By Katie Ruby
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship exposed me to many people in college who chose urban ministry. But I thought to myself, “That’s nice, but not my calling.” I guess you shouldn’t say that unless you’d like it to be your calling. Then one summer I served with InterVarsity in the inner city of Lancaster, working at a camp for children in the poorest ward of the city, and my heart began to break and crack. Then I attended Urbana, a missions conference, and was exposed to more of the brokenness of the city and how badly Jesus was needed…the crack opened bigger. At graduation, I had a job lined up, which was supposed to be in Philadelphia, but working for Lehigh University. Some married friends (with a toddler son) and another single friend and I, who had all been exposed to communal living in Lancaster, decided we wanted to move to the city together, so we did. Well, my well-paying, cushy job got moved back to Bethlehem. So I commuted for a year because I had nothing else, or so I thought. But God did.
We had begun attending Spirit and Truth Fellowship in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia and they had a job opening for a 5th-grade teacher. I wanted to be working in the city and I wanted to be working with kids, and I had my masters in elementary education. Perfect! I applied, got the job and began my exciting career as a teacher with a starting salary of $18,000! I was so excited!
Then the actual job began. It was clearly God who brought me there and it was clearly God who sustained me there. Teachers at HPCA really have to view it as a missional calling to share the Gospel with the city. The hours are long, there are about 15 minutes for lunch/prep and there are almost no prep periods. Talk about being pushed to your breaking point. But God is clearly there. I knew I could leave and get a better-paying job with shorter hours, but something kept me coming back.
The kids, yes, I loved those kids. Most live in poverty in single-parent homes and their day at school is the only routine they have. But really what kept me coming back is KNOWING God was there. He’s so evident in that building, in the teachers and in the staff. I knew no other place would provide that type of God-centered community. Here I could start my day with my students with devotions, I could pray with them and I could invite them and their families to church, in the same building where their kids go to school. Here, the parents could know their children are receiving the gospel daily. And this is all done through minimal tuition from the parents and huge amounts of donations from people who want to see Jesus being spread in Hunting Park. And it’s working. God is majorly at work in Hunting Park. I’ve seen it.
When I got married and moved to Hatboro, I still taught for a year, but the commute and starting a family called me away and it was one of the most heartbreaking times of my life. I was excited for the next chapter, but so sad to be closing this one and not getting to see the daily ways God is at work in a school I so dearly love. I am currently on the Board at HPCA, so I feel privileged that I still get to hear the ways God is working there. I get to hear the ways the school is being blessed financially to continue sharing the Good News, and all the improvements that are able to be made to make the school a safer, happier environment for the kids.