Thursday, July 16, 2009
I survived being a First Years' Tent Mom
Yes, last week I went to Girls' Camp as a tent mom for the first years. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to do it again!
Going to camp as a tent mom is so much different than going as a YCL (youth camp leader). When I was a YCL, I wanted to serve the girls, but of course I was also there for myself. But as a tent mom, my entire focus was on them. I may have already told you this, but I decided before camp that the most important thing I could teach them and do for them was to love them the way the Savior does, because who knows where else in their lives they can feel that. Of my 13 first years (12 year olds), most of them came from broken homes and divorced families. There were only 4 that I knew of that had solid families with parents actively serving in the church and teaching the gospel at home. One little black girl is the only "member" in her family and goes to church with the neighbors, yet she has read the Book of Mormon 3 times and shared her testimony that she knows the Church is true. I am amazed by the valiance and strength of these young girls.
Brother Mitchell called our campground "The Taj Mahal of camping," and I have to agree. Our cabin had a gorgeous arched window, 2 bathrooms inside, a big living room with couches, and 4 bedrooms. It was kind of ridiculous! And every day the girls could swim in the pool, do crafts, and learn rock climbing and archery. They had a blast. Also, for the first time we didn't have to cook our own meals! They had a kitchen staff that cooked for us, so that was kinda cool.
The first night we were there, they came to the leaders' room at 4 in the morning screaming that they had woken up to bugs crawling all over them. So in the middle of the night they moved all their stuff out into the living room and no one else slept in that room for the rest of camp. Some of them didn't go back to bed after that, so they were dead tired the next day.
On Wednesday, the second day, we had the opportunity to go on a three mile hike. Along the way, we stopped and read Moses chapter 2 about the Creation and discussed it. It was a really neat experience to read about the creation in the beautiful mountains. With the soft breeze and the blue sky, I felt the peace and confirmation of the Spirit, and I hope the girls did too.
It was a little weird at first to be called Sister Hinton, because that sounds like my mom, but after 5 days I got used to it. Some people said it would be preparing for when I serve a mission and have my own black nametag. I look forward to that day!
One of my favorite experiences at girls' camp was when I wrote little notes to each of the girls about their good qualities and why I appreciated them. It was only a couple sentences, but it had a huge impact on them. (I saw one of the girls had taped it into her journal...so cute!) But three of the girls were thoughtful enough to write notes back to me! I never expected that. I'll quote what they wrote word for word so you can get the full effect.
"To Tasha, I think you are so nice. When I talk you always listen you don't just fake like the other people. It was so fun when we went on the hike together even thought I was sweaty and hot. I really like you because you are respectful and you are nicer to everyone even if they're not nice to you. You are a really good friend. Thanks for being a friend, Helena."
"Dear Tasha, I just want to thank you for being so nice and respectful also very understanding to all of us girls and also teaching me stuff I never would have wanted to learn. Thank you! Sincerely, Shay PS - I think you are sweet, helpful, understanding and outgoing also very smart. Thanks again I will always remember you and you're my hero!"
"Dear Sister Tasha, Thank you soooo much for all your help! You are my favorite camp leader. And thanks for the wonderful notes on our doors, like I said you are the best camp leader ever! Love, Kali PS - Go Utes" (Her Uncle is the U of U head football coach)
That made me indescribably happy because it means I'm doing my job - helping them feel the Savior's love for them and helping camp to be a good experience.
A few of the other highlights of camp:
*becoming closer with Lizzy Mitchell. She's so comfortable in her own skin and not worldly, which is probably why I feel like I can really connect with her. She's so funny.
*one of the girls singing "once an ostrich went yodeling" instead of "once and Austrian went yodeling"
*one of my first years making an effort to learn sign language and be friends with an older girl at camp who is deaf
*one of the YCLs telling me that I should be a yodeler
*all the games we've played: signs, psychiatrist, telephone, telephone charades, telephone pictionary, kai
*the beautiful journal I made at craft time! The cover paper is from a Monet painting so I'm gonna use it for my art history notes next semester
*Megan's silliness which made all my first years fascinated with her. On her bio sheet under something no one knows about you she wrote "I have 4 belly buttons" and a few of the girls came up to be asking if that was true! haha
Friday during scripture study with the girls I had a really good experience too. We combined with the 2nd years (who my grandma was over so she came too) and read out of Alma 36 the story of Alma the Younger's repentance. I checked in periodically to make sure that they understood what was going on. The best was at the end of the discussion when I got to bear my testimony of the Savior and repentance. One of the girls said, "I've noticed in the Book of Mormon it says to keep the commandments or you'll be punished, but what if you mess up?" Then I explained how the Savior's Atonement allows for repentance and eternal progression even until we are perfect. It was absolutely beautiful and everyone was so focused on learning the gospel. I am so grateful that I got to be prepared, worthy, and present to teach in the right moment when that girl was ready to learn that truth. If I had supported the snipe hunt, who knows if I would have been able to have that experience.
Also, Jalissa (the girl who goes to church with the neighbors) came up to me and said she's read the BoM 3 times but doesn't understand a lot of it and has no one to talk to about it since her family doesn't go to church. My heart absolutely melted. I told her that when I study the scriptures I pray and ask Heavenly Father for understanding, and that always helps me. I also gave her my email address and told her that if she ever has a question I am more than happy to help her. I am amazed by her faith to continue reading even when she doesn't understand, and I hope she will find the answers she is looking for.
My testimony grew so much at camp from the Spirit and their good examples. I learned about who I am and the mission the Lord has for me in this life. I think it was my favorite year at camp ever, and I look forward to returning soon!