During 2013, the Eurasia Royal Rangers leadership in Ukraine has gone over the border! They have a vision for taking the ministry of Royal Rangers, which has been impacting their own cities and villages, to other nations. One of the countries bordering Ukraine is Moldova. We have been praying for this nation for years, hoping to see a launch of Royal Rangers there. God put it in the heart of our Ukraine national team to organize a trip to make that vision a reality. The Royal Rangers plant in Moldova is now reaching young people and spreading into other churches.
On another front, Royal Rangers is gaining a foothold in India! Five churches in southern India and one school in the northern part of the country are starting Rangers. Commander Paul Koshy, one of our Ranger leaders from Florida, took a trip to India in November 2013. We had been talking about the need to do training and presentation of the RRI curriculum to the churches he planned to visit. While in country, Commander Paul taught Ranger Fundamentals and had a gathering for kids interested in joining Royal Rangers.
In the north of India, David, a missionary from Chile, runs a school of about 250 students. Fernando Ahumada, the Chilean Royal Rangers Director, contacted Eurasia Royal Rangers and asked if we could help David start a Rangers group in his school. Before leaving Chile, David participated in Fernando’s outpost, and now with Fernando’s assistance, David will soon launch Royal Rangers in his school in India!
Praise God for the response we are seeing in these new nations!
The journey to Royal Rangers Camporama is not for the faint of heart. Gravel roads, complete with hills and hairpin turns reminiscent of a roller coaster, wind through the woods of southwest Missouri, ending at last at an open, 1,400-acre spread known as Camp Eagle Rock. For four days every four years, this campground is the gathering place for more than 5,000 Royal Rangers and their leaders, all eager to experience the adventure of a lifetime. And adventure is what missionary Doug Marsh, Royal Rangers International director, intends for them.
“Adventure calls us to confront our fears, abandon the familiar, and develop strength we don’t currently have,” he says.
Standing atop the campground’s climbing tower, Doug laughs as he overhears a child exuberantly yell while descending a zip line. The smiling faces of the campers leave no doubt that Camporama is fun. However, Doug’s goal is that the days at camp translate into more than just a memorable experience.
“When I say that God builds boys into strong, godly men by taking them on an adventure with Him,” he says, “I’m really saying that following Christ can be as heart pounding and adrenaline rushing as any adventure you can think of.”
Hundreds of well-trained leaders diligently teach and encourage campers to push the limits of their comfort and physical abilities. Their hope is that the activities will serve as platforms to communicate the core values of Royal Rangers: Christlike character formation and servant leadership.
“Royal Rangers accomplishes three things,” Doug explains. “We do activities that build relationships, we have Bible studies that help them learn what it is to be a godly man, and we provide resources to help them develop as leaders. But ultimately, discipleship and leadership development really make Rangers what it is.”
In 2002, Royal Rangers International was launched as an outreach to youth worldwide. Since then, the ministry has grown to 7,115 outposts in 87 countries. More than 250,000 Rangers from ages 5 to 17 attend. Two-thirds of the international groups are open to both boys and girls.
Represented among those who attended Camporama 2013, held July 9-13, were 163 Rangers who traveled from 28 countries. This was the largest group from Royal Rangers International ever to come to Camp Eagle Rock.
Samuel Hernandez, a Royal Rangers leader from El Salvador, says, “When our group was traveling through the airport in Dallas, we saw Rangers from many parts of the world, one by one, filling the terminal with a variety of emblems, uniforms, flags and languages, but united under one promise and one brotherhood.”
Other international guests echo Samuel. “Camporama is certainly a highlight in my life,” says Erwin Chan, a Royal Rangers commander from Singapore, “but the most important things I’m gaining are the relationships that are formed and seeing the difference Royal Rangers can make in the lives of youth.”
Royal Rangers International is creating inroads into areas where no witness of Christ existed. “There are so many requests for Royal Rangers in Eurasia that we don’t have the manpower to fill them,” says John Wilson, missionary to Russia.
At Camporama, John and other missionaries reported that Royal Rangers is opening doors for ministry in places that are resistant to traditional means of ministry. “Our Royal Rangers commanders are going to places we couldn’t go as missionaries,” says John. ”As a result, people are hearing the gospel.”
A Royal Rangers leader in Ukraine goes regularly to a young men’s prison to share the gospel with 15- and 16-year-old inmates. Other leaders hold outreaches in remote villages, orphanages, schools and a home for children with special needs.
Members of a newly formed outpost in the heart of Mongolia travel to remote, outlying areas to host activities with children. Since camping and outdoors skills are a part of everyday life in Mongolia, Royal Rangers leaders use technology as an attention-grabbing activity by offering children computer training.
“Churches in Eurasia desperately need children’s ministries,” says Mark Broberg, Eurasia Royal Rangers coordinator. “But Royal Rangers International is beginning to change that. Pastors are beginning to see the benefit of investing in tomorrow’s leaders through this ministry.”
Especially in former Soviet bloc countries, programs similar to Boy Scouts have long been popular. In the mid-1920s, Russian dictator Josef Stalin copied aspects of scouting to create Pioneers, a program to indoctrinate young people in the ways of communism. Pioneers was abolished many years ago, but the scouting format still creates interest among young people. Royal Rangers International is filling the void by planting outposts that emphasize Christian values and biblical principles. As a result, the outreach is growing in popularity.
“We have a lot of disjointed, hurting families,” says Mark. “It means so much to these kids when we show them the love of Jesus, give them direction, and disciple them through Royal Rangers. We’re praying that Rangers will become an incredible youth movement, and that pastors, evangelists and missionaries will come out of the program.” Outpost leaders have seen dramatic turnarounds in the lives of children who attend Royal Rangers.
Gerhard and Tammy Uys oversee 14 Royal Rangers outposts scattered across Cape Town, South Africa, and neighboring Swaziland. Because many of the 850 children who attend live in extreme poverty, the Royal Rangers program incorporates educational opportunities with its regular activities.
While picking up children for a Rangers meeting in a Cape Town slum, Gerhard saw Nicole, a teenage girl, standing on a street corner, ready to begin a life of prostitution. Gerhard had previously invited Nicole to Royal Rangers, but she had never attended.
Gerhard recalls the day clearly. He says, “I slammed on my brakes and said, ‘Nicole, get into this car. We are going to our meeting, and you are coming with us."
Nicole agreed and faithfully attended Royal Rangers meetings from that day forward. She accepted Christ, and through the sponsorship of Royal Rangers in South Africa, she trained to become a nurse.
As the day’s activities wind down at Camporama, 5,200 campers pack the outdoor meeting area for the evening service. In the fading sunlight, the international Royal Rangers carry the flags of their nations as a visual demonstration of the far-reaching impact of Royal Rangers International.
Observing the scene, Mark Broberg says, “It’s not by laws or politics that we truly change a nation. It’s in the hearts of boys and girls.”
In an effort to influence more youth more effectively than ever, Malawi Royal Rangers has started an outreach to ex-street children in the capital city of Lilongwe. We are working through the Social Rehabilitation Center, an institution which is under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development of the Malawian government.
Out of the 15 million people in Malawi, 8.5 million are children. About 837,000 children are orphans. Twelve thousand children live in child-headed households, and more than 1000 live and work on the streets. About 41 percent experience physical or sexual abuse—65 percent of the girls experience some kind of sexual abuse by the age of 16, and one in every three girls is married before the age of 16. The 15–49 age group has been hit extremely hard by HIV/AIDS.
Even though Malawi has a beautiful freshwater lake running across two-thirds of the country and has rivers watering its land and a great climate for farming, it is listed among the 20 least-developed countries in the world. About 39 percent of the population lives on $5 per day, 15 percent are extremely poor, and 85 percent rely on subsistence farming. Divorce, poverty, poor parenting, witchcraft accusations, and HIV/AIDS are the major factors which put these children on the street.
Most of the children come from areas within 10 kilometers of Lilongwe’s city center; others, from districts hundreds of kilometers away from the capital city. With its minimal resources, the rehabilitation center provides shelter, food, education, and recreation. It only gets $300 a month from a nongovernmental organization for food, groceries, and salaries for three workers. On occasion it receives donations for clothes, shoes, bedding, school bags, notebooks, and textbooks.
Once the children are taken off the street and to the center, they are put on a holistic rehabilitation process. Royal Rangers was invited to assist in the spiritual aspect. The outpost started in 2013 with 28 children between the ages of 4 and 17, 5 of whom were girls. Now the total number has grown to 32, but 3 of the girls (aged from 10 to 13) recently went back on the street.
The outpost meets every Monday afternoon for two hours with volunteer commanders from the Assemblies of God School of Theology because it has no commanders of its own to run its activities. Working with these children has been significant for both the center and Malawi Royal Rangers because the love, smiles, and friendship shared make a difference. Teaching about Christ and giving hope to children who have gone through the most horrible experiences in their homes, community, and on the street and assuring them that in any situation, past or present, God will never leave them or forsake them gives purpose to the existence of Malawi Royal Rangers.
Telling the children that God knows each one of them by name and that Malawi looks forward to their leadership and contribution, inspires them to pursue education and life skills. Praying with them and learning that 29 out of the 30 boys would like to become soldiers when they grow up to protect themselves and their family, as well as listening to the rampant prayer petition for English vernacular and language literacy, compels Malawi Royal Rangers to take action.
In August 2014 Royal Rangers in Germany celebrated their Bundescamp, a special national camp held about every six years. It is an amazing time, full of fun and spiritual challenge. This last camp was the largest event in Royal Rangers history, drawing 15,200 attendees!
It was an incredible sight, witnessing thousands of Rangers all together in one place at one time as they celebrated, worshiped God, soaked up His Word, and sought Him wholeheartedly.
Big visions often have small beginnings. The first German Bundescamp had just over 100 campers. The most recent was the largest Ranger event ever. Over the last ten years, the number of nations with Royal Rangers has doubled from 45 to 91. The day will come when that number will double again.
There is something special happening in the worldwide development of Royal Rangers marked by growth, spiritual depth, leadership development, and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Since the start of RRI in 2002, the number of nations with RRI has nearly doubled. We believe this is just the start! God is positioning Royal Rangers for unprecedented global growth in the years ahead.
To this end, we are resourcing Royal Rangers ministries all around the world to be the premier, most sought-after church ministry to mentor the next generation, offering Christlike character formation and servant leadership development.
The most exciting thing is seeing mature national churches with established programs taking the lead, helping other nations start Royal Rangers after the pattern we've set. One example is how Singapore is currently helping launch the Philippines program.