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2024 Pathfinder Bible Experience Promotes Faith, Community, and Service

A young girl in a Pathfinder uniform looking thrilled after picking up an award. Another girl and leader in the background.

The final event of the 2024 Pathfinder Bible Experience, held April 19-20, in Greeley, Colorado, was the awards ceremony in which Pathfinders were rewarded for months of hard work. Photo: Ron Pollard

“This morning, we want to welcome you to Pathfinder Bible Experience 2024. You’ve made it to the division level. Give yourself a hand!” said Armando Miranda, PBE organizer and North American (NAD) associate director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries, to much applause at the start of the PBE testing.

More than 2,500 Pathfinders, supporters, and volunteers packed the Island Grove Event Center in snowy Greeley, Colorado, from April 19-20, 2024, for the final stage of the NAD’s test of Bible knowledge. Of the 165 registered teams, 127 competed live, 11 joined virtually, and one participated in a hybrid format, with all teams focusing on the biblical books of Joshua and Judges.

Sabbath morning testing was preceded by vespers on the April 19 and followed by an afternoon worship service on April 20, highlighting lessons found in Joshua, Judges, and other books of the Bible. PBE ended on a high note, with participants receiving their certificates and celebrating with teammates and supporters during the awards ceremony.

Online viewers (7,986 on the NAD Pathfinders YouTube channel and 8.7 K on Facebook) enjoyed insightful interviews of leaders and Pathfinders by livestream hosts Denison Sager, Iowa-Missouri Conference youth director, and Eric Chavez, Texico Conference youth director.

The excitement in the air was palpable. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many Pathfinders before, so this is pretty exciting,” said Natalie Erickson from Cleveland Prairie Trails Pathfinder Club in North Dakota, attending her first division final in three attempts. She attributed their success to “a little extra studying” and prayer.

God Opening Doors for Greeley

A black woman and Asian man, backs turned to the camera, interview a black man who is facing the camera.

Christelle Agboka and Art Brondo, from the North American Division (NAD) communication team speak to Nesco Lettsome, the Potomac Conference’s specialty coordinator for communications and Beltsville Broncos supporter, about his team's journey to Greeley. Photo: Ron Pollard

Participation was strong despite the large numbers expected to attend the church’s quinquennial international camporee, this year in nearby Gillette, Wyoming. All nine North American unions, including virtual teams from Hawaii and Guam-Micronesia, were represented. Several teams joined from the British Union, seven virtual and a few in person, and four virtual teams joined from Cuba.

The Beltsville Broncos Pathfinder Club (Maryland), which has made every PBE final to date, struggled to fundraise for Gillette and PBE. But they bought plane tickets in faith once they passed the union level. Eventually, God provided sufficient funds from donors, their union, and their conference.

Other teams, such as the Pasadena Pathfinder Club from California, overcame travel issues. Grace Chan shared, “Our plane had ice on the wings. The engine couldn’t melt the ice, so we had to divert to Salt Lake City, Utah.” They waited for 12 hours, arriving at 4 a.m. on Friday, and by Sabbath were fully recovered.

Whatever their challenges reaching Greeley, most clubs would concur with Nesco Lettsome, the Potomac Conference’s specialty coordinator for communications and Beltsville Broncos supporter. “We tell our children, don’t put God in a box. If He can do incredible things for Joshua, He can do incredible things for you,” Lettsome shared.

Four-step Journey to Finals

The journey to the finals is a four-step process involving months of Bible study and memorization. Teams of up to six people, selected by their clubs, compete in their local districts. Teams scoring within 90 percent of the highest score advance to the next level, from the conference to the division.

Testing began after an opening ceremony featuring a color guard and drum corps from the host Rocky Mountain Conference. Teams answered 90 questions, earning points from one to eight, with 30-to-60-second time limits based on difficulty. Testing was conducted in English, French, Spanish, and Ukrainian. Ultimately, 110 teams scored within 90 percent of the highest score, earning first place.

Throughout testing, Pathfinders’ voices rarely rose above a quiet hum as most prayed at their tables to start, conferred among themselves, or did air high-fives. But the room exploded with shouts of joy after questions 45 and 90. Chavez quipped, “It’s almost like you could hear the walls of Jericho fall when these kids screamed at the answer to question 90.”

Call to Obedience and Service

Worship was at the heart of PBE. On Friday night, Brandon Westgate, Rocky Mountain Conference youth director, spoke about 1 Samuel 16, where God directed the prophet Samuel to anoint David, the youngest and least likely of his father Jesse’s eight sons, as Israel’s next king.

“The Lord doesn’t look at the outward appearance,” said Westgate, continuing, “God has a plan for your life.” He called Pathfinders forward for prayer to “receive God’s Spirit to empower [their lives] from this day on,” and several responded.

Sabbath afternoon speaker Mack Vendome, Advent Health chaplain, shared that PBE (i.e., Bible Bowl) helped him move from ESL and failing grades to AP classes. He added, “I’m a living testimony that Bible Bowl saves lives. Verses I learned in Bible Bowl give me strength to this day.”

Other gems Vendome shared are that “Jesus is our Joshua,” leading us to the promised land, and while we often fall into cycles of sin, as did Israel in Judges, God is our cycle-breaker.

Shows the back of four black girls, standing up. In front of them is a blurred-out praise and worship team.

The 2024 PBE began with a Friday evening vespers, setting a spiritual tone for the rest of the weekend. Photo: Kate Wolfer

Vendome challenged Pathfinders to let God be their Judge and guide. “Let PBE be a moment that transforms you to say, I want to be a Gideon. I want to be a Deborah. I want to make a difference in this world, so when people see me, they see Him, the ultimate Judge.”

Equipping the Next Generation of Leaders

PBE introduced Pathfinders and parents to academic and ministry opportunities through different means including, for the first time, the participation of five Adventist universities in the program. Reps from Union Adventist University, Andrews University, Pacific Union College, Advent Health University, and Southern Adventist University led icebreakers, giveaways, and music. They also manned tables in the main hall and another room designated for parents during testing.

During a pause in the Sabbath program, Esther Knott, NAD associate ministerial director, there to promote the NextGen pastor program, invited Pathfinders who felt called to ministry in any capacity up for a special prayer, and 30 came forward. “The church needs you. We need your energy and your ideas. We need your innovation to grow God’s kingdom,” she asserted.

Casey Vaughan-Claus, recruiting and marketing specialist for the NAD Office of Volunteer Ministries, encouraged young people to consider volunteering. Her time at PBE, speaking to young people and observing their willingness to help with setup and takedown, was meaningful.

“We talk a lot about young people leaving the church. But I don’t think we talk enough about and celebrate those choosing to stay. [Seeing] so many young teenagers excited about the Bible and Jesus, finding community within the church . . . it gives hope.”

A big screen reading 90, with a question and answer is in the background. Pathfinders at tables are in the foreground.

During the 2024 PBE testing, held Sabbath morning, April 20, Pathfinders reacted to reaching question 90, the final question, with a mix of relief and joy. Photo: Ron Pollard

Dedicated PBE Team — the Secret Sauce

An expanded team of NAD staff and volunteers helped run what is now the division’s largest annual event. The 2024 PBE team included the NAD Youth and Young Adult Ministries leaders—Miranda, associate director responsible for club ministries, Tracy Wood, director, and Vandeon Griffin, associate director; and NAD information and technology services, communication, production services, and professional services teams.

Other key players were Gene Clapp, NAD PBE coordinator and Texas Conference pastor; and Marilyn Boismier and Ki Song, NAD PBE coordinators for logistics and online experience. Clapp was instrumental in developing PBE from 25 clubs in 2012, when organizers merged Bible Bowl and Bible Experience, to as high as 209 teams in 2019.

PBE’s volunteer team comprises several former PBE kids, including the IT floor support team. They provide Pathfinders IT help, advocacy, and other assistance, including prayer and encouragement during testing. Most have also served as Pathfinder counselors, directors, and council members. “We do our best to [ensure that] this is a very good event for these kids . . . because it helped us and changed us,” said Ivette Gonzalez, a third-year team member and Texas Conference PBE coordinator.

They shared that in addition to spiritual and academic benefits, PBE has fostered lifelong bonds. That weekend, Gonzalez was volunteering with four former PBE (then-Bible Bowl) teammates, including her now-husband, Isaias Zamora. “You got to travel together, pray together. You spent six months, some eight months, together together. It helped me make best friends.”

People in Pathfinder uniforms sort papers, while a large crowd of people sit behind them.

It takes a village to run the NAD's largest annual event. Pictured are volunteers who receive and sort Pathfinders' responses on paper, part of a backup system for the main method of entering answers on a computer. Photo: Ron Pollard

NAD PBE leaders hope the Pathfinders in the Teen Leadership Training (TLT) program will also find a lifelong calling and community in Pathfinders. TLTs are Grade 9 to 12 students who stay in Pathfinders and mentor younger members. This training prepares them for future club and church ministry leadership opportunities.

“These TLTs are phenomenal,” said Wood, beaming. “They’re highly trained leaders; they make things happen; they know where they’re going [in life]; and they’re on fire for God.”

PBE’s International Connection Expanding

Twelve years ago, PBE’s first group of international teams from the South England Conference (SEC) began participating under the leadership of Kevin Johns. Johns, then SEC Pathfinder director, was elected British Union Conference Youth and Pathfinder director in 2021.

When Dejan Stojkovic began as the British Union Conference’s Youth Ministries director in 2017, he led PBE expansion efforts across the territory. Today, several British Union teams participate in the NAD PBE in person and virtually. Since 2021, they have also had the option to compete closer to home in the Trans-European Division PBE finals, which Johns directs.

Pastor Ikwisa Mwasumbi, North England Conference Pathfinder director, shared that after his region successfully joined PBE in 2018, the pandemic lockdown brought the number of Pathfinder clubs down from 78 to 47. However, restarting PBE was the cure. “This is an amazing thing. Clubs rose to 66 owing to PBE at the beginning of the year,” said Mwasumbi. He added, “Not only are our club numbers growing, but baptism has been phenomenal. Last year, more than 170 young people gave their hearts to Jesus.”

An auditorium full of people with a praise team in the front, in the distance.

Over the two days of PBE 2024, the Island Grove Event Center in Greeley, Colorado, was filled with Pathfinders, volunteers, leaders, and supporters for testing and worship services. Here, participants engage in a praise and worship session led by Southern Adventist University students. Photo: Rohann Wellington  

His testimony, shared during a prayer meeting, motivated Jacynter Were, lay pastor and Pathfinder leader from Kenya, to accompany Mwasumbi and team to the 2023 PBE in Tampa, Florida. “She went back to Kenya and established [PBE] right there. She’s a testament to the spreading of this wonderful news around the world,” said Mwasumbi.

This year, two of the 13 teams Were formed from her home church reached the Trans-European Division PBE final in Amsterdam, receiving first and third place. Were said, “We’ve seen a great change in the Pathfinders as we started this year. Parents tell me they come from school, freshen up [quickly], do their homework, then check their Bibles.” Two PBE participants from her church were baptized.

In 2024, when Stojkovic became the Greater Sydney Conference’s youth director, he introduced PBE to his new colleagues. Seeking to “raise the spiritual temperature” of Pathfinders in Australia, which is more outdoorsy and activity-based, the conference sent a small delegation to observe this year's PBE operations. Jacinda Ralph, Youth department assistant, Shelly Phipps, district director, Adventurers, and Colleen Maeva, district director, Pathfinders, were blown away by the logistics, dedicated volunteers, and enthusiastic Pathfinders.

“I chatted with a few Pathfinders to [ask], were they forced to do this? Were they actually enjoying themselves? Every single team I spoke to was delighted to be there,” Phipps said.

Their next step is traveling around Sydney encouraging Pathfinders to participate in PBE. “Hopefully, we’ll bring a team or two next year. That’s our dream,” Phipps said, smiling.

Two boys playing in the snow

Getting to travel to a new place is one of the many benefits of PBE for young Pathfinders. In Greeley, the snow was a novelty for many. Photo: Kate Wolfer

PBE’s Lasting Reward

PBE ended on a high as teams received their certificates and celebrated with teammates and supporters during the awards ceremony. But PBE has rewards beyond the certificates.

David Jaquez, a TLT from the Collegeview Trailblazers Club, Lincoln, Nebraska at his fourth in-person final, didn’t hesitate when asked what PBE has meant to him: “The biggest thing is getting scripture in your head and keeping that forever. That has the best value you can ever, ever want.”

Miranda concluded, “Think about the Joshua 1:9 promise, have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous? Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Can you imagine them repeating those words when they're facing temptation, when they’re facing a challenge? The hope of Pathfinder Bible Experience is that whatever they study, they can come back [to it] when facing a hard time because God's word is powerful, and it remains in hearts and minds.”

Visit the NAD Pathfinders Facebook page or YouTube channel for video coverage. Visit the NAD Flickr page for photos. Click here to watch the video.

The 2025 PBE division testing will take place in historic Battle Creek, Michigan, the early headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Pathfinders will be tested on the New Testament books of Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians. Visit nadpbe.org for more info.