Catholic teens from Spain join LDS handcart trek
By Greg Hill
LDS Church News
Monday, Aug. 11, 2008
With 18 Catholic students from
Spain walking alongside them, Mormon youths of the
Pleasant Grove Utah Stake had a unique handcart trek
in Wyoming over Pioneer Day week in July. Friendships
and understanding grew out of the experience at
Martin's Cove, Rocky Ridge and Rock Creek Hollow.
The trek was one of various activities over several
weeks for students, ages 14-18, most from the Medio
Ambiente Maristas School in Burgos, Spain, visiting
Utah under a program directed by Don and Ra'Shelle
Wilson. The Wilsons, who have been involved for six
years in the program hosting students from the school
for the summer, are members of the Pleasant Grove Utah
Stake. When they heard about their stake's handcart
trek, they arranged for the visitors to go along. A
different group of students come to Utah each summer
to study English and learn about America.
There were 10 girls and eight boys in the group under
the direction of their religion and English teacher,
Other stakes pitched in to help the Spanish visitors,
one providing pioneer clothing and another supplying
copies of the Book of Mormon to put with the other
supplies in their trek buckets. The students were also
encouraged to work on a physical training program
prior to coming to the States.
Asked to report on their trek experience, most of the
Spanish youths responded that it was hard, but that
they were glad they finished it and were happy with
the new American friends they made.
Victor Esteban, 17, wrote, "I think that the trek was
a good experience for all of us, although it was hard
and hot and sometimes sad. With these experiences, we
can better understand the Mormon religion and the
history of this country."
Andrea Rivas, 17, said the trek was hard, but added,
"I am very proud of having done the trek and now I can
better understand how this experience was for the
Sara Gago, 15, reported, "The trek was very hard, but
fun. The first day we walked a little and then we
walked a lot. It was very hard. But now I can only
remember the good things and the people were very
nice. ... I think that I am never going to forget
Javier Hortiguela, 17, admitted he knew in advance the
trek would be hard and that he didn't want to do it.
"But now that I have done this thing," he wrote, "I
think the trek is one of the most wonderful things
that I have ever done, and I want to say thank you
because now I have more friends and I can say that I
did the incredible trek! I know I can do hard things
like this. I had a wonderful trek family who loved me,
so I want to thank you very much for this experience,
although I am not a part of your church.
The Wilsons said that original plans were for the
students to be part of the group from the stake's
Spanish-speaking ward. But mixing them among the
English-speaking youths gave them a great
English-learning experience on the trek and they
talked as they walked, and learned and sang Primary
Ra'Shelle Wilson said the love and kindness of the
youths and leaders from the stake has built a bridge
"that spans from Pleasant Grove, Utah, USA, to Burgos,
Spain, where through continued e-mails and contacts,
even great friendships will continue to grow stronger
and seeds of understanding can be cultivated."
Kevin Walker, first counselor in the stake presidency
and overseer of trek planning, said, "I was absolutely
amazed at how out of the way the stake's kids went to
be friendly to the Spanish kids. They rallied around
them and made them feel a part of what we were doing.
Nobody told them to. We just let it happen."
At the request of the stake's youth, an impromptu trek
reunion was organized the Saturday evening before the
students returned home so the new friends could get
together one more time. About 150 of the 208 who went
on the trek showed up at the parking lot of a
meetinghouse to sing, dance and talk one more time,
according to Walker.
Expressing his feelings, Diez said, "Thank you very
much to everyone who let me be a pioneer in this 2008
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