50 Leaders Attend Pathfinder Leadership Convention
The Pathfinder Leadership Convention, which included the inspirational theme Believe, was an important milestone for the Central California Conference. The leadership conferences have been postponed since 2019 due to the pandemic and forest fires that forced the closure of the National Park. This last August 18-20, it took place in beautiful Camp Wawona in Yosemite National Park, making it a noteworthy occasion.
One hundred fifty devoted leaders from the Central California Conference gathered for the meeting, who were passionate and dedicated to the Pathfinder mission. There were 20 TLTs who were instrumental in the convention as well. This was a remarkable attendance from young Pathfinder leaders who are being mentored to lead in their local congregations and beyond.
Pastor Armando Miranda Jr., Associate Director for Youth and Young Adults for the North American Division, was the event's main speaker. He enlightened the leaders gathered by using his vast experience and counsel.
"After a three-year hiatus, rejoining a training event for Jr. Youth ministry leaders became paramount for me,” said Miranda. “I was blessed to participate in the leadership spiritual retreat at Camp Wawona, which
was a refreshing experience. The enthusiasm and unity of the leaders, TLTs, and organizers were evident throughout the training.”
Miranda said the pandemic has reshaped youth ministry, underscoring the importance for leaders reuniting and devising fresh strategies. “I'm grateful to Norma Villarreal, Jr. Youth Ministries Director, and her team for orchestrating such a meaningful and spiritual gathering. I arrived eager to contribute and departed feeling enriched by the positivity of the CCC club ministry leaders,” he added. “I hope the zeal and dedication I witnessed in many leaders will persist as they return to their congregations. While challenges await, gatherings like this empower leaders to rejuvenate, adapt, and thrive in their ministries."
Pastor Randy Hill, who recently assumed responsibility as the Pacific Union Conference Youth Director, stood out as an important figure at the event. The Pathfinder ministry had left a lasting impression on him, and he made it a point to express his admiration and backing for it.
"Pathfinder ministry has the unique ability to link the ministries of the Adventist movement: the home, school and church. It was evident to me this weekend that the Central California Conference has a passionate group that wants to improve their skills as leaders in this engaging ministry with young people,” said Hill.
The Master Guide classes saw full participation, suggesting intentional preparation for the upcoming investment of MG at the international Camporee in Gillette, Wyoming.
The recognition of leaders who have committed themselves to the Pathfinder mission for an extended period was one of the event's most memorable moments. Dan Tupper, who has devoted 51 years of service, was celebrated at the leadership spiritual retreat with other godly, committed leaders who have served the Adventist Church as volunteers.
The convention's lineup included the induction ceremony and an assortment of classes or breakout sessions. Designed for Adventurer leaders, new Pathfinder directors,
TLTs, and master guides, these sessions were presented in English and Spanish to cater to the varied constituents serving throughout the Central California Conference.
The 2023 Pathfinder Leadership Convention was more than just a gathering—it was a profound tribute to the ethos of dedication, service, and leadership that underscores the mission of the Adventist Church. The continuous commitment of the CCC in shaping future Adventist leaders echoes the words of the Apostle Paul in Gal. 6:9-10: "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially those of the household of faith."
■ By Norma Villareal
First Ukrainian Church Plant Takes Place In The Bay Area
The Russo-Ukraine conflict, which continues to drag on, has now displaced over 17 million people. This incredible number of people who have been forced to leave their homes and seek asylum elsewhere has put a burden on the entire world, and directly impacted places as far away as the Central California Conference.
Despite the horrors continuing to take place because of this conflict, this tragedy has also created an opportunity for many churches. “In the Bay area we have the largest concentration of people from Ukraine. We have over 100,000 Ukrainians there,” says Ricardo Viloria, ministerial and church planting director for the Central California Conference. Because of this large number of Ukrainian immigrants in the Bay area, it became apparent that something should be created to connect with this group of people and offer support to those directly impacted by the war.
“We decided this is a great opportunity for us to reach them,” says Viloria. “We started this project by working with a church in the Bay area: the Campbell Seventh-day Adventist Church where Pastor Eddy Perez is the lead pastor.” Viloria met with Perez and the church leaders to talk about the opportunity and organize a way to create a group specifically for Ukrainian-speaking people.
The church already had Ukrainian-speaking people, and they decided to pursue the planting of a church for these immigrants. “The idea is for them to worship in their own language within their own cultural settings to be able to reach more Ukrainian families in the Bay area. This is the first church plant for Ukrainian people in our conference,” explains Perez.
The group was officially organized Aug. 12 at the Campbell Church, with Kiro as the lay leader for the church plant. Kiro is able to speak both Russian and Ukrainian, making him able to be a bridge between the two cultures.
There are already close to 30 people meeting in the new church plant, and it is growing. At the camp meeting last July, two people from the church plant were baptized by Kiro. The plan is to organize the church plant as a company in the near future. When a group reaches 30 attending members, the criteria is met to be considered a company. “The plans right now for the Ukrainian group is to start worshiping in their own language and have community outreach and evangelistic meetings in the fall to reach the Ukrainian community,” says Perez.
It begins at the church level
This opportunity comes alongside a major change in how many of the churches in the conference are connecting with and impacting their local communities. “The challenge is to mobilize people, plant more churches, and baptize more people,” explains Perez. “We are now seeing a lot of churches planted. This conference had an average of two churches planted per year in the past, but I am now working with 23 church planting projects in one year.”
This impact begins at the church level. Those attending the church and interacting with the community around them know the needs better than anyone else. When a church brings an opportunity to conference leadership, it is recognized and action is taken.
The Campbell Church already had Ukrainians meeting at the church, and this inspired them to reach out to the conference leadership. They saw the need and contacted Viloria to talk about the possibilities. The Campbell Church is now the sponsoring church of the new church plant.
Perez adds, “We want to motivate, plant the seed and let the churches take the initiatives. As soon as the Campbell Church told me they wanted to do something for the Ukrainian people I went there and met with the pastors and gave form to this dream—told them things we need to do— but the initiative came from the church.”
The Russo-Ukraine conflict has displaced millions of people, damaged a country, and put a strain on our world. But it has also shown the opportunity many churches have. This opportunity is to reach the people around them by recognizing groups in the community, highlighting their strengths, and ministering to them in a way that celebrates their culture.
■ By Brennan Hallock
Camp Wawona Reopens
And makes the summer a powerful part of outreach
Last summer marked the first time the Central California Conference summer camp at Camp Wawona was able to open since the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close in 2019. This was a major step forward in the conference’s ability to reach youth, and the power of summer camp was shown through the connections it created as well as baptisms.
José Antonio Pagán, Central California Conference Youth Ministries/Camp Ministries Director, said, “I’m so glad that by the grace of God we reopened the program this last summer. We did staff week, and there were wonderful staff. The second week was cub week, with children 7-11 years old. Then we had junior week, and finally teen week.”
The theme of the summer camp was Arise for Jesus, and it included the nature center, sports, wilderness program, craft room, and more. José did much of the training and speaking, along with help from the conference leadership team.
The first week also included pastor Fernando Leite from the Mountain View Central Church in Mountain View, California. The same week, 15 campers chose to give their hearts to God. In addition to these 15 campers, five chose to be baptized last summer. One of the staff members chose to be baptized during staff week. During junior week, three chose to be baptized. And during teen week one chose to be baptized.
Martita M. Pagán, administrative assistant, said that on Sabbath morning of teen week no one had decided to be baptized. They were still grateful for a powerful week, “But a counselor called me on the radio Sabbath morning and said, ‘I have something to share with you. Alexis wants to be baptized,’” Martita said. “We got that notice at 8:30 in the morning and we were supposed to start by 10:30.”
They called Alexis’ mom, and her mom was shocked. Alexis’ mom said she would like to come, but it would take about three hours to drive to the camp. They decided to hold off the service, and her mom made it for her daughter’s baptism. “We praise God for all those decisions,” adds Martita. “We honor and give glory to God for everything that happened this last summer.”
José and Martita are now preparing for the 2024 summer camp program and encourage you to learn more by visiting ccc.adventist.org.
■ By Brennan Hallock