NASHVILLE, Tenn.––The Strength for Service Committee has released a Boy Scout edition of Strength for Service to God and Community, a book of daily devotions for police officers, firefighters, EMT personnel and other first responders.
The first 2,000 copies will be given to Scouts attending the July 15-24 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia.
An additional 10,000 copies will available for Scouts attending the Latimer High Adventure Reservation in Tennessee, courtesy of Bill and Carol Latimer.
A 2007 gift of the Latimers, the Scout reservation is now owned and operated by the Middle Tennessee Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Reasons for a Scout edition
Dr. Robert Lee Edmonds, founder and chief executive officer of Eight Eleven Press, says it is appropriate to have a Scout version of the book for first responders.
“The Boy Scout motto, ‘Be Prepared,’ is every Scout’s call to always be ready to do the best for themselves and their homes and communities,” says Edmonds. “Following this scouting maxim builds each mind and body with the strength, understanding, and desire to do what is necessary and right at the right time.”
Edmonds, the author of In Our Own Way, Living a Scouting Life through Faith, says, “Affirming God’s role in everyday life inspires Scouts to make sound moral decisions and dutifully deal with difficult situations.”
An Eagle Scout, Dr. Edmonds notes that scouting is grounded in the duty to help others at all times. “The prayers in Strength for Service to God and Community are daily reminders to each Scout of his responsibility to be in service to his community and those in need.”
Eight Eleven Press, a division of the Edmonds Publishing & Media Group, leads advertising, printing and distribution efforts for the book targeted at first responders.
Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters, found that about 5 percent of firefighters in his district are Eagle Scouts.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise that so many Eagle Scouts pursue careers in emergency services,” said Paulson. “Part of it is helping other people at all times; part of it is the learning we got in scouting on emergency preparedness and first aid and all those things. It just seems like a natural fit.”
Paulson led an effort to get Eagle Scouts now serving as firefighters to become merit badge counselors or unit-level volunteers. A decal on their helmets identifies the firefighters as Eagle Scouts.
Of course, there are thousands of additional firefighters who were Scouts, but did not attain the rank of Eagle. As Scouts, these firefighters still learned about first aid and life-saving measures.
While we associate first responders with professional firefighters, police officer or EMT personnel, average citizens are frequently cast in the role of first responders.
“Boy Scouts could be categorized as ‘first responders in training’,” said Larry Coppock, director of the Strength for Service Fund.
“There exists an array of merit badges that present opportunities for Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts and Venturers to learn about how to conduct themselves, think and respond in emergency situations,” said Coppock.
Merit badges include: First Aid, Emergency Preparedness, Lifesaving, Wilderness Survival, Fire Safety, Traffic Safety, Public Health and Safety. Related badges include Communications and Personal Fitness. A Search and Rescue merit badge will be available in 2014.
The story behind the two Strength for Service books began shortly after the 1941 attack upon Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war on Japan and Germany.
The Methodist Publishing in Nashville wanted to provide spiritual armor for the thousands of men volunteering to serve in World War II. Executives of the Nashville company invited 365 of the leading leaders of faith communities across the United States to submit one-page meditations. The massive effort resulted in the birth of Strength for Service to God and Country, a pocket-size book of daily devotions addressed to combat troops.
The book was given out to more than one million troops from 1942 to 1954. Following the end of the Korean War, the book went out of print.
In 1999, Evan Hunsberger, a Roman Catholic Boy Scout in Orange County, Calif., was visiting his grandfather Eugene Hunsberger. Evan noticed a tattered book on his grandfather’s bed stand. “What’s this?” asked Evan. Eugene explained that it was a book of daily devotions he carried while serving in World War II and the Korean War.
Evan was looking for an Eagle service project and asked his grandfather if it would be a good idea to get the book reprinted for naval bases near their home. “That’s not a good idea,” said Eugene. “It’s a great idea.”
Evan secured permission to reprint the book from the United Methodist Publishing House and he added devotions from 39 contemporary religious leaders.
The General Commission on United Methodist Men soon joined Evan in his effort to secure funds to get the book published and sent to U.S. troops. Over the following 13 years, Evan’s modest effort to provide books for California bases ended up with the printing and distribution of 462,000 copies of the updated and expanded book
While most of the Strength for Service to God and Country books were given to U.S. troops, some communities gave copies to local police officers, fire fighters, and other community servants. While these men and women were grateful, they asked for a book that would address their situations and conditions.
In 2013, the General Commission on United Methodist Men responded with the creation of Strength for Service to God and Community, a pocket-size book that followed the same format as the historic book, but the Scriptures, meditations and prayers were specifically addressed to first responders.
Some 3,000 copies of the second book have been given to first responders in West, Texas; Newtown, Conn.; Boston, Mass.; and Nashville, Tenn.
Since the books are addressed to men and women of all Christian denominations, the commission has formed a non-denominational Strength for Service Board to continue publishing and distributing both books, and the committee has applied for non-profit, 501(c)(3) status. L.W. Smith, a South Carolina layman who led efforts to distribute the first volume, is serving as chairman of the effort to form the new organization.
To financially support the ministry, visit the donation section of www.strengthforservice.org or call 615-340-7145 for information.