By Aaron Earls
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Thousands of World Changers and P2 Missions volunteers spent a week this summer doing manual labor and serving with local churches, but the impact made will last for a lifetime and into eternity.
In Franklin, Tennessee, a woman was able to leave her home for the first time in months because volunteers built a wheelchair ramp when no one else would. Teams in Cleveland, Ohio were able to restore a home that was destroyed by fire. A church plant in Philadelphia formed a relationship with an established church and was able to secure a place to meet because of some painting work.
These are only a few of the stories from the thousands of volunteers who served with the two ministries of LifeWay Christian Resources dedicated to short-term missions projects.
This summer, 12,642 World Changers participants served at more than 900 work sites doing manual labor in homes and communities. P2 Missions, previously PowerPlant, partnered with 2,865 individuals to serve 108 church plants.
Alonzo Johnson, a church planter in Philadelphia, said the manual labor done by a group from First Baptist Orange City, Florida made possible the ministry his church planned for the rest of the summer.
Johnson said their church planned a sports clinic and kids club at a community center the week after the group from First Baptist came to paint benches and clean the area. “The following weeks ministry would not have been possible if we did not have this group willing to do hard work and help us build relationships through cleaning, painting, and just talking to people in the community,” he said.
But more than serving with their hands, a special emphasis was placed on training students to share the gospel this year, according to Dave MacNeill, a strategist with World Changers and P2 Missions.
“World Changers has always been about using construction as an avenue into a community in order to share the gospel,” MacNeill says. “This year, more than ever, we saw students take their evangelistic training into the communities where they were meeting a physical need while verbally sharing the gospel of Jesus.”
That training paid dividends as, in addition to the work provided by students serving with the two ministries, 12,851 presentations of the gospel were made, with 569 commitments to follow Christ.
Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay, saw this as encouraging growth. “Students shared the gospel more in conversation with people at mission projects this year than in the past several years,” he says. “That’s very exciting.”
The work and the gospel presentations came together in Cleveland, where Jeff Bodziony is planting Forward Church in the same neighborhood he previously sold drugs.
A fire damaged the home of a Forward Church member, forcing out her and her extended family. Over the last two years, World Changers worked at the home, cleaning it out, replacing the sheetrock and plumbing, re-roofing, and rewiring it so her family can return.
More importantly, however, two of her children became Christians through the witness and service of the teams and have joined Forward Church.
Not only did the projects cause a lasting change for the individuals served, but also for the students who participated. A total of 402 participants professed a call to vocational ministry.
Erin Haley, member of a team from Jessieville First Baptist in Arkansas, said New Circle Church in Indianapolis gave her a greater appreciation for church plants. As a college freshman, she is now exploring and praying “about the possibility of helping with the establishment of a church.”
For Trueblood, those moments are part of what makes World Changers and P2 Missions worthwhile. “When I hear stories from youth pastors about their students learning how to share their faith and having an opportunity to do so through one of these projects, it is a special thing,” he says. “That’s something those students will take back to their own cities and be able to make an incredible impact.”
Aaron Earls is a writer with the Communications Team of LifeWay Christian Resources.