My name is Sam Gray. I want to share a little about my scouting experience as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and how my life has been blessed by Scouting even after the Church ceased chartering Scouting for its Young Men’s program.
Like most Latter Day Saint boys, I started Scouting as a cub scout in Midway, Utah at age 8. I really enjoyed it and earned the maximum number of arrow points possible while advancing through my rank advancements finally achieving the rank of Webelos scout and receiving both my religious square knot and Arrow of Light. I soon after bridged over to my first Troop, progressed through the first ranks and earned some MB’s and really enjoyed it over all.
In 2017, when the Church announced it would stop being a charter organization in Scouting, I was worried that that might affect my goals in scouting especially my goal to become an Eagle Scout. I had already spent so much time working towards getting my Eagle! I was a Life Scout at that point and I was sad about the prospect of getting so close just to fall short.
Then we moved to Ireland. I thought for sure that would be the end of my journey in Scouting. I was genuinely surprised when my Dad told me Europe had a thriving Scouting Council and community. There was not a troop on the Island, so I began scouting in Transatlantic Council as a lone Scout, working on Merit Badges and incorporating Scouting as part of my home school program.
But then one of our Council Commissioners was tasked with helping to stand up a number of Virtual Units in our District for those Scouts who don’t have an in person Pack, Troop, Crew or Ship in their area. This was happening right around the time we were looking to expand our involvement with the Scouting community here in Europe. We heard about the virtual troops that were stood up in October 2019. My Dad and I transferred in to Troop 802 Blackhawks a Scouts BSA Troop for boys; we also have Troop 802 Golden Kites for girls, a Cub Scout pack and a Sea Scouts Ship. In May 2020, I became the Senior Patrol Leader and have been heavily involved in leadership duties in the Troop ever since!
Most of the people in our council are Scouts with parents who are either military and are based here, or other jobs bringing them in the Europe area. Being one of the very few Scouts who are members of the Church really helped me realize that there are hundreds of thousands of Scout who achieve the rank of Eagle without being a member of the Church, Or having church leaders to help them, so why couldn’t I?
At the beginning 2020, as part of the new youth program, discussed with each of my sisters and myself our goals for the year. Among my goals was to get my Eagle by June. I got to work finding a project that I could do with the ever-growing Covid – 19. I looked at everything from painting playgrounds to taking pictures of graves for genealogy work. One night my Dad and I went to my Stake President’s house, we got talking and eventually we reached the subject of my Eagle project and how we were in the process of coming up with a service project.
The next day our Stake President called my Dad asking if I would be willing to consider managing the project to establish the JustServe program for my Eagle Scout Service Project. Our stake had set a goal to get JustServe up and running, this would be the first time JustServe had been setup on the Island of Ireland. With Covid based lockdowns starting everything was done via zoom and email (not your average Eagle Project). I organized the meetings, made assignments and managed training sessions for the JustServe committee and ward representatives. It took A LOT of work to get the first few critical steps done, it was interesting to me that the tools contained in the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook and the structure they gave to the project helped inject confidence into all the committee members. I had (with tons of help from everyone involved) succeeded in getting the JustServe program launched, Organized the committee, listed over eighty projects, trained members of the wards (parish’s) how to use JustServe, done a stake fireside on JustServe and earned my eagle. The program has now been taken over by other members in the Stake and continues to grow and thrive with the number of projects on track to double by the end of the year!
And now that I am done with my eagle project I am really exited to get going on my other Scouting Goals before I turn eighteen (and beyond really). I plan on getting more involved in the venturing program in the new year. Scouting has been and always will be a part of my life! I have loved every single second of my experience in it! I would love for every single kid on earth to have some sort of experience with Scouting and its aims and methods! It’s a great way to complete your personal goals (and a great thing to drag your family into as well!) I am so glad to hear that there are other LDS Scouts out there like myself who have kept going with their Scouting goals!
Yours in Scouting,
SPL T 802 Blackhawks, Charlemagne district, Transatlantic Council
Eagle Scout class of 2020