Newcastle Students Participate in Awesome Mission Project!
Espanola, New Mexico - McCurdy School
August 14, 2012
For several days this summer, two current Newcastle students, five former Newcastle students, and one current Olney Junior High student, served on a mission work team in the Espanola Valley of northern New Mexico, alongside church pastor, David Ray, and several adults from the Newcastle First United Methodist Church. The focus of their work was McCurdy School, a pre-school through twelfth grade school, founded in 1912 and for 100 years supported through the work of the United Methodist Church.
Due to the outstanding academic reputation of the McCurdy School District, it has doubled in size to over 500 students within the past two years and the financial responsibility as a mission school has become overwhelming. Because of the increasing financial demands, this summer’s mission work took on an added dimension since the school is beginning a transition from a private United Methodist Church mission school to a New Mexico Charter School. The United Methodist Church is working hand-in-hand with the state of New Mexico during the transition and will be maintaining parts of its mission work through a parent training program as well as a G.E.D. program.
Sunday evening I gathered in the Newcastle Methodist Church activity building with most of the youth involved in the mission trip, their two sponsors, Ken and Melanie Lowe, and church pastor, David Ray. The youth mission workers included Lacey Lowe, Cody Lowe, Dakota Lowe, Shot Lowe, Brandon Martin, Charitye Lowe, Matthew Lowe and Jonathan Rogers. All of these kids attend and are actively involved in the First United Methodist Church, Newcastle. It was obvious from the excitement in their voices that the mission trip was a very worthwhile, educational, and enjoyable experience for these missionaries!
While working at McCurdy School the Newcastle mission team lived in dormitories built specially for Methodist Church members coming to help out the school. Don’t imagine lush surroundings because the dorms were not air-conditioned other than a swamp cooler and an assortment of personal fans! Remember – it is a mission trip – you’re supposed to suffer a little! Part of their duties included daily cleaning of the facilities and cooking chores for the workers. Due to the influx of new students, the school had to reorganize their classrooms; therefore one crew spent a lot of time helping move classroom furniture and equipment from one space to another. Our students were very experienced with this duty since we moved out of our old building and into our new building last school year! They also assisted with carpentry work where needed and did yard work throughout the campus. I understand that Jackie Jordan’s electrical expertise was really put to the test replacing old wiring with new! It was a lot of work, but extremely worthwhile, and I heard no one complain about anything they were assigned. I truly believe it was a labor of love and a gift from their hearts. As one of the students expressed, “It made us feel really good and proud of the job we did!”
Not only was this trip spiritually uplifting, but it was also a very good learning experience! The students were exposed to an unfamiliar culture because many of the Espanola citizens consider themselves Spanish American rather than Mexican American and there are some subtle differences. Each of these Newcastle student mission workers attend or attended a public school right here in Young County and being able to learn a little about the organization and operation of a private school was new to them! Finally, one of the discoveries that peaked their interest most was the city’s continued reliance upon an old world irrigation system that continues to run throughout Espanola from high upon the Sangre de Cristo Mountains! The irrigation ditches were built by the early Spanish settlers to help them prosper as an agrarian society and have been maintained ever since! The lawns were very nice despite the heat due to damming the irrigation ditches for water! Our students were very intrigued by this ancient watering system and totally shocked to see one still in active use!
This is the third summer mission trip for the Newcastle Methodist Church and much credit was given to Pastor David Ray and mission’s leader, Debbie Whiteley for all of the hard work they do in planning for the trip and making sure that the trip is financed outside of the regular church budget. All of the approximately $4,500 needed for the trip is raised throughout the year with special missions fund raisers and donations from generous church and community members!
The students felt very proud of the work they had done to ease the burden of the McCurdy School during such a painful transition. It’s not easy to see a 100 year tradition of Methodist missionary service in education lose some of its ownership and religious focus to the state of New Mexico. The students said that it was obvious that the citizens of Espanola, Methodist church members and employees of the school were very appreciative of the work being done to help them and were very patient with their inadequacies. And, based on my observations and discussions with the students, the feelings of appreciation were reciprocal. The students were truly blessed by the Christian spirit and joy of giving to those less fortunate and in need. It was a long, tiring week but one that they anxiously look forward to next summer of 2013!