Welcome to our Quo Vadis City Outreach page! We'd like to take some time and share with you a little about what's
been going on in our urban community of Inner-City West Philadelphia. Whether it's our "Under the Son" Community
Carnival/BBQ and Lighthouse Day Camp/vacation bible school during the summers, or our children's tutoring/mentoring
programs throughout the school year, God has been showing us how much He loves the city; allowing us to partake in the
blessings He bestows upon it.
School Year Ministry:
- Quo Vadis (QV) Tutoring/Big-Sib program: grades K - 5
- Teen Vision (TV) Tutoring/Big-Sib program: grades 6 - 12
- Good News Club - Saturday Bible Club
- VBS - Vacation Bible School
- Lighthouse - Summer Day Camp
- Under the Son - Community Carnival/BBQ
- West Philly Missions - Inner City Missions
Let Justice Roll On Like A River...
"But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream…"
How It All Started
In the spring of 1993, a deacon from the Korean-speaking congregation was waiting for his wife in the parking lot of
Emmanuel Church in his new car, his newborn son strapped into the back seat. Two black youths from the apartment building
facing the church parking lot approached the thirty-something new father, their eyes on his Acura Legend. They ordered
him out of the car, unaware of the baby sleeping in the back seat. The father fought back. One of the teenagers panicked,
drew a gun, and shot him dead. The youths took off in the stolen vehicle, tossing the baby away into a back street alley.
The baby was eventually discovered, unharmed, but fatherless. The two boys were later apprehended, prosecuted, and
received hefty prison sentences. Who would have guessed at the time that this crime would be our Lord’s means of calling
His people to minister to the very neighbors who had committed such an offense, to the neighbors we had hitherto
This crime, which took place in the very parking lot of our church, provided every human excuse for a self-protective,
even racist attitude towards the predominantly black West Philadelphia community in which our church found itself. But
instead of permitting us to harden our hearts, God broke our hearts and gave us a tiny spark of vision for outreach to
our community. Meanwhile, an African-American evangelist by the name of Andrew Washington came to Emmanuel, asking for
forgiveness on behalf of the youths and the community, offering repentance, grief, and sympathy to the family of the
victim and the entire church. This unexpected act of reconciliation not only stemmed the lingering fear and bitterness of
the congregation, but became the seed for a growing relationship between Pastor Washington and the English-speaking
congregation of Emmanuel (now Renewal Presbyterian Church). God began to raise up a few key individuals who began to see,
as if for the first time, the aching needs right outside of the walls of our church. Comfortable suburbanites and college
students who had so blindly and blithely driven into a hurting neighborhood to worship God and then drive back home,
suddenly began to ask the obvious: Could God have placed the church in West Philadelphia for a reason?
Reneawl’s outreach ministry began with a one-day event in 1993: a parking lot outreach on a summer day when we opened
up our church parking lot to our neighbors and invited them to join us for lunch, basketball, children’s games, a water
balloon toss, and other such carnival-type activities. Pastor Washington also presented the Gospel and invited
people up for an altar call. Men and women turned to the Lord. This day marked the beginning of an annual event—our
"Under the Son" parking lot outreach/carival. Every summer now, we host our "Under the Son" parking lot outreach,
inviting our neighbors to come and eat, play, and hear the Word with us.
But this was only the beginning. We soon realized that God had more in store than a single annual event during the
summer. When our teams went door-to-door through the community to invite our neighbors to our parkinglot outreach, some
expressed surprise that there was a church just up the street from them, and a few even refused to attend. When asked why
they did not want to join us at Under the Son, one neighbor replied, "Take alook around. How many churches are in the
area? Dozens! How much has the neighborhood changed as a result?"
From that point, eight individuals formed a "missions group" seeking God’s will and how we were to serve our West
Philadelphia neighborhood. In the spring of 1997, a fledgling tutoring ministry called Quo Vadis (Latin for "Where are
you going?) was started. In its first year, barely a handful of children from the neighborhood came to the Saturday
morning tutoring sessions. Each year, however, the Lord added to the numbers as relationships began to form between
tutors and neighbors, as the community began to recognize and even anticipate the tutoring program at the beginning of
every school year. From that small beginning, little by little, the Lord has been adding to the ministry to our
community, proving to us again and again that this work is entirely of His doing and His will. Starting in the summer of
1997, our church began to invite the children of our neighborhood to a week of Vacation Bible School. The response has
been overwhelming: during the summer of 1999, over a hundred children from the community attended our VBS program. In the
summer of 1998, our church sent out our first W.Philly missions team. That same summer, the company that manages the
apartment buildings across from our church asked us to run a month-long summer camp for their children. Lighthouse summer
camp was thus born. A month-long, all-day summer camp, Lighthouse was a way to teach Bible, English, and math classes to
a growing number of children, as well as host field trips, career days, and other special events for underprivileged kids
who probably could not otherwise afford camp. Every summer, we continue to build a missions team that will serve our
community, running the Lighthouse summer camp, picking up garbage, hosting Vacation Bible School, and interacting with,
ministering to, and learning from our neighbors.
Each year, our Lord builds the ministry… Today, the Quo Vadis tutoring ministry meets regularly every Tuesday,
Wednesday, and Thursday for tutoring sessions, and on Saturdays holds a Good News Club where children from our
neighborhood come to praise the Lord, participate in Bible study, and enjoy arts and crafts and games. Our annual field
trips, Thanksgiving dinners, and Christmas parties offer us further opportunities to build relationships with the
children and their families that we might share a little of the love of our Lord to our neighbors. While the needs
overwhelm our meager talents and inexperienced hands—even the simple task of tutoring is a very much over-our-heads,
given that so many children are so vastly behind in rudimentary reading, writing, and math skills—we praise God for this
little opportunity to participate in the building of His Kingdom in the hearts and lives of these children from our West
Philly community. As He opens our eyes a little more each year, many of us have come to experience His heart of
compassion and love for those whom society has cast away. And we are amazed that He chose us, a church full of
over-educated students and world-weary professionals, to be part of this ministry.
We can now say that Renewal Presbyterian Church needs our Quo Vadis children just as much as they need us, for in them
we are reminded of the Gospel, that Christ came to redeem those who were cast away. Indeed, the Bible says that Christ
came only for such people…and we are reminded that that’s what we were, lost and poor, before we were adopted into His
We do not know where the Lord plans to lead us in the future, but we do know that He has been the sole author of all
this work—from opening each of our blinded eyes, to building up each new ministry, to bringing each precious child to His
Name. Some come to Emmanuel and wonder why a predominantly Korean-American church sits in the middle of the inner
city, in a "bad" neighborhood where a deacon was murdered in the parking lot, where graffiti stains our walls, and where
a security guard is needed for every weekly church meeting. But as we look upon the cross, and as we strive to be like
Him and obey Him, we are experiencing His sovereignty over West Philadelphia, and we know that the adventure of His
Lordship over our church has only just begun.
Click HERE to go back to the
City Ministry page.