How would you like to participate in an eight-year camp? Can you imagine the challenge?
You would be required to hunt for your own food, find water, and pitch and take down tents often as you hike hundreds of miles while following a compass. Over those long years you would probably need to stop for mothers to give birth and, sadly, stop to bury a loved one along the way. It would be a camp experience for the records.
Lehi and Sariah in the Book of Mormon did that very thing with their family. They even lived to tell about it. Did their journey always go precisely as planned or was their trip always smooth sailing? Absolutely not.
Our summer camps don’t last eight years, but even trips that last two, three or five days require prayer, planning and preparation.
What do leaders do if changes occur or problems arise? In such instances, we can learn from Nephi. After breaking his bow, an essential hunting tool, he and his brothers were unable to provide food for their families. So what did he do? While family members murmured, Nephi went to work. Armed with faith, he fashioned a bow and arrow from the available resources and then went to his priesthood leader for counsel. After sincere repentance, Lehi received divine direction for Nephi. Nephi followed through, hiked to the top of the mountain and was able to find food (1 Nephi 16:18-32).
COVID-19 has been our “broken bow” challenge for planning camp in 2020. But, like Nephi, we can choose how to handle our summer event experiences. We can complain and give up, or we can prayerfully create a contingency plan based on current circumstances and available resources. The Lord knows that powerful things can happen when the youth gather as covenant disciples of Jesus Christ. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
Gathering together, however, does not always mean that we are in the exact same physical space. At its very core, gathering has to do with coming together and strengthening one another — our personal relationships, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and our commitment to serve Him. Even though many camps will be closed this summer, through technology and other resources, there are still many opportunities and ways in which we can gather. Consider the following principles:
- The youth plan camp. Adult leaders don’t plan but give the youth assignments to fulfill. “Camp is an opportunity for the young women [and young men] to develop and practice leadership skills as they plan for and lead at camp” (Young Women Camp Guide, p.8).
- Seek inspiration and counsel. Camp leaders also counsel with ward and stake Young Women and Young Men leaders. Presidencies counsel with their priesthood leaders. All leaders prayerfully seek direction from the Lord.
- Follow local regulations. If facilities are open for camp, make sure that you follow your local government guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of all in attendance.
- Allow for contingencies. If previously arranged facilities aren’t available, counsel together as class and quorum presidencies and adult leaders. Imagine the learning that will occur when class and quorum presidencies have a chance to think through potential changes and challenges, identify possible solutions and make contingency plans. Don’t forget to invite the Holy Ghost to guide and confirm your planning.
- Simplify. Be flexible and creative. Depending on changing regulations, you might meet as a ward, as a class or quorum, or through video chat. Youth and adults alike can learn to work through disappointment and change without falling apart. Maybe you won’t have months to prepare and, just maybe, the simple, spur-of-the-moment inspiration will prove to be the very catalyst for the Spirit to be felt and remembered.
- “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing” (Doctrine and Covenants 109:8). Adult leaders can help young leaders learn the skills necessary for logistically planning an event. Such skills might include working within a budget, finding a venue, arranging transportation needs, gathering equipment, ensuring safety, planning a menu, grocery shopping and food preparation. Plan fun, appropriate activities that generate strong relationships and unity, build genuine interactions that will invite the Holy Ghost and build testimonies of Jesus Christ. Such activities can be held in a specified place together or in a virtual setting.
As leaders gather direction from their priesthood leaders and allow the youth to lead, plan, prepare and adapt, the Lord will perform miracles. Our youth will learn how to receive revelation in ways they never thought possible. “The Lord loves effort, and effort brings rewards” (Joy D. Jones: ‘An Especially Noble Calling’).
Nephi had success in hunting because he relied on the Lord, his priesthood leader and his own hard work. Our camps and summer events can have the same inspirational results. The Lord has promised, “Therefore dearly beloved … let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (Doctrine & Covenants 123:17).
Your camp experience may be one for the record books — and more importantly, it will be a time of spiritual uplift that will never be forgotten.