5 Tips for Buying Cheap Gear – Backpacker


Basic tips, but helpful reminders as getting a new boy started in outdoor adventuring can become very expensive quickly if everything is bought new and all at once. Staggering out purchases, leveraging “birthday gifts” from extended family and shopping in a thrifty manner can make a big difference. Many outdoor gear shops have “quietly advertised” deals for scouters when they qualify for the discounts (i.e. purchase items as a group, show up in store wearing full uniform, etc.).

Enjoy your travels this Fall and be safe!

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

Buying outdoor gear doesn’t have to empty your bank account. Here are some great tips on applying thrifty strategies to gear up for outdoor adventures (from Backpacker.com)

Source: 5 Tips for Buying Cheap Gear – Backpacker


Of course, there may be group discounts available from some camping supply stores for troops that are part of a non-profit organization.  It’s always worth asking about, and at worst case scenario, you may have to submit a group order — which just takes a little coordination among the families to research what gear they want and submit the individual orders together.

One example that my troop has used in the past is provided by Campmor, here in New Jersey.  http://www.campmor.com/CustomerServiceContent_____nonprofit We even had Campmor send us a product specialist to do a gear review and how to care for demonstration during a troop meeting!  Thank you, Campmor!

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Who or what is your rock?

The Hawkeye Area Council, Boy Scouts of America posted this picture to Facebook and asked the question; “What do you think? Do you agree with this statement?”

Wood GrainMatthew 7:24-27 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

I suppose that if you do not call yourself a Christian (and it’s ok to be a good scout without being a Christian) then I suppose the Scout Law (and associated ideals) make a pretty good foundation for living this life, here on Earth. After all, most of these ideals are found (coincidentally or not) within scriptures and are good ways to practice selfless-ness and fair minded reasoning. (See also – https://troop113.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/devotional-simple-truths-shine-through/)

However, if you call yourself a Christian, I would have to wonder if this bold statement (in the well intentioned image supplied by the BSA Council) could be misunderstood in its application. Do we really believe that all you need to do is follow the Scout Law and you’re set for all of eternity? Of course, I’m over-reaching their intent, but it’s easy to lock onto “cute sayings” and hold them as a satisfactory “cliffs notes” version of the complete message when there’s much more to the story.

IMGP6935The Methods of Scouting build into an excellent program (regardless of brand name), but being a great man is more than being a great scout, and for those who make the choice to live as a Christian, that decision requires identifying our rock or foundation clearly (perspective) so that we can weather the storms, and have a base of operation enabling us to do good works out of love and care for all other people at all times (disciplined execution of our calling).

As our Lord stated in Matthew’s gospel, we need to hear His sayings, do them and then we may be likened as one who has successfully built his house on the rock to weather the storm. He further adds that those who do not hear or act on His sayings will be like a foolish man suffering a great fall when the storms come.

Who or what is your genuine rock – scouting ideals, or Christ’s complete teachings?

I know I struggle to dive into the Bible daily, and make time to understand the message. I find that its far easier to make assumptions and try to validate them with the Bible than to really listen and then act. How about you? Do you struggle to follow through daily? Are you satisfied with holding open a door for someone to walk through, or are we growing the depth of commitment in our good turns over time?

Once and done, or a commitment to a lifestyle of never being satisfied that we’ve grown and served enough?


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National Paintball Tournament & Summer Adventure

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

Our National Paintball Tournament and Summer Adventure is coming up June 21-26 in West Virginia.

The ACE High Adventure Center in West Virginia will be home to TRAIL LIFE USA’s 2015 National Paintball Tournament and Summer Adventure. ACE has a lot to offer, from whitewater rafting to rappelling to mountain biking to a custom paintball course —  built just for TLUSA — all to offer a fun, challenging, and exciting program.

The 2015 National Paintball Tournament and Summer Adventure begins on Sunday, June 21 and runs through Friday morning, June 26 at the ACE High Adventure Center. Sunday night during the Opening Ceremony a Christian Group will conduct a Praise & Worship Time at the Festival Stage.  Trailmen are encourage to bring their bibles for daily devotionals.

Both pre- and post-tours of the area can include visiting:

  • The National New River Gorge Park and overlook
  • The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine
  • Bridge Walk

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Duty to God, but Closet Your Faith?

A new push by BSA to increase the visibility and value of “duty to God” (http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2014/10/03/belief-in-god-scouting/) has inspired a lot of spirited discussion on various internet forums.

first-class-badgeOne such discussion was titled; “Why is Duty to God such a weak program area?” and that caught my eye as I expected a series of interesting comments and some suggestions on ways that scouting units could incorporate faith related elements into their ongoing program (i.e. saying grace at camp meals, etc.).

In actuality, the discussion focused on several key themes (with actual comments copied below):

  1. Duty to God is an outmoded idea that is merely a quaint legacy of a century-old program.
    1. I would say that the reason it is going by the wayside is our society. If you look at church attendance, it has declined for many years. If the Leaders are not attending church, and the youth are not attending church, they are going to be unlikely to say Grace, or do other “religious” things. We have also driven religion out of schools and anything having to do with public events.
    2. Many parents of this generation of Scouts are not affiliated with any church and are most kindly described as secular humanists. Might Scouting lose them and their kids if we push Duty to God too far beyond their comfort levels, and thereby cost the kids (and Scouting) more than would be gained?
    3. IMG_20140726_125408550I saw a Barna research article (but did not read further than the headline) that said that 43% of Americans are unchurched…In this environment passionate belief is not modeled well in any portion of our culture and is often discouraged…And I don’t blame them. With attitudes like ‘all faiths are equally valid’, it is easy to come to the conclusion that it does not matter…So the problem seems to come from a general disinterest in society. So is there a way for scout leaders to show religious passion while necessarily making it generic so no one will be offended?”
    4. …may I add that the disinterest is probably caused by various issues with several belief systems. For example, terrorists who are acting in the name of Islam or several Christian denominations who seem to believe that their way is the only way and does everything they can to make sure that no one forgets that. Folks are very turned off by those attitudes and the use of a religion by those who would subvert it.”
  2. Pursuit of faith within scouting is problematic unless it is something so generic that it becomes meaningless, and it’s hard to present faith without it becoming perceived as unwarranted proselytization.
    1. I don’t need a santa-like god looking over my shoulders, taking notes on whether I’m naughty or nice to know what is the right thing and how to treat people. There’s IMGP6938one simple commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. If we all did this, the world would be a better place.
    2. I would simply caution that Scouts are Reverant, NOT Religious. My concern here is that by increasing the importance of Creator in Scouting, that some folks are going to over-reach the intent…I’d not think much of seeing a Catholic Scoutmaster start to push being Catholic (however unintentional it may be) over a Scout being his own person. There is a lot to be said about finding yourself when you surround yourself with the bounty of sounds from Mother Earth
    3. This is one of the reasons I have elected to separate myself from formal membership in BSA – the expression of religiosity without identifying who we are worshiping runs counter to my personal faith.
  3. No practical experience in presenting scouting ideals (Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan, Outdoor Code) – preferring for scouts to “pick it up” by example of leaders lifestyle, etc.
    1. I have found that there is some anecdotal evidence that some units may prefer to focus on other methods (outdoor program, advancement, etc.) and let “ideals” take a distant backseat or be merely experiential (follow moral example) as opposed to an active discussion. Contributing factors: unease in communicating about ideals, uncertainty how to incorporate ideals in practical ways, shifts in family backgrounds away from “churchy” environments (i.e. little league, public school, etc.)
    2. I think the biggest reason why Duty to God is so weak and misunderstood as a program area is that activity leadership and youth do not find it fun and interesting.

I think that each of the people making these remarks felt very strongly about their position and I appreciate them for contributing to the conversation in a respectful and constructive manner.

On of the positive contributions that I found interesting included:

Suggest inviting your pastors to events. Suggest inviting your pastors to take an active role in the religious awards program. If they are too busy, perhaps delegating the educational coordinators to assist.

In this case, there may be an underlying assumption that the unit may be chartered to a church or faith-based organization which could supply a specially trained faith leader to help coordinate “duty to God” activities and discussions in a tactful manner.  For units chartered to secular organizations, it would not be too difficult to make a few phone calls to find folks who could participate in a constructive manner.


Unfortunately, some of the comments were troublesome to me.  I understand that my own biases may be interfering in understanding the full intent of the persons making the comment, and I’m hoping to be fair in explaining why their comments pricked my conscience.

Spring Summer 2013 181One scouter said “No matter what, when it comes to a camporee, we are Scouters first. After that I become a Catholic Scouter only in the right situation.”  Contextually, he was discussing the use of interfaith services to convey a generic moral tale to highlight a point of the Scout law as preferable to faith-specific services where boys could actually worship in the context of their own faith practice (i.e. a protestant service, catholic service, jewish service, etc.)  When I was a youth in scouting, the norm was to offer faith-specific services at different times at the chapel during summer camp or camporees.  Now the push is for “interfaith” gatherings.

A response from another scouter appeared shortly after this post:

Also, as a Catholic, I know what a part time one is. But it’s not “I’m not one at a camporee” but I am one “once in a while.” You’re always Catholic and supposed to be.

2013 RFSR Ships wheel finalA Scout is Loyal to whom loyalty is due.  For me, part of my duty to God is to be loyal to Him throughout my day to day experience – not merely when it may be convenient to avoid offending others.  Now, as a Scout, I’m also called to be friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful and reverent (including the respect of other people to believe as they wish).  Balancing these concepts isn’t difficult (nor need it be).  As a Christian, I don’t aim to hurt people’s feelings, but I also won’t “hide my faith in a closet” in order make people more comfortable in normal social situations like participating in a scouting program – especially as long as BSA promotes the active practice of faith in its aims for character building:

  • In little league, faith wasn’t brought up during practices or games.
  • Conversely, at BSA, (for example) there’s a First Class rank requirement to “Lead your patrol in saying grace at the meals” (4e).

BSA is at or nearing a critical crossroads in its history.  Will it stay true to it’s original course of promoting faith practice as critical to participating citizenship, or will it change course to de-emphasize faith, closet adults from commenting on their own faith practice, or move slowly to eliminate faith from the program — to become a truly secular program?

BSA’s own president has been quoted as saying “In Scouting, there’s a secular emphasis on values and virtue that is not found anyplace else” (http://www.esquire.com/features/boy-scouts-1014) which at face value seems to contradict the notion that moral and ethical values are derived or delivered from a Higher Being called “God”.

2013 RFSR Jolly Roger Patch finalIf our values (as scouts) come from mankind, how can we (as individuals) agree on the common definition of each point of the scout law? The foundation shifts from personal view to personal view or from time to time as society redefines the rules of acceptable behavior. Is that where tolerance comes into play? What if I think that lying doesn’t really hurt anyone so I can tell “white lies” without being untrustworthy? Who are you to tell me I’m wrong?

As another blogger indicated;

“The god of Scouting is much like the god of Alcoholics Anonymous, a “higher power” that is whatever one wants it to be. Sure, you have to believe in god to be a Scout, you just don’t have to be too specific about it.This brings us to the basis for morals. How can an organization that will not take a stand on the identity of God be expected to take a stand on specific moral issues? There is a direct connection between the law and the Law Giver. If you’re not really sure who the Law Giver is, how can you be sure whether [any] specific behavior is “morally straight” or not?”

On another linked in forum dedicated to scouting, another scouter summed it up this way;

“Bottom line – nothing is perfect. You do the best you can to include all and offend none. If you want perfection – then Scouting is probably not the organization for you.”

This comment was “liked” by many others as seeming to settle the discussion. The concern is that by telling folks to “like it or leave”, we are asking people of faith to “closet” their beliefs while participating in scouting or find another organization that is more tolerant. It seems a double standard for an organization to encourage youth to be “out of the closet” about their preference in potential sexual partners, but “in the closet” about their choice of who they name as “God” while still prohibiting youth of “no-faith” from the many benefits of scouting. I thought we were supposed to help ALL other people at ALL times, not just when it was convenient to our individual, personal ideology. Telling people that they ought to be quiet, hide their beliefs or be shown the door seems counter to actually helping anyone except ourselves to feel better about our own perspective by removing all challengers.

Public Speaker RockwellWebsters dictionary says that tolerance means we can get along while disagreeing, not that we have to share the same ideology in order to work together as “first among equals”. Asking people to be in the closet or leave (or not be welcome) for faith issues (creed) is just as objectionable as for sexual preference, color, race, etc.

Is it scouting for all, or scouting for some (that think exactly like us)?

The 1911 Handbook states; “And then the final and chief test of the scout is the doing of a good turn to somebody every day, quietly and without boasting. This is the proof of the scout. It is practical religion, and a boy honors God best when he helps others most.”  In the context of scouting (not church), why can’t duty to God be this simple?


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Merry Christmas (2014)

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

Luke 2:8-14 (NASB)

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He…

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Younger Eagle Scouts

the four percent coverPeriodically, there is a news story about a 12 or 13 year old Scout who completes the requirements for their Eagle Scout Award.  Typically, this news item is followed by a brief period of passionate discussion on various Scouting forums about whether it is appropriate for a Scout to complete their award requirements at such an age.

Technically, any Scout who completes all the listed requirements to the satisfaction of their Scoutmaster and review board(s) earns the right to receive the award.  The only age stipulation is that they must complete the requirements before their eighteenth birthday.

Now there are specific logistics that suggest boys could not possibly complete the requirements before a certain age.  Specifically, the joining requirements must be fulfilled before any advancement work can be counted.  Further, there are some requirements which specify a minimum timeframe where the boy serves in a Position of Responsibility (POR). Without fulfilling that tenure period, the boy would not be qualified to advance further.

So if a Scout joins at age 10 years and zero months (having completed the fifth grade) then he must complete (among other non-time sensitive requirements):

  • Tenderfoot physical fitness testing (do various exercises on a particular date, then using an exercise regimen repeat these exercises on a particular date – at least thirty days since setting the initial measurements).  If our hypothetical scout did his physical fitness testing on the day he joined and did the re-test on day 30, he’d now be 10 years and one month old.
  • Complete at least 10 outings (overnight camping trips) with your troop.  Many troops camp once a month, but some camp as often as twice a month.  Assuming that this young man camped twice a month since the day he joined, that would be a total of five months from his join date.  He’d now be 10 years and five months old (having done the physical fitness testing while also completing camping trips).
  • patrolLeaderAssuming this young man also completed all other requirements needed to become a “First Class” Scout, he would need to be elected by his peers as Patrol Leader, or appointed to another Position of Responsibility by his Senior Patrol Leader.  Assuming that happens immediately upon becoming “First Class”, he’d have to serve in that role a minimum of four months while he works on other requirements to become a “Star Scout”
  • Assuming that our young man has served his tenure for four months as a “First Class” Scout and has completed his other advancement work, he’d be 10 years and 9 months old.
  • He needs to continue to serve in a Position of Responsibility for six months as a “Star Scout” before becoming a “Life Scout” — assuming this happens and he meets all other requirements, then he’d be 11 years and 3 months old.
  • He needs to continue to serve in a Position of Responsibility for six months as a “Life Scout” before becoming eligible to become recognized as “Eagle Scout” — assuming this happens and he meets all other requirements (including organizing and leading a service project), then he’d be 11 years and 9 months old.

In reality, this presents a huge challenge to most boys.  The advancement work alone presents a myriad of skill mastery along with writing projects and nature study field observations, etc.

eagle_researchCan it be done?  Absolutely.

Should it be encouraged?  It depends on the boy, and who you ask within scouting ranks.

Comments on “young eagles” have included items like:

  • Some one please tell me.  Has he really practiced real leadership?  How much leading has he done?  Was he the Librarian and Historian for his leadership?  I know they count, but really…we are talking about an Eagle Scout here.
  • When people see the Eagle badge, they think leadership, accomplishment, self-reliance, the ability to serve and accomplish tasks.  When I see a 12-year-old.. I think HOW?
  • Where I agree it is possible to earn the Eagle rank at a young age, I question a 12 year old’s leadership skills.
  • I would believe a young man of 12, wouldn’t be able to successfully achieve on his own.
  • I think the real issue may not be age, but the level of maturity and real leadership that the scout is able to exhibit.

Growth_of_a_Leader-1966_RockwellIn summary, most adult Scouters suggest that their main concern is whether a 12 or 13 year old has the maturity to lead others.  Additionally, they understand that the number or percentage of scouts completing their Eagle requirements at such an early age is an outlier — perhaps as low as 2-5% of the total.

Consider these examples of early teen-aged leadership and achievement:

  • David Farragut’s naval career began as a midshipman in the United States Navy on December 17, 1810, at the age of nine. While serving aboard USS Essex, Farragut participated in the capture of HMS Alert on August 13, 1812.  He was appointed command briefly as “prize master” at the age of 12.
  • Joe Nuxhall was the youngest player in modern Major League history. He was 15 years old when he first pitched for the Reds.
  • Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was born in 1757. At the age of fourteen, Lafayette entered the Royal Army. Before turning 20, he became a Major General in the American Continental Army and served on General Washington’s staff.
  • From age seven to fifteen, George Washington was home schooled and studied with the local church sexton and later a schoolmaster in practical math, geography, Latin and the English classics. But much of the knowledge he would use the rest of his life was through his acquaintance with backwoodsmen and the plantation foreman. By his early teens, he had mastered growing tobacco, stock raising and surveying. In 1748, when he was 16, George traveled with a surveying party plotting land in Virginia’s western territory. The following year, aided by Lord Fairfax, Washington received an appointment as official surveyor of Culpeper County.
  • Colin Maclaurin went to study divinity in University of Glasgow at the age of 11 and remained until he was 19 years, 7 months old in the year 1717 when he was elected professor of mathematics, where for nearly three hundred years he held the record as the world’s youngest professor.

Are these unusual examples?  Certainly, but very youthful Eagle Scouts are unusual as well. When Scouters openly complain about youthful achievement and hint that there may be cheating involved, it diminishes the award and demonizes the recipient unfairly (without evidence).  If this issue is so critical, then BSA ought to simply set an age limit, or change the requirements to satisfy those who believe that a 12 or 13 year old Scout is incapable of leading or understanding what they’ve been taught and mastered.

Lastly, consider this quote from a Harvard Business Review article titled “We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders” (Click HERE to see original article)

Years ago, I was involved with a firm that experimented with teaching leadership principles to elementary school children. We were introducing the same skills to 3rd and 4th graders that we teach managers in large corporations. These nine- and ten-year-olds had no trouble understanding such concepts as the importance of preserving self-confidence in your colleagues or the dangers of focusing on personalities. In fact, they lost no time in applying the principles to their parents (who are, after all, their immediate supervisors). I can’t help smiling when I think of a 3rd grader informing her parents that they were not focusing on the problem, but only on the person. From this we concluded that it’s never too early to teach leadership skills.

So a youth leadership development program (BSA) is succeeding in having boys (at a range of ages from 12 to 18) learn to communicate, motivate and lead others.  I don’t see a problem in the results as each Scout is truly unique.  While one individual may be ready to advance more quickly than others (and should not be held back artificially), others are having fun and growing despite showing more interest in the experiences of camping than completing advancement requirements.

Perhaps Michael Malone said it best:

I’ve been an Eagle Scout now for nearly fifty years and in that half century,  I’ve learned far more about what it means to be an Eagle than I ever knew on that day as a thirteen year old  [emphasis added] when my mother pinned the medal on my uniform pocket.  I don’t have to tell any of you here that earning your Eagle is merely a prelude to learning what it means to BE an Eagle, and that is an education that continues to this day [and will] no doubt continue for the rest of my life.


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Devotional: Simple Truths Shine Through

bshb0“No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws. So every Scout should have a religion. Religion seems a very simple thing: First, Love and serve God. Second, love and serve your neighbor.” — Baden-Powell from his 1908 book, “Scouting for Boys”

  • Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)
  • “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8 (NASB)

IMGP7180“The atheists….maintain that a religion that has to be learnt from books written by men cannot be a true one. But they don’t seem to see that besides printed books….God has given us as one step the great Book of Nature to read; and they cannot say that there is untruth there – the facts stand before them….I do not suggest Nature Study as a form of worship or as a substitute for religion, but I advocate the understanding of Nature as a step, in certain cases, towards gaining religion.” – BP from “Rovering To Success”, 1930

  • “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” – Psalm 19:1 (NASB)
  • “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:18-20 (NASB)

“Christ gave His life to show us that example, namely, to “Be Prepared” – no matter what it costs to ourselves – to do the right thing for others” – BP from “Adventuring To Manhood”, 1936

  • “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:3-11 (NASB)
  • “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead. That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead—so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit. The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:1-11 (NLT)

Scouters, continue to exercise your Duty to God faithfully and reverently.


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