A great work

by Simon Leydon

A great work 2021 youth theme poster

On 6th November 2021, Ipswich Stake held its annual conference for youth aged 14 or more. Due to the pandemic, it was the first conference for youth held since 2019, so both youth and leaders were determined to make the most of it. The theme for the conference was the 2021 annual youth theme, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33–34.)

The day began with a hearty breakfast and then it was an action-packed morning with workshops including CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), family history, physical challenges, goal setting, sharing the gospel, scripture study and even learning about being a ‘Top Gun’ fighter pilot. After lunch, the youth were privileged to hear from guest speaker Lisa Hansen PhD who had flown in especially from Utah, USA. Then it was time to split into three groups and take on three service projects, before returning to the chapel for dinner, a Q&A session with the Stake Presidency, testimony meeting, dancing, and fireworks.

For many that attended the highlights were the afternoon’s service projects. One group worked with East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, who support families and care for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk. The youth attended the Colchester charity shop and helped with filing and sorting through donations of clothes and toys. The shop manager Julie was very grateful for work completed and praised the youth for their positive attitude and work ethic.

The remaining youth split off into two groups, to undertake two projects for Colchester Borough Council, in an area local to the Colchester Chapel. Tasked with clearing the overgrown boundaries of Westlands Country Park and the Prettygate Library car cark and nearby shop parade, the youth and leaders got to work and made quite a difference. Local residents came out of their homes to praise them for their efforts and expressed thanks on the local community Facebook page. Comments included, “Wonderful to see the youngsters, who worked great as a team in the cold and the wind. They are role models for the community”, “Thank you to the young people of the parish for all their hard work and especially to the young man who helped me tip heavy rubbish into our council bin, thank you”, and “I stopped to thank them on behalf of the people of Westlands. It’s so great to see young people getting actively involved in community work. Well done.”

Councillor Leigh Tate, who was present, wrote to Ipswich Stake President Robert Schwartz, to express thanks:

“We were completely and utterly blown away by what they achieved in such a short space of time, and the enthusiasm with which they did so. 

As Councillor Buston said to the teams, ‘I hope they understand the impact they have made and felt good about their day yesterday; with the sense of achievement and the knowledge of how doing small, kind things for others has a real impact on the community.  I hope these are lessons that they will take forward with them in life, that kindness costs nothing and is always the best way and that so much more can be achieved when you work as a team.’

Once again I offer my sincere thanks on behalf of us all and I do hope that you can extend our very grateful thanks to the young people for making such a positive difference to our community.”

Both youth and youth leaders were uplifted and grateful for the chance to serve in the local community, and hope it will be the starting point of a long and fruitful friendship and collaboration.