Woodbridge Youth Find Strength and Faith in Honoring Past

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.”

Trek Handcart family

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.”

Trek family

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.”

Trek Caitlin McClain

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.

Trek Testimony Meeting


Camping Around the Woodbridge Stake

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.

11 yr old camp 2017 tents

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.

11 yr old camp 2017 Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag during free time in Prince William Forest Park

11 yr old camp 2017 Chess

Earning the Chess Merit Badge

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.

Cub Scout Day Camp 2017 BB Guns

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.

Cub Scout Day Camp 2017 Pack 454

Cub Scout Day Camp 2017 Flag Ceremony

Flag Ceremony at Cub Scout Day Camp led by Den 6 including by Pack 454 from the Quantico Ward

Cub Scout Day Camp 2017 Walking Sticks

All set for a hike after decorating their walking sticks with leather and beads.

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.

Wendy Orr from the Bristow ward described their camp.  “Our camp theme this year was Dr. Seuss “Oh the places you’ll go.”  We focused on Missionary work.  Our Sister Missionaries came on Wednesday to help the girls with their skit and participate in a missionary interview.  The girls then wrote letters to our Sister Missionaries families which we sent with photos of each girl with the Missionary.”
She explained how they made Gospel Rocks. “Each girl painted a rock and put a message on the back, some put the church web address on the back some said something nice.”  They also participated in a service project, pulling up cabbage from Wendy’s garden. She said, “I very much appreciated the help!”
The Lake Ridge 1st Ward Activity Days also had a week long day camp.  Activity Days leader Jennifer Gray said, “We learned about how we are all superheroes with a divine mission to fulfill. We had two days filled with crafts and activities and a final “fun in the sun” pool day with our families and friends.”
She described her favorite part of camp, the Holy Ghost obstacle course and the campfire testimony meeting on the second day. “During the obstacle course some of the girls listened to the tempting voices that encouraged them to let go of the rope. When they did, they were gently reminded that we all make mistakes in life but through the atoning power of Jesus Christ we can repent and return to complete our mission. With a picture of the Savior firmly in hand, they returned to the course and were able to finish with the assistance of the “Holy Ghost” (leaders quietly encouraging them through the course).
“At the testimony meeting shortly after, many of the girls shared powerful testimonies of the Savior, their experiences at camp, and how they felt when they completed the obstacle course, took off the blindfold, and saw their leaders standing next to a portrait of Christ. We have amazing girls and we feel so honored to share these experiences with them. “
Lake Ridge 1st Ward Activity Days Camp
Thank you to all the leaders who have spent countless hours planning and preparing so many wonderful growing experiences for the youth in the Woodbridge Stake.

Boy Scouts with True Grit


The Woodbridge Stake Boy Scouts traveled to  West Virginia on June 19, 2017 for an Aaronic Priesthood Encampment at BSA’s Bechtel Summit Reserve.  This camp was designed to provide more spiritual activities for the young men than a regular scout camp.  The theme of the week was True GRIT, GRIT being an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Initiative, Truth.  This theme was incorporated into firesides, Aaronic Priesthood Workshops, and other activities.

AP Encampment 2017 YM


Each morning the Scouts attended an Aaronic Priesthood Workshop which started their day off with a spiritual uplift.  Throughout the day they worked on earning merit badges and choosing from a myriad of activities such as BMX, mountain biking, rock climbing, swimming, zip lining, skateboarding, and the Canopy Tour, a series of zip lines through trees.


Not all of camp was fun and sunny days; “While setting up and taking down tents, it rained a lot, and we had to keep tipping water out of the tents,” said one scout.

Every evening there were firesides with inspirational speakers including Douglas D. Holmes, First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency and Charles Dahlquist, the BSA National Commissioner and a former Young Men General President.



The Army of the Lord

The Young Women in the Woodbridge Virginia Stake attended their annual week long Girls Camp at the same place as last year, Verdun Adventure Bound in Rixeyville, Virginia.
Amy Buongiovanni, Woodbridge Stake Camp Director, shared the following about Girls Camp.
Girls Camp 2017 Decorations
“Our theme this year (chosen by our YCL’s) was “Army of the Lord,” and it was so fun to decorate and make everything fit the theme. We had “supply boxes” and camouflage netting all over camp, along with wooden signs with military stencil print stating the new names for each location. Our kitchen was the “Galley,” the flag pole area was the “Parade Ground,” and the ward campsites were all “Barracks,” for example.  Each level even had a new name this year. Our first years were “Cadets,” second year girls were “Privates,” third year girls were “Sergeants,” and fourth year girls were “Corporals.”  Each young woman received dog tags at the beginning of camp with the theme and year printed on them, and our t-shirts had a camouflage design. Many thanks need to go to Sister Fox, Assistant Stake Camp Director, and Sister Smith, YCL Leader, for coming up with so many clever decorations. Sister Smith also spent countless hours before camp training our YCL’s, which really were the best-prepared group of Youth Camp Leaders we have ever had.
Girls Camp 2017 Lake Fun
“Our young women were given many exciting opportunities this year at Verdun Adventure Bound. They were able to ride horses, swim and boat in the lake, swim in the pool, hone their archery and fishing skills, and express their creativity during craft time.  The Challenge Course was new and fresh this year, because the staff at Verdun gave girls who had previously been to camp the chance to try new elements.  This year they climbed a huge rock wall for one activity, and leaped from a tiny platform at the top of a very tall pole to try and touch a ball hanging in the air above them for another (called the Leap of Faith).  Of course they all also got the chance to clamber to the top of the even taller pole where the launch platform stands for the zip line.  It was a thrill to see so many girls overcome their fears and reach the top.  Some girls had to try several times before they could make it to the top, but almost every girl did it!  The young women in the Woodbridge Stake can do hard things, and they know it.
Girls Camp 2017 Challenge Course 2
Girls Camp 2017 Challenge Course
Girls Camp 2017 Leap of Faith
“We had Level Game Night on Monday night and lots of level time with our beloved Level Leaders throughout the week.  Sisters Melinda Bastian, Carisa Protacio, Cat Morris, May Tross and Shara Rust spent many hours before camp preparing to help the girls in their levels pass off their requirements for camp, and it showed.  The girls learned first aid skills, how to cook outside, how to put out and start fires, how to create shelters, etc. The young women also worked on service projects during level time at camp, painting wooden bridges, mulching, and clearing out fire pits. The staff at Verdun were very grateful for their help.
“Cooking at camp this year was once again a big adventure. Many of our young women never cook at all, much less outside!  But each girl was placed in “cooking group” of 8 or so people, and they were each required to pull their own weight.  They prepared the food, cooked it, cleaned up, and enjoyed plenty of delicious meals. We were very grateful to our camp cooks, Sisters Pam Dixon, Jennifer Banks, and Annette Rivera for preparing the boxes of food for each cooking group, providing clear cooking instructions, and doing so much work to make sure we all ate well at camp.
“Stake YW Camp really is a group effort.  We had so many fabulous helpers, from our nurses, Sisters Sharon Craddock and Ashley Boatright, to our craft leaders, Sisters Karina Dominguez and Carissa Allred.  And what would we have done without Brother Banks and Brother Craddock, who made sure we had water to drink, offered Priesthood blessings, helped us set up camp, made fires for us, taught us awesome military techniques for flag ceremony and generally kept us safe and happy? It was also great to have Sisters Tonja Hafley and Kayla Hafley back to help with fishing (so many young women love to fish!) and Sister Jeri Meredith to help with archery.
Girls Camp 2017 Brick Wall
“One of the most special times at camp was Tuesday night.  We all met at the amphitheater for a discussion about how we can fortify ourselves against Satan’s attacks.  We talked about building walls of testimony by developing faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel.  Each young women was given a “brick” (a block of wood painted red) and a sharpie.  On the front of the bricks, they wrote one thing they knew or hoped was true about the gospel.  On the back, they wrote a question they needed Heavenly Father to answer.  We talked about how Heavenly Father answers prayers in His own time, and how our testimonies are built one brick at a time. After the girls wrote on their bricks, we took a silent walk back to the Parade Ground (by the flag pole), where Sister Fox helped the girls build an actual wall with their bricks. After the Wall of Testimony was built, our YCL’s stood and sang a beautiful song about being in the Army of the Lord.  We could all feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. Heavenly Father loves the young women in our stake very much. At our final flag ceremony, we gave the bricks to the young women to take home, where we hope they will remember fondly the experiences they had at this year’s Woodbridge Stake YW Camp.”
Girls Camp 2017 Verdun

Celebrating 175 years of Relief Society

by Pam Gauch

Women of the Woodbridge, Virginia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated the 175th year of their women’s organization, the Relief Society, on February 25, 2017, at their annual Relief Society Women’s Conference. Relief Society is the largest women’s organization in the world, spanning six continents and many countries.

This year’s conference theme, The Lord is My Strength and My Song, honored women of the past who depended on Jesus Christ for strength to endure their hardships. Although our women of today face different hardships, we all can turn to the Lord for our strength. As an introduction to our conference, we re-enacted a portion of the Monument to Women Memorial Garden in Nauvoo, Illinois. Live women posed as statues representing virtue, prayer, learning, compassion, talents, teaching with love and fulfillment. The speakers reinforced the timelessness of women and the opportunity we all have to draw strength from the Savior to leave our own legacy of leadership, spirituality and the strength to meet whatever situations life has to offer.


“Woman Learning”


“Compassionate Woman”

“Woman of Talents”

“Woman in Prayer”


“Teaching With Love”