This summer, Southern Virginia University has hosted what can only be called a plethora of summer camps. Well, I suppose it could also be called a lot of summer camps. A previous post has already detailed the experience at the Figure Drawing and Painting Workshop. While I didn’t have the pleasure of participating in any of these camps, my younger brother, who is not (yet) a Southern Virginia student, did. Last week, some sixty young men and women — including my brother Zac — swamped the Southern Virginia campus to attend Zion’s Camp, a high adventure mission prep camp. I interviewed Zac to see how it went and what Zion’s Camp was all about:
Q: So, brother of mine, last week you attended Zion’s Camp here at Southern Virginia. Don’t try to deny it; I saw you there. How did it go and what was it all about?
Zac: It, fortunately, was not a trek into Missouri that resulted in death, disease, blisters, heat, hunger and other extreme hardship. Nevertheless, there was a strong undercurrent of learning to do hard things. We climbed a mountain, climbed a ropes course, got up early, ate junk food, went an entire week without technology, were forced to stay with a comp at all times, and were confined to wearing church dress nearly the entire time.
Q: The purpose of the camp was to help prepare you for full-time missionary service. What lessons did you pick up, take away, or otherwise extract from your experience that you think will help you as a missionary?
Zac: Well, I picked up on the fact that a mission is hard (but well worth it). I took away a well-used and fully filled notebook with amazing things that I learned and I extracted quite a bit of gunk from the dishes of my fellow district members while doing the dishes every night.
Q: We couldn’t possibly go over all the different activities in which you participated during the course of the camp, but what would you say was the most exciting, adventurous, or memorable experience that you had?
Zac: Under the memorable category, I would say that the Zone Conferences were definitely the best part. That’s where we really learned the sort of doctrine that I think will help us become great missionaries, and great people in the meantime. I’ll definitely remember what I learned in the conferences.
The rest was — of course — all exciting, from the ropes course to the hike on Mt. Pleasure. Oh, and the chances we had to practice teaching. That was a little intimidating, but very exciting.
Q: I understand that the camp took an excursion to Appomattox. Firstly, could you have correctly pronounced Appomattox before Zion’s Camp? Secondly, what did you learn there?
Zac: You mean it’s not pronounced hippopotamus?
I found it a fun learning experience, and I learned lots of historical things. As I already mentioned, one of the themes of Zion’s Camp was the importance of doing hard things. The soldiers at Appomattox, on both sides, did something very hard and many even sacrificed their lives, all for something that they thought was more important. I think the principles of self-sacrifice and dedication are going to be important in the mission.
Q: Indeed, a full-time mission can be incredibly challenging. I must admit that even I found it so. But while I was bleeding sweaty tears in the jungles of Bolivia, it was a comfort for me to know that I was setting a superb example for you and that other brother of ours. You must be extremely grateful to have such an elder brother.
Zac: I have no response to that.
Q: Oh well. To conclude, what would you say to other young men and women considering attending Zion’s Camp next year?
Zac: Zion’s Camp was fun, spiritual, and — if you don’t mind the cliché — life-changing. Sometimes it was hard, but other times it was a little bit less hard. But honestly, I couldn’t really think of anything negative to say about the camp if you asked me to.
Basically, I guess this is all just a strange roundabout way of saying that I thought it was great. I felt a spirit that I think will go beyond that week and many other weeks besides. It was a spirit of learning and enlightenment. It may not have been the easiest week of my life, but it truly inspired me to rededicate myself to preparing to serve a full-time mission.
Q: Well thanks, bro. You’ll be a fiendishly great missionary one day. Remember that you’re a Johnson, and that makes you unique. Just like the other 2 million Johnsons in the United States alone. Make us proud.
(Post by Alec Johnson ’14. Photos by Lindsey Morgan ’13.)