MILWAUKEE, WI – City on a Hill is a faith-based organization located near the center of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is, according to an article in Time Magazine published on September 17, 2015, the 5th poorest city in the United States.
City on a Hill’s mission is to break the cycle of generational poverty and bring transformation to Milwaukee’s central city families. More than 43% of the children in central Milwaukee live in poverty. The graduation rate for the public school system is 60.9%. Nearly 80% of the children in public schools qualify for free or fee-reduced lunches. The unemployment rate for black males between the ages of 25 and 54 was 52.7% before COVID.
Those insights help to explain why half of Milwaukee’s black men in their 30s have spent time in state prison and why the state of Wisconsin’s incarceration rate is nearly double the national average.
They also reveal the enormous opportunity for Christians to influence and transform lives within the community.
The Initiation of City on a Hill
The birth of City on a Hill is yet another of the many stories of the Lord turning tragedy into triumph.
City on a Hill’s website explains, “In the mid-1990s, a huge hospital on the near west side of Milwaukee closed, adding to the blights in an area already marked by poverty, unemployment, addiction, and crime.”
Several years later, the Urban Ministry Center of the Assemblies of God, in collaboration with Convoy of Hope, held an event during which 8,000 inner-city residents were given a warm meal, groceries, basic health services, haircuts, and an opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus’ saving grace.
Following the event, Aurora Health Care, the owner of the former hospital building, transferred ownership of 321,000 square feet of building space and two entire city blocks of surrounding land to the Ministry Center. Preparing for the property transfer, the Ministry Center re-organized as City on a Hill.
The Impact of City on a Hill
There may be no other way to describe the impact of City on a Hill than “transformational.” The list of services available at City on a Hill is long, and the power of the combined programs is influencing the community, saving the children, reaching the parents, and changing the city.
The former hospital building is now a place where relationships are being built, and the hope of life in Jesus Christ is taking fruit. The building includes affordable housing for 150 families and senior citizens who are served by the staff and more than 1,500 volunteers.
The Youth Center provides a place for hundreds of children, keeping them safe from and participating in high-risk behaviors common to inner cities while helping to develop them academically, socially, and spiritually.
The Outreach Program is centered on meeting the healthcare needs of uninsured and underserved residents of the central city area. The neighborhood health outreach includes an abundant array of holistic medical and social services, many of which are available at no charge to the uninsured.
The Invitation of City on a Hill
City on a Hill offers a standing invitation to individuals and groups to enter into one of several Poverty Simulations during which “participants confront the realities and choices people in poverty face on a daily basis.”
“City on a Hill’s goal is for people who complete the poverty simulation to come away with a better understanding of the causes and struggles of poverty, God’s heart for the poor, and some practical steps people can take to help address the issue in urban America or their own communities.”
One former attendee said, “You never know how bad things are until you experience them for yourself. People live like this every day of their lives…My problems seem so small in comparison.”
Another explained, “The Poverty Simulation was hard. It gave me a very small taste of what living a life of poverty would be like. I got to see the ways that God provides, and I had to place my full trust in Him. We still had the hope that, in 40 hours, our poverty simulation would be over, while others living in poverty do not know when or how they will ever escape.”
City on a Hill is not only transforming the lives of people living in poverty in Milwaukee’s inner city. It is doing the same for those who choose to become immersed in one of its Poverty Simulation programs.
“I learned that poverty can really make you depressed and hopeless. I now truly understand how poverty is a cycle. I also realized these people are not always just lazy. Many reasons for poverty are completely out of a person’s control”.
The Lord is using the unique ministry of City on a Hill to transform the lives of those living in poverty in Milwaukee. At the same time, He is transforming the hearts and minds of believers through the Poverty Simulation program and opening the eyes of the uninformed.