I had the opportunity to go to Youth Conference in Palmyra, New York about a week and a half ago. The whole trip cost me a whopping $25 - $20 of which I got back during the bus rides for food. How could I say ‘no’ to such an opportunity? Of course, the idea of being on a bus with that many teenagers was a little daunting.
I had to get up at 5 a.m. to be at the church by 6:15. Chewy was a doll and woke up with me and helped to make sure I had everything I needed.
We were on the buses and on our way at 7 a.m. Luckily the buses had televisions, so we put on a movie and most of the kids must have passed out because it was quiet! Our fearless leader, Sizzle, passed out too.
|Trying to get comfortable on the bus.|
We were making excellent time and got to our lunch location an hour early (meaning we got there at 10:30). It wasn’t hard to be hungry for lunch considering how long I’d been up. I got to see agency in action as teens chose to spend their money on frozen yogurt rather than something a little more substantial. It was also funny to see all the teens trying to sit near the walls as they charged their phones – I was right there with them…but I was a leader, I needed my phone. My cousin, Sam, was at conference too. We snuck over to Old Navy to do a little shopping. Then we got back on the buses.
With being ahead of schedule it was looking like we’d get to the college at 4:30 instead of 5:30. But then one of the buses lost use of its breaks and we pulled over into a parking lot while they called a mechanic. There was a mass exodus to the nearest grocery store for a bio break, then back on the buses. This is when we realized that OUR bus had lost AC. The kids were allowed to leave the bus and hang out by an abandoned building (where they proceeded to seek outlets for their phones…)
|Our leaders discussing the options while the mechanic works on one bus.|
I spent the next few hours learning how to yell at the kids. Seriously. Sizzle would yell for them to get out of the road and then I would start yelling too...mostly echoing what she was saying. A few times I yelled on my own. They didn't look when they crossed "the street". "The street" may have been a parking lot, but there were cars on it and this one kid walked right out in front of one. He didn't get hit and he didn't even notice. I was yelling at him, "Hey, blue shirt! Get out of the road!" but he didn't hear me. He just walked like nothing could possibly harm him. That was annoying to me, that the kids didn't look both ways. Sizzle at one point said, "Sometimes you want to let Darwinism take its course, but we have to keep them safe." That was the best line of the day.
Eventually, the people on the bus without brakes were divided and split up into all open seats on the other three buses. This left about 17 people or so without a bus, but a replacement bus was on its way. We got on our bus and headed to a mechanic for the AC. We got that fixed, had to reroute because of something about a bridge, and FINALLY got to the college at 8:45. The dance that was schedule to start at 8 was pushed back to 9:15 and the we would have dinner in the gym. The girls (and me) went to our rooms (I had my own with my own bathroom - but the room had a "The Shining" feel to it and the bathroom made me think of "Psycho". Then I did my leader-y duties and made sure everyone headed to the gym for the dance. I got pizza and then found a spot to keep out of sight for the next few hours. I always skipped dances as a teen, and I couldn't bring myself to dance at one now. It didn't help that I was exhausted.
The dance ended about 11:15, we had a little devotional and then headed back to the dorms. I finally got in bed close to 1 a.m. ....I don't know how I made it that long, but it was truly a blessing from heaven showered down on me. It was about 1 a.m. though that some of the girls decided to run between rooms which resulted the sound of elephants running down the hallway and slamming doors. I vowed in my sleep deprived rage that I would sit outside their rooms the next night and just yell as the doors opened. If I'm not going to sleep I might as well yell at someone while I don't sleep.
The next day was packed full of history sites. Our first visit was to the Sacred Grove. We got to go early morning when it was still cool. It was a lot bigger than I remembered. Everyone split up so that each person could find time to themselves. I passed many teenagers with their scriptures opened, or praying. It was kind of refreshing from the day before. I found my own spot and wrote in my journal (which I haven't done in too long).
When our time was up, we rounded up the kids for lunch. We went to a park, where we met up with all the other buses and waited for lunch. Subway sandwiches...Dear Subway, don't be so stingy with the meat.
They let the female leaders get food first. I grabbed a turkey sandwich and walked away. I picked off the three fat slices of tomatoes and looked down at my "turkey" sandwich. Are you kidding me? I was not happy about this. Plus - the bread was not so good.
We also got to visit the printing press and learn about all the time, money and work that went in to making the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. Then we went to the Hill Cumorah and hiked to the top.
This is the view from the top, looking down on where we would be in a few hours for the Hill Cumorah Pageant.
|The view from the bottom|
Then we went back to the Sacred Grove to see the Smith Family home. And to do what teenagers do best....take selfies.
Then a kind stranger offered to take a good one for us.
Then we drove back to the Hill Cumorah to wait for the pageant. We got food vouchers here for chicken dinners, but we were able to use them for up to $10 worth of food. I got a burger instead. There is no English translation for how good it tasted, it was Delicious-e-o-so
The girls sharing a Sprite...but my favorite part of this photo is the photobomb in the back. They were pretty tickled when I told them I could see them.
I also got to see Amber! She drove from Michigan with some friends to see the pageant and I don't think it was much of a coincidence that it was the same night I was there.
It was good to be able to spend some time with her. Of course, she told me I had mom voice and when I got upset that a random teen I didn't know dropped something and didn't pick it up...I realized she was right.
After the pageant, we rounded up the kids once more and headed back to the dorms. Sizzle and I walked around to all the rooms and told the girls that lights out was at midnight and there was absolutely no reason for them to come out of their rooms. Well, Sizzle told them, I stood behind her and tried to give them "The Donbro" which is a look that scares Chewy when he's out of line. There were no slamming doors that night.
The next day we packed up and headed to our last stop, the Peter Whitmer farm where we had a testimony meeting, tours of the original farmhouse and LUNCH! Which sadly, was more Subway. The testimony was great, mostly because I had been wondering how much the kids got out of the trip. It was reassuring. At one point, Sizzle leaned over and said, "You know, you worry about them and then you have experiences like this and you think, 'maybe they'll be ok'." To which I said, "yes, they'll still get hit by a car but spiritually they're doing ok." I'm so witty.
Then it was time for lunch and I got to spend some time with Sammy.
|I have absolutely no idea who that girl is behind me.|
That's something we didn't really have when I went to youth conference as a teen - we didn't have intentional photo bombers....and selfies were as popular. They existed. Also - I didn't have a cell phone or a digital camera, or an iPod. It was 35mm film, portable CD player and a bunch of AA batteries for me!
On the bus ride home we found that our bus no longer had AC. At one point we stopped and put as many of the kids on to buses with bearable conditions. That left about 13 or so kids and 6 leaders to ride out to at least dinner in the heat. But I'll tell you what - I got my first nap.
We stopped for dinner, where I ate with Sam. I went to the bathroom and came back to this on my phone.
She got the Stake President's wife to take selfies with her on my phone! At the dinner break they were going to get volunteers from the other buses to take our places. But all the kids on the bus didn't want to switch, some kids from other buses wanted to join us (!) and the leaders were pretty happy where we were. Plenty of space, quiet, it was great. As a Stake leader, they made Sizzle go on to a another bus and switched her out with some other leaders. She put me in charge of the movies and as the only female leader on the bus I became the only one who yelled at the kids. Luckily Sizzle trained me well in the short amount of time we had.
As the one in charge of the movies, I picked The Incredibles.
Sam (who had joined our bus) liked it.
Overall, I really enjoyed Youth Conference. I'm grateful I had the chance to spend more time with my girls and get to know them better. I feel closer to them now (some of them have even randomly texted me just to say they love me). And, this past Sunday I told them to be quiet and one of them complimented me on how well I did that. I'm a little surprised how quickly I've gone from not feeling like I know what I am doing to being comfortable and speaking up more...and acting like a leader. Anyway - it was fun.