Spiritual gathering draws thousands of faithful to Oshkosh

OSHKOSH - An event of international proportions is back on the grounds at the EAA. Of course, it's not AirVenture.

It's described as a spiritual rite of passage for youth and adults.

"You get to know a lot of people, and it's like you can live again with like more faith," Lucca Amorim of Brasilia, Brazil.

The Camporee, put on by the Seventh Day Adventist Church's Pathfinder Program every five years, is a huge draw.

"It's nice to know that other people kind of have the same beliefs that you do like all the way across the world," said Ashleigh Tihi of Melbourne, Australia.

Nearly 50 thousand people from 80 countries made the pilgrimage to Oshkosh.

"We're just hoping to, I guess, become closer to God. I think it's an amazing experience to come from the other side of the world to experience something like this," said Simona Kiuljac of Victoria, Australia.

The event is an opportunity for people to share their faith with new friends. Many make them by trading pins.

"When I see the people from another country, China, for example, Mexico, it's very special when I have the pins. I say wow! I remember the last camporee in Oshkosh," said Jose Esten of Orlando, Florida.

Near the campsites, I spotted a number of anvils. So what do they have to do with a camporee? Blacksmithing is just one of the many activities here that offer people a chance to learn new skills.

"It's the kind of thing I like doing. Like craft work and something tangible," said Andrian David of London, England.

David says she's enjoying the experience even though it's a little scary.

"I think it's a little bit more challenging, because I'm kind of frightened of how hot it's going to get," said David.

Others offer their skills to the surrounding community through service projects.

"Since we believe that Jesus is everything to us, we have to give an example," said Amorim.

It's a gathering of people who want to make a difference in their communities and their own own lives in a positive way.

"I love to be here," said Tihi.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Kiuljac.

"It's like the best thing ever," said Amorim.

The weeklong event, which has been in Oshkosh three times before, is held every five years.

The group says it plans to return to Oshkosh in 2019.