Students wanted: Exploring Culture and Christianity in Philadelphia

By Kalen Haynes – Horizon News & Features Editor

The Hesston College Bible and Ministry Department invites anyone 18 or older to attend a school sponsored cultural learning trip to Philadelphia. Bible professor Michele Hershberger will lead the trip  May 13-June 3

Hershberger has been to Philadelphia three times. First to learn about Philadelphia churches, then in 2016, and 2017 to teach Biblical Literature to adults. Now she wishes to grow and share that experience with her students for years to come.

“The emotions and feel of the city really hooked me as a person, and made me want to come back and learn more.” Hershberger said.

The experience will be centered in African American and Latino communities, as well as local urban-based churches. Students will make the city their home for three weeks as they earn three college hours under the course name “Sociology 123.”

“A three-hour source course class that is all about experiencing the city with three distinct cultures: African, Latino and Asian American,” Hershberger said. “This is a chance for us to gain cultural competency, and learn how people’s differences can make you a better person.”

Students will spend 1-2 hours every day in a classroom with teachers from Philadelphia, learning about the culture and surroundings of the city. Hershberger says the firsthand experience will hopefully transform students into well-rounded people.

“We will take an urban plunge and hear real stories from real people from Philadelphia,” Hershberger said.

In the afternoons and evenings, the group will go around the city, visiting museums, landmarks and locals spots to see the Philly community. The group will visit several church congregations on Sundays, connecting with both African American and Puerto Rican communities.

“Talking with a lot of church leaders, and spending time with people will help give us strategies to help make our church better,” Hershberger said.

Hershberger is fully invested in this trip. Going to Philly has brought her new friendships and expanded her worldview. She looks to show students life growth and develop a deeper sense of belonging.

“You will never be the same, you will be a better person, and will never see the world the same,” she said.

Planning has brought struggles, but success is based on the impact on students down the road. Hershberger highly recommends this trip for anyone who wants to get out of their bubble – something she relished when she taught a class in Philadelphia.

“When I taught Bib Lit, it was once every evening for three hours.” Hershberger said. “It was crazy intense, we had people speaking over six different languages at one point, a variety of cultures, it was really a blast.”

Students are encouraged to branch out at Hesston College, and this trip to Philadelphia will be a memory for this who join for years to come.

“It’s a life class, it’s a lot of meeting people and listening,” Hershberger said. “Learning about cultures and doing projects while participating in life, something that can last forever.”

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