The Nehemiah Model

By John Ploetz, Construction Department

The vision has been cast. Prayers have been answered!

You have been hearing it all over the Next Step front – there is a new movement! We are making every effort to cultivate community-based work, where short-term mission trips collide with long-term community development.

Still uncertain what we mean? Well, here is another example:

Next Step’s Construction Department works hard to take a holistic approach to all construction projects. This means we do everything we can to ensure each work project goes beyond addressing just the physical needs within a community. Together, we ask if any given work project addresses any spiritual, emotional, health, educational, or self-actualization needs.

Often times, a physical need is easy to identify in collapsing homes or makeshift shelters. These physical needs can sometimes be the easiest needs to meet. However, if we just stop at the physical needs, we are in danger of developing a very short-term relationship. It can be easy to quickly go to a home, complete a construction project, and move on to the next. You may have even worked on a mission trip project like this in the past – Have you ever looked back and wondered how the resident is doing now that the construction project has been completed? Were any other needs uncovered beyond construction?

As we continue to as ourselves these questions, we have found a common denominator: We are only able to uncover and address the true needs of the community by living with the community and taking the time to form trusting relationships. This is where the Next Step Partnership Coordinators come into the scene.

As you know, we’ve been blessed to bring five new staff members on board as Partnership Coordinators. These amazing individuals live within the communities and their primary goal is to form solid, trusting relationships. As genuine relationships form, so will the foundation for uncovering existing needs with construction work and beyond. From a construction perspective – the better we know someone, the more likely we will hear the real needs. When we know the real needs we can make every effort to create long-lasting impact.

Next Step seeks a holistic approach by following the example shared in the biblical narrative of Nehemiah. The story is a perfect example of using construction to reach out to people to address physical needs and much more.

In this story, Nehemiah uncovered a number of problems. He could see that people were unhappy with Persian taxes, the Law of Moses was not upheld, and the new temple was being built without any protection from enemies. Nehemiah heard the voice of God and responded by embarking on a personal mission trip to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. He knew this was not something he could do on his own and that he would ultimately need the help of the entire city. Long story short, Nehemiah inspired people to follow him and join the mission as he served them. He earned people’s trust by negotiating peace with those who were unhappy with the Persian taxes.  With the trust he formed, he was able to create a massive team of people who were ready to follow him and pitch in to rebuild the wall. Sure enough, the city came together to build the wall! This massive feat, a relatively short-term project, gave everybody hope and a positive long-term direction. The city believed in Nehemiah and more importantly they believed in themselves. The people were encouraged, renewed, and excited about their future.

The Biblical story of Nehemiah is beautifully exemplified in the Bell Meade Estates of South Carolina. Here, Next Step partners with an organization called The Nehemiah Project. The director, Scooter Scott, launched this project to follow his personal calling to serve within the community. Scooter named the project after the Old Testament story of Nehemiah, inspired by the message of hope. Over the years, Scooter has met the entire Belle Meade community and has heard the needs. Scooter works hard to address many of the needs and the community trusts Scooter. Within this work, Scooter has developed a community wide mentality of “community first, self second”. This mentality has begun to catch on and residents are working together to rebuild their community in ways that go far beyond construction work.

It is our prayer that every construction project would serve as the platform for continued ministry and outreach. It is our hope that relationships will continue to grow from a place of trust. Much like Nehemiah, this is an effort to work from the inside-out and to create a collision of short term mission trips and long term community development.

Next Step Ministries