For thousands of young Seventh-day Adventists across the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory, spring break week in April is pathfinder camporee time – a time to go camping with their peers, learn new skills, and engage in community-driven activities.
A pathfinder camporee is an event that gathers dozens of regional or in some cases international pathfinder clubs every year to reaffirm their place in this world as Christ-loving young people ready to serve wherever they are. Camporees draw hundreds, sometimes thousands, of young people to once place.
Church leaders estimate that close to 80,000 pathfinders and master guides—youth in training to lead pathfinder–participated in camporees throughout the territory last week.
“We know that more than 30,000 from eight unions across Inter-America camped in Belize, Chiapas, Inter-Oceanic Mexico, Jamaica, Panama, South Central America and West Venezuela, gathered pathfinders and master guides for large camporees,” said Pastor Al Powell, youth ministries director for the church in Inter-America.
Powell, who spent last weekend with some 10,600 campers in Chiapas, Mexico, said that seeing the excitement and commitment of so many young people for the Lord confirms again and again why the church finances such youth empowering events. Chiapas held the largest union-wide camping event this year.
“This [camporee] is all about preparing young people to recommit their lives to God, helping form their character and provide opportunities for them to focus on witnessing and the mission to serve to make a difference in their communities,” said Powell. Yes the church spends a lot of resources to fund these types of events, said Powell but it’s all about investing in the young people, the community and the future of the church, he added.
During a camporee, pathfinders engage in a wide range of activities such as worship, learning survival skills, physical activities, skill competitions, exchanging pins, networking, honors classes, and more.
Camporees are also an opportunity to reach out to teenagers who have not given their lives to Jesus, helping them grow spiritually and learn about the bible and Jesus’ love, explained Powell. Throughout the eight union camporees held last week, 930 were baptized at campsites, reported Powell.
In addition, other IAD conferences and missions which held their annual smaller camporees last week, more than 1,000 were reported even with preliminary baptismal, he added.
The Chiapas Mexican Union’s camporee saw 324 youth baptized during its camporee, the Panama Union had 264 baptisms and East Venezuela had 427 baptisms through their conference/mission camporees.
In West Venezuela, a crowd of more than 6,780 pathfinders and master guides gathered at the Bosque Macuto Park in Barquisimeto, in Venezuela, for their camporee. The camporee was almost going to be canceled said Pastor Orlando Ramírez, executive secretary of the church in West Venezuela. Even through some transportation and financial challenges, the camporee went through without complications, he added.
“This event was a real blessing,” said Ramirez. “You could see the joy.” The event was possible thanks to many contributions sent in by fellow Venezuelans who live outside of the country, said Ramírez.
As community impact, pathfinders cleaned the park, painted basketball courts and left gallons of paint to beautify the pool area, Ramírez added.
There were no major incidents that were reported during the week, except for some campers that had to be evacuated in Guatemala due to cold temperatures.
“We praise God for the impact these youth activities have on young people, because it is all about inspiring young people to witness for Christ and show His love with every one they meet,” Powell said.