“I believe I am in church today because of the role that the Pathfinder ministry played in my life.” This statement by Maxine DeCocq, a long-time youth leader, sums up the goals of the Oklahoma Conference Annual Youth Leadership Training Weekend held at Wewoka Woods Adventist Center on September 9-11, 2022.
The Oklahoma Youth, Pathfinder, Adventurer, Master Guide, and Children’s Ministries Department training was centered on the theme “Fear Not: Moving Forward in Faith,” based on Isaiah 41:10. Oklahoma Conference President James Shires visited the participants on Sabbath afternoon.
The event was a power-packed beehive of activities regarding Pathfinder Basic Staff Training (Entenamiento Basico Conquistadores), Adventurer Basic Staff Training (Entenamiento Basico Aventureros), Master Guide, Pathfinder Counselor, Pathfinder Instructor, Pathfinder Director, Adventurer Instructor, Adventurer Director, and Children’s Ministries. Some sessions were conducted in Spanish. Topics included information on club ministries, programming, discipline, child development, teaching and learning, conflict resolution, and safety issues.
Participants stated that the major takeaways were that they will serve their young people with love, share the love of Jesus with everyone and that training was needed for directors and staff to have a successful programming year. With a few minor hiccups including air conditioning challenges, all went well.
Four worship services were conducted. On Friday evening, Pastor Apple Park encouraged directors and staff not to fear what lies ahead because God always works with willing individuals to tackle challenging issues. During the Sabbath divine service, Matthew Hansen talked about the need for leaders to speak uplifting words that lead to action as well as leaders who provide opportunities for their followers to impact the lives of others. On Sabbath afternoon, participants witnessed the baptism of Eastyn Becker from Arbuckle View Pathfinder Club, surrounded by the participants, family members, and friends. Pastor Rex Shepherd officiated over the baptism.
The Oklahoma Conference established the Paddle Leadership Award five years ago. Each year, the award is given to a former director who had/has impacted the lives of young people in Oklahoma. During Sabbath School, the Paddle Award was presented to Maxine DeCocq (and her husband Eddie) from the Edmond Adventist church for their leadership during the last part of the 1990s and early 2000s. They felt the need to re-establish the Pathfinder Club after several years, and the club has existed since then. Responding to the award, Maxine remembered her Pathfinder days in the 1950s: “We paid $0.10 a meeting. I am glad I was a Pathfinder.”
Additionally, every year, leaders are recognized for the number of years they serve the church in the Youth, Pathfinder, Adventurer, and Children’s Ministries. Among those who have served the longest time were Oklahoma Pathfinder Director Pastor Rex Shepherd (45 years) and Norma Shepherd (43 years); Charles and Donna Hill (each 50 years); and Pastor Bob Holbrook (60 years). We can only say, “Look at what a blessing God has brought among us.”
Closing the Sabbath, Annette Park reminded the participants that they had an awesome responsibility of impacting the lives of young people who may have challenges that today’s directors and staff may not have encountered when they were young. Coming from diverse home situations, some may only find refuge in the ministries for which the directors and staff were responsible.
On Sunday morning, Chongo Mundende stated that directors and staff had chosen a good thing, impacting the lives of young people and that their reward may not be realized here on earth. They will only know the extent of their influence when they see Jesus and those whose lives they impacted at the Sea of Glass or before the throne of God and of the Son, who challenged them to go and make a difference in the lives of people.
By: D. Chongo Mundende, Central Oklahoma Area Coordinator
Photo Cred: Enedina Chaparro and Nicole Luciano