While most kids are spending their summer vacations soaking up air conditioning as they lie on the couch watching TV, thereâ€™s a group of local teens who found a more productive way to spend at least a part of their summer.
The youth from Freedom Church, a relatively new congregation that meets at the Lincoln Cultural Center, traveled to Roanoke, Va. the week of July 14 to roof, paint and repair houses for people living in poverty.
â€œThe idea is to take care of people who canâ€™t take care of themselves,â€ said Eric Reel, the churchâ€™s pastor.
The mission trip was through World Changers, which is associated with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Reel had participated in the program through another church, doing mission work in Savannah and Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
â€œWe always go to the hottest place on Earth,â€ Reel said.
They picked Roanoke this time thinking it might be a bit cooler. It wasnâ€™t.
When it comes to missions, World Changers partners with local organizations to help those in need. In Roanoke, it was Blue Ridge Housing.
â€œWe supply labor and materials,â€ said Reel. â€œThey provide the family in need.â€
The folks from World Changers even pay for the materials themselves, taking volunteerism a step further.
Although anyone would agree that the work they do is a good thing, Reel and the students who accompanied him to Roanoke believe their labor has an even higher purpose.
â€œThe ideal is that we use what we do as a tool to show people we love Jesus,â€ Reel said.
Telling the folks they help about Jesus is as important to these young people as building wheelchair ramps.
â€œWe use the work to open the door to evangelize to the neighbors,â€ said Andrew Blakeley, a seven-year veteran of the mission program.
Using the work as a sort of icebreaker, the youth talk to those they help about Jesus. They use door hangers and tracts as tools to get their message across.
â€œThatâ€™s the real project,â€ said Erika Taylor, who has worked with World Changers for six years
As far as those aided by the efforts of World Changers, the kids say some of them actually came out and help with the work. Some bring the volunteers lunch.
The teens says they received a variety of responses to their work, most of them positive.
â€œSome are really thankful and others arenâ€™t,â€ said Jessie Cline, who has participated in the program for five years.
According to Katie Mullen, a six year World Changers veteran, many people were touched by the work the group did.
â€œThey always cry when you leave,â€ she said.
For the World Changers volunteers, days began at 4:30 a.m., with the kids at work sites by 6 a.m. They stayed in a middle school and slept on air mattresses. The girls showered in the schoolâ€™s locker room, while the boys had to clean up in shower trailers with poor water pressure.
Despite the less than four-star accommodations, all the teens say they plan to participate in World Changers again. Several of them will be heading off to college later this month and say theyâ€™ll participate in the groupâ€™s more intensive college-age project when the time comes.
A total of 54 people from Freedom Church, kids and adults, made the trip to Roanoke, and Reel says all the countyâ€™s high schools were represented. According to Reel, theirs was the largest youth group in attendance.
The group says they are considering taking part in an international World Changers mission some time in the future.
Yet there is another project the members are excited to be starting right now: helping those in need right here in our community.
While they were in Virginia, Reelâ€™s wife called with information about a Lincoln County woman whose home is in dire need of a new roof. That prompted a Sunday school offering the first Sunday the group was back at church. People were charged a $1 â€œadmissionâ€ to Sunday school, and the $88 raised will go toward supplies for the local project.
Itâ€™s all part of a plan to keep the spirit of helping oneâ€™s fellow man â€“ and spreading Godâ€™s word â€“ alive in the community.
â€œOur plan is to continue doing what weâ€™re doing year round,â€ said Reel.
To follow what the youth of Freedom Church are up to in the future, visit www.freedomchurch nc.org.
by Allyson Levine