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Oh We Are the Pathfinders Strong…

I’ve been involved with Pathfinders on and off all my life. That’s Pathfinders, the international youth organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for boys and girls aged 10-15, not be confused with Pathfinders, the level of Girl Guides for ages 12-14. For those not in the know, Pathfinders (and its more recent junior organization, Adventurers, for ages 6-9) is sort of Scout-like or Guide-like in nature, with the same kind of emphasis on Fun Group Activities, outdoorsy stuff, earning honours and badges, and a vaguely paramilitary preoccupation with marching and uniforms. The big differences are that boys and girls co-mingle in Pathfinders (to an appropriate degree, of course!) and that most Pathfinder clubs are made up mainly of Adventist kids. While it may be one more way to segregate our kids from the dangerous “real world” around them rather than just putting them in the local Scouts or Guides, it is an organization that has brought a lot of people a lot of fun and joy over the years.

Sometimes, I have been one of those who has experienced fun and joy in Pathfinders. Not always, but sometimes.

Someone in my church started a Pathfinder Club when I was about 9 or 10. Since I can’t remember who started it, I don’t know who I’m offending when I say that it was a sad little excuse for a Pathfinder club (of course, I knew no better at the time) with no uniforms, irregular meetings, and rather disorganized activities — I can’t remember us ever actually completing any honours. It died a natural death within a year or so.

When I was 14, some far more energetic and organized people started a club. We had proper uniforms, we drilled and marched and completed honours and classwork. I was in a unit with two of my best friends, both of whom were as talkative and troublesome as I was, and one friend’s well-behaved older sister. I idolized my counsellor, a young woman in her 20s From Away, who came with all the glamour and allure of the outside world and who treated each of us gawky teenage girls as if we were really truly special. My friends and I used to giggle at Investiture every year when they gave out Good Conduct Awards, knowing we would never get one. Some of the best memories of my high school years were of Tuesday night Pathfinder meetings and our occasional weekend outings.

Later, I did several stints as a Pathfinder counsellor. One of my favourite memories was the little nine-year-old twins who were convinced that the Pathfinder Law said to “Be curious and obedient.” It’s actually “courteous and obedient,” but I liked their version better. In one of the more unlikely moves of my life, I taught a Quilting honour to a unit of eleven-year-old girls, in which I taught them, among other things, exotic terms I’d never learned myself such as “selvage.” I vividly remember one girl turning her piece of fabric around and around moaning, “I can’t find my cervix!!”

Good times, good times.

You could almost say Jason and I met because of Pathfinders, and while that would not be strictly accurate, we did get to know each other because we were both Pathfinder counsellors for a year, and we spent a good deal of time together. The defining moment that sealed our relationship (no, not sex! it was when I got sick and he carried a bag of my vomit for me — don’t you kids know ANYTHING about what makes a relationship meaningful???) occured on a Pathfinder trip to Quebec City.

So I guess it was more or less inevitable that as soon as we had kids that were even within striking distance of Pathfinder age, we would get involved in the campaign to once again start a Pathfinder Club (actually, it was an Adventurer Club first, and is slowly morphing into a Pathfinder Club as the kids get older) in our local church. I love that it’s an activity we all participate in as a family; I love the fact that the kids enjoy it; I love that we’re making them part of a chain of heritage and tradition that goes back in time and reaches out across the world. I look forward to bringing our kids to an international Camporee at Oshkosh, Wisconsin next summer so they can see that they are part of something much bigger than what happens in the basement of our local church.

All that said, I do have to confess that the first weekend in June, which is when our Pathfinder/Adventurer activities wrap up for the year, is the single happiest weekend of my year. I am SO GLAD to have that behind me for another year. Of all the volunteer activities I’m involved in, for some reason Pathfinders is the one that just wears on me. I like the club and I’m glad my family is involved, but the responsibility of running it … well, let’s just say I’d be a lot happier if I were bringing my kids every week to a Pathfinder program that someone else was running.

Still, every year I gird up my loins and do it. And I will again. On the way up to camp for the campout on Sabbath afternoon I passed a family getting out of a car next to a pond. Mom, Dad and toddler were all carrying fishing poles. Toddler gripped his proudly as Mom carefully helped him down the bank towards Dad. I thought about how we’ve never seriously taken our kids fishing (”seriously” = “with the intent of catching anything”). For this family, it was obviously an important ritual. We take our kids to church and teach them to speak and sing up front in church, and we take them on Pathfinder campouts, because every family passes along to their kids the things that they think are important, that are the cornerstones of who they want them to be.

Besides, there’s the shameless brag potential. That other mom is probably posting to her blog pictures of her kid with a giant fish he caught. I have two shameless-brag videos from the weekend, for those who like that kind of thing:

Emma announcing the offering in church:

Christopher singing in church:

Crossposted from Trudy Morgan-Cole’s Hypergraffiti

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