Every five years, since 1999, the International Pathfinder Camporee has transformed the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Campgrounds in Oshkosh, Wis., from a barren land into a vibrant international village. This year a record 55,000 people travelled to Oshkosh for “Chosen”—the 2019 International Camporee—from as far as New Zealand, Ukraine, Bermuda, and of course, Canada, with creative entrances welcoming guests to their region.
A camporee standout was “Canada Park,” with Canada spelled out in block letters on a hill, imitating the Hollywood sign, as well as replicas of landmarks from various Canadian provinces. It was an apropos stomping grounds for 3,672 Canadians from the Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba-Saskatchewan, Maritime and Ontario Conferences, as well as the 256 international guests they hosted. Notably, the Canadian contingent included Mark Johnson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, as well as several conference administrators and pastors.
From August 12 to 17, visitors were treated to a smorgasbord of on- and off-site activities, including sports competitions, community outreach, zip-lining, archery, and touring hangars where they earned prizes, completed honours, and more. Among Canadian contributions, the British Columbia Conference sponsored ice-skating at the YMCA; Quebec taught CPR, camping skills craft honours in French; Ontario facilitated the international soccer tournament, the “Chosen” Race—a Pathfinder version of the Amazing Race, plus the geology, Bible marking, stewardship, and family life honours. And to the very end, people from different regions eagerly traded Pathfinder pins, including the highly sought-after six-pin Canadian set.
But the heart of Oshkosh was the nightly programs. There, Toronto native Damian Chandler, a pastor, spoke powerfully of the God who has chosen us for a mighty purpose. On the 12th, he gave the first of several appeals, “We have a God who sees us … knows us … chooses us. Will you choose on tonight to see Him? To know Him? To love Him?” Attendees’ responses were so great that the number of baptisms ballooned from 400 pre-Oshkosh to 1,311 by week’s end.
Over 73 of those opting to be baptized at Oshkosh came from Canada. Several pastors, including Chandler, Ontario pastors Sereivudh Ly, Jim Nziwa, Gerry Pasiktan, and Fitzroy Radlein, and former British Columbia communications director, Charles Aguilar, joyfully baptized their children at Oshkosh.
Having baptized his eldest daughter in 2014, Aguilar was thrilled to now baptize his younger daughter and son. “I can’t help but shed several tears of happiness! I pray that they continue to love Jesus and the church,” he stated.
Following Chandler was a nightly stage production depicting David’s bumpy road to the throne after being hand-picked by God as Israel’s next king. With professional acting and singing, and impressive sets including live animals, the play was a standout for attendees of all ages. Keen Canadian observers might have noticed that Ahimelech, the high priest with whom David sought refuge when fleeing from Saul, was acted by Kendal Brouet, a former Ontario Pathfinder and present British Columbia resident. Brouet persevered after being turned back at the border on July 19 to become the first Canadian actor on the Oshkosh stage. He explained his motivation—“Because I was teaching drama at my church, I told myself, I want to prove to my kids that if God is with them, they can do anything.”
The big stage also showcased Canadian Pathfinder talent, including Mount Zion Pathfinders performing a traditional Filipino dance, Pathfinder-turned-motivational speaker Nyjel Camanzo of Hamilton Hylanders, and the first place-winning Orion Pathfinder drill team, chosen from all the drill teams to perform on the Sabbath and drummers from Ontario and Quebec. Off-stage, several Canadian drill and/or drum teams from Manitoba-Saskatchewan and Ontario Conference also had an impressive showing, including the first place-winning Ontario Conference Drum Corps and Ontario Conference Drill Team. On the final day, Canadians also contributed to the 13,309 people forming the Guiness Book of World Records’ Largest Human Cross, and an impressive 16 Master Guides from across Canada were invested.
Martin, at his fourth camporee, now serving as coordinator of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada’s Pathfinder Ministry, reflected on a busy but blessed week. “Above all the fun, it was fitting for our Pathfinders to be reminded, through the story of David, that they are a chosen generation. I can’t wait to see the positive impact they’ll make as they return to their homes and communities as a result of their encounter with God at Oshkosh Camporee.”
–Christelle Agboka, Ontario Conference