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Record numbers of participants, decisions result from 1999 World Changers

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–In a year marked by a renewed emphasis on intentional evangelism, 918 professions of faith were recorded during World Changers work projects this summer that involved a record 13,500 participants.
It was the tenth year for World Changers, which began as a mission education experience sponsored by the former Brotherhood Commission in 1990 and has been sponsored by the North American Mission Board since the agency was formed in 1997.
Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for NAMB, said the shift this year included intentional training in personal evangelism, improved reporting of decisions, and a new experience of door-to-door evangelism. “Turnin’ on the Lights” allowed students to pass out free light bulbs to residents and take advantage of opportunities to share their faith.
“For me personally, the ‘Turnin’ on the Lights’ initiative is a return to the mission education roots of World Changers. We were teaching them not only roofing and those kinds of things, but once again we were teaching them tangible ways to express their faith,” he said. “Many of these students have now done that. They will begin to be intentional about evangelism, and we believe that will manifest itself in other areas of life.”
That interest was reflected in decisions reported by participants during the summer. There were 116 commitments by students to intentionally share their faith with peers as a “campus missionary” on their school campuses, 426 commitments to serve at least one summer or semester as a student missionary, and 161 commitments to career missions service.
In a typical World Changers project, several hundred students and their adult sponsors stay in rented school buildings in the evenings and spend their days painting and rehabilitating dilapidated housing — taking opportunities to share their faith and grow in their own relationship with Christ in the process. Seven of the 51 projects in the United States and Puerto Rico this year allowed students to divide their day between work projects and traditional ministry projects, such as Backyard Bible Clubs and door-to-door surveys.
Volunteers worked on a total of 943 individual work sites this year, and 75 community ministry sites.
This year also marked the first time that logistics for the international projects — seven this year involving 456 participants — were coordinated by the International Mission Board in cooperation with local missionaries.
Burton and Keith Loomis, a student volunteer mobilization associate for NAMB, said although there were an unusually high number of late cancellations, this year’s number of participants was the highest ever — about 10 percent above last year’s total.
And growth is expected to continue. Next year the number of projects coordinated by NAMB will be expanded from 51 to 67, including new efforts in Kingston, Ontario in Canada and Portland, Maine. Also, four projects will be held in Chicago and two in Phoenix as part of the inaugural year of the Strategic Focus Cities evangelistic and church planting effort.
Loomis said one of the trends he has seen is growing interest from cities unrelated to any initiative on the part of Southern Baptists.
“These are people who are hearing about World Changers project in communities and saying, “`How can we get that in our community?’. So the doors are being opened.”
Loomis noted that while there is room for growth among student groups, it has become more difficult enlisting adequate numbers of skilled adult volunteers.
“A great need for us for 2000 is the recruitment of men and women who have skills and abilities in construction that would be willing to serve as crew chiefs,” he said.
In reflecting on this year’s projects, Burton said he continues to see increasing levels of spiritual maturity on the part of student participants.
“One of the things I’ve seen happening (among summer youth group trips) in the 90s is a move from tokenism to significant ministries,” he said. “… God is moving among the students, students are responding, and their leaders value this. The bottom line is, if the student leaders don’t see the need … then it doesn’t happen.”
He told of one instance in Clarksville, Ga., where he saw teenagers actually talking about appointments they had made to share Christ with individuals during their stay.
“To hear that kind of talk from 15, 16, 17, and 18-year-olds is deeply encouraging,” he said.

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  • James Dotson