All posts in “Lorain, OH”

The Wards

‘These kids will seriously be in my eulogy. Those five weeks were the most joyful time in my entire life.’

 

As I entered their dining room for the first time since it had been a Next Step construction zone, Mrs. Ward shared the quote above. She quickly ushered me to the far side of the room where an entire wall had been dedicated to framed pictures and notes from the 5 Next Step groups who had worked on their home this summer. For the next hour and a half, I had the privilege of hearing just how much the Wards’ lives had changed as they experienced the love of Christ through the platform of home repair.

 

After being referred through our trusted partners at Neighborhood Alliance in the fall of 2017, I had the honor of meeting the Wards for the first time shortly after. As I toured their home, I was immediately impacted by the love they had for each other and their community as a whole. At the age of 70, Mrs. Ward commits 3-4 days a week to volunteering in a local thrift shop and Mr. Ward, at 74 years old, serves on the front lines of organizing fundraising efforts to send children with type 1 diabetes to a specialized summer camp. Mrs. Ward would later share with me just how nervous she was that first day as it had been a two year process for her to work up the courage to reach out for help with the growing hole in her dining room ceiling and the safety hazards on the staircases to both entrances of their home. It’s not easy asking for assistance.

 

As we got to know each other leading up to the summer, the Wards shared their stories with me. We talked about everything from their wedding 20 years ago, to their children and grandchildren, and even their separate upbringings- each full of different celebrations and challenges. As I learned more and more about this couple, I was certain that God had big things in store for what was about to unfold at their home this summer- and not just big construction projects either.

 

As I sat with the Wards just a couple of days ago, I asked them what their favorite thing was about their experience this summer. What Mr. Ward said was profound, ‘We are greatly blessed by the construction projects that took place at our home, but what really impacted us was the experience of it all.’ Mrs. Ward added, ‘The most memorable part of this experience was the hugs, dancing around my dining room with the kids, laughing, crying, and just the feeling of love like I’ve never felt it before, without any judgement.’

 

The Wards’ story is one of many displaying the power of the God we serve. Only a powerful God can create life long impacts using 5 groups of complete strangers for week long increments. Only a powerful God can use those strangers to portray a love like never experienced before. And only our powerful God can use this short period of time to change lives forever.

 

 

 

 

Mutual Blessing

This summer we have had the privilege to work alongside some amazing homeowners out in Lorain County. For the past 3 weeks we have been working hard with Mr. Bill to build two wheelchair ramps and install safety railings in his home. This process will allow Bill to continue to live in his childhood home for years to come. We are so thankful for the many crews who have contributed to working on these projects, the progress has been really cool to witness.

Although Mr. Bill has certainly been impacted by the work of our visiting Next Step groups, we have been blown away by the way he has been able to bless the visiting groups in return. Throughout the weeks Mr. Bill has contributed snacks and refreshment to the crews, including a couple of pizza lunches! However, perhaps the most meaningful moment took place two weeks ago, when Mr. Bill invited the entire group of mission participants out for a barbecue at the cultural club he is a member at.

As Mr. Bill witnessed over 70 people fill the outdoor lawn space at the Mexican Mutual Club, pride radiated from his face. Not only was Next Step able to bless Mr. Bill with their physical labor on the worksite, but he was able to bless them with an experience they would not forget. As students played frisbee and spike ball, enjoyed grilled hotdogs, and even participated in an impromptu talent show- it was obvious that this night was special. To top it off, Mr. Bill was able to close out the night by sharing with the group some history about the Mexican Mutual Club and why he deeply loves his community.

When people are able to use their gifts to bless others, I believe we get a glimpse of what God has intended for us- all of us. He has given each of us strengths and talents regardless of our age, physical ability, socioeconomic status, etc. We are blessed to witness the unveiling of those through the relationships we have built in Lorain County.

Thank you to all who have had a hand in working at Mr. Bill’s!

Thank you to Mr. Bill for blessing us with a special memory at your favorite place!

 

Little Hearts Day Care

This summer in Lorain, we are so excited to work with Michelle Brooks over at Little Hearts Daycare. When we first met Michelle and she shared her vision for the playground she imagined for the kids at her daycare- we knew we just had to get on board! We asked Michelle to teach us a little bit about her daycare, here is what she said:
Share a little bit about your daycare. How does it serve the community of Lorain?
This daycare really has been able to impact my community in multiple ways. Through opening the daycare, we were able to provide 10 employees a steady, full time income. Over the past year that we have been open we also have been able to serve 50+ children and their families by creating a safe space for learning. As we see steady growth in our registration numbers, we are affirmed that our community is in need for a daycare like ours. Our kids range in age from 6 weeks-12 years old. We are also able to offer extended hours from 5:30am-7:30pm to accommodate many different work schedules as well as offer transportation to bring the children to and from the building.
Share a little bit about your passion behind your daycare. Why are you so passionate about this place?
I have been working with children since I was 14 at my first job as a Day Camp Counselor at the YMCA. As an adult I continued to work with children through my position at Head Start, which I stayed at for over 20 years. Caring for kids has always been my passion. Throughout my entire life, I have never had a thought of another type of career. The adventure of opening Little Hearts began in 2002 when I opened my in- home daycare. As the need was outgrowing my space, I decided to branch off and open up in a larger space. We have been at this location for a little over 1 year.
Why are you excited to invest in a playground for the kids at your center? How will it impact them?
Around here there aren’t really any parks within walking distance for kids at the daycare. I am very excited that they will have their own space to come and play every day. With this playground we will be able to incorporate exercise into our daily routine here at Little Hearts. This will help the children to learn to stay active and healthy everyday. 
What are you looking forward to most about the work taking place this summer?
I’m excited that the Little Hearts kids will be involved in the whole process. For them, they will get to witness what it looks like to build something from the ground up. I especially am looking forward to its completion when the kids are able to take ownership of the park as their own. I am also eager to see how the Next Step teams will be able to set an example as role models for the younger kids at our center.
Join us in praying for Michelle, her employees, the 50 kids and their families represented at Little Hearts, as well as the work that will take place this summer.

Abundance of Assets

One of the coolest privileges of living in a community is getting the opportunity to see the Lord work through different groups and individuals year round. During the summer months we are surely blessed to have Him use mission groups to impact our city and the cool thing is that even though our trips stop in August, He doesn’t! Today I would love to share just one way He is working through local residents and community initiatives during the ‘off-season’ for mission trips. Continue Reading…

More Than a Ramp

‘Liz, this is Will. You put my mom’s ramp on the house this summer. I just wanted to let you know my mom passed away two days ago. I just wanted to tell you I greatly appreciate what you did for her. Take care.’ Continue Reading…

Lorain: Jewel of the North Coast

Do you ever leave space in your week to dream? To ask yourself – where do I want to be in the next 10 years? Where do I see my community, family, and friendships evolving?

Recently, in Lorain, we have been taking time to do just that. The image you see above is the front page of our local newspaper- The Morning Journal. You may notice, though, it is dated to June 20, 2027. This is one of our dreams- that 10 years from now our city will be recognized as ‘The Jewel of the North Coast’, that the stigmas that currently plague our city will be a distant memory, and that positive celebrations can replace stories of devastation on the front page of our newspaper. Dreaming is fun isn’t it?

But here’s the thing, dreaming is only the first step. It provides us an end goal, but also begs the question ‘So how do we get there?’ Here in Lorain we have been engaging in a series of community conversations around that very question. In the image of our 2027 Morning Journal cover you will notice a couple blank spaces to be filled in, this is where we determine the steps to accomplish our dreams. We believe a foundational part of this process rests in networking and collaboration. Throughout these conversations people with similar passions in their vision for our city have been identified and will soon be grouped together to actually begin working together on some of these steps.

It’s so cool to see the impact of a focused group of passionate citizens. The conversation has only just begun and we are certainly excited by the potential to make these dreams come alive. Please join us in praying for our city and the Lorain Proud movement. Check out the link below for more details.

Lorain Proud Website

Multiply

And just like that we wrap up another season of mission trips. It is with great joy that we reflect on the countless homes repaired, friendships created, and lives impacted by Christ over the past nine weeks throughout our mission trip season. Join with me in a couple praises specifically from Ohio this summer: Continue Reading…

Construction Work Is Messy

Messy.

This is a word that paints a different mental picture for each of us. If you are a homeowner in the middle of a construction project, the image of your kitchen covered in drywall dust, or backyard piled high with demolition debris, may come to mind. For a Next Step Volunteer, their mind may flash back to leaving the worksite covered in paint or mud from a hard day’s work. If you’ve served on Summer Staff, you may envision a kitchen filled with the week’s Sysco order, or foot washing buckets filled with dirty water after Thursday night service. Continue Reading…

Expectation

Over at Next Step we certainly define May as a month of ‘Expectation’. As we nail down the final details of our summer program, we are filled with anticipation as to how God will arrange them to expand His Kingdom over the next few months. In the whirlwind of countless to-do lists and last minute preparations this month brings, I have come to deeply value the discipline of reflection. Taking a moment to consider the thousands of students and community members who will have the opportunity to take their next steps in faith this summer grounds me back to the heart beat of this mission- to encounter and embody Jesus Christ through service. Continue Reading…

Lorain Charrette

Over the past two weeks, the air has been thick with excitement around some very intentional conversations here in Lorain. In partnership with Kent State University, the Lorain Historical Society has just finished hosting an eight part series of community discussions called the Lorain Charrettes. Continue Reading…

Follow the Leader

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where good intentions did not play out how you hoped they would? Maybe you’ve baked peanut butter cookies for someone with an allergy, surprised someone who hates surprises, or accidentally offended someone you meant to celebrate. Continue Reading…

Missions Outside of the Trip

I love mission trips, don’t you? I experience so much joy introducing visitors to my amazing community. Working alongside my neighbors on construction projects provides such a tangible platform to be the hands and feet of Christ. Worshipping with individuals from different parts of the country every evening is a blessing experienced in very few other platforms. Each summer I am more and more amazed at the ways the Lord uses the 9 weeks of mission trips here in Lorain County to transform and expand his Kingdom. Continue Reading…

The Theology of Presence

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of spending extended time with my friend Carole. Carole is a wonderful older woman who was introduced to me and many Next Step volunteers two years ago as we started construction at her home. Continue Reading…

Donna’s Story

It doesn’t take a detective to uncover the evidence that we live in a world infected with the very real disease of sin. Each community bears the symptoms of this disease a little differently. In my community it takes the form of  violence, poverty, education barriers, malnutrition, anger, hopelessness- the list could go on. If I can be completely transparent for a moment, I have to admit that these realities overwhelm me at times. Continue Reading…

Bringing It Home: Living on Mission

Two weeks ago we were privileged here in Lorain County to work alongside a group of 7 wonderful volunteers from Hinsdale, IL. What an incredible time it was experiencing the Lord together through construction projects, community outreach, nightly worship, and fellowship! Continue Reading…

Pieces of the Puzzle

As a representative of my community, the task of delivering our volunteers a comprehensive picture of the work the Lord is doing year-round in Lorain County is always tricky. Throughout their trip, Next Step volunteers have the privilege of witnessing the Lord’s transformative work in a very intimate and personal setting. Often, visiting groups are able to experience the Lord intervene within their youth group, the homeowners they are serving alongside, community partners, and on a personal level. The stories and experiences our volunteers have are truly amazing. Continue Reading…