No matter where you travel in the world, you will find friends helping friends, neighbors helping neighbors. Sometimes the help offered will be on a very simple, very personal level, while at other times it can be on big projects like harvesting crops or even building a new home.
Well, 180 youth of the Redmond Washington Stake decided to offer their help on a big project—constructing the basic shell of a new home for a Latter-day Saint family, and building a storage barn for a non-member family. Both families paid for the cost of construction or provided the necessary materials. For example, the Latter-day Saint family, Brother and Sister Warren and Jaydene Dazey and their six children, had used a portable sawmill to cut tree logs into the lumber needed for their house.
The project was planned as a youth conference and the youth were divided into two well-supervised teams so that both the house and the barn were under construction at the same time. There were a lot of details and a number of challenges to be met before the conference got underway—for example, the concrete foundations for the two buildings were poured in advance—but the result was worth the effort involved. In addition to the goodwill and friendships that the project generated, the youth had the opportunity to experience the joy and satisfaction that comes in serving others. Building the house and the barn helped build testimonies, and those testimonies were shared at a special sacrament meeting held on the Sunday following three days of hard work.
The photographs on these pages tell the story, and an accompanying article gives some idea of how the conference was planned.
Why was this youth conference project successful? Why did the youth say, “Let’s do the same thing next year!” Here are a few guidelines that might be helpful for you in planning a special youth activity.
1. Prayerfully decide on the activity.
A counselor in the stake Young Women presidency was given the assignment of prayerfully searching for youth conference ideas. As she reviewed past activities, she realized that the stake had often tried to entertain the youth instead of getting them involved in a meaningful, testimony-building activity. Her recommendation for a service project was approved by the stake leadership and the search was on for the appropriate activity.
2. Prayerfully select specialists.
Once the project was decided, the stake looked for the technical help required to plan and oversee construction. The Tanners, a new couple in the stake, had knowledge and experience in construction that was vital to the project. For example, five days before construction was supposed to begin, it was discovered that the plans for the house did not meet local government building specifications. Brother Tanner and another builder worked many hours to re-draw the plans. Then the manufacturer of the roof trusses said he couldn’t assemble and deliver them until three days after the youth conference was scheduled. Brother Tanner knew how to negotiate with the manufacturer to get the trusses there on time.
3. Prayerfully decide who you are going to help.
Mr. and Mrs. Ward Roney, well known in the community as active members of the Catholic church, might have rejected the offer of help from Latter-day Saints. However, the Roneys and Brother and Sister Dazey and their family had been carefully, and prayerfully chosen. When a stake high councilor approached Mr. Roney and suggested replacing a barn that was destroyed by a storm, he was overwhelmed. As a result of the stake youths’ efforts, the Roney family allowed their daughter to attend stake girls’ camp, invited the stake to hold activities at their farm, and set up a scholarship fund for stake youth.
4. If the event is newsworthy, invite newspapers and television.
When the television and newspapers were informed about the project they each said they would send a reporter out for a few minutes. Although reluctant at first, the reporters were so impressed with the work being done they stayed for up to three hours. Favorable reports appeared in newspapers and on local television news.
5. Publicize and recruit.
It took time for some of the youth in the stake to get used to the idea of a service-oriented conference. The stake youth leadership held a fireside to build up enthusiasm. One boy, Todd, who at first did not want to become involved in the project, later surprised everyone with his enthusiasm. The builders showed him what needed to be done, and he worked like a professional. Todd also developed a good relationship with another, rather lonely boy, by working with him and showing him how to use tools. The two boys not only established a friendship between themselves but with the adults as well.
6. Hold frequent planning meetings.
The project planning committee met every two weeks for three months prior to the conference. The meetings were needed to make sure that all the arrangements had been made and preparations were going according to plan.
7. Plan fun activities for the evenings.
Even though the youth worked hard during the day, they still had energy left over for evening activities like dancing, singing around a campfire, and even competing with each other trying to climb a greased pole. After each evening’s fun time, the youth went home and came back the next day ready for more work.