John Obrey had volunteered at his local food pantry for two years.
He could clearly see the needs of the pantry — including the shabby floor that needed replacing.
But what could he do as a high school student?
Thankfully, John had been well prepared for the challenge through an important ministry.
John was an avid member of his local Trail Life USA troop.
Trail Life USA is a “church-based, Christ-centered, boy-focused mentoring and discipleship journey.” Much like the Boy Scouts of America, Trail Life offers weekly meetings, outdoor activities, and service projects.
But Trail Life is first and foremost a Christian ministry. It’s intended to challenge boys and young men to grow spiritually and find their purpose as followers of Christ.
Trailmen like John are taught to serve their communities and develop practical leadership skills that equip them for life as strong men of God.
Throughout his time in the Trail Life program, John had built up skills in outdoorsmanship, construction, team leadership, and organization, and now it was time to put them to the test.
John wanted to pursue the Freedom Award, which is the highest award offered to participants in Trail Life. It’s an opportunity to complete a capstone project that celebrates a young man’s journey through Trail Life.
The Freedom Award service project “requires a Trailman to assemble a team, perform all the planning and fundraising necessary to prepare, and then lead his team in making the vision a reality.”
It’s a call to serve a local community for the glory of God and the good of all involved.
John had volunteered at his local food pantry for two years during high school. He loved the ministry, and he was in tune with its needs.
So John approached Stan Boduch, one of the pantry’s organizers, and asked what he could do to help.
“We always wanted to refinish the floors,” suggested Boduch, “and several other things.”
As it turned out, “several other things” included a complete reflooring project, minor repairs to the pantry’s walls, repainting, and organizing the pantry’s food storage.
It was a big project for a high schooler, but John was well prepared for the task. Trail Life had helped him cultivate valuable skills that he could now use for the benefit of his community!
John worked hard to assemble a team of other Trailmen and local youth to help with the project. Working together, the team fundraised, gathered donations of food and money, and planned the construction process.
John headed up the team with humility and grace, sharing his vision for the remodeled pantry while doing his best to accommodate the skills and ideas of his teammates.
By the end of the project, John’s servant leadership had paid off: the pantry looked better than ever, and the team had $900 left over to present to Boduch and the other pantry organizers.
Boduch and his colleagues were touched and amazed by John’s generosity.
“It looks great!” Boduch said of the final result. The new floor and repainted walls were just what the pantry needed to accommodate and aid the community.
But John was more concerned with the opportunity to show God’s love to his community than with the construction. He chose the project out of a genuine desire to serve those around him.
That’s a common theme in Trail Life: service to God and others.
Trail Life encourages boys and young men to pursue servant leadership as a way to “rise to the occasion and conquer significant challenges.”
“As boys grow in confidence, character, and leadership,” the ministry writes, “they experience intentional rites of passage that recognize their progress and mark steps in their journey to manhood.”
The organization wants to see a return of Biblical masculinity that celebrates the “assertive, audacious, and adventurous nature” God has instilled in boys and young men.
In order to pursue that vision of healthy masculinity, Trail Life USA offers young men the opportunity to earn badges, complete outdoor challenges, and receive Christian mentorship from mature adults.
The organization places a high importance on the connection between fathers and sons, and fathers are encouraged to participate in activities and challenges with their sons.
Trail Life also partners with churches around the country to advance the kingdom of God in the lives of boys and young men.