IYF English Camp started in Haiti on June 3rd. Nearly 10,000 students from 7 schools are participating until June 11th. They also heard the Gospel in Gospel Class, too.
Many had lost their dreams and lives after the damage from the earthquake in 2010. However, IYF English Camp is delivering hope to them. We interviewed Missionary Hansol Lee to get some of his impressions so far.
IYF: Hello, Missionary Lee.
You had a baby girl last week. Congratulations.
We had this baby after a miscarriage last year. I am very thankful to God she was born healthy.
We’re very thankful too. Tell us how you ended up here in Haiti?
I came to Haiti last February. How I ended up here? Because I was dispatched. (smiles)
Right, so how did you feel when you heard you were being sent to do missions in Haiti?
Frankly, I wanted to come to Haiti. One day, Pastor [Ock Soo Park] went to IYF World Camp in Mexico and students from Haiti came to meet him and asked to send them a missionary. This was after the huge earthquake. From then I wanted to go to Haiti. So, I prayed to God about it. Shortly afterwards, Missionary [Jonghun] Lee went to Haiti. So, I thought, ‘Haiti is not meant for me.’ But not long after, I was dispatched to Haiti as well. It is rare for two young missionaries to be dispatched to the same country. I was very thankful because I felt God really wanted me here.
Let’s talk about IYF English Camp. You’ve been preparing since last February, right? How was last year’s camp?
It was the first IYF English Camp for Haiti last year. Around 5,000 students participated. I am very thankful all of the students listened to the Gospel in the Gospel class. We recruited local volunteers and all 36 volunteers received salvation. They brought joy to our church.
So, did they come to church even after English Camp was over?
Yes. 20 out of the 36 volunteers regularly attend the service. These people built the Haiti Church. Last June, we had to build a new chapel after the English Camp. But we didn’t have access to heavy equipment or machinery. So, one day, 15 people did cement work all night long. However, we realized that we needed more people for it. We called English Camp Volunteers with a sincere heart and asked them if they could help us with the construction. 100 volunteers gathered. It was amazing. Honestly, these students don’t have anything to do on vacation, but I was still very thankful. They all carried and mixed cement with their bare hands. That’s how we built the first floor. When I told them that we had to build the 2nd floor as well, they brought their friends and we had a total of 150 workers. We did construction for 6 months and we couldn’t have built the church without them.
That is amazing. Doing that kind of work with your bare hands sounds extremely hard. It is beautiful to see the volunteers opening and becoming one heart with the church. How are the volunteers this year?
We held workshops for two months before the start of camp. 500 people applied to become volunteers and 300 students wound up attending. I was very thankful to have so many volunteers. However, we had to be somewhat selective, so we sent the students who went against our rules home.
For example, what were some of the rules?
The rules were somewhat strict. We preached the Word everyday during the workshops. If they missed a session or came late for even a day of the workshop, we had to send them home. Volunteers who didn’t have the motivation to participate were also eliminated. We needed volunteers who could receive the heart of God. That’s where we are now: 100 volunteers for dancing, translating, assisting, etc.
It feels like God had to work through IYF English Camp since the volunteering criteria are so connected to His Word. Did the volunteers easily accept these criteria?
Many students’ hearts have changed through the workshop. In the beginning, they questioned things. “Why do I have to listen to the Word at church when I applied to be an English Camp volunteer?” But, then they started to accept the words and received salvation. They testified, saying, “Even if I’m not selected to be a volunteer, I’m very happy I received salvation. I want to be with church.” These volunteers were persecuted while preaching the Gospel to their friends at school. Our hearts were on fire when we heard their testimonies.
Tell us how you prepared for IYF English Camp.
Our goal was to teach 10,000 students. However, we faced difficult situations in the beginning. All the schools in Haiti have finals from May 28th to June 14th. It wasn’t easy to find schools and students who could take four days off for camp. Schools that held English Camp last year easily gave us four days for the English Camp since they knew about our program. However, the new schools that don’t know about IYF had to make a hard decision because of their final exam schedules.
Did we reach the goal of ten thousand students?
Yes. God has worked amazingly. One of the education ministry officials in charge of all schools in Port-au-Prince opened his heart after hearing about IYF. He called each school himself to ask them to host IYF English Camp. We went to visit one of the principals three times but couldn’t meet him because he was very busy. We went to school again for the last time and we met him as he was pulling out of the parking lot. We introduced English Camp for 5 minutes and he said he wants to have the English Camp at his school. We could clearly see that God was working in getting schools for the English Camp.
We give glory to God for allowing so many students to hear the Gospel. What kind of effect do you think this camp is having on the students?
Students in Haiti do not want to go to school and are not attached to it because most of teachers come to school for money. There are many cases when there are no teachers at school. Those students who do not have guidance lose their dreams, and there are no good programs at school for them to get involved with. IYF English Camp is the only unique program that offers different kinds of free classes to all students. After the camp, we can see a heart forming in them: ‘I can speak English, too!’ That’s how we give them their lost dreams back and more than anything else, they gain eternal joy through the gift of salvation. The English Camp is essential for Haitian youths.
Yes, you’re right. How do you feel when you imagine the future of Haiti?
There was a huge earthquake in 2010. The students who remember those moments still have fear in their eyes. There are some people who gave up on their lives and live however they want to live. However, Haiti is changing now. Through IYF English Camp, IYF has carved out an image as a group of people with passion, self-sacrifice, and a heart to pour everything into their work. I believe many more people will attend our IYF events and hear the Gospel. 10,000 students will hear the Gospel by the end of this camp, 20,000 next year, and 30,000 the year after that. Soon, Haiti will be filled with the Gospel.
Please describe Haiti in one word.
I am not sure how this will sound but even if another earthquake hits Haiti, these people won’t fall. They will rise up again.
What would you like to say to people who are interested in overseas volunteering?
We welcome all of you to Haiti. Let us come together for this work of God. You will be able to feel God’s love toward Haiti.
We were smiling throughout the conversation with missionary Lee, hearing him frankly and confidently speak about his hope toward Haiti. God wants to give His love to these people. Like the countless stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the shore, God will save just as many here. And through them, this country will change for good. We thank the Lord who is making Haiti beautiful.