Trekking With Pioneers

July 22, 2017

In the second week of July, Eric and I set out with 11 outstanding young people and trekked through the wilds of Pennsylvania for 3 days. We did it for love. We also did it for faith. For that 3 days, we were Ma and Pa Nuss.
There are only10 in this photo because one of our young women came the next
day because of her work schedule. We finished with all 11. 

We wore clothing to echo the period of the 1850's. We set aside our electronics and other conveniences. We pulled our belongings in handcarts designed from measurements taken from original rigs used by the Mormon Pioneers and built by local Amish craftsmen. We did all this to remember and honor the early members of our church who had to leave the boundaries of the United States and settle in Utah Territory in order to find religious freedom. They were driven from several states with extermination orders on their heads because of a complex mix of economics, politics and the religious atmosphere of the day.

This is the 5th time I've participated in one of these Pioneer Treks, as they are called in our church. They happen every 4 years so that every teenager who wants to can participate in at least one. I've been a Ma once before, exactly 20 years ago. Four years later I was a youth leader and helped oversee the planning of the whole event. In 2005 I had a role on the backup committee, helping behind the scenes to make sure the front-end experience was as it should be. They gave me the year off in 2009, other than preparing 2 of my own kids to be on the trek itself. In 2013, I came up for one afternoon to help with some pioneer-themed games and activities.

Because of all these previous experiences with this particular activity, and knowing intimately what goes into the planning, AND being 20 years older than the first time I ever did it, I was pretty anxious about participating. Being in charge of one of these is TOUGH. I still feel the faint sting of some of what I went through in 2001 after being on the hot seat for most of the decisions.

During the training this spring and summer, I felt this weird combination of knowing exactly what I was doing yet feeling such doubt in my abilities. I felt like I wasn't well-prepared because we had to miss some of the training due to Sara's wedding. I was worried I was too old.  I second-guessed myself and thought about dropping out. I was close to psyching myself out of the whole deal.

I'm glad I didn't, of course. In the end, it was a sweet experience to endeavor to forget myself in the service of these lovely kids who didn't give up and gave it their all and learned how strong they are. They learned about sacrifice and doing things on the strength of principles rather than popularity. They learned about having the courage to stand out from the crowd because of convictions that feel good and right and true.

And it was my honor to watch and learn from them.

My amazing crew. Our group fought to have turns in the yoke to pull. The
joy and pride they felt in showing their strength was obvious. 

We cooked over fires and camped under the stars.
We pulled thousand-pound carts over the rough, rocky woods of southern PA. 
We pulled some more. All together there were probably around 120 kids. 

We pulled for fun. 

We danced. 
When we completed our task, we returned home to families gathered to give us a heroes' welcome. It was so fun and fulfilling. I know that there were connections made and many thoughts about what it means to have faith in these tumultuous times. Those who practice religions are feeling persecuted on all sides. I am grateful I could be part of giving these young people an opportunity to figure out why they believe and how to make their own trek through a sometimes harsh world.

Here's a little video I made.

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