Mission group, churches help to make dreams come true

By Laura McMillan

Being the matriarch of a large family who needs her full attention has put home improvement way down on the list of priorities for Annie Brown.

Her case drew the attention of the Clayton County Community Action Authority, Jonesboro First Baptist Church, the North American Missions Board, and ultimately the international World Changers missionary program.

Jonesboro First Baptist is one of several churches around the nation hosting a World Changers ministry group during the week of June 18.

Roger Allen, the Middle School Youth Minister at Jonesboro First Baptist Church, was instrumental in organizing the event. Associate Pastor of Students at the Jonesboro Church, Larry Lawrence said that Allen was passionate about mission trips as a result of his working with World Changers in South Carolina. "Our pastor is very big on at-home missions," Lawrence added, indicating how happy the whole church was to be hosting such a zealous group of youths.

By the time groups arrived from all seven churches, Lanson Newsome, the construction coordinator at Jonesboro First Baptist, had already determined what Clayton County projects they would complete.

Newsome, Allen and other church officials conversed with the Clayton County Community Services Authority to identify worthy homeowners in need of some help. "He always has a list of clients that meet income criteria," Allen said of Ngozi Umoya, the energy coordinator at the Clayton County Community Services Authority.

"I've had teen-agers work with our program before," said Umoya who has witnessed the 120 teens from out of town working throughout Clayton County, but he added, "We haven't done it with this many teen-agers."

Umoya explained that a limited budget of federal rather than county funds purchased the materials for the four construction projects the Service Authority undertook last week with World Changers.

There were 11 construction projects being worked on by World Changers during their week-long visit. First Baptist foots the entire bill for two housing projects, as does Riverdale First Baptist according to Newsome. "I imagine by the time we get through we'll have almost $5,000 in addition to what the county paid," said Newsome.

"There's a lot more that needs to be done. We've identified more sites this week," he added.

"I went to each home and the kids were all working - it seems like they enjoyed what they were doing," Umoya said.

Something about the projects must be fun for the youths because the labor is volunteered primarily by the 120 visiting students according to crew supervisor, Jackie Brannen.

Brannen, a Jonesboro First Baptist member, was quick to describe his role with the World Changers as "number one gofer."

Brannen admits that his generation sometimes stereotypes the youth of today.

"We have a tendency to look at them and say they play loud music and some of them have weird hair, but it really blesses me to see them - to know that we have a future," Brannen said of the World Changer teenagers who sacrifice a week of their summer and hundreds of dollars for this annual trip.

"I paid $260 to come on this trip, sleep on the floor, get up at like 5:45, leave by 7, and get sunburned," said Brooke Bilbo, the 14-year old Duluth resident who was happy to be outside with her friends helping people.

The World Changers participants are not the only ones suffering from long hours according to Roger Allen.

Lauren Bourque is a college freshmen and member of Jonesboro First Baptist Church who said she spent 13 to 18 hours a day interning at the church to help host the World Changers.

"They have lights out at 11 p.m. ," Bourque said, remembering the first night when she had to make sure all the high school and middle school students were going to bed when they were supposed to. "Some of them were still up reading to each other so I was like they're good."

Annie Brown was also quick to discover that the World Changers were nothing but a positive influence on Clayton County.

"I love it. I just get out of their way," Brown said. "They done a good job. I'm just glad to have met them."

It's important to Jonesboro First Baptist and to the World Changers that they touch the lives of those they help. Lisa Thomas was a chaperone from Virginia who said she most enjoyed seeing people in need accept Christ. Thomas cited the passage, Matthew 23:11 as the theme of the World Changers' mission: "The greatest among you shall become your servant."

The good-spirited, free labor has served Annie Brown well. "She said, since she was 30-years-old, she wanted a yellow house - so we are painting her house yellow," said Lanson Newsome, the construction coordinator who set the World Changers on the path to realizing Brown's dream.