I FIRST came face to face with the wonderful world of Pathfindering fifteen years ago as a young pastor located in a small community several hundred miles from the conference office, ministering to a small congregation.
It was Ingathering time when we arrived, and with a large territory to cover we could not help wondering, "Where will all the help come from?" I didn't have to wait long. An enterprising mother who had experienced the joys of Pathfindering in another Adventist church wanted this experience to continue for her two sons, and consequently formed a JMV Pathfinder Club. You can imagine our pleasure in having 25 happy, exuberant Pathfinders help us do the house-to-house caroling. All but the director's two sons came from non-SDA homes, but there they were, out night after night sharing the Good News through the Ingathering program.
Back in 1950 when the General Conference session officially authorized the MV Pathfinder Club concept, little did anyone realize that it would soon become a globe-encircling organization that would provide church-sponsored activity and leadership for 95,000 boys and girls. Over the years its basic goals have remained the same.
1. To demonstrate the attractiveness of Christian ideals in an activity program.
2. To guide our boys and girls into active missionary service.
3. To develop character and good citizenship.
4. To promote the MV Classes and Honors.
From the very first, the youth of the church have found that Pathfindering is a program that they can enter into with their whole heart because this is inspirational activity and religion in action.
The Youth Department of the General Conference, in consultation with those who had explored various club activities for youth prior to 1950, soon provided excellent leadership training materials, and today one of the finest training programs available to any of our church leaders is that provided for the Pathfinder director and his or her staff. Over the years this has paid rich dividends with continuity of leadership. At a recent conference-wide leaders' convention there were a number in attendance who had given in excess of 20 years' continuous service to the young of the church through Pathfindering.
A friend who has been a club director or an area coordinator for 22 years recently received a letter from one of his former Pathfinders who now is a student missionary in Africa.
"This letter is more or less a thank you to you and others like you who have taken an interest in the lives of our young people. With the ever-rising temptations assailing the youth of today it's so important to have an organization like Pathfinders where they can have social fellowship with other Christians and learn about nature a group where dedicated church members like yourselves will take time out of their busy work schedules to help mold the characters of God's young ones.
"I can imagine that working with Pathfinders can also become discouraging at times. You prob ably will never know the extent of your influence until you reach the kingdom. But as a pebble thrown into a pool generates ripples that continually reach out, so your influence on these impressionable youth is spreading even to central Africa. Your mission field there is just as precious as this one here.
"I look back on my years of Pathfindering with great joy. It was such fun to learn how 10 make candles, tie knots, and do plastic embedding. (And those camping trips!) How much more important I thought than multiplying and spelling. I think it's great for kids to develop these extracurricular skills. It gives one a sense of worth and that's so important in a developing child."
Then she concludes: "Once again, I thank you for the time and energy you invested on a certain little 10-year-old girl. She has been seeing the Lord's hand guide her life these past 12 years and feels that you had a great part in her development and preparation. May the Lord bless you and those you are working with. I ask for your prayers."
The appreciation expressed in the above letter could be directed to hundreds of club directors by thousands of former Pathfinders who have experienced life at its best in a program for them sponsored by their church.
1974-1975 has been designated the Pathfinder Silver Anniversary year, and many special events are being planned for our clubs around the world. But what about your church? Do you have a Pathfinder Club? Pathfindering is far more than camping trips, fairs, camporees, fun and games. It is an "army of youth" in preparation to share a way of life.
The only natural resource our church has is its young, and the challenge is for each leader, especially those involved in the pastoral ministry, to see that no stone is left unturned in providing care for our future by maintaining an on-going active church youth program, which means Pathfindering for the 10- to 15-year-old youth.
To assist your ministry your Pathfinder Club is prepared to help in Ingathering, leaflet distribution, visitation of the sick and elderly, Bible-in-the-Home presentations, and now Junior Voice of Youth meetings. The next time you have a public series of out reach meetings why not invite your Pathfinder Club to conduct a Junior Voice of Youth series to the younger members of your evangelistic audience.
In the last year of her life Mrs. White wrote these words as her last legacy to the youth:
"Now is our time and opportunity to labor for the young people. Tell them that we are now in a perilous crisis, and we want to know how to discern true godliness. Our young people need to be helped, uplifted, and encouraged, but in the right manner; not, perhaps, as they would desire it, but in a way that will help them to have sanctified minds. They need good, sanctifying religion more than anything else.
"I do not expect to live long. My work is nearly done. Tell our young people that I want my words to encourage them in that manner of life that will be most attractive to the heavenly intelligences, and that their influence upon others may be most ennobling." --Messages to Young People, pp. 287, 288.
Your Pathfinder leaders are committed to providing this type of challenge to their club members and desire to assist you in your total ministry to this end. Also, your conference youth director is prepared and eager to explore with you the needs of your current club, or better yet, how he can assist you in starting a new club if you do not have one in your church.
During this twenty-fifth anniversary year the Pathfinder Clubs have accepted the beauty of 2 Corinthians 2:14 (T.L.B.)* as their marching orders:
"But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, he has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume."
* From The Living Bible, Paraphrased (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971). Used by permission.