CHEYENNE, Wyo. (BP)–“Good-bye mi hijos,” Maria said as they closed the front gate to leave. They weren’t exactly sure what she meant, but the look on her face said she was thankful — very thankful.
One might suppose she was thankful for their company during lunch. She was, after all, an elderly woman, living alone in a small, one-bedroom house. Over homemade tortillas and beans, the group of students had done their best to overcome the language barrier. Eighteen-year-old Reyes had translated quite nicely.
Maria, though, was thankful for much more than any of the meager attempts at her language. More than anything, she was thankful for the group of 12 individuals repairing her home that week. She was thankful for the new windows that would keep her warm during the winter months. She was thankful for their hard work and sacrifice. She was thankful for the love they were showing her, expecting nothing in return.
This group of 12 was no ordinary group of kids. They were what are known as “World Changers.” World Changers is an organization which seeks to change the lives of its participants by giving them the opportunity to change someone else’s world. Established in 1990, the organization is sponsored by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
More than 250 people traveled to Cheyenne, Wyo., from all over the United States to participate in the week-long World Changers project last summer. Divided into teams, they were sent across the city to repair homes and share the love of Christ with those in need.
Twenty of those 250 World Changers in Cheyenne came from South Texas Children’s Home — a childcare facility affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas with campuses in Beeville, Goliad and Corpus Christi. For these 20 individuals, a mission trip to Cheyenne was especially meaningful: For many of them, the 1,300-mile road trip to Cheyenne was their first opportunity to leave the state of Texas, to see mountains and, believe it or not, to stay in a hotel.
Eighteen-year-old Reyes, the translator, has been a resident of South Texas Children’s Home since age 12. Reyes described the trip as a chance to show the love of Christ that has been shown to him at the children’s home — to change someone else’s world just as his was changed.
“On this trip, God made me bolder to confront people about His Word,” Reyes said. “God was able to use me as an interpreter for a woman who didn’t speak English. She really enjoyed us all and was very hospitable.”
Joining the children on the trip were several staff members from the children’s home. Caseworker Becky Moore, who was personally touched by the experience, recounted, “God showed me that life is full of world-changing moments. If I am willing and humble, He will use me.”
This being her first experience with World Changers, Moore was pleased with the program, especially how it provided an opportunity for the children of South Texas Children’s Home to grow and experience things they don’t normally get to experience.
“Seeing our students willing to serve and get dirty to help others was a blessing,” Moore said. “God, in turn blessed them with the opportunity to see His beauty in the Rocky Mountains and in making many new friends.”
To make the trip financially possible for the South Texas Children’s Home group, many churches, organizations and a donor through the North American Mission Board gave gifts designated to cover the registration fees, room and board and travel expenses.
South Texas Children’s Home Boothe Campus administrator Greg Huskey, who led the children’s home group in Cheyenne, underscored the importance of an opportunity for the children to serve others.
“We want our kids to be able to come full circle and give back what has been given to them,” he said. “It’s just an amazing thing when these kids get the chance to do that. When they have been shown God’s love, they will go out and give that love freely to others and that’s what it’s all about.”
Alabama native Kendra Morris, a World Changers summer staff member for the past six years, was on staff at the Cheyenne project this summer. Morris was amazed to have a group from a children’s home working on a World Changers project.
“I thought it was so neat that kids from South Texas Children’s Home were in Cheyenne helping out,” Morris said. “In my years of working with World Changers, I’ve never been to a project where we had a children’s home participating. Generally, kids come from affluent families, so it was incredible for me to see kids who had been impacted by people who reached out to them in Christian love turn around and reach out to others in need of that same love.”
“Good bye, my sons,” Maria had said as the kids closed the gate to depart. It was an affectionate term and an attempt to show her love and appreciation for the group after they had spent a week repairing her home. For Reyes and the other kids from South Texas Children’s Home, it was week spent changing the world and changing themselves in the process.