You’ve looked forward to the last day of school, and now it’s almost here. So what are you going to do this summer? Okay, okay, but besides vacations, part-time jobs, a little rest and relaxation, hanging with your friends, and the obligatory chores around the house? There has to be more to summer than that, right?
We think so. That’s why we spanned the globe discovering what other teens have done to keep themselves occupied and spiritually fit during the summer. What we found is that they took King Benjamin’s sermon to heart. Ask them now and they’ll concur that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (see Mosiah 2:17).
Read about their experiences. We believe they will inspire you.
Roswell Georgia Stake
The youth leaders in the Roswell Georgia Stake run a tight ship. Youth activities for the stake are planned well in advance and put on the stake calendar. Once an activity appears on the calendar, it doesn’t move or change. In fact, it’s sort of a joke that the only things that might change the schedule of activities in the Roswell area are “death and tornado.”
A natural disaster of any kind, however, was the furthest thing from anybody’s mind when the youth council planned a fun “mini-youth-conference” for a weekend in the spring. There would be speakers on a variety of interesting subjects, some fun activities, and a dance.
Then, three weeks before the mini-conference, the unthinkable happened. A tornado touched down in the Roswell area. Andrew Opp, a priest and a leader on the stake youth council in Roswell, and his sister, Emily, helped in the massive cleanup effort. After several days of helping his dad and other men in his ward and stake move trees and other debris from driveways, yards, and roofs, Andrew had an idea.
“I looked around and realized that even after a day’s work, we were hardly putting a dent in things,” said Andrew. Why not postpone the youth conference and have a day-long cleanup project instead? After all, it was on the list of reasons to change the stake schedule. After getting the leaders’ approval, they formulated a plan and announced the change.
“The youth in our stake are really great,” said Andrew. “Everyone always pitches in and gets the job done right.”
And they did. Guys and girls worked hard all day in neighborhoods that looked like war zones, lifting and clearing debris.
The tornado hit hard at Dagmara Walczak’s house. Dagmara is a Laurel in the stake, and her home is in a neighborhood that felt the full force of the tornado.
“I thought it was great that in a time of need people from our church came and helped out. It really makes you feel loved,” she said.
And what of the originally planned activity? Were the youth that excited to give up a day of fun for a day of hard work, sweat, and tree sap? You bet.
“This is fun because you can chat with your friends while you work,” said 17-year-old Ben Jarvis. “And besides, these people are our friends and neighbors; it gave us all a good feeling to help them out.”
La Verne California Stake
As the 100th birthday of the El Buen Pastor Church in Pomona, California, approached, the congregation had concerns about the state of its building and premises. Looking for a chance to help a neighbor, the youth of the La Verne California Stake decided to pitch in and spruce up the church for its celebration. El Buen supplied the paint and the LDS youth came with a willing attitude, painting the church’s exterior in only four hours. The youth tore out old carpet, sanded and repainted the pews, and landscaped the grounds. Many members of the El Buen Pastor Church were touched by the service, and one parishioner, a member of the Pastor Church for more than 60 years, said she was so grateful to the LDS youth who restored their church to its former beauty.
Manassas Virginia Stake
They came with square pillows and round pillows, plaid pillows, flowered pillows, and frilly pillows.
But it wasn’t a giant slumber party. Women throughout the stake sewed special pillows for the 175 young women who would attend girls’ camp as a visual reminder that “someone in their stake family loves them.” Accompanying each pillow was a personal letter from the pillow’s creator.
Rebecca Patten keeps her letter in a special book where she saves all of her spiritually uplifting things. “My letter was so perfect for me. It was all about something I needed to hear. I loved the pillow, but when I read the letter it made the pillow all the more special,” she said.
Later, the young women met with the women of the stake who wrote the letters and made the pillows. As they headed home after the reunion, they realized that not only did they have families that love them but people throughout the stake family loved them too. It was a nice thought to sleep on.
Erdenet Mongolia Branch
They cooked pizza on reflector ovens; they sang, danced, had classes, and even ate a meal with hot dogs as the main course. Twenty-three young women from the Erdenet Mongolia Branch strengthened each other as they spent three days at girls’ camp in the Mongolian countryside in Bugat. At the testimony meeting they spoke of their love for the Savior and for each other, and of their gratitude for the Church.
O’Fallon Illinois Stake
The Bucket Brigade, also known as the youth of the O’Fallon Illinois Stake, joined forces to paint a house in desperate need of a new coat of paint. This is the 11th consecutive year the Bucket Brigade has done work to make their community a nicer place to live.
Charleston and Columbia South Carolina Stakes
Charleston County (South Carolina) school superintendent, Chip Zullinger, figured Chicora Elementary School received $100,000 worth of help, help that is hard to come by because of lack of funding.
When youth from the Charleston and Columbia stakes volunteered their time to fix up the school for the beginning of classes, teachers, administrators, and students were grateful. In a true student-helping-student effort, the LDS teens scraped paint from peeling walls, repaired damaged ceiling tiles, and did general cleaning throughout the building.
“It was fun making the school look nicer for the little kids,” said Rachel Bonitz.
Orem (Utah) Sunset Heights Stake
With five missionaries from the stake serving missions in Thailand, the youth of the Orem Sunset Heights Stake decided to write primer reading books for Thai schoolchildren about such topics as honesty, obedience, and friendship. The youth supplemented the text with pictures; then they folded, collated, and colored the books before they were printed and bound. Local businesses donated the paper and markers, as well as underwriting the printing costs.
Through video, missionaries in Thailand then documented the children’s receiving the books so the LDS youth in Utah could see the fruits of their labors and make a connection with the children thousands of miles away.
Nuremberg Germany Stake
Seventy-five youth and 15 leaders from the Nuremberg Germany Stake met on the outskirts of Garmisch-Partenkirchen for what leaders hoped would be both a physical and spiritual challenge during a four-day hike through the Bavarian Alps.
Each day of the hike began with a scriptural theme, and each day brought a different physical challenge—whether it was hiking up a trail or putting gear on rubber rafts so they could paddle across a lake.
In the end, they met their goal, and a fireside talk about not running faster than you are able was particularly applicable. “It was a hard tour for us physically, but we had some good experiences,” said Jennifer Kopischke.
Aurora Colorado Stake
When they completed the cleanup project, the youth of the Aurora Colorado Stake had combined to contribute more than 1,000 service hours. Impressive, yes. But try these stats on. This is what happened amidst the 1,000 hours.
During the three days of service in this Denver suburb, the youth removed 632 bags of trash from 147 alleyways, they cleaned and painted 47 graffiti-ridden sites, they returned 142 shopping carts to the various stores, as well as gathering and hauling away large discarded items such as mattresses, windows, carpet sections, tires, and shrubs. Although it is usually the citizens’ responsibility to keep their homes and areas nice, this neighborhood is full of elderly and disabled residents.
One young woman summed up feelings the entire group had: “I feel good when I help people, and this really made a difference because it made the area a more beautiful place to live.”
Hamilton (Montana) Ward
Last June, 46 young men and women of the Hamilton Ward made a trip to the Cardston Alberta Temple to do baptisms for the dead. It was the largest youth temple turnout in ward history. On their way to the temple, they stopped at Glacier National Park, and in Cardston they visited the Remington-Alberta Carriage Centre, home to the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America.
But the real reason for the trip was the temple. The youth performed more than 300 baptisms for the dead, with all the names prepared for temple ordinances and provided by Hamilton Ward members.
In the several months leading up to the trip, the ward held classes and activities to assist the youth in learning about family history.
Cape Town South Africa Stake
The youth from the Cape Town South Africa Stake read from Ephesians 5:9 [Eph. 5:9]: “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” That was the theme of their youth conference. Then they began a two-day work project where they repaired and remodeled a wooden building that would be converted to a day-care center for five small settlements at Du Noon outside of Cape Town.
The youth straightened and reinforced a dilapidated wall and removed rotting boards so new ones could be installed. They landscaped the outside property, replaced and cleaned windows, and sanded and varnished the wood.
“I didn’t think work could be such fun,” said Siyabulela Mavula of the Guguletu Branch. “What made it more enjoyable than other work was the fact that we were all friends and we were helping these people who couldn’t help themselves.”