Northwest Pathfinders Head to OshKosh for Camporee

By Gary McLain

Can you imagine 46,000 Pathfinders camping in your back yard?! This is exactly what happens every five years in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Since 1999, the 800-acre Experimental Aircraft Association next to Pioneer Airport has become the campground for the International Pathfinder Camporee. Ron Whitehead, International Camporee Director, says, “This is the only place … found in the North American Division that can accommodate thousands of tent campers.” This August 11-16, 25 Pathfinder clubs from the Oregon Conference (about 750 Pathfinders) flew, drove, or took the train to the Forever Faithful International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh.

The Pathfinders that come from other countries are hosted by clubs from around the US, providing them with camping sites near host clubs, camping equipment, and meals while they are at the camporee. Oregon Conference clubs hosted three international clubs. The Meadow Glade club hosted a club from Uganda, the Vancouver and Gresham Spanish clubs teamed up to host a club from Mexico, and the Rockwood club hosted a Pathfinder club from Brazil.

Lots of different things happen at Camporee. Besides the basics (setting up camp, food preparation, and a lot of walking), there are tons of activities including pin trading, honor classes, the nightly program, and maybe even a little sleep here and there! Every conference also has the opportunity to teach an honor or have an activity available. This year, the Oregon Conference provided two activities. The “cave trailer", created by Oregon Pathfinder leaders Glen Campbell, Ed Betz, and Michael Gregory, took over 400 man-hours to build.

Housed in a 48-foot semi trailer, four separate tunnels wind up, down, and over before making their way out. Each “cave” takes 7-10 minutes to navigate. About 400 Pathfinder spelunkers went through the cave trailer each hour, and around 96,000 trips were made by the end of the week!

Oregon also hosted the “Oregon Trail” activity. Ten stations were set up to teach Pathfinders about pioneering. A couple stations walked visitors through building an old-fashioned wooden mallet, while visitors also churned butter and washed clothes on a washboard. Teen Pathfinders from Oregon Conference clubs volunteered their time to help run the cave trailer and Oregon Trail activities, and gained valuable experience in leading out at big events.

As Midwest weather is so apt to do, it provided this camporee with its share of weather-related excitement. This year, campers experienced heavy rain and thunderstorms through the week.

The North Cascade Eagles Club from the Washington Conference rose above the challenge of their campsite, which torrential downpours turned into a muddy bog. The Oregon Conference offered an open area in their grassy camping site, but the Eagles decided to stay put. Bark chips were put down throughout the muddy camp, helping raise them an inch or two out of the muck. The staff's leadership and attitudes enabled the Eagles club to rise above and work through a less-than-ideal situation. The Oregon Pathfinder clubs watched with admiration, and Oregon Conference Pathfinder Director Tracy Wood said, “It was just amazing to watch how they worked together through this. This is what Pathfindering is all about. They were a great example to us all!”

Having so many kids in one place is amazing. When you add all the volunteer staff committed to raising kids that are not their own to know Jesus, the experience is phenomenal. Whether it means taking vacation time they really couldn't afford, spending a little extra of their own money, or mentoring and helping kids through situations 24 hours a day, every member made sacrifices to bring their Pathfinders to Oshkosh. The ratio of kids to adults at the camporee is typically about 3 to 1, so you can see there are many adults committed to this calling.

The reason for this huge camporee, according to Norm Middag, grandfather of Pathfinder ministry, is that “kids need to see that their church is bigger than their conference, bigger than their union, and they need to see it is bigger than their division. When kids realize their church is so big, it helps them realize what heaven might be like, and gives a sense that heaven is going to be fun!” You might even say this event is like a General Conference Session for the youth of the Adventist Church.

The nightly program, when everyone comes together in front of the huge stage is also a highlight. This year's Forever Faithful theme focused on the story of Daniel. As the story unfolded through the on-stage musical drama each night, Daniel's story and the importance of faithfulness to God came alive. It proved to be an excellently written program, and the actors (directed by Union College alum Sean Dale) did a fantastic job of lipsyncing to pre-recorded music. One of our own Big Lake staff, Brian Robak, took on the role of Nebuchadnezzar. Several other young adults from our conference were involved in various ways to make each night a success.

What an event! Ask a Pathfinder in your church what they liked best about camporee. The theme for the next International Pathfinder Camporee is “Chosen,” and it will focus on the life of David. Register now for the August 12 - 17, 2019 camporee at

If you'd like to see more photos from this year's camporee visit