Work blends with evangelism this week in Tupelo

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A set of new shingles, a few boards, or a pack of nails might not sound like much, but a group of more than 170 students is using them to change the world and spread the gospel, one house at a time.
World Changers, a branch of LifeWay Christian Resources, brings church groups from across the South to various cities to complete renovation projects on substandard housing. Monday evening they arrived in Tupelo, ready to begin a week of mission work.
Hosted by families of the First Baptist Church, 17 crews will help restore 17 different work sites, by painting, landscaping, roofing and other tasks. The houses to be repaired are chosen by the city, which also pays for construction supplies.
The trip marks Taylor Brown’s sixth trip with World Changers. The Pleasant Grove, Ala., native said the final product of the week’s work is what keeps him coming back.
“I’ve tried similar programs, but the reaction from the person who lives in the house we’ve worked all week on is special,” he said. “They are so appreciative.”
Brown’s group worked Tuesday on a house in the Haven Acres area. In addition to reroofing the house, he said the crew also had plans to stabilize the back deck and reinforce the home’s wheelchair ramp.
Jonathan Thornton, missions and communication specialist for the Memphis branch of World Changers, said working on a house is a bridge to deeper conversation.
“The house itself, in all likelihood, is going to be gone in the next 100 years or so. It is temporary, but what we are really concerned with is the eternal,” he said. “The work is an avenue to talk to people about Christ. Some people are really receptive to it, but others aren’t, but you never know what seed has been planted.”
However, Thornton said, the work is not solely for the benefit of the house’s resident. The impact it has on students is just as powerful.
“My favorite part is to see them become more and more invested in the project over the week as God catches their heart,” he said. “World Changers is just as much for the participants as it is for the houses.”
riley.manning@journalinc.com