A little over a year ago, in October 2018, we celebrated the grand opening of the Envision Providence site. Robert and Amy Childs had settled in and were preparing to kick off the urban ministry with programs designed to reach and benefit the international communities throughout their Providence neighborhood.

We took a few minutes to catch up with the Childs and recap all that has taken place over the last year. It’s been quite a busy site, with many team visits, summer programs, ESL classes, Kids Club AWANA, and the development of a community garden throughout the year. Here are some of the highlights.

Team Visits

Over the spring, summer and early fall, many of our district churches, as well as churches from as far away as Ohio, brought groups for short-term mission trips to the Envision site. Some of these teams organized and ran summer camps, while others dedicated their services to work on the building and facilities. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Shawnee Alliance Church – Basketball camp
  • Faith Alliance Church – Built greenhouses
  • Orrville Alliance Church – Vacation Bible School
  • Essex Men’s Team – Building demolition and construction, build garden boxes
  • Spanish Eastern District youth groups (Boston and Centro Cristiano) – Paint and construction on the greenhouses
  • Church of Emmanuel – Neighborhood work day

“Between the two summer programs run by the Ohio teams, we were able to connect with over 80 new kids,” said Amy. “The COE team rebuilt a neighbor’s retaining wall and gate, and she was so appreciative she has come to church with us a few times since then.”

The building is still in need of a lot of work. The Essex team visited twice to do major demolition, which brought everything down to a shell. Now it’s time to rebuild. A kitchen and bathroom are both needed upstairs, as well as electric and plumbing throughout. 

Community Programs

In this inaugural year, the Envision team focused on supporting three primary community outreach ministries. These included a Kids Club program during the school year, ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, and the development of a community garden.

“AWANA was a big success,” Robert said. “We added to our attendance each week until we ended for the summer.” He continued, “We have several children who want to come but are unable to get to us because of a lack of transportation. Even from 10 blocks, it is not safe to walk, especially now that it is dark early. We would love to be able to purchase a van to drive kids around.”

The ESL program is quite popular and students continually ask for more classes. While some are discouraged because they require lessons that are even more basic, the team is using this semester to focus on building relationships. “We hosted a game night and an American Thanksgiving with our students,” Robert said. “Now we’re looking forward to our next event where we will decorate Christmas cookies and talk about the meaning of Christmas.”

The community garden has also been a wonderful success. The Essex Men’s team also helped construct garden boxes for inside the greenhouses. “Through the garden, we have connected with neighbors representing 15 different countries, right in our parking lot!” Amy exclaimed. “Several of our gardeners are now coming to church on Sundays as well.”

God at Work

When asked to reflect on the last year and any highlights that stood out, Amy immediately thought of Joyce Wong, from COE in Foxboro, MA. “Originally from Hong Kong, Joyce attended our ESL training last fall without any clear desire to teach,” Amy explains. “She felt God leading her, but wasn’t quite sure where. We kept in contact after the training, and Joyce ended up leaving a stressful job and joining our volunteer team. One of our students was also from Hong Kong and immediately connected with Joyce. They have had conversations about faith and why someone would volunteer to teach English to complete strangers. The student is very open, and we’re praying her relationship with Joyce will lead to a decision to follow Christ.”

Arrival of Robbie Haddad

As we also shared in July, the Envision site excitedly welcomed Robbie Haddad last month to the team. Returning from his placement in Berlin where he worked with Muslim refugees, Robbie is settling into his old hometown area and familiarizing himself with the site’s Kids Klub and ESL programs. He will be an active part of facilitating those ministries during his time at Envision Providence.

Overall, it’s apparent the last year has been busy for the Childs and they have done an amazing job organizing all of the community outreach programs and the short-term mission trips from churches throughout the region. 

Partnership Opportunities for 2020

As we move into the next year, we want to encourage churches within the district to prayerfully consider how they can partner with Envision by engaging in their programs and ministries. For many congregations, this entails organizing small group, short-term mission trips. However, there are other ways to reach out and benefit the Envision staff and their initiatives in the Providence community. This can be both financially and through prayer.

Financial Needs

Envision would use funds for the following initiatives:

  • VAN PURCHASE: A van that can help transport people to the site for church, Kids Klub, and ESL programs during times of bad weather and after dark.
    • $3000 has been raised so far via the Hope Tree project at Church of Emmanuel; and Shawnee Alliance in Ohio has designated Envision Providence as the recipient of their Christmas offering.
  • BUILDING REMODEL: Various site projects including adding a bathroom, kitchen and additional dorm rooms.
  • STAFF SUPPORT: Financial support for both Robert and Robbie Haddad.

Donations for any of the above goals can be made at https://secure.cmalliance.org/give/

Prayer Needs

Please continue lifting up the following prayer requests:

  • Favor with the civil authorities: As we seek to build and do projects in the city, good relationships with city leaders are important.
  • ESL students: We have been building relationships with students and are hoping that those bear spiritual fruit in the next few months.
    • Winnie, a woman from China, who has begun to ask questions about Christianity.
    • Milton and Patria are a couple from the Dominican Republic.
  • Community Garden: Similar to the above, relationships with local gardeners are blossoming.
    • Genevieve and Faustine are a couple from Congo who have been visiting IAC after meeting us through the garden and we are praying for them

For more information on Envision and how to get involved in the programs and planning for 2020, how you can individually or as a group support their ministry, or any other questions can be directly right to Robert and Amy.