The delegation from the Great Plains Conference who visited the Lydia Patterson Institute on Jan. 26-27 included those who had seen the United Methodist-funded school before and others who were there for the first time.
About a dozen clergy and parishioners toured the school and had breakfast and lunch with the students. Most then traveled to Juarez, Mexico, to see what the home life was like for several of those attending Lydia Patterson. The day concluded with an authentic and abundant Mexican meal made by the mothers of the students, as well as a performance by the school’s mariachi band. The trip concluded with the Great Plains delegation attending a daily chapel service, with a sermon by Bishop Scott J. Jones.
Here are the impressions from members of the Great Plains delegation:
Gordon McClure, executive pastor, Asbury Church, Wichita: “When I was invited to travel to El Paso and experience Lydia Patterson Institute first hand I had the thought, ‘This will be three days out of my schedule,’ but after having visited there I came away with a new thought. That thought was ‘These three days have added to my life.’ What a tremendous work God is doing at LPI! The difference LPI is making in the lives of not only the students, but also the families of the students is worthy of our prayer support and financial support. Hearing the various stories from the students as we sat at meals, watching the passionate teachers do their work and ministry in the classroom, and the experience of meeting several staff members was a tremendous blessing. The success stories are endless. The student’s attitude of gratitude is refreshing. The miracles that Jesus is doing at LPI are obvious. The smiles on the faces of the students are contagious.”
Caren Loper, pastor, Horton-Netawaka-Whiting, Kansas, UMCs: “To see the reality of the extreme poverty that many of the students live in, and the extreme conditions and the sacrifices they take to get from Juarez to El Paso was just very touching to my heart. We waited for a while in line to get back into El Paso, and to think that they have to deal with that every day. … That (bridge is) 100 yards between poverty and hope. … Lydia Patterson Institute is making a huge difference in their lives. The deep spirituality of the students is touching. I don’t remember smiling that much (as they did) when I went to school.”
Warren Cico, St. Francis, Kansas, UMC: “I am really impressed with the students, with their desire to improve their life situation and their confidence that they are in the right place and God’s leading them to the right place. I’ve also been impressed with the way I’ve seen them working – they’re not here just to get a free ride. I’ve seen people sweeping and cleaning, washing windows and cleaning locker rooms. And just the friendliness and their willingness to smile. And I’ve enjoyed the stories of their internships and what their ambitions are.”
Carolyn Janzen, parishioner, Aldersgate UMC, Wichita: “I was very impressed with the quality of education the kids get and the hard work and dedication in what the students do every day. I was really impressed when we went into Juarez and saw where one family of students live. You see how early the kids have to get up and all they have to do just to get across the border and get into school every day and how trying and hard that must be. But there’s no complaints on their part, because they know the quality of the education they’re getting, and that’s giving them an opportunity to get themselves out of poverty and their whole family out of poverty.”
Rick Just, senior pastor, Asbury Church, Wichita: “As one who has visited LPI before, I was once again reminded of the incredible ministry that is taking place to offer hope and future to those who find themselves living in the midst of hardship and despair. Not only are children's lives being transformed because of the ministry of LPI, but the families of the children who graduate from LPI are also being transformed. For most who attend the school, this is their one and only opportunity to get out of poverty and a person can just see in the faces of the children how grateful they are to receive this blessing of Christian education. Over and over the students thanked us for the education they were receiving and the fact that if it weren't for the support given the school and to them, they would forever remain in poverty. LPI is one of the best kept secrets of mission and ministry within our jurisdiction and it would be my prayer that we will be more intentional about supporting the ministry of LPI and telling the incredible story of the transformation of lives of those living along the El Paso/Juarez border. This is truly what it means to live out the mission of the UMC – ‘Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.'"
Read more about the trip and learn more about the Lydia Patterson Institute.
Reactions compiled by David Burke, communications coordinator for the Great Plains Conference.