After teaching at Aliquippa Impact’s summer camp for 3 years, both Rebekah Thompson and DeVonte Thorne stepped into leadership roles – Rebekah as assistant site coordinator and DeVonte as head site coordinator.
Both DeVonte and Rebekah have attended Toccoa Falls College. DeVonte, originally from Georgia, studies youth ministry there. In previous years at AI’s summer camp he taught 3rd and 4th grade classes. Rebekah, originally from Virginia, just graduated from Toccoa Falls College with a degree in Counseling Psychology. Rebekah has taught a class of first and second graders and a class of third and fourth graders at summer camp.
Earlier this year, DeVonte received a phone call about Aliquippa Impact’s summer camp head coordinator position. Devonte says, “That was really unexpected, but at the same time I was ready to do it. I’ve been there for so long – I know what day camp is supposed to look like. Day camp is really mapped out-you just need somebody to coordinate it and make sure that it is running smoothly. It’s not extremely difficult, but if you are not used to it, it can seem chaotic- like what is going on?”
Although she enjoyed her time there, Rebekah was not expecting to return to camp. She was expecting to look for a full time job after graduation. She says, “Aliquippa Impact called me up and asked if I wanted to be the assistant coordinator along with DeVonte as the head coordinator. We had worked together for 3 years and I loved doing day camp. I thought – It’s a risk, what if I accept this and I get offered a full time job and I can’t take it? I prayed about it and decided to do it.”
This summer’s theme was the Olympics. The kids were taught a variety of lessons, including Arts & Crafts and Dance & Drama. DeVonte says, “We try to not make it seem like school as much as possible because they don’t want to be in school all year ‘round.” The summer program teachers introduce children to development assets, building blocks needed to become model citizens. Devonte says, “We try to show them what empowerment looks like, what support groups are in their lives – outside of their mother and father – who is around them and supporting them. We help them to see that they have more support groups than they think they do and more resources than what they are used to.”
One of the first lessons Devonte learned in his youth ministry classes was make sure to have a team of people who have your vision and the vision of the church. Make sure they are willing to sacrifice and put in a lot of time and hard work. This summer he learned how important a committed team really is. Devonte says, “I am more of a relational than an administrative guy. Rebekah and Gerrin – they are relational as well – but they are really into administrative work. So getting paper work done or making sure permission slips are printed out – they did a great job with that. They got stuff done without me having to ask them. They always have my back and I always have their back. It was great. They called us the dream team I guess because we got everything rolling.”
Rebekah and DeVonte were responsible were supervising a staff of 11 college students. Rebekah comments, “We’ve had just such a great team of college staff and one of the things that I’ve learned a lot about this summer, being in leadership for the first time, is supervising them and working with them. I’m used to working with the kids, but this was my first time really being in a supervisor position with my peers. We’ve had a couple Thursday’s this summer that we were supposed to go on a field trip, but the bus didn’t show up to take the kids. The staff just stepped up, got creative, and pulled activities out of their back pocket so to speak. Just spontaneous things to keep the kids entertained. I was so proud of them.”
Both DeVonte and Rebekah have been inspired by Aliquippa Impact’s ministry. Rebekah says, “It’s definitely been something God has used personally in my life to change me and show me more of what grace means. I just love that they are all about hope. I think one of the things that has been most impactful to me about this is they are an ‘incarnation ministry.’ The idea is when Jesus came; he actually lived among the people he served. That’s what most of the employees of Aliquippa Impact have done -they’ve moved into the community they are serving. They care more about the community they are serving because it’s their community. I think that’s just so cool.”
Likewise, DeVonte admires Aliquippa Impact’s relationship with the community. He says, “The people that work at AI love the people in the community and the community has this respect for AI that is shocking. I love the progression – the relationships that have been built are really authentic because they started from a minimal foundation. The only thing that they had to go off of was the Lord and the passion He put in their hearts for the people in Aliquippa. I still see that. I see a hunger to walk with people and to not be afraid what people around them or other communities around them may think. I want to be a part of that – it’s kept me coming back to the community.”
Rebekah recently moved to Aliquippa to be a part of the community. In the fall, she will be teaching a preschool class at Crestmont Early Learning Center and working with children with Autism at Family Behavioral Resources. DeVonte will be returning to Toccoa Falls College where he will finish his Youth Ministry degree. Please pray for both as they begin new adventures.