The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted plans for the 2020 Pathfinder Bible Experience (PBE), which was set to take place April 17-18, 2020, in Salem, Oregon. Leaders were anticipating thousands to participate and observe the annual Bible trivia testing for Pathfinders from across the North American Division (NAD) and beyond, especially after the stunning turnout at the 2019 testing. Instead, a much smaller group joined a virtual event on April 18.
The event in Salem would have represented the division level of the PBE four-step testing process, which begins at local churches, then advances to conference-wide testing. That same process is then repeated within a union’s territory. This year’s division level testing was canceled by the NAD Youth Department on March 5 after consultation with the division’s officers, the youth directors of the nine unions in the NAD, additional consultation from local Oregon health officials, and a discussion and vote from the NAD Executive Committee (NADCOM).
At the time of the cancelation, the effects of the novel coronavirus disease and the precautionary measures enacted by state and local officials throughout the U.S. forced many conferences and unions to cancel their testing dates. This created a ripple effect on the number of teams that could qualify to participate on the union and division levels.
“As the pandemic further developed it was clear no face-to-face testing would be possible. Many unions did not have the capability of online testing, therefore many canceled altogether. We could not have an official NAD division testing if we could not get representation from the unions,” said Gene Clapp, coordinator of the Pathfinder Bible Experience.
In response, the leaders of North American Division youth and young adult ministries created an online program that was live streamed on Facebook and YouTube on April 18 to showcase PBE. Approximately 180 people watched the live program. As of June 4, the video has received nearly 4,000 views on Facebook.
“The intent of the program was to celebrate God’s goodness through the PBE program. A team from Dallas/Fort Worth area – DFW Filipino Tamaraw Pathfinder Club – was able to join and participate in the program,” said Armando Miranda, associate director of NAD youth minsitries. “The special program did not include a division level testing, but it did include three questions that would have been asked at the official testing.”
Miranda, Tracy Wood, director of NAD youth and young adult ministries, and Vandeon Griffin, associate director, led different sections of the hour-long program. Daniel R. Jackson, president of the North American Division, who was scheduled to speak for the two-day event in Salem, shared a message that encouraged the pathfinders and viewers to remember the special role they play in God’s plan. The online program also featured music and testimonies from Pathfinders of the participating clubs.
“This year’s PBE showed me my limits. It showed me intelligence is futile without diligence. The Bible is foreign to those who have blinded themselves to its words,” said Alyxza Paypa, Pathfinder participant of the virtual event, who shared his experience of PBE.
“In the end, God’s word is not a tool for victory, but for salvation. I can memorize every single word of the Bible and still be denied heaven,” continued Paypa. “There is no greater triumph than to be able to stand at the pearly gates of splendor and have my heavenly father welcome me home. There is no competition in heaven, but I know I can still get first place there. Pathfinder Bible Experience is an irreplaceable experience for me.”
This year, the Pathfinders were given the biblical books of Hosea, Micah, Amos, Jonah, and parts of Ezra and Nehemiah.
“It’s a blessing to see the faith of the Pathfinders, and the leaders who guide them, strengthened by memorizing and studying passages of the Bible,” said Miranda.
Union Level Testing
The timing of conference-level testing of 11 teams within the Southwestern Union and 13 teams within the Columbia Union positioned them to be able to participate in an online union-level testing. PBE organizers wanted to honor the efforts they made to reach that level. From the initial group of 24, eight teams — six from the Columbia Union and two from the Southwestern Union — chose to participate in a virtual union level testing program, which took place before the program on April 18.
“These were not easy study books and we did not want to cut them off after the conference level results. There were many moving parts that had to be overseen. Once it started rolling, it came together pretty well,” said Clapp. “We are working to make some adjustments and changes, but this seems to be is a good solution for smaller sized groups.”
Zoom was used to allow the Pathfinders to hear the questions read aloud by designated readers in either English or Spanish, NearPod allowed the Pathfinders to read the questions, and Google Meet gave the Pathfinders the opportunity to verbally discuss the questions among themselves. An adult monitor was assigned to each team to watch for integrity, help with troubleshooting, and notify administrators of Internet connectivity or technical problems.
“God blessed us with technically-minded church members who were able to work through the details of making all of these programs work together and have such a great result,” said Clapp. “In the week before the union testing, one of the leading ‘techies’ set appointments with the members of each team, and patiently walked them through the testing and program process so they would feel comfortable at the time of the actual PBE testing program.”
All eight teams scored high enough to obtain the first-place recognition and expressed appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the online program.
“The blessings came in being able to reward the Pathfinders for such hard work in memorization and preparation for the PBE program this year,” said Clapp. “It was good for the teams to be able to go on and see how they would do with the division questions, and of course, they were very excited with the results.”
Planning for Next Year
The assigned books for next year’s PBE testing are Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter. According to Miranda, a number of Pathfinder clubs have already started their preparation.
“We pray that this program continues to strengthen the faith and the journey of these Pathfinders and families,” said Miranda.