Kate Camara: Dispatches from Hephzibah House

Apr 22, 2014 by

Kate
Kate Camara in front of Hephzibah House on Manhattan’s Upper West Side

Today’s post comes from 2012 English lit grad Kate Camara. Thank you, Kate, for sharing your story!

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When I graduated from Taylor in 2012 I was very sad; I thought all of the adventures were over.

It’s been two years since then, and I’ve had so many adventures that I haven’t had time to catch my breath.

I graduated with a degree in English Literature and no idea of what to do. After graduation I immediately began working as an English teacher to speakers of other languages at Berlitz in Indianapolis. I also worked part time as an intern at the Sagamore Institute, a local think tank. There, under the leadership of Mr. Cassell, an elder from my church, I studied the nation of Rwanda, which was deeply moving, as my grandmother from Rwanda passed away that summer.

As 2013 began, I planned to attend Indiana University in the fall, as a follow up to my internship. Honestly, I was just hoping to find that “next step” that everyone seemed to be wishing upon me. In the spring of 2013, I took a short vacation with my new-found friend, Mary, to New York City. Each time my family had visited the city, we had stayed at Hephzibah House, which serves as a guesthouse for Christian missionaries. It’s a beautiful old brownstone on W. 75th Street on the Upper West Side, right next to Central Park.

Years ago, the directors of the House, Lois and John Ewald, had taken in my father as a foster kid. Later, Mrs. Ewald mentored my mom when my parents started dating. The Ewalds and their ministry at Hephzibah have been a big part of my family history.

During our short vacation, Mary and I naturally stayed at Hephzibah. We went just for some rest and fun. Mr. Ewald had passed away many years ago, but Mrs. Ewald, who is in her eighties, was still there to greet us when we walked through the door. To my surprise, the House is not just a guesthouse, but also has many different outreach programs, including an English for Immigrants program and an international student ministry.

While visiting, I felt excitement about the ministries of the house, an excitement I had lost in the last few months. I knew the Lord was calling me when I read, “I will be with you, and I will keep you wherever you go; I will bring you back to this land, and I will not leave you until I have fulfilled all what I promised you” (Gen. 28:15). I stored the promise in my heart for later, as I knew in the coming months I’d be heading to IU for grad school. But as I looked down from my plane on the gray city, I thought, “Wait, why don’t I just do it for the summer?” I prayed, and then sent an email to Mrs. Ewald. Two weeks later, on April 1, 2013, I moved into the house as an intern.

Over the summer, I battled the heat of New York City (no A/C in the house) as well as the culture shock of a place that is so different from the friendly Midwest. Yet I am adventurer, and the rude attitudes, the alarming number of homeless people, and a complicated subway system just added to the excitement.

As my graduate school plans began to fade away, I made the decision that I would stay in New York if Hephzibah would have me. I found a job as an ESL teacher in Times Square and another as a writing tutor. It was important to me to support myself through this process. Also, both jobs were helpful to our ministry, as I could make more connections with students.

kate and group
Kate (seated, right) with students and staff

Hephzibah House serves as a comfortable home for those traveling in and out of the city. I now live and work in the house as a part-time receptionist, as well as helping with meals and general upkeep. Throughout the week, I meet in the house with women who are in need of English lessons, and through those lessons, I share the gospel. Finally, a big part of my responsibility is reaching out to international students in the city. It was difficult the first several months to make connections to students. Yet slowly the Lord brought students to me, and through friendships I have been able to share the hope that I have.

I greatly enjoy my jobs, so much so that I applied and was accepted to an online language education graduate program through Indiana University. I have learned enormous amounts of grammar and teaching techniques by handling classes of fourteen non-English speakers, but I know there is so much more I can learn.

Leaving Taylor was one of the saddest and scariest moments in my life. I felt desperate for a next step, one as exciting and fulfilling as Taylor had been. Frantically, I slapped together plans, and patiently God changed them. He is kind to me when I worry or get frustrated. I have now decided I don’t have a plan; I just have a next step and after that, only God knows. I like it that way.
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Learn more about Hephzibah House here.

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2 Comments

  1. Kudos Kate! What an encouraging story of the provision of God to our daily needs.
    Thanks for sharing.

    By the way, I shall be going to Uganda in June! I am in a group that will got to Rwanda and Uganda, then I shall go home to Kenya when the others return to the US.
    I wish I knew where your relatives are.

    I can see you are really enjoying serving international students, just as you did at Taylor. We miss you around here, but those need you more.

    Many Blessings.

    Mary N. Muchiri

  2. Kate,
    So great to hear from you again. You have more guts than I do, to make such radical changes in your lifestyle! I remember getting all stressed out over taking out a loan for $300 to buy a sofa when I was your age 🙂
    Keep in touch!
    Colleen

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