“It was much more than I expected in so any wonderful ways,” reports mission team member Ed Payton of the team’s recent trip to Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Texas.
Team members built a concrete ramp, patched a leaking roof and painted woodwork and even an outdoor basketball court, but Judith Payton says, “The real issue is just being present, being there with them. That was the most important thing we did.
“On Saturday, we got to take Arthur, a high school senior, to an art museum to see his first works by Remington, Renoir, and others. It was so much fun to see them through his eyes!”
“The students are so filled with hope, and they work so hard,” says Belynda Clanton. “The staff makes sure no talent is lost.”
“Every student was the nicest, most courteous and well behaved kid you’d ever meet,” added Tom Campbell. “They all have to work. They do all the cleaning, some cooking, etc. There is no custodial crew - mostly just them and the faculty. Over half of them walk across the bridge from Mexico, but many of those are U.S. citizens.
“We had breakfast one day with the girls’ volleyball team, and they led us in prayer.”
“That night, we went to their volleyball game and just cheered them on and had fun with them,” Ed says. “The next morning the coach said, ‘You have no idea what it meant to those girls to have you there. Their families live so far away - it’s rare for them to have that kind of support.’
“The students are truly amazing. They don’t take anything for granted, and they have such respect for their teachers. I felt blessed to be there with them, and I think we were a blessing for them as well. Judith wanted to bring Arthur home with us!”
“I was also impressed by our team,” adds Belynda. “I didn’t know some of them at all before we left, but it’s amazing how everyone comes together to do what is needed. Having 18 people in one house with two bathrooms would be a major inconvenience here at home, but we quickly acclimated.
“It struck me that this school bridges two cultures - two countries - yet everyone functioned as one. That's just as it should be.”
“One of the high points of the trip for me was hearing the student orchestra that crossed the bridge to perform in El Paso that Saturday evening,” says Tom Campbell. “It was an El Sistema related group, and they were phenomenal. The students had only been playing four years, at the most, yet they were playing Mozart, Beethoven - tough music. They sounded almost professional!”
“One flute soloist was blind, and that was very emotional,” adds Judith. “The conductor was almost in tears when he finished.”
“La Lydia,” as students affectionately call it, is a United Methodist preparatory school that does an amazing job. Students arrive very early each morning to clean (even toilets), study, then attend classes, yet all appreciate the opportunity. They believe that anything is possible, if they work hard enough, and as a result, 98% of them graduate from high school and 95% go on to college.
“It was a blessing to be there identifying with their struggles, and to be thinking of them and praying for them,” adds Judith.
“I shared my experiences at work with my staff on Monday,” adds Ed, “and I found myself fighting tears. Just being there and present with the kids, sharing God’s love, was a very moving experience.”
Click here to watch a video that showcases more of their mission trip to the Lydia Patterson Institute.