The churches involved are all within two hours of each other: Niles Philadelphia Church in Niles, All Nations Church in Berrien Springs, Bethel Church in Grand Rapids, Dowagiac Hispanic, Trinity Temple Church in Kalamazoo, Ghanaian Church in Niles, and Summit Church in Jackson, Michigan.
“We grasped hands across county lines,” said Ramona Minisee, Niles Philadelphia Church Pathfinder leader who was instrumental in forging the joint venture. “I’m encouraged by the increased level of interest for spiritual growth. Parents are excited, and the kids are forming new friendships.”
The idea for the club coalition began in mid-July 2020 when Minisee was impressed to widen the partnerships between the clubs in the area. The Niles Philadelphia Rising Stars Pathfinder Club had begun a partnership with the Dowagiac Hispanic Church in Dowagiac, Michigan after the 2019 Pathfinder Bible Experience (PBE).
Later in the year, Minisee was appointed to the position of Master Guide Coordinator for the Michiana area and part of her responsibilities was to help churches with their Adventurer and Pathfinder ministries. There are 22 churches in the Michiana area and she quickly realized, “this was a tall order” to meet the disparate needs of a relatively large group. Many churches within Lake Region’s Michiana area were struggling with maintaining Adventurer and Pathfinder clubs. “Some churches had two or three children that wanted to be part of a club but had no leader; and some churches had leaders but no children,” Minisee explained. “Then there were churches who had perhaps a leader and a couple of kids but did not feel that enough interest existed to even form a club.”
The looming question was where would she get additional help?
And then it happened.
Six individuals from different churches, stepped forward and voiced a desire to complete the Master Guide requirements. One of the stipulations is to establish and lead out in either an Adventurer or Pathfinder Club.
Minisee said she heard the voice of the Holy Spirit telling her: Create a club that will bring kids, leaders, instructors, and parents together from across the Michiana area who are seeking friendship, networking and social opportunities.
The idea for MAAPS, an acronym for Michiana Area Adventurers and Pathfinders Squad, was formed. But the next question was how to make it a reality?
After getting buy-in from the Pathfinder Area Coordinator, she attended the Michiana pastors’ area meeting to pitch the idea and it was well received. The pastors recognized that Club Ministries is an effective outlet for spiritual growth and engagement, as well as an evangelistic tool for non-Christian youth.
When she met with the Master Guide candidates a plan was forged. Two of the six candidates took leadership of an Adventurers club and inducted nine members. The remaining four candidates decided to work with the Pathfinder club. The Niles Philadelphia Rising Stars/Orion Constellations Club grew from 10 youth, to a club of 24 Adventurers/Pathfinders known as the MAAPS Squad.
One of the goals of MAAPS is to disciple young people for baptism and to that end, three separate Bible study groups were organized to prepare for the Pathfinder Bible Experience (PBE). A seminarian pastor completing his internship at the Niles Philadelphia Church, J.J. Martinez, along with Chaplain Phillip Link from the Niles Philadelphia Church helped the youth with Bible studies. The MAAPS team participated in PBE and went as far as the union testing level finishing in second place.
On April 3, 2021, at the conclusion of a 10-day spring Youth Week of Prayer organized by the Michiana Master Guide candidates, there was a baptism of six young people.
“I thank the Holy Spirit for helping us realize that Adventurers/Pathfinders doesn’t have to stop; it just needs to adapt during a pandemic era,” said Minisee. “This must be done in order to reach our children and prepare them for the Lord’s army.”
Lake Region Youth director Abraham Henry said he has appreciated the leaders going above and beyond during these challenging times. “Unprecedented times require unprecedented measures. These clubs have found a way to not only keep going but to also capitalize on their strengths. I’m just excited about this collaboration because it’s an ideal model for clubs that are struggling independently.”
Inspired by his older brother (David) to become a Pathfinder and get baptized, Michael had been looking forward to baptism for a long time. He was impressed by the things about God his brother David was learning and the honors he was completing. However, at age 9, his family relocated and left him with no options for a Pathfinder club.
His mother grew up in the Calvin Center Church in Cassapolis, Michigan, and was baptized at an early age. She, too, had been a Pathfinder at one time but didn't get far as her son David because they didn’t have the leadership structure to keep things going. But she was very much in favor of Michael being in the club and getting baptized.
Michael shared his excitement with his father. However, his father criticized his decision and spoke against him even having anything to do with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Michael became sad, but he had faith that one day he would become a Pathfinder and get baptized.
Then Michael’s prayers were answered. When MAAPS was formed in January 2021, Michael joined the Friend class of Pathfinders. His mother spoke to Michael’s father saying, “You should not interfere with a heart that wants to receive and follow Christ.”
It took a while to change his mind, but the Holy Spirit did just that. Michael’s dad apologized to him and stood by his side as a witness to his baptism.