An instructor steps into his class, placing his laptop case on his desk. He sits down and opens his computer, waiting for his college students to shuffle in. “Good evening,” he greets them, one by one. He scans his class, nervously doing a headcount.
A student approaches his desk. “William’s locked up,” the student informs him. “Got into some trouble with his cousin.”
The instructor’s heart sinks. He nods his head, and the student finds a seat. There’s a small sense of relief. Last semester, a student of his suddenly stopped coming to class and he found out later that he was shot and killed. While he should be used to news like this, he feels heartbroken. Still, there are others in class trying to change their lives, waiting for his instruction.
David Murphy is the president of American Pathways University. This is an unpaid, volunteer role. His vocational work is at Colorado Christian University where he serves as dean. APU is a passion project of his and all those who serve there. It’s a school in Denver, Colorado that provides post-secondary education to low-income inner-city students. For many, it’s their only chance at achieving a college degree. While APU isn’t a Christian school, instructors are able to teach from a Christian worldview and hope their graduates will serve their communities in the name of the Lord.
APU is sponsored by Missions Door, and David is our Missions Door missionary. He was raised in a Christian home and became a believer as a young boy. Most of his career was in the air force where he earned three master’s degrees and later, a Ph.D. His brother is also a Missions Door missionary, and that’s how he was put in contact with APU.
Time in the Military
In the military, David spent three years on staff at the Air Force Academy, which is basically the air force’s college. He then spent two years leading one of the air force’s training wings, which is like a technical college.
He and his wife met in the military as officers. Officers Christian Fellowship was a ministry that was essential for both of them. It was there that they were taught to look at the military as a mission field. David saw the loneliness those in the military experience, and he watched nonbelievers try to solve that loneliness through seeking God or seeking pleasure. The Lord used his teaching background and heart for missions to prepare him for APU.
Hardships of Inner-City Denver
APU is both a college and technical school. There have been some incredible stories that have come out of it. One student had been in prison for decades but is currently in a project management course. He wants to contribute to society and have a better life. One graduate is running a construction company, and another is doing community service in Denver.
However, this type of ministry is incredibly difficult and taxing. “It can be really hard to see gains because there are so many things that work against these students,” David explains. Poverty propagates throughout generations and can seem impossible to escape, trapping many people in endless cycles. Inner-city students are coming out of incarceration, substance abuse, single-parent homes, and violent families. They may drop out because they’ve been imprisoned, overdosed, or murdered. Because of that, APU doesn’t have the high success rates that traditional colleges and universities have. But that isn’t stopping the instructors from trying to meet learners where they’re at.
Working Through the Lows
“Historically, the Church has gone into some of the darkest corners of the world,” David states. He explains that the Church has been involved with the poor since the beginning, but in the 1800s, Western governments began to implement programs that essentially replaced what the Church has always done. American churches began to pull back and focus on overseas work. But sadly, inner cities in the U.S. suffered tremendously. As money has been poured into programs that don’t work, homelessness and brokenness is evident on every street corner.
There are faithful instructors at APU that have served there for years. They are dedicated to teaching those left behind by society, despite the non-rewarding environment. Constantly, instructors lose students to crime, drugs, or violence. It can almost seem like a failed ministry when looking at the numbers. But those invested know that in the eyes of the Lord, their work is vital, even if it is just for the small number of students who will get a degree, a better income, and be able to minister to their city.
While APU has enough financial support, it really needs prayer and people willing to serve there. Pray that more teachers volunteer at this essential school. For those who serve there, pray that they lean on the Lord as their source of encouragement and strength. Heartbreakingly, many of the instructors have had to learn how to cope with death the way police officers and nurses do.
Pray for David as he leads APU. In the name of Christ, APU is taking education to the inner city. If you’d like to support David, you can do so at his page here.