Last November Jeremy and I were asked to attend girls camp. By January it was decided that I would be the Level 2 leader. Jeremy was called as the Priesthood leader at camp. It was a big job, he was great at it as always yadda yadda yadda, but since this is my blog I will share my experience. Our theme was Quest for the Best: Seeking after Gems of Truth and Righteousness.
I was terribly nervous as I hadn't been to girls camp before, ever! I had no idea what to expect, and to top it off, one of the girls was really sad that the previous Level 2 leader was not coming this year. I did lots of google-ing and asking of questions. I knew it would be a great experience and it did not disappoint.
I spent many hours trying to be creative and worrying about bribing these girls of their affection. Much did I learn about that too. They just wanted to be acknowledged, known and valued. They enjoyed the fun stuff but they enjoyed when I took the time to get to know them.
When I got my list in May, I looked over the names and of the 12 (later 13) girls I knew 2. One is my good friend's niece and the other, I hadn't seen since she was7. It just dawned on me that she is in YW's haha! We drove up on a Monday and got there about 11:00am. It was so wonderful to be in such a beautiful place (I will not lie from the beginning I knew I would be dirty the WHOLE time between the dirt and the REPEL bug spray). The trees were gorgeous and camp sits right on a beautiful little lake. One of my favorite times was chapel in the morning. At 7:30am we met lakeside and had personal scripture study, the view was breathtaking. I do think anywhere there are trees and water I will feel at peace.
I was extremely nervous to lead these strangers who throughout my planning I started calling "my girls" just like my mom affectionately referred to me and my two sisters. They came up to our designated camp to lay stuff out and it was a little less then easy going. Most girls slept in one central location, 2 girls slept off to the side, quite a bit away. Making them a little excluded during the night time chatter. One of the other issues was that there seemed to be two groups of girls. The second group wanted to stay all together and though the sleeping was a little uncomfortable they stayed together. The second day my goal was to try and bridge the gap.
That first night for our fireside they did a faith walk. It was so amazing! They had the girls blindfolded and asked them to follow a ropes course. It started out with a sweet sister giving them loving advice reminding them they are daughters of God and they needed to simply hold to the rod and they will not go astray. They had to turn corners, step over rocks, there were temptations along the way. People trying to deceive them, tricking them with candy, even offering them a false rope. It was quite the journey but not one single one of my girls ever fell for it. I would like to say that they are all spiritual giants (which they are pretty amazing) but it was mostly because they stayed close. What a great message. When you surround yourself with people that have similar standards, beliefs and a common goal it is easier to stay on the straight and narrow. Because they were so bunched up, they heard what was coming and new they weren't going for it. When they reached the end of the journey they were welcomed by many people who loved them all dressed in white, hugs and joy was felt by all. It was a reverent place. The girls finished by walking up to the "tree of knowledge" and picked a "white fruit" bead representing the pure love of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. So cool and what a way to set the tone for our week at Girl's Camp!
The next day we did all the things you normally do, attempted many certifications, dirty duties (bathrooms and dinner clean-up for us). We made lake water Top Ramen over a fire that the girls built. I got a little more comfortable with the girls but spent a lot of the day just observing them. I am so grateful for these youth. I couldn't help but think of the future when Miranda heads to girl's camp. My Level 2 girls will be her YCL1 (Youth Camp Leader first year) when she is in her 2nd year at camp. I will not be disappointed! That night two of our girls went home sick. I was so sad and kicked myself for not seeing them before they left. I do hope that even though they were there only about 24 hours, I thought of them often through out the rest of the week!
The third day was our hike. I started the day with scripture study. I came across a scripture and little did I know it would come in handy that day. 1 Nephi 16:29 (And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.)While I wouldn't say the hike is hard by any means, it is trying. It isn't like a hike you normally would do on a family walk. There are steep parts and beautiful views...and blisters and lack of water...not to mention elements out of our control. I am a person with little patience. My mentality is even if you don't like it do it anyways. I am that way with my children, but knew it wouldn't fly in this situation. We hiked up and up and up. (you can see the breathtaking view in the video). We came back down and were ready to hike around the lake. We started out bushwhacking our way around the shore of the lake. It didn't take too long to realize the snow melt was so high we wouldn't be able to make the scheduled hike. One of my favorite moments was watching the girls hold branches and hands helping each other, making the next girl's journey a little easier. We ended up heading back. When we reached the point where we originally met up with the lake, girls were upset, some just wanted to go home (camp), some had lots of blisters, others were disappointed that we weren't going on the scheduled hike and still some were getting frustrated that they were out of water. (Had I been experienced this is when I would have pulled out the iodine tablets that I had to check off water purification certification, but lesson learned!) We started heading back and our priesthood leader took us up the trail a little ways, it was the way we would come down if we had been able to trek around the lake. There was an incident that happened. I was shocked, disappointed and hurt. I didn't know how to deal with this but it really was more than I could handle. I tried to bite my tongue with tears streaming down my face. I prayed for the right words or at least get my emotions is check. Then I let it go. I didn't yell but I told the girls several things but the biggest point was that we are in a beautiful place away from the world, close to our Father in Heaven. So many people sacrificed a week of their time for these girls and they all had a choice. They could find the bad and be miserable or choose to seek the good in all that was surrounding them. (The days theme was "Choice and Accountability too how fitting huh?) It was embarrassing for me and humbling as I went around and apologized to all of them for my outburst. What surprised me was when I heard them say, don't apologize, we needed to hear it. I honestly didn't feel I did what I should have done, I felt far from Christ like in my approach. But it really changed how I interacted with the girls. It was like I became more human and more approachable. This night the two girls by them selves joined the rest of the group. My heart was full as I thanked Heavenly Father. It was only through Him that it happened.
The fourth day I made it to the crafts area and actually did some crafts. I noticed friendships growing and diffferent pairings. I really got to know the girls, their personalities, which most of them are spunky and fun, even the quiet ones. This night we had a group skit. Of course my impatience got the best of me, when the girls wanted to hurry up and go do "fun things." So I threw my hands up and said I was done and they would have to come up with what they were doing. I was humbled again, when they were superb! They came up with their skit all on their own, they were hilarious and fun. I was very proud when people came up to me complimenting on what I had helped the girls achieve, they were even more pleasantly surprised when I told them it had nothing to do with me. I have a completely hands on bossy personality. When I threw my hands up and let them take over, they really shined. Again a great reminder, I didn't need to tell them what to do, I just needed to let them be the beautiful daughter Heavenly Father created. What Gems! That night the other group of girls split up and some came over and slept by me. One girl in particular spent some time telling me more about herself. This was one of my favorite nights. I fell asleep to the girls chattering about all kinds of stuff. Some of it caused me to laugh out loud and wish I was young again. And then I went to sleep, I slept like a rock, which speaks a lot when you are sleeping under the stars with the constant bear warnings.
Our last full day approached I wish I had more pictures of this day. We spent the morning doing dirty duties, then tryouts for the talent show, lunch and then a service project for the camp. At this point I was wiped out and exhausted. Besides the tears I felt like all I did was boss the girls around taking them away from their "free time." We had our water fest it was a team expereince, and it is a story and a half. But needless to say I learned from camp that I have thick skin so the mosquitoes don't really care for me, unfortunately I wear my emotions on the outside of them.
I really hope I have many more years of camp experiences in my future. I was surrounded by so many great leaders and future leaders. I learned so much just being in their presence. I have a fear of Junior High and High School for my children. I learned that these people love the youth so very much, it is FOR REAL! My children will be surrounded by the most wonderful bubble of love and support, people who encourage them to follow close to the Savior, to seek after those things that will make them happy by serving our Savior, as well as confirm that each and everyone of them is a special and unique gem in the sight of their Heavenly Father. As much as I hoped to touch these girls lives, they touched mine more. I learned so much being in their presence. And by the end felt a tinge of jealousy that they were able to have such an experience as a youth.
I do have a testimony of our Father in Heaven. I know at those times when we feel we are failing Him, He will help us grow and He will use each one of us to help others. I know with all my imperfections He loves me and I am valuable in His sight. As long as I am willing to serve Him and let His light shine through me, He will continue to bless me. The best blessings are experiences like these that I will treasure forever!
As a reward for reading this LOONNGG post I have attached my video montage of pictures from camp. If any of "My Girls" read this. I love you and you will always have a special place in my heart. Each and everyone of you, Level 2s, YCL1s and especially my Assitant, boy I learned alot from her too!