Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I love EFY

Okay fail again it’s been three weeks since I posted last.
First and foremost- Steven got back from his Hill Cumorah trip in New York. 18 Days later I was back to a happy camper again. I went down to Vegas with my roommate Melissa/ Steven’s cousin, and stayed with her dad and surprised Steven at the airport. It felt like forever waiting for him to land, and get to baggage claim! I was even a bit nervous too, as if I was a little giddy nervous girl waiting to hear back from a boy that might like her or something! Ha! But it was a great reunion I won’t lie. I missed him like crazy. Poor guy was so tired. Steven said that he didn’t expect anything less than me to surprise him, so he kinda expected it. (See if I ever try anything cool again right?) 
Okay so Steven’s back, and I finish up my last week of school! Tennis was awesome! I love tennis. And math was wrapped up nicely, and inside of me I wanted to scream for joy when I turned my final exam in! What a relief that was off of my shoulders. My last math class ever in college. Officially done and now onto the Elementary Education program starting in January. 4 more Semesters to go! I can’t believe it! I also can’t wait to start the program! 
Stands for Especially for Youth. A program that as a youth I went to and it changed my life. It helped me to gain a strong testimony of the gospel and set principles in my life that have gotten me to where I am at today. This past week I had the opportunity to be a councilor at EFY. When I was a youth, I looked up to these councilors, and now I can say that I did it. I was one. It was on my bucket list. Now that I’ve done it, I would do it again in a heart beat. I think it’s the closest I will ever get to serving a full time mission. At least all the good parts of serving. 
I am filled with so much love and compassion right now. I feel so at peace with life right too, even when things are tough. What a great reminder this whole week has been. This world is full of so many bad things that are covering up all the good things. And this week I got to know 17 kids personally and I believe that we are in good hands. Those kids that I had under my wings taught me so much, they are so smart, and know what they believe. I saw them from Monday when they were a little timid, and shy, and still confused about what they believed, to now when they have no doubt in their mind that they have a Savior who loves them, that they have a divine destiny to fulfill, and that they have a Heavenly Father who knows them individually. These kids grew so much in 5 days. They have countenances that shine brighter than I’ve ever seen in 14 and 15 year olds. 
With that being said, I will go into a little bit of my experience being a councilor. 
Sunday morning I left good ole St. George and popped in my old EFY CD’s that I have from way back when, and was on my way to Provo, Utah. Brigham Young University. Mormon Capital of the world. I was in fact entering the “bubble” for a week. Scary right? (Just kidding- but not really). I was just outside of Nephi when a Chevy Silverado from the opposite side of the freeway somehow lost control of the truck, and flipped, veering off the side of the road, and flying up in the sky. And flipping right before my eyes, and my truck. Immediately I pulled over as soon as I could, and so did everyone else, a bunch of us were trying to call 911, but no one could get through for a while, but finally someone did, and it just so happened that an ambulance was just driving on the road and saw the accident. The truck ended up in smithereens and upside down. My first thought was “I hope there aren’t any kids in there.” Luckily there weren’t. Only an older man, but it was a miracle- he was alive and okay. A few of us who witnessed the accident stayed, and talked to the highway patrol guys, and wrote an accident witness report, and then I got back in my truck- and at this point I’m pretty sure I had no feeling in my legs, and that I was emotionally grateful that I was alive and that the other Truck didn’t smash me too. Went on my merry way to arrive in none other than BYU’s campus. Checked into my room unpacked, and went to training. This it where it all begins.
After a thorough training session, we gathered with all the councilors and had a fireside and got to know our session directors, who are great by the way. Then we split off into our “BC” groups, and got to know each other well, and off to meet all the other coucilors in our session. We got the list of who we would be over for the next week. I looked at my list- I had 4 Ashley’s an Ashlyn, 2 Jamie’s, a Lulu and a Kate Lyn and an Emma. I thought Sweet! This is awesome I saw “Ash” and half my girls will respond! (joke) Anyway Sunday night we prepped a little bit for the week. 
I was stoked when I got up Monday morning. We learned the EFY dance. Which is hilarious. We went and got set up for registration and welcoming the kiddos to EFY. There’s probably about 800 kids here for it. with 4 Different sessions. We did the traditional countdown 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and the doors opened, and the week had begun! Little did I know that the names of the girls mentioned above would help me to understand the principle of love deeper than I could have imagined. I met my girls at 1:15 and had a get to know you pow wow. Can be awkward if you make it. I think they thought I was crazy, but it broke the ice a little bit. A little shy, and so cute, but they would blossom by the end of the week. Afterwards we went to meet the boys in our group. Who are the best group of guys I have ever encountered. So incredibly obedient, good looking, kind, pure, and funny. What more could you ask for in a group of guys? Once again though introductions can be a little awkward, and they were, but by the end of the night they were laughing and getting to know each other really well. We went to a fireside, had dinner, and Family Home Evening where we played a bunch of fun games. It was great. We debriefed after each game, and talked about how we could relate them to the gospel. They thought of some clever ways too I was impressed. Every night I would teach a lesson to my girls. One of my girls ended up going home that night right after the devotional. It was a sad situation, but it was the best thing for her to do. I had an incredible experience about being prompted and told exactly what to do by the Spirit. I’m not going to tell exactly what happened, just that there are times in our lives when the spirit whispers things to us and what we should do, and sometimes the Spirit yells it. I was put in a situation where I had to make a decision fast and didn’t know what to do. But through the impression so the Spirit I was able to keep calm, and do exactly what the Lord wanted me to do. 
Every morning there was 6:40 meeting. 7:00am morning devotional that the girls give, and than we eat breakfast and go to our group gospel study where me or Sean my Co- would teach the kids a principle in the gospel. The Theme this year came from the 13th article of faith. Which says We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed way may say that we follow the admonition of Pail - We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous lovely or of good report or praiseworthy we seek after these things.- So this whole week we have been dissecting and studying about the admonition of Paul. It’s been great. The kids went to class and us councilors were usually on Duty guarding halls, or studying our scriptures. I even ran into Brother Romney who I know from St. George that was teaching classes for our session! That night we had a dance! But because it rained, we joined with everyone, and had a hugemongus dance underneath the stadium at BYU. It was nuts! The kids went crazy! I loved it. Dancing with them was great, because these kids some how think you are cool so no matter how you dance they love that you are just dancing and can have fun! So I went crazy- probably an understatement. But about 20 minutes before the dance ended one of my girls collapsed on the ground. Literally. Sean and a bunch of people yelled my name, and I see the Health Councilors carrying one of my girls away! Talk about panic. I can imagine that feeling I had was how a mother feels when she doesn’t know what’s happened to her child. The rushed her to the hospital for what we all thought was appendicitis. But it ended up being abdominal migraines...she came back safe and sound and everything was fine and dandy. A little scare though that’s for sure. 
Same routine as Tuesday. But Tuesday was game night! Talk about an adventure!! We walked about 3/4 of a mile up hill in the rain, which ended up turning into hail! Not anything like Texas, but about pea sized hail. I let some of my kids go play- why not? I would have wanted to at their age too! I don’t blame them! But we walked all that way just to walk back for a change of plans. The storm was pretty intense. Thunder and lightening. It felt like I was back home again! I was a little sketched out though just because of the lightening, but no one got hurt, and we were all safe. So we got back to our original starting point. Where we began to make up our cheer and skit. For our group, our scripture was the fishers of men scripture found in Jeremiah. At first my kids weren’t making any sense while they were plotting there skit which was intended to go along with our theme of Jeremiah. So after I read them the scripture and reminded them of what it was about, they took it and ran with it! They did such a fabulous job! I was so proud of them! The skit went smoothly when we showed it off, and so did our cheer it was perfect! The kids were a little scared of their competition, but seriously they had no chance again my kids! (I’m not prejudice or anything though ;)) We ended the night with what is popularly known as Pizza night, but what I love to call “Girls night.” We order Pizza and just party like girls. I had a blast. This was the night that I realized I loved these girls. I loved them from the first day, but this was an unconditional love, that I had never felt before. My girls become apart of me. I thought about them all the time, I prayed for them all the time, and sincerely cared about them. Teaching them every day was such a blessing for me. They taught me so much just in their actions, and deeds on an hourly basis. 
Thursday is known as the best day at EFY. The day that the guys get in their nice shirts and ties, and the girls get all dolled up in their sunday dress, and we have a day of incredible change, and climax to the week. We went to classes, and learned more about the gospel. We went to a snow cone place across from campus with our group, and played soccer! It was so much fun. Talk about bonding. Not only bonding. But a perfect example of how Zion would be like. We are constantly with each other- never annoyed or bugged by one another, and always thinking of one another. Doing things for others, and serving our neighbor. We are united in a cause of righteousness, and strengthening not only ourselves, or our testimonies. That afternoon we had the variety show where many of the kids that come to EFY show off there talents. We had so great talent! A few piano players, dancers, singers, a few group skits and what not. It was so fun to see these kids and how they shared their talents with us so confidently and strong. It’s great to know and see that these kids have the capability to bless the lives of others through their talents. Then we move into the musical program. Which is where the tears come, where the change of heart often takes places, and the emotions are poured because of all the amazing things that the kids have learned, and the goals that they have individually set to be better. We went and had a testimony meeting- which for those who don’t know- is a time where we share what we know and believe with others. It was amazing to see the light that these kids had in their eyes, and how they literally were shining. Whenever one of my kids would get up and tell us about their experiences and what they knew to be true, I could help but smile. In less than a week these kids had changed for the good, and knew exactly what they needed to do in life to stay happy, and all they wanted to do was just share it with others. I could feel love for them even more than I had previously. I have a feeling that it’s just a smidgen of what the Saviors love is for us. It’s an amazing feeling. Afterwards we split again as usual and I had a strong impression on what to teach my girls that night. I kinda jumped around between the Spirit, the Book of Mormon, and then ending with the Footprints in the sand poem. Followed by telling the girls how much I loved them. There are just no words. Except for that there is power in simplicity. It’s so true. 

The last day. Bittersweet, more bitter than sweet. It went by too fast! I don’t want it to end. Neither do the kids! Friday’s a fun day. A dance, and a service project! It’s great to see the kids serving, and getting excited about doing things for others. We made thank you cards for BYU and things around Provo from EFY as a whole. In the spare time the kids made thank you cards for them to give to people. A few of my kids gave me thank you cards, and if any of you know me, you know that such a simple thing can make my month, even my year. It’s small gestures that go down

 in my memory and don’t ever leave. I will keep those cute letters forever. One of them had my name drawn on the front and in little words “insert Straw here!” Absolutely loved it!! I had the opportunity to teach 3 times. Once in the morning actually twice, and then a Fort Strength of Youth activity where I taught about our physical health, and how important it is for us to keep our bodies clean and healthy. And then at night after our last fireside where Sean and I taught on using our time wisely. we said our good byes for one last time before the morning when we separated. Lock Down had begun. Us counselors has to stay up until an hour after the last sound was heard from the bedrooms. I was impressed at how quickly it got quiet. Amanda and I stayed at one end of the hallway and creeped. I got my Caffeine (which is not allowed on BYU’s campus..my mom was proud) and I crawled and looked under the cracks to make sure lights were out, and that I couldn’t hear a thing when I put my ear up to the doors. It was hilarious. We finally got to bed about 1:30 I think. Not too bad considering. 
As a whole, this experience has blessed my life so much. I haven’t had this kind of an experience in years. I met people that I hope will continue to be in my life. The 17 kids that I was blessed to have, will always be in my hearts. Teaching them and growing with them was such a wonderful testimony builder for me. 

I have truly seen the Lord’s hand in my life and in others. I have been an instrument for Him for those kids as well as they have been an instrument for me to know the Savior just that much more than I knew before coming to EFY.
This past week will forever remain in my memory, and heart for the rest of my life. I truly cannot put into words how amazing it has been, and how great the youth of these later-days truly are.  I learned of a different kind of love than I have ever felt before. I think I experienced a smidgen of what the Savior’s love is like. Just a smidgen though. I instantly had a love that grew for those kids faster than any kind of love I have ever felt. I don’t think that we can ever truly comprehend love, and that the english language doesn't have a word to describe this kind of love, but the point is- I loved those kids with a passion, and all I want for them is to be happy, and stay strong, they have so much potential, and I care about them mucho mucho!
So that’s that. Amazing right? Everyone should do it. 
I drove back to St. George on Saturday afternoon, after a trip with Tiffany and Stefanie to University Mall, where I ran into an old friends from Florida! She was in my stake! Good ole Ashley Peterson! We went to EFY together as kids, and girls camp etc. We hadn’t seen each other in about 3 or 4 years! I got to Toquerville, and Steven showed up shortly after which was great to see him again!! We are finally done with leaving for long periods of time! Thank goodness. I would never wish that upon anyone! We went to the temple, and to Pasta Factory for dinner :) 
Then it was time!! My mother was on her way to Utah!! And I headed down to Vegas on Sunday morning! I got lost for the first time..There was another car accident- this time, a car was flipped upside down. Scary! Yet again I think I’m prone to seeing car accident’s lately. I don’t know what I’m suppose to learn from it except maybe to be careful...And the week began! We drove back to Toquerville, and we had family over Sally and Shane and their kids. Who we havent seen in about 15 years! It was great to see them again! They were driving up to Salt Lake to drop their kids off at EFY too! So I gave them the low down on what to expect. Steven came over later, and finally got to meet my mom, and all we really did was talk, and started a movie at 9:30! Everyone fell asleep during it too! Typical right? Especially on a Sunday night. But Steven fits right into the family. He got to see a different side of my grandparents- the obsessed and passionate about math side of my papa, and the funnier side of my nana I think. And to meet my mom was great! :) 
Monday I finally got to sleep in for the first time since...I couldn’t tell you, but my mom and I went and ran a few errands, got a nice pedicure! I got purple and she got red, and we went to Old Navy, and I showed her a few things around campus at Dixie that are new, and then we met up with my Nana and Papa and Steven in Hurricane to eat dinner, and go see 17 Miracles. It’s a movie about the Pioneers coming out to Utah. Throughout the movie 17 miracles happen. One of my favorites was a women was trying to get away from her abusive husband, and she said a prayer that she was be kept from harm after he threatened to kill her. And he came to find her, made direct eye contact with her and her two children, and didn’t recognize her and kept moving to look for his wife! Crazy right?! Another one that brought tears to my eyes was a family who had a daughter that froze to death in the winter time, and has the left her body, the mother remembered that if they stayed faithful and didn’t give up hope, that ALL of their family would make it to Zion. So the mother turned around and her family followed soon after, and they began to make a fire, and warm up the daughter’s body, and she soon woke up, and survived. In the end- the whole family made it through that hard winter to the Salt Lake Valley! It’s incredible to think of the faith that those early members of the church had. They were strong, courageous, and devoted.
With all that being said. Life is full of miracles. Just look around and you can see so many of the Tender Mercies that the Lord places in front of everyone of us. You just need to open your eyes and look. Be grateful for the little things, and the bad things don’t seem so bad. The Church is TRUE! :)

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