A Salt Mine, Some Fossils, and Concentration Camps
In Poland, Trans-European Division Master Guide camp builds memories for life.
How do you define the high point of an event when there are too many to pinpoint? That is the challenge for the 144 attendees returning from the seventh Trans-European Division (TED) Master Guide camp near Krakow, Poland.
The Master Guides gathered first at Rynek Główny, the medieval market square in Krakow, for the four-day campout held June 21–24, 2018, and were welcomed by the TED Pathfinder director, Peter Bo Bohsen, and the Polish volunteers.
Down to a Salt Mine
Traveling directly from the square, Master Guides were driven to their first big surprise of the weekend, Bochnia Salt Mine, the oldest salt mine in Poland, established in 1248. In a ride down a mine shaft in a very small elevator, the group descended to about 250 meters(800 feet) below the surface of the earth, where the camp’s flag-raising and opening ceremony were held in a stunning meeting hall. Polish Union Youth and Pathfinder director Marek Micyk greeted the expectant crowd. “From the deepest of the earth and the deepest of our hearts, we welcome you to Poland.”
Saturday-night bonfire at Korzkiew; Israeli Master Guides teaching the other attendees a folk dance to “Hava Nagila.” [Photo: Trans-European Division News]
Bochnia mine meeting hall. The mine management was so impressed with the Master Guides' flag ceremony that managers asked permission to use photos for their official publicity. [Photo: Trans-European Division News]
Master Guides joined hands to sing “Side by Side” at the closing ceremony at the Zamek Korzkiew castle. [Photo: Trans-European Division News]
Underground, and far away from access to smartphone coverage and social media, the group took an interactive tour around the mines and rode a 140-meter(450-foot) downhill slide, finally spending the night on bunk beds with salt-filled mattresses.
“It’s always fun to be the guinea pig for a new AY honor: this year, it was ‘mining,’ and last year, it was the ‘midnight sun’ [honor],” said Sajitha Forde-Ralph from England.
After emerging from the mine on Friday morning and relocating to Korzkiew, the Master Guides had the opportunity to spend time in their units, getting to know each other, sharing skills, and taking part in workshops such as rope making, video editing, and making a clay pizza oven.
Kim Hagen Jensen from Denmark spoke at worship time on creation vs. evolution. Listeners found the talks inspiring, challenging, and encouraging. Master Guides were encouraged to speak confidently to their Pathfinders about issues of creation and explain the place of science and the Bible in their lives.
Csaba Péter Kassai, a club leader from the Hungarian Union, commented, “We explored the depths of the creation and evolution debate in a way that you rarely encounter — in the light of the Bible.” He went on to say, “It was special to experience the feeling of the friendly, welcoming, and loving atmosphere that permeated the whole camp. Different people coming from many places formed a community and were able to work together.”
Fossils and Mission Stories
Another highlight came on Saturday afternoon as the group listened to Wiesław Szkopiński share a presentation and exhibition about fossils before choosing to either go on a hike or on an excavation to dig for fossils. To conclude the Sabbath, Milan Moskala, a missionary serving in Bangladesh, delivered a powerful testimony. For many, this was one of the most inspiring moments of the camp. The day ended with a bonfire complete with games, cultural items, and lots of laughter.
Danish Union Pathfinder director Mads Kivikoski reflected, “For me,the opportunity to join a camp for Pathfinder leaders from all over Europe is challenging and inspiring. We were able to bond with [the] local team in a completely new and intense way, building even stronger relationships across our region.” It was a sentiment echoed by many participants.
Visiting Concentration Camps
The Master Guide camp concluded in the heights of the Romanesque Zamek Korzkiew castle on Sunday afternoon. While that was the grand finale, for some attendees it was not the end. Following the official close of camp, some Master Guides took the opportunity to visit Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps, where more than 1.1 million people lost their lives.
For leaders whose role it is to instill life and hope into young Pathfinders, it was a sobering and somewhat terrifying afternoon. Many Master Guides expressed their hope that atrocities like those never happen again. It also reinforced the ethos of Pathfinders as expressed in the pledge shared at the start of every Pathfinder meeting: “By the grace of God: I will be pure, kind, and true. I will keep the Pathfinder Law. I will be a servant of God and a friend to man.”
József Szabó from Hungary summarized the highlights of the event, saying he especially enjoyed the “delicious food … the kind and excellent brothers and sisters, and the answered prayers” during the days together. “I got a lot, and I was recharged,” he said.
This story is adapted from a longer original version posted on the Trans-European Division website.
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