Wanderings in the Land of Oshkosh: Pathfinder Camporee Diary


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If I could rewind back to July 31, 1985, it would place me in the middle of a mountainous valley in Colorado called Camp Hale where 16,129 Pathfinders gathered like the many Israelites in the wilderness. Being the first North American Division Pathfinder Camporee, it took a bit of organizing to pull it off. I’m relieved that we had Moses-ian leaders who knew what they were doing. I was a 12-year old glass-eyed Pathfinder who had no clue how to pitch a tent or how food appeared each morning (a little like manna). But for some reason, I remember what color tent I pitched, The Cosby Show kids and Jesse Jackson were there - the memories made that week were unforgettable. I still recall the theme song, We Are His Hands, and it takes me back even when I hear it 29 years later.

Fast forward to August 11, 2014, where I stand in the flatlands of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It’s the Forever Faithful International Camporee with close to 50,000 campers in attendance. I’m now a mom looking through the eyes of my 12-year old glass-eyed daughter. It’s humbling to be among the vast sea of people and tents we would call home for the next five days.

Day 1: Crossing the Dessert

Most clubs journeyed to the land of Oshkosh via airplane, bus, or van. It was an inspiration to discover a group from the Carolina Conference called Bike for Life. I met up with three of their cyclists: Elodel Manalo, Jordan Zinke, and David Zinke. The amazing team of 11 rode 845 miles over 12.5 days starting from Asheville, North Carolina. Their purpose, besides the obvious to reach their destination, was to create witnessing opportunities across the states, promote a healthy Christian lifestyle and take their spiritual journey to another level. They told me, “It was hard but we enjoyed the dirt roads!”

Day 2: Pin Trading Stampede

There was a definite buzz about this pin trading frenzy, and I even studied the honor beforehand, but you cannot truly embrace it until you're in the thick of it. In our club, every Pathfinder received a batch of pins to trade and the quest to complete sets, trade for all eight union pins, and figure out which pin was the hottest, was on! We learned that the origin of pin trading is rooted in the Olympic games and about the 3 F’s (fun, fair and friendly), and then the trading fever took over.

Day 3: Roaming With Plenty To Do

The days were filled with completing honors such as Maori lore of New Zealand, steel drumming, edible plants, refuge ministries, and basketry to name a few. Activities included the Human Sling Shot, a German carousel, and Messiah’s Mansion (a life-size sanctuary tour). Trending around campus were those who carried warm Free Hugs signs. Every evening we were blessed with a fantastic program which included prayers in international languages, songs (both oldies and current), a wonderfully produced live drama of the biblical story of Daniel, and a powerful closing message from Pastor Sam Leonor, Chaplain of La Sierra University.

Day 4: Performance of Perseverance

The countless hours of practice that goes into perfecting a marching drill defined the performances and competitions that we eagerly observed. It’s more than sporting cool sunglasses and white gloves. The kids in my club and I walked away being inspired to take on fancy drilling. What a wonderful character trait of perseverance that all the teams displayed.

This day couldn’t have been a more blessed day. It was action-packed with Master Guide investitures, including five from our club, a 150-member heavenly choir singing Battle Hymn of the Republic and a prayer with a balloon release from the hundreds who were baptized during the week.

I honestly have to say that besides enduring the long lines to shower, sharing porta-potties with almost 50,000 neighbors and sleeping in tents, we each received a taste of heaven in our individual journey through the Camporee. The dates and the theme of Chosen using the story of David were announced for the next international camporee in Oshkosh. If Jesus has not reunited us in Heaven by then, I hope to be reunited again in 2019, and to be among the chosen!

Born and raised in New York, Lilian Han Im grew up wanting to teach children. She and her husband are currently homeschooling their own children in Richmond, California. Upon graduating from La Sierra University, she served as a student missionary to Palau. She returned to La Sierra to complete a master of arts in education.

Image: Ansel Oliver/Adventist News Network


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6198