[SLIDESHOW=38713,38714,38715,38716]NASHVILLE (BP) — Thousands of World Changers and P2 Missions volunteers tackled manual labor and served with local churches this summer, often with an impact that will last a lifetime and into eternity.
A woman was able to leave her home in Tennessee for the first time in months after volunteers built a wheelchair ramp. Teams in Cleveland, Ohio, were able to restore a home that was destroyed by fire. A church plant in Philadelphia, Pa., formed a relationship with an established church and was able to secure a place to meet because of painting done by the student volunteers.
These are only a few of the stories from those who served with the two ministries of LifeWay Christian Resources dedicated to week-long short-term missions projects.
This summer, 12,642 World Changers participants served at 900-plus work sites doing manual labor in homes and communities. P2 Missions, previously PowerPlant, encompassed 2,865 participants who served 108 church plants.
Alonzo Johnson, a church planter in Philadelphia, said the work by a group from First Baptist Orange City, Fla., made possible the outreach that Northeast Bible Fellowship had planned for the rest of the summer.
Johnson said the church plant conducted a sports clinic and kids club at a community center the week after the Florida volunteers came to paint benches and clean the area. “The following week’s ministry would not have been possible if we did not have this group willing to do hard work and help us build relationships through cleaning, painting and just talking to people in the community,” Johnson said.
But more than serving with their hands, a special emphasis was placed on training students to share the Gospel this year, Dave MacNeill, a strategist with World Changers and P2 Missions, noted.
“World Changers has always been about using construction as an avenue into a community in order to share the Gospel,” MacNeill said. “This year, more than ever, we saw students take their evangelistic training into the communities where they were meeting a physical need while verbally sharing the Gospel of Jesus.”
That training paid dividends as, in addition to the work provided through World Changers and P2 Missions, 12,851 presentations of the Gospel were made, with 569 people making commitments to follow Christ.
The work and the Gospel presentations came together in Cleveland where Jeff Bodziony is planting Forward Church in the same neighborhood where he previously sold drugs.
A fire damaged the home of a Forward Church member, forcing her and her extended family to live elsewhere. Over the last two years, World Changers worked at the home, cleaning it out, replacing the sheetrock and plumbing, re-roofing and rewiring it so her family could return.
More importantly, however, two of her children have joined Forward Church after turning to Christ through the witness and service of the student teams.
Not only did the projects cause a lasting change for the individuals served, but also for the students who participated. A total of 402 participants professed a call to vocational ministry.
Erin Haley, member of a team from Jessieville First Baptist in Arkansas, said New Circle Church in Indianapolis gave her a greater appreciation for church plants. As a college freshman, she is now exploring and praying “about the possibility of helping with the establishment of a church.”
For Ben Trueblood, LifeWay’s director of student ministry, those moments are part of what makes World Changers and P2 Missions worthwhile. “When I hear stories from youth pastors about their students learning how to share their faith and having an opportunity to do so through one of these projects, it is a special thing,” he said. “That’s something those students will take back to their own cities and be able to make an incredible impact.”
To learn more about this year’s projects or to see plans for 2015, visit World Changers and P2 Missions.
Aaron Earls is a writer with the communications team of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.