JACKSONVILLE (FBW)Hershel Adams knows what 12 teenagers can do in five days during a muggy Florida summer.
They can replace a roof and paint a house, Adams told Florida Baptist Witness.
For the last three years, Adams has coordinated governmental agencies, civic organizations and church youth groups in a common missiona better physical and spiritual community. More than refurbishing a neighborhood, God uses Christian young people through the World Changers (WC) program to extend His Kingdoms work, he said.
Not only have homes been improved, but a number of people have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord, said Adams, the director of missions for Choctaw Baptist Association.
This summer, about 2,730 volunteers will work throughout Florida communities, including Ft. Pierce, Tallahassee, Palm Beach County, Tampa, Miami, Ft. Walton Beach, Niceville and Pensacola, according to Allison Rickard, semester missionary for World Changers, a volunteer youth program of the Southern Baptists Conventions North American Mission Board.
It is such a blessing that kids from all across the nation pay their own way to come and work on a roof in Florida, in the middle of the summer with a heat index of 105, said Adams. He is the associational coordinator for the WC teams which are painting and replacing roofs in Ft. Walton Beach and Niceville this summer.
Begun in 1990, World Changers primary goal is to involve young people from middle school through college in opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others, according to the World Changers Web site. Projects are a blend of community ministries and refurbishing homes in low-income neighborhoods. More than 23,000 students are expected to participate this year in the United States and in 19 other countries.
Allen James, minister of college students at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, said World Changers participants come away from working on the week-long projects with a sense of purpose or mission. He said WC may have a more lasting impact on young people than going to camp.
James, involved in WC for ten years, is the worship leader for the Pensacola project. He said after a hard day of work, the nightly services are a celebration of what God has done and contagious for everyone to share their faith.
Church extension director for the Tampa Bay Baptist Association, Othoniel Valdes Sr., expects about 300 students to work on ministry projects and refurbishing homes in Tampa. As the WC associational coordinator, one of his biggest challenges is feeding 300 hungry teenagers for five days. For the past three summers, however, the area churches have been generous, and no one has gone hungry, he said.
Valdes said 10 area churches are participating this year and asked that Florida Baptists pray that individuals will accept Christ as their Lord and that all the churches participating will experience growth as they minister to people.
In Tallahassee, about 350 college-aged World Changers will become work crews to repair, paint and roof, said Kenny Platt, the associate pastor of youth at Faith Baptist Church in Tallahassee.
Platt said World Changers volunteers stretch the federal and local dollars used for community improvement.
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World Changers provides the labor for free, Platt said, noting a community may have enough money to do seven or eight projects, but with WC the number may increase to 30 completed projects.
Platt is quick to point out that World Changers is not about changing the world one house at a time, but about changing hearts. More than 200 decisions for Christ were made at the 2002 Ft. Pierce WC project.
Thats changing the world, Platt said.
In Ft. Pierce, the responsibility of getting materials, building permits and inspections and complying with local building codes, plus training crew supervisors, goes to Joel Dramis. A member of First Baptist Church in Port St. Lucie, Dramis is a World Changers construction coordinator for their project.
Although homeowners are always skeptical about free work, all projects have to meet community building codes. Because of free labor, a typical $2,000 re-roof costs only about $800, Dramis said. Besides roofing and house painting, World Changers crews paint fences, cut grass, replace windows, repair porches and clean yards.
Dramis said the renewal and beautification is not just a one-time thing, because it spills over to nearby homeowners.
Months later we see more and more neighborhood pride in the World Changers locations, Dramis said.
In Palm Beach County, churches will host more than 350 students and adults from as far away as Ohio, according to Ron Reynolds, church planter strategist for the Palm Lake Baptist Association. Reynolds said a church plant is planned in Riviera Beach.
Part of our strategy in using World Changers is to launch a new church in the midst of this highly visible public project, Reynolds said. We will build upon the goodwill developed within the community and beyond.
Reynolds said the free labor force of World Changers represents savings between $300,000 to $500,000 for a community.
Long term, we see the use of World Changers as a means of transforming this county one household at a time, with a demonstration of the Gospel in action, Reynolds said. And World Changers raises the awareness of what local churches can and should do.
Director of church and community ministries for the Miami Baptist Association, Michael Daily, said World Changers will repair homes in Florida City and lead Backyard Bible Clubs and sports clinics throughout Miami-Dade County.
We covet prayers that these youth will lead many to Christ and that all will be protected in travel and during their time of serving, Daily said. Our hope is to see many people come to Christ as a result of these important ministries.
World Changers projects are hard work but worthwhile for the community, the local churches and the volunteers, said Adams.
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