Over the course of just a few days, an estimated 56,000 Pathfinders and Master Guides, along with staff and supporters, converged on the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the 2019 International Pathfinder Camporee. This event is the largest gathering for young people in the Adventist Church, and the second largest overall in the Adventist Church (next to the General Conference Session), with participation this year from over 100 countries.

Of the massive number of attendees, the Central States Conference contributed roughly 240, representing every state in the Mid-America Union with the exception of North and South Dakota. Central States was also blessed to host approximately 73 campers from Kenya alongside its own Pathfinders.

This installment of the Camporee was especially important for Central States, which is currently in the process of building up its club ministry across the conference. For many, this was their first Pathfinder camporee experience, and it did not disappoint.

There is much to do at the International Camporee without leaving the more than 400-acre campsite. Campers were able to choose activities from competitive sports to drilling and marching to rides, shows and even a petting zoo. The Gatekeepers from Ebenezer Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, took advantage of the sporting events with a solid run in the soccer tournament.

Those who looked for a more laid back camp experience earned honors, perused the extensive food court, or visited the many vendors and exhibits in Hangar A.

The number one camporee activity by far was pin trading, which serves as a tool for encouraging social interaction between the many cultures represented. Some Central States campers were able to trade their conference pin with Pathfinders from places as far away as Mongolia, Pakistan, China and Dubai.

With a couple days of rain, campers were privileged to get a complete camporee experience. The downpour resulted in wet campsites, wet tents and emergency trips off-campus to find ponchos. Yet the rain wasn’t enough to bring down the spirits of the Pathfinders. Despite the weather, some Central States campers were able to go to nearby attractions like Six Flags Great America and Wisconsin Dells.

Simply put, it was worth it

According to the official website for the International Camporee, this event “exists to celebrate the importance and spiritual influence of Pathfinder ministry.” However, the myriad attractions, many miles walked each day, and numerous interactions did much more than that.

Through the nightly reenactment of the story of David, the poignant messages by guest presenter Pastor Damien Chandler, and the counsel of the many pastors and church leaders who attended, something greater happened. Over 1,300 youth and young adults, including 15 from Central States, accepted that they were chosen, and chose Jesus as their personal Savior.

The decisions saw a mass baptism that took place over multiple days. It echoed the move of God during the day of Pentecost. Sister Debbie Jackson from Park Hill Church in Denver summed it up perfectly as she watched some young people from her club walk to the baptismal pool. Simply put, “It was worth it,” she said.

Kory P. Douglas is director of Youth Ministries for the Central States Conference.