But moving south to Cleveland was not the easiest thing Hill ever did. Her passion for helping people and speaking about her God was sometimes blinded by prejudice and subtle preconceived ideas about welcoming other cultures into the community.
Born in Nassau, Bahamas, Hill was very familiar with the Cleveland area due to her family’s regular attendance of the General Assembly for the Church of God of Prophecy in the 1950s. She first came to Cleveland for the 1980 General Assembly.
“I went straight to New York City from the Bahamas,” she said. “I lived between New York and New Jersey for more than two years. The culture was great! You met people from all over the world! I have family members right in Manhattan. But I heard so much about Cleveland and Lee University that my desire was to come here. When I came to Cleveland in 1980, it was worse than Nassau to me. I was from the city of Nassau and it was very much a city. But Cleveland was small.”
Still, this is where Hill said she believes she was called to minister, so she moved to Cleveland a few years later and attended Lee where she received her bachelor of science degree in Christian education and a master of arts degree in leadership ministries from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. Cleveland is also where she met James Eric Hill, her husband of 28 years.
Hill admits when she decided to move south and attend Lee, she was confronted with a prejudice she did not understand. Adding, “Even though it was a religious college it was like you felt it, although they were friendly. I saw it more with other people than with me, although I did experience it.”
Being outgoing and friendly, Hill said she was able to overcome most of what she experienced but confessed, “It hit me more after I got married and had kids, and had to get out among people. Don’t forget, it’s not just being a black woman — but being a woman from the Islands, my culture, my accent — I saw prejudice when I went on job interviews. There was discrimination and humiliation. I had my bachelor’s degree, so I knew I was qualified. I could discern that it was because of where I was from.”
Hill said she made her dilemma a matter of prayer and came to realize that her experience was only preparing her for trials that lie ahead and gave her an opportunity to apply God’s Word.
“Yes, in my early years in Cleveland, prejudice was more prevalent. With my character and personality I have been able to overcome such prejudices and challenges in accepting others. I believe the years I spent in New York prepared me for the prejudices in the South. I knew God had directed me to Cleveland. I had a purpose to fulfill. I believe prejudice is a learned experience, which can be unlearned. Most of the time, I was misunderstood because of the characteristic of who I am is related to my culture. What helped me mature is the Scripture in Matthew chapter 5 that says, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”
Since then Hill has become a welcomed and beloved staple in the community, active in various church and community projects.
“One of my main callings was feeding our community,” she said. “I worked along with pastors and local churches arranging vacation Bible school, children’s crusades and other programs.”
Hill also hosts a 30-minute broadcast on WTNB Channel 5 every Sunday at 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. called, “Prayer Time” and a 15-minute radio broadcast on religious devotion every Wednesday between 4 and 4:30 p.m. on Cleveland’s local WOOP FM 99.9FM.
“I feel that I am reaching so many people by my Christian media programs by introducing the nation and even the world to Cleveland,” she said. “I feel that I am helping Cleveland by networking on the radio, through the Worldwide Web, by speaking the Word of God. My latest project is my third book called, ‘The P.L.P. Chronicle and Political Poems.’ This book tells some of the foundations of the Progressive Liberal Party of The Bahamas. It is a combination of biblical, cultural, political, and classical writings. This is a special gift to my country for our 40th year of Independence this year, which I plan on being a part of. We are celebrating our Independence on July 10.”
The 54-year-old evangelist says her ministry covers various denominations in examining the spiritual condition of local churches in general. In her estimation, Hill said, “My spiritual analysis is that we are not where we should be at this point in time. Just look back to where we were before. People are coming into our community with different problems. The church is not prepared to deal with people who come in with drug addiction, mental illness, gangs and things like that. We are fighting the enemy himself in our churches. We are a very religious community. People know about God, but they don’t really know who God is — and they need to get to know Him — what He thinks and what He is saying.”
Eric and Norma have two grown children, Victor, 27, who lives in Nashville and Jamie, 24, a senior studying English at Lee.
“What I like about family life is that we take part in worship almost every day in our home,” she said. “We work together to accomplish our family growth. When God created my family, He had a special assignment prepared for us to help fulfill His purpose.”
Now that she has spent years in the City With Spirit, Hill said she is glad to be in Cleveland. She said what she like most about the people in the cozy community is that “most are spiritual, church-attending people who extend Southern hospitality.”