Leaven Blog

Better to “be like Nathan”

by Joe Bollig

There are some experiences that leave one thinking about them for days or even weeks. The Freedom Award Board of Review for Nathan Quaintance, which occurred on Feb. 21, was such an experience for me.

I’d gotten a call the night before from Buster Schmitz, asking for a favor. Schmitz, a member of St. Gregory Parish in Marysville, is the northern Kansas administrator of the Trail Life USA Area Team.

He asked me to serve on Nathan’s board of review, since it would occur in Lenexa and would have required a very long drive for him to be there.

I’ve been on Schmitz’s area team since I jointed Trail Life USA in late 2015, and I was eager to be more active, so I agreed.

Trail Life USA is a Christ-centered outdoor adventure program for boys and young men. It was launched in January 2014, so the organization is still growing.

Trail Life USA was founded by men and women who had been involved in the Boy Scouts of America, but were dissatisfied with the direction the BSA has taken since 2013.

The organization’s founders created a program that is reminiscent of the old Scouting experience in many ways. This includes earning ranks, culminating in an ultimate rank and award. In Trail Life USA, that is the Freedom Award.

As an adult Scout leader, I sat on many boards of review for rank advancement, including those for young men seeking the Eagle Award, so this was somewhat familiar to me.

Nathan, age 17, transferred membership from the BSA to KS-0412, a Trail Life troop chartered to Lenexa Baptist Church. He had actually earned the BSA’s Eagle rank but wanted to earn the Freedom Award as a Trail Life USA Trailman, which required additional work.

Troopmaster Phil Flaggard brought Nathan into the room and the board members began to ask him questions.

Nathan’s board of review covered a lot of ground, but the most interesting part, to me, dealt about Nathan’s Christian faith. It was clear from his letters of recommendation, statement of life’s ambition, and reminiscences of campouts that he has a strong Christian faith.

One of the men sitting on the board said that Nathan, a member of the New Life Assembly of God Church in Baldwin, was outspoken in word and deed about his Christian faith.

That is not to say that Nathan is preachy or always dropping Scripture verses. Rather, he lives the kind of authentic faith that caused the fathers in his troop to tell their sons, “be like Nathan.”

When Jesus said, “Come follow me,” he wasn’t just asking his apostles to make a change in their geography. He invited them to change their whole lives and destiny by learning to be like him. The name of the game for them — and us today — is not “what would Jesus do,” but rather “how can we be like Jesus.” It’s about replicating Jesus in our lives, to witness his grace.

In our schools, CYO programs, youth ministries activities and parish religious education programs, we try to form our young people into individuals with a deep and authentic faith — to “be like Jesus.” It isn’t always easy to see success or — conversely — the lack thereof, because some of those seeds take a long time to grow — all in Jesus’ own good time.

Nevertheless, one sure sign of success is when one of your youths becomes the kind of person we steer others toward so they can be like him or her — in actuality, a person who is more Christ-like. Congratulations, Freedom Rangeman Nathan Quaintance!

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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