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A group of 147 mission-minded teens from four states have returned to the Parkland this week to paint, build and perform other helpful tasks for those who could use a helping hand.

World Changers provides national youth work projects. During projects, students typically spend one week repairing damaged homes. The missions agency for World Changers was the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention until LifeWay took it over in 2011.

This is the 10th year for young people who have volunteered to be a part of the LifeWay Student Ministries-sponsored World Changers program to return to St. Francois and several surrounding counties. Over a period of four days, 13 teams fanned out to Iron Mountain Lake, Bismarck, Potosi, Cadet, Park Hills, Farmington, Desloge, Bonne Terre and Fredericktown.

As in past years, the teams were housed in Desloge First Baptist Church’s gymnasium and fed by local church congregations.

According to Caleb Gordon, a college student from Newport News, Virginia, attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, who is providing leadership for the teams this week, has participated in World Changers before.

“I was employed with World Changers last summer as a music leader because I’m a music major at school,” he said. “At the end of the summer they thought I did a good job. As it was my first year with World Changers, they thought I picked up real well on the flow of things and asked me if I wanted to consider being a director for this summer.

“The director follows pretty much the job of what a project coordinator did in the past, except they just put them on the summer staff team and have them travel around. There was a lot of training. I had to attend two training sessions — one in January for the directors, which was more of a two-day crash course of basic information that you need to know. Then we went through a week-long training that ran from May 31-June 8.”

Gordon said this week’s student participants come from a variety of locations and represent a number of church congregations.

“We’ve got teens from Oklahoma, Arkansas, here in Missouri and Illinois,” he said. “We have a good amount of churches. We have 10 churches that’s come here and we’ve split them into crews to go work on different sites this week.

“We have a mixture of some porch building, some handicapped ramp building and some painting. We also have a group working here at the Parkland Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) making sure we can make as big an impact on the community as we can. Our workdays are Tuesday through Friday and then we’ll leave Saturday morning.”

Gordon admits that he gets as much out of participating in World Changers throughout the summer as the young people do.

“I’m having a fantastic time this summer,” he said. “This is our fourth project and every week has brought a different group of kids and this week I’m just starting to get to know them, having only met them yesterday and going around to some of the crews today.

“They’re just a delight to hang around, whether it’s coming up with funny nicknames for us summer staffers or just making sure they’re staying safe on the worksites. I walked around one of the worksites and said, ‘Hey, go get some water!’ They said, ‘Thanks, mom!’ Hey, somebody’s got to do it.”

The primary goal of those on the teams is to fulfill the mission of World Changers.

“World Changers’ mission is to serve others and share the gospel and we just do the best job we can to give students the opportunity to share the gospel through service,” he said.

Providing local leadership and oversight for each summer’s World Changers group coming to the Parkland is Bismarck First Baptist Church’s youth minister, Aaron Radford.

“I think the greatest thing about the program is to see these youth from all over the country come here and love our people,” he said. “You know that’s one of our goals — to get out there and share the gospel and share the love of Jesus.

“These guys come alongside us and help us out, whether it’s homeowners in Iron Mountain Lake or places like here at the PRC. When they leave they take it back with them to their communities and our churches are invigorated. It helps us to do that even better.

“I’m grateful for these guys to be here. If anybody sees them out in the yards painting or anything, just stop by and say ‘hi’ to them. They love that. Just visit with them. They’re just a great group of kids and the adults that are with them.”

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Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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