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A Servant and a Friend: Interviews with Five Pathfinder Directors

“Humility comes before honor,” states Ruby Khoury, director of the Charlotte Flyers Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, from 2004 to 2010. Before every Pathfinder outing—whether it be white water rafting, skiing, or the traditional camporee—Khoury would boldly approach church and community members to ask for donations. She would explain the adventure and exactly how much money her club would need to make it happen. “This is what ministry looks like,” she said, “I needed every kid to be able to come.” 

Khoury’s club was not affluent, and when she began her ministry in 2004, there were 10 Pathfinders. “We had borrowed tents from different families and arrived at the camporee with some tents not having enough poles. Half of our stoves didn’t work… We were not a well equipped club. I had to beg for help.” Within a month of her leadership, the club grew from 10 to 70 active Pathfinders, many of whom were not raised in the church. Because only 15 percent of these families could afford the Pathfinder uniform, Khoury initiated a Charlotte Flyers loaning program. Her Pathfinders would wear loaned uniforms all over North Carolina: singing in parks, sharing food and fellowship with the homeless, and praying for anyone who would listen. “I’ve never seen another club with such an impact on the community,” shared one member reminiscing over Khoury’s time as the Charlotte Flyers director. 

Seventh-day Adventist parents often criticized Khoury’s progressive methods, worrying that their children’s new peers would be bad influences. Khuory described one particular pathfinder who was especially disruptive and belligerent. “We had a pathfinder whose mother was in prison. Their dad was a drug dealer. They were raised by grandma. And none of the parents wanted her in the club.” However, instead of punishing or dismissing the girl for problematic behavior, Khoury controversially made the troubled Pathfinder a teen leader. The girl was transformed under Khoury’s extravagant patience and attention. When asked how she navigated conflicts, Khouri replied: “I would tell her grandma to drop her off early so I could spend just an hour hanging out with her. My kids would play with her. I would bring her nail polish and just shower her with love. You know, she had nothing.” She learned that love is all any of us really have. 

Each interview with various Pathfinder directors contained a theme of love. Helen Chan-Young has been a devoted Pathfinder staff member since 1979, where she was a counselor at Campus Hill in Loma Linda, California. In 1982, Chan-Young was part of a team that founded the Loma Linda University club, and from 1996 to present, she thanks God for the blessings to serve wherever needed in other clubs. In her closing remarks, Chan-Young shared that “I had a terrible experience when I was growing up in Pathfinders. I told my mom I would never join again. Then my freshman year of college, my mom signed me up again. I, purposefully, was late every week. But we had such a great group of teens. I fell in love with them. It was the teens that won me over in 1979; I have been helping in Pathfinders ever since.” 

Chan-Young’s four sons have grown up in Pathfinders. Her eldest, Sammy Young, has been the director of the Loma Linda Chinese church for 10 years. I asked Young how his experiences as a lifelong Pathfinder have shaped his approach to directing. Young responded:

One approach that I’ve taken that’s different from my past directors is that I try to focus a lot more on the Bible and the kids’ relationship with Jesus. I don’t think there was a lot of that [when I was a kid], to be honest. There was a strong emphasis on discipline, drill, and working hard. But [the culture] was ‘If you don’t listen to me, you have to do push ups’. I may have gone too much the other way and am too lenient on the kids. But what I want them to get out of Pathfinders is first to learn about Jesus and also to have a good experience and have fun. I can’t say that my whole Pathfinder experience was fun. I know a lot of people in the club [that I grew up in] wouldn’t come back because it wasn’t worth a Sabbath afternoon. I want the kids to grow together, to build relationships with each other, and to build a relationship with Jesus.

Nancy and Dean Cabansag, co-directors of the Dallas and Fort Worth (DFW) Fil-Am club in Arlington, Texas, share a similar mission. Their goal is “to keep the kids in the church.” As a notable Filipino club, DFW prides itself in maintaining a high level of excellency that keeps hundreds of Pathfinders and parents involved. Each Pathfinder meeting includes delicious homemade food, musical fellowship, and diligent worship and spiritual exercises. For the past 10 years, six motivated club members have participated in the Pathfinder Bible Experience: a national competition that requires deep knowledge and memorization of alternating books from the Old and New Testament. One year, a DFW Pathfinder memorized 200 verses. Their success, Dean Cabansag admitted, “was because we were standing on the shoulders of the people who were leaders before us.”

Each interview came to the same consensus: Pathfinders need more leaders.Nancy Cabansag advised, “Just become part of the club. If there is a need, show up. Utilize your unique talents. Every pathfinder club is a different kind of organism. Even if you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing, put the success in His hands. Just be willing to be used.” 

It is often said that God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called. Ruby Khoury reminds us that you do not have to be qualified to clean and organize equipment, to donate, or even to teach a pathfinder honor. God will use whatever talents we return to him. This is the Pathfinder pledge: to be a servant of God and a friend to man. 

About the author

Ella Quijada grew up in Southern California attending the Fallbrook Adventist Church and is a first-year pre-medical student at Southern Adventist University with a psychology major and double Spanish and chemistry minor. More from Ella Quijada.
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