California youths learn love and service

Youths in the Glendora California Stake had a week most of them will long remember. The youths and their leaders helped feed nearly 7,000 homeless as part of a week-long youth conference that emphasized service.

Instead of basking in the sun like many of their peers did during spring break, the youths toiled many hours at a skid row mission. Each day during the week before Easter, two three-hour shifts of 12 youths and three leaders traveled into the heart of Los Angeles from their suburban homes 25 miles away.At the mission, the youths set up, served, and cleaned up for the two meals that are served daily to approximately 600 needy people. After a three-hour shift of washing dishes, many conference participants proudly displayed their dishpan hands.

The young people also sorted clothing, wrapped 5,000 plastic utensils in napkins for the Easter meal, and prepared more than 150 Easter baskets. Filled with donated items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, soap, and a few Easter goodies, the baskets were given to the homeless on Easter Sunday, April 15.

Two shifts of 30 youths each helped serve the Easter meal to 5,000 people outside on the streets.

Arnetus Raymond, second counselor in the stake Young Women, reported in a Sunday evening testimony meeting many of the youths said it was the best youth conference they had ever attended.

"We accomplished our goal of developing love and unity among our youths," said Sister Raymond. "Service is the key. We have to serve our fellow men to find unity and love."

On the Friday evening and Saturday of the conference, the youths took a break for more traditional youth conference activities – including a ward video contest, breakfast cooked by bishops, workshops, speakers, games and a dance.

But the main topic of the testimony meeting was the service project. Time after time, the youths testified that the Lord loves all people no matter what color their skin or station in life. They said serving the homeless had helped them appreciate their own blessings.

A high point for many was singing to the homeless at the Sunday street meal. Strains of "I Am A Child of God," "Because I Have Been Given Much," and "Love One Another," brought quiet hush to the otherwise noisy street scene and tears to the eyes of singers and audience alike.

Charles C. Summerhays, first counselor in the stake presidency, and his wife, Utahna, accompanied the youths to skid row more than once during the week. "I've been to every youth conference for 15 years, and by far this one taught the youths more than any other," Pres. Summerhays observed. "A lot of our activities provide teaching moments between the youths and leaders, but in this case the teaching moment was the activity. And everyone was taught, not just a few.

"At the testimony meeting, most of the youths talked about their feelings of feeding the homeless. It was nice to see their testimonies directed outward. All are asking that future activities be directed to service."