Changing Students to Become Lifestyle Missionaries

Mar 13, 2003 12:19 PM EST

DALLAS, Tx – The North American Mission Board recognizes domestic missionary Walter Mickels for his great works in the evangelistic field, March 2-9 during the NAMB Week of Prayer. Mickels is one of three national missionaries with the NAMB who coordinates World Changers projects throughout the United States and Canada. Since his involvement with the ministry in 1991, he has touched the hearts of thousands of people by rehabilitating substandard housing and by leading middle school, high school and college students to become "lifestyle missionaries for a lifetime."

"Our primary philosophy at World Changers is to change the world of the participant. Our goal is to expose students to missions in the hope that God will take them, prick their hearts and then draw them to a higher calling in the realm of missions," he said.

Mickels’ involvement with World Changers began with an invitation to participate in a renovation project in Weslaco, Texas. According to Mickels, the work was an awakening in interest and commitment to missions. He wishes to promote the same feeling and passion among the new participants.

"I am convinced that many students are not 'on mission' because we have not taught them to be on mission. ... Once we expose them to it and they experience the benefit of giving of themselves, then God begins to call those students out to a higher level of commitment to missions," he said.

The participants also touch the lives of the property owners, whose homes are renovated by World Changers.

"On many occasions people will ask us why we are repairing this home or what we're doing in the neighborhood," he said. "As the week progresses and as they see those students working and making a difference on their house, then the people begin to open up. They sit and talk with us, tell their neighbors about us and even cook for us sometimes."

Mickels recalls beautiful memories throughout this 11 years of World Changers mission work. One such example, came when the WC crew renovated an elderly man’s house. A neighboring woman was so touched by their mission, that she offered what little she had to assist in their work.

"We were working on a gentleman's house, and it was in such poor condition. Some of the other senior citizens in the neighborhood had done their best to try and keep it up but couldn't. One neighbor had such appreciation for what we were doing ... that she went back home and got her checkbook," Mickels said.

The $100 check was sent to a local church's mission fund. "If we hadn't accepted it," Mickels said, "we would have robbed her of a blessing."

Mickels also recounted renovating homes in the Native American communities that are often overlooked by churches. Student volunteers renovated homes on the Catawba reservation near Rockhill, S.C., and on the Cherokee nation reservation near Stillwell, Okla., helping many traditional Native Americans.

"In most of the places we go there is already some witness. But for years World Changers has been the only Christian witness on the Catawba reservation. We have worked hard there, and this next year we are going to be building a Baptist church on the reservation," Mickels said.

Mickels also worked with the Cherokee nation housing authority in Oklahoma in determining which homes to renovate.

"When we got into the community and worked on people's houses at no cost, then they began to question what it is that makes us do this. This is an opportunity for us to get our students in to work with a group that is most often not open to the gospel."

His wife, Sharon also works alongside her husband in World Changers. She not only leads projects but she volunteers at the work sites, offering the gospel message to anyone seeking.

"I went on a trip to Louisiana several years ago and watched to see what was going on during the projects. I thought, 'I've been missing all of this.' Our schedules are different, but every chance I get, I go," Sharon said.

"Sharon and I are getting more and more requests to go to different churches and speak about World Changers. We ask that Southern Baptists pray for us as we travel and ask that God will go before us in the cities where we will work, that the Holy Spirit will move in the lives of the people," Mickels said.

Mickels, coordinator of major projects in over eight states and Canada holds a bright hope for future World Changers missionaries.

"We want to develop lifestyle missionaries. We want to develop missionaries who, even though they go to an office every day or they go to a job every day, they still see themselves as being on mission. We want them to make the commitment of doing that several times a year on short-term mission trips. If God calls them to fulltime vocational service, that is great."

By Pauline J.