By Ian M. Houston
As they trekked across the majestic summer hills and valleys of Hume, Virginia, pushing and pulling pioneer era handcarts in period clothing, the youth of the Woodbridge Virginia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke of teamwork, family, pioneer heritage, sacrifice, prayer, and faith in God.
Erin Austin, 15, of the Bristow Ward said, “I really enjoyed seeing how difficult it was for our ancestors to trek all the way to Zion, and even though ours was not even remotely as difficult as theirs, we were all able to understand how strong their faith had to be.”
130 youth and 30 adult leaders were unified in their mission to push forward and as a group to honor the sacrifice made by Mormon pioneers who made the arduous journey across America’s heartland and over the Rocky Mountains to find a new home and refuge in the uninhabited Salt Lake Valley.
Nathan Christensen, 17, formerly of the Lake Ridge 2nd Ward, traveled from his home in Minnesota back to Virginia for this year’s Trek. He said, “I learned that not all trials are ones you can get through on your own. I realized the first day–I can’t push this handcart by myself. I need other people.”
A common theme for many of the youth prior to arriving and leaving the comforts of home was expressed by Jordan Roderick, 17, of the Bristow Ward who said, “At first I didn’t think Trek was going to be a good experience, but that changed when I met my family.” He added, “I had the best Trek family anyone could wish for – my ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ and siblings were great and we got along very well.” Roderick said he enjoyed “sitting around the campfire and telling stories and singing songs with them.”
Events that particularly left an impression on the youth were the “Women’s Pull” and the morning of reflection on the last day. Leah Gaush, 18, of the Lake Ridge I Ward said, “Before we started the women’s pull, we sang together the hymn As Sisters in Zion, and I came to know of the unity, strength, and divinity of women in the church. The errand of angels is given to women.”
During the morning of reflection, the youth dotted green hills, rocky areas, and paths, pondering and praying individually while reading poignant letters from their parents. They then gathered as a group for a special and sacred testimony meeting with their leaders in the woods. At this gathering, Woodbridge Stake President Clark Price sincerely thanked all leaders for their efforts to organize this event, and praised the youth for their faith and commitment.