Zion’s Camp prepared leaders for the trek West—today’s premium mission prep camp prepares women and men to serve in confidence.
When Claudette Gerrard heard President Monson on October 6, 2012, announce the change in the missionary age requirement, the thought came to her, What about doing a high adventure mission preparation camp at Southern Virginia University? She passed her idea on to University officials and the idea developed legs.
Seeing these young adults after their missions is a thrill for me because I can match them with the boy or young woman, who came to Zion’s Camp filled with trepidation and uncertainty. Now full of life and animation and a new set of hopes and dreams—they are a joy.
But, I can speak from experience when you see a grandson, who might not have gone write his first letter home and say “The MTC is just like Zion’s Camp.” Or when you hear that an occasional instructor at the Provo MTC say they can identify a Zion’s Camp participant because they are performing well ahead of schedule. You thank the Lord again for being a part of something far greater than just herding teenagers from one rah-rah experience to another.
Aubrey Bushard served in Montana. Zion’s Camp was a pivotal moment in helping her choose to serve.
“Before my mission, I struggled with feeling capable of serving a mission, I didn’t know if I would be spiritually strong enough to go out and teach the gospel... I remember... my prayer was ‘Heavenly Father can I do this? Is this a thing that I am capable of doing?’ And I just felt the calmest assurance that I can do it. That experience and the entire scope of Zion’s Camp was really enabling.”
Christopher Fly attend Zion’s Camp all four years before his mission. This is why:
"Well the first time that I came, was in 2013. I wasn't technically old enough. I was a year behind the recommended age, but my mom said, 'Hey, I'm signing you and your brother Jay up for this mission preparation camp, it should be fun.' So I went in 2013 and I absolutely loved it, so I went back the next few years.
"I felt extremely prepared to enter the MTC. I had the opportunity and the blessing to go to Zion's Camp four times. When I went to the MTC in Mexico, I was there for six weeks but you could just tell that I was just leagues more prepared than other elders.
"I got the benefit of just focusing on Spanish when I was in Mexico City and not having to worry about learning how to teach, because I already knew how from Zion's Camp."
For some young women who attended Zion’s Camp, their time to sort things out regarding a mission has resulted in choosing marriage. One is my own granddaughter, whom I will seal this summer to her eternal companion in the Payson Temple.
Cherilyn King, a mother, wrote:
"I’ve been grateful for the lasting effects of my son’s time at Zion's Camp. His experience was profound. He came home determined to be a better person.
"We loved hearing stories about his week there, his leaders, and his new friends. As he now prepares for a full-time mission he has the confidence from his time at Zion's Camp that he knows what to expect and a has a real taste of what a mission will be like. While I’m sure his full-time mission will bring significant challenges, I fully expect that the strength and perspective my son gained from his Zion's Camp experience will help him overcome."
Zion’s Camp 2018 will be a splendid experience. Not only will missionaries learn to use the latest techniques being used across the world but also they will experience and then discuss speakers who served as mission presidents, temple presidents, and mission president’s wives as well as those who are currently serving as bishops, institute instructors, and stake presidents.
Recently returned missionary counselors will mentor youth 24/7 in organized zones to provide support and help each participant to perform at his or her best. The prospective missionaries learn to prepare and give a talk in five minutes in addition to receiving instruction in etiquette, cooking, personal finances, and personal fitness.
One highlight of Zion’s Camp is a hike up the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Pleasant, the only 360-degree meadow view on the entire trail. Here Camp participants have time to have an "Enos Experience" on their own.
The University and several donors sponsor Zion’s Camp. It is a non-profit program. Not well known yet but steadily growing in popularity, Zion’s Camp takes place on campus.
We still have the dorm capacity to handle another 20 or so men and about the same number of women for our July 23-28 camp.
Ultimately, the take away from Zion’s Camp is for an individual to go home with confidence that he or she can teach, confidence that they can live the missionary style and confidence that they will make friends and enjoy meeting people from across the country. Which all makes it so that they can maximize their training in the MTC and thus hit the mission field in a dead run. That is the objective of the summer camp.
Zion’s Camp is only six days long, but in that week we see tremendous strides in self-confidence. Our long-time theme of Zion’s Camp is “I can do hard things” (Philippians 4:13).
Take a look at our site: svu.edu/zionscamp
A $30 deposit will secure a place in the 2018 Zion’s Camp. The total cost of board and room and materials is $350. Applicants are accepted on a first come by submitting the reservation fee. Final payment of $320. The camp is hosted by Southern Virginia University July 23-28, 2018.
Pick-up and delivery are available at Roanoke Regional Airport.