The Role of a Ma and Pa
Trek provides an opportunity “to take the youth out of the world in hope of taking the world out of the youth”–Elder Jay E. Jensen.
Why You Were Called – You were called to this assignment because of who you are–your character and testimony as well as your talents and abilities. You will lead and help the youth of the Stake on a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Your Trek Family – You will be responsible for approximately 8 to 10 youth with varying ages and backgrounds, however, they will all dress similarly, have the same possessions, and will probably all smell the same! You will spend the entire four days with them. You will have a handcart where you will put all your belongings, and those of your family. During this trek your little family will all be placed outside your comfort zone. Not many of you have ever walked 30 miles, let alone pulled a handcart that far. As a family you will push and pull a handcart together, cook meals together, camp together, pray together, sweat together, laugh together and probably cry together.
Getting to Know Each Other – These youth will be assigned from different wards. You may not know them and they may not know each other. It will be up to you to bring them together as a family. The first challenge they may face will be getting to know the other youth of the family. They may be nervous and a little scared, but your love towards them will help them overcome their fears. As you meet with your family, develop a spirit of love and unity as you interact with them, and they will in return learn to love and respect you.
Before Trek Preparation – What Should I Be Doing Now?
- Spiritual Preparation – Pioneer treks require spiritual preparation. You really do get out of trek what you put into it. This means additional effort by Ma’s and Pa’s to make sure your lives are in tune with the Spirit. You already know how to do this: Prayer, scripture study, temple attendance and perhaps learning about your ancestors and the handcart pioneers.
- Mental Preparation
- First – Study the Trek Materials: Be aware of what’s on the Trek Website and study the other materials you will be given so you are familiar with the expectations we have of you, and to become familiar with the trek schedule and activities we have outlined for the trek.
- Second – Study and Know the Pioneer Stories: Read and become familiar with several pioneer stories. You can find resources on the trek website. You can also watch movies such as 17 Miracles and Ephraim’s Rescue. Also study your own ancestors, whether they were Mormon Pioneers or not, they were probably pioneers in some way. Learn their stories. There will be many opportunities to share pioneer stories with the youth on trek. The stories will be far more effective if you know them by heart and can share them with feeling and conviction without needing to refer to printed material.
- Physical Preparation – The Pioneer Trek is physically demanding. We can expect to trek 4-12 miles each day at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Are you ready for this? If not, get ready by preparing yourself physically. Start walking, hiking and exercising. Eat right. Now is the time to start weaning yourself off the Diet Coke and Mountain Dew! There are no vending machines along the trail.
12 Ways to Be Great Ma’s and Pa’s While on Trek
- Love the Youth – Your most important responsibility will be to love the youth. Just like your own family, it’s important for you to care about and love every member of your trek family. And like your own family, some will be easier to love than others. Try not to show favoritism. In fact, do everything you can to bring out the personality of the most shy and reserved in your group. Look for positive attributes in each member and seek for opportunities to reinforce them. Your love for your handcart family will be your greatest resource. Love will cover a lot of other shortcomings you may have as a Ma and Pa.
- Make Family Rules – As the trek begins, have your family come up with some clear family rules and expectations. Let the youth come up with them and perhaps what the consequences will be for breaking them. Some examples of rules are: Let your ma and pa know where you are at all times. Everyone helps pull the handcart. Drink water at every stop. Stay in your pioneer costume, meaning no altering dress lengths or rolling up sleeves. You get the idea. Come up with your own family rules. They can be added to or changed along the way.
- Choose a Big Brother or Big Sister – As a family, choose a young man or young women to be a “big brother” or “big sister” that will serve as a youth leader during family meetings and during times when you are not with the family. Assign someone that will be a good example and that the other youth will look up to. Encourage this youth leader to be positive and help motivate and encourage the other family siblings. This youth can help prepare devotionals, conduct family meetings, and lead in games, etc. This may happen naturally for your family.
- Keep Things Positive – Encourage appropriate behavior by setting a good example and maintaining a positive and supportive approach throughout the trek. Everything will not go as planned on trek, guaranteed! That’s actually kind of part of the plan, believe it or not. (Kind of like Earth Life) Try not to be critical of any aspect of the trek. Negativity is contagious and will affect everyone around you. (Remember, another name for negativity is murmuring, Laman!) Sustain your leaders. If you do have concerns, consult with the appropriate leaders.
- Help the Youth Participate Fully in Trek – It is important for the youth to be engaged in the trek activity. Be firm, yet loving and humble, in helping the youth accept the trek experience. Please understand that your role is to lead and guide the youth to accomplish tasks on their own and as a family. It is NOT your role to do everything for them. The youth should be cooking their own meals, cleaning their own dishes, gathering their own items to go on the handcarts, leading and participating in family devotionals, etc. You are there to guide and supervise them physically and spiritually.
- Resolving Problems – When challenges come up in your family, and they will, it will be your responsibility to resolve them with the Spirit and in a positive way. For example, if a family member decides not to pull the handcart and simply stops, allowing other handcarts to go by, you may want to gather together and discuss why they are doing what they are doing, say a prayer or sing a hymn. This is a good time to have a family discussion. You will also be tested to the limits in your marriage. You will be tired. You will have disagreements. Resolve them with love and patience.
- Keep On Schedule – Nothing is more frustrating than waiting for an hour while one family finishes a particular activity. You will receive an itinerary for the Trek. The times listed are approximate and are only guides. Become familiar with the order of events, know what’s going on, where you’re supposed to be and when.
- Accept Your Family’s Uniqueness – Some families may appear to be more outgoing and lively, while others are more sedate and reserved. Guide your family’s development according to the personalities of those in your group, with the assistance of the Spirit.
- Gap Fillers – Your trek family will not be busy all the time. There will be gaps in the schedule throughout the day on the trail and also at camp in the evenings. Sometimes there will be unexpected delays while on the trail. We encourage you to use this free time to teach the youth, have fun and share experiences of real pioneers. Look for teaching moments and use them. Create an enjoyable environment and your youth will want to participate. Your attitude will help smooth out the trials they face, so be positive and energetic. Bring stories of your own family, or pioneers that you have read about. Play games and sing silly songs. Engage them in things that will build them up and make trek an enjoyable and memorable experience.
- Family Discussions – Family discussions led by the leaders are an important part of the trek experience. They may be held anytime. They can help youth become mentally, spiritually, and physically involved. The discussions should help the youth to seriously ponder the gospel in their lives. The group discussions may be either formal or informal. Use your imagination and creativity in how to do this. One idea is to have each member of your family answer a question like:
- How do you feel about the trek so far?
- What was the hardest part of the day?
- What was the best part of the day?
- What are you learning from this experience?
- Can you think of similar situations in your life?
- How are you a pioneer in today’s world?
- Singing – Pioneers sang often. It helped them to deal with boredom, hardship, and to have fun. Bring songs with you and teach them to your family: trail songs, campfire songs, happy songs, fun songs, pioneer hymns and primary songs. You can also use familiar tunes and add your own words. Write your own trek family song. You can even bring small instruments like a harmonica, flute, recorder, Jew’s harp or maybe a Ukulele if you dare.
- Be Safe – Supervise your family on the trail and in camp. Make sure that the young women and young men have separate sleeping areas and that you always know where everyone in your family is. Develop a buddy or family system to keep everybody safe. Watch for signs of any medical or emotional problems.
“Brothers and sisters, join with us and begin now to prepare for a spiritual journey . . . by walking in the footsteps of our beloved pioneers in every land. We must be sure that the legacy of faith received from them is never lost. Let their heroic lives touch our hearts, and especially the hearts of our youth, so the fire of true testimony and unwavering love for the Lord and His Church will blaze brightly within each one of us as it did in our faithful pioneers.”
—Elder M. Russell Ballard “Faith in Every Footstep” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 25