A student working with World Changers led a man to the Lord who worked as a "bouncer" in a bar in Waukegan, Ill., earlier this summer.
"Each day this bouncer would go get his car loaded with his friends and bring them back, saying, 'You've got to hear this. You got to hear this,'" said Jon Hodge, a World Changers national missionary for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
Also in Waukegan, one of the World Changers youth led two children, 8 and 11 years old, to Christ near one of the group's work sites. The next day, their dad came with them — and became one of 175 people who accepted Christ through World Changers that week in Waukegan.
In that project and sixty-four others like it across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico this summer, World Changers demonstrated a concern not only for patching up substandard housing - but also for introducing people to a Savior who can rebuild lives.
More than 1,544 individuals made professions of faith in Christ during the projects. And participation jumped nearly 30 percent to 16,917 students and their adult sponsors.
"As so often Jesus did, World Changers enters with the touch of ministry to hurting needs," said Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, which coordinates the ministry.
"I am so proud of thousands of young people who are willing to get out of their comfort zones, work hard, reach into the inner cities of our land and all the while be intent on sharing the gospel with those in need," he added. "We are seeing thousands upon thousands of students stepping forward to volunteer for short-term missions. May their tribe increase!"
World Changers since 1990 has offered Christian youth a prepackaged missions opportunity to actively live out their faith. While staying in local schools and churches, participants work on "crews" doing construction or volunteer work in low-income areas selected by World Changers and local government agencies. The evenings provide an exciting combination of high-energy worship and team-building activities.
Crews were deployed to a total of 1,261 work sites — usually homes in need of new roofing, painting, or other improvements. The gospel was shared more than 8,500 times, usually with residents and neighbors.
Participants themselves also made personal commitments to missions involvement that organizers point to as one of the primary goals of the ministry. A total of 330 students made commitments to summer and semester missions, and another 358 made commitments to career missions service. One hundred sixty of the participants made professions of faith — in addition to the 1,544 professions of faith made by members of the communities in which World Changers worked.
The sharp increase in professions of faith reflected a further refining of how evangelism is emphasized during the projects, said Andy Morris, manager of student volunteer mobilization for NAMB.
A servant-evangelism effort last year — door-to-door distribution of free light bulbs — was designed to place more of a priority on evangelism. "What we recognized was that although we had about 250 get saved in that one event, the majority of the professions of faith were happening at the work site," he said. "So we made a strategic move to put more emphasis on teaching students to share their faith at the work site.
"It reinforces that witnessing is part of your everyday life. It's not just a special event," Morris added. "By making it part of the work site, it's part of everything that you do."
Another area of strong growth was in the offering World Changers participants gave for missions. A total of $144,725 was given, up from $95,844 last year. Out of the goal of $100,000 for the offering this year, the agency had planned to sponsor four semester missionaries to work in Canada. The much higher number means they will be able to do more.
"I think the offering has been one of the most significant things," Morris said. "That means that students are not only committing themselves to a lifestyle of missions ... but they're also giving toward missions. And I think that makes World Changers a well-rounded mission education experience."
World Changers will have a total of eighty-three projects worldwide in the summer of 2001, reflecting continued growth. Plans are for NAMB to coordinate a total of sixty-nine projects in the United States and Puerto Rico. The number of international projects - which are coordinated through the International Mission Board - will increase from seven this year to fourteen next year.
For more information on World Changers, visit www.studentz.com/wc on the Internet or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.