handcart companies, and they endured more than we can imagine! But because they endured, and did what they could to survive in their faith, their families have been blessed for it. And for our youth to be able to get out there and reenact that, and to feel the power of that faith, will help them grow spiritually, find their "mormon identity", double their commitment to their faith, become unified, and appreciate all that our ancestors went through. 

I've never experienced trek as a youth due to joining the church at the age of 20, but I guarantee if we ever have one I would LOVE to experience being a part of it! I don't have lineage that goes way back to the pioneers, but I am working on my family history. I'm grateful that Jon has pioneer heritage in both the willie, and martin handcart companies, and because of that I want my children to be able to experience trek while in their teens so that they can grow, and be strenghtened. 

Every youth should experience this spiritual event so that they can truly understand the commitment of what the pioneers when through, so that in return their faith will grow. 

If we have faith in God, and if the pioneers had faith crossing those plains form the midwest to reach their destination to the Salt Lake valley, why not have faith that our youth in every church in the nation can do this. 

We can only hope, and have faith! 

Happy Pioneer Day! 

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