The Nehemiah Mission: Send Me to the City

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By Rick Wolcott*

“There is work to be done here.”

With those words, spoken by then North Coast District superintendent the Rev. Dan Drew, the idea of The Nehemiah Mission of Cleveland was conceived on August 3, 2003.

Over the next 10 years, 12,000 volunteers from across the country have come to Cleveland, completed 1,200 projects, impacted thousands of lives and been transformed themselves.

“I had the privilege of being an intern at Nehemiah Mission this summer. Boy was I in for a treat!” Otterbein University student Marlena Luikart told those in attendance at the 2014 Season Celebration on October 25. “I got to work with and got to know some amazing residents and got to know their individual stories. Each site I got to work at gave me a unique lesson and experience.”

“The Nehemiah Mission is an organization that God has his hands on,” client Janet Ballard shared. “The day that Nehemiah Mission came to my rescue they made an awesome impact on my heart, my children and my community.”

“This is a place that has meant more to me than any place I have ever ministered,” keynote speaker and the first executive director of The Nehemiah Mission the Rev. Jan Yandell said. “It’s a place God blessed me to be in for five special years.”

Marie Gray told the saga of her 12-year struggle with the city of Cleveland to receive assistance in painting her century home. The Nehemiah Mission completed the project within two months of contacting her this summer.

“Not only did you help build and repair and restore and rekindle and renew and regenerate and revive our house, but you also did that with us – me and my mother, who was taking care of me after my surgery,” she said.

Nehemiah Mission Executive Director, Jim Szakacs
Nehemiah Mission Executive Director, Jim Szakacs

Executive director Jim Szakacs reminded the clients who were present that the relationship between them and the Nehemiah Mission staff and volunteers is ongoing.

“Thank you for letting us be part of your family because you have become a part of ours.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Ballard when she addressed Szakacs and his staff.

“To the Nehemiah Mission of Cleveland, my family, I will never forget your labor of love and your being the answer to my prayers.”

“You’ve got to love people to be part of this Nehemiah Mission ministry,” Gray said.

In addition to hosting mission teams in the summer, The Nehemiah Mission is also home to the Matilde Davila emergency food pantry, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, the Revolution 216 worship service, and offers tutoring services for neighborhood children.

Beginning in November, Rocky River UMC will operate a free store inside a remodeled portion of The Nehemiah Mission facility.

“It’s a God thing,” Yandell said. “This whole Mission is a God thing.”

Learn more about The Nehemiah Mission by clicking here.

*Rick Wolcott is director of communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.