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.”