Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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A Wholistic Need-Meeting Ministry

Jim Eaton, Founder of Onramps and Outposts (O2), was first introduced to Aliquippa Impact through common relationships with various church and ministry networks.  Onramps and Outposts’ vision is “To see men and families restored to God, reconciled to each other, and reconnected to creation.”  Their mission is to provide opportunities for rest, renewal, learning, and adventure for the purpose of spiritual growth.  O2’s inspiration came from Jim’s need for these things in his own life.  Jim says, “I spent time with a few friends for a weekend where all these things happened and I realized that this was too good not to share.  O2 provides an atmosphere to rest and learn together.”

“We want to see men and families restored and Aliquippa Impact works with families.”  Onramps and Outposts partners with Aliquippa Impact and both organizations benefit.  O2 provides a place of training and equipping by providing places of rest and renewal for AI leadership.  AI provides leadership in O2 events and contributes to what both organizations are building together.  Jim looks forward to partnering and creating space for some of what O2 does to benefit children.  He is working on the development of a local outdoor ministry to create space for kids to work with O2 outdoors.  He hopes to expose them and allow them to experience creation and learn about God in creation.  Jim says, “As we work with men and build men, we are looking forward to partnering in ways where strong men can be strong mentors for the needs of youth.  As we build men we are hoping they will turn around and give back not only to their families, but to their community.”

Jim sees the difference AI has made in the lives of a group of young men.  This recent graduation at Aliquippa High School was the first graduation that has happened in the lives of youth that AI has mentored from the beginning.  “I look at those guys and think, wow, many of them are headed in a direction that is very positive and hopeful.  There is capacity to contribute great things to their life because of the guidance, impact, and friendship of AI in their lives.”He also has seen how Aliquippa Impact has made a difference in relationships in the community.  “They have been a bridge builder to bring reconciliation” between other churches and organizations and the Aliquippa community.

Jim supports Aliquippa Impact because, “I believe that number one in Aliquippa, there is an incredible need for mentoring in the lives of children.  Also, as a Christian, I believe that it is important to meet many needs, not just spiritual needs, but physical needs and emotional needs.”  AI inspires others in the direction of caring for people in more ways than one.  Jim says AI is, “A wholistic need-meeting ministry.“

 

Consistency in Everything You Do

Through Monique’s years living in Aliquippa and through her involvement with AI she sees that kids really like the one-on-one attention they receive through mentoring. They also enjoy seeing people from Aliquippa Impact visiting in their community. Monique says, “One example is when they had the day camp program, once a week they just walked around and visited with the kids. They enjoyed seeing them coming to their homes and sitting outside with them, doing little activities. They communicate with all the kids, not just the ones in the day camp program.”

Monique’s nephew, William Jones (not his real name), is part of Executive Director, Steve Rossi’s cohort group. He’s a 7th grader who enjoys learning math and going to gym class. He feels that being a part of Steve’s cohort group has changed his life. According to William, being part of the group has taught him to stay out of trouble and introduced to him the idea of being born again in Christ.

Not only did William gain a mentor by joining the cohort, but he also found two father-figures in Steve Rossi and Joel Repic, founder of AI. Monique explains, “Mr. Steve and Mr. Joel have taken on a lot of being the major fathers in his life, weekly. They are the two consistent men in his life that take an interest in what’s going on with him. I think they’re making a major impact, letting him know what a consistent male figure in his life should be.”

Monique feels that Steve and Joel are teaching William how to be consistent in all that he does. She says, “He’s learning when you put yourself in something it’s something you follow through with. So definitely consistency, consistency with everything you do. If you start something, you should finish it.”

   

A Soft Spot for Aliquippa

Jeremy Gill and his wife, Maria Fattore-Gill, have supported Aliquippa Impact financially for 3 years. Jeremy learned about the organization through Steve Rossi, Executive Director, whom he met when he attended Crestmont Alliance Church.

Jeremy has a soft spot in his heart for Aliquippa because both of his parents grew up in the area and his grandparents still reside there. He says, “I’ve been fortunate to be blessed by God financially and in turn have been able to give back to Aliquippa Impact, which is an area that I obviously have a heart for.”

Family and community are both very important to Jeremy and Maria, and AI is working to strengthen both of these. Because Maria is a mentor with AI, she and Jeremy know that programs such as the one-on-one mentoring positively impact children and their families. Jeremy says, “They support the community with a biblical basis and try to drive the community forward. They’re really helping these kids who are less fortunate in situations that are troubled.”

   

Esther Meek Called to Aliquippa

Ten years ago, Esther Meek moved to Center Township so that her daughter could attend Center High School. She loved the towns in Beaver, Beaver Falls, and Monaca with their little main streets, but was disappointed that Center had no such main street.

She found what she was looking for when she made a trip to the post office in Aliquippa. Meek recalls, “I took one look at Franklin Avenue and realized that that must be Center’s main street.”

Initially, Esther had made her way to Aliquippa with thoughts from others who had told her, “Don’t go there you’ll get shot.” However, as she looked around Franklin Avenue her heart began to long for the good that might happen there. She wondered to herself, “Why haven’t the college students, the artists, and the entrepreneurs found this cute little town?”

She carried this desire with her when she met John Stanley, a missionary from Australia who started the Uncommon Grounds Café located on Franklin Avenue. Esther and John met at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, where they were both teaching a June term course. Over lunch they discussed the café and Esther thought, “This is just what my heart has been longing for in Aliquippa.”

Esther wanted to volunteer her time at the café, but she was already working two jobs. That’s when she came up with the idea of starting a spring break missions’ trip with students at Geneva College, where she is a professor. So, she housed several Geneva students at her home in Center while they volunteered at the café. She recalls, “I wanted to get volunteers to help at the café and I also wanted to bless Geneva College students with an opportunity to be alongside what God was doing through John Stanley.”

It was during the first spring break trip in 2006 that Esther met Joel Repic, founder of Aliquippa Impact. While the students were working at the café, Stanley asked Joel if he would give them a tour of the city. I loved the tour and obviously this was filling in my growing understanding of Aliquippa.”

Esther was asked to be a part of Aliquippa Impact’s board shortly after that. When she realized that Aliquippa Impact was founded in 2004, she thought, “Well that was just the year that I had moved to Aliquippa! So honestly the hair on my neck stood up; I got chills and thought well maybe God had me settle in Aliquippa not just for Geneva College, but for Aliquippa itself.”

Esther is currently the vice chair on AI’s board and a member of its leadership subcommittee. As vice chair she conducts meetings when the chair is not present, and as a member of the leadership subcommittee she takes part in discussions about how to cultivate leadership in Aliquippa.

Serving on the board fits with Esther’s God-given gifts and abilities. She explains, “I’m more of a connector, a strategist, and a dreamer. So for me it’s good to be able to be on a board. I feel like I ask good questions when I’m on a board and help us come to a consensus- and a creative one.”

As part of the board, one of her goals is to help people see that Aliquippa is Beaver County’s opportunity, not its problem. She says, “My little agenda is to rewrite the narrative in people’s heads in Beaver County so that they long to go to Aliquippa to see God. I’ve continued to be passionate about this place in Beaver County being the place that God is likely to show up because that’s where the poor are and he comes among the poor. It’s been all these years and every time I go there, I go looking to see God and I feel like I always do.”

Esther sees God working through Aliquippa Impact in the way that it fosters hope in youth. She says, “When I found Aliquippa Impact, I was blown away by it and I think the strategic investment in the youth of Aliquippa and the effective quality way in which Aliquippa Impact is doing that is really, really critical. I’m just so excited about both the submission to the Holy Spirit, but also the real savviness- the wisdom in which the whole thing goes forward.”

   

Modeling and Shaping for the Next Generation

Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church has resided in Raccoon Township for over 130 years.  Their mission is to know Christ and to make Him known.  Pastor Rich Herbster uses his gifts of teaching and preaching to lead church members in this mission.

Upon arriving at Mt. Pleasant in 2009, Pastor Herbster became familiar with the city of Aliquippa and its history through members of the congregation.  Many Mt. Pleasant parishioners have ties to the city, having been raised or employed there.  He learned about Aliquippa Impact’s ministry happening there when Executive Director, Steve Rossi, and Founder, Joel Repic, invited Rich to a dessert event at the home of Rossi’s parents.    At the gathering, he learned about AI and their work with Aliquippa’s youth.  He recalls, “I was very impressed by the vision of the ministry and all that was being done in Aliquippa.  It was very exciting stuff.  So we’ve been involved, if nothing else, in prayer and common vision from that time on.”

 At Mt. Pleasant there is a focus on providing great programs for the congregation, especially for children.  However, their desire to support youth goes beyond those in their own parish.  Recently, the church has donated their Vacation Bible School offering to AI and several parishioners have served as mentors. Pastor Herbster has also helped create awareness of Aliquippa Impact by allowing AI staff to speak at the church.

Pastor Herbster points out that Mt. Pleasant is not the only church supporting Aliquippa Impact and other outreach programs.  He says, “I am excited to see the churches of our whole region join together in Aliquippa Impact and in the café [Uncommon Grounds] and other ways to really try to minister to the city.  It’s really encouraging.”

Pastor Herbster likes everything about AI, especially the relationship building they do with youth.  He says, “If you are really going to be effective in the long run and bring change to a community, it’s going to involve one-on-one relationships, where there is modeling and where there is shaping for the next generation to know Christ and to live in a way that honors him.”

 

 

   

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