When the COVID-19 pandemic took a turn for the worst in February of 2020, Joshua Park, a pastor in Houston, was far away from home. He was in New York City where he was inviting representatives from different ministries to send a pastoral conference that was scheduled to be held on March 16th on Long Island. On Thursday, March 12, the governor of New York announced a ban on all gatherings of more than 500 people. Despite the initial shock, Pastor Joshua and his fellow administrators decided to postpone the conference indefinitely. That evening, he hopped into his car and started the long 24-hour drive back down to Texas.
“At that me, we couldn’t imagine how severe Coronavirus would be and how much of our lives would change. There was only one thought revolving around in my head during the drive back home: ‘Are we ever going to have the chance to do our summer programs?’” reminisced Pastor Joshua.
The most prominent summer program on Pastor Joshua’s mind was the IYF World Camp, a youth leadership summit that regularly welcomed over 2000 students from across the country every year since 2011. Young people from the west coast to the east coast, even some from Canada, gathered to participate in group-recreational activities, engage in character development sessions, and listen to leadership lectures from renowned speakers and trendsetters. Past keynote lecturers have included Ms. Caryl Stern, CEO of UNICEF USA; Ms. Sandra Cauffman, Deputy System Program Director at NASA; and Mr. Chris Broussard, an award winning journalist for ESPN, among others.
Through discussions with the leaders of the other ministries who compose the administration of the IYF World Camp, the need remained the same: students need helpful extracurricular activities that inspire them and spiritual counseling that prints the mind of Christ on their hearts. Thus, the camp needs to happen. “’But, do the summit in the middle of a pandemic?’ That was the big elephant in the room for us at the IYF.” chuckled Pastor Joshua. “How can we have this program for students to be together if they are not allowed to be together?”
Then, during one of the many meetings over Zoom, a member of the committee suggested doing the camp online. The idea seemed incredulous at first but the more the camp administrators talked about it, the undertaking seemed more and more possible. A massive brainstorm ensued. Can’t go to the beach for the afternoon activity? Let’s do a virtual scavenger hunt instead. Can’t invite professionals to teach baking, robotics, photography, and graphic design for the morning career experience session? Let’s invite them to do the same through Zoom. Particularly, similar to Ezekiel 37, skeletons of ideas and half-thoughts that seemed far fetched started to wear sinews, flesh, and skin. Thus, the IYF Online World Camp was born.
Back in New York, Pastor Joshua said that his excitement is coming to a boiling point. Programs designed to unite the hearts of parents and children have been installed throughout the camp schedule. Instead of young people killing me by playing games, watching TV, and surfing the internet, they can experience leadership, connect with people from all over the world, and grow spiritual fortitude not only through principles on character and leadership but also Biblical truths as well. If you would like to learn more about the upcoming IYF Online World Camp or even participate in it, please visit www.iyfusa.org/worldcamp.