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Church reaches out to children in Lithuania through scouting

 

First United Methodist Church in Green Bay, Wis., is reaching around the world to help boys and girls in a church in Pilviskiai, Lithuania, have a successful scouting troop.

Thousands of United Methodist churches sponsor Boy Scout troops, but this troop is different than most. Scouting in the former Soviet nation is coed, so boys and girls join together in all activities, and every outing includes Bible study and prayer.

The troop was launched last year, with help from First United Methodist Church in Green Bay as a partner. Under the leadership of Scoutmaster Timm Bacher, the Wisconsin congregation agreed to contribute $500 a year to help with expenses of the Pilviskiai troop.

The Rev. Jeff Hassell, a member of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, serves as a missionary for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and pastor of the Pilviskiai congregation, along with the Eiguliai and the Kazlu Ruda United Methodist churches.

"Every Sunday, the kids and their leader, Arunas, show me their latest creations," Hassell says. "Last week, they showed me the tables and chairs, made of sticks and rope, that they made while practicing their knot-tying and lashing skills."

Hassell says he puts his Eagle Scout skills to the test as he camps with the scouts. "I have seen firsthand the spirit of the troop." He is especially impressed with the natural way in which the boys and girls routinely engage in Bible study and prayer.

The only problem now is that boys and girls who belong to the Eiguliai and Kazlu Ruda congregations want similar opportunities.

Since the average annual income in Lithuania is only $2,640 and the unemployment rate hovers around 12 percent, no extra money is available to help establish troops or pay for outings. The current scoutmaster earns only $200 a month and supports a wife and two children.

Bacher visited Pilviskiai June 19, along with five boys and another adult. He hopes to find two United Methodist congregations that will help sponsor troops in Eiguliai and Kazlu Ruda.

"My request is for two troops in the United States to make a three-year commitment to annually send $500 to the partner congregation," Bacher says. He also urges members of partner troops to write letters at least quarterly. "For this they will receive letters, small presents and photos. They will also get the admiration of troop members, parents, church leaders and myself."

The National Office of Civic Youth Ministry of the Commission on United Methodist Men coordinates scouting in the United Methodist Church. For information on scouting, contact Larry Coppock, national director, at LCoppock@gcumm.org or (615) 340-7149.

For more information about the Lithuanian churches, see http://www.hassel.lt/. Details about the Green Bay troop are available by contacting Timm Bacher at timm@bacher.com; 1848 Mac Lane, Green Bay, WI 54311; or (920) 465-3500 (work) or (920) 465-3666 (home).