, news editor, Adventist Review, with reporting from Inter-European Division staff
Seven Pathfinders were baptized in Switzerland’s Lake Neuchâtel at a weeklong camporee staged in a cornfield and attended by 2,300 children and their adult leaders.
The Adventist Youth Camporee, organized every four years by the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Inter-European Division, offered Pathfinders aged 12 to 16 a chance to study God’s grace from the biblical story of Jonah, learn new scouting skills, and mingle with peers from 20 countries.
As the sun began to set on Friday evening, scores of campers gathered on the eastern shore of Lake Neuchâtel to celebrate the baptism of the seven Pathfinders.
Each of the uniformed baptismal candidates entered the water accompanied by a Pathfinder leader holding a white, helium-filled balloon. The Pathfinder leaders released the balloons into the evening sky as they raised Pathfinders from under the water during the baptism.
“The highlight of this day is the baptism ceremony,” organizers said in a statement on the camporee’s website, AYcamporee.org, which includes daily photo and video blogs. “Seven Pathfinders get engaged to follow and live with Jesus! Happy Sabbath!”
The camporee, themed “The Whale Way, Surprised by Grace,” took place from Aug. 3 to 9 on the privately owned La Corbiére Farm in Estavayer-le-Lac, a tourist town of 6,000 people. The farm has hosted various scout camps for nearly 40 years, but the size of the Adventist group was a record, owner Patrice Marmy said.
“It was always around 30 to 40 at a time, maybe one or two times we had a hundred, but never as much as this time,” Marmy said.
He said he was impressed with the way the camporee was organized, and he described the Pathfinders as well behaved.
A camporee-produced video clip of the seven baptisms in Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
The camp resembled a village, with tents for sleeping standing near tents where Pathfinders could buy ice cream, snacks, and gifts such as souvenir T-shirts.
The daily program offered 90 workshops and other activities that Pathfinders could chose from, with topics ranging from scouting techniques to environmental concerns.
The main events, held in a giant tent borrowed from a circus, were presented on stage in French or German and then translated into the other language. Then, if needed, there was translation in the different sections of the tent into the language spoken by various countries’ delegations. Among themselves, the Pathfinders tended to speak in English.
Most of the Pathfinders came from 13 countries in the Inter-European Division: Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, Slovakia, Spain, and the Czech Republic. Those countries have 1,346 Pathfinder clubs with more than 19,000 members aged 6 to 16, according to division statistics.
Visiting camporee delegations represented Brazil, Britain, and Thailand.
The $75,000 in travel expenses for the 60 campers from Brazil was covered by a donation from the owner of a Brazilian software company who himself was a Pathfinder 44 years ago. Many other Pathfinders paid for the expenses of traveling to and staying at the camp through fundraising drives and the support of their local churches.
The previous camporee was held in Rome, Italy, in 2011, and the next is scheduled for the Czech Republic in 2019.
Every evening at the camporee, Pathfinders gathered in the main tent to watch a drama production from the life of Jonah followed by a spiritual message from one of two guest speakers, Miki Jovanovic, a young Adventist pastor from Munich, Germany, and Jonathan Tejel, Pathfinder leader of the Adventist world church.
The stage was transformed into the biblical city of Nineveh, and a professional group of actors from Germany prepared and presented the skits.
“It was super — the story of Jonah in a modern setting,” said Francesco, a Pathfinder.
Jovanovic said he sought to convey the idea that “the story of Jonah is the story about a God who is better and more gracious than anyone could ever imagine.”
“This good God has a plan for us, even if sometimes we would rather run away,” he said. “Be surprised by His grace!”