More than 55,000 Pathfinders participated in the 2019 Chosen International Pathfinder Camporee on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, August 12-17. More than 5,600 of those Pathfinders were from the Atlantic Union Conference. For some Pathfinders, it was their first experience attending such an international event. For others, it was a time for reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones.
The week’s schedule was full of activities, including participating in onsite activities and offsite projects in the local community, completing honors in a number of areas, drum and drill competitions, pin trading, and marching in parades, to name a few. The nightly schedule began with baptisms, followed by the main-stage program that included messages presented by keynote speaker Damian Chandler, senior pastor of the Capitol City church in Sacramento, California; sessions with Christian ventriloquist Ryan Bomgardner and his puppet, Lily the Lamb; and a dramatic play about David.
The ultimate focus of the event was to help remind the Pathfinders that in their journey through life, they are indeed “Chosen” by God.—The Gleaner editor
A Look at the History of the International Camporee
One of the largest Adventist youth events in the world, the Pathfinder camporee began as an idea to bring Pathfinders together from all over North America for one big camporee. Some 1,500 people volunteered their time and efforts to help make this event a reality. More than 14,000
Pathfinders converged in the valley at Camp Hale, Colorado, in July 1985.
Four years later, in 1989, there was no money and no sponsorship for another camporee. The Columbia Union Conference hosted the second camporee in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania, that drew more than 12,000 Pathfinders comprising over 500 clubs. With the recurring lack of money and sponsorship, it looked as if this would be the last camporee.
Through the vision and foresight of several youth leaders, the idea surfaced to hold an international camporee in 1994. As planning began and the date neared, the original location to accommodate the campers near Denver, Colorado, was no longer available. Organizers were faced with finding a new location large enough to house the thousands of Pathfinders already making plans to attend the event.
After much prayer, organizers secured the Bandimere Speedway—a commercial drag-racing track in nearby Morrison, just minutes away from the Red Rocks Amphitheater, where the nightly programs and Bible-story drama would take place. The camporee went on as scheduled, and more than 12,000 Pathfinders from over 20 different countries attended the 1994 “Dare to Care” International Camporee. It was during the early 1990s that trading collectible pins became a tradition.
The Experimental Aircraft Association property in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was the next site for the 1999 “Discover the Power” International Camporee. Ron Whitehead, youth director for Lake Union Conference, North American Division (NAD) associate youth director, and director of the Center for Youth Evangelism, served as camporee director. International participation more than doubled from the previous camporee, with more than 50 countries represented; and the overall attendance jumped to more than 21,000 Pathfinders. God also showed His protection over His children during this historic event. As a major storm headed directly toward the open-air campground, it miraculously split into two, passing safely around the campground on either side. Also, during this camporee, more than 150 people were baptized.
Pathfinders attending the “Faith on Fire” International Pathfinder Camporee returned to the EAA location in Oshkosh in 2004. Nicknamed the “Winter Camporee” because of record low temperatures during the first four days, more than 31,000 Pathfinders from more than 60 countries braved the cool weather and enjoyed the nightly drama productions depicting the life of Joseph. More than 300 people were baptized during that camporee.
The 2009 International Pathfinder Camporee featured the theme “Courage to Stand.” For the third time, the event was held in Oshkosh under the continued direction of Ron Whitehead. The dramatic production of Esther each evening provided a message of encouragement to the more than 36,000 Pathfinders from more than 70 countries around the world. At the end of the camporee, more than 500 had taken their stand for Christ through baptism and personal commitment.
With numbers continually increasing, more than 50,000 Pathfinders attended the 2014 “Forever Faithful” International Pathfinder Camporee. Held again in Oshkosh, the number of countries represented had almost quadrupled since the first international camporee two decades earlier—with clubs from more than 80 countries attending the event. The life of Daniel inspired and challenged those attending, and more than 600 were baptized during the week. Five years later, the numbers continue to climb, with more than 55,000 Pathfinders from 100 countries who attended the 2019 “Chosen” camporee at the same location.
More than three decades have passed since the idea to hold a large-scale Pathfinder camporee here in North America. It has since developed into the largest Pathfinder-related event of its kind, highlighting diversity, building relationships and Christian values through a plethora of activities, top-notch worship programs, competitions, exhibits, and much more.—Debra Cuadro, Atlantic Union Conference assistant communication director
Drill and Drum Corps Teams Display their Skill
One of the most popular events during the International Pathfinder Camporee is the drum corps and drill competition. This competition took place over the course of four days, with an audience of hundreds witnessing Pathfinders display their precision in marching and drumming. Each day of competition consisted of at least two North American and International unions performing for the panel of judges.
Pathfinder clubs representing three conferences in the Atlantic Union Conference participated in a drill team/drum corps competition on August 13—Greater New York, Northeastern, and Southern New England.
The drill team competition was divided into three categories—Basic, Advanced, and Fancy/Freestyle. Based on the performance category, each performance time increased from a minimum of three minutes for a basic performance to eight minutes for a freestyle performance. Drum corps competitors gave an eight-minute performance.
Scores for each team were tallied and averaged to calculate the final score within a bracket: 90 percent for first place (90-100 points); 80 percent for second place (80-89 points); 70 percent for third place (70-79 points). Teams were judged based on several criteria, including uniform, the ability of the drill captain to command the team effectively, creativity, precision, and their routine. Teams were also interviewed individually to test their knowledge of information pertaining to the Pathfinder organization, the Pathfinder law and pledge, as well as their ability to explain aspects of the Pathfinder emblem. It was the first time that the Breath of Life Stars of David from Rochester, New York, competed at the international camporee and they took second
place in the Basic Drill competition.—JeNean Lendor, Northeastern Conference assistant to the president for communication, and Debra Cuadro, Atlantic Union Conference assistant communication director
NAD Launches “NextGen” initiative
Pathfinders with a desire to become pastors had the opportunity to mingle with leaders from the North American Division on the final day of the camporee to learn about pursuing a career in ministry. The NAD sponsored an ice cream social to launch “NextGen,” an initiative of the
NAD Ministerial Association, which is seeking to address the “projected number of pastors who will be able to minister throughout the division within the next decade as current pastors retire.”
Some 1,000 young people attended the event and shared testimonies about why they want to enter into pastoral ministry. About 150 church leaders were present. Organizers hope the gathering inspires church leaders to host similar events in their territories. In addition, the NAD Ministerial Association has organized a committee to increase the momentum of NextGen. More details will be provided during the 2020 CALLED convention for ministers, taking place June 21-24, 2020, in Lexington, Kentucky.—Debra Cuadro, Atlantic Union Conference assistant communication director
Spotlight on Adventist Education
For the first time in Pathfinder camporee history, the NAD Education department participated at Oshkosh. The entire airplane Hanger C was devoted to spotlighting pre-K to university Adventist education. The Atlantic Union Conference Office of Education accepted the invitation to participate and had a large booth representing three different areas:
• The heritage of Adventism in the Atlantic Union with a “selfie” spot in front of a replica of the Ellen G. White pulpit made by Dick Fuller (the actual pulpit is located in Founders Hall in Lancaster, Massachusetts),
• The search for Pathfinders and their leaders that are called to the Ministry of Education, and
• The Bible Marking Honor with four Bible studies showing the Atlantic Union emphasis on the Word of God.
Hundreds of people were engaged at the booth. A total of 650 worksheets and hundreds of blue/red pencils were used by participants for the Bible marking. Jerrell Gilkeson, director; Marlene Alvarez, associate director; Lileth Coke, assistant director; and Sheila Holder, retired Bermuda Conference superintendent of schools; led in this experience with God’s children, with Millie Felt giving office support. If you are interested in Bible marking, e-mail email@example.com.—Atlantic Union Conference Office of Education
The Spirit Was Present: 1311 Pathfinders Baptized at Oshkosh
We frequently hear of mass baptisms from Adventist evangelism efforts around the world. From India, from South America, and from Africa come reports of more than 1,000 people giving their lives to Christ at the culmination of a regional evangelism effort. But missing from that joyous report is the North American Division. We simply do not have mass baptisms. At least, we didn’t until the Pathfinders got involved.
Northern New England Conference president Bob Cundiff was tasked with organizing and managing the baptisms at the Oshkosh Camporee. It was a daunting task. “You wouldn’t believe the logistics behind organizing the baptismal pools,” said Cundiff. “Maranatha volunteers were on hand to set up four pools, landscaping, a stage, and walkways. The actual baptisms took another 75 people to manage registration, pass out towels, gift bags, certificates, and Bibles, and conduct the actual baptisms.
“Professional photographers were also on hand to capture every baptism—there was a lot to organize. And we wanted to make the whole thing beautiful, because what was happening there was beautiful. We sought to create a welcoming environment that could handle large amounts of people without rushing anyone—each individual baptism was meant to be a joyful and deeply spiritual experience.
“But in all this preparation there was a wild card: We didn’t know how many Pathfinders would seek to be baptized. The number of pre-registered baptismal candidates kept creeping up until we had some 600 candidates on our list the opening night of camporee. Experience told us that double that amount would seek to be baptized. And then, when the baptisms actually started, we were jammed—we were just jammed. So many Pathfinders were prepared for baptism that we were bursting at the seams. And I have to be honest with you, I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life. It brought me to tears. It brought the entire baptismal team to tears. The Spirit was present in a powerful way, and as I stood in the middle of all this activity and saw the numbers mounting and realized we would surpass 1,000 baptisms, I understood that this was the moment when the North American Division would join the ranks of the other divisions that had baptized so many, and we’d do it because the Pathfinder ministry is such an amazing ministry for our youth. Praise God for our youth, and praise God for the Pathfinders.”
In the end, 1,311 Pathfinders were baptized, which was far beyond the limits of the logistical planning that Cundiff and his team had put in place. But God made a way, and every volunteer and Pathfinder leader involved did everything they could to support the beautiful, life-shaping decisions the Pathfinders had made.
When asked about the next Oshkosh Camporee in 2024, Cundiff has a ready answer: “I hope the Pathfinders prepare even more of our precious youth for baptism and that they shatter their record, causing the courts of heaven to ring. If anyone can do it, it’s the Pathfinders.”—Scott Christiansen, Northern New England Conference communication director
The 2019 Chosen International Pathfinder Camporee is history. The Pathfinders have returned home with memories from their experiences at camporee. The next Pathfinder International Camporee is scheduled for August 12-17, 2024, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The theme is “Believe the Promise” and features Bible characters Moses and Miriam. To register and learn more about the 2024 camporee, visit camporee.org.