Pathfinders shine for Jesus in New Zealand

Pastor Vitali Shevchenko baptises a Pathfinder from Rehoboth Club in Auckland. (Photo: Estelle Kei)

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After lots of preparation, fundraising and travel, 1300 excited Pathfinders and leaders from around the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC) gathered for five days of activities and worship in the White Rock hills.

Fifty-nine Pathfinder clubs, representing New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Cook Islands and the north and south islands of New Zealand, took part in the NZPUC Pathfinder Camporee held near Christchurch, South New Zealand. 

Surrounded by natural beauty and changeable weather, they eagerly took on challenges, met new friends, shared testimonies and made decisions for Christ.

The opening ceremony began with a pōwhiri—a Māori welcoming ceremony—as the Pathfinders marched past. The theme for the week was Illuminé, Shine, and in his opening address South Pacific Division youth director Dr Nick Kross emphasised how Jesus lived a life of light. He encouraged all to shine the light that comes out of His Word today. NZPUC president Pastor Eddie Tupa’i concluded the opening ceremony with prayer.

Tongan buddy club.

Every evening worship began with a drama entitled “The Lesser Disciples”. Written and directed by Pastor Lance Boulton, NZPUC Adventist Tertiary Student Ministry director, the drama touched on everyday issues teens face, such as self-esteem, bullying and relationships.

Isabella MacPherson, one of the 13 young adults who practised weekly for this Christ-centred play, said, “Being here makes the past six months of practice worth it.” On Sabbath evening the drama concluded with Jesus’ character emphasising, “I don’t have lesser disciples—work as a team to shine for My glory”. The question left for the Pathfinders to reflect on was, ”Do you want to shine for Me?” 

Guest speaker Rome Ulia, who pastors in the North New South Wales Conference, encouraged the Pathfinders through animated and powerful presentations. He shared about God’s transforming power through gospel stories and his own personal testimony. Passionately he begged and pleaded with the Pathfinders to call on Jesus and prayed that all present would have faith like the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13).

Thirteen Pathfinders entered the waters of baptism in a celebratory service on Sabbath afternoon in the Okuku River—six of them were from Rehoboth Pathfinder Club in Auckland. District director Pastor Vitali Shevchenko expressed his joy in announcing that the other half of this club had also made decisions for baptism and will follow through soon after their return to their local church.

Many of these young people’s families do not attend church, but they are very dedicated, and thanks was expressed to club director Ana Ahioatu who invests hugely in these kids. In their testimonies the newly baptised Pathfinders emphasised how the club is like family and not just a place to receive badges.

Candidates for baptism stand between their grandfather and older brother.

Pastor Victor Kulakov, camporee director and NZPUC youth director, noted that the network and supportive environment the Pathfinder ministry provides for future disciples is enriched by the leadership and development journey from Pathfinder to Master Guide and beyond.

Pathfinders is discipleship, he said.Staff and Pathfinders spend time together, share their faith in God and encourage one another. The power of these discipleship relationships and structure of club activities make a huge difference in the spiritual lives of all involved.

During the camporee a further 213 young people asked to be baptised soon in their local churches while another 469 asked for Bible study.

Pathfinders as a discipleship movement was evident during the camporee in the relationships and mentoring between staff and campers, buddy clubs and the beautiful interaction of cultures and languages, often expressed in music. Two special moments were when 100 Tahitian Pathfinders sang “Let your little light shine” in French and when about 700 Pathfinders from the NNZC sang My God loves me!” in 12 languages. 

The camporee was intentionally bilingual. All camp material was provided in French and English and the team of subcamp leaders were also chosen to have both French and English speakers. Simultaneous translation was provided by a team of three rotating volunteers every evening. 

A simultaneous translation station.

At the end of the camporee Pastor Ulia and Dr Kross were presented with a māui (a fish hook), chosen by the NZPUC to be the symbol of discipleship for the Union. Pastor Kulakov invited administration staff, camp directors, counsellors, district directors and all club leaders up the front. He said they are the pillars of Pathfinder ministry, pouring their lives into this ministry and are the ones who grow disciples.

The site for the camporee was private land kindly provided by the Tooley family. They, along with a team of hardworking volunteers, installed water, electricity and made possible the facilities for an amazing and memorable camporee. Pastors Kulakov and Boulton stressed that the key component for the successful and smooth running of the event was the many volunteers who kept on giving of themselves beyond what was expected. Local businesses and a lot of South Island hospitality made sure that NZPUC Pathfinders can continue to Illuminé, Shine for Jesus.

All the Pathfinders gathered for worship.
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