35,000 Youth Attend Adventist Camporee in Brazil
Event draws visitors from 12 nations, promotes Christian living
A record 35,000 mostly Seventh-day Adventist young people, from a total of 12 nations, gathered in Barretos, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, from January 7 through 12, 2014, for the fourth South American Pathfinder Camporee, a gathering that promotes Christian living and community service.
State governor Geraldo Alckmin formally welcomed the participants, who came from nations in South America, North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Pathfindering is one of the largest global projects for spiritual, social, and educational support for children and youth. Throughout the year children and adolescents between 10 and 15 years of age meet on Saturdays and Sundays to learn dozens of skills, ranging from how to give first aid to how survive in the wilderness and care for the environment.
For the Barretos camporee the city provided 850 buses to transport participants, most of whom came from the Americas. An estimated 800 dining areas were designated to feed attendees.
The camporee also boasted a museum displaying the history of Pathfinders, a shopping mall, a supermarket, bakery, snack bar, police and fire outposts, and at least 500 people in charge of security and internal transit.
“It’s a massive structure to ensure safety for all participants. We do this type of event once every 10 years because of the logistics [involved]. Pathfinders is an ongoing project: clubs meet to help children and adolescents avoid negative activities such as drugs and crime. We teach values that we hope will remain in their lives,” said Udolcy Zukowski, general coordinator of the event.
While the Pathfinder “city” at the Barretos Cowboy Park was a center of youth activity and fun, not everything was centered on enjoyment. Community service and outreach was part of the event as well.
In a single day Pathfinders visited 40,000 homes in Barretos, delivering information about protecting children from abuse, as well as an informational “flywheel” brochure on preventing dengue fever. The following day 40,000 copies of Signs of Hope, an outreach book by Seventh-day Adventist pastor Alejandro Bullón, were distributed free of charge.
On Friday, January 10, citizens were given a DVD with images of Israel, Turkey, Greece, and Rome and a special message from the Bible about what happened in these historical places.
On the afternoons of January 8-10 a health fair took place at three locations in Barretos, where health professionals and speakers offered advice on eight natural remedies and their use to achieve health. Special features for women’s health were also offered.
A unique feature of the fourth South American camporee was its effort to include people with disabilities. Natalia Paola Blanco is 22 years old, and belongs to the Ebenezer Pathfinder Club, located in northwestern Argentina. She has Down syndrome. “The opening was beautiful,” she said.
Her mother, Elva Blanco, emphasized that contact with the club has contributed greatly to her daughter’s social involvement, communication, and learning. It’s also an opportunity for Adventist youth to learn about equality and social participation.
Elias Santos, 19, an instructor at the Five Oceans Pathfinder Club in the Brazilian city of Bahia, has a damaged left leg. For him, attending the event is the realization of a dream. “I participate in all activities of the club, and the guys never disrespect me,” he said.
A childhood friend of Elias, Diego Barreto, said that Elias “ joined the club and then had his accident. But the Pathfinders embrace him, because to us he is not [a person with a disability]. Besides, he still plays ball with us, and better than me!”
Like Elias, Leonardo Fontan has a physical disability and attended the camporee. He joined the Villa Luzuriaga Herederos Pathfinder Club in Argentina three years ago. “I like to camp, to participate in events, and help people,” he explained. On December 14, 2013, three weeks before the camporee, Fontan expressed publicly his decision to follow Christ through baptism, the result of his involvement in Pathfinders.
Beyond the campers on the ground, another significant group also participated in the event, but with a twist: a virtual camporee, with live broadcasts of programming and interaction via social networks.
A virtual version was not something planned by the communications team that coordinated the activities. Rogério Ferraz, manager of digital strategies of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America, said the idea arose spontaneously through the Pathfinders who participated in the webcast. “The initial goal was to bring what was going on here to those who could not come, so they could have a sense of what is happening and to share a little bit too,” he said.
But during the event the participation of netizens was intense. “The transmission was so good . . . that they began to feel part of the event. We were all happy with their interaction and the possibility that they participate in different places,” said Ferraz. That’s when the virtual camporee began to form.
Two groups were created on Facebook by the virtual campers: “#CampanhaTrunfoParaOsInternautas” and “I did not go in but I’m in #CamporiDSA.” The groups operated alongside the official webcasts on the CamporiDSA Web site.
“I was watching the chat CamporiTV, and many [people online] were sad at not being able to go to the program. As I do not like to see anyone sad, I had the idea of creating the group, to get everyone motivated and happy,” says Pathfinder Henry Santos from Porto Seguro, who created the Facebook group with the hashtag #CampanhaTrunfoParaOsInternautas.
Because they were so connected to what was happening, online participants began to feel part of the camporee, and wanted to earn an award for their participation.
“So we created the idea of a virtual camporee and started to put some requirements that they could complete to earn an award, something to show that they were actually participating in day-to-day programming, watching and interacting. Fulfilling these requirements would enable then to win the award,” Ferraz said.
Activities for virtual campers were posted on social networks every day. Then a form was created that they could link to and document each activity performed.
The pathfinders in Barretos were not the only ones who heard the messages of Pastor Odailson Fonseca, speaker of the event. Viewers thousands of miles away also felt part of the invitation to the “Meeting Scheduled in Eternity.” “It was not just for the Camporee IV, for I’m connected to CamporiTV. . . I also have an appointment with JESUS . . . #camporiDSA #campanhaTrunfoParaOsInternaltas,” posted Ana Leticia, Maranhao, on Facebook.
The Internet outreach had its effects, Ferraz said. One girl, who had planned to attend the camporee but withdrew at the last minute, saw the online programming and sent a message saying she would return to church. Another sign of success: 680 online applications for the merit award from virtual participants.
In all, camporee content was viewed 337,000 times by 80,000 people in 97 countries, officials reported.
—compiled by Mark A. Kellner, Adventist World news editor, with reporting from Felipe Lemos and Deborah Calixto, ASN
TENT CITY: Some of the thousands of tents prepared for the Fourth South
American Pathfinder Camporee in Barretos, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo.