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Church executive gives Scouts rules for ‘life’ merit badge

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A Web-only photo by Rich Peck

The Rev. Joe Harris shares advice on life with Boy Scouts at the jamboree.
Aug. 4, 2005

By Rich Peck*

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (UMNS) — The top staff executive responsible for men’s ministry and scouting gave 5,000 United Methodist Boy Scouts a list of 10 rules for earning “life” merit badges.

Speaking July 31 at the National Scout Jamboree, the Rev. Joe Harris, top staff executive of the Commission on United Methodist Men, said when he was a Scout his main goal was earning merit badges.

“Later I began to realize that it would be the merit badge I would earn from living life that would ultimately count the most,” he said. “Every other badge I earn should contribute to the life badge that one day I would receive from my maker based on the kind of life I led while I was here.”

Rules offered by Harris:

  • Quit worrying. God is concerned about you and has promised to take care of all your worries.
  • Put your problems on God’s list. God can’t help you until turn it over to him.
  • Trust God. Once you give your worries, burdens and problems to God, quit trying to take them back
  • Leave it alone. Don’t wake up and say, “Well I am feeling stronger today Lord, I think I can handle it from here.” He is God and you are not.
  • Have faith. God sees a lot from where he sits. Trust him.
  • Share. Share with the less fortunate. Also share your joys, laughter, tears and faith. Share with those in need of encouragement.
  • Be patient. You will grow from a child to an adult, have different jobs, relationships and skills, travel and meet many people. Why be in a hurry to get to each experience? Chill!
  • Be kind to everyone. Random acts of kindness count a lot in God’s kingdom
  • Love yourself. It is not arrogant, prideful or selfish to love yourself.
  • Lift your leaders in prayer. Offer them words of encouragement and support.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Rich Peck

Five thousand Boy Scouts participate in a United Methodist worship service at the jamboree.
The United Methodist service was one of eight worship services at the military installation, where 40,000 Scouts and more than 3,500 adult leaders gathered. The jamboree is held every four years. United Methodist congregations are a major sponsor of Scout troops.

The first 4,000 scouts to attend the United Methodist service received copies of Strength for Service to God and Country, a 400-page book of daily devotions first carried by members of the armed forces in World War II. More than 200,000 copies of the historic pocket book have been given by the Commission on United Methodist Men. Most of those receiving the books have been troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Another 52,000 will be off the presses by Sept. 1.

John Anderson, Scoutmaster of Troop 210 in Alaska, presented Harris a $1,600 check for additional copies of the book for deployed troops. Earlier in the week, the Alaska Scout troop was struck by tragedy, as four leaders were electrocuted and killed when their tent pole struck a power line. The commission gave 80 copies of Strength for Service to help the Alaska Scouts and leaders through the bereavement process.

Scouts attending the service gave $4,600. Half of that total will pay for additional copies of the Strength for Service book. The balance will support Scouting initiatives in Cameroon. The Rev. Jean Daniel Billong, United Methodist director of Scouting, youth and music ministries in Cameroon, participated in the service.

The 20 United Methodist chaplains participating in the national event bought a digital camera and a Boy Scout uniform for Billong. The volunteer chaplains were presented with certificates of appreciation by Larry Coppock, Commission on United Methodist Men staff member, and Judge Carl Stewart, chairman of the Scouting advisory committee for the commission. Greg Godwin, a pastor from Princeton, W.Va., served as headquarters chaplain for the 10-day gathering at the 76,000-acre Army site.

President George W. Bush gave a 17-minute speech to the Scouts July 31. He also expressed condolences to the Alaska troops following the deaths of the four leaders.

The Office of United Methodist Scouting Ministries and the National Association of United Methodist Scouters co-hosted an exhibit booth during the jamboree and passed out United Methodist Scouting ministry literature.

On July 27, temperatures reached 103 degrees, and more than 300 Scouts suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Some were taken to nearby hospitals. Coppock reported that temperatures in the tents where exhibits were held were higher because hundreds of people were crowded into small spaces with little air circulation.

He praised the 20 United Methodist chaplains and 10 exhibitors. “I have never been around a group so committed to Scouting as a ministry,” he said. “This was demonstrated through their actions during the 10-day gathering.”

Christopher Bryce Grady of Kinston, N.C., and William Ross Walker of Tullahoma, Tenn., received Good Samaritan Awards during the jamboree. The awards are presented to young people between the ages of 12 and 21 for demonstrating the attributes of the Good Samaritan described in Luke 10:25-37.

During the jamboree, God and Service Awards were presented to six United Methodist chaplains: The Rev. Randy Mitchell, the Rev. Leon Bird, the Rev. James Poole, the Rev. Ric Olson, the Rev. Richard Davies and the Rev. Paul Ritter.

Harris’ sermon was one of his last official acts as top staff executive of the Nashville-based commission. He leaves that post at the end of August to become director of communications and assistant to the bishop in the Oklahoma Area of the United Methodist Church.

*Peck is communications coordinator for the churchwide Commission on United Methodist Men.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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