The two boys couldn’t have been more than 10 years of age, but they gave each other the warmest and tightest hug ever. I couldn’t catch who they were or where they were from, but it was obvious they knew each other and hadn’t seen each other for a very long time. They jumped up and down, still in an embrace, and smiled and cheered as other friends quickly moved in to create a huge group hug, not wanting to miss out on the joy. Many Pathfinders had experienced a day or more of long travel from their homes across Europe.
And they were not the only happy and excited Pathfinders to arrive at the 2023 Trans-European Division (TED) Camporee, located just outside the beautiful and historic city of Sopron, Hungary. There were 2,600 campers from across the TED territory of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and beyond, including Israel, Mongolia, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America — enough evidence if ever needed that the Pathfinder movement is global.
As tired and weary travelers arrived to set up their tents, the host leadership team of Kristóf Palotás (Hungarian Union Conference youth director) and Sean Mena (Hungarian Union Conference Pathfinder leader) breathed a sigh of relief that this day had finally arrived! If the apostle Paul were to write to the 21st-century church about spiritual gifts, he would need to recognize the gift of logistics as essential for youth and Pathfinder directors.
Logistics is a matter Dejan Stojkovic has lived and breathed for not just the last few months but for the last few years in his role as TED youth and Pathfinder director. He knows what it takes to organize a camporee that creates a discipleship experience for each child and is outstandingly memorable and filled with joy.
Immediately as we talk, Stojkovic is full of the opening ceremony highlights, delighted at the “amazing involvement and engagement of Pathfinders. Even though tired after their long journey to Sopron, the Pathfinders sang and worshiped with as much enthusiasm as if they’d already been here for a week!” he says.
What does this mean for Stojkovic, Judy Plaatjes-Mckie (TED Youth and Pathfinder department PA), the leadership team of Union youth and Pathfinder directors, volunteer staff, and, in particular, the work of the Hungarian hosts? “It [means] that God has been with us in the planning, is present with us now, and, through the Holy Spirit, Camporee is already a life-changing experience for so many Pathfinders, causing us to stop for a moment and even shed a tear of joy,” Stojkovic says.
With the Camporee theme of “Count Me In,” Stojkovic explains that for the life and health of this church, “there is a significant need for young people to be involved,” expressing the wish of youth to be “counted in” on the various ministries of the church, planning committees, and church boards. At the same time the youth are saying, “God can count on us to be full participants in His movement, this beautiful global family, as we get ready for His Second Coming.”