Jun 30, 2014

Roswell Stake Girls Camp 2014

Lincoln National Forest in the Sacramento Mountains
I spent the better part of last week in the beautiful Sacramento Mountains volunteering as a Camp Director for the Church's girls camp.  Camp is a time for the young women (youth ages 12-18) to spend time in nature learning and growing spiritually and physically.  There they have the opportunity to forge new friendships and unite as sisters in righteousness.  Also, they get to participate in all sorts of camping fun:  hikes, camp site preparation, crafts, cooking over a fire, etc.  The Roswell Stake Girls Camp this year was an incredible experience!

My wonderful assistants and the talented young women president were invaluable to helping me make this year's camp so successful.  They volunteered on hikes, as transportation, in the kitchen, as certification leaders, and created many cute treats for the girls.
The girls got "pillow treats" like this each day with a gift and a message.

Camp passed quickly, almost as a blur, with how busy we all were.  It was a good kind of busy, thankfully, but busy nonetheless.  We hiked up to the picturesque Bridal Veil Falls in the heat of the day to enjoy a nice picnic lunch with the calming sound of moving water as our symphony. 

The girls challenged themselves with rock climbing as myself and my fellow "Rock Maiden" belayed at least two tons of girls and leaders up the wall. 

I had the opportunity to teach them how to properly low-crawl as I managed the challenging obstacle course.  It was in this endeavor that these delightful young ladies awarded me the "Extra Yard" award as I think I dived through the course and low-crawled at least 10 times in an attempt to demonstrate this "combat" skill properly.  I still may have bruises from that. 

The young women had the opportunity to show off their acting skills with improv skits where they were assigned a theme and a prop-bag to help them.  Ah, how I wish I was able to record all of those skits as they were truly entertaining (keep on trotting!). 

Seriously, who knew?!
 We roasted marshmallows for s'mores and starbursts for fun. We cooked tinfoil dinners straight in the flames of our camp fire.  The girls learned self-defense, how to build and put out fires, plant and animal identification, astronomy, and all sorts of fun outdoor skills. 

All of these activities were fun, but my favorite part of camp is and always has been the devotionals, firesides, and testimony meetings.  Aside from the temple, I have never felt the spirit stronger.  Those who planned and presented each devotional was truly inspired by the Holy Ghost as these were strong assurances of God's love for each one of us.  Valuable lessons were thoughtfully prepared and creatively given each night.  The topics were prayerfully chosen as each of them were exactly what all of us--not just the youth--needed to hear.  Some of these were: self-worth, obedience, how to gain spiritual strength, how to overcome temptations.  Each topic fell under the overarching camp theme:  Build Our Own Testimony (BOOT Camp).  And with the theme, I even got to sport my old military uniforms...and some "non-issue" uniforms as well.

My many outfits of girls camp.

The last night, our wonderful Clovis Ward Bishop came to our camp and cooked us a most delicious dinner of tri-tip steak, baked potatoes with all the fixin's, tossed salad, fresh watermelon, and homemade brownies.  He then presented his own devotional on the first principles and ordinaces of the gospel.  With the spirit already strong around our campfire, we started our own ward testimony meeting.  There was hardly a dry eye around the fire as the fire of the Holy Ghost burned within our hearts.  Each of us felt the desire to bear our own testimony about our special experiences at camp, our love for each other and the Lord, and our faith in His Church and His gospel.  I cannot put into words how amazing this moment was for me.

Afterwards, Bishop asked if I would speak in Church on the following Sunday.  Although I have quite a solid fear of public speaking, I consented.  I always do much better when I prepare out my talk beforehand, so I did exactly that.  Here is my talk from this last Sunday's church meeting:

"When I was called as Ward Camp Director, I felt like I had just won the lottery of callings.  If there were callings “dream sheet”, this one would be number one on my list. Even after I discovered the sheer amount of work, time, effort, and dedication it required.  I love camping, I love the young women, and I could even pull out my old military uniforms and sport them again!  There were times when certain things got tough—like the heat on the hikes, climbing the ‘not-so-easy’ side of the rock wall (or belaying a couple tons of girls if your were a leader), or hauling a picnic table at least a solid mile to and from the campsite—but we all just “kept on trotting”.  And we found these tough moments to be among some of our favorite camp experiences.
The themes for Girls Camp this year, Build Our Own Testimony—or BOOT camp— and “we can do hard things” were completely accurate representations of the experiences that were shared by all who attended.  For many of us, the “hard things” we faced started before we even left the town.  The adversary seemed to be working extra hard on each one of us, throwing many testing trials and temptations toward us at the absolute worst times.  The reason for these tribulations became apparent throughout the camp as we each found our testimonies strengthened by experiences unique to our needs.  Some felt this growth right away, while others looked inside themselves on the last night to find a stronger spirit than before.  But all of us walked away with added confirmation of the truth of this gospel, the Church, the love of our Savior, and the importance of this sisterhood.
As we prepared for camp and as we spent time together in the gorgeous Sacramento Mountains, doing hard things, my love for each of these girls has blossomed.  These girls give me faith in the future, for their strong spirits, testimonies, and inner light are the hope their generation will need to succeed and prepare for the coming of our Savior.  These girls are different.  It shows in their countenance, it shows in their attitudes, it shows in their eyes and in their smiles.  They have an eagerness to serve others--more than once I saw one of our young women walk up to someone who was on their own to offer the hand of friendship and help them to feel included--to bear one another’s burdens, to stay true to their covenants, to do all the hard things the Lord requires of them because they know what is truly important.  I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to be their camp director and to serve these incredible ladies in this manner."

Clovis Ward, aka Teancum's Special Forces

The friendships forged and the testimonies strengthened at this particular camp will benefit both the girls and the leaders for the rest of our lives.  I'm so thankful I was chosen to be the camp director for these incredible young women.  I know the Lord loves each of them and each of us more than we could ever comprehend.  His hand was clearly felt at this girls camp.

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