Originally published in Baptist Press, the official news service for the Southern Baptist Convention, on June 27, 2017.
OWENSBORO, Ky. (BP) — Holes were starting to form in the front steps of her house. The storage shed in the backyard leaked when it rained. And everything needed a fresh coat of paint.
But 64-year-old Charlene Meadows, a lifelong resident of Owensboro, Ky., was unable to make these repairs to her home herself.
Kameryn Slayton, a 15-year-old from Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, knew she could help. Wearing a pink baseball cap, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, she dipped a paintbrush into a tray of metallic paint. With long brush strokes, she brightened the tin roof of Meadows’ storage shed with a fresh, silvery coat of paint.
As the hot sun beat down, other students worked to build Meadows a new front porch, repair her storage building and paint her home.
“I don’t know how to repair a lot of the stuff they’re doing, so they’ve helped me out a lot,” Meadows said.
Across town, students painted homes, replaced old siding, built porches and installed wheelchair ramps. Together, they made up a group of 210 students representing 12 churches from eight states spending a week in Owensboro with World Changers.
An initiative of LifeWay Christian Resources, World Changers is a summer missions program that focuses on gospel-sharing and construction projects. This summer, nearly 8,000 students are registered to work with World Changers in 21 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
World Changers began in 1990, and each year, it draws students from across the country.
Slayton and the others from her church traveled around 20 hours in a church van to the World Changers project in Owensboro. When they arrived, they met students from Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan and Alabama.
Most World Changers students stay in a school building that is empty for the summer. The students in Owensboro slept on air mattresses and in sleeping bags in classrooms at Daviess County High School. They ate meals in the cafeteria, and they worshiped in the auditorium.
David Brown, a bivocational pastor in Hopkinsville, Ky., has served as Owensboro’s project coordinator for the past five years. He and his wife Johnna first got involved with World Changers in 2002, when their church hosted students from around the country in Madisonville, Ky., where they were volunteer youth leaders at the time.
The next year, they took students from their church on a World Changers trip, where Brown helped replace the floor of a woman’s home.
“She was moved to tears because she was getting her floor fixed — something she needed,” said Brown, pastor of New Barren Springs Baptist Church. “And that was one of the big things that had me from there. We just believe in what they do [at World Changers].”
Students have done similar projects in Owensboro for the past 10 years, said Jerry Tooley, director of missions for the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association. Each year, he helps connect World Changers students to local churches, which provide lunches and refreshments throughout the week and a place to worship on Wednesday night.
During the week, students also built a ramp in nearby McLean County for 85-year-old Margie Brown.
Getting around has become harder and harder for Brown, who now has to depend on a walker or another person almost anywhere she goes. This makes the few steps leading up to her home a big problem.
But a group of World Changers students from Cumming, Ga., and Zeeland, Mich., were there to help create a solution.
With the help of their crew chief, Ralph Steel, they added a ramp to the front of her house to make it easier for her to come and go.
Taking a break from the work, these students, some who had been strangers only days before, stood around in a circle, talking and laughing as a group.
“I have more fun on these trips than I do on normal vacations,” said 17-year-old Olivia Holbrook from Concord Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga. The four other teenagers in the circle nodded their heads in agreement.
Standing across the circle, 18-year-old Taylor Ash, from Zeeland, Mich., chimed in.
“Getting this opportunity to go out into the community, somewhere that I don’t even know, and help others I don’t know either is great,” Ash said.
“I love being able to help people.”
For more information on 2018 World Changers projects, go to LifeWay.com/worldchangers/projects/.