By Joe Dupree, Message Staff Writer
PINEVILLE/PONCHATOULA – The sights and sounds of children laughing, talking, and having fun will be the norm around area churches when Camp USA gets underway in the Central Louisiana area over the next week.
In 2003, when David Cranford was pastor at Tioga First Baptist, he and Charles Lowery (then a member of First Baptist Pineville) met with Paul Lim of the Korea Baptist Church Development Board and began discussing bringing South Korean children to the United States as part of a camp experience.
“Korean parents are willing to send their children abroad because it gives them a chance to be exposed to different cultures from other countries and a chance to learn about those cultures,” said Cranford current pastor at First Baptist Ponchatoula.
When Cranford became the new pastor at First Baptist Ponchatoula, he brought with him the work of Camp USA to Ponchatoula, where they hold a music camp for the Korean children. They will also be presenting a musical on Sunday evening, August 2, at 6:30.
The thriving ministry dates back more than 40 years when the Korea Baptist Convention’s Home Mission Board and the Louisiana Baptist Convention collaborated as part of REACH Missions Partnerships out of Ponchatoula.
“The goals of the camp are to introduce these children to the life of Jesus while we teach them about culture in the U.S. and Louisiana,” Cranford said.
Cranford also hopes the participation of the children and teachers in this year’s camp will translate to a willingness to be involved in the upcoming South Korean Mission trip that is set for Oct. 21 through Nov. 2. You can sign up and receive more information by visiting www.reachmissions.com.
After Cranford left Tioga in 2008, Tim Hisaw took his place as the pastor and continued the church’s lead role as coordinator of Camp USA with the help of Susan Duke, who is the official camp coordinator and a member of Tioga First Baptist Church.
Sunday July 19), First Baptist Pineville got the Camp USA kicked off with a fellowship meal and a joint worship service with other area churches for the Koreans in the evening.
During the week of July 20, Gateway Baptist of Ball will be hosting VBS for the elementary-aged children. First Baptist Church in Montgomery will host a VBS for the middle school-aged children. And in the afternoon, the children will be at Kingsville Baptist where they will participate in English classes and other cultural activities.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the Korean children to come to the United States and learn about our culture,” said Hisaw.
Other area churches, such as Trinity Baptist, the Gathering Place and Faith Baptist will be hosting other fun activities such as hay rides, paddle boating, and jumpers for the Korean children. Cross Branded Cowboy Church in Pineville will host a hamburger dinner while also teaching the children about horseback riding.
“It is a joy each year to see the Lord put this unique missions opportunity together to be used for His glory,” Cranford said.