iThirst camporee underway


Toowoomba, Queensland

What an awesome sight to see thousands of Pathfinders on the parade ground moving together in disciplined units, their colourful flags fluttering in the wind. Yes, there were a few mis-steps, the music didn’t always start on time and the world leader of Adventist Youth, Pastor Gilbert Cangy, admitted that, as a boy, he only ever earned two honour badges as he struggled at home with family problems. “When I was in Pathfinders, I didn’t get honours,” he said, “but I met Jesus. He put the broken pieces of my life back together.” 

A Pathfinder is as important to God as their pastor. They have that value—that importance.

Flags flutter in the wind as thousands of Pathfinders line up on the Toowoomba Showgrounds. [Photo courtesy: Kent Kingston]

The opening parade of the iThirst South Pacific Division Pathfinder Camporee featured a surprise when the world leader of Pathfinders, Pastor Jonatan Tejel, arrived in a litter carried on the shoulders of Roman soldiers. It was a foretaste of the Passion week drama unfolding on the main stage through the week’s evening meetings.

But despite the spectacle, Pastor Tejel echoed the same message as all of the opening speakers: “I have only one word for you guys,” he said, “if you thirst, look to Jesus.”

Water is a recurring motif at iThirst, which is using as its key text Jesus’ words in John 4:13-14: “ . . . but those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.” Many of the daytime activities involve water (some of it admittedly very muddy), which is perfect for staying cool during Toowoomba’s sunny days. But, ironically, the camporee has struggled with water shortages in some areas, with the showground’s water supply stretched past its limit at times—never before have 8000 people camped at the venue. It’s the largest camporee ever to be held on Australian soil.

“When you grow, it hurts sometimes,” said Dr Nick Kross, director of Adventist Youth for the South Pacific Division and overall camporee coordinator. He and other organisers put in long hours, including working all night, to ensure that all campers have a reliable water supply.

Let the mud fly! Good thing they changed out of their uniforms first. [Photo courtesy: Kent Kingston]

The scale of this iThirst camporee produces some mind boggling logistical issues. Andrew Wanke, the camporee accountant, was surprised to receive a single receipt for a $A14,000 food purchase. The materials used to build the main stage would fill five semi-trailers and the 200 LED screens tiled together to make the 10m x 5m big screen weigh 2.5 tons. It’s not all high tech and big bucks though: a lot of creativity has gone into making the drama set. Materials used include disposable plastic dinner plates, swimming pool noodles, lengths of garden hose and two large Hungry Jacks paper cups.

Featured speaker, Avondale College Church pastor Eddie Hypolite, admitted to some nerves when he was confronted with the massive event that is iThirst. “This is my first camporee. I didn’t realise what I’d come to until I saw the parade. The parade was just . . . wow. Seeing everyone in their uniforms, I felt under-dressed. I realised this is so much bigger than I’d thought it was. So many precious lives . . . I got scared. But once I started preaching my heart was better.”

Pastor Hypolite’s nightly messages are aimed at helping Pathfinders to recognise the eternal value they have in Jesus. “I’m hoping they change the way they think God thinks about them,” he said. “A Pathfinder is as important to God as their pastor. They have that value—that importance.” 

Pathfinders for life. [Photo courtesy: Kent Kingston]

From my perspective, as someone who hasn’t been to a camporee since 1987, I can relate to Pastor Hypolite’s initial reaction. I’m humbled by the hard work, commitment and positivity that is being put in by the leaders—everyone from local club counsellors to the administration team. There’s no sense of self-aggrandisement; instead the focus is very much on the wellbeing of the Pathfinders and their eternal destiny.

“Our dream for every one of you is to make as many new friends as you can,” said Dr Nick Kross at the opening ceremony, “and to come to know Jesus as your very best friend and your Saviour.”