As we hiked, there was one thing that terrified us. Rocky Ridge. From the moment we started the journey, we heard how hard it would be. As we hiked closer to it, we started to devise all sorts of strategies to get around it. Two of the stronger kids would pull at the front; two other strong ones would take the rear. But as we neared, our leaders threw us a curveball. They stopped us at the ridge and told us the story of Jens and Elsie Nielsen—a husband, who was as big as an ox and his wife who was a tiny petite thing. They compared the husband to our Pa in our group—former football player, and then compared the size of Jen’s wife to the smallest girl in our group—one of our young women with a sweet voice and two braids. They talked about how Jens’ feet were frozen and he couldn’t go any farther, he told his wife to leave without him, and she said, “Get in the cart and ride. I cannot leave you; I can pull the cart.” And so she pulled him sixteen miles with steep slopes all along the way. She said that surely the angels helped push her that day. And I believed it because I knew how hard it was to pull a cart…and with such a heavy load, I couldn’t imagine. I knew if I were Elsie, I would try to do what she did, but unless I had divine intervention, no way would I succeed.

After telling us this story, the Ma’s were asked to pull their husbands up Rocky Ridge by themselves. The kids were told to go up the ridge and wait for them there and watch.

The kids were NOT happy.

The kids had grown attached to these women who had mothered them throughout the hike. They knew how hard it was to pull the handcarts. We would’ve struggled to get the handcart up the ridge by ourselves, but now Ma had to do it? With Pa in the cart? By herself? We all knew Ma was tired, but still the Ma’s tried to do it. With the faith that Elsie had, they took a few steps. And then the kids were asked to run down the hill and be the angels who would help Elsie. No longer were the kids complaining about the hill. They were helping their Ma, whom they loved. They pushed the handcart harder and with more heart than they would’ve before and gladly. They were in her service.

This really touched all of us; there were so many analogies to pull from this experience. One; it showed the love that Elsie had for her husband. Two; it showed how we pull handcarts in life and if we just have the faith and take that first step of courage, that angels will be around us to bear us up—whether it be divine intervention or the good people around us that can act as angels. However, I really loved the testimony of a little girl that night when she recalled this Rocky Ridge experience and applied it to her own life. She said that her mother came from Guatemala, and that she worked very hard to give the family a better life. The girl talked about the handcarts and how she felt they represented the sacrifices her single mother gave her family. She said that she could see her mother pulling her in her handcart up Rocky Ridge, and that her mother would do anything for her. She admitted that she was the typical teenager and always gave her mom a hard time, but now she would make a renewed effort to help her mother push this ‘symbolic’ handcart instead of being another burden her mother had to bear. It made me think how I could help those in my life too. It was very thought-provoking.

Tomorrow: The End of the trail. Or is it?