One Boy’s Memory of Royal Rangers Inspires a Ministry’s Reach to Many More
Glen Sorrentino, an adult volunteer with Royal Rangers, contributed this story about how a boy’s remembrance of his childhood experience as a Royal Ranger inspired a ministry to the boys and young men at a South Carolina youth detention center.
The Royal Rangers program is an activity-based, small group church ministry for boys and young men in grades K-12. Royal Rangers provides Christlike character formation and servant leadership development for boys and young men in a highly relational and fun environment.
It was the fall of 1997, and my wife and I were living in the Columbia, South Carolina, area. I was the Senior Commander at Royal Ranger Outpost 49, Christian Life Assembly of God. One weekday evening, I received a call from our Associate Pastor, Glenn Burchette. He said he had received a letter, which was forwarded to him from the National Royal Ranger office in Springfield, Missouri. It was from a boy who was incarcerated in the Columbia area.
The boy wrote about his experiences in Royal Rangers when he was little, and said he wanted to get involved again. “Could I get in touch with a Royal Ranger Outpost?” he’d asked. Pastor Glenn asked me if I would be willing to visit with this boy. I did not know it at the time, but the national office sent that letter to all Royal Ranger outposts in the Columbia area.
I called the local juvenile detention center, and made arrangements to meet with the boy the following Monday night. I wore my Royal Ranger uniform to the meeting, and found myself seated across a table from a sandy-haired, 14-year-old boy named David. For an hour and a half, I listened to his story of crime, drugs, and dysfunctional home life that led to his being incarcerated. He had more than a year left on his sentence.
He said he had been in Royal Rangers when he was little, and wanted to know if he could get back in. I asked him if he thought any of the other boys in the detention center would be interested in Rangers, and he said he thought they would.
So I said, “You talk to your people, I’ll talk to my people, and I’ll meet you here next Monday night.” And that’s how we got started. We met with those boys every Monday evening for almost four years. During that time, over 1,200 young men came to Jesus Christ.
Commander Paul Seabrooks, now passed, was my right-hand man. The fact that he was African-American helped, since the vast majority of the boys in detention are African-American. The Commanders in my outpost and section were supportive, helping when they could. Even the District Commander drove down one evening, traveling more than a hundred miles, just to see what was going on. With his help, this became the first Chartered Royal Ranger Outpost in a detention center.
Our format was simple. We opened with a flag ceremony, played a couple of games with the boys, used a character-building teaching from the Ranger Code, and shared the gospel at every meeting. We celebrated birthdays every month with a cake, and held large Christmas parties every December.
At the first Christmas party, our Section Commander said to me, “Why don’t we share the Christmas story, out of Luke, Chapter 2?” I thought everyone would have heard it before, but it seemed appropriate, so I read the story to the 65 boys in the room. When it was finished, I asked how many had heard the story before. Two hands went up. And this was South Carolina! We also had a father/son cookout every summer, and played some touch football, where these boys got to see real Christian men in action.
I have had the opportunity to talk to several of the young men who had received Christ after they were released, and they have credited their experience in Royal Rangers with turning them around, and setting their feet on the right path. One boy said it best, “I never knew Jesus was real, until y’all showed us. Now, I tell my family and friends what Jesus has done for me.”
We offered a Royal Ranger t-shirt to any boy who could complete the recruit requirements, attend three meetings, recite the three pledges, the motto, code, and Golden Rule, and explain the points of the emblem. I lost track of how many t-shirts we presented, but one Monday evening, a young man came into the meeting with his Ranger t-shirt slashed all through the emblem. I asked him what happened. He said, “One of the guys on my unit was jealous because he didn’t have a t-shirt, so this is how he did me.” I offered to replace the shirt with a new one, but he said, “No, I earned this one.”
I met with those boys every Monday night until moving to Virginia. Through a series of events, which could only be God, I was exposed to boys in detention here in Virginia. That started my efforts to try to establish a Royal Ranger ministry here. For three and a half years, it was unsuccessful. But due to prayer and consistent effort, we have seen approximately 860 boys come to Christ since we started in February of 2011.
We are now ministering with Outpost 158 in Norfolk and Chesapeake and hope to start in Newport News soon. Your prayer for this ministry, both the boys and the men involved, would be greatly appreciated.
Royal Ranger Outpost 49 Gallery