Pathfinder teams from across North America and the world gathered in person and remotely on April 22-23, 2022, for the Pathfinder Bible Experience division finals. Sixty-three teams gathered in person at the Lane Events Center in Eugene, Oregon, and 30 teams joined remotely. This was the first in-person division Pathfinder event since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 event.
The atmosphere inside the convention hall vibrated with excitement as Pathfinders huddled around tables on the testing floor. Parents and guests claimed ring-side seats to watch the proceedings. Approximately 900 Pathfinders, leaders, parents, and guests filled the convention hall.
Zikl Nyengani, age 15, a member of the Newport Pathfinder Club from the British Union, said he traveled all the way to Oregon “for the love of the Bible.” He went on to say he enjoys “discovering new stories” and “the thrill of being able to push yourself farther than you knew you could go.”
This year marked the first time that teams were able to participate in person and remotely. In the past, travel costs prohibited some qualifying teams from attending. Nine unions from North America were represented along with 17 teams from the British Union, including North England Conference, South England Conference, Irish Mission, and the Welsh Mission.
Christian Cha, age 12, a member of the Paradise Prayer Warriors Pathfinder Club from the Pacific Union, spent 30 minutes every day studying, beginning in October. “It’s a new experience [for] me, and I thought it was really cool,” said Cha. “It’s really useful for [me] in the future, and it’s a really nice experience. My favorite verse was 1 Kings 3: 7. It reminds me of myself and a lot of people. We all have our strengths and weaknesses because we’re human, and we should always ask God for help.”
Daniel Ortega, Oregon Conference club ministries director, spoke for vespers Friday night. “It’s all about Jesus and His sacrifice,” said Ortega. “I pray that as you take time to learn Scripture, to memorize it, that it’s truly impacting you in a way that no other literature — at school, in your house — can do.”
Technical issues slowed the start of the testing on Sabbath morning. The roll call included a check of internet connectivity and instructions for each team monitor. As the proceedings got underway, Armando Miranda, North American Division Pathfinder director, said, “We’ve had some challenges getting started today but we are Pathfinders and we adapt and overcome!”
A video featuring G. Alexander Bryant, North American Division president, welcomed Pathfinders. “I am so excited and so thrilled at what you have been doing to study God’s Word,” said Bryant. “I know God is going to richly bless you this weekend. Your studying God’s Word will be a source of continual blessing throughout your life.”
Teams tested in English, Spanish, and French. The teams were asked 90 questions based on the Old Testament books of 1 Kings and Ruth. Since 2012, the journey to the PBE division level has been a four-step process.
The teams, which are comprised of up to six people, are first chosen by their clubs to compete in their local districts after months of Bible study and memorization. Those who score within 90 percent of the highest score advance to the conference level. The same pattern continues through the union level all the way to the division.
Each team at PBE represents unique stories of how the teams worked to memorize God’s Word and their journey to the division finals. A few stories stand out.
On the edge of the testing floor, a table displayed a sign with the number 5 on it. While most team tables had five or six Pathfinders, this table had two girls, age 10 and 13. The smallest team this year proudly represented their home church, Capital Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington, D.C.
Their four-member team shrunk to two following their union-level testing. That didn’t deter these two young girls. Daniela and Belinda divided up information and started memorizing. Daniela took 1 Kings 1-11 and Ruth 1-2. Belinda took 1 Kings 12-22 and Ruth 3-4.
“I really like the story where Solomon asked for wisdom and he ended up being the wisest man on earth,” said Daniela. “That tells me God will help you with everything you study. God and our churched helped us get here. We made it here and it’s fun!”
Another team nearly didn’t arrive in time to participate. The Edinburg Castles from the Edinburg Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas had their plane diverted for hours. The extended delay caused them to miss their connecting flight to Eugene. The next available flight was scheduled to arrive Sunday morning after PBE was over.
Unsure when their luggage would be available, or if they could even find a car to rent, Leah Par, Edinburg Castles club director, messaged W. Gene Clapp, NAD PBE coordinator, and asked him to pray for their difficult situation. The message arrived during Friday night vespers, and Clapp let the entire PBE group in prayer.
“The whole time, I was thinking, if God provided for Elijah, I know he will provide for us — I just don’t know how,” said Par.
After the prayer call, Helvis C. Moody, Southwestern Union Youth and Young Adult Ministries director, sprang into action calling everyone he could think of who owned a bus or might be able to drive. No buses were found, but rental cars were available.
“I told them, ‘Take a deep breath, and if there’s anything financial, the union will support. You came this far, the kids studied so hard,’” said Moody. “Delayed does not mean denied.”
By 11 p.m. the club was able to get all their luggage in Seattle. They piled into the rental cars and began to drive. They arrived in Eugene at 4 a.m. Sabbath morning.
John Gonzalez, Edinburg church youth pastor, said, “At this point, just being here is the prize … there were moments where I was like, ‘we may not be there.’”
Despite the lack of sleep, the team placed first!
“PBE is an event that changes lives,” said Armando Miranda, NAD Youth Ministries associate director. “If they can remember only one lesson, I hope they remember to emulate the faith that Ruth showed. We’re coming out of the pandemic and we can learn from Ruth how to keep going forward in faith, no matter the circumstances.”
“COVID has changed a lot of things,” added Miranda. “These Pathfinders are a testament to Adventists everywhere. Their dedication to studying God’s Word is an example for each of us. We need God’s Word now more than ever.”
The 2023 PBE division testing will take place again in April. Pathfinders will be tested on the New Testament Book of John.
— Jay Wintermeyer is North Pacific Union communication director.