Monday, March 28, 2016

pressing forward on trek

This past Easter weekend, instead of digging through bushes in search of colored eggs, or relaxing on the couch after a long week of stress-filled school, I embarked on a journey of a lifetime:

Trek.

And I have no regrets. In fact, it was quite possibly one of the best weekends of my life. I'm eternally grateful for all the time, consideration, and effort that went into making my trek experience an amazing one for not only me, but everyone else who participated in it.

•••

Trek is a youth-centered activity in my church where youth dress up as the Mormon pioneer converts who came across the plains all those years ago in search of a place to settle and build the church, as well as to escape persecution. They experienced many trials consisting of sickness, starvation, tragedy, and more. But they also experienced miracles. During this trek reenactment, we pulled handcarts across tough terrain for many, many miles (in our case, 22). We set up camp, cooked food, learned how to square dance, and played pioneer games. But somewhere among all those fun moments, spiritual conversion had begun to take place in my heart.

•••

Upon arriving at the drop-off location in the beautiful Sam Houston National Forest, I was beyond nervous to find out who would be in my "family" for the 2.5 days I would be here. Despite multiple people reassuring me that my placement in my family had been pondered and prayed over, I was still somewhat fearful of not being accepted. I would soon find out, however, that I should not have feared. I was blessed to be placed in the McQuay family, where I met my Ma and Pa, as well as the rest of my family. One kid, a boy named Paul, had just turned 14 that day, meaning he barely made the age requirement for trek. I'll never forget his face during our hike one day, when he lost control of the cart and it toppled backwards, and in an attempt to save it, he jumped up a little too far, only to push it over even more. My family looked back to see him dangling from the cart's handles, with eyes widened in shock. We had a VERY good laugh after that.

Once again, I found myself so happy to meet all of them. Bright smiles met my gaze and enveloped me in a welcoming warmth. I quickly found myself asking what the reason had been for my fear, and I continued to ask myself that the rest of my time there, because honestly, I would not have been able to make it without my family to help push me along. This trek marked my third time ever to camp. I was definitely not one of those kids raised in the outdoors: who knew how to set up a tent with their eyes closed, or tell what plant was poison ivy just by looking at it.

Hiking all those miles was painful, and it stretched me to my limits, but every time I felt like quitting or giving up, I closed my eyes, said a quick prayer, and remembered the pioneers who had trekked before me. They had faith in me and my generation. They risked everything they had, and put all their faith in God. Didn't that mean I could, too?

•••

There was one point during our trek that still makes me hold back tears. It was on that Friday, our first full day of hiking, and my family had just barely set out on the trail. It was then that we reached it. A gigantic stretch of murky mud. There was no telling how deep it was.


We decided to take an approach from the left, unlike the others who had gone before us. Big mistake. As we pushed through, our cart got stuck in the mud as the water level rose above our ankles. It toppled to one side as the relentless mud sucked the wheel down under. My back ached as I struggled to keep the handle above the water without getting my skirt stuck in the wheel. I thought it was all over, until suddenly, I heard cheering. A huge push came from the back and our cart quickly made it out of the water. Honestly, my first thought was, "Oh my gosh, angels just saved us." Looking back to see where the cheering had originated from, I saw a cart had stopped on the other side, and some of the members had rushed over to assist us. It was a beautiful sight.



And the great thing is, only more experiences like this accompanied my trek experience as I witnessed others around me push through physical hardships and help others around them. On the last hill, the home stretch before reaching "Zion", I came across a smaller cart being pulled by two young men. They were at the very back of the long line of carts, because they had insisted on staying behind in case anyone needed to be carried up the hill. It was selfless acts like this that touched me so deeply.

The thing is, we might not live in the same time the pioneers lived in all those years ago. We might not have their same hardships or trials, either. But we all have to press forward and have faith during our hard times. In the youth of today, those trials may consist of struggling with all of the temptations of today's world.

I walked down the outside overhang of my school this morning with a feeling of dread. The atmosphere around me was not like trek at all. I was feeling down, alone, and heavy. But that was when I remembered what I had learned at trek; to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ. Immediately, I lifted my head and put a new stride in my step. I smiled at a friend and held the door open for someone.

Life is always going to have its ups and downs, but when I put my faith in God, I'm filled with confidence and happiness. This gospel makes me so unbelievably happy. I've had trials in my life that sometimes I wish hadn't happened due to the heartbreak that followed, like when my mother passed away, but I know it is trials like this that tests our faith and helps us become the amazing people that God sees us becoming.

Trek has given me such a new outlook on life, and a better understanding of who I am and what my purpose here is. One day, when I return to be with my Father in Heaven, I hope He is there waiting for me, arms outstretched, ready to give me a big hug and whisper, "you made it" and "I'm so proud."

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13




2 comments :

  1. Eden I want to be like you when I grow up! I cried when I read this post, you are darling and if only more people shared this kind of fire in their testimonies, the world would be a much better place! I just love you. Melanie Chalk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Sister Chalk! I'm so grateful that you're the YW leader, and that you're so sweet and supporting!

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