Prayer for the Woodlands

By Nicole Chick, Partnership Coordinator

I will never forget the first time I visited the Woodlands neighborhood for a cookout during the summer of 2014. I remember taking in the scene of the swarm of children waiting in line to have a few jumps in the bounce house, footballs flying, piggy back rides, jump rope contests, and the crowd of teenagers quiet and skeptical about our presence there. I remember the sound of laughter and seeing pure joy as Next Step volunteers and children from the Woodlands interacted through these activities and just had plain fun together.

My first summer visiting in the Woodlands, I truly struggled with the idea of us being there. I did not quite get how we were making an impact at all just through one free meal a week and running around with the kids for a couple hours. I remember doubting any real relationships would come about from these interactions. I remember minimizing the impact of the conversations had with the kids.

My doubts and skepticism began to shift over the course of that summer when I’d see a group of kids waiting at the pavilion with excited expectancy for our arrival, when I’d see Next Step staff run to greet kids by name with a hug and smile, and when stories began to flood in about conversations between volunteers and the kids about struggles at home, faith, and hope in Christ. The Lord began to open my eyes, no doubt, to the desire that many kids in the Woodlands had to be loved, to be heard, and to connect. As I began to interact more with the kids myself, I too learned about the struggles many kids faced at home of neglect, abuse, and loneliness.

Over the past several years the Lord has been working in huge ways in the Woodlands neighborhood. In 2013 the Lord called Community Organizer, Neva Hill, to the Woodlands who has been a solid partner, a dear friend, and a bold, active woman of God. Neva’s vision for the neighborhood has focused on the kids. Her desire is to¬†provide them with a center to come read, participate in activities, and build community together. She has worked alongside of volunteers throughout the city to provide resources for families through donations, activity groups, and family events. Next Step serves as volunteers for this vision in the summer months, however we only play a small part in it. Neva, keeps reaching toward this vision year round and the growth of relationships, city partnerships, and events that have taken place in the Woodlands as a result, is truly remarkable.

The more I have gotten to know the Woodlands neighborhood and Neva, the more the Lord has revealed to me the part Next Step plays in truly making an impact and why it is so valuable to serve a community meal and intentionally interact with the kids. It is so encouraging to not only understand the vision for the community, but to see how the Lord is making it possible throughout the year.

Would you join me in praying for the Woodlands neighborhood and Neva? The Lord has some major projects and outreach events in store for Next Step and the Woodlands’ partnership. Please be praying that the Lord would continue to strengthen Neva and surround her with support throughout the year to provide holistically for the kids in the Woodlands. All the glory and praise to our God who has equipped and called proactive leaders like Neva to serve His people in ways that make Him known in Milwaukee.

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