First Church of Christ, Congregational Travels to West Virginia to Help Others

The mission team from First Church of Christ visited Glenwood, an unincorporated town outside Bluefield near the Ohio border

We left West Virginia with an even greater appreciation of its rich culture, resilient people and natural beauty — Pastor John Castricum reflects in a press release about his church’s mission trip to West Virginia.

The need is great. The statistics show that even though parts of West Virginia are thriving, there are still many pockets of deep poverty.  Unemployment is high and jobs are disappearing with the changes in the coal and gas industries. Many homes have substandard plumbing and electrical service.

From a press release by Rev. John Castricum, Pastor of First Church of Christ

The eleven members of the First Church of Christ Mission Team had yet another successful trip West Virginia from July 6th through July 13th.   The team stays at the Appalachian South Folklife Center in Pipestem, a long-time mission partner, which also organizes their mission project.

This year, the team was sent to Glenwood, a town outside of Bluefield, WV to a man named Estill.  A few years ago, Estill’s house burned down, and he had no insurance.  He was reduced to living in a small camper without running water, electricity or plumbing.  Estill did manage to find a trailer that he moved to the site of his former house.  It was First Church’s job to finish up some major work already done by two previous groups.  The project included removal of old wallboards and insulation, the installation of new insulation and sheetrock, spackling, painting as well as creating a new deck, doors and windows.

Even though eleven actually went down to West Virginia, the whole church got involved in the project, providing food and treats for the team as well as over $2,600 in Lowe’s gift cards to fund the project.

The team also visited other mission partners in the area, handing out checks from the proceeds of the West Virginia Mission Festival held in March.  The groups included the Riff Raff Arts Collective and the Stages Music School in Princeton, WV, which are reviving a downtown area that was all but abandoned.  It also made a contribution to the Wade Center for Youth, an after-school program that supplies programs, food and activities to underprivileged youth in the Bluefield area.

“Underneath all the good work we did, the fundamental purpose of the mission trip was about relationships: to deepen old ones and create new ones,” said Castricum.  “On each of our trips, it becomes very clear that God calls us to West Virginia to immerse ourselves in a culture different from our own and to turn strangers into friends.  We left West Virginia with an even greater appreciation of its rich culture, resilient people and natural beauty.”

The mission team returned exhausted but inspired.  They are already looking forward to next year’s trip.

Editor’s Note: First Church of Christ Congregational and Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church each took teams from their congregations to West Virginia this summer on missions that included restoring homes badly in need of repair.  The First Church of Christ went to Glenwood, an unincorporated town outside Bluefield near the Ohio border.  Saint Paul’s went to Guyan Valley also in the western part of the state.

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