The Gospel and the Classroom: HPCA and a boy named Kyseem
The non-sectarian public school is one of the treasured gifts of the American tradition. Its critical place in our civic life is unquestioned. But the private, often Christian, school is also an essential American tradition that has deepened and continues to deepen the conversation in the public square. Christian education has often acted as a corrective and conscience, especially as non-sectarian sometimes becomes aggressively secular (and hence no longer non-sectarian). Service in explicitly Christian education is a vital ministry to which God calls some of his people.
This Sunday we will be given a glimpse into the vital ministry of classroom education as it takes shape and form through Hunting Park Christian Academy in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia, a community with a 54% high school dropout rate and the highest incidence of domestic violence and the third highest incidence of murder in all of Philadelphia. It is a neighborhood where drug abuse and prostitution make the streets and the park from which the neighborhood gets its name unsafe for children.
Specifically, on Sunday we will hear the HPCA choir as they lead us in worship and Director of Development Jen Deane as she shares some about the mission and ministry of HPCA. Many of you will remember Jen from her time with us last spring and know the passion and joy she brings with her.
The occasion of Sunday’s HPCA visit is part of January’s LPC Peacemaking Offering. You may recall that our offering (nearly $2,500 – thank you!) was designated to the HPCA scholarship fund, and also was the catalyst for a series of art projects on the theme of peacemaking. As part of our mission partnership with HPCA, a team of LPC folks and HPCA staff members have awarded prizes to one of the young artists in each of the participating grades (fifth through eighth) and an overall winner.
You’ll see all the winning artwork on Sunday, but I want to share one piece with you as a preview. This is what our fifth grade winner, Kyseem, created. He calls his picture "Working Toward Peace."
Prior to our judging, each student told Jen a little bit about his or her creation. As he explained what he had done, Kyseem said he drew the flowers growing up straight, being unharmed and allowed to grow freely. He said that the cross represents how Jesus died for us, leaving us with His peace. Kyseem feels that the picture shows the happiness in his life.
It was not until after we had determined that Kyseem’s drawing would be our fifth grade winner that some of the HPCA teachers and staff members told us how the picture represents an amazing transformation in Kyseem’s life.
If you spend some time at the HPCA website, you will discover that most of HPCA’s students are not raised in Christian homes. Through quality classroom education HPCA students are not only given opportunity to succeed in a tough world, but many of them hear the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time and come to trust the loving grace of God given in Christ. Some students have been influential in bringing their parents to church, as well.
One of the most amazing, confounding, truths of the Bible is that God intends to, and does, build his kingdom one life at a time. Thank God for the people of HPCA, and for the privilege we have of partnering with them as they respond to his call to serve him through the ministry of Christian education. And thank God for Kyseem and his schoolmates who are finding peace and happiness in the midst of the conflict and sorrow that surrounds them every day.