North England Conference PBE Teams Triumph At North American Division Finals
9th May 2019
Thirteen North England Conference (NEC) Pathfinder teams were part of a record-breaking 210 teams participating in this year's North American Division (NAD) Pathfinder Bible Experience (PBE) which took place on 26-27 April 2019 in Rockford, Illinois.
After months of testing and preparation, the 210 teams assembled at Rock Valley College sports hall in Rockford, Illinois. History was made, as never before had more than 200 teams participated in the Division level testing. The British Union Conference (BUC) was well represented this year by 43 teams, 13 of which came from the NEC.
In the BUC, the PBE journey typically started with Pathfinders being put into groups, in the local churches, following a knowledge test on a single Bible book ‒ the gospel according to the Book of Luke. Following the Area level testing, teams which did well progressed to the Conference testing, which was followed by the BUC semi-finals held at Newbold College on 9 March.
This was the beginning of the American adventure for all the teams that gained first place at BUC level testing. Having fundraised, bought flight tickets, secured the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) and suitable accommodation, it was time for the teams to travel to the USA. Most teams travelled a few days before the finals on 27 April, the testing date. For some teams, arriving in America earlier in the week provided an opportunity to visit important Adventist historical sites like the Adventist village, The White Family and Kellogg burial places, as well as the famous Andrews University.
On the eve of the PBE finals, teams were invited to the opening ceremony. The evening started with the praise team leading the congregation in worship, followed by the introduction of all the Pathfinder leaders in the various Conferences, Unions and Divisions. Pastor Dejan Stojkovic, BUC Youth Ministries Director delivered the evening vespers message, based on the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32, a passage which the Pathfinders were familiar with, being part of the book they had focused on for the PBE.
By 8:00 am on the testing date, people were already queueing outside the venue. It was a cloudy and cold morning. As the teams trickled inside the hall to take their seats, Pastor Ikwisa Mwasumbi, NEC Pathfinder Director was already going around and praying for the thirteen NEC teams before the beginning of the PBE testing. The hall was so packed that not everyone could be accommodated. The NAD had to run a video link at a nearby school for those who couldn't be accommodated in the sports hall to watch the testing event.
After the opening formalities, including the introduction of the judges and opening prayer, the test instructions were given to all participants. In total, the test consisted of 90 questions, which were asked in two different languages ‒ English and Spanish. After 45 questions into the test, it was time for a 15-minute break. By now it was snowing outside and a lot colder. The test concluded with another set of 45 questions.
Following a nail-biting wait, the results were announced, which revealed that all the 13 NEC teams had done very well, with 8 teams gaining first place while the rest took second place position. The aim of the PBE is not about what position is gained, but to inspire young people to study their Bibles. The Pathfinders, with the support of their parents, guardians, coaches, Pathfinder directors, and church pastors, dedicated and sacrificed their time to study the Book of Luke. Many Pathfinders have been inspired to participate in the 2020 PBE. The Bible books to study for the 2020 PBE are Ezra, Nehemiah, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah with the same chapters (Ezra 2, 8:1-14, 10:18-44, Nehemiah 7:7-63, 10:1-27, 11:3-12:26) excluded from the testing. The Adventures will only study Ezra and Nehemiah with the same chapters excluded. The host location for the 2020 finals has also been announced as Centralia, Washington.
Pastor Mwasumbi said of the PBE journey, "We give God thanks for this amazing programme and the way it has been taken up by the young people across the Conference. This Church was established on the Word, and to see our young people deeply engrossed in it is great. God is up to something."
Reflecting on her PBE experience, Belma Makore, the Scribe for Team 2, Bradford Central Pathfinder Club, said, "The finals in Rockford were quite intense and we all felt anxious but we continually prayed while writing down the answers and were not too sure whether we would get first place. Eventually, the competition ended and we achieved first place again! Our Bradford Team 2 were thrilled and knew it was only by God's grace that we had come this far and succeeded."
Chrissie Tafatatha, the coach for Bradford Central church had this to say about the whole experience: "As a coach, it was a privilege to work with my team and help them maximise their potential to achieve first place. I am so proud of these Pathfinders for their hard work and commitment. As these youngsters get challenged, we also get challenged to study and memorise the Word of God. We can only thank God for these amazing experiences. PBE is the best programme so far that has attracted thousands of youth to engage themselves in the study of the Word of God. We give glory and honour to God Almighty."
This year saw two churches from the North East, Newcastle and Middlesbrough, participating for the first time in the Pathfinder Bible Experience. Tino Mukanganiki, a member of Newcastle's Christians In Action (CIA) team seems to have been greatly inspired by PBE. She observed that "During the time we did PBE, I began to focus more on God, in school and other things that I did. PBE gave me the opportunity to meet new people, go to new places and taught me to read in my own time without having to be prompted. It gave me the opportunity to talk to people I wouldn't talk to normally. PBE has now made me want to become more involved in other events such as camps etc. I am thankful for the opportunity to go to America, for my parents and teachers and I am thankful for the people who donated money to help us achieve our goal."
HISTORIC ADVENTIST VILLAGE VISIT
NEC teams had the opportunity to go on a tour booked by NEC Pathfinder Director, Pastor Ikwisa Mwasumbi, to visit the Adventist Heritage site on both Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 April. The PBE teams travelled two and a half hours across states from Illinois crossing Indiana into the state of Michigan, which is one hour ahead of Illinois. The Newcastle team took up the offer and arrived at the Adventist Village in Battle Creek just in time for their 10:00 am tour by Bob. Bradford, Middlesbrough, Wednesbury, Bournville, Windsor Street and other PBE teams also visited the Adventist Heritage Village.
The sun was shining although it was still a little chilly. However, it was a beautiful day for the tour which started with an orientation video at the Welcome Centre, followed by a tour of the Dr John Harvey Kellogg Discovery Center on the upper level. Teams then visited William J Hardy's former house where the teams learnt of the story of the African-American Adventist Pioneers ‒ W J Hardy, Anna Knight, C M Kinney, and others. The teams also visited the one-room restored 19th Century Schoolhouse, which was donated by the Battle Creek Historical Society. The teams learned about the growth of Adventist Education from its beginnings in Battle Creek in 1872. The tour guide led the teams to the Parkville church, which was originally located in Parkville, Michigan. This was the first church to be dedicated after the Adventist pioneers chose the name 'Seventh-day Adventist'. The group learnt that it was in this church, on 12 January, 1861, that Ellen G White had a vision predicting the Civil War three months before the first shots were fired.
The tour continued to The Log Cabin where, in July 1852, the lives of David and Olive Hewitt were changed by a sudden knock at the door, leading to an all-day Bible Study with Captain Joseph Bates. This event resulted in David Hewitt becoming the first Adventist convert in Battle Creek. Teams then visited the home that belonged to deacon John and Betsy White (parents of James White) where they were challenged with the idea that no one is too old to change. Here, John, a Sunday keeping deacon for over 40 years accepted the Sabbath after a long study with James and Ellen White. There was so much history of the pioneers to digest but there were still more houses to see. The next one was The Second Meeting House. It looked more like a church inside. Here in the replicated 1857 Meeting House, the PBE teams heard how God blessed the Seventh-day Adventist Church from the beginning. The Church is now a movement numbering over 21 million members worldwide.
That last house visited by the NEC teams was the home of James and Ellen White, located in the centre of the Historic Adventist Village. The 1856 home is where Mrs White wrote Spiritual Gifts Vol. 1, the first edition of The Great Controversy following a vision received in 1858. In addition, the team heard other stories testifying to the family's focus on Jesus. In the corner of one room, there was a piano that was said to have belonged to Ellen G White's son, while upstairs there was a bedroom with a closet that belonged to Mrs White.
At the end of the tour and photo opportunities outside the White family home, the group returned to the Welcome Centre where the Pathfinders and their guardians had a go at using Dr Kellogg's many inventions, including the machine designed to relieve stress and constipation. John Harvey Kellogg was a medical doctor, nutritionist, inventor, health activist, and businessman. The teams donated to the Adventist Village before heading to the White family burial place.
OAK HILL CEMETERY
At Oak Hill Cemetery, the burial site of the White family and Kellogg are just in close proximity of each other. This is the same cemetery where Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree), an African-American abolitionist, author and human rights activist, is buried. She died in 1883 two years after James White died. It would be interesting to know if Sojourner Truth and Ellen G White ever crossed paths in Battle Creek.
The NEC Pathfinders then visited Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, an hour's drive away from Battle Creek. The university was previously known as Battle Creek College, then Emmanuel Missionary College before being named Andrews University, after John Nevins Andrews, an Adventist minister, writer, editor, scholar and the first officially sponsored overseas missionary for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
All in all the trip to America was a resounding success. Not only did the NEC Pathfinders do well in the PBE testing, but they also got to learn about their rich Adventist heritage. Levon Johns, the NEC PBE Coordinator said of the young people, "They did very well with over a 100% improvement on the number of teams that took part last year. I believe the development of this programme is set to get bigger in the coming years, let us all assist our young people to have a knowledge of Christ firmly fixed in their minds so that they can be powerful witnesses for the Lord in these last days."
[Lynne Sesinye Samwinga - Newcastle Communications Dept and Pastor Ikwisa Mwasumbi - NEC Pathfinder Director]