Hopkinsville—Kentucky Changers kicked off their summer of service with 171 participants in Hopkinsville. Before the summer is complete, they will have around 700 more students, grades 8 through college, join the efforts in Calloway, Greensburg and Frankfort as they repair houses and share the gospel with homeowners.
Students, crew chiefs and assistant crew chiefs arrived on Saturday, spent Sunday visiting their host church, learning evangelism techniques, training and prayerwalking the neighborhood that they would be working in. Overall, the Hopkinsville project had 14 crews from 13 churches and 21 project locations.
Students learned how to “tell their story” in three minutes. They were encouraged to do so as the week progressed, talking to homeowners and neighbors. Additionally they were given a salvation bracelet to explain and give away, as well as a New Testament to mark the Romans Road and give away before the week was over.
Each morning the students rose early to head to work sites. The students did the work and were overseen by the crew chiefs and assistants. Every evening, after a couple hours to shower, rest and eat, they attended worship.
Peggy Murphy, Kentucky Changers coordinator with the Kentucky Women’s Missionary Union, has been in charge of Changers for the last 22 years. “It takes both of my passions and puts them into one. I love youth and I love missions. I love to see youth learn what missions is, experience missions and thrive on missions.
“The neat thing about it for me is that we have crew chiefs who started coming to changers out of the seventh grade,” she added. “They have moved up the ladder and now they’re taking leadership roles. We also have generations serving together. We have a lot of families that come, and the whole family serves in some capacity.”
“My first year I was forced by my mom to come here,” 15-year-old Ashley Harris from Valley View Baptist Church in Vine Grove, confessed. “I am very happy that she made me come. I realized that I wasn’t doing the Christian thing. I was self-centered and all about me my first year here.
“I am here for the glory of God,” she continued. “I am here because these camps help me become a better Christian. They help me become who I am going to be in the long run.
“It’s encouraging to know that I’m going to be making a difference in someone’s life,” she said.
Larry Koch and his wife Elaine have been helping with Changers since 1998. They not only are present at the locations, but they spend countless hours helping the WMU office prepare for the summer.
“It’s ministry. It’s a mission effort. I think without missions, life is kind of empty. It’s great to see these young people pay to come out here and work in this heat and see the interaction between the youth and the homeowners,” Koch said.
“Some are elderly people and they just grasp onto these kids like they become their grandkids almost. It’s just exciting to see how God takes those actions. There are tears at parting even among the kids. A lot of times you see them crying on Friday because they have to leave their friend they made that week,” he continued.
“It’s a unique camp experience,” he said.
Shauna Gaylon is a 14-year-old Hopkinsville native working with Changers for her second year. She’s enjoying putting her passion to help people to use in her own community. “There’s so many new people you are able to meet in your hometown. It’s awesome to meet them, help them, and later come and see them again, ask how they’re doing and help them out a little more than just this week.”
“It’s one of the few mission opportunities where you can see tangible results,” said Joe Ball, speaker for the week and Changers participant since it began in 1994.
“A lot of times you do a VBS or Backyard Bible club (they are all great things), but you may never know this side of heaven what you accomplished. Here you can see there’s a new roof; you can see there’s new paint.”
He added, “It also lets the students learn a trade that they can do and hopefully go back home and do that in their communities.” (WR)