By Kimberly Mann
If you looked across the open field on Tuesday morning, you would see an empty grassy field with white lines, marking seating areas for the evening’s opening night program. Behind the field were streets bustling with RV’s, busses, church vans, and cars transporting thousands of Pathfinders from across the world to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Large gateways were erected and rows upon rows of tents popped up across miles of open field. I imagine the campsite must have been the closest resemblance to the children of Israel’s camp. As the South Central Conference pathfinders arrived, the site began to fill with the sounds of excited youth and the smells of spaghetti dinners. Our South Central Conference Pathfinders joined 55,000 other youth from across the world in celebrating their love for God, at the “Chosen” Camporee. We also hosted a Pathfinder club from Kenya, and we had a wonderful time fellowshipping with them. The experience of enjoying the flavorful food vendors from all over the country, watching the youth run excitedly from hangar to hangar acquiring honors, and even listening to the airplanes take off with Pathfinders as passengers were just a few highlights of the week. However, for many pathfinders, the real highlight of the week was pin trading- a fun exchange of specialty pins from across the world. It takes focus and keen negotiation skills to acquire pins and many of our Pathfinders would return to their camps at the end of the day with new pins to show off to their clubs. There were highly coveted pins that could spin, light-up, play music, and celebrate various cultures and regions of the world. Large groups of Pathfinders from all conferences and cultures would gather together, sometimes even right in the middle of the road, to watch a pin trade in action.
I even watched my son trade his very first pin and say with joy, “This is amazing! I’d like to keep coming back.” I could tell the theme of the weekend, and a love for Pathfinders, was being etched in his heart. Even more significant was how this camporee brought ministry full circle. 20 years ago, I sat in a Hangar in Oshkosh, WI at the 1999 “Discover the Power” Camporee, when a tornado headed for the campgrounds split in two and went around our camp. I remembered thanking God for his protection and asking God about my purpose in life. I couldn’t have known that God would bring me back to Oshkosh, 20 years later, as a Youth Director, leading other youth to Christ. I couldn’t have known at 17 what God was up to, but I’m so glad he was up to something good. It was a sobering moment that reminded me that the promises of God are true, He knows the plans He has for our youth, to help, guide, and direct them along the right path. God often brings our lives full circle so that we are able to see the pivotal moments in our spiritual journey. While Oshkosh serves as an amazing time of fun and comradery, I am a witness that lives are changed, and decisions are made for a life committed to God.