News Story

Coomera Youth Re-enact Pioneer Trek

Young Queenslanders learn about faith and courage through re-enactment of 19th Century Latter-day Saint pioneer trek

Teenagers from Coomera, Australia recently participated in a youth pioneer trek.

The activity helped many gain a greater appreciation of overcoming difficulties through faith, hard work and unity.

Coomera youth pulling hand carts as part of the pioneer trek re-enactment.© 2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

110 youth aged between 12 and 18, and 60 leaders and helpers were part of a pioneer experience in period costume.

They put away their digital devices and prepared their minds and hearts as best as they could in order to pull their handcarts on foot over the three-day journey travelling 47 kilometres from Moore to Yarraman in regional Queensland.

They learned together they can do hard things as they exercised "faith in every footstep," which was the theme of the trek.

"Following the Saviour Jesus Christ will help increase our faith in Him and our Heavenly Father,” Coomera Latter-day Saint leader, Joseph Skipps, said in an address to the youth.

The trek was nine months in planning under the direction of David Ubeda, another local Church leader.

“The trek was a re-enactment of the Mormon Pioneers pulling handcarts with minimal belongings and spanning 1800 kilometres," Ubeda said.

"This was a forced migration to a place remotely inhabited where some 30,000 members from all over Europe could settle in peace. Many died and were buried in shallow graves. These youth honoured that sacrifice by their endurance in completing the trek."

Coomera youth with their Ma's and Pa's (youth leaders) taking part in the trek© 2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Youth from each ward (congregation) were arranged into family groups lead by a "Ma and Pa," who were a real-life married couple. They experienced the entire trek together as a family. Ma's and Pa's were responsible for supervising and guiding their 'families' as together, they pulled the carts, ate meals, held devotionals, and watched out for each other.

As part of the experience, the trekkers encountered actors dressed as Brigham Young, mountain men, trappers, soldiers and Native Americans who told their stories along the trail, as in the 1840s.

An excerpt from the journal of 'Ma' Tuata Angus reads, "I saw Jesus Christ in the Pa’s being good shepherds, guiding family members on our journey, being protective and watchful, leading by example. I saw Christ in your countenances, clear, brighter and stronger than before. You triumphed! You are extraordinary! You are becoming truer disciples of Christ."

A team of cooks provided nourishing meals to the trekkers every day.

Coomera youth on the trail.© 2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

While many youth were initially reluctant to attend, they afterwards commented on how grateful they were for their experience.

Janet Arthur, a local Church leader who was instrumental in bringing the trek to life and attended as a Ma, said, "This was the first Trek for Coomera Stake. The youth were amazing! Tired and sore, they soldiered on."

She added, "I was glad to have the experience of walking with the youth. It wasn’t easy at all. Miracles occurred, like I saw youth comforting other youth to help them keep going. I saw youth carrying some of the injured youth on their carts. I saw youth singing together, playing authentically reproduced games together, putting up their tents, eating, having fun together, dancing together, bearing their testimonies."

Ammon Frost, who acted as the Trail Boss, expressed his thoughts as he told the youth, "What I asked of you each day you gave me. Respect for me, respect for yourselves with your smiles and your great attitudes, and respect for the land as you walked. I discovered at the end of trek I had over 100 new friends.”

Maioha Orth walked with the youth as the photographer, and said, "It was an incredible experience trekking with the youth and documenting their journey. I look forward to sending my own children when they are old enough so they can gain even just some small appreciation for the pioneers and to strengthen their bonds with their own peers."

As they pulled their wagons through the final gate they were cheering and singing together 'Come, Come, Ye Saints', which was written by William Clayton, one of the Saints whose story was being re-enacted.

Photographs by Maioha Orth

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