Unexpected Challenges

It was around the time our Slovenian leader informed us that he would be handing leadership over to me that I repeated the question I asked 15 years ago in Marine Corps boot camp; "What in the world have I gotten myself into?"

Of course a Christian scout program in my home town isn't as physically demanding or life-altering as the military was. I didn't have a drill instructor constantly yelling at me. I didn't have to run miles in the South Carolina heat.

Still, the National Training Camp I experienced on May 1st weekend was a challenge.

First there was the language barrier. Although I've made a lot of progress speaking publicly, the fact is that it's still difficult for me to speak Croatian off the cuff in front of people. Adding to the challenge was the fact that I don't know a lot of scout terminology. This was the first time I was using words like "torch", "pine tree", and "outpost" in Croatian.

But there was an interesting and comforting side to the language challenge - the fact that all of a sudden Croatian was the Lingua Franca. We had leaders and participants from all of the former Yugoslavian countries - Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. And even though Croatian is quite different from Macedonian and Slovenian, we spoke Croatian throughout. In other words, there were many others for whom the language was a challenge.
Women from Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia work together to form a human knot

Another difficulty was the weather. By the time Saturday came around we were already wet. Yet from Saturday at 9 am it would rain until the end of camp on Sunday at noon. The Junior Leaders Training (JLTC)  program required the 14-17 year olds to hike and camp out in the woods. They did so in flood-like conditions. The rest of the leaders in training also slept in tents at our campsite on church ground. By the end we concluded that the conditions couldn't have been any worse - even snow would have been easier to deal with.
Leaders and participants of the JLTC ready to hike to their campsite in the rain
The final challenge for me was my lack of experience. I did not grow up in a scout program and I have relatively little experience with Royal Rangers Europe. During the weekend, I attended the various workshops on building fires, first aid and nature so I could brush up on some things I had learned a few years ago when I trained in Serbia. Still, my knowledge of all things scout related was/is limited.

But as the weekend concluded, I realized this was the whole point - to be challenged.

As the Croatian National Commander, I fully support Royal Rangers Europe because of the methods it provides for teaching, mentoring and discipling. One of the key aspects of Ranger training is throwing someone into the fire often before they feel they are ready for it. Many participants who received a diploma by the end were completely taken by surprise when they were told they would sleep outside regardless of the rain. They didn't realize they would have to cook their own food over an open fire or that they would have to build their own campsite with their teammates. The NTC provided many unexpected challenges for everyone.

And isn't that the way it should be? The New Testament frequently reminds us to "run with endurance" (Hebrews 12:1) or to "endure hardship as discipline" (Hebrews 12:11) or to "test our faith" (II Corinthians 13:5). The challenges we were presented with gave us the chance to rely on Christ and put our faith in action. I believe this training camp helped to strengthen and equip future leaders to endure and overcome the challenges they will undoubtedly face in the future.
A team of representatives from Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia work together to build their campsite on the first day
As we look to the future of this program in Croatia, the only way we can succeed is if it is a team effort. Royal Rangers will not survive without a group of dedicated servants. After all, RR doesn't exist for itself. Rather it serves the work of the local church. Our vision is to evangelize, teach and equip young boys and girls for Christian service. These goals should mesh with the vision the local church has for its community and be a tool pastors can use to strengthen their communities. But it cannot and should not be an individual effort.

Before the training camp began I sent out an email to many of our supporters asking for them to pray specifically for one of the days. Several responded indicating they would be willing to dedicate some time to pray for us. It is so encouraging to know that there is a team of supporters behind us even in America. The Lord continues to provide and we are humbled by the ways he does so.


Jeremy Bohall


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