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Boy Scouts get the message on malaria

BOWLING GREEN, VA - “Good idea.”

That’s the simple analysis of a Boy Scout after a few seconds of study of The United Methodist Church’s Nothing But Nets display at the National Boy Scout Jamboree, being held at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.
In this the 100th anniversary year of Scouting, more than 48,000 Scouts and adult leaders are gathered for two weeks on this military base in rolling rural hills not far from the Potomac River.

Craig Lincoln from Illinois, who designed the Boy Scout patches promoting Nothing But Nets, autographs the backs of the patches as he talks about the church’s anti-malaria partnership.
Photo by Neill Caldwell

In one of the giant display areas, The United Methodist Church has a prime front-row location, and is doing a brisk business telling passers-by about its Scouting programs and the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria partnership.

The key attraction is a “Scout” inside a large blue bed net, something just unique enough to attract Scouts’ attention as they walk past.

Because of the crush, Gil Hanke, the General Secretary for United Methodist Men, was shaking hands and talking to Scouts as fast as he could .

“There’s a tremendous interest in Nothing But Nets and our Strength for Service program,” Hanke said during a brief pause. “These are things that are right up the alley for Scouts to be involved in.

Hanke said that Scouts who are not familiar with Nothing But Nets are most impressed with the personal stories of saving lives with a $10 net.

“I can tell them about my friends from the East Texas Conference who have been to Cote d’ Ivoire and distributed the bed nets actually know they’ve saving someone’s life. It’s just a remarkable – and sensible – ministry.”

General Secretary for United Methodist Men Gil Hanke talks to Scouts from Florida about Nothing But Nets during the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Bowling Green, VA.
Photo by Neill Caldwell
Hanke is also enjoying the fact that he is at the Jamboree and his son Carl, an Eagle Scout who is now a district executive for Boy Scouts of America in east Texas, did not get to come.

“We have 12 people on staff who work four hour shifts,” said Larry Coppock, director of Scouting Ministries for United Methodist Men, “plus 18 United Methodist chaplains at the Jamboree. It’s really a great United Methodist presence here.”

Across from the bed net a large table is loaded down with material about various United Methodist ministries.

“Strength for Service for God and Country” is a pocket-sized devotional book being provided to U.S. soldiers by the General Commission for United Methodist Men. The effort originally started as an Eagle project by California Scout Evan Hunsberger.

Volunteers were also recruiting Scouting Ministry Specialists, a new position to help promote Scouting programs in the local churches.

Staff members and chaplains work the tent, talking with anyone and everyone who pauses to look at the display. But what most Scouts want is the “mosquito patch.” Scouts collect patches and pins at these Jamborees and the United Methodist patch – which features an angry-looking mosquito along with the Cross and Flame, the Boy Scout fleur-de-lis and the Nothing But Nets web address, has been a big hit.
Craig Lincoln of Morris, Ill., who designed the mosquito graphic, was on hand to sign the backs of the patches as

A blue bed net display helped bring Scouts, leaders and visitors into the United Methodist tent. Photo by Neill Caldwell
he handed them out.

“The hardest thing was getting the patch approved by the Boy Scouts, the United Nations and the United Methodis t Church,” said Lincoln, an engineer by trade, with no previous art experience.

Like the other volunteers, Lincoln was spending most of his time educating all who paused to listen about the Nothing But Nets effort. “I love this campaign,” he said. “It is so important.

“They are so many things we can’t fix,” Lincoln added, “like cancer. You or I can’t cure cancer. But we can fix this now. We can give a family in Africa a net that will save their lives.”

-Neill Caldwell is Editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate newsmagazine