Did you know that 45 years ago, when Pathfinder Ministry began in Ontario, there were only four clubs (Harvie—now Toronto West, Mississauga, Perth and Toronto East)? And today there are 70 official clubs and 1200 Pathfinders in our Conference?
There was much to celebrate on September 19, the 70th anniversary of the worldwide Pathfinder Ministry and the 45th anniversary of Ontario Pathfinders. Such milestones only come around once. Thus, our Pathfinder director, Edwin Martin, and lay Pathfinder leaders knew they had to forge ahead with plans for a special Pathfinder Camp Meeting despite COVID-19.
The team had held out hope of an in-person event, but in June, as the pandemic continued, they decided to shift to virtual. They quickly announced plans to organize a virtual choir and orchestra under Prince Pascual, Durham Fil-Can Pathfinder leader; then, subcommittees were formed to plan a three-part virtual Pathfinder Camp Meeting.
Going virtual had its benefits. For one thing, it was easier and less expensive to plan. For another, the pieces fell into place as former Pathfinders and current leaders Akeem and Deandra Favorite (who also served as hosts for a session) wrote a script and participants were recruited.
Participants included current and former Pathfinders, current and former leaders and four excellent speakers—Andres Peralta, World Pathfinder leader, Pastor Frankie Lazarus, Mount Olive pastor (whose sermon was not shown due to technical difficulties), Nyjel Camanzo, a Pathfinder from Hamilton and Pastor Jordane Smith, a former Pathfinder now serving as the young adult pastor for the College Heights Church (Burman University). They also secured Ontario Conference administrators, Mansfield Edwards, president, speaking on a panel on the future of Pathfinders, and Jakov Bibulovic, executive secretary, offering greetings on behalf of Ontario Conference.
For three months, the planning committee met weekly, and interviews/recordings were held almost every day once September hit. The committee settled on the following objectives:
1) to see how God has led us in the past;
2) to recognize the trailblazers who were instrumental in bringing the ministry to where it is now;
3) to celebrate the present Pathfinder ministry, with testimonies from current and former Pathfinders; and
4) to take an intentional look at the future of this ministry and how we can support the next generation of Pathfinders to become disciples of Christ.
They then designed an ambitious program with three segments: Connected—what’s your story? (Session 1); Connected—where do I belong? (Session 2); and The Connection Continues (Session 3). These segments focused on the past, present and future of Pathfinders, respectively. Throughout the day, viewers enjoyed a news-style program (Ontario Pathfinder News Network), powerful messages, engaging testimonies and panels, musical numbers and more.
On the 19th, there were some technical glitches, but the on-air and behind the scenes team pushed through to present an overall excellent program. Their hard work paid off, with an average of 300 viewers on YouTube (excluding those from Facebook) for the three sessions, 415 for the morning session. Live viewers hailed from Ontario and beyond, including the UK, Brazil and Mexico. Furthermore, there are now 2,376 views for the morning service, 1,136 for the afternoon and 747 for the evening.
Here are just a few of the highlights of this one-of-a-kind event:
Pathfinders Got Talent. The camp meeting began with a literal bang as our Ontario Pathfinder Drum Corps—first prize winners at Oshkosh Camporee—ushered us into a day of thanksgiving. All day, Pathfinders were also featured prominently as hosts, panel facilitators and interviewers. Overall, the young hosts came across as warm, confident and well-spoken. They also provided beautiful special music, ranging from solos to sibling duos to the virtual choir and orchestra. Another theme of the day was the lifelong leaderships skills gained through Pathfinders, with former Pathfinders now thriving in their careers, whether ministry (Pastors R.J. Bebec and Sheldon Imperio), journalism (Simone Douglas) or other fields. And of course, speakers Nyjel (who also represented Ontario Pathfinders as an Oshkosh speaker) and Pastor Smith, a former Pathfinder, offered tangible proof of the fruits of Pathfinder Ministry.
Ruth Weidner (former Pathfinder Ministry support staff) later commented, “It was exciting to see so many Pathfinders, the talents and skills they each have that can be used for God. Continue to nurture the Pathfinders in your church. Don’t wait until it’s too late.”
History of Ontario Conference Pathfinder Council. Pathfinder Ministry in Ontario has grown exponentially, with the help of many dedicated lay leaders, pastors, Ontario Conference directors and support staff. In a panel featuring Conference support staff who’d served in Pathfinder Ministry, Weidner spoke of the founding of the Pathfinder Federation (now Ontario Conference Pathfinder Council or OCPC) in 1978. The Federation was founded in her time to coordinate clubs, help with training and offer continued support. It was easier for the Conference to train and inspire district leaders rather than all the clubs. David Clarke, who was first to recognize the need for such an organization, was, by all accounts, an excellent first leader. Today, as stated by Pastor Frankie Lazarus, “the OCPC is one of the premier lay organizations of our Conference.”
Honouring pioneers. Pathfinder Camp Meeting intentionally recognized those who’d paved the way for the present ministry. Hosts named Conference leaders from Pathfinders’ inception to present, including Neville George, Gordon Pifher, Bryan Lee, Jason McCracken, Milt Perkins, Frankie Lazarus, Cyrill Millett, Charles Leader and Edwin Martin (2009 to present). They also noted the considerable contributions of Ontario Conference Pathfinder Council directors David Clarke, Russell Lambert, Chris Grant, Alex Bow and current leader, Chester Lewis. The committee also recognized Pastor Neville George via Pathfinder coordinator Kester Lewis.
Viewers were thrilled to see former leaders on screen, such as Pastors Frankie Lazarus and Cyrill Millett (joining virtually from Bermuda) and Janice Maitland, a former area and district coordinator, among other roles. Another memorable moment was a panel of Pathfinder pioneers, Ena Dawn Edwards, Letitia Osborne and David Clarke. For Clarke, the day was extra special, as it was also his and his wife’s 60th wedding anniversary. Some of their outstanding memories included viewing the first sanctuary replica at the Dare to Care Camporee in Colorado (Bro Clarke), helping to nurse a sick Pathfinder all night at a campout (Sis Edwards) and the genuine bonds formed with Pathfinders over the years (Sis Osborne).
All these pioneers shared some wisdom for the next generation, including this gem from Sis Osborne – “Be authentic. Be the same person in the club, at home, at church. And above all, let Jesus be your guide in leading young people. [Then] they will be better men and women, [equipped] to take their place in the world.”
It takes a village. Another panel recognized former support staff in Pathfinder Ministry. Here, three of those individuals—Ruth Weidner, Juvey Puranen and Edith Habaradas—shared their experiences and wise counsel. The crux of their advice to current Pathfinder leaders was to view your work as a ministry and remember, as per Juvey, “You are part of a puzzle, and God put you there for a purpose.” These ladies also made sure to thank their directors, other co-workers and the Pathfinder Council for making their work lighter. Edith, who moved to a different role in June, also encouraged her successor, Danielle Rop, “I believe God placed you where you are. And He will give you the strength and wisdom [to carry out your duties].”
Pathfinders is more than a ministry. It’s a family. The family atmosphere was evident in viewing the chats throughout the day. There, viewers offered greetings from their clubs, said hi to old friends virtually and commented on memories and messages that resonated with them. All day, they encouraged the young people participating in the program. They also expressed gratitude for the Pathfinder pioneers present. Gordon Pifher, now vice president for Media Ministries at the North American Division, wrote, “Good to see Frankie Lazarus. Great memories of your leadership. Thank you for your witness.” Joanne Alexander wrote, “Grandma Leticia was the best. She helped our club so much” (Kendalwood Galaxy). Maurice Rose wrote, “Good to see Bro Clarke. I remember seeing him way back when I started Pathfinders when I was 10.” Cindy Hardy wrote, “Sis Dawn! I remember you taking me to Camp Hale Camporee! Love you so much!” In many ways, it was a virtual family reunion.
Inspiring Messages. World Pathfinder leader Andres Peralta blessed viewers with a short but loaded live message in the morning. Focusing on the parable of the Prodigal Son, he admonished Pathfinders to stay connected to the Father. “When you are close to the Father, you are blessed. You have wisdom. You know how to decide. You know how to make things right.” He drew from his experience getting 300 messages a day from Pathfinders struggling with various issues, such as suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem or porn addiction. He assured them that God’s eyes are upon all Pathfinders, even those who have left home, even those who have fallen into ungodly things. His eyes are upon us now, during a stressful pandemic. And like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son ran toward his son to welcome him home, we are never too far from God’s embrace. In the evening, Nyjel Camanzo and Pastor Jordane Smith rounded up the day’s empowering messages by sharing that as we stay close to God by following His law and meditating on His Word, He’ll give us the strength to do whatever He is calling us to do
A Bright Future. We look forward to many exciting things from Pathfinders. A panel on the future of Pathfinders, including Mansfield Edwards, John Scott (Youth director), Chester Lewis (OCPC executive coordinator), Edwin Martin and Pathfinder leaders, Olivia Pryce and Jenai Wilson, named just a few: 1) increased community engagement, 2) more joint projects with the Youth department, 3) collaboration with other clubs, 4) a greater emphasis on spiritual grounding for Pathfinders –“no roots, no fruits,” said Martin, 5) empowering our young people to be leaders today, not tomorrow, and 6) adaptability and preparedness to do ministry in any situation, such as COVID-19, as we ultimately prepare to go home.
Thank you to Edwin Martin and Pathfinder leaders for orchestrating this event, the Pathfinder leaders worked behind the scenes running the show, Ontario Conference’s Media and IT departments, who assisted with filming and Pathfinders, who led the live show. It was a blessed day!
Visit the Ontario Pathfinders YouTube channel to rewatch any of the sessions.
Session 1 - Connected: What's Your Story? - https://youtu.be/rOpUdF2cetU
Session 2 - Connected: Where Do I Belong? - https://youtu.be/FIIdV_MLTZ0
Session 3 - The Connection Continues - https://youtu.be/INGk7Vt1eYI
Also look out for a weekly online program on the Ontario Pathfinders YouTube channel every Sunday at 7:30 pm, which will give even more Pathfinders the chance to use their talents.