Pathfinders Salute Longtime Leader

August 27, 2015

Clyde Phillips was a relatively new Adventist, an adult college graduate and married with children when he moved to Marysville, Wash., in 1982. He and his wife, Sandee, asked church leaders how they could be involved in their local church. The leaders suggested a ministry opening in Pathfinders.

According to family lore, Phillips responded, “We’d love to help. I just have one question: What’s Pathfinders?”

Since this early decision to lead the youth ministry club, Phillips became “Mr. Pathfinder” through the years at multiple Adventist churches in western Washington and what many deem as one of the best Pathfinder coordinators across North America.

Phillips passed away in a RV accident on June 30, 2015, while on a family vacation. At his memorial service, 425 past and present Pathfinders, family members and friends remembered his influence in their lives.

Phillips’ influence is felt at three key levels — with his family, with his Pathfinders and with his ministry colleagues — and offers a snapshot of how one person’s involvement in ministry outside a given profession makes a difference.

“While it is true that Clyde loved Pathfinders and invested a great deal of time, money, energy and emotion into his work with the different clubs, he loved his family more and Jesus most of all,” says Karen Yao, one of his daughters. “He was a hard worker and wonderful co-worker, but if family needed him, there was no question of where he would be.”

Phillips was even able to baptize two of his grandsons at the International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wis., in 2014.

Jennifer Case remembers being in Phillips’ first Pathfinder club 27 years ago. “It is because of Clyde Phillips that I love Pathfinders, watched my daughters earn their first honors, started a club with my husband and earned my Master Guide,” Case says. “The church is fortunate to have had a leader like him who passed on his values and love of Pathfinders so that we could humbly try to lead as he did.”

Each year at Washington Adventist Camp Meeting, Phillips would present several creative Pathfinder honors like bubbles, hot air balloons, wood carving and nature honors.

“I earned my first Pathfinder honor, animal tracking, with Mr. Phillips,” says Sammy Tooley, age 12. “He made learning fun. He’d keep a straight face when he told me I’d have to do something all over again, but then say, ‘Just joking!’”

Tooley's brother, John, age 10, adds, “Mr. Phillips was always happy and fun to be with.”

“His life was so wrapped up in Pathfinders,” says Craig Heinrich, previous Washington Conference Youth ministries director. “He called kids to remember that Jesus Christ, Master and Creator of the universe, loves them more than life itself and asked them to dedicate their hearts and lives to Him until He comes to bring us home.”