Thirty-three Lake Union Pathfinder teams gathered on March 18 at the Village Seventh-day Adventist Church in Berrien Springs, Michigan, to test their knowledge of the book of John and its corresponding Bible commentary. [Jonathan Logan]
Teams scoring 90% or higher earn 1st place and can advance to the next level. Of the 33 teams who made it to the union level, 16 placed 1st and now move on to the division level.
“Making it to the Union level is an accomplishment. But going to the Division level is just the topping on the cake. We’re so proud of the teams who’ve made it this far,” says Craig Harris who has the dual title of Pathfinder director for Michigan Conference and Lake Union Club ministries coordinator.
The Pathfinder Bible Experience encourages teams to thoroughly study the Bible. Pathfinders accept the challenge of memorizing chapters and, in some cases, entire books of the Bible.
“The best thing for me is studying the Bible more in-depth. You get to learn and memorize these stories and take it to heart,” says Jacob Rushford, a pathfinder from Wisconsin’s Waukesha Warriors.
For one team from the University Church and Lansing Spanish Church, their first-place finish at the union level is something no one could’ve predicted.
They formed just four months ago with three Pathfinders, instead of the typical five or six. Lucas Chambi, Adele Chambi, and Ty Ramos came together and began the enormous challenge of trying to commit 7-8 chapters of John to memory. Along with their coach Judy Ramos, they understood how difficult it would be to make it past even their area level since they would be testing with two very strong teams who were no strangers to the rigors of daily practice.
“We just encouraged them to do their best and we’d see what happens,” explains Ramos. “There was no pressure or expectations.”
A week or so later, Imanuel (Manu) Ramos, who is a junior at GLAA, heard about the situation and volunteered to help. He had been on the Lansing PBE team for four years from 5th-8th grade but decided to quit when he went to high school. He came out of retirement, joined the local church’s ELLS Pathfinder club and PBE team. He took one chapter from each of the three Pathfinders for a total of three chapters plus the Andrews Bible Commentary for John.
They tried to meet once a week for practice with the three Pathfinders in Lansing (Lucas, Adele, and Ty), and saved time by eating dinner together. But their conflicting schedules often made it tough to get together.
Manu studied on his own at GLAA and would try to coordinate practice sessions during his home leave. His first practice with the team was in January, the day before area level testing. They all studied independently whenever they could squeeze the time in --- morning devotions, while traveling in the car, late evenings, weekends, snow days, and during the holiday breaks.
“They put in the work and God truly blessed their studies,” says Ramos. “They shocked us all when they finished first place in area and continued with first place finishes through the union testing.”
David Currier coaches the Cicero Indiana Club and grew tired of creating questions to help his team practice and study. He decided to create a tool that generates practice quizzes.
While the North American Division Youth department which oversees PBE gives one practice quiz on its website, to truly reinforce the material Currier says requires way more flash quizzes. PBEAcademy.com was born and now in its second year has saved Indiana teams many prep hours.
“It can be a little exhausting to go through a 90-question quiz,” says Currier whose daughter participates in PBE, “and this has made our lives so much easier.”
Currier describes himself as a hobbyist programmer and said they received over 2,000 unique visitors to the site this year, indicating they're tapping into a big need. He plans to enhance the website in time for next year’s meet when the books are Joshua and Judges.
Stacey DePluzer is Illinois’s assistant to the Youth director and says that it is extremely gratifying to watch the Pathfinders excitement, even if they came in second or third place. “They know that they have done their best and are proud of the work they’ve done. They are winners because they have stored the word of God.”
For an event of this magnitude, it takes an army of volunteers for things to go smoothly. According to Craig Harris, over 550 moms and dads, coaches, club directors and friends came to the Village Church for the union testing.
“We had great volunteers from all over our union that made our day go smoothly. We served over 570 meals --twice. Lunch and supper. But like any Pathfinder event, it went smoothly, as it was well planned and implemented. Also, they loved the food!”
The North American Division level finale will occur April 21-22 at the Florida State Grounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida. Stay tuned to the Lake Union Herald Facebook page and YouTube channel for live coverage!
Felicia Tonga is the assistant Communication director for Lake Union Conference.