Aircraft made 28 takeoffs and landings to transport the group from Belize to Jamaica.
It took seven round trips to get a delegation of 72 Pathfinders and youth leaders to Trelawny, Jamaica, for the 5th Pathfinder Camporee of the Inter-American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, April 4-9. It was nothing short of a miracle, Belize Union Mission youth ministries director Gelder Gamboa said, as the plane made a total of 28 takeoffs and landings.
The original plan was to fly with two other delegations from Guatemala and then Honduras, but those plans fell through. Gamboa then felt impressed to contact his long-time Adventist friend Jeff Sutton, who runs a missionary training center in Orange Walk, a 50-minute drive from Belize City, the historical capital.
“We had a group of prayer warriors, and I remember crying to the Lord: ‘This is about You; please get these young people to camp. These are Your future leaders; open the door,’” Gamboa said.
The delegation was made up of 50 Pathfinders and 22 youth leaders, Gamboa said. “Our young people had worked so hard raising funds, with churches supporting them, the government supporting them, and some parents even taking out loans to send their kids,” he explained.
Sutton, who was in the middle of a session at the non-profit organization MOVE (Missionary Outreach Volunteer Evangelism), which he operates, felt inclined to see what could be done. He researched permits and figured out the weight limit per flight and other logistics, and soon, the plan began to take shape.
Sutton crunched numbers for the flights he would have to make in his 10-seater Cessna C441 Conquest II, which was parked at a hangar warehouse in the U.S. It would be a “Mission of Love plan,” as he called it. He then presented the plan to Belize Union Mission leaders, and soon after, to the parents of the Pathfinders.
“When Sutton presented photos of the plane [in which] they would be traveling overseas during an online meeting, 40 of our delegates felt like maybe they didn’t want to fly in a small plane,” Gamboa said. “With our prayer warriors continually elevating prayers, I proceeded to call each one of the parents, explaining every precaution, insurance, and logistic in place for the trips.”
Sutton was really moved to help in any way he could to make this camporee event a reality for so many Pathfinders.
“My passion is to see young people in mission because we are called to have a purpose, and I was so thrilled about the theme of the camporee, ‘Pathfinders in Mission.’ I thought, an airplane is only as good as the people you are hauling,” Sutton said. He added that all the expenses like landing fees, handling fees, and passenger fees were at cost. And he donated his time.
After picking up the plane from the U.S., Sutton flew the first group of delegates to the camporee on March 31. Then, on April 2, Sutton flew one group to Jamaica in the morning and then returned to get the second group, and so on, until he had flown all 72 people to the camporee event.
“I remember thinking, I’m parked on a ramp at a high-end facility in Montego Bay, and I’m pulling off with village kids with knapsacks. They’re my people, my kids; it was so fun,” Sutton said. “I prayed this experience [would] lead them to gain even more of a passion for mission,” he said.
Once in Jamaica, Sutton camped out with the group, sleeping in his hammock every night.
LeAn Seguro, 16, from the village of Biscayne in Belize, was still processing the fact that she was at the camporee. “I’ve met so many people from different countries, and I’ve learned so much every day,” she said. “It’s surreal,” she added. She was here because of all the hard work of her Biscayne Nature Club, made up of 10 Pathfinders. Club members raised funds by selling food at cricket matches every Sunday for months and organizing family fun days and concerts.
Taking part in the many sports activities with other peers and listening to spiritual messages has brought her to realize that she needs to make some changes to live a more purposeful life. “I need to spend less time on my phone and more time studying the Bible,” she said. “It’s not so much the church’s mission but it’s God’s mission.” Seguro is determined to continue doing more in her community and witnessing more, sharing with others what her experience was all about during the camporee.
Garik Gilharry, 15, felt just as excited to be at the camporee and to go through many first experiences with his delegation. Flying for the first time in a small plane was scary, but he said he was excited to see the water below and was looking forward to the adventure of camping with so many other Pathfinders for a week. He’s thankful for the help he received from his aunt in the U.S., who helped to support his trip, and for the fundraising his club did back home.
Gilharry and the rest of the delegation were happy to see their bus driver in Jamaica get baptized after they witnessed to him while traveling to camp from the airport and during a daytrip of sightseeing.
“This has been quite an adventure and a spiritual awakening for them and for us youth leaders too,” Gamboa said. “God has a divine purpose for their lives, and this camporee has allowed them to see a transformation in their lives today and for the future.”
There are many miracles that happened along the way, Gamboa said. Having a small plane make 28 takeoffs and landings to get the Belize delegation to the camporee was not something the leaders thought could be pulled off. But “God is real,” Gamboa said. “We need to pray more and have more faith.”
The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.