While most South Carolina youth ages 14-18 rush to spend their first weeks of summer vacation at the beach, more than 200 youth from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chose to spend four days of their summer vacation on a “trek”. This trek is a reenactment of the handcart migration of the Mormons to the west.
In the 1850s, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began their migration west from England and other parts of Europe. They came to the United States by ship and then traveled by train as far west as they could. Then, without money for horses, they purchased wooden handcarts and pulled their belongings across miles of rugged terrain to the Mormon settlement in Salt Lake City, Utah.
More than 100 young men and women from the Columbia area joined 100 youth from the Savannah, Ga. area to participate in a 26 mile trek through the Sumter National Forest, near Parson’s Mountain in Abbeville. They left cell phones, computers, ipods, junk food, hot showers and air conditioning at home. They brought with them a meager 15 pounds of personal belongings, including sleeping bags and pillows, for the four day trek. The girls wore long dresses, aprons, and bonnets while the young men wore cowboy hats, collarless shirts, and pants held up by suspenders, like pioneers of the 1850s who settled the West.
To prepare for such an adventure, Brooke Waldrop, 15, of Newberry said, “I made it a point to read about the early Mormon Pioneers and prayed regularly to prepare myself spiritually for the trek.”
She added that many of her ancestors actually made the difficult journey in the 1850s.
Manaces Chavez, 15, also of Newberry, said, “This Trek was amazing. After completing it, I have a much better appreciation of what the early Mormon pioneers went through and sacrificed for their faith in Jesus Christ.”
The first day of the trek, the youth were organized into families consisting of a ‘Ma’ and a ‘Pa’, brothers and sisters, and an adult adviser married couple who act as chaperons. These ‘families’ learned to share and work together as they pulled their handcart over the miles of rugged trails, through rivers and up hills and down steep slopes.
John Jensen, president of the West Columbia stake, who has been with the youth for six treks said, “These treks are wonderful for our youth. Those who participate learn more about themselves and their inner strength. They have a deeper appreciation for those who have sacrificed for them including their parents. They become less selfish and more caring and loving. They develop a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ as they learn to rely on their faith in Him.”