One of my fond memories as a church leader is that of camping with a group of Pathfinders in the mountains of Wales in the depth of winter. My Youth/Pathfinder director, David, encouraged me to undertake this exercise as he felt it was a good way for me as conference president to identify with the young people. I arrived at the campground, which was a farm that was covered with a foot of snow, and was immediately shown to my sleeping quarters. At that stage, I wondered why I had accepted David’s invitation and longed for the comfort of my home. I was to sleep in a tent that was about 5 feet high and seven feet wide in the middle of a snow-covered field, and what made matters worse, I was given a tent mate! So, this tiny tent was to be the sleeping quarters for two grown men for the weekend. Morning could not come soon enough, despite the fact that we had to walk 16 miles the following day. Although it was tough at the time, that weekend camping with a group of Pathfinders in a snow-bound field, was very special. I learned many valuable lessons and made a life-long friend of my tent-mate.
Pathfinders is one of those ministries in the Seventh-day Adventist Church that foster a sense of pride in church members. Seeing our children in the uniform, hearing them recite the Pathfinder Pledge and Law and observing them as they subject themselves to a variety of tough disciplines is for me one of the most heart-warming experiences of being a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This Sabbath at Sligo Church, we will be celebrating our Pathfinders, the Sligo Challengers!
The idea of local church youth clubs engaging in outdoor activities was the brainchild of Arthur W. Spalding, Family Life Director for the General Conference. In late 1927 or early 1928 the term Pathfinder entered the Adventist vocabulary. John McKim is credited for having come up with this name. He along with Willa Steen started the first Pathfinder Club in Anaheim, California in the late 1920’s. Since then Pathfinder has become a world-wide movement and one of the most recognizable ministries, if not the most recognizable, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The smart marching, eye-catching uniform, military music and the sense of community among fellow Pathfinders are all important characteristics of the Pathfinder ministry, but what is valued most by Pathfinders and their parents is the development of character.
Crafts, outdoor activities and character development remain the raison d'être of the Pathfinder movement. We do not need to look beyond Sligo Church to see its impact on our own young people, some of whom have devoted their own lives to assisting others to embrace the values that they have learned as a result of being Pathfinders. Why not connect with a Pathfinder this weekend and let him or her know how much you value their training and the contribution they make to our church. One of the best gifts that you can give to your child or grandchild is ensuring that they become a Pathfinder. If the past is anything to go by, they will always thank you for it, and you will never regret it. “By the grace of God, they will be pure, kind, and true …, will be a servant of God and a friend to man.”