'Relentless' Pathfinders Reunite in West Virginia for Columbia Union Camporee
Feature by V. Michelle Bernard / Photos by Melvin Donadelle and Stephen Lee
Hours before the official start of “Relentless,” the 2022 Columbia Union Camporee held at Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., a thunderstorm rolled through, threatening to cancel the first evening meeting. Providentially, the drenching downpour and strong winds stopped just in time for the event and fun to begin.
After the storm, Dave Lopez, an area Pathfinder coordinator for the Ohio Conference, drove around, noting that every campsite he passed suffered storm damage, and every tent in the campsite next to his was down.
Clubs reported broken canopies, tents traveling hundreds of feet from their campsites, and many wet sleeping bags—but no injuries.
Kim Barrett, staff member for the Chesapeake Conference SALT Club from Randallstown, Md., says she thought the Pathfinders would be disappointed by the situation, “but they all just jumped in and set up the campsite [again]. … You talk about being relentless, this is it.”
Four years in the making, the camporee was designed to “be a holistic experience,” says Frank Bondurant, vice president of Ministries Development for the Columbia Union and camporee planning chair. “Obviously, we wanted our evening meetings to be the focus. When the kids would hear the gospel, that they would hear God’s Word preached about a relentless love. But we wanted that to be accentuated and complemented by the whole experience.”
Bondurant adds, “Whether it was [when] they were studying God’s second book—nature—or whether it was the time spent developing relationships and making new friendships, we felt that all of this contributed to a transformational experience, a life-changing experience for these kids.”
The camporee was originally scheduled for the fall of 2021 but got delayed due to COVID-19 precautions. As a result, the August 10–14, 2022, date allowed attendees to participate in warmer weather aquatic activities, says Carolina Ramos, administrative assistant for the union’s Ministries Development Department and one of the camporee’s organizers.
Thanks to a team of volunteers, as well as the union and Summit Bechtel staff, the event offered rock climbing, zip lining, water sports, crafts, archery and the opportunity to learn about the latest in sustainability research.
Ema Gonzalez, a member of Pennsylvania Conference’s Lawndale Club, says, “I thought [the campground] was going to be antique but was surprised at all the modern things, like the solar panels and CONSOL Energy Bridge. I was not expecting this.”
Reunited, and It Feels So Good
The camporee offered much more than fresh mountain air to the 2,000-plus attendees. Many noted how special this particular event was—the first big event they had attended since the pandemic canceled many typical gatherings like camporees.
Bernadine Flores, Pathfinder state coordinator for the New Jersey Conference, says, “Pathfinders definitely enjoyed their time. … You know, we haven’t had any [event] for such a long time, so this was definitely a great way to jump right back in for the Pathfinders.”
Caleb Jeffrey, a member of Allegheny West Conference’s (AWC) Southeast Panthers in Cleveland, joined his club during the pandemic, looking for something to do with his time. “The atmosphere of the campground was wonderful,” he says. “I mean, just waking up and being around God’s creation was awesome. The people I met, and the four days felt like we knew [each other] for four years.”
Tonyia Williams, a counselor for the Panthers, says she saw her club try new things. “They stepped outside of their box and did things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do,” like rock climbing, BMX bike riding, kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming.
Thokozani Kulemeka, a Pathfinder from AWC’s Hilltop Community Worship Center Heralds in Columbus, Ohio, enjoyed spending time with his friends. Speaking about his favorite activity—archery—he says, “I felt like I was in a movie.”
A popular segment at this year’s camporee was the nature nugget by naturalist John Henri Rorabeck (pictured on right with Pastor Henry Johnson), who shared about God the Creator each night. Throughout the week, Rorabeck encouraged campers to look for their own “nature nuggets” to help appreciate God in a deeper way. He also encouraged Pathfinders to care for the earth, saying, “How we treat creation shows what we think of the Creator. How we act toward nature shows our true nature.”
WATCH THE 'RELENTLESS' NIGHTLY MEETINGS
Pathfinders later went on to earn “nature” honors—several that consisted of studying local habitats. Some of them even experienced close encounters with a black bear—the state animal that visited the campground.
'Don't Be a Jonah'
Each night, Pathfinders from the union’s conferences provided a diversity of music, prayer and skits. Patrick Graham, youth director for the Allegheny East Conference and stage manager at the camporee, says the groups were often nervous before going on stage, but “then, when we came together to pray about it, the Holy Spirit just took over.”
During the nightly meetings, Henry Johnson, pastor of Carolina Conference’s Greenville (S.C.) church, used the story of Jonah as a cautionary tale to remind the campers to reach out and share the gospel, not just keep it to themselves.
“In spite of our relentlessness, selfishness, and just self-serving, notice that God’s relentless love pursues us, is available to us, and will never leave us,” Johnson said.
As a fun reminder to actively interact with others beyond their normal circles, Johnson gave attendees a challenge to trade pins with two particular Summit Bechtel staff members—individuals who had never experienced the popular Pathfinder pin-trading activity or heard of Seventh-day Adventists.
That challenge, in addition to the Visitor team’s social media challenge to post the event’s hashtag—#relentless2022—to earn a Visitor pin, resulted in 5,481 users reached on Instagram alone, offering Pathfinders another way to share aspects of their faith with people beyond the event.
The camporee’s “social media hosts,” Tigor Lettsome, a member of Potomac Conference’s Beltsville Broncos Club (Md.), and Diana Brazoban, a member of Potomac Conference’s Sligo Challengers Club in Takoma Park, Md. (both pictured on left), interacted with campers throughout the week, encouraging attendees to share camporee moments and their faith on social media.
Drill Down Time!
Drill and drum corps competitions have long been a staple of Pathfinder camporees, and the tradition continued this time around.
Joel Hutchins, a staff member for the Sligo Challengers Club who helped run the event, notes that at the last two international camporees in Oshkosh, Wis., drill teams from the Columbia Union entered in more competitions than any other union. He hopes more conferences and teams from the union will continue to join future events.
SEE A LIST OF THE DRILL TEAM WINNERS
“The work does not stop here, Pathfinders,” said Lettsome at the final camporee meeting and the person who won first place for the Master Guide drill down. “After this, you guys are going to go home … God has still called you to be His workers. … You are appointed by God … who has called you to go back home and spread the Word.”
See even more coverage on our social media channels:
Read More About the Camporee
- Activities Kick Into High Gear at the Camporee
- Meet the 'Relentless2022' Social Media Influencers
- 'Relentless Columbia Union Camporee Kicks Off
- Storm Sweeps Through 'Relentless' Camporee
- Eight Pathfinders Baptized, Two Invested at 'Relentless' Camporee
Read these and other stories in the November/December 2022 Visitor:
- Editorial: Leaders of Tomorrow .... And Today
- 'Relentless' Pathfinders Reunite in West Virginia for Columbia Union Camporee
- Watch the 'Relentless' Day in Review Videos on Our YouTube Channel
- See the 'Relentless' Drill Team Results
- Up Your Church's Curb Appeal
- Allegheny East Conference Elects New Leadership Team
- Have a Happier Holiday with Good Sleep Habits
- Using His Sanctified Imagination
- Read the Visitor's Online Classified Ads