FRESNO — As a result of their recent mission trip to a World Changers site in Oakland, students at White Road Baptist Church in San Jose now plan to do ministry once a quarter for the elderly in their church.
World Changers, sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, is a hands-on construction and cleanup missions experience for middle school through college students that this summer took place in 50 cities across the nation, including Fresno and the East Bay.
Access International is another LifeWay ministry, that sends students on international mission trips. Pathway Church in Redlands participated in that emphasis this summer.
World Changers involved 173 students in Oakland/San Leandro “engaged in painting, fence repair, tree removal, weed abatement, graffiti removal, landscaping, ground clearing and other repairs to homes of seniors and low-income individuals,” Chris Watson told the California Southern Baptist. Watson, director of the Telegraph Community Ministry Center in Oakland, coordinated the July 10-15 effort.
“This has really activated us as a church to be involved in church planting and relief efforts in our city,” said Pete Ramirez, pastor for the last eight years of White Road Baptist Church. “Seeing the needs and how we can help has been a gateway and a great, great blessing.
“The great thing about this mission trip is that our church has adopted a mentality of helping churches and being active in our community,” Ramirez continued. “We have really adopted a Kingdom mentality.”
This was the fourth year for White Road to send out their students on summer missions adventures. In previous years they helped a church plant with block parties and other ways of engaging with people in the community. This summer was the first time they saw the effect on the community of the people they served.
“We cleaned an alley that was probably one of the worst alleys I’ve ever seen,” Ramirez said. Situated in the dark between an elementary school and Eastbay First Korean Baptist Church in Oakland, the alley was filled with used drug paraphernalia, human waste and trash.
The students wore face masks because of the stench, gloves to pick up what they could and power washers to break up the baked-on muck.
“This wasn’t assigned to us,” Ramirez said. “We were removing graffiti from the church and had to do something about the alley. The neighbors were pretty happy with us, and the school people.”
In addition, the White Road group painted homes, painted the entire church, repaired stairs and — with the help of professionals called in from their congregation — dealt with electrical issues at the Korean church, which in its heyday thrived, though the congregation now is mostly older adults.
“It made our youth conscious of our own widows in our church, the needs they possibly could help with,” Ramirez noted. “Our church is now going to go to the homes of our widows every three months, and we’re starting this because of World Changers.
“We’ve really mobilized our whole church in being involved with missions in our local area,” he continued. “That was not the lifestyle of the church.
“The youth have taken the lead on this.”
Members of First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim drove four hours to participate in the Fresno-area World Changers project.
“The teens painted houses, built fences and introduced the community to the love of Jesus through both words and actions,” Josh Sanchez told the CSB. Sanchez is youth minister at First Southern, and it was the first time in several years the church had sent its students on a mission trip.
“I wanted my teens to be involved in a missions project to stretch them outside their comfort zones,” Sanchez said. “I believe that when we live selfless lives, we emulate our Lord who literally died for us. The least we can do is to sacrifice our time, effort and comfort to bring the gospel to those who need it.”
Adults in the congregation can see a difference in those who go on mission trips, Sanchez noted.
“Too often the storyline written about the teenage life is one of selfishness, apathy and spiritual darkness,” he explained. “But when students go on mission, a different story is told. It is a story about sacrifice, love and shining God’s light.
“The universal church also benefits in that we are encouragers of each other by connecting as a Kingdom and working together,” Sanchez said, referring to the students from many congregations across the nation who join in World Changers projects.
Pathway Church sent its youth to Puerto Rico to participate in an Access International project.
“The all-inclusive price is the best I have been able to find for a mission trip for students,” Doug Collins, Pathway’s student pastor, told the CSB.
“What makes it the most affordable is the option to line up your own airfare, which sometimes allows you to save a few hundred dollars,” he explained. “Not a lot of mission agencies allow that.”
The Pathway students went to Puerto Rico July 1-8, primarily working with a Dominican church planter in the Santurce area.
“We walked the neighborhood of the church, inviting people to a Thursday night cookout, and then sharing Christ with them, so pretty much we did street evangelism,” Collins said. “We cooked burgers and hot dogs for the people who showed up that night, shared Christ, and closed in an impromptu worship service.
“Other parts of the week we went to another church plant to help decorate their church for a kids’ VBS for the following week,” Collins added.
When students participate in mission projects, “it provides cement for their faith,” he noted.
“For a lot of students, they attend church week in and week out for years, hearing the same lessons and stories, but until they apply it to something active and service-based, their personal faith is ‘a good idea,’ at best,” Collins explained. “Beyond providing an opportunity for students to actualize their faith, an international missions project — even one stateside, really — helps expand a student’s worldview, which is always a good thing.”
Students going on mission trips receive training and equipping as well as experience they can use for the rest of their lives, Collins added.
“God uses these things — even their stories — to enrich the local body of believers,” he said. “These students oftentimes come back more eager to be a part of their church, and in the long-term future, these experiences provide anchors for their faith, and sometimes catalysts to positions of leadership or long-term ministry.”