Explaining the International Pathfinder Camporee to someone who has never attended can be a challenge. Imagine combining summer camp, Vacation Bible School and camp meeting into one event. Then throw in more than 50,000 youth and adult volunteers camping all together within half of a square mile. It may sound like a nightmare — and for some it might be. But for many young people, the camporee is a pivotal moment in their life, where they give their hearts to Jesus, a place and time they will remember forever.
This unique camporee is produced every five years by the Center for Youth Evangelism (CYE). The 2019 camporee was the fifth event CYE has conducted. This year’s event also marked the fifth time the camporee has been held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). This year was CYE’s biggest camporee event yet, with more than 56,000 Pathfinders, staff and volunteers, including more than 2,500 who made the long trek from the Pacific Northwest.
The “Chosen” theme for the Aug. 12–17, 2019, event centered on the thought that each person is divinely chosen by God. Nightly productions on the main stage became a highlight for many Pathfinders, recounting through drama and song the story of David, a boy chosen by God to lead His people. The evening programs also included devotionals from featured speaker Damian Chandler, senior pastor of California’s Sacramento Capitol City Church.
During the day, Pathfinders from around the world participated in activities, earned honors and traded pins. More than 6,000 of them participated in over 40 community services projects of compassion in the local area.
Pin trading was by far one of the most popular activities. In recent years it has become so popular there is now a Pin Trading Pathfinder honor. Clustered groups of Pathfinders could often be found throughout the grounds eagerly exchanging pins and, in the process, learning interpersonal skills and making new friends from around the world.
Many Pathfinders took advantage of great opportunities at the camporee to earn honors. Some unique options included the Aviators honor, through which Pathfinders could take a ride in volunteers’ private planes over the campground site and city of Oshkosh. Other distinctive and popular honors were the Braille honor taught by Christian Record Services; the Meteorites and the Rocks and Minerals honors taught by Stan Hudson, North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) Creation Study Center director; and the Geology honor taught by John Kurlinski, Bremerton (Washington) Adventist Christian Church pastor.
Several Northwest booths were present at the camporee. These included a geology and creation booth by the NPUC Creation Study Center and Geoscience Research Institute and a booth by Milo Adventist Academy. The Oregon Conference featured a special activity called the “cave/tunnel trailer.” It allowed adventurous Pathfinders to navigate through four tunnels of various difficulties built into a semitrailer container.
NPUC youth leaders, led by Rob Lang, created a unique on-site community service project, the NPUC Trash Brigade. Each Northwest Pathfinder was handed two bags prominently labeled with the words “NPUC Trash Brigade.” The young people carried these bags on their journeys throughout the campground, collecting trash on their way to and from activities. This turned out to be a huge success well-noted around the camporee.
Beyond the record attendance at this camporee, the event also broke two world records, verified by Guinness Book of World Records personnel. The “largest human image of a cross” was created on Sabbath, Aug. 17, after church, when 13,309 Pathfinders and staff formed the cross outside the mainstage area. The other world record broken was for the largest “neckerchief and woggle” (scarf and slide). Displayed just to the side of the main stage, this gigantic Pathfinder scarf measured 300 feet from tip to tip and weighed about 800 pounds. The slide itself was about 10 feet tall and weighed about 500 pounds.
While the city of Oshkosh may not have been overtly aware of those accomplishments, it certainly felt the positive presence of the crowd, which for a few short days nearly doubled the population of the town. The local Walmart did a bang up business supplying clubs and sponsors with needed supplies throughout. Even the mayor felt a strangely familiar connection, having been raised by a mother who had once been a Pathfinder.
But what will be forever remembered are those decisions that mirrored the camporee theme of "Chosen." Event organizers announced on the final evening that 1,310 Pathfinders and staff had publicly professed their commitment to follow Jesus through baptism. We invite Northwest members to pray for each one of these new births, that they will be surrounded by caring Christians in their onward journey with Jesus.
- International Pathfinder Camporee 2019 - Monday
- International Pathfinder Camporee 2019 - Tuesday
- International Pathfinder Camporee - Thursday
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