By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
TIOGA – Twenty-five churches in central Louisiana came together this week for an international mission trip in their own backyard.
Providing food every day, teaching English classes and sharing laughs over a day of fishing and swimming at an area lake, the churches’ mission was clear – share the love of Christ to over 40 South Korean children in town for Camp USA.
A partnership of REACH Missions and the Korea Baptist Church Development Board, the camp involves 25 churches in three Baptist associations.
The children are participating in a Vacation Bible School at Alpine First Baptist Church and spending the afternoons participating in activities at area churches.
After a week in Central Louisiana, the campers will depart for southeast Louisiana and spend the remainder of their time in the Ponchatoula area.
While there, the children will participate with American children in a music day camp at First Baptist Church of Ponchatoula. The combined 90-voice choir will present ‘Kidz Under Construction’ at 6:30 pm July 31 at First Baptist Ponchatoula.
“Camp USA expands the vision of God’s kingdom for both the children and the churches here,” said Tim Hisaw, pastor of Tioga First Baptist Church. “We as churches in central Louisiana cooperate together to do things that would be very difficult for one church to do alone. Through our combined effort, the burden of ministry is divided and the blessing of ministry is multiplied.”
Camp coordinator Susan Duke said the cultural experience and opportunity to take English classes are a draw that could lead to something much bigger – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I have had kids who attended camp here and returned to Korea, resulting in leading their parents to a relationship with Christ,” Duke said. “They hear the Word and take it home. That’s such a blessing.”
Duke has visited South Korea on missions trips but noted that not everyone is able to serve like this overseas.
She said Camp USA allows them to be that gospel witness without having to leave the borders of Rapides Parish.
“This is a foreign missions opportunity without having to travel to a foreign country,” Duke said. “To me, that’s the amazing thing of Camp USA. Some people may really want to go on an overseas mission trip but can’t, so they sign up to help with Camp USA and are able to participate in an international mission trip at home.”
South Koreans grateful
For many of the South Korean children, the motivation for attending Camp USA is the opportunity to become immersed in Louisiana culture and brush up on the English language among Americans.
Yu Jun Sik enjoyed spending time with her host family, learning how a family from the U.S. interacts with one another.
“By talking with them during the week, I am able to speak better English,” Sik said. “And we get to learn all kinds of Christian Bible stories that we can share with our friends back in South Korea.”
Seoyeong Park was grateful for the warm hospitality shown by Louisiana Baptists.
“Coming from the city, where most of us live in apartments, it’s neat spending time in a big house,” Park said. “I am making American friends, which I have never had before this week, and I look forward to keeping in touch with them even after I return home. One day I hope to come back here and bring some of my friends so they can experience all the fun and exciting things I have this week here.”
Jeong Seon Ryu, with the Korean Baptist Development Board, said this is his eighth Camp USA and each time it has been life-changing.
“I have a big heart for the children and the American community, who have become my friends through this journey,” Ryu said. “Through the camp, I have been motivated by seeing the children and the churches here to share Christ’s love even more.”