Kids are excited about meeting people from other countries. Teens are
eager to climb walls and clean parks. And their chaperones are glad most smartphones
will be off for a week.
The massive Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinder Camporee has begun here in
the U.S. state of Wisconsin, which plays host to an event bringing 44,000
people from across the United States, Canada, and Bermuda, and an additional
2,000 people from more than 50 other countries.
The event—the North American Division Pathfinder Camporee hosted by the
Center for Youth Evangelism—is held every five years. Organizer Ron Whitehead
says it takes four years to plan.
“I’ve never been so physically exhausted, but I’ve never been happier to
be this tired,” Whitehead said. “We really care about and value our young
This year’s Camporee—with the theme “Forever Faithful”—is being held at
the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Campgrounds. This is the
fourth time organizers have held the event here, and the gathering increases
the city of Oshkosh’s population by approximately 70 percent.
From now until Sabbath, tens of thousands of Seventh-day Adventist youth
and their friends will participate in community service projects, attend
nightly spiritual programs, and earn “honor” patches for their service and
Some Pathfinders might as well receive an honor for just getting here. Eleven
members of clubs from the denomination’s Carolina Conference arrived after
biking the 830-mile trip. Other clubs have spent years fundraising with car
washes and bake sales to earn their entrance fee, travel funds, and supplies.
Now that most clubs are here, the walking has begun, and some of it is
through mud. The event is being held at a 500-acre campground, where dirt roads
turned muddy last night after wind and rain.
Still, most attendees are maintaining a positive attitude in spite of the
weather, which is predicted to improve for the rest of the week.
“It’s been kind of challenging. Our kitchen tent flew away,” said
15-year-old Terell Rhooms from the Frontiers Pathfinder Club at Hope Adventist
Church in Toronto, Canada. They’ve since tied it down, he said while waiting
for the exhibits in the airfield’s hangars to open. Rhooms said he’s heard
there is basketball, zip lining, and an obstacle course to anticipate during
“I came because I heard it was fun,” Rhooms said. “Everyone said it was a
good experience, good memories, and you draw closer to God.”
Tiffany Fronda, 27, deputy director of the Challengers Pathfinder Club at
the Hindsdale, Illinois Filipino-American Adventist Church, said the weather
“wasn’t good, but “not bad” either. “We’ve [previously] had tornadoes, we’ve
had frigid temperatures, we’ve had super hot heat stroke weather. Now we get
the rain. All seasons.”
“But the Lord always comes through,” Fronda said, before adding: “At
least we don’t have to worry about a sandstorm,” which occurred at the 1994
Camporee in the state of Colorado.
Twelve-year-old Abigail Oré Calderon from Lima, Peru, who enjoys camping
and “adventures,” said, “Even though it was raining, I’m happy to be here.” She
and her group from the Orion Pathfinder Club at Villa Union Adventist Church
are being hosted by a club from the U.S.
That group, the Mentone Adventist Church in Mentone, California, went
online before the Camporee to choose an international group to host. Member
David Guajardo, 13, said he came because he enjoys camping, and his parents
encouraged him. “They said it would be a once in a lifetime experience,” he
Several club leaders said the best part of experiencing the event is for
Pathfinders to simply interact with each other. Some are even making a rule that
cameras are the only electronics allowed. At the Milwaukee airport last night,
Pathfinder leader Lester Lorenson from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, let
his Pathfinders play games on their phones while waiting for a van, but his
plan was for mobile devices to be shut off for the rest of the week.
“I want them to be a team,” Lorenson said. “When they’re playing games
they’re not talking to each other, experiencing things, exercising, teasing
each other—things kids do.”