I’ve had the Pathfinder Song ringing in my ears since this past weekend.
Pathfinders was a big part of my upbringing. My parents were Pathfinder leaders for years, when we lived in Indianapolis. I even have my old uniform from when I was much younger. It doesn’t fit…but I have it. If you come visit me in my office today at Camp Wakonda, you’ll see a plaque on the wall that reads “Congratulations to Zack Payne for designing the 2003-2004 Pathfinder Fair Patch.” It’s silly, but I’m still proud of it. I’ve been going through my old pin collections from International Camporees past, remembering which ones were hot items in the past and wondering what the new sought-after pins will be in Wyoming (ok, we can admit, we’re all a little bummed here in Wisconsin that the event won’t be in Oshkosh anymore–but change is good and I’m personally already looking forward to 2024!).
This past Sunday, when I donned a Pathfinder uniform for our 2021 Pathfinder Fair, I was really excited and nostalgic. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the event (on the heels of a pandemic and all), but I was happy to be in attendance as it was my first Pathfinder event since becoming our Conference Youth Director. While, in many ways, it’s been a year-and-a-half of disappointment for kids and adults alike, I was impressed by the dedication I saw from many of our clubs around the state.
I’ll give you a rundown: Pathfinders marching, Pathfinders lashing together makeshift tables, Pathfinders showcasing year-end videos, Pathfinders marching, and so on. There were even a good handful of clubs that earned 200 Club trophies. In many ways, this Pathfinder Fair was just as I remembered it as a kid (although this was just a day-long event, as opposed to the full weekend, and there were about 100 Pathfinders, as opposed to multiple hundreds). It did my heart good to see so many kids, local leaders, and area coordinators so dedicated to this ministry that they had kept it alive through such strange times.
But more important than the marching and the lashing and the uniforms: Pathfinders serves as a reminder that God calls us to be servants to God and friends to the people around us. I see Pathfinders as being a big factor in my calling to and success in ministry. It taught me discipline, dedication, patience, and leadership. Between the ages of 10 and 16, I learned the books of the Bible, studied those books for Bible Bowl (now Pathfinder Bible Experience), and preached on those books for Pathfinder Sabbath. So as I experienced the fun and the festivities on Sunday, as my wife, Ally and I led song service, and as our Conference President, Pastor Titus Naftanaila preached a biblical message to our Pathfinders: it brought me joy to think of all the spiritual development that these kids have received over the past year…and that’s a huge blessing, considering how many churches around the country still haven’t even opened up yet.
As I wrap up my thoughts on this past weekend’s events, I’ll leave you with a final thought and challenge. I would love to see 2021-2022 be a banner year for Pathfinders in Wisconsin. If you have been feeling God’s calling, but you’re not sure what it is He wants you to do: become a leader in your local club. If your church doesn’t have a club, but there are a good handful of kids: start a club! Pathfinders is one of the most successful evangelistic ministries we have in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Literally thousands of young people are baptized every time we have an International Camporee (Wyoming or bust!). My hope is that we can see clubs formed and clubs revived all across the state, because I want our Wisconsin youth to know Jesus.
If you want that too: I want to invite you to get involved. Give me a call if you’re interested to know more about how to do so, and what that would look like. I’d love to talk to you about my own personal experience, and how I believe that Pathfinders still has the ability to bring young people to Christ today.
“A message to tell to the world, a truth that will set us free: King Jesus, the Savior’s coming back, for you and me.”
Zack Payne, Youth Director