Youth Set Sails for the Kingdom

When Bob Gaede talks about his passion for mentoring Adventist teen leaders, you’re bound to catch some of that passion yourself. His enthusiasm is contagious. But he’s not the only one with such a gift. Youth and Pathfinder leaders across the Northwest have it in spades.

Why else would you have found them traveling across the country this year to the International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin? And why else would you have found a number of them in Olympia, Washington, on a weekend forecast to feature rain and wind?

This was a sailing adventure designed to couple work on the Pathfinder sailing honor with spiritual lessons. Gaede, a lay member from Rockaway Beach, Oregon, who volunteers his time as the Pathfinder teen coordinator for Oregon Conference, had planned a number of active weekend activities for Oregon Pathfinders. But this was the first to be organized on behalf of three Northwest conferences — Oregon, Washington and Upper Columbia.

And so it was, on the weekend of October 10–12, that nearly 180 Pathfinders and leadership staff gathered in Olympia for a weekend of adventure on the Puget Sound.

The weekend was organized around three active stations: an adventure on the historic Adventuress sailing vessel, a trip on an open whaling boat and a learning activity on small sailing dinghys.

The Adventuress is a 130-foot vessel listed as a National Historic Landmark and operated now by Sound Experience, a nonprofit entity. Gaede and his team designed an onboard program for the Pathfinders that helped them experience the spiritual lessons in the stories of Jesus asleep in the disciples’ boat and of Peter attempting to walk on the water, as well as learn the basics of navigation and tall-ship sailing. 

Did the wind and rain dampen any spirits? Well, that’s part of the adventure, and part of the miracle, says Gaede. When the first group went out on the large sailing vessel, clouds were dark and rain was falling out on the Sound. But the ship sailed for four straight hours with rain on either side and bright skies overhead. Only when they returned to the dock, did the rain pour down. Likewise, rain held off for the afternoon sailing and again on Sunday morning.

Another activity, originating from the Tacoma, Washington, Sea Scouts base, took Pathfinders out on a whaling boat, originally from the USS Nimitz. Out on the water, leaders recounted the example of Jonah, drawing “lots” to see who would be thrown overboard to illustrate the story. Teen leaders were prepared to voluntarily take the dunking, but the experience became so popular that Pathfinders eagerly took the plunge.

While this event may have helped each Pathfinder who went achieve a better understanding of sailing, the main purpose, says Gaede, was something far more important. “With each of these weekend events, we hope to create a spiritual experience surrounding a Pathfinder honor using some activity other than a sermon,” he says. “Hands-on lessons make a lasting impression for the kingdom.”

Furthermore, Gaede says, the personal connections Pathfinders makes beyond their own local church groups provide a network of friends that may stay with them through high school, college and beyond.

Even with the hard work of Gaede and his leadership team, including, among others, Rick Pummel, Ed and Erin Betz, Michael and Lauren Gregory, this weekend wouldn’t have happened without a few miracles along the way. When the down payment for Sound Experience was due but out of reach, Alphonso McCarthy, NPUC youth director, stepped up with a loan for the amount needed. When Gaede needed an experienced sailor to supervise the activities, Peter Rampton, Washington Conference trust services associate director, called him “out of the blue.” Miracle after miracle, says Gaede, keeps these events going strong. “It’s such an incredible way,” he says, “to work with the Lord.”

Gaede doesn’t do this alone. He began organizing local Pathfinder events with Anne and Glenn Campbell 18 years ago. That partnership continues as the events have grown to include nearly 200 Oregon Conference Pathfinders and staff each year.

He has begun working with Washington Conference on similar conference teen events and hopes to start that process as well with the Idaho Conference soon.

As the weeks tick forward in the 2014 holiday season, there’s never a better time to give thanks. One big reason the Northwest mission of God’s church moves forward vigorously and enthusiastically is because of volunteers such as this.

October 23, 2014 / Feature