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Students paint, repair, share Christ during World Changers experience

ATLANTA (BP)–“The Master’s Shinglers” found themselves eating lunch in an Atlanta city park June 24, disappointed that their rooftop calling for the week apparently had been circumvented by rain.
But God had other plans for the youth, who were among 336 World Changers helping out with ministry and construction projects across Atlanta June 19-25.
A few of them soon found themselves talking with a homeless man about Christ’s gift on the cross. The man pulled out a worn tract given to him long ago, unread only because he couldn’t read. He didn’t understand how Christ could forgive him of all he had done, and a few of the students read the tract to him and prayed with him as he made Jesus the Lord of his life.
“I think it rained for a reason, because right when he got saved it finished raining,” said Kellie Lewis, a member of First Baptist Church, Fayetteville, N.C., and one of the students who prayed with the man.
The Atlanta World Changers project was the first of two consecutive weeklong projects in the city. It is also one of 50 being held this summer across the United States and Puerto Rico involving nearly 15,000 participants. A dozen teams of college students travel from city to city to assist adult leadership in staffing the projects, which are coordinated by the North American Mission Board.
In some projects — like the first Atlanta effort — the middle- and high-school youth divide their time between a variety of ministry projects and repair and rehabilitation of dilapidated housing. In other cases, their efforts are focused solely on the construction. But in all cases their efforts are designed to demonstrate the love of Christ through service and personal ministry.
“I minister to kids through basketball,” said Hunter Bennett, a member of Concord Baptist Church, Cumming, Ga. “While you’re playing basketball with them, you can share Christ with them.”
In Atlanta, like in many cities, the World Changers volunteers stayed in an elementary school. Students said they battled their share of spiritual warfare — with setbacks including the theft of many students’ personal belongings and the news that the wife of one of the adult leaders had been diagnosed with cancer. But the work went on throughout the city and lives were touched as students demonstrated the gospel in both word and deed.
Through the cooperative efforts of the Atlanta Baptist Association and its churches, a wide variety of projects had been set up across the city. Construction projects — done in cooperation with the local government housing rehabilitation programs — included replacing roofs, building a new porch, painting and other basic projects. Cities provide the materials, while the students provide the labor and personal impact.
Among the many ministry projects were bread distribution, a soccer camp, backyard Bible clubs, a day camp at their host school and even helping out at a private day-care center.
The Little Faces Learning Center, located in a midtown neighborhood long popular among immigrants and internationals, has a central goal of helping preschool children learn English during the time in their lives when such changes still come naturally. The vast majority of families are eligible for public assistance of some sort, and about half of those do not receive it because of family members who may be in the country illegally, according to owner Suepinda Guthrie.
Through relationships with the local Second-Ponce De Leon Baptist Church and the Atlanta Baptist Association, arrangements were made for World Changers to do extensive painting, build a needed partition wall and interact with the children.
“These kids are being a major influence,” Guthrie said. “The role model my kids are seeing — and I’m talking 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds — they are looking at them and seeing, ‘Hey, I can do that. And I don’t have to be out here selling drugs or whatever.’”
Laurin Miller, a 15-year-old cheerleader from First Baptist Church, Fairhope, Ala., spent her mornings painting at the center and afternoons working with a backyard Bible club at Eastland Heights Baptist Church in central Atlanta.
“I get the best of both worlds. I get dirty every morning, and the kids don’t care they are so starved for attention,” she said, later adding, “I’ve always had it lain on my heart that I want to do some mission work.”
Bennett, who played basketball at Eastland Heights during the afternoon, spent his mornings playing with children at the day-care center.
“You never know what their home life is like, and when you show your love to the kids you are showing them Christ’s love,” he said. “And they are drawn. One little boy, he comes up to me every day and gives me a kiss on my hand.”
The Masters Shinglers, working in west-central Atlanta, also demonstrated another aspect of World Changers — the difference it makes in the lives of the participants. Their project of re-roofing a larger home required additional crews from what originally had been scheduled, so the combined group gave themselves their name and established seven goals for the week.
“One of the goals is to grow closer to each other and to God, and it’s so amazing how we have,” said Dee Joidh of Pantala Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. “Today is Thursday, and I can’t imagine in three days I’m never going to see these people again.”
That evening, a new facet of World Changers debuted throughout the city as students went door to door delivering free light bulbs and a message of hope in Christ in a “Turnin’ on the Lights” initiative. Each light bulb was in a box that bears a simple gospel presentation, providing a lasting impression on each family.
The effort is part of an increased effort to make evangelism a more intentional part of World Changers this year, said Karin Hogrefe, NAMB’s student volunteer mobilization national missionary with responsibilities for promotion.
“In years past we’ve really promoted this to be an evangelism opportunity, and students share Christ all the time with residents and people they’ve been working with. But this year we’ve been very intentional about encouraging this by presenting them with a very creative way to she the gospel,” Hogrefe said.
The emphasis was born out in the evangelistic results of the first week of ministry. A total of 292 professions of faith were recorded through 12 World Changers projects, including 23 in Atlanta.
On every day except Thursday in Atlanta, the daily rotation through work and ministry ended each afternoon, with students regrouping for valued appointments with the trailer-mounted shower units in the school parking lot. In the evenings, there was a worship service and time of encouragement to help everyone be ready for the rest of the week. Then it was back to the classroom/dorms for meetings with their church groups and much-needed sleep before starting all over again in the morning.
It’s a similar pattern across the country, one that continues to draw both students and adults back year after year. Larry Williams, project coordinator for the Atlanta project, said he first became involved in 1991 — World Changers’ second year — and has been a convert to the concept ever since.
“You don’t learn to be a car mechanic by reading about being a car mechanic,” Williams said. “You’ve got to get your hands on and do it. And I think that’s what we’ve done with missions now with World Changers. That Wednesday night missions study is important, but if you want to get kids involved, you’ve got to get their hands on it.”

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  • James Dotson