Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pioneer Trek in North Carolina.

One of the greatest services that we can render to the youth of our church is to have them experience and reenact a pioneer trek. For those of you who aren't familiar with what a pioneer trek is it is a group of people dressed in 19th century garb who travel for at least two to three days pushing and pulling handcarts. It is a popular activity among the LDS church, youth groups, and families. These reenactments have been lauded by LDS leaders of our church. M. Russell Ballard  even said, "through music, drama, and staring reenactments, we will be reminded of incredible pioneer journeys, both temporal and spiritual."

10 years ago when I lived in Utah members of our congregation would go to Wyoming to reenact a pioneer trek. I remember when the trek was over how all the adult leaders, and youth that went, although dirty, and tired had smiles on their faces upon returning. My girls were little at the time so obviously they never experienced one until we moved to North Carolina. I was extremely grateful that the ward we moved to in North Carolina did it every four years! We moved in at the right time, and luckily Sierra was able to go in 2008! 

Fast forward to eight years later. 

Since they don't do a pioneer trek here in South Jersey I decided to reach out to my old ward in good 'ol North Carolina and asked if it would be okay for Lexie to attend. They didn't hesitate for one second, and so after all the approval of her attending a church event in another state seven hours away we prepared, and packed her all up to experience one of the greatest justices of her youth that she can ever imagine. 
Lexie was extremely motivated, and although a bit nervous not knowing what to expect was a good sport in going with the flow, and blending back in her old ward that she left when she was eight! 

There were many familiar faces, and a few church members that are still living there that remembered, and  were happy to see us. It was so nice getting reacquainted with some of my sisters that I hadn't seen in person in nine years, and walking inside the church building in Pinehurst brought back so many memories. 
Preparing for trek was fun, and I can't believe how quickly it went by. For three months Lexie prepared by going on 30-50 minute walks three times a week, gave up soda, ate more bananas, and boy did we go to town watching all kinds of preparation trek videos, and inspirational movies such as Legacy, and 17 Miracles. 
What made this trek extra special for her is the fact that she walked in place of one her ancestors. Here she is writing the name of the person she will be walking for. They were in the third handcart group that left in the summer. It was pretty humbling talking about her sixth, great grandmother (Olivia Eckland from Sweden) who trekked in the middle of a hot summer with her three year old daughter, and enduring the trials and to find out at the end the she and her family survived was inspiring. 
These two wonderful people were Lexie's 'ma' and 'pa'. They had never met before, but i knew right away she'd be in good hands. They called her the mystery girl because they had no idea who she was. All they knew is that she was coming all the way from Jersey. 

And they were so happy that she did. 

At the end of the trek we chatted for a bit, and they said amazing things about her that I was so pleased with. They pretty much feel that this should complete her entire personal progress because of all the hours of service, and charity that she brought along the trek. It was so nice to hear their praises towards her, and am so, so glad that she went and had an amazing time. 
Here she is with Ellie frolicking in the meadow, and although they were having fun they were a bit nervous that they were going to get bit by chiggers, and ticks, but luckily they didn't! 
Even though there was rain for two days while on the trek, eating mush for breakfast (while sneaking in a few slim sims here and there), drinking nothing but warm water (with no ice) in 90 degree humid weather wearing layers of clothing while pushing and pulling a handcart, this experience helped Lexie appreciate all that our ancestors went through. 

I can't even imagine what they went through, and you can read a lot of their history here. To know that between the years of 1856 and 1860 there were at least 7000 emigrants who sacrificed all that they owned to go to a better place, and meet up with the rest of the saints out west in Utah. So many handcarts carrying only the necessities weighing no more than 35 pounds. And so many dying along the way.  

Although there is a lot in preparing for pioneer trek when it comes to finding a location to trek on, preparing for the food, building the wagons, getting all the leaders to prepare, I know that by hearing the experiences of two of my daughters (including my husband) who have experienced a pioneer trek has left them fulfilled with unimaginable blessings. It will benefit every individual who takes a part in it, and spiritually strengthen the youth in every LDS Church congregation all over the nation. It will build the love we have for the Savior, and help appreciate our lives, and increase our gratitude in all that we have in todays society. 
I've never experienced going on a trek, but one of these years I will. Just by listening to Lexie talking about her experiences with a smile on her face, and laughing about some of the funny moments she had in her company inspires me knowing that by going on a trek will help me to become an even better person, and to become steadfastness in Christ. 

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