RA Virtues Blog Loyalty and Faith
Missions Discipleship

A Series on the RA Virtues: Loyalty and Faith

This blog is the second in a series on the RA Virtues.

I figure we would have followed him to the moon if he’d told us to grab our gear and load it up. Mr. Earl — our fearless, cantankerous, yet loveable Royal Ambassador leader — had that effect on “his” boys.

One fine, fall Sunday morning, Mr. Earl announced to the assembled church congregation he and his RA boys would be camping at Cloud’s Crossing Campground, which the Forest Service had built about five miles north of town. Most of the men of the church thought this was a fine idea because they had also been camping there as young pups, and any proper boy in those parts ought to enjoy the experience. More importantly, the men volunteered to go as chaperones so as to get a free pass from the house.

Mr. Earl also informed parents that the boys must be properly attired and outfitted for walking, as we would be hiking out to the campground. Most of us boys would have preferred riding in a pickup over hoofing it, particularly those who knew the most direct path to the campground would take us through the Saline Bayou swamp. Nevertheless, we made our hike to the campground, pitched our tents and made camp, and generally passed a good time.

It strikes me however, with the hindsight that comes with 30 years’ experience, there were some very good reasons to not go tramping through that swamp to get to a campground easily accessible by road or boat. The swamp was exactly what you might imagine when you picture a Louisiana swamp in all its glory: full of old-growth trees and huge ponds of water which, combined, make a wonderful habitat for a variety of God’s creatures, both wanted and unwanted. Daybreak in the swamp was something most of us kids had experienced, waiting for the deer to stir or the ducks to migrate toward land. The smell of the muddy water, the chittering of the squirrels, and the breeze in the treetops are still close at hand to my memory, even today.

But those furry, Bambi creatures weren’t the only things calling the swamp home. No, there was also the small matter of the Rougarou (not to be confused with the Parlangua of musical fame). The Rougarou was (is?) the swamp version of a werewolf, snacking on small deer and wild hogs — and unsuspecting RAs. Everyone had a cousin whose friend’s uncle’s brother’s kid had seen the Rougarou. Every screech of an owl, howl of coyote, or cry of a fox was, to a third-grader’s mind, the scream of the Rougarou. It was widely known the Rougarou inhabited the Saline Bayou swamp, live and in color — and Mr. Earl wanted us to go right through the Rougarou’s home turf to get to our campground.

If the Rougarou didn’t get us, surely the legions of snakes, spiders, and demon-possessed mosquitos would do the trick. (I’m not like some folks who say mosquitos are worthless. Surely God had a plan in creating them. However, it is on my list of things to ask Him at the appropriate time.)

In any event, perhaps more pressing than being carried off by the Rougarou or the mosquitos was the matter of there being no direct path through the swamp. None of us boys knew how to get through it on our own. To traverse Saline Bayou swamp, one needed to zig and zag around fairly large pools of water, mud, and muck. To make matters worse, the heavy canopy stifled the sun and prevented one using it as a navigational aid. Before the age of GPS people routinely got lost in the swamp, and some were never recovered — and that’s not a Rougarou myth; that’s a fact. Our hunting trips were confined to out-and-back adventures, not full-blown traversals.

But none of those very good reasons to not go hiking through a dangerous swamp with no directions ever really made it to the forefront of our thinking. What in the world were we thinking? Or were we thinking? I submit to you that a lot of thought never entered our minds on this or any other topic — we simply followed our leader. Mr. Earl said we’d be hiking up to the campground, and we dutifully obeyed. He took the lead, and we followed.

It seems to me that such is how we are to follow Christ. If He tells us to follow Him through a snake-infested swamp we cannot see a clear path through, then we ought to be willing to do just that.

In Royal Ambassadors, the first phrase of our Pledge tells us we are to do our best “to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ.” We teach that to be such a follower of Christ requires both loyalty and faith, two virtues tied to that part of the Pledge. Our loyalty must be to Christ, and our faith must be in Him and who He says He is and what He has done.

RA Virtues Chart Highlighting Loyalty Faith

For instance, not a boy in our RA group ever doubted Mr. Earl knew his way through the Saline Bayou swamp. We knew he knew how to get to the campground. But knowing that and following him as he took off walking through the swamp were two very different things. Just knowing he knew what he was doing would not be enough to get us to the campground; we actually had to put boots on the ground and follow Mr. Earl. Truly having faith in Mr. Earl’s ability to lead us through meant that we had to actually follow him.

It’s the same way with being a follower of Christ: Just believing He is who He says He is only gets us part of the way there. We also have to step out as a follower of Christ and literally follow Him through the swamps of life — that’s faith.

That we would only follow Mr. Earl through the swamp and no other man, woman, or boy was loyalty. Because we had faith in Mr. Earl, we were loyal to him.

Similarly, that we follow Christ is faith, and that we follow only Him is loyalty. Together, those two virtues make us “followers of Christ.”

The Rougarou and the snakes and the mosquitoes never carried us RAs off on that hike or any other time, probably because we stayed in line and followed our leader. Such is the lesson for us today: Be a loyal and faithful follower of Christ.

RA Virtue Loyalty
RA Virture Faith

Keith Gates is the WMU ministry consultant for Royal Ambassadors, Challengers, and Youth on Mission. This article is the second in a series on the RA Virtues.