Over 55,000 people from across the globe, including a contingent of 2,098 from Ontario (917 Pathfinders), attended the 2019 Chosen International Camporee, held at the Experimental Aircraft Associations AirVenture Campgrounds in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Whether they arrived by bus, car or plane, Pathfinders and leaders quickly transformed a barren campground into a vibrant international village, colourful entrances marking each region.
Ontario Conference boasted an impressive replica of the CN Tower and Rogers Centre, which lit up at night. The entrance was designed by our Adventurer, Master Guide and Pathfinder (AMP) director, Edwin Martin, and constructed by Martin and a team of mostly father-son volunteers, including his son, Joshua, nights and weekends in July and early August.
Every day, Ontario Pathfinders, staff and volunteers participated in activities like sports competitions, pin-trading, community outreach, zip-lining, rock climbing, horseback riding, watching BMX shows and visiting the hangars; at the bustling hangars, they completed honours, viewed live boa constrictors, learned about Pathfinder history, earned prizes and more.
Nightly, attendees heard powerful messages assuring them that we are all chosen by God for a mighty purpose, from Toronto native Damian Chandler, senior pastor at Capitol City Church in Sacramento, California. Then they viewed professional-level plays centring on the calling of David, Israel’s second king.
“I enjoyed the play. [It taught me to] be a person after God’s own heart because it will get you places. If it got David from being a shepherd to a king, it can get me somewhere,” smiled Emmanuel Oppong, 15, of Ruth Seventh-day Adventist Church.
At the core of Oshkosh camporee was a sincere passion for youth ministry. In an interview, Chandler, a Toronto native, shared that God had to strip him of his pride to be ready to minister to the young Pathfinders, 40-50% of whom will leave the church in five years. He revealed that he nearly left himself. “I’m praying that our youth leaders don’t give up. I’m a living example of what a youth leader can do in a young person’s life.”
Despite the grim statistics, for several Pathfinders, Oshkosh was a place of spiritual rebirth. Over 73 of a total 1000 Pathfinder baptisms came from the Canadian contingent, 40 of those from Ontario. Several pastors, including Chandler, and Ontario pastors, Fitzroy Radlein, Gerry Pasikatan and Sereivudh Ly, were privileged to baptize their children at Oshkosh.
Martin, at his fifth camporee, had an expanded role as coordinator of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada’s Pathfinder ministry and member of the Chosen International Camporee Executive Committee. Reflecting on a busy but blessed week, he stated, “Above all the fun stuff enjoyed at camporee, it was fitting for our Pathfinders to be reminded, through the story of David, that they are a CHOSEN generation anointed to share Christ to others. Indeed, I can’t wait to see the positive impact our Ontario Pathfinders will make as they go back to their homes and communities as a result of their encounter with God at Oshkosh camporee.”