‘Backyard camping’ brings blessings, witnessing opportunities, and baptisms.
The ongoing lockdown across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists from pitching their tents at home to take part in online Pathfinder camporee events all across the Inter-American Division (IAD) in early April 2020.
Campers and their families connected to each other to witness historic online camporees from their living rooms and backyards to worship together, take part in interactive activities, gain skills, compete in sports activities, and witness to friends during a week traditionally spent in outdoors camping.
“I am so happy to see and feel so many young people on fire for Jesus during the numerous online camporees held,” said Al Powell, youth ministries director for IAD. “It’s been a camporee fever that continues to happen throughout the territory, teaching us that even though the coronavirus has kept us from gathering in events, we don’t have to be limited by our current circumstances. We can embrace social media even more now, to connect with friends outside our walls.”
In El Salvador, youth ministries leaders were scheduled to gather more than 5,000 campers in five different conference-led camporee events but quickly switched to an online camporee adjusted to involve the entire family at home. The five-day program included daily activities, honor classes, live evening messages, and other opportunities for the more than 2,500 registered Adventurers, Pathfinders, and Master Guides.
“We wanted to make sure to help our young people during this time of crisis to keep them focused on spiritual things and learning activities,” said Luis Aguillón, youth ministries director for the church in El Salvador. Aguillón reported that each morning at 6:00 a.m., campers would take part in a prayer chain across the country, followed by a Bible reading and breakfast.
Themed “Connected with Jesus,” the camporee included activities for the family including Bible verse memorization, Bible knowledge competitions, testimonies, first aid lessons, fitness exercises and physical education for children, tent set-up, scavenger hunts, interactive games, and more.
Break During Quarantine
The Martínez family said on Facebook that during the previous three weeks of quarantine, they had not seen their three children so happy.
“It was such a blessing. The children wanted to keep sleeping in their tents once the online camporee completed,” Cecilia Ayala Martínez said.
Judy Peña wrote online, “We had the chance to forget about COVID-19 and focus on enjoying our two children throughout the entire online camporee.”
Thousands of viewers followed the events throughout the week from around the territory, including some from Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, and Australia, church leaders said.
Across the border in Guatemala, more than 1,700 children and young people from 128 clubs registered to take part in their first online camporee. More than 4,000 Pathfinders and Master Guides had registered for the church’s national camporee that was to have taken place in Petén in northern Guatemala.
“We weren’t sure how young people were going to react to camping in their backyards, on their terraces, in their living rooms or bedrooms during the online activities,” said Guenther Garcia, president of the Adventist Church in Guatemala. “But our expectations were surpassed because parents and their children embraced the program, and our young people sang together all in uniform and were able to witness from their homes.”
Witnessing to Neighbors
Dina López of the Joshua Pathfinder Club in western Guatemala said that her entire family took part in the virtual camporee.
“We were doubtful about this online event, but the program has been a blessing,” López said. “We were able to enjoy it as a family, and as Friday afternoon approached, we put our uniforms on and sat by our tents in the backyard as we prepared to welcome the Sabbath, to watch a screen we had set up to see the live transmission.” Neighbors were intrigued, she said, and watched from their upstairs terrace to see what the family was doing. Soon the neighbors began humming the hymns. López and her family were singing and made sure to watch the live transmissions over the weekend.
“I know God is allowing us to make the most of this time now. It doesn’t matter if we are locked inside four walls — where we are, we can be a light for God,” López said.
The April 10-12 event in Guatemala saw thousands of people taking part in spiritual, physical, and social media witnessing activities through Facebook Live, local church leaders reported. The church’s Union Radio station also aired the program throughout the country. Thousands viewed the live program online from around the world.
In addition, more than 40 young people posted photos of themselves with signs expressing their decision to be baptized, García said.
In West Venezuela, 1,500 young people registered for the online camporee led by union church leaders in Barquisimeto. Leaders shared that each of the 10 local conferences and missions had scheduled camporees but switched to a joint six-day event based on the theme, “Let’s Talk About Him.”
Words From Youth Leaders
Youth leaders from around the Adventist world church and IAD were guest speakers during the Apr. 6-11, 2020, online camporee for its 283 Adventurer, Pathfinder, and Master Guide clubs.
Pako Edson Mokgwane, associate youth ministries director for the Adventist world church, spoke and encouraged the young viewers. “God continues being the God of difficult situations and has them to speak the truth about His love during these last days, and to make a difference,” he told them. Mokgwane encouraged young people to remember to serve God and to use social media to glorify the name of the Lord.
Powell spoke to the thousands of young people and viewers in West Venezuela to “stand tall and more firmly” in their relationship with Jesus. “Live with Jesus, do everything with Jesus, and go and tell the world that it is time to choose Him,” he said.
Fabricio Rivera, Gustavo Menéndez, Yosainy Oyaga, David Manrique, and Moisés González contributed to this report.
The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.