by Ron Carnahan
With the virus keeping us all housebound, this is a good time for reflecting. Churches are closed, clubs shut down, activities cancelled or postponed until the fall. Yes, it’s a time for remembering. So, as I took my walk today, my mind went back over the years of my involvement with Christian Service Brigade. I want to share some experiences with you of how outdoor activities provide opportunities to mentor and disciple boys and young men into Christian manhood; to build up their faith in who Jesus is, and to model Him in their daily lives.
I started as Battalion Captain in the late 1960’s. I have a picture hanging on my bulletin board from around that time. My first camping experience with my guys pitted me against an “experienced” leader who didn’t think that SAFETY-FIRST was necessary. He had us pitch our tents in soggy, waist-high grass – his first mistake. Then he slept in a farmhouse safe and dry. Canoeing down a fast river in northern Ontario was our main event. Soon enough, we had to navigate our way through a narrow rock formation. No problem. And yes, no one got through without swamping their canoe. I was with the experienced leader, and it was our turn. Well, we almost made it. The canoe turned sideways, and out we came. The experienced canoeist was trapped by the canoe against a rock ledge with his head just above the water. At first, I couldn’t budge the boat as the water surged over it. “Lord, help me!” was my cry. “Or this guy is going to drown.” With a great heave, the canoe broke away and freed the leader. You see, no one was wearing a lifejacket, but now thanks to God’s mercy, the entire group praised me. From then on, each canoeist was made to wear his lifejacket. And a lesson was learned about safety.
It was Camporee time and my Stockaders were excited to get away for the weekend. There were many track and field events. One young lad was a bit overweight and didn’t feel he could win at anything. Today, he is close to seven feet tall. So yes, he came home smiling and happy as he had won the Caber Toss.
Hiking the Bruce Trail near Collingwood was always an exciting time of climbing cliffs, caving, and gathering for lunch and a story. Dads were always part of the hikes with their sons. One rule in hiking is that we always brought back our lunch scraps, paper and cans. Nothing was to be thrown into the woods. One young Stockader fell behind the other guys and told me he had to go to the bathroom. “Number 1 or Number 2?” I asked. “Number 2.” So, I handed him some TP and told him to head into the woods. A few minutes latter, here he comes holding the used toilet paper. “Ranger. You said to leave nothing behind.”
At one of our Adventure Weeks at Camp Cherith at about 10:30 pm, Harold and I were just about to head to bed after a time of prayer. A knock came at the door and in walked a cabin leader with four boys. “These boys want to have Jesus,” he said. What an emotional time as we shared the Good News of Jesus with them. All four boys prayed and asked Jesus into their hearts. Camping has many activities that young lads don’t do at home, BUT the most important is to hear about Jesus in cabin devotions, at campfires and when interacting with Christian men for a whole week.
As I reflect on many more experiences I had as a father and CSB leader, I cannot help but think of the importance of activities that WILL touch young guys who come from so many different backgrounds; some good and some not. Think about Jesus when He was a growing young lad. His dad was a carpenter, so I’m sure Jesus learned how to build things. Jesus must have had time to play with others, and to learn about nature. The Bible says Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. As men and CSB leaders, we must carry the torch in providing life-changing experiences for boys and young men as they grow in wisdom and stature. Dads, leaders and alumni, let’s keep the torch burning for the next generation. Pray that churches will encourage their men to bring their boys and young men to Jesus through CSB activities geared to guys.