Aliquippa, Pa., has seen hard times.
In the past, the town benefited from a booming steel industry that provided steady employment to area residents. The steel industry left town in the mid-1980s, and now the town is home to fewer than 10,000 people, with an estimated median household income of just over $27,000 per year. Addiction and crime are commonplace.
“Aliquippa is a rough place, but God has put us here to worship and glorify His name,” said Pastor Leroy Netting during a recent worship service at Aliquippa FMC.
At one point, the congregation averaged an attendance of more than 120 people. A few years ago, however, the church was in danger of closing its doors. Ten to 15 people attended regularly. The church was without a pastor. Funding was low.
The congregation never lost hope.
“We decided, as this group that was still here, that God didn’t want to close the church,” said Maureen Egenlauf, who has attended Aliquippa FMC for more than 60 years. “Miracles were still happening, and we had answers to prayer.”
Netting arrived as pastor with his contagious desire to see God transform Aliquippa.
“You can’t be around him long that you don’t see that spark,” Egenlauf said. “He just moves you.”
Members of the congregation go door-to-door and invite people to church. Though some church members were initially uncomfortable with this method, they believe the Holy Spirit is working in their community, and they have a desire to bring in the harvest.
“I’ve never had a group of people do this, so I know for a fact it’s the Holy Spirit working,” Netting said. “He has done so many miraculous things.”
Members are changing their ministry mindset in a variety of ways.
“We’ve got to become a multicultural church,” said Egenlauf, who referenced Bishop David Roller encouraging the Pittsburgh Conference to reach out to people of every culture and background.
The congregation has also seen God provide financially in amazing ways. They have completed two improvement projects and recently purchased land for a new facility.
Chuck Hilt, who has been attending the church for five years, envisioned using an abandoned piece of city property to build a new church building. Through Hilt’s friendship with an Aliquippa council member, the congregation was given the opportunity to purchase the property. With help from the Pittsburgh Conference, the congregation has received the necessary funds to buy the land.
“We have to rely on the Holy Spirit,” said Egenlauf, who also serves as the church treasurer.
Members hope to use the new facilities to create a safe after-school environment for young people.
Each year, Netting holds revival meetings. People rededicate their lives to Christ and come to salvation.
Netting is quick to give the glory to God for the blessings of his ministry.
“The Holy Spirit is everything,” he said. “Without Him, we have no hope.”0