Zipping the nylon door shut, I gingerly stepped around duffle bags and sleeping bodies. Climbing into my sleeping bag on the cold hard ground, I wondered why I agreed to do this. 

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord that we don’t freeze. May all sleep through the night and not need an outhouse ‘til morning light,” I silently prayed. I love camping with the Pathfinders, but not in February! Pulling the sleeping bag over my head, I looked forward to the warmer April campout. But it never came.

Under the direction of Steve Ladig*, the College View Trailblazers staff comprises of over 20 adults. Together, we teach the group of over 70 young people about God’s love, the beauty of His creation, practical life skills, and service to others. Many volunteer hours are spent working on honors, fundraising, and chaperoning at special events. 

Our mission is to nurture young men and women’s relationship with their Savior and to equip them to be the future leaders of the church. Due to the solid leadership and its dedicated staff, for years this club has run like a well-oiled machine. But suddenly in March 2020, a cog was thrown into the works.

COVID strikes 

At first, COVID seemed surreal and far away, but then it crept across the country and hit Nebraska. About the time of spring break, the Lincoln community, like many others nationwide, shut down. Families self-isolated in their homes and relied on technology to reach others. 

For a short period, it was like a vacation – but week after week, it became more like a prison. No school. No socialization. No Pathfinders. Boredom and loneliness set in. For months, the kids (and adults) were isolated from their friends and extended family. 

Winter was finally conquered by spring. Just as a seedling bursts through its captive darkness into the light, so the Pathfinder leaders sought to break the chains of isolation and reunite.

Members worked with Ladig drafting a proposal of how to safely meet during the pandemic. Upon completion, the College View Church (CVC) board approved it and agreed the Trailblazers could again meet in person.


Time to gather the troops. Would the staff members return? Would they leave the safety of their homes and risk exposure? Yes, they did. In fact, the whole staff agreed to come back in person.

Would parents allow their children to participate? Only about a dozen kids did not return this fall, but with new recruits, the membership remained at over 70 participants.

Adaptability and ingenuity

Physical distancing and masks presented some challenges. For the fall campouts, additional tents were purchased so fewer Pathfinders would sleep in each one. Family tents were provided for parents concerned of possible COVID exposure if their children slept with non-family members. 

During the Pathfinders’ annual food drive, donation bags could still be distributed in the neighborhood for pick up the following week. However, since the health department restricted door-to-door solicitation, only donations left outside could be collected. 

Over the years, church members contributed greatly to this cause. In the middle of our campaign, COVID cases peaked and the church closed. However, little stops the CVC family. At the church entrance, staff met donors, whose cars were loaded with the much-needed food for the Good Neighbor Center.

Under the direction of Dr. Lena Toews, the Pathfinder Bible Experience (affectionately known as “Bible Bowl”) has also experienced changes. In April 2020, just weeks before the team was to travel to the national competition in Oregon, it was canceled. Knowing there might not be a trip to nationals in 2021, about 20 Pathfinders joined again and remain faithful and enthusiastic in their studies. Unfortunately, this year’s in-person national competition was also canceled, but an on-line competition was held in its place.

Road Rally is a highlight of the Trailblazers’ year. Donned in holiday hats and divided into groups, they compete in a citywide scavenger hunt, deliver cookies to shut-ins and emergency responders, and purchase gifts for less fortunate children. Upon completion, they enjoy homemade pizza, a movie, and a sleepover. 

However, due to the 2020 restrictions, Road Rally came without visits! It came without a sleepover, pizza or snacks! The staff puzzled and puzzled until their puzzlers were sore. Then they thought of something they hadn’t before (apologies to Dr. Seuss.) Although groups couldn’t deliver cookies or go gift shopping together, Ladig encouraged individual service projects. Exclusively outdoor items were on the scavenger hunt list. Sadly, the sleepover and pizza were eliminated; but a movie was provided.

Although this year’s winter campout was cancelled (not that I’m complaining, mind you), an all-day sledding event was held in its place. More than 50 enthusiasts enjoyed the sunny day and snow-crested hills.

With health mandates, COVID has made it almost impossible for the club to raise money, as most of its fundraisers involve food sales at large events.

Moving Forward

Ladig expressed, “Our young people need connection with their friends and the church. The allegiance of today’s youth relies on these relationships.” 

The Trailblazers staff are dedicated to strengthening the faith of each Pathfinder. By studying God’s Word and His second book, nature, we provide opportunities where young people can sense the love, majesty and wonder of God. 

The leaders are willing to meet despite the risk of COVID exposure. The staff are willing to modify events so the Pathfinders can continue to participate. And we are even willing to escort children to the outhouse on a cold, dark night.


Sandy Kolb is a non-traditional student from Lincoln, Nebraska. She recently joined the College View Church’s Trailblazers club as a counselor.


*  Steve Ladig has been the director of the College View Trailblazers for 17 years and involved in Pathfinders for over 35 years.