The Convert Files: A Trekking We Will Go

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So much can be said of what some have affectionately deemed “Mormon Cosplay.” Let's explore Trek and one man's experience with it.

There is so much that can be said of what some have affectionately deemed “Mormon Cosplay.” From the ardent believers that Trek shouldn’t exist to the fervent who believe that Trek is the best thing since sliced bread, opinions on the every-four-year event vary widely among church members.

As for me, I didn’t have an opinion. I joined the church at 19 and missed any opportunity to experience Trek. My wife and I were asked to be a Ma and Pa four years ago, but due to life circumstances, we weren’t able to participate. This time around, however, when we were asked to be a part of the medical team, we readily agreed to go. Our two boys would also be out on Trek with us, and although they would be assigned to new families, we could experience it with them.

It’s worth noting that my wife had not done Trek as a youth, so we went into it only knowing others’ opinions.  Because of this, we both tried to keep an open mind about the experience. 

 

My oldest son on Trek.

Dressing Up and Pulling Carts

Many might rightly say that dressing up in pioneer-inspired clothing and pulling carts will not help the youth experience what the pioneers experienced. It is hard to replicate the hardship of what the pioneers, both inside our faith and those that traveled west on the various trails to the west, experienced. 

So what is the point in dressing up and pulling carts? I think it goes beyond the surface of the pioneer theme, and it goes to something that we all need sometimes. It is a break from the normal, forcing us out of our comfort zones and into doing something different. If every experience we had in life was the same, then life would be boring. Trek is an opportunity for the youth and adults to have physical and spiritual experiences in a different environment than what they are used to. 

For some Trek was a physical challenge, and it pushed them to show them they could do hard things. We walked about 26 miles, which for some youth and adults, was a stretch of their abilities. For others it was a social challenge, being thrust into a new group of people they didn’t know and having to learn to work together. And yet for others, there were mental challenges, doubts, and negative thoughts. 

Trek allowed us to pull away from electronics, from the modern world, and put us out in God’s beautiful creation and possibly in a humble spot because of any difficulties we faced along the way. Then hopefully that humility would open us up to His influences in our life. 

The Miracles We Witnessed

Our Trek almost came to a screeching halt the week before it began when the bus company that would be transporting the youth and the ma’s and pa’s abruptly canceled their contract. Scrambling at the last minute, the logistics committee was able to secure enough drivers for the trip to the place where we would be doing Trek. What was a frustrating trial at first, turned out to be an opportunity for a miracle to occur. 

The second miracle came on our very last day, but I need to back up to the first day. On our first day, we were set to cross a river before heading into our camp that night. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks of rain had swollen the river, making it rise at least a foot and giving it swift moving water and white caps. There was no way that we’d be able to cross safely, so our first-day plan changed, and ultimately our second day as well when we would cross that same river to leave our camp. There were a lot of prayers that the river would go down, but in the meantime, the logistics team worked to figure out what our third day would look like.

On the third day, the river had indeed gone down quite a bit, making it passable, and capping our 26-mile Trek with a cool bath for our tired legs and sore feet. As I watched the smiling faces of the kids pulling the wagons across the river, I realized just how important that river crossing was. It took every family member pulling to keep the cart going straight, and they were having fun together doing it.

Miracles came in the form of family bonding. We had 28 ma’s and pa’s with families of around 7-8 youth, and as I walked with the families I saw them uniting for a common purpose, genuinely enjoying each other’s company, and meeting people they may not otherwise associate with. I saw smiles, laughter, and families playing games with each other. It was genuinely fun to watch.

Another Miracle

One other miracle was made known to me weeks later by my second oldest. We had just finished our Come Follow Me lesson and we were discussing miracles in our lives. He said that he experienced a small miracle on Trek. Unfortunately he suffers from an anaphylactic peanut and tree nut allergy, as well as allergies to milk and eggs. So he was worried (rightly so) about what food would be available on Trek and how it would be prepared. He is a pretty active kid, but even he doubted himself a little whether he could physically do the Trek. He was also worried he wouldn’t connect with anyone in the family he was assigned to.

In the end he discovered that his family was fantastic, he was able to eat well, and he was able to handle the physical demands easily. It wasn’t until after the fact that he could see the miracle for what it was and that his prayers had been answered.

 

My second oldest son showing off a card trick to one of his sisters for Trek.

When I asked my oldest about his experience, he told me that the physical part didn’t phase him, and he didn’t feel that he learned much from that from it. The spiritual experiences he had were what he would remember. He said that he enjoyed it when the Stake Presidency would speak to them and teach them. 

Two boys, two different experiences, and it happened at Trek. Could they experience these things in other places, doing difficult things? Sure. But like I said above, this was an opportunity to break from the normal and do something different, which made the experience memorable in more ways than one.

What I Learned

To be honest, though we walked with an ancestor’s name, I think I connected more with the pioneers when I traveled across the country following their route. Even more so when I visited the Winter Quarters visitor center and the Pioneer Cemetery. For me, this wasn’t about the Trek. This was an opportunity to be out enjoying the majesty of God’s creation with my best friend and our children. It was an opportunity to consecrate my time and serve others, and serve we did. We bandaged countless blistered feet, treated bloody noses, heat-related symptoms, low blood sugar, scrapes, cuts, bites, and sprained knees and ankles.

On the subject of blisters, the kids with tennis shoes faired so much better than those with hiking boots. So if you go to send you or your child go on Trek, find yourself a good worn-in pair of shoes. 

There will always be differing opinions on things that happen in the church, but for me, I couldn’t truly develop an opinion until I had experienced it. 

Would I go again? Absolutely, in a heartbeat. Would I be crushed if the church did away with them? No. Because I know we would find other ways to stretch the youth and provide spiritual experiences for them. I fully recognize that Trek is not a universal experience for all youth in the Church, but if given the opportunity to attend, I would say it’s worth doing. 

Whether it is Trek, a High Adventure, or a camp, there is something special that happens when people are brought together in the woods. Walls seem to be broken down easily, people let their guard down, and genuine connections can occur. 

But that’s just one man’s opinion. What say you?

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