MUNDIA WAMUNYIMA and CHARLES CHISALA, Mkushi
MORE than 10,000 children aged between 10 and 15 years from hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) homes and churches across Zambia recently took a break from the hustle and bustle of city, town and village life.The children are members of the Pathfinders Club, a department of the Youth Ministry of the global SDA Church.
They camped near Musofu Adventist Mission in Mkushi, a farming district in Central Province, for an inter-union pathfinder camporee from April 28 to May 5, 2018.
There are over one million baptized Adventists in Zambia.
The pathfinders went through a week of rigorous physical, cultural, social and religious lessons tailored for children and teens aged between 10 and 16 years.
This year’s camporee, the first of its kind since the SDA Zambia Union Conference split into North Zambia and South Zambia unions, attracted not only Zambian children but also delegations from Malawi, South Africa and several other southern African countries.
The serene camp site, about three kilometres from the mission station, nestles between two running streams in the middle of woody hills.
Daily programmes focused on the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of child development.
These activities encouraged exercise since the campers are at a stage of rapid physical development. They included bucket bridge, skidding, egg break race, fire building race, caterpillar walk and barbed wire crocodile crawl.
There were also commando crawl, single-rope climb, monkey-bridge and opposite river crossing.
As part of their mental frame development, the pathfinders dedicated part of their time to study and formed classes and specialties matching their preferred academic subjects.
The activities included Bible and nature studies, home chores, out-of-door activities, first aid and personal and home hygiene.
To hone both their spiritual and mental faculties, the young campers went through the friendly pathfinder bible experience, which encourages study. They were required to memorise all the 66 books of the Bible – from Genesis to Revelation – and recite 10 Bible verses.
Seventh-day Adventist Youths (AY) chaplain and camporee guest speaker Reuben Muyunda said the church emphasises empowering little children with survival skills at a tender age to prepare them for a successful adulthood, quoting John 16 vs 33. And that children were born empowered to adapt for success. He further mentioned that environment should be tamed through skills for livelihood as mandated in the book of Genesis 1 vs 28.
“In times when there are no resources and when the environment becomes oppressive, challenges come. God said we are already equipped with ideas and our brains, and our minds are so unique that there is nothing that we cannot conquer,” Pastor Muyunda said.
He said it was for this reason the pathfinders were engaged in survival skills training such as gardening, poultry rearing, automobile mechanics, bee- keeping and archery.
To test their mental and physical strength, the enthusiastic pathfinders were subjected to such physically and mentally taxing activities as barbed wire crocodile crawl, monkey-bridge, opposite river crossing and single-rope climb for which they received honours.
To some, the activities seemed too difficult to manage at first, but they were motivated to accomplish particular tasks by the sight of successful peers.
Those who managed to reach the crossing line fired up the spirit of victory in the stragglers.
For camper Moses Kalima, the mud barbed wire crocodile crawl was the most interesting.
“I am excited about the barbed wire crocodile crawl. It looked so difficult, but I made sure I spent some time practising the crawling and I managed the challenge because I kept my eyes focused on one point.
“I had to stay strong and use my elbows to reach the crossing line,” he said proudly.
Another camper, who was too shy to give his name, found the skidding the most exciting.
“I am excited at the skidding activity. It looks so difficult to climb on a slippery plastic paper, but falling in the mud makes it all fun,” he said with a smile.
Every day, towards the evening, it was enthralling to see more than 8,000 pathfinders in neat formation.
Even the devil must have stopped in his tracks to briefly marvel at the awesome sight of thousands of Jesus Christ’s army of ‘child soldiers of the cross’ in their colourful green and white uniform with yellow scarves.
With innocent determination, the young ‘champions of faith’ performed breathtaking military drills that would have left Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force, Zambia National Service and Zambia Police Service training instructors stroking their shaven chins with envy.
They marched in complicated formations on the parade ground to spirit-lifting serenades by an equally youthful brass band, their shrill voices declaring their readiness for the battles of life ahead.
The theme of the camporee was ‘Champions of faith’ anchored by Hebrews chapter 11 of the Bible, which casts the spotlight on God’s faith heroes of the Old Testament.
Chief Chitina of the Lamba people of Mkushi warmly welcomed the pathfinders and thousands of worshippers on Saturday, the Sabbath Day of the Lord, the camporee’s grand finale.
“Despite the position I hold in society and my responsibility over four million people, I am the same as anybody else in the eyes of God,” he told the throng of worshippers.
Chief Chitina urged the congregants to pray for leaders and appealed to Government to issue a certificate of title for the land he has given the SDA Church to curb encroachments.
He advised the youths to take what they had learned seriously.
The SDA Church plans to set up a skills training centre in Musofu area to empower the local people as a way of reducing unemployment in the area. Special guest Vusi Khumalo from the SDA Southern Africa Indian Ocean Division headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa encouraged the pathfinders to remain committed to Jesus and not indulge in illicit and self-destructive activities.
He urged them to use the skills they had learnt in camp to start small-scale income generating projects such as brick-making, selling of eggs, growing tomatoes and other businesses that do not need a lot of start-up capital.
More than 100 pastors and gospel ministers also attended the camporee and church service.
The church plans to hold another such big event in Pretoria in 2019.
At the end of the camporee the ‘child soldiers of the Cross’ were bristling with new knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to serve their heavenly Commander, and are now ready to face the challenges of life as they grow.
MUNDIA WAMUNYIMA and CHARLES CHISALA, Mkushi