On the evening of April 4, almost 10,000 Pathfinders donned their uniforms and made their presence known at the Inter-American Division (IAD) 5th Pathfinder Camporee opening night. Voices, cheers, songs, and shouts were heard while the sun was setting and the breeze waved dozens of flags at the Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium in Jamaica.
Nearly 10,000 gathered from 51 countries to witness the welcome from Adventist leaders and Jamaican government officials. The opening ceremony included a marching band, a parade of nations, a musical drama performance on the biblical story of Gideon, fireworks, and a spiritual message that set the tone for the five-day event.
“I know that every day you spend here will be extraordinary, a good opportunity to listen to each other, to listen to the Word of God, and learn from the life of Gideon, to be like him with courage and determination to do the will of God,” IAD president Elie Henry said. He thanked the government of Jamaica and event organizers for being instrumental in hosting the event.
Falmouth mayor Colin Gager welcomed the international delegations and congratulated the young people for continuing to be engaged in actions for Jesus.
Olivia Grange, Jamaica minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, wished Pathfinders and all travelers a spiritually enriching experience while in Jamaica. She wished them to “increase God’s presence with greater peace and better love for ourselves and our fellow man.”
Both were given the official IAD Pathfinder Camporee pin and the IAD Golden Presidential Award medal in recognition of their commitment to facilitating the event in Trelawny.
Pathfinders in Mission
Themed “Pathfinders in Mission,” the camporee is centered around the experience of the biblical Gideon, Al Powell, IAD youth ministries director and main organizer of the event, said. “Despite the challenges Gideon faced, he never lost faith and remained steadfast in fulfilling his mission,” he said.
Keynote speaker Andrés Peralta, Adventist Youth Ministries associate director, reminded each Pathfinder that God cares for them and they belong to a large family of two million Pathfinders, 60,000 clubs, and 1.6 million Adventurers around the world.
Peralta thanked youth ministries leaders for their commitment and dedication to investing in developing Pathfinders for the future.
‘God Believes in You’
As Peralta reflected on the story of Judges chapter 6, he reminded young people to not let intimidation, low self-esteem, and temptations lead them to believe that they have no value. “Don’t let the Midianites put doubts in your identity with God. Some of you may have them near you back home telling you that you will not make it,” Peralta said. “Even if you don’t believe in yourself, God believes in you. God will provide strength. Even if you don’t see a solution, God will open the door to save you.”
Peralta reminded Pathfinders to feel reassured as Gideon did when the Lord said He was with him. “If you are broken, the Lord is with you, if you feel pain, when they criticize you, abandon you, when there’s no money or when you feel loneliness, God is with you.”
Pathfinders watched the first in a series of five drama performances to help them understand how God might be calling them, and what battles they might be called to fight to execute God’s mission for their life.
Ever since Aaron González, 15, joined his Yellawar Pathfinder Club in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, years ago, he’s been clear about being a Pathfinder in mission — serving others and showing the love of Jesus. “It’s basically being an example so others can see something different in my life that they don’t see in others,” he said.
González was in awe at the thousands of Pathfinders around him and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of being part of the camporee experience in Jamaica. “I’ve met many peers from Venezuela, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, and I’m so excited to learn more skills to become a better Pathfinder,” he said.
Ariadne López, 14, from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, in northern Mexico, was calm but taking in all the cheers coming from thousands of young people around her. She is one of nearly 200 delegates from the North Mexican Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In just two days, she has made many friends from many different countries and is looking forward to acquiring more knowledge in biosecurity, multicultural honor classes, and taking part in the 5K run. López is clear about her mission as a Pathfinder to be a strong disciple and spread the message of the gospel. “I want other people to learn about the Bible,” López said. Back home, she is involved in community impact activities with her club, she invites friends, is active in church, distributes literature and ministers to others. She also plays the violin and the ukulele.
Tiger Frans, 15, of Bonaire, in the Dutch Caribbean islands, has known ever since he joined Pathfinders six years ago about his mission to bring others to Christ and the life of service he needs to practice for the rest of his life. He’s taking in the experience, watching the way others from different countries do different things. “I think it’s amazing how all of us are coming together with the same goal to learn more and be better Christians every day,” Frans said. Although he is fluent in English, Dutch, and Papiamento and can speak a little Spanish, he’s been keen on connecting with other campers and admiring different colorful flags.
Frans wants to become a neurologist but understands he needs to continue relying on God for guidance and strength in fulfilling His mission above anything else, he said.
The camporee is helping youngsters and campers trust in God and be ready to move where Jesus leads as they develop leadership skills to fulfill the mission, Powell said. The closing of the night’s ceremony included a baptismal ceremony and a call to prayer for the spiritual growth of Pathfinders and leaders during the event.
Pathfinders were set to participate in spiritual sessions, sports competitions, marching drills, honor classes, survival skills activities, and more.