Saving the Best for Last- Elite EFY.

After all the talk and excitement and been waiting for this moment for MONTHS... it finally came! Sadly, it flew by WAY too fast. But holy cow, I did not know what I was getting into. 
It was named the Elite EFY group. Kids were coming from ALL over the country. It was a different session than all the other EFY sessions that had been going on this summer. 
It started off with the airport...oh the excitement and joy that happened when I was reunited with Liz and Kaycie that day after a week of separation. We were also very excited to actually be there! 
Sunday night we had dinner and a message from our session director at the Hill Cumorah. Yes, it was UNREAL. I was getting so excited for the week ahead and thinking about all the different things I will get to experience. I wanted to make it an amazing week for myself and the youth...and to "finish well" like our session director told us. And here I was... living, breathing, and experience CHURCH HISTORY.
I was pumped. 

We got off to a great start Monday night when we had to do a mandatory fire drill from the Palmyra Inn. That was a treat. Real bonding moment with my girls, of course. 
Every night we got to go somewhere cool for devotional. Our first night, we were outside of the Smith Log Home. It was awesome enough that I got to be a counselor that week and have my own kids to teach, but to teach at such a cool place? again, unreal. 
This is how Tuesday went:
We started our morning going to the Sacred Grove for 2 hours just to have our own personal time as a group to walk around, study our scriptures, and write in our journals. It was a beautiful summer morning as I read The First Vision. I would just pause and look around at the pretty greenery and couldn't even believe I was here. All that I have read about, all that had happened ... I was right there. Incredible feeling. I've been to the Sacred Grove before, but this was a more special experience for me this time around. 
Up next, we got a tour of  the Smith Log Home and Frame Home
Following that, we went to the Grandin building, the place where the first 5,00 Book of Mormons were published. It's amazing to see how much effort and time that took place just for ONE book to be published. 
We then got to go to the Palmyra temple and perform baptisms. It will be an experience that I will never forget. I was surrounded by amazing youth that I have grown to know and love so much in just 2 days already. But to have all 24 of them in there with me plus the boys on the EFY team made it so personal and incredible. 
We ended our night jamming to those good ol' efy tunes and dancing with some cuties. 
Then Wednesday consisted of the following few items:
We started off the day, getting on a school bus and going to the Peter Whitmer Farm, where the church was first organized. 
And had a little extra time there, and it was rainy, but we had a fun time. Clearly. 
Then we came back and went to the Hill Cumorah/ Visitor Center
There was a table of Book of Mormons that were translated in a lot of different languages. It was so cool to look through each of those books and see that we are spreading throughout the world!
And we got to watch the Joseph Smith Movie about how the church was restored... SO cool to be watching it in a place where Joseph Smith once lived and experienced some of those things that brought back the church. I may or may not have cried a little bit.
Oh ya, these two boys- you can tell they were quite the characters huh? 
And sadly it was still raining so we couldn't sit on the hill for the last hour we had, but we walked up there, took some pics, hung out ,and had a good time all around. One of my kids may or may not have thought it was a good idea to start rolling down the hill.Ya, not smart. 
That night was games night. And due to the rain, we held it inside the church. Quite the adventure. And I am proud of my kids cause we placed 2nd in cheer! And yes, our family name was Hale. You could only imagine the things they TRIED to pull off. Nope, didn't work. They were just being funny ones. 
And did I mention what a joy it was that this Sweet Kaycie and I got to spend our LAST week as a counselor/at EFY together? And we got to be roommates? So fun. We've been on this grand adventure for 5 years together so it was sad it would be our last. 
I love Pizza night! I especially loved this pizza night because I got to hang out with MY girls and get the juicy details on the boys/counselors they were crushin' on... and, of course, have a dance party. I did that stuff every week, but because I knew these girls a lot better, it made for a great time.
Thursday was yet another awesome day, and a little bit more like the regular EFY sessions. BUT, we did get to spend some more time in the Sacred Grove that morning before we went to the Church for the rest of the day. All 24 of my kids participated in the musical program that night. It was weird not worrying about them during free time and even right before the program started. I just had to walk in with my co, Jordan, and sit, relax, and enjoy. I felt like the proudest mama EVER when I sat down and tried to find all 24 of them up on stage. Even 11 of them had either speaking or singing parts. It was the best one I went to all summer. Not just because my kids were in it (okay, that has a lot to do with it) but also because of where we were and over half the kids in the entire session participated. It was powerful and very cool to experience that. 
And, of course, another highlight was getting to spend time with these 2 ladies from my southeast team! Although I was having the time of my life as a counselor, I was missing being with them and our team all the time.But I wouldn't have exchanged this week as a counselor for anything!
And to end our incredible night, we got to go to the Hill Cumorah again with our session director. We walked up a path that wrapped around to the top in silence and without flashlights. It was a good time to just ponder and think about what Joseph Smith must have felt like as he went up to get the plates, knowing that his life would change forever and that people would be after him. He really was a remarkable man with so much faith and courage. Being there was a great way to end an awesome Thursday. 
I couldn't believe Friday was already here! I have had some incredible experiences this week and have grown to know and LOVE these kids so much. Seriously, they were an elite group of kids I got to be with that week. They always wanted to be together and wanted me to be with them too! During lunch and dinner time, they would pull circle tables together so we could all sit together. They were so tender.
And obviously, comical. 
And I loved getting to meet new friends that week! Yes, I meet new people all the time in the southeast sessions, but it was a little different. I was going up there only knowing Kaycie and Liz. I'm used to knowing at least 10-15 other counselors so I was a little nervous.  These people have already bonded and have become close for the past 6 weeks, but they were all so open and loving to us newbies that week. Seriously, love those people up there. And some of them are even out in Provo so it's been fun to see them and hang out a few times! 
And I loved my CUTE, ADORABLE, FUN girls! I feel like I had the best of the best! They were like my little sisters all week! I'm glad that they still like to keep in touch with me and give me any new and exciting updates from time to time. They were so loving and kind to each other from day 1 as complete strangers. It was like they all already knew each other from before because they got along SO well. I know it wasn't by accident that these girls came together. 
And I had to put this picture in to show what he back of the church looked like. This is where our company spot was. I was obsessed with it! 
And oh, my boys....can't you just tell how much trouble I had to deal with? Just kidding. These boys were like my little brothers that I got to boss around and get away with it. They always put a smile on my face and made me laugh. I miss those little trouble makers. 
And we can't forget my awesome co, Jordan! He was the greatest. He was so nice and welcoming to me, and always kept me in the know with things that the east coast does different from the south. He has a strong testimony of this church and loved what he was doing. We had a pretty fun week. 
But I did share some tender moments with my kids.
They wrote me sweet notes, made me flowers out of napkins, and loved me. 
We grew strong together as a group that week.
We experienced amazing things together and would feel one another's happiness from this wonderful gospel. They strengthened me and lifted me up that week. And of course, kept me smiling.
Our group made a few goals at the beginning of the week and we completed ALL of them! The last on the list was to win the water challenge! The health counselors like the kids to stay hydrated so they give them somewhat of a bribe. 
Well, I am happy to report, we won the water challenge and enjoyed our delicious treats at the end of the week! It was pretty cool to see the excitement on their faces and how they felt for completing their goals that week. 
And these fine gentleman were the heart throbs of the week. BC's Jason and Dax, and Health Counselor Karl. My girls LOVED them. It was so funny and entertaining to listen to my girls talk about them all week. And just like every teenage girl at EFY tries to do with their counselor is set them up. I would constantly get comments from my kids all week about how I should date one of them. Sometimes it was entertaining, other times it was slightly on the embarrassing side. But let's be honest, I never really feel embarrassed at EFY.
I hate Saturday mornings, especially after an amazing, incredible session like this. I got up early to say bye to my kids only to find out that half of them had already left on a shuttle. I was so sad! 
However, I get to the airport and got to see some of my kids! 3 of them were waiting on me because the airlines wouldn't check in a younger sister of there's unless there was someone 18 or older with them. (that's another long story) But I was such a happy Mom when I saw a few of them running over to us as I was checking in. 
And then going through security with a few of them, I started counting them off again. Bad habit I guess? But I come through and see even MORE of my kids. I wish I got to see all of them, but I was happy I still got to see a few. 
One of the cool things about having my 5 hour layover in Detroit was the cool tunnel! 
Yep, that was about it. 
But this week of EFY was incredible. It changed my life and strengthened my testimony more than I could have imagined. All week I kept thinking, how did I deserve this? how did I get selected to be a part of something THIS incredible? 
I was a lucky girl that week, that's for sure.
That week was something I couldn't even put into words. Amazing, incredible, outstanding.. those words don't even come close to how I felt about that week. 
I miss it. a lot. 
It was my last week of EFY and I couldn't have imagined it ending any other way. 
And so begins the EFY post depression. Ask any of my fellow EFYers, it exists. 


WhitneySue said...

I'm from Utah and am obsessed with EFY. I've done 4 sessions (+one express session) and I did SLC special edition last year and am really wanting to do Palmyra this year. Your post makes it sound WAY fun! Hope I get to go!


Anonymous said...

I'm thinking of going to EFY palmyra this year and am wondering if there's transportation from the airport to the place where you stay?