Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things that they do.
Faith, love and sacrifice.
Those are three of the most important things the Rev. Joshua Strunk said keeps his Hyde Park family going.
“There is an intensity to the commitment to making it work,” he said. “Not every day is a good day. Not every moment of every day is a good moment.
”The Bible talks about how we’re supposed to love each other. We’re supposed to submit to each other. Those aren’t just religious rules that you check off. That’s a way of life. That’s a way of looking at the world.
“You chose the other over yourself and try and understand where they’re coming from.”
Strunk, 42, is the pastor of Pine Run Evangelical Methodist Church in Washington Township. He and his wife, Allissa, 39, have 10 children; all are home schooled by Mom .
From oldest to youngest they are Eve, 19, Jack, 17, Abigail, 14, Samuel, 13, Katelyn, 11, Noah, 9, Lilyan, 7, Emma, 6, Levi, 4 and Max, 18 months. Their names were inspired by biblical characters. The family’s dining room table is like one found in a school cafeteria.
Allissa Strunk said the children learn mostly through hands-on activities and have to meet the same educational standards as students in brick-and-mortar schools. They are evaluated every year.
The Strunks were sort of high school sweethearts. The pair went to Greene Central High School in Greene, N.Y. They were both involved in the school’s Bible club and met through her older brother, Jason. Joshua was 16; Allissa was 14. He graduated in 1994; she graduated in ’96. They married in May 1997.
The family would go through several struggles throughout their journey. They would live in New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Maryland before settling in Hyde Park. Some of their travels were based around where Joshua Strunk would either go to school or find a job.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from John Wesley College at High Point, N.C. and a master’s in arts and religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va. He helped lead churches and taught at various schools during their travels. He also worked in construction and as a meat packer, a trailer mechanic, built storage buildings and as an adjunct professor for Columbia International University and Ohio Christian University.
“We went through a series of being unemployed three different times in five years and having to move because we had to chance employment,” Allissa Strunk said. “There were some unfortunate things that were going on.”
She said for several months in 2009 into 2010 the family had to pull all their savings and stayed with her parents in State College in order to live while Joshua Strunk pursued his doctorate. Noah was born during that time.
“That was one of those life changing moments were the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and now he’s taken away,” she said. “What are we going to to? We have no money, no job prospects … and then he got a call from a school in Florida, again.”
Joshua Strunk would go on to teach at a public school in Florida before being called back to Pennsylvania. He said he would not have been able to accomplish anything without his wife’s support.
“She is the oil that keeps the mechanism running perfectly,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my wife, this place would fall apart, because I am not that clever.”
Joshua Strunk was named Pine Run’s pastor about eight years ago. He recalled when they would alternate staying at Allissa’s grandmother’s place and the church while trying to find a place to live.
“Allissa was pregnant with Lilyan, our seventh, and we spent five months going back and forth from Phillipsburg to here — about two-and-a-half hours,” he said.
“We’d come Thursday, sleep on the floor of the church Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night. And then Sunday night after services we’d go back to Phillipsburg. It was crazy for awhile. God provided.”
They currently live in a former Habitat for Humanity home in Hyde Park. The family knocked down some walls and had to renovate a lot to make space for the children, which helped out with various projects. They have a library with more than 200 books.