Tuscaloosa among World Changers cities
Courtney Searcy, Baptist Press
July 22, 2011

Tuscaloosa among World Changers cities

Tuscaloosa among World Changers cities
Courtney Searcy, Baptist Press
July 22, 2011


— The hot summer sun beats down on a young man’s forehead as he drives another

nail into a roof. Usually he’d be reclining in an air-conditioned room playing

video games but, instead, his shirt is soaked with sweat.

He doesn’t mind. He’s making a difference.

A young woman is giving a home a much-needed fresh coat of paint. She is

missing an important week of cheerleading practice. But she says she made the

right decision.

Their stories mirror those of about 2,000 students and adults from across the

country who, by the end of the summer, will have served as World Changers in

tornado-battered Tuscaloosa and

other locations in Alabama.

Volunteers with the North American Mission Board’s World Changers initiative

have worked or will work this summer in Tuscaloosa,

Birmingham, Anniston,

Florence and Huntsville.

Another 20,000 “world changers” are serving in 85 other cities across the United


For 21 years, individuals from churches and schools have raised their own funds

— averaging $250 a person this year — to take part in a World Changers week

working on projects aimed at improving substandard housing while also gaining a

“venue in which to live out the faith they have in a loving God,” according to

the World Changers website.

BP photo/The Alabama Baptist

A World Changers crew from six churches across the South works on a home in the Sherman Heights neighborhood of Birmingham, Ala.

Once all the groups arrive in their host city, they are divided into crews and

given their project assignment. They kick off each morning with a devotion

before heading out to work sites for a full day of work. Each evening, they

gather for worship and then rest for their next day of hard work.

In Tuscaloosa, April 27’s tornado

outbreak yielded an out-of-the-ordinary opportunity for 199 World Changers June

13-18. The city was scheduled to be a World Changers location for the second

year before the tornadoes hit. But the projects there were revamped toward

disaster relief, with 17 crews partnering with Samaritan’s Purse for debris

cleanup across Tuscaloosa.

Project coordinator Mark Matson, who has been involved with World Changers for

15 years, said the situation provided an even greater opportunity for students

to present the gospel and speak to people about why they were there.

The students made 425 gospel presentations, resulting in 60 professions of

faith. Matson said the crews were able to share the hope of the gospel with

many who were devastated after the tornado took their homes.

The disaster relief aspect of the projects brought unprecedented media


“It’s no doubt that a lot of Tuscaloosa has known that World Changers has been

here,” Matson said, noting he hopes the attention it received will lead to more

funding in the future so more people can be helped.

The city is on the schedule for next year, and Matson hopes to assist in

rebuilding the areas cleaned up this year.

In Birmingham, more than 750

students and adults are slated to work more than five weeks on roofing,

painting and other home improvement projects in partnership with the Birmingham

Baptist Association; Metro Changers, a year-round home rehabilitation ministry

of the association; and the city of Birmingham.

This was the third year Conor Martin, a high school senior from Fairview

Church in Lebanon,

Tenn., has participated in World Changers.

Martin was part of a June 11-18 crew responsible for putting a new roof on an

elderly woman’s home in the Sherman Heights


“This is what God calls us to do. He calls us to be missionaries, and we’re

being missionaries by putting a roof on a house,” Martin said.

But as fellow Fairview team member

Austin Kemp pointed out, they weren’t just completing projects.

“It’s a big part of it, but the bigger part of it is Jesus,” he said.

The first Birmingham group reported

108 gospel presentations in the community, with several people requesting more

information or prayer.

World Changers teams have worked in the city since 1992, making a difference in

the lives of hundreds of homeowners.

“It’s neat because people see the work we do and make comments that they see

that we really are changing the city,” said Hannah Berry, a senior at Judah

Christian School

in Champaign, Ill.

In Florence, nearly 130 World

Changers participated in 11 projects June 20-25.

“Every year, I’m amazed how God matches the talents and abilities of the team

members with the needs of the homeowners,” said Tim Ray, who has served as

project coordinator during World Changers’ five years of work in Florence.

Ray called the projects a “team effort,” as homeowners apply through the city

and are then screened and chosen for projects based on their need. Churches in

Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association assist in providing meals while the city’s

board of education allows students to stay in schools.

“Our goal in Florence is to

continue this project as long as the Lord wants us to continue to do so. We

consider this an indefinite endeavor,” Ray said.

In Huntsville, 270 World Changers

worked on-site from June 25–July 2, while Anniston

will host 170 participants July 18–23.

Students often say the World Changers experience changes them as much as it

changes the face of the city in which they serve.

Allison Leflie, a first-time participant from First

Baptist Church

in Woodlawn, Tenn.,

acknowledged she wasn’t fully looking forward to the week in Birmingham

but when she saw the difference her team was making, it changed her attitude.

“I’m going to have to change my whole lifestyle. It’s going to be hard but it’s

worth it,” Leflie said.

Although World Changers is primarily for students, they aren’t the only ones

affected by the outreach, said Derrick Cronk, the high school director for First

Baptist Woodlawn who served as a chaperone for the group.

“When you serve others and are being obedient, it’s always a blessing…. I

would encourage even adults to get involved in (World Changers),” Cronk said. “If

they’ve never experienced it, it’s a blessing. If they get involved, they’ll

never quit.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Searcy is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist. For

more information on World Changers, visit www.world-changers.net.)