In the beginning…….
In 1998 three volunteers from First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, First Assembly of God in East Hartford (now Crossroads Community Cathedral), and Valley Community Baptist Church (Avon) began praying and planning toward the launch of Noah’s Sidewalk Sonday School, a ministry designed to share the gospel of Christ with the poor. NSSS was modeled after the Sidewalk Sunday School concept developed by MetroMinistries of Brooklyn, New York. Metro, the largest urban outreach ministry in North America, introduced the concept in which a customized box truck ‘takes church to the streets’ of inner city neighborhoods.
NSSS began on October 31, 1998 at the Chappelle Gardens housing complex in Hartford’s north end. Eventually moving to the parking lot of nearby Simpson-Waverly elementary School, the outdoor program ran 32 weeks/year and averaged between 40 - 60 kids in attendance each week, most between the ages of 5-12. NSSS employed songs, games, and Bible-based lessons to plant in unchurched north end children the seeds of basic scriptural truths. Approximately 80% of children who participate in Noah had no church home.
How quickly they grow up!
In the fall of 2001, with several original NSSS kids past the targeted age range for the program, a new weekly gospel outreach and discipleship youth program for teens, tL, was launched. tL, which stands for the Lord’s and is taken from Isaiah 44:5, was targeted primarily toward middle school- and now early high school-age kids from north end neighborhoods. Approximately ½ of the 15 – 20 kids who originally participated in the tL program on a regular basis came through NSSS. In addition to the weekly program, a significant component of tL’s discipling ministry was taking approximately 20 tL kids to the Kid Across America/ Summers Best Two Weeks Christian camp for urban teens each summer. Many of our campers made decisions for Christ at camp and asked to be baptized after returning home to Hartford.
In April of 2008, HCM entered into a partnership with the international YoungLife teen outreach ministry in hopes of bolstering and expanding tL to reach even more north end teens for Christ. HCM and YoungLife share the oversight, funding, and other support of the Hartford YoungLife club. Our teens have already begun attending YoungLife’s summer camp and give it rave reviews. Hartford YoungLife (YL) meets every Friday night. The club employs crazy fun games, skits, and relevant Bible teaching in its programming. Discipleship through interactive small group Bible study and the development of one-on-one discipling relationships will also be a key facet of YL. Few YL kids have a church home.
A better education can change lives….
In the fall of 2003, HCM began Noah After School (NAS), a tutoring program for second and third graders held on-site at the Simpson-Waverly elementary school. Working in partnership with Simpson-Waverly administration and faculty, NAS utilized more than a dozen Christian volunteers, from high school and college students to retirees, to help Hartford students better prepare for success in school – and life. Volunteers, representing six area churches, included: a recently retired teacher with 35 years experience in Hartford schools; a police chief from an inner ring Hartford suburb; student members of Trinity College’s InterVarsity Fellowship; and a former overseas missionary, among others.
Noah's Art kids
Several of the 20 third grade students initially enrolled in NAS began to participate in its sister program, Noah’s Sidewalk Sonday School. Sharing the love of Christ through deeds, NAS provided an opportunity for further Christian witness not only to north end children, but also to their parents, and the administration and faculty members of the school.
Budding artists create beauty….
Late in 2006, God gave professional artist, Lia Lee, a vision and calling to share His love with HCM’s children by serving as their fine arts instructor. Hence Noah’s Art came into being in November, 2006 and has been blessing north end children with quality art instruction and Bible learning one afternoon each week ever since. Noah’s Art is now a feature segment of our Camp Noah After School ministry, and continues to encourage children to explore the creative artistic gifts which God has given to them.
A Hartford Home for HCM……..
After years of praying for a building of some sort to serve as HCM’s base of ministry in the north end, late in 2004 God answered our prayers. A two-family home located at 280-282 Vine Street, the heart of the north end, was donated to HCM. After an amazing two-year renovation project made possible by over 200 different volunteer leaders, craftsmen, tradesmen, and other laborers, the distressed property was renovated into a beautiful and functional home for HCM’s ministries. This home was given a name, “The Vine”. HCM finally had a real presence in the community, no longer limited to weekly visiting missionaries from the suburbs! Today The Vine houses HCM’s office,
Taking HCM’s children’s ministries to the next level…..
After meeting with the leadership of Urban Promise in Camden, NJ in the fall of 2007 and learning about their daily children’s ministry, HCM sensed God’s leading to deepen it’s Kingdom impact on north end children and families by transforming their cornerstone children’s outreach from a weekly sidewalk sonday school program to a daily children’s outreach called Camp Noah.
In June 2008, HCM implemented this new vision after hiring it’s first full-time Urban Children’s Outreach Director. During the summer Camp Noah takes the form of a half-day day camp held in the north end, and during the school year Noah After School is held for two hours each weekday after school. Summer college interns, junior interns (called Street Leaders) from HCM’s Hartford YoungLife program, and adult volunteers from supporting churches and the north end serve our beloved Noah’s kids under the leadership of HCM’s children’s director.
HCM’s board of directors is committed to continuing to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit’s leading as they to guide HCM along God’s path toward winning those who are “lost” in the north end of Hartford for His Kingdom. With trust in the Lord, we eagerly look forward to the making of the next chapter in HCM’s history.