POCATELLO — Shoes for water.
That may sound like an unusual combination, but an African charity recently asked the LDS Young Adult Stakes to gather shoes that it plans to sell in Africa. Officials there will use that money to build a well for a village currently without a clean water supply.
The group finished up the collection during their annual New Year’s Eve get together held at the Idaho State University Student Union Wednesday night. There they filled a trailer with 100 huge garbage bags weighing 35 pounds each and in all totaling 4,000 shoes.
“Shoes are so hard to come by there,” said Stake President Mike Mickelsen of the First Young Adult Stake.
The young adult wards spent the past 30 days collecting the shoes. Pocatello, Blackfoot, McCammon and American Falls young adult wards helped with the project. This caps off a season of giving, where, in November, the young adults raised money for the Idaho Food Bank to buy turkeys for needy families.
“We raised $2,000 in 10 days to buy turkeys, and these are poor starving struggling college students. We just ask them for whatever it is we need, and they’ll just do it,” Mickelsen said.
The New Year’s activity at the SUB ended the shoe drive while also kicking off the New Year for young adults. The two Young Adult Stakes invited anyone of any religion ages 18 to 30 to attend the event.
“This is an annual thing; a get together to celebrate the New Year,” Mickelsen said.
Many non-LDS attend and are surprised that Mormons can party — and party hardy without alcohol. The event included everything from bowling to dancing to karaoke plus lots of free food.
“There’s a party in place. You’ll get people who come to this who aren’t of our faith. They’re totally blown away that 1000 kids ages 18 to 30 on New Year’s Eve (are partying) without drinking,” he said.
The two Young Adult Stakes are comprised of 16 wards throughout the region. Everybody from college students to returned missionaries to those working at various jobs in the community make up those congregations.
The wards prove quite vibrant with members returning and leaving school and those leaving and returning from missions. Where men have traditionally served as missionaries, more women now serve. In 2012, the LDS Church lowered the missionary age for LDS women from 21 to 19. It also lowered the age for men from 19 to 18.
“We lose a lot of kids who go on missions — both young men and women. A lot more women go, but a lot of the women are coming back. It’s now been over two years for those who went out initially,” he said.
Mickelsen says that young adult wards are well attended.
“There’s great support in these wards for these young people. They’re always looking to help others who maybe are struggling in their faith. It’s a comfortable place to go where they feel welcome,” he said.
Thanks to the large Mormon population here, the LDS Church created the single young adult stakes and wards.
“There are only a handful of places that have these,” Mickelsen said.
The ISU campus provides lots of opportunities for LDS students to experience life while also offering many missionary moments.
“This offers a different opportunity. It’s a little bit more real world. There are great missionary opportunities here,” he said.
It’s vital that LDS youth have a place to meet with others sharing their faith, Mickelsen said.
“What they’re dealing with in this world are things, that, when I was their age, I didn’t have to deal with. What they’re growing up with, we could never imagine,” he said. “What they see on TV, and what they see on social media — the fact there is social media — they have to be strong in a world that doesn’t really encourage what we believe when it comes to families, marriage and those kinds of things.”
Mickelsen says that he’s continually amazed by the youth who continue with their church worship and service while away from home.
“They’re a great strength to me. None of these kids’ parents drive them to church on Sunday. They all show up on their own. That says a lot about them,” he said. “They give countless hours of service in church callings that they really don’t have time for. They’re in school and maybe working two or three jobs. They will sacrifice whatever the Lord will ask them to do and take however many hours it takes to do that,” he said.
For more information on the young adult stakes log on to studentview.lds.org/home.aspx/60320.