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Thursday
Aug072014

Friends form bond through World Changers

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

THE NAME “World Changers” probably brings to mind a bunch of teenagers painting and hammering. After all, World Changers – an initiative of LifeWay Christian Resources – is known for its construction projects. 

But for Hunter Douglas and his friends, men who volunteer together each year through World Changers, the experience is not as much about investing in houses as it is about investing in the lives of the teenage participants.

From left: Ron McMaster, Clifford Casey, Terry David “Turk” Cunningham and James “Jimmy” Red have been volunteering together through World Changers for many years.Douglas, a member of Life Line Baptist Church, Little Rock, said he has volunteered through World Changers with the same group of men for about 20 years. 

Douglas’ cohorts in missions are Terry David “Turk” Cunningham, member of Newark Southern Baptist Church, Newark; Ron McMaster, member of Brush Creek Baptist Church, Springdale; Clifford Casey, also a member of Brush Creek Baptist Church, and James “Jimmy” Red, member of First Baptist Church, Horn Lake, Miss.

Douglas explained that some combination of the five men had worked together at various Baptist missions events throughout the years. But he said it was when the West Memphis World Changers project was started in the 1990s that they really began to pull together as a group. Still, it was a gradual process.

“We did not consciously get together as a team suddenly,” said Douglas. “We found ourselves volunteering for the same jobs and gradually began to consciously go the same road.” 

Now, the friends try to volunteer together at two World Changers projects every year.

“We donated our vacations to World Changers and tried to go to two projects together each year, one with me as construction coordinator – a contract leadership position – and one with me volunteering to serve alongside them as adult volunteers,” Douglas said, explaining the others are adult volunteers every time.

Of course, Douglas is quick to point out that there are numerous other volunteers who work on each project as well. 

But the five friends said they have been blessed to take part in their World Changers experiences together through the years. Douglas noted their common purpose, motivation and application of faith, as well as the quality of relationships.

“It is a privilege to work with Turk, Jimmy, Hunter and Ron,” said Casey. “They will go further and do more than asked. There is much laughter and great joy to work with these men.”

Cunningham added that working with his friends renews his spirit. 

“I can see and hear the Lord in them,” he said.

Cunningham’s wife, Renee, added that “when (the men) start(ed) working together, …
the devil had to watch out.” 

“These five godly men were ready to change the world for Christ,” she said. “They not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. It doesn’t stop after World Changers. All during the year, the men are keeping in touch.”

But their World Changers ministry is not without its struggles.

“When we meet each time, we know that obstacles will appear in our path,” Douglas said. “When the crooked ways of this world obstruct our work, by virtue of the power given us, we aim to bullwhip the devil out of it, make the path straight and move on. World Changers is the best-organized ministry of this kind that Baptists have. Our purpose is clear and our direction is sure. We are all getting too old to take the heat and the strain, but we are not through. I am 75. We all know that we will keep going until we drop. We are still useful and needed and still successful.”

McMaster said that originally the aspect of World Changers that he enjoyed was working with fellow Christians to serve the Lord by serving homeowners. But he soon realized how much he enjoyed teaching the teenagers about various aspects of home repair. He also came to realize the importance of investing in participants spiritually. 

“So, over the many projects, there have been many blessings of seeing ‘the harvest’ when presenting the gospel to homeowners and neighbors, but none as sweet as seeing our own teenager participants come to Jesus,” he said.

Red feels a particular calling to teach youth to share the gospel; and he requests to be placed in high-traffic areas so that, along with working on the houses, he can witness to people and train the students to do the same.

“I don’t go to work on a house,” he explained. “I can work on a house right here at home. … I want to go and teach them young ’uns how to share the gospel because … (there are) millions of people walking the streets every day that don’t know Jesus and ... nobody (will) say something to them.”

“All of us work in World Changers because we feel called to it, because we have been given the gifts to do it, because we love it and because we see this as a unique and important opportunity to help train the next generation in the service of Jesus Christ,” Douglas said. “Through these kids, we are world-changers ourselves – in a powerful and effective way.”

He emphasized that their focus is not on the houses they are repairing. 

“Our focus is on the youth,” he said. “It is our plan to give them a life-changing experience, worthy before God. World Changers furnishes the labor. The city furnishes the materials. We change the world through our living witness.

“We are teaching these kids that holy hands might be holding up a hammer or a paintbrush,” Douglas said. “They, themselves, are a living witness of remarkable power. The witness this projects is beyond my power of explanation – nor can I imagine just how far it goes.”

Contact Jessica Vanderpool at jessica@arkansasbaptist.org.

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