They came and pitched their tents. They came and rolled out their sleeping bags. They came and sang songs—and all while meeting old and making new friends from around the world. “They” were the 30,000 Pathfinders that “set up camp” August 10-14 at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Campgrounds in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Themed Faith on Fire, the four-day Camporee was coordinated by the Center for Youth Evangelism, located in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Daily activities were planned for Pathfinders such as pin trading, honor learning, marching/drilling exhibitions, archery, talent showcase and sporting activities just to name a few.
One of the major components to the Camporee was the community service projects. Attendees participated in twenty-three neighborhood clean-up initiatives, painting and restoration projects in the surrounding communities of Oshkosh—all sponsored by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. “Service to others is the commission that Christ gave us and in many of the parables that Jesus shared, the theme was to serve others,” said Joe Watts, community service coordinator for the Camporee. “When Pathfinders participate in community service projects, they learn the joy of service to others, civic responsibilities, and the satisfaction of a job well done.”
This is not the first time that the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Pathfinder delegation has visited the EAA campgrounds. In August 1999, the Discover the Power Camporee was held at the EAA campgrounds. “The EAA has a proven record of hosting large events and it has a great safety record and a fantastic plane museum, which will provide an education experience for our children,” said Pastor Ron Whitehead, director for the Center for Youth Evangelism and executive director for the Camporee. “These are all reasons why we chose the EAA for the Faith on Fire Camporee.”
Pathfinders from all over the world (more than 100 countries including England, Singapore, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, and Kenya) had been planning to attend this camping extravaganza for several months. Some clubs sold pizzas, washed cars, hosted yard sales/flea markets to raise money to attend the event. According to the organizers, the largest delegations came from the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Every day in the airplane hangars of the EAA Airstrip, Pathfinders had the opportunity to participate in approximately 120 honors and other outdoor activities. After signing up for and completing the honor, they were able to take home certificates of completion for honor patches. “Earning honors impacts the lives of Pathfinders because we can see the pride they have when they have completed their honor requirements and have earned their patch,” said Sandy Roberts, on-site activities coordinator for the Camporee.
While at the EAA campgrounds, Pathfinders also had the opportunity to try to etch their name in the Guinness Book of World Records* with the “Largest Game of Leap Frog,” “Most Balloons Popped by a Single Arrow,” and the “Most Teeth Brushed.” Each event was approved by the officials of Guinness. Unfortunately, not enough people participated in the teeth brushing event. “The ultimate purpose of the Guinness activities was to promote and foster teamwork with our Pathfinders,” said Kevin Costello, coordinator for the Guinness activities.
Pin trading—a popular pastime of Pathfinder young and old—seemed to take the campgrounds by storm. At every corner, you could see people trading pins from their clubs, conferences and union. Even Pastor Don Schneider, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church got in on the action. But he wasn’t into trading pins. Schneider would give pins away to people who prayed with others they have never prayed with before. Schneider began a prayer revolution on the campgrounds and was then known as the “prayer guy.”
In addition to community services projects in the surrounding area, Pathfinders had the opportunity to participate in a wider community outreach with people in Kenya, India and the Philippines. Bibles were collected (as well as a $1 shipping fee) each night - a goal of 100,000. By Saturday morning, approximately 27,000 bibles were collected.
Pastor James Black, director of youth ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, concluded the evening with a spiritual message. During Sabbath’s message he challenged the 30,000 delegation to “strike the faith on fire.”
He said, “Many times, big events have great themes, but no action. I hope that each night the Pathfinders were able to gain a better understanding of what was needed when they left the Camporee. The “striking” reference means action through prayer. If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can do all things through prayer. Prayer becomes their connection to Christ to do all things.”
Saturday’s program concluded with a city parade, the baptism of more than 300 people and a firework finale.
It took approximately three years to plan and organize this Camporee. One community volunteer stopped Whitehead and was in awe about the work and effort that was put into the organizing of the event.
“We really care and value our young people,” Whitehead replied. “I’ve never been so physically exhausted but I’ve never been happier to be this tired.”