Calvery Bible Church, Kensington, Philadelphia, PA
I spent six weeks of my summer in Kensington, which is an inner-city district of Philadelphia. I worked at a church named Calvary Bible, where another intern and I served as assistants to Pastor Doug Logan, or as I call him, P.D. We took on the roles of baby-sitting, organizing and running missions trips, supervising the street, administration, and cleaning. Most of this work was done in Kensington, which is inhabited by a mostly African American and Puerto Rican population, complete with an abundance of children that come out in hoards all day and every day, barefoot and energetic. Though it has its fair share of problems, like drugs (specifically crack and pills) and prostitution, we found the people of Kensington to be accepting and friendly towards us, something we weren't expecting.
Part of this acceptance was due to the amount of time we spent with the children in and out of our few scheduled responsibilities. We were told multiple times by the people of the area that the best thing we could possibly do was invest in those kids, so we made it a priority. It was a stretching time for me as I've had little experience with children in the past, but the patience I already possessed and the ability to discipline came in handy. This time generally lacked organization, except for when groups would come through and run kids' clubs. It was all very spur of the moment.
Things are always changing in Kensington, and we never knew what to expect next. Improvisation is born out of dealing with situations as they come, and out of improvisation is born unimaginable stretching. There was no time to worry over whether I would do a good job or who was watching and what they would think of me. When a need came my way, I acted right away and prayed that the best result would occur. We were all in it together--there is something about intentional community that is extremely encouraging and affirming. It creates an atmosphere where it is okay to make mistakes and try again, sometimes together, and sometimes on your own. God gave me a much-desired confidence in who I am through these people.
Being of use in such direct ways and working together closely with so much encouragement in an informal and "what next?" setting was addicting. I learned more fully the meanings of sacrifice and love and saw the Kingdom of God lived out more clearly. Sometimes it felt very much like what I read in Acts about the early church. Consequently, it was both the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my time there.