L-R: Siblings José Miguel, Joselyne, and Genesis Aparicio pose for a photo with their dog at home in their decorated tent during the Apr. 9-12, 2020, online camporee organized by youth ministries at the Central Conference in Panama. They won for having the best decorated campground indoors during the four-day event. Thousands of young campers across Inter-America participated in regional virtual camporees held in their countries during Easter week. [Photo: Central Panama Conference]

April 16, 2020 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

The ongoing lockdown across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists from pitching their tents at home last week to take part in online pathfinder camporee events all across Inter-America.  Campers and their families connected to witness historic online camporees from their living rooms and backyards to worship together, take part in interactive activities, gain skills, compete in sports activities and witness to friends during a week traditionally spent outdoors camping.

“I am so happy to see and feel so many young people on fire for Jesus during the numerous online camporees held last week,” said Pastor Al Powell, youth ministries director for the church in Inter-America. “It’s been a camporee fever that continues to happen all throughout the territory, teaching us that even through the coronavirus has kept us from gathering in events, we don’t have to be limited by our current circumstances. We are able to embrace social media even more now to connect with friends outside our own walls.”

Campers from El Salvador’s East Conference set up their tent next to the house for the online camporee held Apr. 8-12, 2020 across the country. [Photo: Facebook/El Salvador Union]

Families together

In El Salvador, youth ministries leaders were scheduled to gather more than 5,000 campers in the five conference-led individual camporee events but quickly switched to an online camporee adjusted to involve the entire family at home. The five-day program included daily activities, honor classes, evening live messages and opportunities for the more than 2,500 registered Adventurers, Pathfinders and Master Guides to share videos and photographs in uniform of their camping environment.

“We wanted to make sure to help our young people during this time of crisis to keep them focused on spiritual things and learning activities,” said Pastor Luis Aguillon, youth ministries director for the church in El Salvador. Aguillón reported that each morning at 6:00 a.m. campers would take part in a prayer chain across the country, followed by a Bible reading and breakfast.

Themed “Connected with Jesus,” the camporee included activities for the family including memorizing verses, bible competitions, testimonies, first aid lessons, fitness, physical education for children, tent set up, scavenger hunts, interactive games, and more.

three young campers from the Isharam Club in El Salvador pose for a photo during their Bible reading time. [Photo: Facebook/El Salvador Union]

Break during the quarantine

The Martínez family expressed on Facebook that during the three previous weeks of quarantine, they had not seen their three children so happy. “It was such a blessing. The children wanted to keep sleeping in their tents once the online camporee completed,” said Cecilia Ayala Martínez.

“We had the chance to forget about COVID-19 and focus on enjoying our two children throughout the entire online camporee,” said the Judy Peña family online.

Thousands of views were seen throughout the week from around the territory, including Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, The United States and Australia, church leaders said.

Sisters from the Petapa Clup from the Lago Mission in south central Guatemala, stand in uniform in front of their tents at their home. [Photo: Facebook/Guatemala Union]

Across the border in Guatemala, more than 1,700 children and young people from 128 clubs registered to take part in their first online camporee. More than 4,000 pathfinders and Master Guides had registered for the church’s national camporee that was to take place in Peten in north Guatemala.

“We weren’t sure how young people were going to react to camping in their backyards, on their terraces, in their living or bedrooms during the online activities,” said Pastor Guenther Garcia, president of the church in Guatemala. “But our expectations were surpassed because parents and their children embraced the program and our young people sang together all in uniform and were able to witness from their homes.”

Witnessing to neighbors

Dina Lopez of the Joshua Pathfinder Club in the west part of the country said that her entire family took part in the virtual camporee. “We had our doubts as to how this online camporee would work, but the program has been a blessing,” said López. “We were able to enjoy as a family, and as Friday afternoon approached we put our uniforms on and sat by our tents in the backyard as we prepared to welcome the Sabbath to watch a screen we had set up to see the live transmission.” Neighbors were intrigued and watched from their upstairs terrace what the family was doing.  Soon the neighbors began humming the hymns.  Lopez and her family were singing and made sure to watch the live transmission during the weekend.

Dina López (right) stands in her Pathfinder uniform with Dr. Miguel Reyes (second left) who is holding the Book “The Great Controversy” next to his family. The Reyes family took part in the weekend camporee program as they watched and sang from their terrace next door. [Photo: Facebook/Guatemala Union]

“I know God is allowing us to take advantage of this time now. It doesn’t matter if we are locked inside our four walls, just where we are we can be a light for God,” López said. The López family gifted a copy of the book “The Great Controversy” to their neighbors at the end of the online camporee on Apr. 12.

The Apr. 10-12 event in Guatemala saw thousands of people taking part in spiritual, physical and social media witnessing activities through Facebook Live, local church leaders reported. The church’s Union Radio station also aired the program throughout the country. Thousands also viewed the live program from around the world.

In addition, more than 40 young people posted photos of themselves with signs expressing their decision to be baptized, Pastor García said.

Cristofer Calderon of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, was among the 40 online camporee participants to make the decision for baptism during the weekend event. [Photo: Facebook/Guatemala Union]

In West Venezuela, 1,500 young people registered for the online camporee led by the union church leaders in Barquisimeto.  Each of the 10 local conference fields had scheduled camporees but everything switched to a joined six-day event based on the theme “Let’s Talk About Him.”

world church youth leaders

Youth leaders from around the Adventist world church and Inter-America were guest speakers during the Apr. 6-11, 2020, online camporee for its 283 Adventurer, Pathfinder and Master guide clubs.

Pastor Pako Edson Mokgwane, associate youth ministries director for the Adventist world church, encouraged the young viewership that “God continues being the God of difficult situations and has them to speak the truth about His love during these last days and to make a difference.” He encouraged young people to remember to serve God and to use social media to glorify the name of the Lord.

A family from East Venezuela shows their camping space inside their home during the church’s online camporee last weekend.[Photo: East Venezuela Union]

Pastor Powell spoke to the thousands of young people and viewers in West Venezuela to “stand tall and more firmly in their relationship with Jesus. Live with Jesus, do everything with Jesus and go and tell the world that it is it time to make a choice for Jesus and talk about Him,” he said.

Young people took part in honor classes on subjects like mining, collectors, parrots, pioneers, and biosecurity, among others. All participants were also challenged to take part in the missionary-plus challenge, which involved sending messages to their non-Adventist friends through their social media platforms to share their faith and the miracles that God has done in their lives.

Creative and interactive activities

Young people shared creative ways of sharing their daily fitness and sports videos through social media while challenging those in their contact lists.

Young people in El Salvador take part in fitness activities at home during the week of the online camporee. [Photo: Facebook/El Salvador Union]

“We praise the Lord for this online camporee because so many people were reached,” said Pastor Giovanny Martin, youth ministries director for the church in West Venezuela. “The church doesn’t stop moving forward. In each great crisis, God always allows His people to find the best way to keep active and to continue serving and sharing the message of salvation.”

In East Venezuela, which covers the capital city of Caracas, church leaders teamed up to hold their online camporee with more than 1,400 registered young people across its 102 clubs in its territory. The event was held Apr. 6-11, and included interactive activities and honor classes, as well as Christian drama performances, master chef, and camporee anecdotes and presentations. According to David Manrique, youth ministries director for the church in East Venezuela, more than 29,000 individuals were reached during the online camporee event and three young people accepted the call to give their heart to Jesus through baptism.

Pastor Gary Blanchard, youth ministries director for the Adventist world church speaks to the young people in Central Panama Conference during zoom message on Apr. 12, 2020. [Photo: Central Panama Conference]

In Central Panama, in the western part of Panama City, local church leaders organized an online camporee which gathered more than 160 participants from their 31 Pathfinder and Master guide clubs. There was an average of more than 4,000 viewers each day during the April 9-12 event.  Young people got to hear Adventist World Church Youth Ministries Director Gary Blanchard and Pastor Powell speak to the hundreds of viewers on Sabbath. Young people took part in five interactive activities during the week, plus honor classes and a tent-decorating contest.

Additional upcoming online camporees

The conference’s online camporee created such a buzz that more conferences will hold their online camporee next weekend and in the following weeks, said Moises González, youth ministries director for the Central Panama Conference.

Pastor Powell says the circumstances have led to a win-win for the young people and their families staying at. What’s more, Powell said, he was able to take part in many of the virtual camporees and witness the enthusiasm and dedication of the young people, instead of the usual practice of traveling to one location for one event.

Adventurers sit inside their tent in Central Panama and show a sign with their club’s name: Emmanual “God with Us” [Photo: Facebook/Central Panama Conference]

More online camporees and club meetings will be held in the coming weeks as church leaders seek to keep children and young people engaged in the daily life of the church, Powell said.

Fabricio Rivera, Gustavo Menéndez, Yosainy Oyaga, David Manrique and Moisés González contributed to this report.

To learn more about Inter-America’s youth ministries initiatives and more, visit us at interamerica.org

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