Teenagers set example for giving spirit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 27, 2000

While many of us sought as much air conditioning as we could over last week’s heat wave, a group of teenagers from outside Natchez took on some hard work in the hot sun.

The group of more than 200 Baptist teenagers from around the South took part in World Changers, an annual mission group which helps fix plumbing problems, roofing leaks and any number of other minor problems for low-income homeowners in the community. They completed 19 house projects and worked on five others.

But along with fixing the physical problems, the teenagers reached out socially and spiritually, as well, said the Rev. Dale Little, missions director for the Adams Union Baptist Association.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;World Changers is not all roofing and floors,&uot; Little said. &uot;We’re trying to touch the lives of individuals. When (the students) go into the community they know it’s part of their job to find other needs.&uot;

For example, the students found a woman who not only needed some help with housekeeping but also with some counseling on senior services. The World Changers also recommended she start getting hot meals delivered through a Meals on Wheels program.

&uot;We were able to take care of cleaning out a lady’s house; we removed trash from all of the rooms and passed along our concerns to people who could follow it up,&uot; Little said.

And the students also were able to talk to the residents they helped and visit with their neighbors, &uot;using every opportunity for a Christian witness,&uot; Little said.

&uot;World Changers was designed with the teenagers in mind,&uot; he said. &uot;It teaches them how to give without necessarily having a monetary goal.

&uot;It gives them a new perspective on life. … They see things from a different point of view.&uot;

Many of the teenagers in this year’s program are not new to World Changers – this trip was their second or third time to volunteer with the group, Little said.

&uot;They’re hooked, and we’ve got them until they go to college,&uot; Little said.

And likely, those students are also hooked on giving back to their communities – and others’ communities.

&uot;You know they’ve got to be changed or they wouldn’t come back,&uot; Little said.

What might be most amazing about the project is how much these students gave to a community that isn’t even theirs. They set an example for all of us.

But while the World Changers’ labor is free, their materials aren’t. The World Changers bought most of their materials locally, which gave a boost to Natchez’s economy.

&uot;We have to raise a lot of money, and there are no grants available,&uot; Little said. &uot;Every year we’ve come up short until the last week.&uot;

But this year, the local group’s fund is still coming up short.

World Changers was designed with the idea that local communities have the money to help fund these projects, with the teenagers’ providing the free labor.

&uot;We’re having a problem getting that aspect of the program understood,&uot; Little said.

It sounds simple to me. We had a group of students who aren’t even members of our community providing free labor to help refurbish some of our houses. Our city and county should be able to help with the costs, or at least help out with grant applications.

Luckily we have a strong example, set by a group of generous teenagers, to follow.

Kerry Whipple is news editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3562 or by e-mail at kerry.whipple@natchezdemocrat. com.