Pathfinders Raise Hopes From Ashes
Fires ignited all across the Pacific and Inland Northwest on Labor Day 2020. Fueled by high winds and low humidity, they devoured vast areas with incredible speed. While most of those fires burned in Oregon conference territory, several raged in Upper Columbia Conference and destroyed the small towns of Bridgeport and Malden, Washington.
What was left in Malden, where 80% of the structures burned to the ground, was ash, scorched trees, burned car hulks and stories of heroism. Driving into the town, you could smell the stench of burned structures and smoldering dreams. Malden looks like a town with a very questionable future.
Only days after the fire, staff of the Wheatland Coyotes Pathfinder club in Spangle, Washington, began talking about the situation in Malden, just 25 minutes away. They determined to find out what they could do to help, hoping to give the Pathfinders real experience being the hands of Jesus reaching out to their neighbors. The first step was to reach out to Patty Marsh, UCC Adventist Community Services director, and ask for direction.
It didn’t take long to set up an appointment for the club to meet with the Malden mayor and town manager to see the devastation firsthand. This first visit became an opportunity to talk about ways the club could help. On a Wednesday evening, three car loads of Pathfinders and staff unloaded in a blackened scene of charred remains.
Ash puffed up with every step as the club followed the town officials into the park where the town hall and the library had stood before they burned. In front of the Malden Park sign, Jenna, Malden town manager, paused and pointing to a small raised bed, asked, “Do you think you guys could replant this?”
The staff laughed and replied, “Sure. But when we come, there will be hundreds of us … think bigger. We really want to make a difference here.”
Later that evening after talking on the drive home from Malden, the staff shared their thoughts. “We really got to wondering what would make people want to move to Malden now," one shares. "How could we help give this little town a bright future and help it become a place where families would want to raise their kids?”
That’s when the vision shifted from helping families in Malden to doing something for the community as a whole: “Let’s give Malden a new park!”
This is a long and expensive process, but the Wheatland Coyotes are devoting at least part of every club meeting to planning, preparing, building or fundraising to serve the people affected by the fire. Recently, a local landscape engineer volunteered to lead the Pathfinders through the process of designing the new park and locating features like a new walking path, a new playground, a Frisbee golf course and parking. In January, the Pathfinders are scheduled to present their proposal for a new park to the Malden town council.
“My vision is that the Pathfinders will be inspired with a desire to help others,” says Cindy Williams, Wheatland Coyotes Club director. “We are seeking to empower young people with the realization that they can do big things in the world even now. I also hope that the kids will realize just how much excitement, joy and fulfillment can come from being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Pathfinders are rediscovering the joy of serving because that’s what Jesus-followers do. UCC Adventurers and Pathfinders are hope-builders who are here to help wherever God can use them best.