They come to learn, to play and to pray.
For the past 15 years, children and young adults from the Ludlow community and the surrounding area have gathered each and every Tuesday night at the Sixth Street Mennonite Church for a Bible study taught by volunteers and church leaders.
While the reasons for attending vary from youth to youth, there is one underlying theme that is stressed. They help the community by taking the kids and helping them have and learn about God and Jesus,” said Bible study participant Dante Ray.
The lessons the students learn go beyond just scripture, however. The teachers, who are all Mennonite, say they attempt to challenge their students to live a Christian lifestyle. Among the aspects they stress are kindness to others and how to work hard at everything they do, from school life to family life.
“We ask the youth girls what they want to learn,” said Marty Ehst, the wife of the church’s current pastor, Dan, who teaches girls from 15 to 17. She said the group talks about anything from Christian teachings on abortion to a Bible passage on any given week. “And to me, if that’s what they want to hear and that’s what they need to hear, that’s what I’m willing to teach.”
The church, located in the heart of Ludlow on Sixth and Master streets, draws an average of 80 and sometimes over 120 youths each week. They range in age from 8 to 17 years old, and come from all different walks of life.
“It has helped out with young kids,” said sixth-grader Kassim Riley of the Bible study. “Just from ‘spray painting’ different things to changing their lifestyle to become better Christians,” he added.
Most, though, do not come from religious backgrounds. That is one of the reasons some of the teachers travel from as far away as Ephrata, Pa., to meet with their group each week.
“It’s a pretty big chunk of my Tuesday,” said Ehst, who commutes from the Lancaster area. “But it’s definitely worth it because my heart is here.”
“Most of my class, they would have been ‘un-churched’ if they didn’t come here,” she continued.
The Bible study is just part of the effort by the volunteers. Almost every week, the church conducts trips to places throughout the city for the students. There is also a 10-day long Bible study in the summer, along with a trip to Camp Andrews in Holtwood, Pa.
And every day, the youth are welcome to stop by and spend time with the volunteers who live at the church.
“We do homework, and sometimes, when we get done fast, we play games,” said Kimyoina Hightower, 10, another Ludlow resident. “They invited us over to do fun things. They celebrate our birthdays.”
Whether it’s help with homework, playing sports or just needing someone to talk to, participants say their teachers are willing to help in any way possible. Zamir Doughty, another sixth-grade student at Ludlow, said their efforts are helping the kids “be better people by telling them to do the right thing.”
“I learned about Jesus because they teach the basic things about him,” said Ray.
The current church in Ludlow was opened in 1993 after being located in a building on Germantown Avenue and Dauphin Street for two years. It is part of the Mid-Atlantic Mission Board, a Mennonite-run organization that seeks to fund churches in areas of need.