Take up the cross—be a pastor!
Mylon Medley and Kimberly Luste Maran, North American Division News; Anthony White, North Pacific Union digital media coordinator
The themes of cross-bearing and discipleship were front and center at the 2019 “Chosen” International Pathfinder Camporee, held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States. Explaining this camporee to someone who has never attended can be a challenge. Imagine combining summer camp, Vacation Bible School, and camp meeting into one event.
Then add more than 50,000 youth and adult volunteers all camping together within half of a square mile (1.3 square kilometers). It may sound like a nightmare—and for some, it might be. But for many young people, the camporee is a pivotal moment in their life when they give their hearts to Jesus, a place and time they will remember forever.
During the day, Pathfinders from around the world participated in activities, earned honors, and traded pins. More than 6,000 of them participated in over 40 community service projects of compassion in the local area. During the 2019 International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States of America, Pathfinders also partnered with Feeding America to help serve the community.
Beyond a record attendance for this camporee, the event also broke the world record, verified by Guinness Book of World Records personnel, for the “largest human image of a cross” created by 13,309 Pathfinders and staff forming the cross outside the main stage area. The number to beat was 13,266, set in March 2011 in the Philippines. Participants, all wearing blue paper hoodies, stood in formation for five minutes as auditors using RFID (radio frequency identification) mats verified the number and drone images confirmed the shape. Guinness World Records adjudicator Michael Empric verified the cross results.
This was followed by a record-breaking baptism of 1,311 people. Organizers were anticipating that up to 1,000 would get baptized, but the numbers exceeded expectations.
The “Chosen” theme for the August 12–17, 2019, event centered on the thought that each person is divinely chosen by God. Nightly productions on the main stage became a highlight for many Pathfinders, recounting through drama and song the story of David, a boy chosen by God to lead His people. The evening programs also included devotionals from featured speaker Damian Chandler, senior pastor of California’s Sacramento Capitol City Seventh-day Adventist Church.
On the final day, Pathfinders who have a desire to become a pastor had the opportunity to mingle with church leaders of the North American Division (NAD) to learn more about pursuing a career in ministry. The ice-cream social served as the launch of NextGen, an initiative of the NAD Ministerial Association, which is seeking to address the projected low number of pastors who will be able to minister throughout the division within the next decade as current pastors retire.
“The average age of a pastor [in the region] is about fifty-five, and the baby boomer generation is cresting for retirement,” said Ivan Williams, director of the NAD Ministerial Association. “We’re recruiting because, over the next seven to ten years, twenty-five hundred out of the division’s forty-three hundred pastors will be eligible for retirement.
“We need young people to consider having the torch passed to them. God called me when I was thirteen, and I pursued that journey to be a pastor. People who succeed in life have a sense of calling while they’re young. I think it’s about being faithful, and God will bless with success. We see a litany of people throughout our history who God used at a very young age.”
Donna Jackson, associate director of NADMinisterial, who organized the NextGen ice-cream social, said the overall goal of the event was to uplift the Pathfinders who have already felt God’s call. Approximately 1,000 young people attended the social and shared testimonies of why they wanted to become pastors.
“The last thing we want to do is put pressure on young people because God may not be calling them to do this,” Jackson said. “God is the one who calls. We’re here to support what God is already doing.”
Kiwis become digital disciples
By Kirsten Øster Lundqvist
More than 150 people from around NewZealand gathered at Auckland University of Technology in Manukau to attend the first Digital Discipleship Conference (DDC) in New Zealand, held August 9–11, 2019. With the aim to inspire and empower churches and individuals to both be and create digital disciples, the conference brought together a community of people from different generations who are passionate about using technology and the digital space to share their faith.
A handful of New Zealanders felt it would be beneficial to conduct a local version of DDC after taking part in the Australian event the past few years.
“We were hoping to have fifty people engage on the weekend, and we had a hundred and fifty-one people attend over the weekend,” said Pastor Victor Kulakov, Discipleship Ministries leader for the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC), who supported the organizers. “We truly see the huge need in this kind of conference where people are inspired, equipped, and empowered to be and make disciples in the digital space.”
Digital Discipleship Conference founder Rachel Lemons Aitken challenged attendees to dreambig as they explored what they could start in the digital space.
“The digital discipleship movement reminds us that God has given us permission to dream,” she said, “and to use our creative and technical expertise and talents to reach people for Him.” The theme “Story” was creatively explored throughout the weekend, with Pastor Tulaga
Aiolupotea bringing graffiti to the screen and explaining how a person’s identity in graffiti tells their story. His testimony had the teens at the edge of their seats.
On Sabbath morning, Adventist Record editor Jarrod Stackelroth shared about the power ofstories as well as the opportunity Christians are presented with by a God who can reclaim broken stories and use them for His glory, even in an online space.
One uniquely New Zealand contribution to the conference was the Māori welcome from Pastor Shane Harper (pictured above), who on Sabbath afternoon conducted a session on the importance of traditional stories in a Māori context (with images) and the passing on of those stories through generations, through both story and art.
With the call to dream big and the opportunity to network and converse with other creative people, a new community of digital disciples emerged. Some came as beginners to learn, while others, such as Pastor Maika Peehikuru, with a background in information technology, were pleased to get some relevant insights and tips on “putting your church on the map” from digital marketer and workshop presenter Laura Hutchinson.
Burn the Haystack podcasters Pastors JesseHerford and Joshua Stothers brought their uniqueness to the conference as hosts, while Pastor Stothers also presented a moving story during a worship segment. Chaplain Keira Bullock and musician Jay Okesene led out in praise and worship throughout the sessions, ensuring the focus of the event was on more than just technology.
Both NZPUC president Pastor Eddie Tupa’i and North New Zealand Conference president Ben Timothy attended and were pleased to see such a strong commitment among the attendees to share faith in a digital world. When Pastor Kulakov closed the conference with an invitation to dream big and attend next year’s DDC, there were cheers that the conference was already on the calendar.
“Even before the conference ended,” said Kulakov, “people began to take action. Some started new Instagram accounts and YouTube channels for the purpose of sharing their faith.”
Aitken expressed her excitement at seeing “the expansion of the digital discipleship movement through the establishment of the first Digital Discipleship Conference in New Zealand.” The next DDC will be August 7–9, 2021, Auckland, New Zealand. For more information, join the Digital Discipleship in the Seventh-day Adventist Church Facebook group.