After lots of preparation, fundraising, and travel, 1,300 Pathfinders and leaders from around the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC) gathered for five days of activities and worship in the White Rock hills, January 8-12, 2019.
Fifty-nine Pathfinder clubs, representing New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, and the north and south islands of New Zealand, took part in the NZPUC Pathfinder Camporee held near Christchurch, South New Zealand. Surrounded by natural beauty and changeable weather, the young people took on challenges, met new friends, shared testimonies, and made decisions for Christ.
The opening ceremony began with a pōwhiri — a Māori welcoming ceremony — as the Pathfinders marched past. The theme for the week was Illuminé, Shine, and South Pacific Division youth director Nick Kross, in his opening address, emphasized how Jesus lived a life of light. “Let’s shine the light that comes out of His Word today,” he said.
Each evening, worship began with a drama entitled “The Lesser Disciples.” Written and directed by Lance Boulton, NZPUC Adventist Tertiary Student Ministry director, the drama touched on everyday issues teens face, such as self-esteem, bullying, and relationships.
Isabella MacPherson, one of the 13 young adults who rehearsed weekly for this Christ-centered play, said, “Being here makes the past six months of practice worth it.” On Sabbath evening the drama concluded with Jesus’ character emphasizing, “I don’t have lesser disciples — work as a team to shine for My glory.” The question left for the Pathfinders to reflect on was, ”Do you want to shine for Me?”
Guest speaker Rome Ulia, a pastor in the North New South Wales Conference, encouraged Pathfinders through animated and powerful presentations. He shared about God’s transforming power through gospel stories and through his own testimony. Passionately he pleaded with the Pathfinders to call on Jesus and prayed that all present would have faith like the centurion who met Jesus (Matthew 8:5–13).
Thirteen Pathfinders were baptized in a celebratory service on Saturday (Sabbath) afternoon in the Okuku River — six of them from Rehoboth Pathfinder Club in Auckland. District director Vitali Shevchenko expressed his joy in announcing that the other half of this twelve-member club had also made decisions for baptism and will follow through soon after their return to their local church. Many of these young people’s families do not attend church but they are very dedicated, he said, and thanks were expressed to club director Ana Ahioatu, who invests hugely in the club members. In their testimonies, the newly baptized Pathfinders emphasized how the club is like family and not just a place to receive badges.
Victor Kulakov, camporee director and NZPUC youth director, noted that the network and supportive environment the Pathfinder ministry provides for future disciples is enriched by the leadership and development journey from Pathfinder to Master Guide and beyond. “Pathfinders is discipleship,” he said. “Staff and Pathfinders spend time together, share their faith in God, and encourage one another. The power of these discipleship relationships and structure of club activities make a huge difference in the spiritual lives of all involved.”
During the camporee, a further 213 young people asked to be baptized soon in their local churches, while another 469 asked for Bible studies.
Two special moments that camporee leaders pointed out were when 100 Tahitian Pathfinders sang “Let your little light shine” in French, and about 700 Pathfinders from the NNZC sang in 12 languages, “My God loves me!”
The camporee was intentionally bilingual. All camp material was provided in French and English, and the team of subcamp leaders was also chosen to have both French and English speakers. Simultaneous translation was provided by a team of three rotating volunteers every evening.
At the end of the camporee, Ulia and Kross were presented with a Māui (a fish hook), chosen by the NZPUC to be the symbol of discipleship for the Union.
As part of the closing ceremony, Kulakov invited administration staff, camp directors, counselors, district directors, and all club leaders up to the stage. “You are the pillars of Pathfinder ministry, pouring their lives into this ministry, and are the ones who grow disciples,” he said.