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27 June 2018 | Krakow, Poland [David Rancic / tedNEWS]

How do you define the high point of an event when there are too many to pinpoint?  That is the challenge for the 144 attendees returning from the 7th TED Master Guide camp (MGC) at the Korzkiew Scout Resort, just 30 minutes from the magical old city of Krakow in Poland.

MGC2018 scarfAs the Master Guides started to gather at the Old Medieval Market Square for the four-day campout 21-24 June, there was excitement in the air. Old friends met again; new were introduced. Everyone was warmly welcomed by the TED Pathfinder director, Peter Bo Bohsen and the Polish volunteers.

Sleeping in a salt mine

Travelling directly from the square, Master Guides were driven to their first big surprise of the weekend – Bochnia Salt Mines, the oldest salt mine in Poland, established in 1251. After several exhilarating rides down a mine shaft in a very small elevator, the group descended to about 250 metres below the surface of the earth where the camp’s flag raising and opening ceremony was held in a stunning meeting hall. Marek Micyk, Polish Union Youth and Pathfinder director, addressed the expectant crowd with a fitting greeting, "From the deepest of the Earth and the deepest of our hearts, we welcome you to Poland." It is also where the group was introduced to the amazing musical talents of the Polish worship team whose inspirational leadership represented one of the highlights of the camp.

MGC2018 mine flagsThe mine management were so impressed with the flag ceremony that they asked permission to use photos for their official publicity.Staying underground and far away from the modern obsession with smartphones and social media, the group enjoyed a very interactive tour around the mines and a 140-metre downhill slide, finally spending the night sleeping on bunk beds with salt filled mattresses.  For some, communal snoring compensated for the lack of signal on their phone.

“It’s always fun to be the guinea pig for a new Pathfinder honour: this year, it was Mining and last year, it was the Midnight Sun,” quiped Sajitha Forde-Ralph who is eagerly awaiting the next honour to be developed from within the TED and looking forward to meeting friends—old and new—again.

After emerging from the mine on Friday morning and relocating to Korzkiew, Master Guides had the opportunity to spend time in their units getting to know each other, sharing skills, and taking part in workshops such as rope making, video editing, or making a clay pizza oven.

Creation Focus

Kim Hagen Jensen from Denmark spoke during the worship periods throughout the camp on the theme of Creation vs. Evolution. The talks were inspiring, challenging, and encouraging. Importantly, Master Guides were encouraged to talk confidently to their Pathfinders about issues of Creation and explain the place of science and the Bible in their lives.

Csaba Kassai, Hungarian Union representative and troop (club) leader, commented, “We explored the depths of the creation and evolution debate in a way that you rarely encounter - all of this was in the light of the Bible.” He went on to say, “It was special to experience the feeling of the friendly, welcoming and loving atmosphere that penetrated the whole camp. It was especially strong in our unit. Different people coming from many places formed a community in that people accepted each other and were able to work together.”

Another highlight came on Saturday afternoon as the group listened to Pastor Wieslaw Szkopinski share a presentation and exhibition about fossils before choosing to either go on a hike or excavation to dig for real fossils themselves. To conclude the Sabbath, Milan Moskala, a missionary serving in Bangladesh, delivered an incredible and empowering testimony. For many, this was one of the most inspiring moments of the camp. The day ended with a bonfire complete with games, cultural items and lots of laughter.MGC2018 bonfire danceSaturday night bonfire; Israeli Master Guides teaching the others a folk dance to 'Hava Nagila'

Danish Union Pathfinder director, Mads Kivikoski, reflected, “For me the opportunity to join a camp for Pathfinder leaders from all over Europe is challenging and inspiring. As a result, you also get to bond with your local team in a completely new and intense way, building even stronger relationships across our region”. A sentiment echoed by many other participants.

Prayers following zipline accident

Unfortunately, a trip down a mine was not the only low at the camp.  During the construction of a zipline on the Friday afternoon, there was an accident during the careful testing phase.  Peter Bo is an experienced and highly qualified climbing instructor and was working on the line with another highly experienced Master Guide, John Bishop.  During the third test, following a minor adjustment in the line height, John sadly hit a tree and had to be air-lifted to hospital.  His family flew from England to be with him and Pastor Ikwisa Mwasumbi, North England Conference Pathfinder director, stayed on in Poland for a few days after the camp to support John and the family.

While John currently remains in hospital he is making good progress and should be returning to his home in England very shortly. Speaking on behalf of the family, Pastor Ikwisa expressed their gratefulness for the many prayers and messages of support.

Pathfinders are trained to deal with emergencies.  Both Peter Bo and Marek expressed their gratefulness to the three nurses on the camp who immediately came to assist, and to the emergency services and air ambulance who arrived on site very rapidly.  Our prayers and continued wishes for a speedy recovery extend to the Bishop family.

MGC2018 closing groupCampers joined hands to sing 'Side by Side' at the closing ceremony

'Side by side' in a castle

In a weekend of highs and lows, the camp closed in the heights of the Romanesque Zamek Korzkiew castle on Sunday afternoon. With national flags suspended above the heads of the attendees; votes of thanks were given, and prayers were said.

The flags were lowered and the Master Guides said bittersweet goodbyes after singing a rendition of 'Side by Side'.

Visting Auschwitz

While that was the grand finale, for some it was not the end. Following the official close of camp, some Master Guides took the opportunity to visit Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camps where over 1.1 million people lost their lives.

For leaders whose role it is to instill life and hope into young Pathfinders, it was a sobering and somewhat terrifying afternoon.  Faced head-on with the evidence of such brutal and unthinkable acts of cruelty, it was hard to believe that any human being could be involved in such activities.  Many Master Guides expressed their hopes that atrocities like the one of Auschwitz never happen again.  It also reinforced the whole ethos of Pathfinding as expressed in the pledge usually shared at the start of every Pathfinder meeting: “By the grace of God: I will be pure, kind, and true. I will keep the Pathfinder Law. I will be a servant of God and a friend to man.

Whilst expressing his gratitude to God and the organizers for the chance to participate in this year’s MGC and contemplating all the good experiences such as “delicious food…the kind and excellent brothers and sisters and the answered prayers”, József Szabó, from Hungary, also stated that “I got a lot and I was recharged in the couple of days together”.

Many thanks go to Peter Bo, his personal assistant, Judy Plaatjes, along with Marek and his amazing team who together, organised such a memorable and eventful camp. [tedNEWS]


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Sajitha Forde-Ralph, associate editor
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