As a child, Jodi Matthews would listen to her grandmother passionately share about teaching the Bible to children under the “Y” bridge in Akron. Little did Jodi know that she would be called to the same community where her grandmother taught so many years before! For years, Jodi had dreamed of being a missionary, and knew that God was laying a vision on her heart of what this ministry would look like — it was an urban vision, one of working to share the life-changing Gospel with inner-city children and their families. (Jodi shares the journey of her pursuit of God’s will, for herself and for this ministry, in her book, A Call to the Edge.) As this vision took shape, Jodi and a group of committed volunteers founded Urban Vision in 1992.
God led Jodi right back to that same neighborhood under the “Y” bridge: Elizabeth Park Valley. This area was home to Urban Vision for its first 15 years, working out of various homes, churches, businesses, and community centers. In 2007, many UV families began to relocate into a new neighborhood, a mile up the hill to the north, and Urban Vision faced a decision: do we move with them? God responded by providing Urban Vision with its very own building, in the very heart of the North Hill neighborhood! Since then, Urban Vision has been deeply invested in the North Hill and Elizabeth Park communities.
Ours is a community rich in culture and diversity. This area has been a melting pot for decades: It was home to Italian, Croatian, Polish, and Irish immigrants in the beginning of the 20th century, followed by waves of African American and Hispanic families in the latter half of the century. In the 21st century, the International Institute of Akron has resettled thousands of refugees and immigrants from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Dozens of languages are spoken in just a few square miles. What a picture of God’s Kingdom! (Revelation 7:9)
Unfortunately, our beautiful community is also a low-income, at-risk neighborhood, plagued by unemployment, crime, generational poverty, struggling schools, food insecurity, and broken families. Generations of struggle have created an atmosphere of conditioned hopelessness for many of our neighbors– but God provides hope for a better tomorrow!
Our once- troubled neighborhood is being transformed through the love and hope of Christ into a more vibrant and unified community. Urban Vision has been working for this goal for 25 years, and we cannot wait to see what transformations God brings after 25 more!
Our Vision: To build a vibrant, unified community, transformed through the love and hope of Jesus Christ.
Our Mission: To live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in North Hill by coming alongside children and their families as they discover Christ’s vision for themselves and their community, through relationships focused on building dignity, inspiring unity, empowering futures, and meeting holistic needs.
At Urban Vision, we strive to keep Christ the center of all we do, working towards revitalization while maintaining three key practices from CCDA, the Christian Community Development Association:
- Reconciliation: Reconciliation with God through a relationship with Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Gospel. Urban Vision desires to see this type of reconciliation for every neighbor, in addition to building relationships across racial and economic barriers through reconciliation in our community. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
- Relocation/Remain: All Urban Vision staff and interns are residents and members of the North Hill and Elizabeth Park community, alongside the people we serve, out of a passion and commitment to bringing positive change to our community. Indigenous leadership allows us to better understand root issues and create shared solutions, while modeling and encouraging revitalization. (Matthew 5:13-14)
- Redistribution / Value Exchange: Urban Vision aspires to empower our neighbors to use the gifts God has given them, and to see those gifts used for the community. Our vision is to bring resources to our neighbors which allow them to take ownership of the long-term development and revitalization of their community. (Philippians 4:18-19)
Other key CCDA principles include Leadership Development, Empowerment, Holistic Approach, Church-Based Ministry, and Listening to the Community, all of which are also key to Urban Vision’s ministry here in our community.
Isaiah 58 l Proverbs 29:18 l Proverbs 22:6