A woman works to identify and fill physical and spiritual needs in her community.
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul writes, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Hilde Miller—wife, army veteran, licensed attorney, mother of two, and founder of a charitable non-profit in Port Washington, Wis.—has found that when we trust the Lord to guide our steps, he has a way of placing opportunities in our paths that ultimately advance his kingdom.
A time for joy and mourning
From the time she was young, Hilde knew she wanted to become a military lawyer. She attended law school, took the Wisconsin bar exam, received a position with the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, went through boot camp, completed military law training, and was then assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as an active-duty military lawyer.
When her time in the service came to an end, Hilde took the Tennessee Bar exam and practiced law in Tennessee for almost two years. Before long, she and her husband, Russ, learned that they were expecting their first child.
The joy and anticipation they felt were soon mingled with devastation, however, when they learned that Hilde’s dad, Wick Radandt, was dying. To give themselves more time to spend with him, the Millers moved back to Wisconsin.
“He died because of Agent Orange exposure during his service in Vietnam. He never complained about his illness or [talked about] how he contracted it because it was from doing something he believed in,” Hilde explains. “He was really proud of his service in the army, and it’s part of what motivated me to serve as well. After I moved home, I had my baby, and my dad died. It was a lot to digest in a very short period of time.”
While Hilde’s time with her father here on earth was cut short, his impact on her life was profound and lasting. She says, “He really inspired me to live for something other than myself and to work for something other than myself. I could do that through the army, and I could do that for the Lord.”
Finding identity in Christ
Once Hilde welcomed her first baby—and then her second a few years later—her whole life changed. She struggled with the decision of whether to stay at home or continue practicing law full time. “As much as I loved practicing law, my kids stole my heart, and I decided to stay home,” she says.
Hilde is quick to admit, however, that transitioning from a full-time career to full-time motherhood can be jarring. She says, “My identity used to be ‘military prosecutor’ or ‘soldier with the United States Army’ or ‘attorney at law.’ ” She wrestled with this shift in identity and ultimately found the answer in Scripture that motivated her then and now—Christ is her identity. Through prayer and study, she realized it did not matter who she was but rather whose she was, a daughter of the King. She was ready to see what God had planned for her next.
Helping those in need
An idea was sparked during a visit with her mother, who was “adopting a family” for Christmas through a local charity. As Hilde learned of the family’s situation and their list of needs, she remembered her time as a prosecutor. She says, “I know exactly what happens to children like these. They had been put in a domestic abuse center, I knew they would likely go to foster care, and I knew it was going to be a legal mess. . . . These situations often end so poorly for the children.”
Hilde wanted to do something more to help. She saw how the gifts her mother provided would directly meet the needs of this family in crisis. She said to her mom right then and there, “I could do that. I’m going to do that for my county.”
So in 2015, Hilde took a leap of faith and founded The Haven Project—a non-profit organization that supports families and children in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. Her goal was to meet “the physical and spiritual needs of those who could use a helping hand in our community.”
As a wife and mother with a young family, Hilde made slow progress with The Haven Project at first, but through the Word the Holy Spirit continued to prompt her to take steps toward her goal. She explains, “When I first started Haven, it felt so overwhelming. But when the Lord said, ‘Go into all the world,’ I realized that my world is here. So instead of getting overwhelmed with the large scale of that commission, we can ask ourselves how God defines our world.”
While they are members at Our Savior, Grafton, Wis., the Millers live in Port Washington. So Hilde began by approaching Martin Wildauer, pastor at St. Matthew, Port Washington, Wis. “He was so supportive of Haven from the beginning,” she says. “When I realized we could expand more into Ozaukee County because of our resources, it just flourished from there.” Now, with support from Our Savior, St. Matthew, and the surrounding community, Haven operates as a non-profit under St. Matthew’s 501(c)(3) status.
Hilde works through local groups and agencies—like Child Protective Services, the public school systems, the prison system, the local women’s shelter, and area WELS churches—to identify children and families in need. Her liaisons at each of these organizations have their fingers on the pulse of the true need in the county.
Over the past seven years, Hilde has carefully structured Haven to meet the unique needs of her community. Annual initiatives include a Christmas drive, a backpack and school supply drive for foster children, and a program that provides women who are leaving the local women’s shelter with “wellness boxes.”
By using funds donated by Haven supporters, Hilde also can respond quickly to more pressing needs identified through her agency liaisons like caregivers in need of car seats, families in need of food, and kids in need of shoes.
Most important, because The Haven Project is a religious non-profit, Hilde works to meet the spiritual needs of those she helps by including devotional materials and invitations to church with every physical gift.
God is blessing the program, and the organization is excited to expand its outreach.
“Sometimes, I look at all the lists of needs—all the children who need things, all the mamas struggling—and I think ‘How are we going to get all of these needs met?’ ” says Hilde. “But I pause, I pray, I take a deep breath, and I dig in.”
Learn more about The Haven Project at havenprojectcollective.org.
Bringing the need to light
Hilde Miller writes the following about the importance of knowing your community:
Statistically, Ozaukee County is one of the wealthiest counties in the state. Statistically, we’re one of the lowest crime counties in the state. The “statistical parameters” for poverty are not here. So we close our eyes to it because we don’t see it daily.
When I started The Haven Project, I was expecting foster children, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of foster children. I was expecting children in need, but I wasn’t expecting 50 percent of the kindergarten class below the poverty line at a local school. . . . I knew I would find the shallow end of need. I didn’t know I would find the deep end of need.
We so often go about our lives without thinking, This is my world that the Lord has told me to go into! It’s not that we don’t have people willing to meet the need. We just need to bring the need to light.
Reflecting Jesus’ love
Martin Wildauer, pastor at St. Matthew, Port Washington, Wis., writes the following about the congregation’s involvement with The Haven Project.
One of our core values at St. Matthew is “Genuine Care.” As our Leadership Team discussed that concept, we . . . wanted to demonstrate to our congregation and the community the love that Jesus and the early church showed to others—believers and unbelievers—without expecting anything in return. The Haven Project fit in perfectly with that ideology.
It’s exciting to see how supportive people have been of The Haven Project. Members get involved in many ways—from buying gifts, to giving money for gift certificates, to stuffing backpacks and wrapping packages, to delivering gifts. . . . Our members know that the donations are going to specific people who are in need. By supporting Haven, we know that we are truly making a difference in people’s lives and connecting them with the gospel.
Along with our gifts, we give a letter explaining what The Haven Project is and why we are giving people gifts—to reflect the love of Jesus. While I cannot recall anyone coming to sit in a pew because they received a gift, how many have read the Christian literature we give or tuned in to watch our services online? We know we’re making contacts. We trust the Holy Spirit to take it from there.
Author: Stephanie Boeckman
Volume 110, Number 3
Issue: March 2023
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