Over 1,500 campers from the Central Jamaica Conference (CJC) of Seventh-day Adventists joined thousands of other campers from all over the world at the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium for the first-ever Inter-American Division (IAD) Camporee to be held in Jamaica. The 5th staging of the IAD Camporee 2023, which was held from Sunday, April 4 - Saturday, April 8, was the culmination of seven months of planning by the IAD in collaboration with the Jamaica Union Conference (JAMU) of Seventh-day Adventists. Approximately 10,000 Pathfinder delegates and youth leaders from 52 countries including North America, Europe, and Africa, participated in the historic event which, quite literally, started and ended with a bang via a fireworks spectacle. The event also played host to a number of dignitaries from home and abroad including the administrative team led by Dr. Elie Henry, President of the Inter-American Division of Seventh Day Adventist (IAD) and Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General of Jamaica. In her greetings during the opening ceremony, Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport wished the pathfinders and those gathered a spiritually enriching experience, meanwhile, mayor of Falmouth Colin Gager welcomed the international delegation and congratulated the young people for continuing to be engaged in action for Jesus.
Son of the Soil
On day 2, campers received a jolt of additional energy when Jamaican sprint phenom, Olympic gold medalist and world record holder, Usain Bolt made a surprise visit to the grounds. The sprint legend did not disappoint, as he was greeted with roars from the packed stadium and adoring spectators. Bolt, who was raised by Seventh-day Adventist Parents in the parish of Trelawny before going on to become the greatest sprinter of all time, was presented with the IAD presidential medal during his visit. In response, he took the opportunity to encourage thousands of young people at the Camporee to work hard and never give up on their dreams. He also engaged in a bit of sprinting, as he took the time to run a 100 meter race with two pathfinders who challenged him. Bolt also made headlines, both home and abroad, when he alluded to the fact that a return to the Seventh-day Adventist Church was quite possibly on the cards. According to the olympic champion, “Because of track and field I couldn't follow in that way. But I am always there and give back to help the church as much as possible.” “It is something they are pressing me about, and I definitely sit and think about it…but it is just time because you want to make sure when you go it's all the way. So it's just time", he added.
The camporee gave the pathfinders many opportunities to practice their skills and talents as well as to earn badges. These included spiritual activities such as devotions every morning and evening, sporting activities, honours classes, beach clean-ups and impacting the communities around the sports complex. Hundreds of pathfinders assisted in community service throughout Trelawney during the week including cleaning beaches, painting local infirmaries, delivering food baskets, helping to build houses and more. They also participated in a large march that ended with music, drill events and spiritual messages in the town of Falmouth, Trelawny. Themed “Pathfinder in Mission”, the Camporee was centered around the experience of the biblical character Gideon. And one of the major highlights of the 5-day event was the dramatic presentation of the story of Gideon and his 300 valiant men. Gideon the Destroyer musical drama production was a nightly feature and took center stage. The five dramatizations about the biblical story of Gideon were based on the book of Judges, chapters 6 and 7 and were very well received. The final drama performance concluded with an army of only 300 men defeating the army of the Midianites. Pastor Ellie Henry encouraged the pathfinders to be strong and courageous just like those in the army of Gideon. “Rely fully on God and continue to be witnesses, growing in the service in the community where you are”. Keynote speaker, Pastor Andres Peralta, Youth Ministries associate director for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, used the story of Gideon to share this message with the pathfinders. “You have to trust what God says, even when he has not accomplished it yet. According to Pastor Peralta, “In God’s mind, you are already a victorious person. Walk by faith,” he said. On the penultimate day of the camporee, an investiture service was held with more than 200 pathfinders and master guides. Additionally, youth ministries leaders who have served across the Inter-American Division for 50 years or more were presented with medals and current youth leaders who were instrumental in helping organize and lead their delegations to the camporee were also honoured.
The Sanctuary Takes Center Stage
One of the more eye-catching features of IAD Camporee 2023 was a near life size replica of the Hebrew tabernacle or sanctuary that was established as a tour attraction for those attending the camp. The sanctuary was first introduced to Moses by God in Exodus 25:8 when God said to him, “Let them build me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” A knowledge of the sanctuary is fundamental in Seventh-day Adventist Theology and the physical model was used to help illustrate spiritual principles that help christians live a holy life and gain a better understanding of the plan of salvation . Pathfinders were encouraged to tour the structure, which was manned by students and faculty of the School of Religion and Theology (SRT) including, Associate Director with the SRT Pastor Damian Chambers and fellow Associate Lecturer, Pastor Odeika Walker. The guides were placed strategically at the various furniture of the tabernacle including the laver and altar of burnt offering which was outside the tent, the table of shewbread, altar of incense and seven branch candlestick in the first section of the building and the ark of the covenant in the most holy place. Each guide would elaborate on the meaning and importance of the furniture to the christian and God’s goal to save humanity. Pathfinders who took the tour were rewarded with a badge.
Souls for the Kingdom
The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is ultimately evangelistic in nature. And Pathfinders is no different. During the camporee, 9 Campers from the Central Jamaica Conference contingent were baptized in two baptismal ceremonies where over 60 pathfinders were baptized. In all, over 100 persons were baptized. This was revealed by Pastor Al Powell, youth ministries director, Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, at a post-event media briefing on Saturday night. “We had over 120 people decide to serve God and get baptized. That was a great highlight, as we had a programme for those that chose to commit their life to God, and the service, and to mission.”