4 August 2023 | David Neal [Sopron, Hungary]
Pathfinder leadership – is ‘hands-on’ work! While all the spiritual, educational and psychological skills are not just helpful but essential leadership requirements, when it comes down to it, it is hard work with long hours involving organisational skills, unlike almost any other church ministry.
Take, for example, the preparation required for the Trans-European Division Camporee (TED) that has just taken place. Planning for this Camporee began not long after the last Camporee ended. Along came Covid-19. Along came the war in Ukraine. The original plan for the 2023 Camporee was to hold it in one of the Baltic countries. Not possible once the war began. With incredible grace, understanding, and understandable disappointment, the Baltic Union youth and Pathfinder team accepted the need to choose another country to host the event.
Thank you Hungary
Hungary rose to the challenge and responded at lightning speed to help Dejan Stojkovic find a suitable site just outside the city of Sopron, located a few miles from the Austrian border. Kristóf Palotás (Hungarian Union Conference Youth director) and Sean Mena (Hungarian Union Conference Scout/Pathfinder leader) would get to know Stojkovic up close and personal as never before over the two years leading up to the event. It’s not hard to imagine the TED Pathfinder director needing answers from Palotás and Mena to ensure all is going to plan. Budgets, programmes, equipment, water, toilets, safeguarding, travel, finance, border issues, and relationship with local authorities begin the long ‘to-do’ list. And not least, food supplies create a complex web of organisation skills, getting them in the right place, at the right time and – at the right price. All this so Patfinders can enjoy a lasting educational, spiritual and enjoyable experience.
Problem Solving at its best
But we can’t limit this picture to the TED Pathfinder leadership alone. Union and club leaders and many volunteers play their part in making the Camporee experience work. Talk with British Union Conference (BUC) Youth and Pathfinder director Kevin Johns. He will tell you how, five days before Camporee began, he was suddenly faced with the need to hire a second lorry container to get all the BUC equipment out to Hungary. For the British comes the added logistical challenge of a new mamouth ‘form filling’ experience every time their goods are moved in and out of the EU. “It is only by a miracle that we were able to process the goods we were carrying on the lorry in record time.,” said Johns. In addition, as a first for the BUC, the almost 1,000 Pathfinders were catered for by one specialist catering team located in a vast marquee multi-purpose dining room/kitchen.
Mingling among the TED Pathfinder leadership team, I would sometimes sit in on staff meetings, observing the dynamics of the meeting. While they are intended as the information gathering point, ‘problem-solving’ became vital, which was resolved in a supportive collegiate way. That requires skill, not least due to the creation of a ‘high trust’ zero power play environment. It worked, and the camp was blessed.
The local club leader
But also inspiring is the work of local club leaders. They are volunteers. Some are persuaded and pressed into leadership where no one else in the local church will take on the role, resulting in the new leader experiencing a steep learning curve. But for many leaders, once they become involved in club life, they love the job – because they love seeing children grow and develop. Encouraged by the values of the Pathfinder movement, many who were Pathfinders as children now find themselves leading their children and grandchildren. There is something extraordinary about that. To see your offspring lead out in worship, achieve awards and learn new skills – or even say a prayer for the group, is treasured.
Errol Roman is a local club leader of the Ilford Pathfinder club, South England Conference. He has been connected with Pathfinder leadership since the 1980s and trained as a Master Guide during the mid-1990s. A trained Psychotherapist – with problem-solving his profession, it is natural that ‘problem-solving’ as a Pathfinder leader is not a mountain to climb. Still, as Roman describes it, it is “A university to experience”. He has been in and out of the Pathfinder ministry over the years but is now firmly back as part of the Ilford leadership team. This is his story.
Pathfinder leader Eric Henderson from Denmark has been a Pathfinder since he was ten years old. He is now aged 78! That is an incredible 68 years of ‘Pathfindering’ beginning in 1955. For Eric, a life-long ministry in teaching has always involved ‘Pathfindering’, which has almost become a hobby, not least because of all the outdoor pursuits it offers. Danish Pathfinders are renowned for their incredibly creative pioneering skills, and Henderson is no exception. Having attended all Camporees since 1971, his story is not to be missed. We capture his story in an audio interview. As is sometimes the case, the gem in the conversation is found immediately after formally concluding the conversation. For this gem, we kept the mic rolling.
Sonja Whitehouse and Megan Tooley
Sonja Whitehouse, Deputy District Pathfinder director, and Megan Tooley, District Pathfinder director, travelled 11,000 miles (18,000 km) to be at the Sopron Camporee. Pathfinder leaders from the South Pacific Division, North New Zealand Conference they served with the TED volunteer staff team. They hope to take back to New Zealand ideas and tips for running their camporee in the spring of 2024. As District directors, they represent the conference in their local area. This is their story and why they are here…with love from New Zealand!
When Pathfinders return home, they often experience ‘a low’ due to their great Camporee experience, both spiritual and emotional. One way to help them is to invite them to share their story and listen to how God is working in their lives.
These Camporee reports only begin to touch the surface of all that took place. Stay connected with tedNEWS through the Trans-European Division Facebook page. [Photos and video: David Neal, Camera operator Errol Roman interview: Andre Vierra]