“In the morning you can sleep as late as you want,” our leader announced in Serbo-Croatian, “Just know that you need to be at your next location at 07:30 and it takes two hours to get there.”
We were in the middle of nowhere. Over 60 teenage and adult Royal Rangers from more than 10 different European countries had gathered for the National Training Trail (NTT). Our assignment, simply put, was to hike from place to place around a village in Serbia called Krivi Vir while carrying all the food, shelter and supplies we would need throughout the four day expedition. Our camp sight on the second night was a place even our leaders had trouble finding. There was no way to get there by car. And the map we were using was over 40 years old.
Still, we found it. And once we did the exhaustion we felt after our 15 kilometer hike set in; we were ready for food and water. But we would need to make fires and cook our food before we could eat. We also learned that we’d need to filter the well water before we could drink.
The source of water the previous day had at least been clean, but it only trickled out. A line of three or four people filling their bottles meant waiting at least 15 minutes. Those who hoped to wash their dishes, splash some water on their face or simply take a cup of water soon pealed away from the line, proving that the highest priority was storing clean water for the journey ahead.
So when I realized that we would need to start our hike at 05:30 the next morning, I wasn’t so disappointed. Knowing that we would be further from the wild, closer to civilization and near a clean water source helped motivate me to climb out of my dew-soaked sleeping bag, stuff my pack full and help the rest of my team head out on our expedition.
When we arrived we were greeted with the smell of cooked vegetables, eggs and meat. The grill was close to a bubbling stream that burbled out a Good morning as we were congratulated on finding the next location. And water! Rushing water from the source. It took 3 seconds flat to fill up each bottle and canteen which allowed more than enough time to splash my hot face and quickly take in the refreshing cool water. We had arrived!
Hiking, using a map to find our way, and sleeping outside without a tent all offered new ways to appreciate aspects of my faith that I knew to be true but hadn’t exercised in some time. But it was the value I now placed on the source of clean, fast and refreshing water that really stood out to me on this four-day challenge. I had a new appreciation for finding a good source.
It reminded me of the meeting a woman had with a strange man by a well. He was weary from his journey yet had nothing with which to draw water. After asking the woman to draw water for him they had a supernatural exchange. She offered him water that would quench his physical thirst; he offered her water that would well up to eternal life. By the end of the conversation she understood the significance of this man. She realized she had found the Source. Jesus offers living water; rushing streams of refreshing water that will last forever and produce in us springs that refresh others.
Like the various sources of water in Serbia, there are numerous ways and occasions that we can encounter Christ in our lives. The classic example is that of a church service. Immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven his followers began meeting together. This is an integral part of the Church’s meeting with Jesus and one another.
Over the years, many denominations, organizations and ministries have created new ways for people to encounter Jesus in some way, shape or form. Royal Rangers (RR) is one of them. Even though it began in America, RR is an organization I was unaware of before I moved to Croatia. But throughout the last 3 years I’ve been increasingly impressed with the Christian scout program.
If we are going to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, that means that we ought to be challenged spiritually, intellectually - and yes even physically and emotionally. The Church should offer these challenges on a consistent basis. This is one of the places Royal Rangers excels. And it’s one of the main reasons I believe that Royal Rangers has a lot to offer the Church.
For example, rather than simply preaching “Do not be afraid” – a constant command throughout all of Scripture – the local church and its various communities ought to offer its members opportunities to overcome fear. Sleeping outside on virtually uncharted territory in a foreign country with no facilities is certainly a way to challenge one’s fear and exercise faith.
There were four of us from Croatia who overcame these obstacles and others. Together, we represent three different regions of Croatia, have various skills and gifts and serve in multiple capacities in our local churches. All of us were challenged to become stronger leaders through the NTT. There is no doubt in my mind that four different local churches in Croatia were strengthened because of the adventure the four of us had last week.
Further, we were reminded of how important it is to find the source. With everything centered on Christ our efforts are given life. With the Holy Spirit’s power we are given strength. Those are encouraging thoughts as Royal Rangers Croatia continues to move forward, mentor future leaders and make disciples of Jesus Christ.