We had an amazing youth conference on Saturday. Brilliant in every way.
Our idea was to show the kids what they could accomplish with "hope, perseverance, and strength." We rode our bikes through some gorgeous country for thirty miles. The road we were on had enough challenge to really test the kids' resolve, but also with enough downhill to make finishing it possible. We challenged them to "get tough" when the ride got tough.
I can't tell you how happy we were to finally make it to the top of this hill and find this sign.
We had breakfast at the top of the trail, an opening ceremony complete with the national anthem, and then lunch at the bottom. The kids (especially the boys) were absolutely ravenous by the time they reached the bottom and I practically had to beat them back with a stick til we could get the hamburgers cooked. Luckily we had one of our priesthood leaders go on ahead and reserve the picnic tables and start the coals.
It took us about three hours to make the ride. We had some really good bike riders among our young men leaders and they rode up and down the line of youth checking on everyone and being watchful. We had cars ahead of the kids and behind the kids, warning other drivers on the highway of our coming and I was so grateful for our safe arrival in Camp Verde.
After lunch the kids played in a nearby river for a bit while we packed up and then we all went to a nearby chapel to have a devotional and testimony meeting. I told the kids that this is the part where we talk about our point (and we did have one.) The young men's president talked to the kids about biking metaphors like the peloton, a wheel sucker, and what it means to bonk. He applied these terms to the kids spiritually and it was wonderful. I spoke about "journeys through the wilderness." About how they are all on their own journeys through their own personal wildernesses and our ride today was a metaphor for that larger journey. I spoke about the need to be prepared and having light to help you in the middle of the "deep," using lots of really great scriptures from Ether 2 and 6, about the Brother of Jared.
Then we had an absolutely remarkable testimony meeting. Our youth commented about how they understood while they were riding what we were trying to teach them. They spoke about how they had had time to think about what we were doing and how much they wanted to finish their tour victoriously.
It was just so wonderful. I have pictures, but they are all of our youth and I feel a bit awkward about posting their pictures without permission. I will simply say that it was among the best days of my life. Really. I love youth conference and am so grateful for the spirit that attended us and the guiding, protecting hand of my Savior that I felt throughout the day. As I rode home I was exhausted and worn-out, but felt nothing but absolutely lucky to be a part of such a marvelous event.
Just for comic relief...here is a video of me where we first put in, enjoying our breakfast. Yeah, I'm a big, youth-conference-loving dork. Through and through.