Please read the following story which was published yesterday in Deseret News and the LDS Church News of how our Woodbridge Virginia Stake helped bring joy to children in Prince William County, Virginia. Thank you to all our stake members who made this miracle happen! Click on this link to read the story, Light the World.
by Ian M. Houston
The Gifts of the Heart event gathered a significant amount of donated household items ranging from books, bicycles, toys, shoes, kitchenware, clothing, pictures, etc. The items filled the cultural hall and many rooms throughout the Stake Building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located in Woodbridge, Virginia. All items were given away at no cost.
President Pam Gauch of the Woodbridge Stake Relief Society reported that there were 218 volunteers and nearly 1,000 people who came into the building to participate. Many of the volunteers were teenage youth.
Gifts of the Heart is an initiative linked to Day to Serve. According to the website, Day to Serve is a unique annual initiative that transcends politics and religious differences. It is designed to unite people of all faiths, races, cultures, and backgrounds with the shared
goal of helping those in need.
This year Gifts of the Heart collected food for StreetLight Community Outreach Ministries located in Woodbridge.
Dignitaries and guests at the event included Prince William County Board of Supervisors Ruth Anderson and Michael Nohe, and Executive Director of StreetLight Rose Powers.
The author is Director of Public Affairs for the Woodbridge, VA. Stake
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photo Credit Suzie
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.
While the Boy Scouts in the Woodbridge Stake were off on their adventures in West Virginia and the Young Women were at Verdun Adventure Bound for Girls Camp, youth aged eight to eleven had various camps and adventures near home right here in Prince William County.
The eleven year old Scouts in the Stake traveled to our own local Prince William Forest Park for an overnight campout. Thanks to Chuck Diamond of the Lake Ridge 1st Ward they spent Friday afternoon and evening earning two merit badges: Indian folklore and Chess. Friday night’s dinner was prepared and served by the Stake Primary Presidency. The scouts also had a flag ceremony, a flag retirement ceremony and campfire.
Saturday was filled with activities including fire building, knife and axe handling, lashing and knots, and orienteering. The final activity was an orienteering hike. The scouts came home with their own compasses and new knowledge.
Some of the wards in the Stake sent their Cub Scouts to Day Camp at Leesylvania State Park. They spent four days attending classes in leatherworking, woodworking, fishing, STEM activities, arts and crafts, nature, archery and BB guns. They theme of the camp was Bugs Alive and they found bugs for the bug houses they built, made bugs in arts and crafts, and they learned about bees in the nature class from a local Bee enthusiast, Christina Ek.
The last day of camp took on a new twist. Instead of having skits like they have in the past, camp leaders created an elaborate challenge course with many activities to challenge the boys. They had several races to run: a leap frog race, a relay race, a partner sack race, and a Worm in a Cave race. They also had to pretend to be a bug with a pool noodle as an antenna and push a ball with the antenna. They got to use slingshots and had to crawl through a string spider web without touching the string.
Some of the 8-11 year old girls in the Stake, the Activity Days girls, also had a chance to attend a day camp. A couple of the wards put together activities for their girls to have some extra time learning and being together.