World Changers puts the power of numbers to work in St. Tammany Parish _lowres

Advocate Photo by MISSIE NOEL - Kyle Sholar, Natalie McMillan, Hailey Browning and Faith Hicks, all volunteers with the international 'World Changers' volunteer initiative.

Volunteers from the Lifeway Christian Resources group World Changers descended on St. Tammany Parish in late June, determined to make a difference to families in need. The group of more than 200 volunteers from 10 different churches throughout the United States spent five days renovating and revitalizing homes belonging to low- to moderate-income families.

Most of the approved applicants for the mission were disabled or elderly. Signs, fliers and postcards were placed in the neighborhoods in Covington and Abita Springs where potential beneficiaries lived. The World Changers volunteers then divided into 17 work crews at 13 different job sites. Most of the work involved building wheelchair ramps, painting and siding repairs, and landscape work.

This is the third year the group has worked with St. Tammany Parish government to partner with homeowners in need. Materials used to complete the repairs, such as lumber, paint, windows and doors, are purchased through a Community Development Block Grant. This year, nearly $45,000 was allocated for materials and supplies. Additional equipment and volunteers were provided this year by Adam Martin, the volunteer construction coordinator, who is employed by Kent Design+Build.

Megan Tillman, a volunteer with the World Changers, said, “The mission of our group is to provide Christian youth and adults with opportunities to serve a community physically and spiritually through practical learning experiences that teach servanthood and a personal commitment to missions.” Tillman, 20, is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and adds, “The construction work not only blesses the homeowner, but also our young disciples.”

The program began in 1990 after leaders of Southern Baptist churches, along with other evangelical churches, expressed an interest in finding activities that would help their youth better understand mission through personal involvement. At the same time, individual churches were finding that the time and effort necessary to put together a hands-on work experience was extensive. As other organizations began to test and prove the validity of large-group missions and service projects, the then Memphis-based Brotherhood Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention began its own plans for such an endeavor.

This summer, the organization has scheduled projects in more than 64 locations worldwide, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. The out-of-town student volunteers for the local World Changers projects were coordinated by the Rev. Bill Boren, family life pastor at First Baptist Church of Covington, and the students were housed on the FBC campus.

The work crew on a project in north Covington shared more than just their time and labor. Upon arriving at the home, the youth volunteers noticed that resident Davion, 6, didn’t have a working bike. The group pooled their spending money and purchased a new bike for their feisty young friend.

When asked what he thought about the repairs to his home and his new bike, Davion said, “I love my new buddies and my pretty house. I pray, too. I love them and they love me. Amen.”

As he drove off down the sidewalk on his new orange bike, group members smiled, then quietly returned to their work on the home.

For more information about World Changers, visit