Servant of God, Friend to Man
by V. Michelle Bernard, cover photograph by Bryant Taylor
They crawled around the yard looking for weeds, about 50 of them. Every few pulls, they’d wipe sweat from their foreheads. They repeated this for an hour then moved inside to help pack sack lunches for 750 less fortunate residents in the area. After a short snack to rest and refuel, they helped unload produce and baked goods for the next day’s meal, then returned to weeding—all of this before noon.
These do-gooders were Pathfinders and their leaders out and about, away from the packed fairgrounds of the “Forever Faithful” International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wis., this summer. In between pin trading, earning honors, exploring the massive exhibit halls and numerous other activities, Potomac Conference’s Patriots from the Fredericksburg (Va.) church and Orange Prayer Warriors from the Orange (Va.) church (some pictured, above and right) joined Pathfinders from Colorado and New York to volunteer at the Salvation Army Community Center in Fond du Lac. Pathfinders put their pledge into practice at the international camporee and leave inspired to make a greater impact in their communities.
Their tasks may seem menial, but they meant a lot to the Salvation Army staff. When they unloaded a truck full of seasonal supplies for Michael Detert, thrift store manager, it saved his staff nearly two hours of work. And, pulling weeds would have taken a single staffer more than four hours, says Connie Millard, community development director.
“As the weeds grew, people would walk past and wonder if things are okay, is there life happening there,” says Millard about their facility’s unkempt yard. “[The Pathfinders] allowed us to do what we need to do and still make [our office] beautiful,” she says. “It shows our neighbors we are here and care. It allows us to put forth our best to the community.”
But, service projects like this one do more than help a community; they also help the Pathfinders. “Pathfindering isn’t just about having fun but serving others,” says Shawna Patterson, Orange Prayer Warriors director. “It really encourages them and makes them happier.”
That mindset was obvious and the Salvation Army staff noticed.
“Kids don’t necessarily want to spend a hot summer day like that, but they did it cheerfully. Two girls even came over and gave me hugs when they introduced themselves,” says Millard. She adds, “The biggest impression I’m left with is the cheerful hearts. That makes this group wonderful ambassadors. They’ve reached more than the community; they’ve reached hearts. That is something the organizers of the camporee should be proud of.”
Going on God’s Errands
Their outing was one of the many community service and outreach events planned during this year’s camporee. Church leaders intentionally made service a large focus this year. More than 5,000 Pathfinders and staff members made arts and crafts with local children, volunteered at the Neenah Public Library, cleaned up the Winneconne lakeshore, volunteered at the Lutheran Homes and Health Services in Fond du Lac and numerous other projects. Some clubs also conducted needs assessments to help local churches better meet needs after the camporee ended. They did it all in an effort to be “a servant of God and a friend to man,” fulfilling the Pathfinder pledge during their time in Oshkosh.
“We do fun stuff as Pathfinders for one week and then it goes back to normal. We wanted to give some tools to the local churches where they basically can get more involved and integrated in their local community,” says Seán K. Robinson, Adventist Community Services (ACS) disaster response director for the North American Division, who coordinated the on- and off-site projects and community service honors for the camporee.
During the camporee, ACS and ADRA co-sponsored a project in which Pathfinders helped fill 3,000 buckets with cleaning supplies, which will be sent to churches around North America as they prepare to respond to the damage caused by natural disasters. More than 820 of those buckets are headed to the Allegheny East, Potomac, Chesapeake, Pennsylvania and New Jersey conferences to be distributed to local churches.
ACS also offered the Refugee and Feeding Ministry honors, which 3,000 Pathfinders signed up to earn, including members from the Good Hope Guardians from the Washington-Spencerville Korean church in Spencerville, Md. Ashley Kim, one of Spencerville’s Pathfinders, says filling the ACS buckets and earning the honors really brought her club closer together. “We all have a little part of us where we want to help somebody. So, our goal is to try to help as many people as we can. Doing the honors and hearing about refugees and how they don’t have the food and resources, makes me realize how much we take for granted,” she adds.
Although she already regularly volunteers in her Maryland community, the camporee activities have encouraged her to do even more, says Kim.
Changing the World
Helping others certainly isn’t new to Pathfindering. “Inherent in Pathfinders is community service,” notes Nadine Hoston, a counselor in the Seabrook Seahawks club from Potomac’s Seabrook church in Lanham, Md. Her club regularly volunteers at shelters and feeds the homeless, among other service activities. “It just isn’t about teaching kids how to do various skills and have fun, but it is about serving others, whether it be in our church community or our larger community in general,” she adds.
Fifty members of New Jersey Conference’s Piscataway Eagles club from the Lake Nelson church, continued that tradition during the camporee by volunteering twice—doing yard work at the Riverview Gardens in Appleton and participating in Project Roar, where clubs went door to door and distributed copies of Real, a magazine that shares character-building lessons featuring the life of Daniel—the main character in the camporee’s nightly meetings.
Laarni Flores, Eagles director, says volunteering is important to the Pathfinders because, at a very young age, they learn how to help other people. Flores has been a staff member for more than five years and notes that her members who were really involved in service in the past are still involved today. “It is part of their life already,” she says.
Her member Ben Hiramoto is a great example. Hiramoto, 16, regularly joins fellow club members in distributing food and clothing in the community, and he plays music for residents of a local nursing home. At the camporee, in addition to the group projects, Hiramoto donated his free time to help fellow Pathfinders.
“With Ben, when he does something, he does it [with] heart,” says Flores. “He even missed meals to volunteer in the honors booths. Our leaders told him to come eat, but he said he had to stay and clean up,” she says.
Hiramoto didn’t mind. “Many people say the youth are the future of the church, but we are the church. It is our duty as Pathfinders to serve the local community and represent what God truly is through our work,” he says with tears welling up in his eyes. “It makes me feel more thankful for what I have. … I should share with others through service.”
That’s the mindset Robinson hopes all Pathfinders adopt. “What I’d like [these kids] to know is that they don’t have to become adults to change the world,” he says. “They can change the world today when they partner with God and they show an interest and get involved in their communities. … Sometimes we think of needs as something that happens in other parts of the world, but even in our neighborhoods we can make a difference.”
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