For 23 years, World Changers, an initiative of LifeWay Christian Resources, has gone about the business of working to improve substandard housing. This year, more than 16,500 students will be working in more than 82 cities across the country and Puerto Rico to help homeowners with housing needs.
Two hundred of those students – from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia – found themselves in Natchez July 22 – 27 serving on 18 crews at 18 worksites. These junior high and high school students painted, landscaped, built wheelchair ramps, and completed other meaningful tasks during their time in the Natchez area. Students hit the ground running, having completed a six-session “how-to” study in their local churches prior to arriving.
Funding for the project is a joint effort of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Mississippi Baptist Convention and the Margaret Lackey Offering for State Missions, Adams-Union Association, the students who paid $250 each, the City of Natchez, local contributions, and local churches and organizations providing noon meals.
Etta James (named for the singer) is one Natchez resident who understands the ministry of World Changers. James’ home received a new front porch, new screen doors, and fresh paint. James has lived in her home for 17 years, but it was originally her great aunt’s home.
“Our alderman came around and said that a group of kids would be coming to Natchez to help with work we weren’t able to do,” James said. “So I went to the courthouse to fill out an application form, and I made the list. The kids started yesterday, and their work will take about three days.
“I love these kids,” James said. “I’ve been walking out ever since they’ve been here, hugging them. It brings tears to my eyes. It’s so sweet.”
The students were equally as moved.
Riley Hines, from First Church, Newton, Tex., and Jonathon Rosenauer, from First Church, Gonzales, Tex., were typical. Hines is going into the twelfth grade, and Rosenauer is a student at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor in Belton, Tex.
Hines is a first-timer on a World Changers project. “It’s just exactly what I expected,” she said. “Hot, hard work, and great people.”
When asked why she wanted to be involved in World Changers, Hines said, “Our church was going, and I love being able to help people. I’m all about mission projects. Our youth leader, Josh, had been praying about where to serve, and he felt led to Natchez.”
Rosenauer had served on two previous projects, in Baton Rouge, La., and Sugar Hill, Ga. “For me, my whole life has been built around serving people in whatever way possible. So this is a great project for me to help people. It’s very near and dear to my heart – really, a calling.”
“One of the great things about World Changers is the experience of meeting people,” Rosenauer continued. “Every time I’ve done this, I’ve seen the joy of the people we are helping, whether they are Christians or not, just by us being there. For selfish reasons, there is how good you can feel by just helping that person.”
“I like going places just to see how different people are,” said Hines. “We have it so much better than so many people, you know? Being able to help them is great.”
“One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to take a week out of the summer, or a week out of the year, to serve someone,” Rosenauer said. “Why does it take World Changers for you to help others? It’s more than building houses. It’s about being a servant. And you can be a servant anywhere, at home or wherever. We were just talking about how in Luke 4 how Jesus went back to His hometown and was rejected. You just have to be like Who you are claiming to be like.”
The City of Natchez provided the funding for building materials for the week. The Adams-Union Association worked with Dale Little, associational missions director and World Changers coordinator, to supply lunches and refreshments to the students, and provided shower trailers for the participants. Students and other workers were lodged at Parkway Church, which accommodated approximately 200 individuals for the week, and supplied the participants with breakfast and supper when eating in the church’s fellowship hall.
Between 1996 and 2008, more than 2100 World Changers volunteers repaired 103 homes in the Natchez area.