On August 10-12, 2015, Jerusalem Ministry had our 8th annual soccer camp for 3rd – 6th grade boys from different children’s homes in Seoul. We had a total of 58 boys participate (one arriving a day late) from eight different orphanages. They were divided into four teams: Argentina, Spain, Brazil, and Germany. Each team had their own coach and about seven or eight assistants/helpers (soccer moms). There were altogether about 45 volunteers serving at the camp.
Our main objectives for the camp were joy, confidence, and unity among all the boys. Usually it takes some time for the boys to open up because of their own insecurities, but at this camp the boys started smiling from the very beginning. We have never witnessed so much teamwork, love among the boys (regardless of age), great attitudes, and joy! While there were some struggles here and there with different boys, we witnessed so many breakthroughs! Please be blessed looking through these pictures and reading some of the testimonies from the camp.
But first, I want to show you a picture of the championship team from our very first camp in 2008. This will give you an idea of how much our ministry has grown over the years and how much more effectively we are reaching the kids.
This was taken on the last day of the camp right after the boys won the championship. You can see two boys clearly smiling, a few boys looking at the camera, and a few other boys looking away. We only had a few volunteers per team at this camp (this team had three, which was the most out of the four teams) and very limited funding and training. The boys did have a good time at this camp, but there were also a lot of anger outbursts, wandering off, and ignoring of the volunteers. It wasn’t easy to say the least. The least loved are the least able to love. We were undermanned and inexperienced, so that first camp was by far the most difficult we’ve had.
Now look at the championship team from our camp last week: Team Argentina
Notice how all of the boys are looking at the camera and almost all of them are smiling happily. And this was taken on the first day, just hours after the camp began! Already the boys were opening up. And look at all those volunteers! Our volunteers were phenomenal during the camp, as you’ll get to read in some of the testimonies I’ll share near the end of this post. If you’d like to hear more about how the camp has developed and powerful stories from the ministry, then please listen to the audio link at the beginning of the blog – Creating a Kingdom Culture.
Now let’s get to the photos. The boys who had been at the camp before were excited from the moment they arrived. And their excitement would rub off on the new boys…
Running to meet the volunteers
The boys received full uniforms (shirt, shorts, socks) and shoes. These were thanks to the sponsorship of American Women’s Club and Second Hand Rose Thrift Shop on the US army base. The kids were so happy to receive the new clothes. They proudly wear them throughout the year.
After all the boys were put into their teams and dressed, we had orientation and a word of prayer to start the day.
Then each of our four coaches had different team building activities for the kids. For team Brazil they got into two lines and put their arms out. Each boy would have to walk through with his eyes closed, trusting that the other kids and volunteers would lift their arms for him.
Here is another fun team building activity. I don’t know the name of it, but the boys (and some volunteers) were divided into two groups and the boy in front had to grab the last boy from the other group in order to win. The boys loved it (including the boy barely holding on)!
After team building exercises each coach led the boys in different soccer drills. Here is Team Brazil warming up…
Kyoo Min on Team Brazil broke his arm the week before the camp and missed the first day because he had to go to the doctor’s for a checkup on it. Despite the injury he still really wanted to come and joined us for day 2 and day 3. I had to keep him out of competitive games, but we allowed him to do the drills and activities. He loved the camp!
It didn’t take long for the boys and the volunteers to begin to bond
A bunch of my boys happened to be on the same team. Here is Hyun Bin, Min Ho, and Jung Ho practicing in the morning.
By lunch time on the first day the boys were all connecting with each other. And they loved the meals we provided for them.
The volunteers also enjoyed this downtime to connect with the boys a bit more.
Here is my wife Sky with a boy she had helped escort back in 2012 and 2013. Even though he had grown a lot and is now in his awkward stage (6th grade), he was still sweet to Sky.
It was such a blessing to watch the boys bond with each other and with the volunteers. These are kids usually flooded with insecurities and fear, but at this camp because they felt so safe they were able to relax and really have fun.
After lunch on the first day we had a dodgeball activity and then we took the team pictures. Here are the other teams… Team Brazil
At the end of the first two days we had practice games. I served as a referee as did a social worker from my children’s home (two different fields). I would line the boys up and give them instructions on having a healthy attitude and being a good team player. Then I would have them shake hands before starting the match.
Each coach would then huddle their team together for a brief pep talk and then have them all put their hands in the middle for a big cheer.
The teams were all even in terms of talent, so every game was fun and intense.
Kang from my children’s home was in the baby room when I first arrived at the end of 2005. At this camp he was one of the tallest and oldest (6th grader).
Team Spain after scoring a goal
Our volunteers were so good at cheering on their boys.
At the end of each match we would have the boys line up and shake hands. In past camps some of the boys would be sore losers and we would have to teach them to have a good attitude. But at this camp the boys were so sweet to each other. We had a number of new boys to the camp, but as they witnessed the healthy behavior of the boys who had attended before they also acted in a healthy, loving way.
On the 2nd day in the afternoon our five Jerusalem Ministry interns led the teams in some different relay races. Our interns did a phenomenal job and all the boys loved it! Just look at the faces of these kids!
Here I’m helping two of the boys during a part of the relay.
This is the biggest boy of the camp and one of the smallest boys of the camp doing one part of the relay together. Usually you run side by side with the ball in between you, but instead the bigger boy (6th grader) picked up the smaller one (3rd grader) and ran. They were so cute!
Here are a couple Germany boys who fell to the ground laughing after the relay because it was so much fun.
Team Argentina celebrates after winning one part of the relay.
Through all the activities, unity became stronger and stronger among the boys.
On the last day we had the tournament and also had a fun penalty kick shootout activity where each boy got a shot against me and against another volunteer. The boys loved this! Here is Team Germany celebrating after a goal.
Here is Team Argentina after winning the tournament
After the tournament we had lunch and then gave awards for Sportsmanship (most important!), MVP, and the penalty kick shootout team also got a prize. After lunch we went swimming together. Swimming is always a great way to end the camp!
Then, as a soccer camp tradition, the championship team got taken out for a special meal. Vatos Urban Tacos fully sponsored the meal for the boys and the kids were blown away by the great food and special service that they received.
Here is Tony, one of our interns, having fun talking with the kids. The boy next to him was the MVP of the team and a wonderful example to the younger boys.
I couldn’t do this ministry without these two! These are two of my full time staff, Jee and Mijeong, who have been serving with me for many years.
Here is volunteer Teresa saying goodbye to one of her boys after the dinner.
Testimonies! There are so many beautiful testimonies from the camp. This blog is already super long, so I’ll just share a few…
Each camp we get a few boys that are extra difficult. The orphanages will warn us about these boys in advance. These boys will be quick to complain, will get angry easily and curse, and will rebel against almost any command. We’ve had our hands full over the years with different difficult kids and we did have a few tough moments during this camp. But to our joy, a lot of the really tough kids had great breakthroughs at the camp. Two boys that gave us a ton of trouble at past camps ended up winning their team’s sportsmanship award this year. Praise God!
Here is a picture of the toughest boy from Team Spain. If you scroll back up to look at Spain’s team picture you’ll see he him sitting in the middle not looking that happy (it was Day 1). But his demeanor changed quite a bit through the camp. The volunteers didn’t give up on him and soon the boy’s hard shell had been cracked and he was having a great time.
Meet Jung Ho. He is a 4th grader and this was his second camp. Look closely and you’ll notice his right foot is wrapped up and in a boot. He had sprained his foot the previous week before the camp and couldn’t play. Despite the injury he insisted on attending. Last year was his first camp and his attitude wasn’t that good, but he gradually got better. At this camp he was amazing. He never complained about not being able to play but instead cheered on his team and kept positive. We were so proud of him!
Here is Jung Ho having fun with his coach
While Jung Ho couldn’t play soccer because of the boot, he still managed to participate in some of the activities.
This next boy is Soo Jung. He is a 5th grader and this was his first soccer camp.
Unlike most of the other returning boys, he was unfamiliar with how the camp was run and was insecure when he first arrived. Soo Jung would have moments of smiling and enjoying the camp, and other moments of picking fights with the other boys and being upset.
At the end of the second day he picked a fight with another boy on his team and they got upset at each other. While the other boy calmed down quickly and was willing to make up, Soo Jung completely shut down and just laid on the field not responding to anything. Psychologists would call this, “flooding.” His insecurities, anger, and fear had flooded him to the point that he completely shut down. After about 20 minutes of this he finally got up and walked to a corner of the field with his head down, still not responding to anyone. At this point one of the volunteers called me over and told me what had happened. The volunteer smiled at me and said, “Soo Jung is all yours.”
So what do you do to help an orphan you barely know come out of this flood of unhealthy emotions? I prayed and asked God for wisdom and love as I walked over to him. I came beside Soo Jung and kneeled down so that we were at even level. I gently placed one hand on his back and the other on his chest and asked him if he was okay. He didn’t respond, so I began speaking life. I told him that he is a good kid and that I was really glad he was at the camp. I told him that I know he has a pure heart and that this moment of anger and frustration isn’t who he really is. I asked him if he had been blessed by the camp and he nodded his head slowly in response. I told him that we all love him and that the other boy doesn’t hate him and wants to make up. I told Soo Jung that he should shake hands with the other boy, and that by shaking hands he is choosing to forgive the other boy and forget about the tough moment and continue to enjoy the camp. I told Soo Jung he is a strong kid, and then asked him if he is willing to shake the other boy’s hand. He nodded okay. I called the other boy over and they shook hands and Soo Jung then returned to his team. The next day some of the volunteers, unaware of what had happened the day before, mentioned that Soo Jung’s attitude was completely different and that he was opening up a lot more. He had softened up. The kingdom of God was breaking through within him. Praise the Lord!
Below is a picture of Soo Jung with volunteer Jasmin on the last day. Jasmin shared with me after the camp that she made sure to speak life over every boy on her team throughout each camp day. Some of the kids soaked in the words and happily responded to her high fives and hugs, but some of the kids refused to open their hearts. Soo Jung was her toughest boy. He would even react in disgust and offense to any form of affirmation or encouragement from Jasmin. But she didn’t let up. She knew she had love in her that he was lacking, and so she couldn’t let herself be discouraged but had to keep strong for him. And sure enough, by the third day Soo Jung finally began to receive her words. He was able to look at her, say thank you to her encouragement, and respond to her high fives. He stopped shaking off her touch, as you can see in this picture. All the love was gradually sinking in.
Here is Soo Jung bonding with another boy on his team. By the last day he was completely relaxed.
This is volunteer Luke with Ki Baek. Luke’s testimony is powerful and you’ll be blessed to read it.
Luke’s testimony: “In the middle of the camp, Ki Baek wanted to know why all the volunteers were here, for no pay, no reward and why I loved hugging him. And I told him, “It’s because we all loved him so much, and that Jesus taught us to go out and love people. Jesus loved us first and died in doing so, and we want to share that love with the world.” Throughout the camp, I constantly focused on the idea that every person on earth was God’s flawless creation that was loved by the most powerful being in the universe. Whenever the kids fought, I would go to them and instead of disciplining them, I told them that they were creations of God, loved and mighty, with the power of God lingering in their bodies. Not many of the kids had great effects, but Ki Baek definitely had the effect. After intensively talking about Jesus’ love for him, he was speechless. Right there, he was shocked. He told me he had never heard about love, he that lived in a ‘jungle’, which the strongest only survived. He thought he was abandoned. Abandoned by his own parents. Abandoned by so many people that had said had come to help him.
I told him, yes that may be true, but you have more people in this world that pray for you and love you. Because God told us to, and He loves you so much. I came here to volunteer and coach you because Jesus loved me. I told him about my testimony as well, how I was neglected by my parents, and often beat up. I told him about all the things in my life that had brought me almost to death, and then how Jesus’s love shocked me. I bared it all in that moment, fully sure that this was the moment that Jesus had set up… to change a boy’s life.
Right there, he stared into the air for 30 solid seconds… and then after a long silence, he asked, can you tell me more … about God and his love? …. and so we went on, continually talking, until lunch was ready, and I told him to go eat.
This kid was the one that I was able to minister to, talk about God’s love and how he was loved beyond what he could imagine… and it struck his heart. Especially orphans are sensitive to that kind of stuff… I think there was something very special about that moment. We had that deep connection, and I could sense the Holy Spirit moving right there.”
I would end up driving Ki Baek back to the children’s home. I asked him who his favorite volunteer was and he told me it was Luke. Luke had clearly made an impact in his life.
A special thanks to the following for helping make this camp possible…
– Second Hand Rose Thrift Shop for sponsoring the uniforms, meals, and some supplies
– American Women’s Club for sponsoring the shoes for all the boys
– Vatos Urban Tacos (http://vatoskorea.com/en/) for sponsoring the championship team’s meal and being great hosts for the kids
– Calvin and Ariel Bodiford for helping us with registration and a lot of admin with the Yongsan army base, and also for sponsoring one of the lunches
– Jubilee Church (http://jubileeseoul.com/) for providing the transportation fees for all 58 boys during the camp
– KKOOM (http://kkoom.org/) for sponsoring the swimming and prizes for the boys
– Young and Grace Ko for running errands for us before the camp and providing most of the snacks for the boys along with sunscreen lotion
– Macey Martinez for helping escort everyone on base, being our staff’s personal helper and running around all over the base to get water, ice, and other needed supplies, and having a great attitude through it all… and also a special thanks to her aunt and uncle for allowing her to use their minivan and for coming to my apartment to pick up supplies for the camp
– Allen Nettrour (http://www.studiolumiere.net/) and Joyce Ku for taking amazing pictures during the camp
– Jisu Choi for filming the camp (the video will be released soon)
– All of the coaches (Larry, Daniel, Tyson, and Calvin) and volunteers who made this camp so amazing. Thank you for your love and your faithfulness!
The boys are already excited for next year and the girls have been asking us a lot about our next Arts and Crafts Camp (January 2016) for them. I hope you were blessed by the pictures. If you would like more information about our ministry please see our little website: www.jerusalemministry.org. We would welcome donations (see the Give tab). Funds would go to these camps, to needs for the kids (school books, supplies), and to other special activities for the children. Our staff all raise support individually, separate from the ministry.
Praise the Lord for another successful camp!