In what is believed to be a world first for a Pathfinder camporee, the entire event was held on water.
A specially-constructed pontoon, afloat on a lagoon adjoining the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, was the site for the week-long camporee, held in December 2017. The 50m x 40m structure accommodated the 350 Pathfinders and staff, including 47 tents.
Fittingly, the theme of the camporee was “Floating in the arms of God”. Four Pathfinder clubs took part in the 22 water activities.
Patrick Maru, youth coordinator for the Ambunti District, Sepik Mission, said planning for the event began three years ago. He wanted to make a change to the usual style of Pathfinder camping.
“The program was officially opened by our youth director Pastor Missikaram Guguna, assisted by guest speaker Pastor Lessley Yamahune, stewardship director for the Sepik Mission, and escorted by the ‘crocodile man’, symbolising the Sepik River people,” Mr Maru said.
Despite a positive start, the camporee suffered a serious setback early on the third day when a large thunderstorm struck.
“The rain started pouring heavily and the wind blew mightily, breaking down all our tents,” Mr Maru said. “Leaders were running here and there with their torches flashing, checking all the kids.
“I was recalling the Bible story about Jesus and the storm and that gave peace. That cold rainy windy night, I cried to Him for help.”
The storm was so powerful that large bush ropes and bamboo posts holding the pontoon in position were broken, causing it to become adrift. Fortunately it remained intact and drifted about 300m before coming to rest in a bay. Later that morning two outboard canoes pushed the pontoon back to its original position.
“Pathfinders and leaders have seen the mighty hand of God during our one-week camp . . . and these Pathfinders will have a story to tell to their kids in the future,” Mr Maru said.
By the end of the week 47 Pathfinders had been baptised in a baptismal pool in the centre of the pontoon.
South Pacific Division youth director Dr Nick Kross said it was a unique event.
“It may well be the first time in the world that a Pathfinder camporee has been held on water,” he said.