WESTFIELD, NJ — Youth mission members and advisers from The Presbyterian Church in Westfield spent a week this summer in Estes Park, Colo., helping clean up damage caused by a devastating flood in September of 2013.
Volunteer work, which took place between June 25 and July 2, included clearing large amounts of debris from homes that had been washed away in the Big Thompson River flood of 2013. Some volunteers removed large boulders from the properties, as well as entire trees that were uprooted in the flood.
“The group of adults that dedicated their time to this trip have experience as engineers, contractors, carpenters and educators. With their experience we were able to do almost any repairs the homeowners might need,” Associate Pastor for Youth Amanda Huels said.
According to Huels, many families hit by the flood were unable to receive enough insurance money or assistance from the government to manage their properties.
“A lot of the families we worked for were older, retired individuals who could not have managed the demanding physical labor our teams were able to complete. This work is very meaningful to the communities we visit,” she said.
The church’s youth group runs one high school mission trip and one middle school mission trip each year. Participation in mission trips is meant to expose teenagers to areas of need in the country and throughout the world. The church also runs an adult mission trip each summer.
“We’ve had over 25 mission trips so far. The high school mission trip has approximately 70 students in grades 9-12 and 30 adult advisors,” Youth Assistant Linnette Mercado said. The locations are chosen based on recent FEMA sites.
“This trip is usually to an urban area that partners with local churches or non-profits working on issues related to poverty and hunger,” said Huels.
This year’s middle school mission will take 16 middle school students and four advisors to Boston from August 5 to 8. On that trip, students will work with the City Mission Society of Boston and help at shelters, food banks and soup kitchens.
The church congregation helps fund the trips through a Youth Rebuilding Hope fundraiser held in February. The funds raised also cover the cost of weekly trips to volunteer at the Agape Community Kitchen in Elizabeth on Wednesdays. According to Huels, the teens who volunteer there each week perform duties independently, with little prodding from the advisers.
“During these assignments, students learn about God’s love for them through worship and Christian community, and then they get to be a part of sharing God’s love for others through the work they get to participate in,” said Huels.
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