It was a happy St. Peter’s crew that set off for New Mexico on Sunday, July 31… and a large one, too: 14 kids and four adults.

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Their goal?  To assist on several construction projects in the town of Crownpoint, NM, in the Navajo Nation Reservation.  The results?  A more powerful, more significant experience than anyone expected or imagined.

The projects were coordinated by Next Step Ministries, a nonprofit with an ongoing presence in Crownpoint. Every year, church groups come for a week.  Organized into work crews supervised by Next Step staff, the groups tackle carpentry, roofing, flooring, painting, plumbing, wiring… and anything else that needs to be done.

Our delegation from St. Peter’s was divided into two work crews.  The first crew worked on interior renovation at one house and the second crew worked on a bathroom and pantry being added to another.  Both projects involved lots of “mudding,” sanding, and painting.

Needless to say, the crews worked hard and joyfully.

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The occasional break for water or sunscreen was welcome.

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And of course the kids took pride in their handiwork:

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The long work days offered one or two diversions.  One site featured a puppy, a toddler, and regular reminders of the parable of the good shepherd.

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The houses were located several miles down dirt roads that became muddy streams when the dramatic seasonal “monsoon” thunderstorms blew through.  Getting to and from the work projects could be a real adventure after a heavy rain.

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After work the Giant convenience store was a popular destination.

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Accommodations in Crownpoint were basic to say the least.  There was a boy’s dorm room and a girl’s dorm room, and air mattresses were pretty much as good as it got.

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When our group from St. Peter’s wanted to have an evening meeting, the hallway turned out to be the most convenient space.

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Quite a few of our young people had unexpected talents.

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Worship followed every meal.  Lunchtime devotions were held at the work sites.

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Morning and evening services were held in the sanctuary, which had been decorated for the local Vacation Bible School. The “cave” theme looked like fun.

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Mother Susan and the St. Peter’s crew celebrated communion twice: once in the sanctuary in the evening and once on the rocky hillside at dawn.  In the morning the elements were simple, the setting was glorious, and the sunrise was spectacular.

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New Mexico was enchanted from dawn to dusk, just like the license plates say.  On dry days!

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Some of the young people got up early to hike the hillsides.

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After five days in Crownpoint everyone got a Next Step t-shirt.  Not everyone got the memo about picture day, however.

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On the last morning fond farewells were said all round, both to our hosts from Next Step and to our friends from the other church group also working in Crownpoint.

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Then the kids and chaperones loaded their bags and themselves back into the two rental vans and headed down the road toward Albuquerque, listening to three of the finest mix CDs ever made.

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Albuquerque provided some much-needed rest and relaxation.  One out of three kids said that being in a real bed was a treat.

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Lots of kids took advantage of the shopping.

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Everyone enjoyed cooling refreshments.

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It’s safe to say that everyone who checked out on Sunday was ready to get back home, each weary in his own way.

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The experience of working hard together gave everyone a good feeling.  The experience of worshiping together was always inspiring and sometimes profoundly moving.  And like the work the group contributed, memories from the 2016 mission trip will last a lifetime.

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