During the week of August 12 – 18, 2019, over 57,000 people converged upon Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They came by bus, car and air. They came from Brazil, Kenya and Korea. They came from North America, South America, Europe and Africa. They came for the life changing experience of the International Camporee. They came, and so did I. This is Oshkosh International Camporee – My Experience.
Every five years I lamented that it was time for another camporee and yet again I was not able to attend. Instead, I was left to see it through the eyes of friends or experience it from the recollection of my husband. Usually scheduled during the first couple of weeks in August, as a church school teacher, it was not always that easy to take off shortly after school had started. So I was not able to attend. However, as God lays out the plan for my life, He has ordered the circumstances in my life so that this time I was able to attend! And, oh, what an awesome experience it was!
We did not come for the entire week. We joined the camporee on Thursday afternoon. After parking the car we began our trek to the campground. Weaving our way through the thousands of tents, dodging the many golf carts and blending in with the large multitude of pedestrians to get to the “streets”, I realized this was really a small city within a city!
The “city” was divided into Unions and within each Union there were conferences. From there each conference was represented by individual church Pathfinder Clubs. It was so inspiring to walk through the streets and see the beautiful gateways to each Union and the Conferences. The amount of thought, time, creativity and energy that went into these gateways was remarkable.
When we arrived it was just in time for the Pathfinder parade. Everyone was husting to get in place. Different Unions were assigned a day for their parade. It was quite a display of pageantry and precision.
In this great, big Adventist family, the saying really is true; “No matter where you go, you will either see someone you know or meet someone who knows someone you know!” That was the case during our time at the camporee. It was so exciting to see past friends and meet new friends. We saw and were reconnected with dear members from our very first pastorate 41 years ago in St. Thomas U.S.V.I.!!!
One of the big highlights of the camporee was the “pin trading”. Watching the Pathfinders, young and old eyeing a pin they wanting and then trading for them was very fun to watch. The pins came from different organizations: NAD, Unions, Conferences and BAYDA to name a few. Some pins were in high demand because there were only a few in circulation. Some pins came as a set, so you were on the hunt to find all the pins to complete the set. The bartering techniques were quite interesting! The pins were on aprons, hats, sashes, souvenir books and some less creative folk just had them in bags!
The theme this year was CHOSEN! It followed the life of David and how he was chosen of God and the choices he made along his life’s journey to be king. For me, the evening services were the climax of the camporee. Each night Pastor Damian Chandler, Senior Pastor, Sacramento Capitol City, challenged the throng of young people and adults, in a time span of about 7 minutes, to come to grips with the specific calling on our lives and the choices we must make to fulfill that call. The specific night that impacted my life the most was his breakdown of a comparison between a blackbird and an eagle. Pastor Chandler so thoroughly contrasted the lives of the two birds. He pointed out that while the blackbird leaves its nest within one to two weeks of being hatched, it takes the eagle 10 – 12 weeks before it is ready to leave. This fact led to the lesson that through patience, perseverance, and good choices – when it is time for you to soar, you can soar like eagles and not like blackbirds.
Accompanying the nightly presentation from Pastor Chandler was an A+, 1st Class, professional musical production entitled David. The acting, script and music was excellent. Though the evening services did not begin until 7:00, people started bringing their chairs as early as 5:30 to get a “good seat”. That “good seat” for 60,000 people may have meant watching it in front of the production or on one of the three-four large screens that had been set up at the campground.
Another highlight of the camporee was being greeted by Lori Palmeri, the Mayor of Oshkosh, WI. During her inspirational welcome to the city, the mayor revealed that she was not unfamiliar with camping out as she grew up as a Pathfinder. Two important takeaways came from her address were just how important it is to make available every opportunity for our children to have an encounter with Christ because we never know when it will become a reservoir from which they can draw. And the tremendous witness that 57,000 plus individuals had on Oshkosh and the surrounding cities. Though the many businesses were economically benefitted, I would hope that the presence of the Pathfinders raised the curiosity of for some to say, “Inquiring minds want to know.”
The three days that I was able to experience the 2019 Oshkosh International Camporee will certainly go down as one to be etched in my memory. It is indeed an experience that I would recommend to all to encounter at least once! Now, they say confession is good for the soul! I confess, my experience was always made just a little bit better each night as I left the campground to the comforts of my hotel! That is how I experienced Oshkosh! My hat goes off to everyone who camped out, ate out, showered out and out-housed!
The dates for the next International Camporee are August 12-17, 2024. Start planning now to be there!
Submitted by Jill Edmond