By Roxanne Smith
Our son Jakob achieved his Eagle Scout Rank in 2013. This was the finale of a ten-year effort, starting with Cub Scouts in second grade, and culminating with his award ceremony at age 17. Andy and I are proud parents.
An Eagle Scout doesn’t achieve this rank all by himself. We are thankful to Jakob’s Cub Scout Pack 111, as well as his Boy Scout Troop 27, for the ways the boys and adult volunteers helped Jakob to mature and to grow. The years of camping, hiking, and other adventures have been a blast!
And dads certainly deserve some credit. Andy frequently volunteered to be an adult leader during the monthly weekend campouts—even in frigid January! In a tent! In the snow! The father-son bonding was amazing to see; there were always stories to hear about when the two of them got home, tired and dirty but in good spirits.
But the one person I want to highlight as having had a huge impact on Jakob’s life is his youth leader, Byron Porisch. When it came time to choose his Eagle Scout Project, Jakob consulted with this man. Ever since sixth grade, Jakob has gotten a weekly dose of By’s influence. He respects Byron enormously for his huge personality, his awesome story telling ability, and his love for Jesus—a contagious combination for teenagers.
As for Byron’s teaching? WOW! The man is amazing at bringing the Bible to life and making it relevant to teens.
So Jakob approached Byron when the time came to choose his Eagle Scout Project. Turns out, Byron had an ideal proposal in mind. It involved a shed behind St. Luke, which Byron wanted to use as an outdoor worship center for the youth. Would Jakob be willing to work under the supervision of an electrician and in partnership with Byron, to supply electricity to the shed?
With consultation from Ed Gustafson, a licensed electrician, Jakob and Byron got to work. After many hours of planning, Jakob led a team in digging a forty-foot trench and laying metal conduit, which would safely carry the wiring underground to the shed. Joined by other Boy Scouts as well as some St. Luke volunteers, they ran the wiring up into the shed and installed outlets, lights, and switches.
Part of the shed covered a pavilion with picnic tables, so they installed a ceiling fan, an overhead light, and a spotlight, which would shine on a nearby cross. Jakob devoted six Saturdays last autumn to accomplish this work. Byron showed up every one of them, on his only day off, to work with Jakob.
You should have seen the excitement when they finally turned on the lights. Voila! Outdoor worship center!
No one knew that just 3 months later, Byron would be diagnosed with an aggressive malignant brain cancer. I cried when I heard the news.
By May, the date of Jakob’s Eagle Scout ceremony, Byron couldn’t speak more than a few words, and he needed to use a wheelchair to get around. We wondered whether he’d be able to make the ceremony or not. To our great joy, his wife Michell was able to bring him. Jakob used his time at the microphone to thank By for all the ways he’s invested in him.
As Jakob’s mom, I’m tremendously grateful to Byron. How can I ever thank him enough for helping shape our son’s character and his love for God? I can’t. I can only be thankful.
It occurs to me that By has known how to live life at its fullest, and to spend his life doing the important things. He reminds me of Psalm 90.
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90: 10, 12