By Jamin Osborne
Modern culture is increasingly embracing ideas, perspectives and lifestyles that are blatantly contrary to Biblical Christianity. Secular thought is strong, motivated and aggressively influencing both the direction of the United States and the life choices of her people. God and His ways are consistently jettisoned out of many of the institutions and organizations which, in their conception, stood on a belief in God and Judeo-Christian values. Christianity is under attack and losing strategic ground.
In the face of surmounting opposition, hope springs forth as the people of God respond to this secular tsunami through the reclamation of biblical vigor and establishing for themselves the supportive entities necessary to defend, strengthen and proclaim the Christian faith. Trail Life USA (TLUSA), a high adventure boy’s youth program, is such an entity, and it is providing the much needed support for the development of Christian character and living a biblically-principled life.
According to a TLUSA press release dated January 2, 2014, the organization was, ‘“Birthed on the same day that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) officially implemented its new membership policy which states that they allow ‘open and avowed’ homosexual youth in their program.’ Although around 40% of TLUSA’s members have no BSA background, around 60% of the new members of TLUSA are former members of the BSA.
“Adult members of TLUSA are required to sign a Christian statement of faith and values, undergo Child and Youth Safety Protection Training, submit to background checks and provide letters of recommendation from pastors who know the applicants.”
It was with the above statement that the Christian-faith-based organization was born in Nashville, Tennessee. The program is designed for K-12 boys and uses outdoor experiences to aid in the development of various skills with the intention of supporting their individual growth as a role model and leader. The validity of TLUSA as an organization and a sign of their strength in leadership can be found in one of the Inland Empire’s own TLUSA troops.
Troop CA-703 was chartered and organized by Mike Wyant. BSA was a huge part of Wyant’s life. Growing up in the Inland Empire (IE) with older brothers in scouts, Mike longed to be in scouts well before he was old enough to join. Once he was of age to become a Cub Scout, Mike’s parents presented him with the Cub Scout uniform as a Christmas gift, and his journey began.
Mike was involved with BSA from age seven until he was eighteen years old. An exemplary Eagle Scout, earning nearly every merit badge and recognized as Eagle Scout of the Year by the Inland Empire Council, Mike recalls his scouting experience fondly as time well spent with his father and as an experience which gave him leadership skills at a very young age.
After his time in BSA, Mike went on to study at The United States Military Academy at West Point and then served in the United States Army as a paratrooper. Out of the Army and reestablished in the IE, Mike excelled in business and focused on marriage and raising a family. When his own boys approached the age when they could join the BSA, Mike offered his experience to a local troop and was eagerly placed as leader of the Tiger pack his son was in. The following year, Mike was asked to take the role of Committee Chair, and the year after that, Mike took on the role of Cub Master.
The Christian faith has been a guiding factor nearly all of Mike’s life. Raised in a Christian home and himself a committed Christian by the age of thirteen, the most passionate aspect in Mike’s life is his studying and teaching of the Bible. Mike’s gift of Bible teaching was honed during his time at West Point where he led Bible studies for the Baptist Student Union. Locally, Mike has taught the Bible at Magnolia Baptist Church in Riverside from 1999-2013.
When Mike took on his leadership role, his faith and love for Jesus Christ made an immediate impact on the direction of Pack 703. BSA Pack 703 held their meetings at The Grove Community Church (GCC), and Mike quickly began working cooperatively with the pastors of GCC in building and developing the trajectory of Pack 703 as an openly faith-based pack in the Boy Scouts organization. The leadership of Pack 703 chose “Walk Worthy” as their theme and the Bible verse Colossians 1:10 as their Mission Statement. The scripture in Colossians 1:10 states, “so as to walk worthy in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” It was an objective of Mike and the other leaders of Pack 703 to use the Boy Scout experience to honor that verse and to develop the young men God had placed under their guidance into godly men.
Pack 703 was growing strong. The word was getting out that there was a Christian Boy Scout Pack in the IE, and many of the local churches and Christian schools began to promote and send their boys to take part. But as Pack 703 was gaining momentum as a faith based high adventure organization, the BSA itself was choosing to adopt popular secular perspectives in their own policies that were fundamentally transforming the organization. Pack 703 had found itself at a crossroads.
Looking back at this crucial period, Mike stated, “We were a group of Godly men using scouting as a way to raise our sons to be Godly men.” This directive led them very naturally in the transition into TLUSA, but the decision to leave Boy Scouts of America and join Trail Life USA was not taken lightly.
As the leadership of Pack 703 looked at their options in responding to the changes taking place in BSA, there was a lot of prayer, introspection and discussion with the local churches. They researched multiple youth groups along with TLUSA as options and even looked at the option of remaining in the BSA. During this time, Mike attended a TLUSA national meeting which unveiled the organization’s plans and objectives.
The theme that TLUSA had adopted was “Walk Worthy,” the same theme that Mike and Pack 703’s leadership had taken from the same scripture, a fact which definitely influenced their decision.
The reason for leaving BSA and moving the program into TLUSA was the fact TLUSA is a Christ-centered organization; all of their founding principles are based on scripture. “That’s what we want to instill in the boys, and that is a big difference from the previous organization,” said Mike.
TLUSA is currently established in 48 states, has reached the 500 troop milestone, and has received donations of property and camp facilities. The organization is also making use of National Parks for their high adventure excursions. Next year, Troop 703 will be doing a trip at Yosemite.
TLUSA is built around adventure as opposed to merit badges. Merit badges can still be earned, but it is impossible for someone to earn them all, as merit badges can be created for activities specific to the individual.
TLUSA is currently available for boys from age 5 to 18. It is a great program for fathers and sons to participate in together, and it is also a great program for single moms or households where a Godly father is not present, as TLUSA leaders seek to model Godly manhood.
Trail Life USA Troop 703 meets Sundays on non-holiday weekends at The Grove Community Church in Riverside. Mike Wyant is proud to extend this invitation, “If there is a boy looking for fun and adventure, which I think all boys are, they should come see us.”