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Adventure, ministry on Pathfinder missions

By plane, boat, mule and foot, Pathfinder Missions teams — an outgrowth of Royal Rangers ministry — have traveled to remote villages to build and remodel churches, schools and orphanages.

"It’s an adventure — and that’s what Royal Rangers is," says Fred Deaver, president of Frontier Camping Fellowship, an arm of the Royal Rangers ministry that reaches boys through the application of early American tradition. "We go to areas where others aren’t able to go."

In some communities, the church or school built by the boys and men in the Pathfinder team is the only permanent structure among thatch dwellings.

The result is always ministry. In some communities, the church or school built by the boys and men in the Pathfinder team is the only permanent structure among thatch dwellings. Newly constructed churches are often filled to capacity immediately after being built.

Pathfinder teams have worked in Panama, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico. They have even worked in Mongolia in the middle of winter.

The idea for the trips was birthed in 1991 while Paul Etheridge, a lieutenant with the Missouri Highway Patrol and a member of the FCF executive committee, was on a MAPS trip in Mexico.

"We found out from a missionary that the construction missionaries can’t really get down into the brush," he says. "There were hundreds of churches in those areas that needed help."

Since then, interest in the program has grown as teams come back and share reports, Etheridge says. It’s teamwork that makes the Pathfinder trips successful, says Darren R. Geesaman, northeast region coordinator for Royal Rangers.

"When you go on a Pathfinder trip, who you are and what you do for a living seems so far away. … Everybody pitches in, works hard, has fun — and we get the job done to the glory of God."

Gerald Jackson, who coordinates builders trips for the Missions Abroad Placement Service (MAPS) of the A/G, went on a Pathfinder trip up the Amazon.

"It was an eight-hour boat trip, and we slept in a hammock on the boat," he says.

Etheridge remembers a trip in the Andes when a team had to rebuild a roadbed to get out of the mountains.

Like all MAPS teams, the Pathfinders raise their own travel costs and money for the project they are going to complete. But the Pathfinders focus on remote areas where projects must be completed under harsh conditions.

"Occasionally there are projects and needs where it’s not practical to take a [typical MAPS] team because there aren’t accommodations for them, specifically food or lodging," Jackson says. "It wasn’t an effort to be ‘Rambo’ or anything like that; it was an effort to meet a need. These teams are self-sufficient. They take their tents, camping stoves, water purification system and MRE’s (meals ready to eat)."

— Becky Walters Reigel and Paul H. Walters II

 

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