FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Jean Johnson had never heard of World Changers when her roof started leaking this past year, but she knew who to thank when young people from eight states came together to replace the roof. She also was certain of who was at the heart of their mission.
“I just said, ‘Thank you, dear Jesus; thank you, dear Jesus,’ because I was so happy,” Johnson said over the sound of hammers banging on her roof.
Johnson, 77, was one of 23 Fort Worth residents who witnessed firsthand the dedication of approximately 200 youth and 80 adults who journeyed to the Texas city to participate in World Changers June 17-21.
The Fort Worth effort was one of 89 World Changers projects across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico this summer. Since 1990 the ministry has provided opportunities for youth to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others primarily through the renovation of substandard housing.
While most projects are sponsored directly by the North American Mission Board, 20 projects this year are being sponsored by Southern Baptist state conventions in Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. Last year, a record 19,245 individuals participated in 66 World Changers projects.
The youth in Fort Worth, ranging from sixth-graders to college students, were divided into 23 groups who renovated 23 substandard homes during the week. The project was a partnership with the city of Fort Worth, which provided approximately $35,000 for materials.
“We do set income guidelines and the home has to be owner-occupied,” said Gloria Eurotas, assistant housing director for the city of Fort Worth.
June 18 was named World Changers Day by the Fort Worth City Council in a proclamation accepted by Richard Ross, professor of youth/student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ross and Wesley Black, also a professor of youth/student ministry at Southwestern, issued an invitation to the North American Mission Board to include Fort Worth as a location where World Changers operates.
“Because I had been directly a part of World Changers projects in the past, I knew firsthand the impact that such a week could make on Fort Worth — especially on the seminary community,” Ross said.
Ross also noted that the seminary should be seeking to impact its own neighborhood the very same way churches are challenged to impact the neighborhoods around them. With that in mind, the homes renovated through World Changers this summer were all located near the seminary.
“We agreed that was a good idea,” Eurotas said. “There are a lot of homes down in the southeast part of Fort Worth that are substandard or needing rehabilitation.”
While the youth were impacting lives through the ministry, Larry Williams, project coordinator for the Fort Worth effort, emphasized that the focus of World Changers is also to make an impact in the lives of the youth who participate. It gives them the chance to experience missions rather than just hearing about it.
“You get to touch it, feel it, hold it, try it on,” Williams said of the missions experiences the youth obtain through the projects. “The good news is that some of them try it on and like the way it feels. We hope that’s the generation that signs on and keeps the work going.”
Jessica Banks’ service in Fort Worth was her second experience with World Changers. Banks, 15, first became involved because she wanted to get “on fire for God” and to help people, she said.
“I haven’t been the same since then,” she said.
Katie Osbolt, who has participated in World Changers projects for seven years, served in Fort Worth this year as a team leader for the summer staff — which is composed of college students. However, she still remembers the resident of the first home she helped paint in 1993.
“It [the painted home] looked very nice, and she was very excited about it,” Osbolt said of the elderly woman. “She said if we didn’t get a Christmas card from her, know that she was in heaven and she would see us there one day — and we didn’t get a Christmas card.”
Tommy Keller, also a part of the Fort Worth World Changers’ summer staff, recalled a summer project in South Carolina where several neighborhood children came to help the crew demolish and rebuild a porch.
“They were willing to help out, and then we also got to have some fun with them and then talk to them about Jesus,” he said.
While the city of Fort Worth routinely assists with the renovation of substandard homes, Eurotas called the week of work by the World Changers a success. “We can’t do that kind of volume and intensity in one week,” she said.
Any future involvement with World Changers in Fort Worth would be determined on a year-to-year basis, Eurotas added.
“It is a contribution of time and finances that we may not have again,” she said, “although I think it’s hoped that we will.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: LOOKING ON, ROOFTOP MINISTRY, WORLD CHANGERS DAY and CONGRATULATORY COUNCILMAN.