Well, it’s over. I have to confess to a lot of relief and even a tiny little bit of let-down.
First of all, I consider it a big success. On the way home, I reviewed the goals that R and I started out with, and found that we had met every one. Here they are:
• The kids will feel the Spirit.
• The kids will experience adversity and overcome it.
• The kids (and staff) will have an opportunity to get to know others in the ward, both youth and adults. They will grow in unity through the experience, both with other youth and with their own trek parents.
• The kids will see an example of adults with testimonies, and benefit from that, so that when they return from trek, they will have more spiritual mentors than just their own parents. We want them to be able to say to themselves, “Brother X and Sister Y knew, too.”
• The kids will have fun.
• No one will die.
• The staff won’t hate us when it is all over.
I won’t go through a step-by-step retelling of all that happened. There was way too much, for one thing.
It was a little hard to get a sense of how things were going from my position. It was as if I was standing backstage trying to gauge how a show was going with only my view of the wings and the actors backsides to help me judge. But reports are good.
The very best part was seeing the things we cared about most happen and happen well. I’m referring to the family time, in which the Ma’s and Pa’s took the kids aside and taught them, helping them relate the activities to their lives. Our Ma’s and Pa’s were FANTASTIC at this, better than we’d ever hoped. That was one of the hardest things—ceding control of this most important part to others. I really felt confirmation that the callings of these particular Ma’s and Pa’s were inspired, and that the family assignments were inspired as well. I saw several specific examples of why certain kids needed to be with certain “parents.” What happened within those families was worth ALL our work.
Other favorite parts:
• When one of the big kids (an “older brother”) came up to me, duct taped at the wrist by his “parents” to my own (very small) son: “So that B can watch over me and keep me out of trouble,” the big kid told me.
• Hearing the kids brag about how their own Ma’s and Pa’s were the best.
• The “stupid human tricks” I discovered each youth could do. (One kid can turn one of his feet almost 180 degrees around. Another can lick her elbow. Etc.)
• Singing with the kids on the bus.
• Hearing the “family songs” that the families made up.
• The food. Oh, man, the food. Many of us gained weight.
• And, of course, the sweet spirit at the testimony meeting. One kid: “That was the longest, and most spiritual, testimony meeting I’ve ever been in!”
Obstacles and tender mercies:
• My health was good throughout.
• We overcame several staff drop-outs and other emergencies, including a huge budget shortfall (through the kindness of an anonymous donor) and a major accident to our medical chairman.
• New bishopric halfway through the planning.
• We were able to reroute our Willie trek when a portion of the trail was significantly under water and we had no spare shoes (thanks to helpful missionaries).
• Miraculous good Samaritans helping our vehicle (which pulled an important trailer) that broke down on the highway.
Things I’ve learned:
• A project like this should ALWAYS be assigned to a couple to head up, not an individual. It would have been SOOOOOOO hard to do this singly, or to watch Roger do it singly.
• People who SEEM like they are “get-it-done” people are not always “get-it-done” people. Likewise, people who often hang in the background can turn out to be workhorses who put their whole hearts into what they do.
• Follow up, follow up, follow up.
• Tell people WHY you hare having them do things. They’re more likely to follow directions when they know why. (Similarly, it’s important to follow directions even when you don’t know why, because you often have limited information.)
• People in charge of big things like this often have less control over the final product that you would think. They deserve neither all the blame nor all the praise.
• Sometimes God doesn’t remove bumps, but provides help for you to get over them if the task is necessary to his work.
• Use the people who volunteer, if you can. Take advantage of their interest!
• Did I mention following up?
• After you’ve planned and planned and planned, let go and watch spontaneous things happen without fear.
One of the most exciting things that happened was the huge storm that hit while we were out with our handcarts. I was seriously petrified that we would be struck by lightning. We had a little frustration with the staff at the visitor’s center area, who were nowhere to be found when we came running in through the storm looking for shelter, but once we finally found shelter and counted heads to be sure everyone was safe, I could finally breathe. We gathered everyone for a prayer of gratitude and I walked around trying to calm my heart—and then overheard one boy telling another, “That was the COOLEST THING EVER!” We found that we had taken shelter in the replica of the original fort building—the one the Martin company had come to but had been unable to fit inside. Hearing that story just then, in that situation where we had just come in from the horrible elements, really struck us. Imagine if not all of us had fit inside that shelter that day! What a learning experience.
Another interesting thing was when we returned to camp and found all of our tents still safe because we had followed instructions and pulled them down and weighted them before we left camp. The neighboring camp, which had not done so, lost several tents to the storm.
I can’t describe the relief when we pulled into the parking lot and were able to deliver all of the kids to their parents (relatively) unscathed. It was finally over, and I began to wonder what I’d do with all my extra time after this . . .
(Well, I’m booked up for a couple of months, anyway. First there’s all the stuff I put off dealing with until “after trek.” Then there’s two huge camping trips, a week apart, that I haven’t begun planning. Maybe around August I’ll catch my breath.)