Daughters of Promise November/December 2014 - Page 54

street, playing football, riding bikes. They’re used to playing away until somebody yells, “Car!” and then they all run to the side and wait. “It’s such a different culture. I grew up on a farm and was raised to work and live off the land. You walk down the street here and nobody’s working; they’re all sitting out on their porches. We took the kids to a farm on a field trip; a lot of them didn’t know where milk came from.“ TRENCHES IT IS 7:25 A.M. Marlea Kauffman steps onto the porch of the brick row house where she lives, ready to head across the street to Tidings of Peace Christian School. This time of day, the streets are emptier than usual--fewer smells, fewer sounds. A white lady in tight snakeskin leggings and hoop earrings passes her on the sidewalk, while across the street a young black man walks with the wide stride necessary to keep his baggy pants from sliding down, one hand holding an edge of them, ear buds dangling from his ears. Today is trash pick-up day, and an old man with a scraggly ponytail rides up on a bicycle with a kid cart pulled behind, heaped with old bits of metal and wire. He stops in front of the recycle bin, props up his bike, and stoops over the bin, looking. Marlea crosses the street and walks up the two cement steps and through the blue door of the long, low brick building that is the school. A square white sign above the door reads “TOP Christian School.” Staff prayer starts at 7:30. At 8:00, the doors officially open, and with them the noise of children arriving, the thud of a basketball, the squeak of tennis shoes on gym floor, laughter, good mornings. Marlea is in her kindergarten classroom, making last minute preparations before the bell rings at 8:15, when round-faced Valerie arrives and stands just inside the door, waiting for a hug. Jeremy bounds in after her, full of excitement and chatter. Valerie and Jeremy are her only kindergartners this year, making this third year of teaching at TOP the easiest she’s had. York, Pennsylvania, population 400,000 and growing, is a far cry from the quiet farm ountry where Marlea grew up. She grew up throwing bales and milking cows, a self-sufficient-and-54- proud-of-it country girl who never envisioned herself living in the city. That changed in July of 2012 when Clayton Shenk, principal and administrator at TOP, called and asked if she would consent to teach. “Of all the places I’ve gone, this is the place I most felt God’s leading,” Marlea says. “I was working at home, knowing I needed to go do something, knowing just having a day job wasn’t what I would do the rest of my life. Then I got the call to come here, and I fought it. I didn’t like the city, but I remember finally just knowing I had to leave my job back home and knowing I had to come to the city. “Everything was so new, and getting used to the different culture really stressed me out. I was paranoid of street life, and I walked everywhere I went because I was scared to drive in traffic. I was petrified to walk my kids down the back alley and across the street to the playground. I would make them all hold onto a rope, which was a big joke. They felt like they were tied to it. They were born and raised in the Another thing I had to overcome was the issue of cleanliness. You kind of have to overlook the stinky child--although we’re allowed to send a note home if it’s a regular thing. I had to realize you have to love these children. They can’t help if they don’t have their laundry done at home, or no one to help them brush their teeth. We’ve often had lice and bed bugs carried to school, and do lice checks regularly--but God is in control of that, too, and I haven’t gotten lice yet, even when my student had them. “Teaching here, I’ve learned a whole new dimension of the word love--loving the unlovable and realizing the deeper need of their soul. Even if they don’t learn how to wo