Long ago, carriages clattered down the brick streets of Philadelphia, loaded with fashionable ladies and fine gentlemen, pulled by prancing horses.
Children played with sticks and hoops under shade trees.
Shops and markets were full of customers, while in other parts of the city, factories kept workers busy making shoes, watches, clocks, and many other items.
Ships were built in the shipyards close to the water.
Servants in mansions bustled about to keep their masters happy.
But not all the people in Philadelphia had servants to work for them or money to spend in stores. In some parts of the city, people lived in tall, overcrowded brick houses that were stacked together like books on a shelf. Drunkards loitered along filthy streets, leaving their families at home, hungry and cold.
Mennonites in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, were concerned about these people. “What can we do to help the people in Philadelphia?” they asked. “How can we show the people in that city the love of Jesus?”
Noah Mack, a Sunday school superintendent, had an idea. “I know a young woman who would qualify to do mission work,” he said. “Three years ago during the big blizzard, Amanda Musselman was the only one who came to Sunday school. She walked all by herself across the fields to get here.”
Before Amanda became a Christian, she was an energetic girl who loved to go to parties. She swept up her hair and tied it with bright ribbons. She had fake pearls on the collars of her dresses.
After she surrendered her life to Jesus, Amanda wore a head covering of thick white material. Sewn to the covering were wide white ribbons that were tied in a neat bow under her chin. She wore plain, floor-length dresses that included aprons and capes. But more important than her clothes was the joy on her face. She was quiet and kind, and loved serving the Lord.
Amanda was willing to serve at the Mennonite Sunday School Mission. She moved to Philadelphia with a friend, Mary Denlinger, in the summer of 1899. The mission instructed them to give comfort where it was needed, visit the sick, and help the poor.
Amanda’s mother was nervous about letting her daughter move to the city. She said, “That city is dangerous, not at all a place for an unmarried girl!” Yet Amanda knew there were many needs to meet, so she began her mission courageously.
First they needed to get a house ready to live in. Amanda was a good housekeeper, and she had plenty of opportunities to use her skills in the house the church rented for them on East York Street. Joseph and Isaac, two young men who came along to help, carried three cartloads of rubbish from the cellar while Amanda and Mary thoroughly cleaned the house. “We have to do something about the bedbugs!” Amanda exclaimed. “I’ve been bitten too many times. A dose of sulfur should get rid of them!”
Besides getting rid of bugs and dirt, the women had to get furniture to use. “What can we use for a table?” wondered Mary.
Amanda had an idea. “Just put this old door on the shelf in this closet and the other end on this barrel,” she said.
Since there were only a few windows to let the light in, the apartment was dim. Amanda decided to look on the bright side, though. “All is well,” she said. “We have the sunshine of God’s love in our souls.”
Finally when the house was in order and they had bought some furniture at a secondhand store, the women hung a motto above the door that said, “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Holy One, is the head of this house.”
Now that they had settled in, Amanda and Mary were ready to invite children to Sunday school. They walked all over the neighborhood to invite the children. Some people opened the door and let them come in, but others slammed the door in their faces. Some places had broken steps and dirty porches.
At one house, they were invited to come in. Stepping inside, they heard the door being locked behind them. When they realized they were trapped in a wicked place, Amanda prayed, asking the Lord to save them from danger. When Mary turned and reached for the doorknob, it opened even though it was locked, and they hurried away.
A neighbor heard what had happened and said, “If you hadn’t been dressed modestly as you were, you would never have escaped from that house.”
On the second Sunday of June, Amanda and Mary were ready for their first Sunday school class. They decided that Amanda would teach the girls and Mary the boys. Twenty children came that morning. In the evening, nine children came for a children’s meeting.
Of all the work they did, Amanda loved working with the children the best. One evening Amanda heard a knock on the door. Three of her Sunday school girls had dropped in to visit her. They cheerfully helped her dry dishes, talking about Jesus as they worked.
Every sinner we bring to Jesus,” explained Amanda, “is a star for our crown.”
One little girl said, “I think you will have a lot of stars in your crown, Amanda!”
Although the children were well-behaved and eager to learn in the Sunday school class, boys on the streets tried to distract them.
Ministers had started to come to preach at services for interested adults every other Sunday. One Sunday morning when a visiting minister came to hold a service before Sunday school, Amanda started closing the windows and pulling the blinds before the service began.
“Why do you do that?” the minister wondered.
Amanda said, “Sometimes the older boys stand on the sidewalk and look in the windows and make noises to interrupt the service.”
Put the blinds up and open the windows,” the minister said. “I will preach loud enough for them to hear!” And he did.
No noises interrupted the service that morning. A few boys crept up to the windows and listened carefully until the service was dismissed.