On the journey to manhood, boys need to be a part of a mission bigger than themselves. They need significant challenges. They need men who can cast vision, celebrate milestones, and help them see who they can become. In the midst of Coronavirus shut-downs and virtual meetings, a group of leaders in Trail Life Troop TX-1160 were able to help the boys in their community dream and accomplish just such a project.
For years Troop TX-1160 has held meaningful annual ceremonies to recognize the accomplishments of boys in their Troop. Together boys and leaders would reflect on the past year, speak into the lives of individual boys, and set goals for the future. This year, with much of the country in quarantine, the Troop was unsure how to make this significant event happen.
Dreaming a Bridge
As virtual meetings and phone discussions occurred, a common vision for a project began to coalesce. One boy mentioned a creek by his house that would be a perfect location for camping and building the bridge, another boy mentioned that his dad was a Civil Contractor, a third found cedars they could use for construction. Soon ideas were forming about working in the outdoors to create the best bridging ceremony ever.
As the Troop began planning details for building, one boy commented that it would be cool if they could make a bridge the Troop could use year-after-year. The dads began to put their heads together and Ed Edwards and Robert – the Civil Contractor dad – began to listen and to design. The final concept for a bridge also functioned as a gaga ball pit, an archery tag barricade, and a pioneering tower. The Troop was thrilled with the idea and, with a few tweaks suggested by the boys, the design was complete and the project began to move from planning to implementation.
Throughout the testing and building phase, the boys exemplified hard work, determination, character, and leadership. They found trees, measured and sawed poles to length, cut notches, drilled holes, and began construction. After completing several mobile pylons, the Troop tested the design on land. Everything worked according to plan and construction continued.
With the bridge underway, the next step was to plan the weekend campout and ceremony with their leaders. The purpose of the weekend would be twofold: to recognize the hard work of the past year and welcome new boys to the Navigators and Adventurers program. Many details needed to be worked out including: laying out camp, building the bridge, creating a memorable celebration experience, and planning a rite of passage ceremony for younger Troop members. Ideas about where to camp, a trail to the bridge, the use of torches, and how to involve parents began to fall into place.
Building a Bridge
With the boys’ plans finalized, they loaded the poles onto a trailer and drove to the river. Once they arrived in the woods, the real work began. Adults in the Troop have learned the value of getting out of the way and letting boys be boys. The purpose of this effort was to give boys tools that would last a lifetime. The men allowed the boys to work together and solve problems as they arose. With sun on their backs, these boys made plans to get the bridge to the site. They worked together to lift the heavy logs from the trailer, carry them to the river, and float them downstream to the bridge location. As a team, mentors and boys set the pilings, added girders, and assembled the bridge according to plan.
The Troop was quick to point out that God was at work bringing the Troop families together to make the bridge experience happen. Clint says, "God had his hand in all of this. God comes first, and we give everything to him." One Troop member provided the home and yard to cut and assemble the wood. Another family provided the creek bed and the land to create the setting for this significant experience, and Robert and his son worked together to do the heavy lifting for drafting the plans. Throughout the experience the boys came together in a remarkable way to take responsibility for the project, learn, problem-solve, and accomplish the hard work necessary to make the dream a reality.
Leading up to the day of the bridging ceremony, there were numerable connecting and teaching points along the way. Troop TX-1160 is incredibly intentional in their approach to every meeting and event. Even the Troop name holds significant meaning. It's taken from Romans 1:16 which says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
When asked to explain his approach further, Troopmaster, Clint Webb said, "We’re taking boys who the world tells them one thing — and we’re telling them something else. That requires intentionality. They have to work together, pray together, plan together, win together, lose together, and learn things for themselves. Through this project it was our goal that they know that Christ is our bridge. We're trying to teach our Trailman not to simply say you’re a believer—but show it. That comes through experience."
Look closely, in the foreground of the bridge, there's a sword which says “no matter the cost”. It's forged by a fellow ministry called Band of Brothers. The sword is present at every meeting and ceremony for meaning at motivation. It provides a visual cue of Ephesians 6:17 which says, "...take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Boys see it as a constant reminder to take up the armor of God. Each boy in the Troop who reaches the summit of the Trail Life Program and earns the Freedom Award is presented with this sword at the ceremony honoring his achievement.
With the Trailman gathered at the newly erected bridge built by Troop hands, Troopmaster Clint allows a moment for other dads and leaders in attendance to speak into the lives of the boys. Dads and leaders explain to the attentive boys why this Troop is here, the symbolism of the ceremony, and fathers and mentors are given a special moment to cast vision and speak truth into the lives of the young men entrusted to their care.
"Jaden...Gary...", Troopmaster Clint calls each boy by name. With their Standard in hand, ready Trailman say the Oath and are presented to bridge. Each boy is paired with an older boy as a visual reminder of Proverbs 27:17, ‘Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Dads and leaders then share a special moment and give the Trailman handshake in solidarity and to commemorate the occasion. As the day ends and the sun sets over the water, the Troop huddles together with their torches and reflects on the journey of the last year. Men and boys pray together thanking God for the past year, praying over the new members who bridged into the Navigators Program and praying for wisdom and growth in the new year.
Reflecting on the event, Clint says, "I wish more men realized they don’t have to have all the answers. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay not know everything. Boys just need you to be there. To be intentional. To be involved. We are raising the next generation. Whether it's my sons or a fatherless boy. These boys need someone to stand in the gap. That is our job as leaders. We must do the work of showing the world how to turn boys into men. We teach, we’re involved, but at some point, we have to get out of the way so these boys go on a discovery journey. It is amazing to see what these boys were able to accomplish."
Watch the full video
Troop TX-1160 made this special video commemorating the bridge experience. Watch the full video for details.
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