Earlier this year, the Rev. David & Gale Wilson and the Rev. Deb Carr, of St. David’s, Venetia considered how they might involve their parishioners in a hands-on, short-term mission, bringing the love of God to the world. Their thoughts soon turned to Aliquippa, where the Wilsons had previously lived for 20 years, and to the work being done there by the Church Army.
Carr contacted Church Army Captain John Stanley, to see what work the people of St. David’s – especially the youth – could participate in for five days this summer. Stanley connected them with the work being done at the Maple Valley Trailer Court, a community largely overlooked since it was devastated by flooding, most recently in 2007.
The mission team from St. David’s numbered 10 youth and 6 adults, overseen and led by Carr and Adam White, the parish youth minister. Maple Valley, a community populated primarily by retirees and low income families, is bounded by two streams. When heavy rains come, there is a tendency for these streams to overflow their banks and flood the trailer park. While much of Aliquippa has had to cope with these floods, Maple Valley is a particularly heavily hit area.
The necessary labor needed to mitigate future flooding has yet to be completed. This work includes rebuilding streambeds, reinforcing the embankments with stone, rebuilding foundations and laying pipe. The team from St. David’s worked specifically on digging out the creek beds to make space for the stone reinforcements.
The short-term mission ran from July 27-31. The Sunday before it began, Stanley visited St. David’s to preach the sermon and meet with the youth in preparation for what to expect and what they would experience. It was a transforming endeavor, not only for the people of Maple Valley but also for the people of St. David’s. “It is a good lesson for our youth,” said Wilson. Referring to Matthew 25:45, he said, “We, as Christians, have a responsibility to ‘the least of our brothers and sisters.’ If we refuse to help them, the Lord is very clear that we are refusing to help Him.”
The youth “got to meet the people who lived there,” said Carr. “It was really helpful encouragement, spiritually, for the team members. And John helped make the connections.”
The Maple Valley restoration is an enormous and ongoing volunteer project. The work entails a huge learning curve, and available funds are limited. God has already called many to this particular mission field, not only from St. David’s, but also from the Chippewa Evangelical Free Church, Ohio United Presbyterian Church, Aliquippa Impact and other communities. That said, more volunteers from other parishes and communities are needed to continue and complete the important work. “They still need help financially,” said Carr, “and the project isn’t finished. It’s not really a project that can be left [uncompleted] in the middle.”
For more information on how your parish or community group might assist these efforts, contact Uncommon Grounds-Church Army, 380 Franklin Ave., Aliquippa, PA 15001, or call 724-375-6141.