Friday, April 17, 2015

Former LDS missionary to return to Virginia as EFY counselor

By Sadie Hughes

On Aug. 9, 2011, Josh Barson returned from serving two years in Virginia as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On July 4 he will return to Virginia still as a representative of his religion.

“Ever since I got home I've looked for opportunities to go back to Virginia,” Barson said.

Barson, who is graduating from Utah State University this May, will arrive in Virginia with four others who will all be building counselors for the Especially for Youth program.

EFY is a weeklong program for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. The program is focused on building friendships and teaching principles of the LDS church. Barson has spent three previous summers as an EFY counselor, but this is the first year he will work in Virginia.

“Being an EFY counselor puts you in such a good position to impact teens’ lives,” Barson said.

As a building counselor, Barson will be in charge of observing three to 12 counselors who teach those attending the EFY session.

“I’m like a counselor’s counselor,” Barson said. Another duty will be to do a general overseeing of those attending and help with any of their needs throughout the week.

Barson and the other building counselors will also be responsible for activities scheduled during the session. These activities include a variety show, a game night, a slide show of the week’s events and others.

“It will be such a neat experience for him to serve those in Virginia and to be able to teach the Gospel out there again,” said Andrea Barson, Josh Barson’s sister. “Every year he always hopes that he'll get to go to Virginia, and this year he finally gets to.”

Andrea Barson said she has seen a lot of growth in her brother since he started EFY sessions and that going to Virginia for EFY will offer a special opportunity for him to grow even more.

“It will be different because with every area he goes for EFY he has had to get a feel for the culture and the people, but in Virginia he already has a deep love for the people there,” she said.

Andrea Barson said when he goes to Virginia as an EFY counselor, Josh Barson will have the same purpose he did as a missionary, which is to share and teach the Gospel of the LDS church. The difference, she said, will be the role he plays.

“Instead of having the responsibility to go and find investigators and people to teach, he will teach those that have paid the money to participate in EFY,” Andrea Barson said.

Each session is a week long, and Josh Barson will be a counselor for three sessions in Virginia.

“He's a great counselor because he genuinely cares about the youth,” said Katilynn Harris, another building counselor. “He's interested in their lives and concerned about their future.”

According to Josh Barson, he will also be responsible for helping any kids in attendance with various needs they may have.

“He can connect with them quickly,” Harris said. “He's found the perfect balance between silly and responsible to gain their respect.”

Josh Barson said he hopes to catch up with people he met on his mission while in Virginia and that he appreciates that EFY can pay for him to return there.

“I can go to Busch Gardens, hit up the beach, wear normal shirts, hold babies and roughhouse with kids,” Josh Barson said. These are things Barson wasn’t permitted to do as a missionary.

When Josh Barson found out he would be a counselor for EFY sessions in Virginia, he posted that information on his Facebook page. He said several people he met on his mission notified him and plan to meet up with him while his is in Virginia.

“I left a part of my heart in Virginia,” Josh Barson said. “It's so beautiful, and I love the people.  I built lifelong relationships with some of my favorite people in the world out there.”

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