EFY Week 3: "Wise Men!"

This week, our scripture came from Isaiah 29:13-14.
“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”

So our group name became: Wise Men!

I had the younger group again this week. This session was also the smallest–only about 250 people. However, I was in a group of 3 counselors: 2 male counselors and me–18 boys and 9 girls.  (It was easy to remember my girls’ names this week!)

My co’s and I got along real well–we had the playful yet serious mode about us and we would all switch it off so none of us were the mean counselor.

There was one girl, however, that I was really worried about. I mean, I am not a returned missionary, nor am I a veteran counselor. I am only a 21 year old girl who has never had any spiritual challenges in her life and here was a girl who was a little indifferent about the church. She loved EFY and went last year, was deeply impressed by her previous counselor and decided to come again. This girl was super cute and super talented: she could sing and dance. She was not shy in the least and participated in all the activities, except any that had to do with the spirit.

I pray for my girls by name every night during the week, just so I can help be the best counselor I could be. I wanted to help this girl too, to at least feel the Spirit at least once during the week. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I was nervous. I didn’t know what to do or how to help. So, I asked to be a tool in the Lord’s hands. I knew He loved her dearly and so I asked to be used to help her feel the Spirit…not even to change her entire life, but to just feel the Spirit. I felt an overwhelming warmth. He loved her deeply and from that moment on, I did too. We became quick friends–like I said, she wasn’t shy at all. She seemed to me like a younger sister, so I acted the older, caring sister part.

That seemed to be all she needed. She (and her counselor from last year) both told me bits and pieces of her childhood, which has been something I never had to deal with, nor knew any one who had the challenges and trials she has been through. However, I felt that she loved the idea of a Celestial Family. In our church, we believe that families are eternal and we can be with them after the Resurrection. She has one older sister, so I explained to her that I like to view Jesus Christ as my older brother, and that He cares for us and we are never alone because we have an older brother who is willing to protect us. I kept with that idea the rest of the week in all my devotionals and lessons. I tried getting her to go to all the spiritual activities.

Near the end of the week, I wasn’t sure if I had done anything to help her feel the Spirit. Thursday night during Testimony Meeting, I felt impressed, to write her a letter. I told her how much I loved her and how I have been through some tough times this past year, too. But how I know that Jesus Christ has always been with me. I also bore my testimony about forever families and told her that not only will I always be there for her, but her family will too, as well as Jesus Christ. Then, during the Service Project, she wrote me a thank-you letter. It said:

Dear Tayler, 
Thank you for hanging with me and not shooting me. (she was a 16 year old girl…all teens can be brats sometime during EFY, but we counselors love them anyway.) Thanks for helping me get back in the Gospel. I love you so much. I would probably be in a lot of trouble. I love you so much.
Then, during our last morning side, she told me that by EFY next year, she hopes to be going back to church full-time. I cried. That night during the last devotional, we had it as a company–our entire group and all three of us counselors. I could see the light shining through all my youth; they all had come such a long way in the Gospel. I also saw a tremendous light in this young girl’s eyes. She knew the Gospel is true and that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ loves her. She knew the church is true, she just had to admit it to herself. And she did.
This week was probably the most spiritually fulfilling week I have had at EFY. Then on Sunday, we talked on Facebook and she said that she went to church and felt so good being back. I love her dearly.

EFY Week 2 – "They Shall Hunt Them!"

Last week was my second week of EFY!

The coordinators of this session thought it would be hilarious if they put the two counselors with the same name together, so that is how I got my co. (No, his name wasn’t Tanney–that is just my pen name!)

This time, I worked with 16-18 year olds. I did really well and learning all their names on the first day.
Our scripture was Jeremiah 16:16 “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” Our name became “They Shall Hunt Them!”

Again, on Monday, we played Family Home Evening games and our session director joined us. 

My co and I had a really good connection with each other (I think it is because we have the same name). Because of this, our group was really excited for EFY. This week, I was also partially in charge of the Musical Program, which meant I couldn’t spend lunch or free time with my company because I had to help with practices. I was really nervous about it as well because I am not very musically talented.

Tuesday’s dance was a fun-tastic night. My co-counselor is an insane dancer! So cool! Everyone loved watching him and cheering him on, especially when he challenged our session director to a dance battle!

Wednesday was THE day for us! My co had never not been in the top 3 for the cheer off, so we pushed and pushed our youth to make the best cheer ever and they did not disappoint–we WON!!!
Pizza night was awesome! Again, funny stories, like the night I had to sleep over in Paddington Station in London and my awkward first kiss. 

Thursday was the day I was most worried about because of the Musical Program. However, that wasn’t until the evening. During the variety show, I had 3 of my youth participate. One played the piano with a song they wrote. One played guitar with his brother with a song they wrote. Another played the guitar to a famous song. They were all very good. Then came dinner and the moment I was dreading. However, the Musical Program went well and as I was directing, I heard sniffling and crying behind me–we had touched them. My kids came up to me and told me I did a good job. At testimony meeting, a few of the youth me and my co were worried about bore their testimonies and we were glad.

Friday during free time, I took my kids to Hokulia Shaved Ice Shack, owned by a Social Studies Teaching Major friend of mine.

The small is HUGE! You get 3 of 30 flavors, and for $1 extra, you can have a scoop of ice cream in the middle or a snow cap made of sweet cream. The best part, EFY counselors get a free small!!! Once we got our shaved ice, we went to watch our boys play basketball.

At the dance, my girls got me to dance with my co. Then, a few of them shyly did too. Not only was he all my girls’ COW (crush of week), but he was numerous other particpants’ crush as well as other counselor’s crush!
Lockdown went pretty smoothly and my girls bought me a bouquet of flowers. 

Again, I love EFY and I am sad I am already half way done. My testimony just keeps building and my love for the youth of our church keeps expanding!

EFY Week 1 – "Work and Glory"

So this summer, I have dedicated a chapter of my life to being an Especially For Youth Counselor for four different weeks this summer.

Especially For Youth is a Mormon church camp. We do numerous church-related activities such as classes and devotionals, but we also do fun things like competitive games and dances.

I have wanted to be a an EFY counselor since I went for the first time at age 14. The requirement to be a female counselor is to have one year of college behind you and be 21.

Done and done!
  This was our theme for this year.  

Sunday night rolls in. I go to the session director fireside–it is amazing! I met my fellow counselors, including my co-counselor Richard.
On Monday, counselors helped with the check-in, then we meet our group. I had 12 girls who were 14 or 15 years old. However, my group was confusing because out of those 12 girls, I had 2 Megans, 2 Kaylas, a Kaylee, and 2 Haileys. After we got to know each other, we met our boys and Richard. Each company (group of boys and girls) are assigned a scripture from which we can create our Company name. 
Ours was Moses 1:39 (the Book of Moses is in the Pearl of Great Price, another set of scriptures used by Mormons including accounts of Moses and Abraham). “For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” So our name became “Work and Glory!”
The rest of Monday was spent playing Family Home Evening games.
Tuesday’s activities included gospel study and classes. After classes and lunch, participants had the opportunity to have free time. After dinner, we had a dance. Of course there are EFY line dances, so we as counselors went crazy-spastic!
Wednesday is basically the same as Tues. But, after dinner, all the participants wear their EFY t-shirts. We make a banner with our Company name on it and create a Company cheer. Then we play against other companies in games and have a cheer-off. 
However, unexpectedly, it rained on Wednesday night. We were able to get our cheers all prepped before hand, so we counselors decided to scrap the banner and the games and load everyone into the closest building and pile them all into an auditorium room. We had the cheer off there, counselors sung and dance, we had noise competitions, and watched our session director’s favorite episode of Kid History. Finally, the rain had stopped, so we went back to the dorms, just in time for pizza night!
This is the night were we stuff our faces full of pizza talking about our COWs (Crush of Week) and crazy-random-happenstance stories. 
Thursday is the spiritual day; we dress up in Sunday clothes. We had gospel study, a fireside, did some youth activities, and had lunch. Then, we had the variety show–allowing the participants to show off their true talents, silly talents, etc. Free time, dinner, then the Musical Program. Participants and Counselors who decide to participate learn a few hymns and EFY church songs and bear their testimonies. Then, we split up into our companies and have our own testimony meeting. 
This is my favorite part of EFY–seeing the light shine through these teenagers as they testify of their faith and knowledge that our church is true is quite the sight to behold. 
Friday was the last day. Youth in our church carry around pamphlets called For the Strength of Youth. We had mini-lessons on each of these strengths. Then, after lunch, we did a service project. This year, it was to thank the different people on campus who help out with EFY. Most of these go to food services, custodial, and the like. Then, they were to write thank-yous to family, friends, and other people they knew. A few of my girls wrote thank-yous to me. I cried. Free time and dinner. Then there was another dance! Crazy insane time!
Lights out each night is 10:30 because youth are expected to be dressed and ready for the day by 7AM. Counselors go door to door, making sure their lights are out and the participants are quiet. However, since they are all expected to be picked up and checked out by 7:30 the next day, Friday night becomes LOCK DOWN — the night all counselors dread!
We are stationed at each end of the hall. We have to make sure their lights are out and they are quiet, but more than that–they need to go to sleep. We aren’t allowed to go to bed until an hour after we can’t hear them at all. This way, they don’t sneak out on the last night. Counselors don’t go to bed until at least midnight. Most counselors go to bed around 1or2 am. I was lucky and was able to go to bed at 12:30. 

Saturday, we said our last goodbyes. But, as I was checking them out of the dorms, I noticed they had heart attacked my door!

This was truly an amazing experience. I was on a spiritual high the whole week and learned so much from these young teenagers. My own testimony was strengthened and I realized that our future lies with them.
It was a wonderful first week of EFY!
“Work, work, work, GLORY!!!!”


“When she tells me her story, she doesn’t stop at the end of the chapter.  She doesn’t stop on the last page of the chapter; she stops three pages before the end of the chapter.  It’s terrible!”

This is what my friend Matt said on the way back from a soccer game. To be honest, I don’t remember what we were talking about.  Matt and I have known each other for almost a year now. He is a wonderful listener and I have appreciated his ear on multiple occasions. He was explaining this about me to Lisa–another soccer team member who had moved in two months ago.

What caught me first was how poetically beautiful this statement was and how it revolved around books and writing (Matt knows this about me–he also happens to read my blogs!). Then, I realized what he was saying.

Do I really stop 3 pages before the end of the chapter? Do I really not go fully into detail? Not finish my story? What am I afraid of?

But really, it reminded me of my Creative Writing Level 2 midterm I wrote back in high school, “Unwritten and Complete”. This song really is my mantra. I am an author, not only of fantasy and poetry, but also of life.

Maybe the reason I don’t end the chapter for Matt is maybe because I’m not ready to end it. Maybe it’s just unfinished and unwritten. Maybe I’m giving others an opportunity to become a shadow writer in My Fairy Tale!