WESTFIELD, NJ - The popular tourist destination of Miami, Florida was the setting for a week of volunteering and fellowship for the participants of First Congregational Church of Westfield’s annual Summer Mission Trip. Twenty-eight youth and adult representatives returned on July 27 having experienced a different side of the city during a week-long program serving with Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection (DOOR), a faith-based organization that stresses local immersion while working with inner-city communities. 

Under the guidance of the Miami DOOR Director, the FCC volunteers gained a variety of experiences in several locations—among them Abrienda Puertas, one of three different sites belonging to The Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA), which focuses on the well-being and care of impoverished immigrant children, and a center run by The Sisters of Charity which serves 200+ hot lunches to the homeless. The group ended their workweek by going to the Homestead Detention Center, which at the time housed migrant teens, to learn about and support both the children being detained and those who kept watch and bore witness outside the gates. That Detention Center has been closed since the group was there.

During the evenings the volunteers met to discuss the day’s events and what it meant to them and their spiritual lives. One evening they participated in a presentation led by Juan Carlos Gomez, a long-time immigration attorney and law school professor, who discussed the current crisis and the importance of knowing the US Constitution. In their off time, the group visited popular sites including Matheson Hammock Park Beach, Wynwood Walls, Vizcaya and the Lincoln Road Mall.

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The FCC contingent was led by Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea, Senior Minister, and Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister. Chaperones included Cindy Boyea, Michael Bonnell, Laurel Elkin, Geoff Marino, Ani Hsu Obrock, Joe Regan, Denise Schifando and Debra Volz. Student representatives included Erin and Grace Bailey, Jeremy Bonnell, Kelton and Thomson Estabrook, Nattie Fountain Jardim, Joey and Tommy Larmore, Natalie and Rae Mikula, Mason and Olivia Marino, Jonathan Moore, Margot Motyczka, David Riedell, Flannery and Giavanna Schifando and Zach Volz.

This is the twelfth consecutive summer that First Congregational Church has participated in this kind of trip. Themed fundraisers and fundraising by the participants throughout the year help underwrite the cost.

First Congregational Church, a member of the United Church of Christ, is located at 125 Elmer Street in Westfield. For additional information on Youth and Outreach opportunities, please contact 908-233-2494 or visit their website at fccofwestfield.org