Tuesday, September 26, 2017

‘You’ve got to hug me, bro.’

SIFAT Campus Director Angie Stryker and her dog, Apollo (the troop's now unofficial mascot),
following the completion of the troop's service project Sunday morning.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, Troop 50 Scouts and leaders ventured to Lineville, Alabama, the site of SIFAT, Servants in Faith and Technology. The troop last visited SIFAT in February 2015. SIFAT is a nonprofit Christian organization that provides training in community development for places around the world. Christian leaders learn self-help skills for basic human needs, including physical, spiritual, social and economic. It raises awareness of needs and global issues, providing opportunities for people to get involved personally, both to learn from and to serve alongside those with scarce resources. Since its founding in 1979, SIFAT has trained church and community leaders from more than 80 countries.

The Philippines: our Scouts' weekend home-away-from-home

The first order of business was to pick a place that everyone would call home for the evening. SIFAT’s Global Village features a number of homes indigenous to the countries represented in the village. Scouts took an immediate liking to a structure based on homes in the Philippines. Our host, Angie, explained that those living in the home will keep pigs or other small livestock in the pens below the house, and bring those animals into the home during times of inclement weather. She also noted that, in the Philippines, if someone dies in the home, its surviving residents will burn down and rebuild the structure.

The adult leaders selected Ecuador for their weekend getaway home.

The adult leaders, on the other hand, were a little harder to please. In what could be called an episode of “International Househunters,” they visited several options – ruling them out due to their less-than-spacious interiors or dirt floors — before settling on a spacious and elevated-floor model from Ecuador.

As Miles attempts to hang on, Luke and Rusty tend to the delicate task of
moving the beam from one set of buried posts to another.

Jacob gives Trey a boost to the rope's foot loop.
The weekend’s theme of cooperation, teamwork and togetherness began in the afternoon, when after settling in, exploring their surroundings and enjoying a group lunch, the troop set out for the SIFAT challenge course. The first station challenged Scouts to move the entire group across four posts using only two boards. If the board or a Scout touched the ground, the group had to start over. There was much trial and error before the Scouts made any forward progress. The troop finally formulated a strategy that involved moving across in pairs and clinging to each other as the pairs balanced on the buried posts — a strategy that Miles summed up with the simple instruction: “You’ve got to hug me, bro.” Despite the strategy, the group never got more than a single Scout or two to the finish line before having to start over due to some mishap.

The group moved onto its second challenge, where Scouts were required to move the entire group from one platform to another by swinging on a rope dangling out of their reach. After putting their heads together — and combining various belts and shoestrings they used to lasso the rope — the group began making forward progress…that is, until a rogue shoe or rear-end scrapped the ground and the group had to start over again. Applying a problem-solving approach once again, the Scouts realized that tying a loop at the end of the rope would give everyone the extra boost up they needed to avoid touching the ground in their Tarzan-style travel to the opposite platform.

The final challenge again required the group to work together in near-death-defying feats of balance to stabilize a see-sawing platform for 20 seconds. Scouts employed various methods as they tried to balance the swaying platform, from standing to sitting to their previously developed “hug-me-bro" strategy. Thanks to another combination of trial and error, the Scouts prevailed in the end (also thanks to some very fast counting to 20).

The troop returned to the campsite to relax, continue exploring the Global Village and prepare dinner. Both the combined single patrol and the Leadership Corps took a trail-style approach to dinner preparation, using backpacking stoves and filtered creek water for cooking and drinking. Scouts did prepare a dinner featuring ground meat tacos with tortillas and cheese, and the Leadership Corps relied on boxed red beans and rice with sausage. With the sun setting earlier in the evening, dinner was over and the troop began retiring to bed around 9 p.m.

The troop rose Sunday morning to easy breakfast menus — pop-tarts for the single Scout patrol, and a selection of oatmeal and grits for the Leadership Corps. The troop assembled after breakfast for its Sunday “Duty to God” devotional, which focused on Proverbs 3:5-6 and trusting in God, which was led by Chartered Organization Representative Michael Tullier. He and Scoutmaster Andrew Baird made several analogies to how trusting in God requires developing the same type of relationship with him that trapeze artists have as one leaps from the safety of his swing to the arms of the catcher, or how Scouts had to trust each other for balance and support during many of the SIFAT challenge course activities.

Nick assesses one of the two overgrown garden areas the troop helped clean up.

Scouts and leaders spent about two hours prior to departing conducting a service project by clearing out overgrown garden areas and cleaning off the roof of one of the Global Village cooking shelters.

The same garden area following the troop's weeding and clean-up efforts.

Among the aspects of the SIFAT campout members of the Patrol Leaders Council commended at its meeting the following Monday were the challenge course, the diverse elements of the Global Village, the opportunity to complete a service project, menu planning and, of course, the troop's unofficial mascot Apollo the dog. The troop's youth leaders did indicate a need to perfect their team-building strategies for better future success, as well as being better about campsite cleanliness. 

For more photos from the SIFAT campout, please visit the troop’s online photo album.