Hearing the name Aliquippa never really elicited the same reaction from me as it did from other people living outside of it. When people talked about Aliquippa I would think of my dad’s hometown and my grandparents who lived on the outskirts of Plan 12. I would think of Sunday lunches held at their house each week and attending the San Rocco festival in the summer. But as I got older I realized that people were afraid of this town that was so sentimental to me.
I first heard of the Uncommon Grounds Café through Esther Meek and Geneva College. I was on the Outreach Committee at my church, Chapel PCA and I thought this would be a great opportunity to get our congregation involved in local mission work.
I soon realized that the general consensus was that Aliquippa was a dangerous place to be volunteering. But God had already given me a heart for Aliquippa so I pursued it anyway.
Geneva College was participating in a Spring Break Trip to Aliquippa with Esther as the professor associated with the trip. So I called her and she encouraged me to meet the Director, John Stanley. Somehow I ended up on the kitchen staff for the summer along with Eileen Kerr and Ashley Jackson. I loved working with them and getting to know people in the Aliquippa community. I loved the vision that John had for restoration and Shalom for the misunderstood town.
And like Esther, I desired to see my home church love Aliquippa, too. Our church had just recently done a trip overseas where our eyes were opened more to God’s command to share the Gospel with all the nations. Matthew 16:15 states, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” The plan was to alternate between foreign and local trips each summer. It was agreed upon that Aliquippa would be a great way to ease ourselves in to local missions. The team sent that summer was transformed, myself included. We saw a side to Aliquippa that most people don’t see. We saw neighbors loving each other and helping to make their street beautiful. We saw many loving children who were happy to see us. We saw hope in a town forgotten by many and we brought that back to our congregation.
It was so beautiful to see a congregation transform and to develop a heart for our local community in a new way. Our church has done several summer trips to Aliquippa along with various work days and breakfast meetings at the café. An attitude of fear and uncertainty has been replaced with one of trusting in our Savior to lead and guide us wherever He would have us go.
During one of our summer mission trips to Aliquippa, our team met with leaders from Aliquippa Impact. I was moved by the work that they do in lives of kids but was not at a point where I felt I could commit to becoming a part of it. Years later I was convicted by the Holy Spirit to be less selfish with my time and to make a commitment. When I first became involved with Aliquippa I was single but when I was considering becoming a mentor I was married and had to think of another person besides myself. My husband was a great encouragement to me. He appreciated my desire to serve whether at the café or through mentoring and encouraged me to go where I felt God was calling.
With my husband’s support, I worked with the AI staff, completed training and was paired with an awesome nine year old named Angel. One of the biggest parts of mentoring is just showing up. I’m not exciting or entertaining or necessarily great with kids but I knew that I could show up and be reliable. There have been ups and downs but I am so thankful for the experience so far. Angel is such a blessing to my life.
I’m so excited to see what God has planned for Aliquippa and the many ministries there. He is doing great things in the town of Aliquippa and in the hearts of her people. Come to Aliquippa – taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).