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RAs remain best option for churches, leaders say

In wake of Boy Scouts decision

 

Joe Westbury, Managing Editor/Index

Counselors at Camp Kaleo near Forsyth put finishing touches on upgrading the climbing wall at the camping facility. When not learning Scripture and meeting Southern Baptist missionaries, RAs burn off extra energy with a variety of outdoor experiences.

Churches that are disappointed with the recent Boy Scouts decision on homosexuality don’t need to reinvent the wheel by creating a new organization more in keeping with their spiritual values.

A perfectly good one has been in existence since 1908 and is distinctively Southern Baptist to boot, say those involved in Royal Ambassadors. Perhaps no one knows that better than Mike Emeott of Newnan.

Why RAs matter

Mike Emeott has been a Royal Ambassador for 50 years and is carrying the missions education torch to the next generation at First Baptist Church of Newnan. Read why he believes RAs are an important asset to the local church and to building strong leadership in the nation as well as the SBC.

“My brothers and I are very happy that our parents had the foresight to enroll us in Royal Ambassadors as very young boys. They had the vision to see the importance of our being in a strong missions education program that taught us to respect God’s Word and to consider His call on our life as missionaries, whether it was career or as laity,” he says.

Today Emeott, who proudly refers to himself as an RA for the past 50 years, serves as executive pastor of First Baptist Church in the city just south of Atlanta. One of his brothers serves as a curriculum writer for LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, the other in public service as a fireman.

Stories like that abound throughout Georgia from church staff as well as laity who, decades later, can still say the RA Pledge which they memorized – and grafted into their life – in their formative years.

Scouting is not bad, they maintain, but Royal Ambassadors does a better job in the spiritual area while still giving boys valid camp craft experiences that help them bond with their fathers or other godly father figures.

But an increasing number of Southern Baptist churches are considering leaving the Scouting universe in the wake of the group’s recent vote to allow homosexual boys into the organization … a move they maintain will expand to include gay leaders in the not-too-distant future.

Royal Ambassadors emblem

The shield stands for faith in Christ.

The bar represents work for Christ.

The crown is for service to Christ and others.

The laurel branch represents victory gained through Christ.

Blue stands for the boy’s loyalty to Christ, to his church, and to his chapter.

Gold stands for the worth of each boy who accepts and serves Christ.

White stands for purity.

Royal Ambassadors was founded in 1908, two years prior to Boy Scouts. Both have tracked fairly closely throughout their history but Scouts have become more inclusive when it comes to defining God outside the Judeo-Christian framework. Prayers which once were offered in Jesus’ name are increasingly being offered to other dieties.

Such has never been the case for RAs, leaders maintain. Perhaps the best way to define the RA distinctives is found in the pledge.

Mike Flowers, director of Camp Kaleo – the Royal Ambassador camp outside Forsyth in middle Georgia – says the pledge is the defining document when it comes for a church to consider what the organization is all about.

“It’s really a far-reaching statement that incorporates all of who Southern Baptists are in their missions enterprise, calling each boy to a life of service to Christ. Many missionaries on the North American and international fields today attribute their calling to early involvement in Royal Ambassadors, as well as to its counterpart, GAs (Girls in Action), the young girls missions education group.”

While Bible study and Scripture memorization occur on the church level throughout the year, camp is where the boys are given the opportunity to run through the woods, swim in the lake, and hone their campcraft skills with their fathers or other male role models. Learning those skills comes with a hidden agenda – an early introduction to how to survive in less than ideal circumstances if a boy eventually accepts a call to an international mission field.

While not all assignments are in the African bush, it is not uncommon for some missionaries to find themselves in more primitive societies than where they grew up. How to build a fire, read a compass, or find safe drinking water are skills that come in handy, some missionaries told The Index.

But it’s not all about camping.

“We still do Scripture memorization. When a young man graduates from high school after being brought up in RAs, he will know the Great Commission is his mission. He will know the Word and be able to share the Word,” Flowers says.

“That’s what sets us apart from other groups.”

Joe Westbury/Index

In this file photo, Brad Davis, left, and Cameron Barefield, center, search for a Bible verse during an afternoon mission study at Camp Kaleo. Campers receive biblical instruction throughout the week as well as learn camp craft skills such as knot tying and how to survive in the outdoors.

Joe Westbury/Index

RA counselor Roo, who goes by his camp nickname, is grateful "for the godly men at First Duluth who taught me biblical values at an early age. Camp is also a great time for bonding between fathers and sons."