More than 46,000 Pathfinders and support staff from 70 countries representing 12 of the 13 divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church attended the 2014 Forever Faithful International Camporee August 12-16 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The Center for Youth Evangelism, directed by Ron Whitehead, hosts the event every five years.
This year 2,677 Pathfinders and staff from 156 clubs across the Mid-America Union attended the camporee—577 more attendees than in 2009.
Themed around the life of Daniel, this largest to date Adventist youth gathering in the world focused on the importance of prayer. There was a large prayer wall where attendees could write their requests. There was also a prayer honor being taught, and three special tents designated for prayer. Additionally, the North American Division sponsored a free prayer pin for praying with a newly met friend.
In the tradition of ancient Jewish culture, three times each day the sound of a shofar called everyone to pause where they were and pray for two minutes. Each of the 1,800 Pathfinder clubs in attendance received an authentic ram’s horn from Israel as a reminder of their prayer experiences at Oshkosh.
Keynote speaker Sam Leonor Jr., chaplain for La Sierra University in Riverside, California, claims Daniel as his favorite Bible character and said the main message he wanted to get across each evening was that God is faithful, no matter what, forever.
The stage area where the evening presentations were held was over 100 feet long with multiple tiers for the various scenes of the drama portraying Daniel’s life. Five large screen monitors assisted attendees in viewing the evening programs. A 90-foot tall image fashioned after the description of Daniel 2 loomed over the scene. Words like “gigantic” and “extremely impressive” were used to describe the setting.
But the most outstanding moment of the week, according to Hubert Cisneros, Youth Ministries director for the Mid-America Union, was when Jesus appeared in the flaming furnace with the three Hebrews during the story’s re-enactment. The diligent preparation of drama director Sean Dale and his team produced remarkable presentations. “The actors representing the biblical characters each evening were superb,” Cisneros said. “It was a very professional portrayal.”
Throughout the week nearly 600 Pathfinders were baptized. On Sabbath morning each person who had been baptized simultaneously released a bright blue helium balloon in celebration of their new life with Christ. There was also an investiture ceremony on Sabbath for new Pathfinders and Master Guides.
Whether it was exploring the exhibits halls, tasting food vendor offerings, doing community service projects, getting to know some of the 2,000 international guests or trading pins to increase their collections, Pathfinders never lacked for fun activities.
For the most energetic, Dr. Katia Reinert and her team of NAD Health Ministries workers presented the Oshkosh Instep4Life 3-Day Pathfinder Challenge. Day 1 featured an early morning 5K run with 2,000 participants. Day 2 showcased strength and endurance challenges (sit-ups, push-ups and burpies). Day 3 was a one-mile race. Participants won freebies like T-shirts, pedometers, pins, medals, trophies and points for their clubs. Top clubs received monetary awards. Those who participated in at least two events received an Oshkosh Instep4Life patch.
A new strategy for 2014 was use of a “points map” app, accessible from mobile devices including cell phones, to help people locate desired destinations. Union College student Kellie Vigil, points map coordinator, and her two teammates worked long hours on location. People using Sprint as a service provider reported that the points map was a useful tool for getting around the grounds, which cover nearly 500 acres.
More than 720 golf carts for staff and volunteers facilitated mobilization between areas. Golf carts also transported people suffering from blisters, sprained ankles and dehydration. All were cared for by professional healthcare volunteers onsite or taken into town if specialized services were needed.
Another camporee upgrade this year included having more parades. During the week approximately 28,000 Pathfinders marched in their full dress uniforms or cultural regalia. The largest single parade included 13,000 Pathfinders and lasted 70 minutes. The Mid-America Union parade took place on Wednesday with president Thomas Lemon introducing the various clubs as they passed by the stand. Elder Lemon also presented the devotional thought on Sabbath morning after Mid-America’s flag raising event.
One of the busiest vendors on site was AdventSource, an NAD-based supplier of ministry resources. Their tent was teeming with activity at all hours. Pathfinder club directors could order patches from AdventSource’s mobile website for any of the 97 different honors being taught that their club members earned during the week and be notified when the order was ready for pick up at the store in Hangar A. Director Brad Forbes said that Oshkosh is their biggest sales event.
Registration is now open for the 2019 International Pathfinder Camporee, to be held again at Oshkosh August 12-17. The theme selected by the Center for Youth Evangelism organizers is “Chosen,” featuring the life of David.