E-pistle September 25

God Likes Long Odds
I’m just back from Hunting Park Christian Academy where I joined four members of our Mission Committee for a morning at this remarkable place. Our tour guide was a vivacious sixth grader named Yerlitza accompanied by Jen Deane, the Director of Development, who many of you met last spring when she helped interpret the work and ministry of HPCA during our Sunday worship services. 
From Noah facing a flood of evil and 100% chance of rain to the shepherd boy David taking on nine foot nine Goliath, it seems that our God likes long odds.  From 5 loaves and two fish for 5,000 hungry people to twelve misfit disciples to turn the whole world upside down, it seems that our God is willing to take long odds.  At Hunting Park Christian Academy, God is taking long odds and the children and their families in one of Philadelphia’s toughest neighborhoods are the winners. 
Our time at HPCA began and ended in a multi-purpose room that also serves as the school library.  Our LPC book drive has just about doubled the number of books in the library.  Thank you.  In between our times in the library, we visited nearly every classroom in this pre-K through eighth grade private Christian school in one of Philadelphia’s most difficult neighborhoods – from seventh graders working on fractions on the third floor to the pre-K kids learning their ABCs in the basement.  We ate lunch with kindergarteners, second and fourth graders.  We saw God at work. 
Here are some of the odds facing Hunting Park Christian Academy.  Hunting Park itself is not a safe place for kids or any of us.  It is “owned” by the drug dealers and the prostitutes.  More than 3,000 school age children live within a half mile radius of the HPCA building at Cayuga Street and North Sixth Street.  Over half of them live below the poverty line.  Fewer than 50% of them will graduate from high school.  Only 3% of the adults in the neighborhood have a college education. 
Against those and many other odds, Hunting Park Christian Academy is about the business of “transforming hearts and minds.”  Its mission is to “provide affordable, quality Christian education that celebrates a diverse community and leads children to know and serve the Lord.” 
Tuition at HPCA is affordable.  Families pay $200 per month for their first child, $120 per month for the second and $90 per month for the third.  Tuition covers about half the cost of running the school.  The other half comes from the gifts of individuals and churches who are willing to take God’s long odds that hearts and minds will be transformed through a program that is academically rigorous and spiritually nurturing. 
HPCA began ten years ago when God gave five Christian teachers a vision of healing and hope for the Hunting Park neighborhood.  It has grown to 200 students in classes of no more than 22 and a staff of dedicated Christian teachers who share knowledge and love with their kids. Life by life, book by book, God is honoring that original vision and lives are being changed.
So what did we see and hear as Yerlitza guided us from class to class?  We saw children fully engaged in learning, kids who would look us in the eye and tell us their names and what they were learning.  We saw students eager to answer their teachers’ questions.  We heard from children who like to read and do fractions, who understand decimals and are learning about the Aztecs and Iroquois. We heard children who are happy to recite this month’s memory verse from Revelation 22. We saw why God likes long odds. 
It was a wonderful morning, and I would encourage you to ask Chet Marshall, Lee Thomas, Claire Johnson or Laurie Walls about their experiences at HPCA. 
To learn more about HPCA, please spend some time at their website.  And please play the video on the homepage.  The music is provided by the HPCA choir – we hope to have them at LPC sometime soon!
See You Sunday=