Putting together meaningful and exciting summer camp for a group of priest-age boys in the Church can challenge even the best leaders. It takes spiritual insight, time and creativity to pull it off. For the priest quorum leadership of the Rosehill Ward, Morgan Utah North Stake, in Mountain Green, Utah, getting all ten priests from various backgrounds, Church activity levels, physical abilities and family situations would be difficult but not impossible.
Under the leadership of Bishop Tyler Quigley, priest quorum leaders made preparations for a summer camp on July 22 on the East shore of Bear Lake. The purpose for the trip would be to include everyone in the quorum. As the time drew close, all the priests had to commit to attend. One of the last to commit was Ryan Jarrett, a young man with cerebral palsy. Activities for the camp would be hiking, sailing, swimming and cave exploration. The leaders wanted Ryan to participate in all of them. Bishop Quigley said, "The Jarretts had just moved into our ward a few weeks before the camp. We wanted to make sure Ryan was included. We talked to the other boys, and they committed to help Ryan."
Young Men president Mark Johnson approached Ryan's mother, Wendy Jarrett, with the idea to invite Ryan on the camp. Ryan had never been on a camp like this before. Would it be possible?
Brother Johnson said, "Sister Jarrett was reluctant at first but I reassured her that the boys were committed to help Ryan and take care of his needs." Sister Jarrett's reservations softened and her outlook went from one of concern to excitement. After discussing it with her husband, Tony, they determined that Ryan could go. His younger brother Cameron, also a priest, would attend too.
At the camp, the first challenge for Ryan was getting around the campsite without his chair or walker. Hiking around, excursions to the lake, spelunking and other activities would all need to be coordinated. To assist Ryan, the Young Men president fashioned a wagon from an old cart used to carry deer home during hunting season. He added some padding and a single wheel. Ryan would be lifted in and some of the boys would push and guide the cart.
Camen Gray, 17, a member of the quorum said, "I didn't really know Ryan before the camp, but I had the opportunity to work with him. I helped him get around in his cart. We had a good time together."
One of the activities the boys did was a hike to nearby Bloomington Lake. Quorum members took turns wheeling Ryan in his special cart. At the lake, the group went sailing on a catamaran. The boys carried Ryan out into the water so he could ride on the boat and learn to sail. Ryan said, "My favorite activity was using the boat on the lake." He said he had a great time steering the boat.
The next team-building activity for the priests quorum was a hike into Minnetonka Cave, a half-mile in size with 444 steps each way. To accomplish this, Brother Johnson fashioned a backpack together with a harness that would support Ryan so he could be carried on someone's back. When asked who would carry Ryan first, one of the young men, Jordan Preator, jumped up and volunteered.
Brother Johnson said, "The spiritual growth that occurred on this trip for the boys was equivalent to six-months or a year." Stopping for a devotional with the lights off in the cave, the boys got to experience following "the iron rod" without sight. Quorum members took turns carrying Ryan so he could participate in this faith-building activity.
Other activities at the camp included hiking, swimming and exploring. All the boys enjoyed eating food prepared by the priests quorum adviser, Bryan Searle. He brought up a meat smoker and the boys ate ribs, chicken and beef brisket.
The experiences shared at the camp brought the group closer together. Matt Kendell, 16, a member of the quorum said, "It was great seeing us come together as a team. I didn't think we could do it at first, but Ryan helped us."
When asked what was the most meaningful thing he experienced on the camp, Ryan said, "I appreciated everything they did, and it helped me to understand how important a quorum can be."
Bishop Quigley expressed what he hoped the young men learned at the camp. He said, "A quorum is more that just a group of priesthood holders. A true quorum is a group of priesthood holders that love each other and will do whatever it takes to include everyone and work together toward a common goal."