A Troop of Witnesses
THE Salvation Army has always had close links with the Scouting Association. Salvation Army Founder, General William Booth, was even approached about being a leader of the fledgling Scouting movement. He decided against it but, with encouragement from the founder of Scouting, Lord Baden Powell, The Salvation Army inaugurated its own Life-Saving Scouts in 1913, to be followed by Life-Saving Guards in 1915. Those links were strengthened in 1948 when Salvation Army Life-Saving Scouts became officially affiliated to the Scouting Association.
|Young Scouts learn to tie knots|
|Meetings promote discipline and order|
|Scout leaders meet together to plan activities|
Today there are Salvation Army-run Scout troops all round the world, with the practical aspects of Scouting activities balanced by a strong spiritual dimension. Scout groups are used as a way to bring young people into the wider fellowship and introduce them to the Christian faith.
This work and its long-term goal can be seen clearly through the 29th Scout Troop of The Salvation Army in Brazil. The troop is based at the corps (church) in Torre Recife and provides weekly meetings to help the children and young people to develop.
The work with the Scouts helps them to grow physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually so they will be responsible citizens and useful members of their communities.
In 2007 the group took part in various activities. As well as the camps and parades that would be expected of any Scout group, they also engaged in community work such as making some repairs to a house – much to the delight of the family that lived there – and helping to restore a local swimming pool. They also helped out at a local farm and several Scouts enrolled in first aid workshops.
The group has grown steadily and now has 78 members – 44 boys and 34 girls – aged between eight and 18 years.
Several goals have been achieved in the past year: the troop now has the highest number of registered members in the state, it won a special badge in recognition of its voluntary community action and it was one of only six groups in the region to be allowed to use a special badge commemorating the centenary of the Scouting movement.
Scout Leader Carlo Eduardo puts some of the troop’s recent success down to an inspirational visit of some Scouts from Switzerland.
‘After the visit of the Scouts from Switzerland everything in the life of the group changed,’ he says. ‘We grew by 53 members and today we have 78 members from seven different communities.
‘Before, we didn’t have material resources for activities. We had a desire to work but no materials. But God sent angels falling down from Heaven to help us! I am very thankful – first to God, second to corps officers Majors Rosa and Roland Meylan, and third to the Swiss Scouts who visited us and all the Scout groups of Tramelan in Switzerland.
‘Today we have a place of our own and plans for activities. We have a freezer to keep frozen food for distribution, we have an Internet connection and we have furniture donated by the church.
‘After our Swiss friends Marcelo, Magali and Piska left, I thought a lot about living for Christ. I wanted the same faith I had seen in them. I saw that I was struggling against the will of God. I remembered people I didn’t know who had stopped me in the street and said: “God has a plan for your life.” I hadn’t thought it was important.
‘Then, one day I said: “God, I deliver my life into your hands.” I accepted Jesus and he began to be a part of my life. Through me my wife, Ana, the cub leader was converted. Later my daughter Amanda and my son Carlinhos (both also part of the group), the leaders Edson, Marília, Gerlan, Israel, and then Scouts and cubs accepted Jesus as their Saviour. Today I am proud to say that Scout Troop 29 of The Salvation Army is a group of evangelical Scouts.’
He concludes: ‘I could go on but I don’t have more words to thank all the people that believe in our work of trying to make a better world for our children.’
Scout Leader Gerlan has a similar story.
‘I had already visited the church of The Salvation Army,’ he says, ‘and I knew a few people there. In February 2008 I took part in a corps retreat with the Scout group. I made more friends and became closer to the church. I ended up participating in church activities.
‘It made no difference that I was not a born-again Christian. The people talked with me naturally about God without criticising me.
‘Then in March 2008 I felt God call me. One of my friends invited me to accept God and he asked if I was prepared to be converted. I said yes and I went to the front of the church and knelt down before God, asking to live a new life with him. When the meeting finished I was so happy and we had a big party!’
These are only two of many people who came to faith after being attracted to The Salvation Army through the 29th Scout Group in Torre Recife. The leaders pray that the group will continue to grow and that more Scouts will come to know Jesus as their Saviour.