On Sabbath, 54 teams, comprised of at least 320 Pathfinders, gathered in Blue Mountain Academy’s gymnasium in Hamburg, Pa., to test their knowledge of the Bible during the Columbia Union Conference’s sixth Pathfinder Bible Experience (PBE), a competition that tests participants Bible knowledge. So far it is the largest Columbia Union PBE event in the union.
"Since PBE’s inception in 2012, where five conferences and 12 teams participated in the Columbia Union level, to seven conferences and 54 teams in 2018 – that is an awesome growth rate," says Pamela Scheib, event coordinator and Pennsylvania Conference Pathfinder director. "And to realize how many of our Pathfinders are involved in in-depth studying of the Bible is what Pathfinders is all about--leading them to Christ and a relationship with Him!"
Thirty-seven of the participating 54 teams placed first and will continue onto the North American Division-wide event at Camp Hawthorne in Hawthorne, Fla., April 20-21. However, the impact of the event goes far beyond the competition itself.
Fred Herman and his four grandchildren (pictured below) have been studying for PBE since December. Herman creates questions on the books of Daniel and Esther, and then quizzes the team that is part of the Pennsylvania Conference’s Wyoming Valley Falcon Pathfinder Club in Hudson.
Dia Herman, mother to PBE team and the club’s assistant leader, says she is happy her children want to be involved. “There are so many other things that could take their attention away. Once they’ve put this [Bible knowledge] into their hearts, their mind can always retrieve it. It is something they’ll take with them for a lifetime; it is not just a one-day thing.”
Michaela Herman, 15, has been on the team for five years and has seen benefits beyond just memorizing Scripture. “I’ve learned a deeper knowledge of God and have drawn closer to Him as I’ve read the books of Daniel and Esther and seen how He’s worked miraculously in people’s lives,” she says.
Boni Getugi, PBE coordinator for the Allegheny East Conference’s Angaza Warriors Pathfinder Club from Newark, Del., sees PBE’s impact in Angaza Sharon, their church of native Swahili speakers, and in the student’s lives outside the church.
Getugi explains that all of the Angaza Pathfinders learned English within the last two years. This is their first year participating in PBE.
“Their English is better, not only better, but polished,” says Getugi. “Most of them are fluent. Their grades have vastly improved. Now I’m getting invited to schools for Student of the Month ceremonies.”
He’s even watched the transformation of a shy member who never spoke in class because they thought they didn’t fit in. Getugi says the student’s self-confidence has grown, he/she is fitting in and is also developing a closer walk with the Lord due to the involvement in PBE.
Beyond impacting the students, their church is seeing growth. “We’ve seen the hand of God work,” adds Getugi. Participating Pathfinders are starting to host Bible studies in their homes. Parents who drive their children to one of the practices at 9:30 a.m. on Sabbath morning are now filling the Sabbath School classes that used to have only 5-10 attendees per week.
Practice takes a substantial commitment from the Pathfinders, their parents and staff. Aldith Olofernes, head PBE couch for the New Jersey Conference’s Piscataway Eagles Pathfinder Club from the Lake Nelson church in Piscataway, says their 32-team members and coaches started studying and memorizing the Bible in September. They gather on Friday night to practice and drill each other, taking a break on Saturday and Sunday evenings, and practice individually during the week. When the union-level competition finally rolls around, many of the Pathfinders in the Piscataway club and around the union have memorized chapters of the Bible.
Sometimes the Bible truths studied are new to the Pathfinders. Lucas Strunk (third from left, below), a member of the Pennsylvania Conference’s Blue Mountaineers Pathfinder Club from the Hamburg church, didn’t grow up as a Seventh-day Adventist. Several years ago, a neighbor introduced him to the church’s Vacation Bible School. Since then he started attending the church and Pathfinder club. Josue’ Lazo, one of the club’s assistant PBE coaches, shares that as the team was talking about plans for a possible trip to the division-level event, Strunk said he was afraid to fly.
“You don’t need to worry about that; we know where we’re going when we die,” said Lazo to Strunk, who responded that he needed to learn more about how to get to heaven. Gabe, a friend in the club, started talking more about the Bible with Strunk. Due to that conversation, 25 members from the Pathfinder club will be holding a Daniel and Revelation prophecy seminar at the church to help answer questions like these for Strunk and community members.