All posts in “Lorain, OH”

Ms. Peggy

A couple of weeks ago I was on my weekly grocery run when I ran into Ms. Peggy. This summer we had several Next Step teams connected with her to address some issues she was having with the siding on her home. As we caught up, I was astounded by what she shared. This summer Ms. Peggy was in the midst of battling several medical issues. A couple of times she even had to leave the Next Step groups working at her home while she attended doctor appointments.


‘Liz, I’m sharing this with anyone that will listen. After those Next Step teams prayed for me, the doctors continued to become more and more surprised. At the beginning of this summer, I was inches away from having a heart attack. Since then, my body has been healing in unexplainable ways. Tests are being cleared left and right.’


Wow, talk about watching God at work. I mean, I’ve always felt confident that God works through our Next Step volunteers, but there was something about her describing the play by play that inspired in me a special sense of wonder. It was like she was pulling back the curtain on God’s process and it brought me to a particular place of awe. She continued:


‘My doctors are about as baffled as I am. I mean, this is the first time that I have seen this prayer thing work in my life, the first time. I told you before that I’m not very religious, but this is different. It’s changed my life.’


Ms. Peggy has lived seven decades without witnessing the power of prayer. Let that sink in, seven decades. At this perfect place, in such a time as this, God decided to use the willing hands of his Church to make his power known. And 3 months later, Ms. Peggy is still being transformed. Sitting in awe of the power of God, ‘telling anyone who will listen’.


One of the deepest honors that comes with my role as a Partnership Coordinator here in Lorain County is the opportunity to stay connected with the homeowners we work with on a long term basis. Continuing to meet up with them reminds me of the work that God is doing in my community, day in and day out. He’s writing a unique and beautiful story here.


Thanks to all who worked at Ms. Peggy’s this summer. Her home has been restored, but most importantly her heart has been changed. Let’s continue to lift her up- towards full restoration, both on a spiritual and physical level.

God’s Perfect Timing

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.‘ – Ecclesiastes 3:1


As we go through our planning process for our summer construction projects out here in Ohio, we journey our way through a long list of logistical considerations. We think through things like whether we will be able to accomplish the project in a quality manner, we consider how many volunteers we have signed up, whether the project aligns with our mission – the list goes on. However, one of our most important preparation tools we use is prayer. Even through all the logistical preparation checkpoints, there is always an element of ‘unknown’ that we lean on the Lord’s guidance for. Will this homeowner feel comfortable inviting strangers into their house? Is this homeowner in good enough health for this experience? Will they be overwhelmed by us? Will they join for lunch time devos? What does our ministry with this person look like outside of the construction project? We know that the Lord connects us to each family we work alongside, however sometimes the reason isn’t clear at first.


As we wrap up the third week of our summer work out here in Lorain County, I’ve been blown away as the Lord has pulled back the curtain on His ‘why’ for connecting us with the homeowners on our schedule. One individual called me about 2 weeks before we were scheduled to start working at her home to share that she had been scheduled for a surgery that would take place on our second work day. As we discussed our options, the homeowner decided that she would like to continue as planned despite the surgery. I was interested to see how it would play out.


The day before the surgery I received a phone call from this homeowner. The surgery had been cancelled due to an irregularity noticed in her white blood cell count. This sweet lady had been waiting 10 years to have this surgery and now would have to wait longer. A week later the surgery was rescheduled, still during the duration of the project taking place at her home. Next Step volunteers were able to pray over her as she prepared, once more, for the surgery ahead. Again, I received a phone call the day before the rescheduled surgery. In tears, the homeowner shared that it was once again cancelled- this time due to concerns with her kidney health.


Initially when I received word that this surgery would take place during the work project, I thought ‘what bad timing’. I mean, who wants to recover from surgery while 10 strangers are hammering away at your roof? However, as I reflected with this homeowner, God’s timing became perfectly clear to me. ‘I think God put Next Step in my life for exactly this time,’ she said, ‘He knew that it would have been nearly impossible to deal with my cancelled surgery alone. The groups have been able to encourage and pray with me, which has been the only thing that has kept my spirits up through this.’


When we added her to our schedule, we knew we would be able to share Christ’s love through the work on the roof. We had no idea that He would be able to use us for far more.

Ministry Opportunities

‘I know God hears me because He had you call me today. Last night was really hard, I really needed to know He was with me.’ Continue Reading…

Neighborhood Alliance

Prior to beginning our partnership with Lorain County in 2013, God was preparing our work through fostering a couple of key connections. Some of you may know the story of our start in this community (the full story is for a different post, perhaps) but for those of you who don’t, it began with the perseverance of one of our trip leaders. A Youth Leader from Ohio had taken a group to the Bahamas for their own mission trip and before we knew it, we were preparing to set up camp at their home church for a summer of service in Lorain County. Part of preparing any site is going through the process of focusing in on the type of work our volunteers will participate in during their trip. The can be tied to a specific community initiative, church outreach, community leader or community organization. For us, in Lorain County, this is where we began our relationship with Neighborhood Alliance.


Neighborhood Alliance has been compassionately caring for Lorain County since 1927. They work with clients from all different demographics providing emergency shelter, family support services, child care and enrichment services, access to wellness programs, as well as daily hot meals to homebound seniors. With their commitment to being accessible to their clients, they have locations placed right within the neighborhoods they serve throughout the county. Neighborhood Alliance prides themselves on utilizing a collaborative approach to serve the community. It is important to them to work in tandem with other like-mission organizations to deliver services whenever possible to ultimately enhance comprehensive services to residents of Lorain County.


After swapping missions, it was a no – brainer. Whatever Neighborhood Alliance was leading, we wanted to be a part of it. Neighborhood Alliance saw a clear fit for us in working with their Senior Meal Delivery Program. They had expressed a gap in their capacity with seniors when it came to things like home repair, sharing that often times when delivery drivers were exposed to a physical need on the home, they would have nowhere to turn. Since 2013 we have been working alongside this amazing organization. It is a joy to be a part of the important and meaningful work they are doing in Lorain County and a comfort to know that the homeowners we encounter have a organization like Neighborhood Alliance to support them before and long after our time with them.



Lorain County Passion Project: Streator Park 2.0


Why would I love to offer an exceptional weekly block party at Streator Park in 2019? My vision is that this block party can be a space where relationships between neighbors are built. That during these gatherings, Next Step volunteers and staff can contribute to a positive and fun community environment. The hope is that these weekly events can be a first step in getting families and individuals connected with their community- illustrating that we all exist within something bigger than ourselves, and that we each have a part to play. There is power in community, in knowing your neighbors, and in viewing your common space with ownership. We hope this block party can be a starting point in bringing a little bit of heaven down to earth.



Streator Park Block Party 2.0 will be built on two pillars: Community Engagement and Community Celebration. Each week we will be offering some sort of activity for volunteers and community members to take part in. Depending on the week, this could be anything from community Zumba class to educational programs put on by the library to a performance from a local group and beyond. We believe that a shared experience is a great foundation for relationships to grow upon- we are excited to use community engagement activities to make this happen. As far as ‘Community Celebration’ goes, we are eager to use this block party to showcase the amazing strengths of our city – primarily in serving food each week from local food businesses as well as highlighting different local groups during our engagement piece.



Together, we must do this together. Not only will this vision take the generosity of local businesses and individuals, but it will also require overhead financial support. Providing local food, talent, and entertainment (think bounce houses, cotton candy machines, etc.) all have a cost associated with them. I ask those coming out to Lorain County this summer to take some time to pray about their role in these block parties. What are your strengths? What part do you play in our community as believers?

If you wish to contribute financially, here is the link to contribute ( When donating, select the drop down “Lorain County” if you wish to give.



Lorain County Project Selection

‘How do you find projects?  How do you choose which projects Next Step volunteers will work on during their mission trip?’


These are questions that I am often asked in preparing volunteers to serve in Lorain County. Continue Reading…

Celebration by the Numbers

As we wrap up the final details of the summer work that was completed here in Lorain County by Next Step this summer, it’s hard not to take a second to stop and celebrate. God is doing some amazing things here in Lorain County and at Next Step, we feel so privileged to be a part of it. I so wish I could share every reflection from homeowners and community partners with each of you who gave their time to serve this summer. Your investment means more than you may ever know. But to give you a snapshot- I’ll share some celebrations around a couple of key statistics:
287 Volunteers from 10 different states committed a week of their summer to serve in Lorain County. We are confident that each of you was selected by the Lord purposefully. We thank God for you- and pray you are still serving selflessly back in your home communities.
9 Summer Staff members from 8 different states committed 10 weeks of their summer to serving in Lorain County. When I think of the ways these individuals extended themselves to serve youth leaders, students, community members, and each other this summer I feel sharpened as a sister in Christ. I thank God for the opportunity to rub shoulders with the 9 of you in ministry together this summer- and I’m certain I am not alone in that sentiment.
13 Homeowners/ Community Organizations worked alongside Next Step staff and volunteers to complete 22 home repair and community projects in Lorain County this summer. We cannot express enough gratitude to our Lord for the ways he has used these amazing homeowners to teach us and bless us this summer. Countless students, staff, and youth leaders have shared stories of how the families they worked alongside impacted their lives forever. I feel blessed to call these folks my neighbors and eager to see how the Lord continues to work through them to extend his love here in Lorain County.
What a small, yet so very beautiful, snapshot these numbers represent. I invite you to be praying for Lorain County year round with me. For a close up view on these amazing numbers, consider checking out Lorain County for your 2019 mission trip, our arms are open wide!

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


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


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…


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…

Next Step Ministries