Camporee Opens With “Courage to Stand”

BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor Adventist Review, reporting from Oshkosh, Wisconsin

ith the flash of fireworks, a clashing of cymbals, and the roar of 35,000 young Seventh-day Adventists, the 2009 International Pathfinder Camporee formally opened after sunset on August 11 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The event, believed to be the largest six-day Adventist church gathering in the world, filled hundreds of acres at the Wittman Regional Airport grounds.

RIDING HIGH: Pathfinders arrived in Oshkosh, Wisconsin by bus, plane and even bicycle.  [Photo: Alden Ho/Adventist Review]
“Oh, we are the Pathfinders strong,” the thousands sang in unison, before being led in the Pathfinder pledge to be pure, kind, true, and to “go on God’s errands.” A stirring march of Pathfinders, church leaders, and, below the massive presentation stage, a company of marching drummers, were the prelude to the evening’s events.

“While you’re here, we hope you’ll get to know Jesus better than you’ve ever known Him before,” said Don C. Schneider, North American Division president. He exhorted the youngsters to find a friend they’d not met before and pray for them.

Adventist pastor Murray Hunter, senior chaplain at Northpine Christian College located in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, challenged the teens and preteens in attendance to deepen their relationship with God, and to establish one if need be.

“God has the picture of life on His table,” Hunter said, alluding to a jigsaw puzzle, “and you are a part of that picture. . . . Each and every one of you 35,000 people were created on purpose, and for a purpose.”

The centerpiece of the evening was the first act of the new musical, “Courage to Stand,” a new Sitler & Strong production following the Bible story of Esther. The opening presentation centered on the teen years of Hadassah, a young Jewish woman living in Susa, then the capital of Persia. When King Xerxes I dismisses his wife, Queen Vashti, from the court, the call goes out to find a replacement; Hadassah, who in Persian was called Esther, is among those summoned to the palace, counseled by her cousin Mordecai to keep her nationality a secret.

DESTINED TO BE A QUEEN: Jordan McKee performs as Hadassah or Esther. [Photo: Alden Ho/Adventist Review]
The play, with subtexts of teen anxiety and uncertainty (in this telling, young Hadassah worries about awkwardness, dealing with boys, and what her future will hold) resonated with the youthful audience.

“It was really good. There was a lot of energy,” said Pathfinder Judith Jones of Holloway, England, near London.

The story “was presented in a way that appeals to us,” added Julia Jones, Judith’s sister and fellow Pathfinder.

“I enjoyed it, it was very original,” said Asher Moodie of Brixton, England, while Anesta Guishard, also from England, said the story brought out details she hadn’t known before.

Two more nightly presentations of the play will be made during evening programs at the camporee, which officially concludes on the evening of August 15. Jordan McKee has the leading role of Esther, while Danny Cooper appears as Xerxes, Simon Marie as Haman, and Ken Rogers, Vice President for Student Life and Missions at Walla Walla University in Washington, is Mordecai.

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