“I know He lives.”
Almost two hundred young women and their leaders from the Woodbridge, Virginia stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stood together at Girls Camp on Tuesday, June 30 and recited the words from Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ testifying of Christ’s divinity. These young women had memorized the document titled “The Living Christ.”
Before the recitation fourteen presenters represented a person from the scriptures who had known and loved Jesus Christ. They came in costume and had memorized their words, concluding with “I know He lives.” They spoke with conviction and invited the spirit. Moses, Isaiah, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus, Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, Moroni and others shared their testimonies to the young women.
And then they watched this together.
All three events combined together were a powerful experience for the young women. Many of them talked about how memorizing “The Living Christ” really changed their lives. Amy Buongiovonni, Stake Camp Director, said that after the video, “There were very few dry eyes in the room. Everyone was touched by the beautiful images of the Savior and the lovely music we heard. It was so inspiring to hear young women from around the world sharing their testimonies with us through the words of “The Living Christ.””
One of the young women, Ellie Tomlinson, said, “It was such an amazing experience and I felt like my testimony grew tremendously. The Living Christ is an amazing testimony of its own and reciting with the stake was a spiritual experience and the video made the spirit stronger.”
Abigail Cragun, from the Quantico Ward, shared her feelings of the experience. “The Living Christ video was amazing. Seeing all the girls from all over the world with smiles on their faces made me want to cry. Then we all recited The Living Christ. I could see that everyone loved the Savior. Testimony meeting was so spiritual. We were all united.”
Michelle Hale, a Stake Girls Camp YCL Leader, spent many hours creating and editing the video. She said, “Reaching out to Young Women around the world fit with our international theme, and now I knew what to have the Young Women say to show their solidarity with us: phrases from “The Living Christ.” We began contacting friends and family all over the country and world to invite them to join in our project.”
The events of this evening were the highlight of a week of camp activities based around the theme of “Embark All Ye Nations.” Buongiovonni explained that the Youth Camp Leaders, the older girls at camp who act as assistant leaders throughout camp, chose the theme “Embark All Ye Nations” during the pre-camp meetings. They used the worldwide 2015 youth theme of “O Ye That Embark in the Service of God” and added their idea of an international theme by changing the title of the song “Hark All Ye Nations” to “Embark All Ye Nations.”
Buongiovonni said, “During our opening ceremony, the YCL’s marched in accompanied by the thrilling sounds of the “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” each carrying one of the flags each ward had created before camp to represent their ward and their chosen country. After the flags were posted, each girl came forward to share a brief history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in each country. For our closing ceremony, they marched out carrying the same flags. It was pretty moving, actually.”
Dale City: Japan
Lake Ridge 1: France
Lake Ridge 2: Egypt
Potomac River: Brazil
Woodbridge 1: Italy
Woodbridge 2: Ireland
This international theme carried the girls through the week with a Cultural Night, Olympic Games, skits, and international food. The Olympic Games included such games such as Live Hungry Hippos, a Chinese dragon game, water balloon volleyball, sponge dodgeball, and Ultimate Frisbee.
During the Cultural Night the girls visited nine different countries represented by special guests and collected stickers in passports after they tried the food and learned a new phrase in each country’s language. The special guests and their countries were… Greece: Helena Atwood, France: Mirielle Loosli, Germany: Anja Crawford, Uganda: David and Christine Oryang, Japan: Luke Nichols, Tonga: Louisa Wells, Philippines: Emily Roderick, Guatemala: Norma and Cesar Arana and the Czech Republic: John Prymak.
On Monday night the young women performed in the annual skit night. Each ward presented a skit they had prepared in advance which included a word from a foreign language, a journey, and a scripture.
Even the meals, headed up by the kitchen staff, Kathy Knighton, Pati Stanford, Milli Goesch, and Rosemarie Griffith, had an international flair and international activities for the girls while they waited in line. The girls colored blank flags and learned interesting facts about the various countries’ food.
Girls Camp was held in Prince William Forest Park Cabin Camp 4, which included cabins, a kitchen and dining hall, access to canoes, a craft lodge, a fire ring with benches around it, and a large building. Buongiovonni said that they called this large building The Hall of Nations and used it for large group activities. For the Cultural Night Ashley Cherepon decorated it. Buongiovonni said, “It was colorful and filled with life and international pizzazz!”
Of course Girls Camp wouldn’t be Girls Camp without passing off camping requirements, learning first aid skills, learning how to start a fire, hiking (this year through some deep water with help from two Priesthood brethren), and cooking meals outside. They also had opportunities to ride in the canoes, make various crafts in the craft lodge, or learn archery skills.
And as Buongiovanni explains, “Being at camp away from “real” life helps the young women reconnect with other girls, their leaders, and Heavenly Father. It’s a time to remember how beautiful the world is, but it’s also a time away from our usual creature comforts. It’s hot and dirty, and the young women aren’t allowed to bring their cell phones. Those are all real challenges for the girls. Overcoming those challenges takes patience and faith, and it helps them draw closer to the greatest source of strength available to them: their Heavenly Father.”
Alyssa Brimhall, a young woman from the Dale City Ward, summed it all up perfectly. “This year at Girls camp was the best year I’ve ever had. Why? Because I embarked… I have journeyed into the woods, canoed in water with dangerous animals and cute turtles, and given my taste buds an adventure from foreign food. I have walked into other nations, and cabin unit D. But I have also made new friendships and a more sincere love for others as well as my ward. Throughout all of this, Camp taught me to Embark in the service of God.”
By Camille Kerr
Writing Specialist on the Woodbridge, Virginia Stake Public Affairs Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints