The words of Amazing Grace drifted through the humid air as Ruth Helton sat in the shade and watched ten teens scamper around on her roof.
"I told that boy right there he should be a professional roofer," said Helton with a laugh as she gestured to a young man hanging precariously over the edge of her small house in Nashville, Tenn.
"They've done such a wonderful job. I can't even put into words what this has meant to me. They don't complain about the heat or the hard work, and they even invited me to have lunch with them today!"
The teens were a part of M-Fuge, a ministry-oriented camp sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Helton's home was just one of twenty-two sites at which M-Fuge teams were stationed during the week of June 9-13. Besides construction work, the youth also chose from tracks in creative ministries, social work, and children's ministries like backyard Bible Clubs, recreation camps, or VBS.
Begun in 1995, M-Fuge camps were held this summer in Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.
"This is such a great way to serve God," said Crystal Cotton of First Baptist Church, Van, Texas. "Instead of just talking about missions, we're actually doing it. This is my first year doing the construction track, and I'm just amazed at how much actions speak louder than words. Who knew you could minister so much by painting someone's house or fixing their roof?"
"I've certainly learned how to stay energetic this week!" said Deidre Gastenveld as she ducked her head to narrowly miss a dodge ball as it flew by. Gastenveld, of First Baptist Lone Oak, Ky., was helping with a backyard Bible club at Archwood Apartments in Madison, Tenn.
"You get really hot and tired out here," Gastenveld acknowledged, "but then you see that kid's smile, and it keeps you going just a little bit longer."
"All of us are giving blessings," said Ben Fitzgerald, a youth from Fairview Heights (Ill.) First Baptist Church. During the week, Fitzgerald worked at a Nashville homeless shelter for men, preparing and serving meals to the hundreds who came in from the streets each afternoon.
"My blessing may be to wash dishes," Fitzgerald continued as he plunged his hands into the soapy water. "It may not seem like a blessing to me, but I am showing these people that I'm willing to serve them. I might get hot and dirty, but in the end, I'm giving glory to God."
This servant attitude is not the stereotypical way youth of today are often described. But the teens who attend M-Fuge are often changed people at the end of the week, said April Specht, who led the children's ministry track for M-Fuge.
"One of the changes I think happens is that these teens become more intentional," Specht said. "They come away no longer just seeing people in need, but seeing ministry opportunities and mission fields. They become extremely intentional in sharing their faith with others and in telling people that Jesus Christ loves them."
For more information on M-Fuge, go to: www.lifeway.com/fuge/ls_mfuge.asp.
Alicia Morris of the University of Mobile contributed to this article.