Emphasis on Braille and Refugee Assistance foster youth interest in ‘the least of these.’
Published on: 08-21-2019
The 2019 International Pathfinder Camporee featured a Braille honor for the first time in its history. The honor was developed by Christian Record Services for the Blind, a ministry of the North American Division (NAD). Pathfinders who participate in the 90-minute session learn about the tactile reading system and how it has been adapted into different languages. They can also experience the system hands on by using Lego building blocks to construct their names in Braille.
Honors are key components of the Pathfinder curriculum that help youth learn valuable spiritual, recreational, and practical skills they can take with them into their own ministry.
The honors offered at the “Chosen” camporee appeal to many interests and included leatherwork, knife throwing, biblical archeology, origami, robotics, space exploration, and gift wrapping. Some honors are more service oriented, including learning how to witness about God to others through the Cross-Cultural Mission honor or understanding how to resolve conflict with the Peace Maker honor.
Jeri Lyn Rogge, editorial and outreach coordinator of Christian Record Services and one of the teachers of the Braille honor, said the Pathfinders are asked questions that help gauge their knowledge of the blind, including “What can the blind do well?” “Are there different types of blind?” and “What scares you about the blind?” After answering, the Pathfinders watch a video testimonial of a member of Christian Record Services who attended its summer camp for the blind. The questions are then repeated to the Pathfinders after the video.
“Watching that video really changed my outlook,” said Grace McConville, a Pathfinder from the Valdosta Voyagers Pathfinder Club in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, who earned the honor. “It made me think about a member of my church who’s legally blind.”
“It’s good they made this honor because it can help us become friends with someone who is blind,” said Isabel Williams, from the same club.
Rogge said she hopes the Pathfinders will feel more empowered to interact with the blind who may live in their communities.
“I hope they will engage in conversations that will develop into friendship, and those friendships will lead to a connection with Jesus Christ,” she said. “That’s what I’m really passionate about.”
Refugee Assistance Honor
The ministry called Advocates for Southeast Asians and the Persecuted (ASAP Ministries) guided groups of up to 40 Pathfinders at a time through exercises that gave a glimpse into the world of refugees as part of the Refugee Assistance honor.
ASAP Ministries has been involved with refugees since it was founded in 1995. Its work extends beyond Southeast Asia into Lebanon for Syrian refugees, as well as in North America. The international camporee marks the first time the ministry led the refugee honor, which was first developed by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).
The honor features a “loss simulation exercise,” in which Pathfinders imagine they have to flee their homes and take on the life of a refugee. On separate pieces of paper, they write down four people they would take with them, four special items, four things they can’t live without, and four types of documents, currency, or identification they would take. They’re then instructed to remove an item from each category to represent “selected loss.”
Next, the Pathfinders flip the cards over to randomly select more cards to discard. That process represents “unknown loss.” The moderator then goes from person to person to take away pieces of paper at will, representing “loss of control.” Afterward, they are instructed to see who or what they have left and to imagine how their lives would be.
“Some were crying. They couldn’t bear the thought of losing someone they love,” said Daniel Rojas, communication and media coordinator of ASAP, who taught the honor simultaneously in Spanish. “I had some refugees in my class from El Salvador and Venezuela — Pathfinders and adults. At certain points, they asked for a break because they were reliving the trauma, but it turned into something therapeutic for the group.”
“This made me think about what’s going on at the southern border [of the United States] and what’s happening in Syria. I really want to do something to help,” said Catherine Collins, director of the Avon Park Rams Pathfinder Club in the Florida Conference. “This is one of the best honors offered for how the world is today.”
According to Bill Wells, refugee coordinator for ASAP Ministries, the foundation of what the ministry offers the Pathfinders is what the Bible says about caring for refugees. The ministry also helps Pathfinders understand how popular characters from the Bible were also refugees, including Moses, the three Hebrew boys — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — and Daniel, Ruth, Naomi, and even Jesus.
“The greatest thing we hope they take away is a heart of compassion and empathy and seeing people through the lens of the gospel. Scripture helps us understand that refugees, immigrants, or whoever is labeled ‘other’ are people that Jesus loves and died for,” Wells said.
Pathfinders are encouraged to amass as many skills and experiences as possible whenever honors are offered through their clubs, conferences, and unions. Camporees are an especially fruitful occasion to earn lots of honors in a compressed timeframe. More than 170 honors classes were available for Pathfinders attending the 2019 “Chosen” International Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.