Sunday School Classes for Children. Youth Mission Trip Information

Sunday School – 2018-19

9:00 – 10:00 a.m.

We are blessed to have another great slate of teachers for our Sunday School classes this year:

Preschool—Emily Lloyd and Jennifer Walker

K/1—Julie Horst and Paul Eggerling-Boeck

2/3—Gretchen Forbes and Brett MacArthur

4/5—Suzanne Olajos and Jenny Dobbins

Middle school—Susan Watson, Kristin Muckian, and Tammy Martens

High School—Baxter Richardson and Ann Moyer

Classes for all ages (except high school) begin on Sunday, September 9 at 9 a.m. The high school class will meet once each month, on the third Sunday of the month, and their first meeting is Sunday, September 16 at 9 a.m.

Options for kids during worship

Craft/Play Time for children through 2nd grade.

Music Connections.  Julie Mazer leads this offering for children 3rd-5th grade as they explore musical composition and movement.  Children join Julie after a few minutes in worship

Youth Mission Trip 2019 – Important Information (from Tammy Martens)

We will celebrate our mission trip to Greensboro and say thanks to ORUCC at a luncheon on  Sunday, October 14 that starts at 11:00 a.m. I invite the youth to arrive at 9:30 a.m. to help set up for the luncheon. I think we will have a Baked Potato bar. I will have a video of photos to music to show and I will ask some youth to share a few stories as well.

We will travel to Alamosa, Colorado for next year’s mission trip and work with La Puente (, and San Luis Habitat for Humanity ( I took a group here in 2010. Youth 16 years old and older are able to work with Habitat. The younger youth will work with La Puente. Working for Habitat is a great opportunity but they also charge $235 per participant so we will need to raise a bit more money. Because of this added cost, I am asking that your family decide by December 3 if your son/daughter will be participating and make a deposit of $150 at that time.

The trip dates are June 22-29. It is one week later next year because Madison High School graduations are June 15.

We will be fundraising at Culver’s again! We are scheduled for Monday, November 5 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. I will send out a sign up genius in October.

Other Notes

The High School youth are invited to 9:00 Sunday School every third Sunday of the month. The first gathering will be Sunday, September 16. Baxter Richardson and Ann Moyer will be leading. On this particular Sunday, youth will be invited to give input to the search process for a new senior pastor and also talk about their hopes/dreams for our church.

I invite youth to consider ways to continue to build their leadership skills throughout the year at ORUCC.  Here are just some of the ways youth can build their leadership skills:

Assisting with the children’s programs on Sunday mornings (Craft/play time, Music time, and in the nursery), becoming an usher, or welcomer, assisting in worship as a lay leader (reading scripture, offering an opening prayer, helping with communion, sharing a meditation or sermon), helping to lead youth group, participating fully in High School Sunday School (9:00 a.m., third Sunday of the month), getting involved in our sanctuary movement, providing leadership at our January retreat, just to name a few.

Sunday Morning Offerings for Children and Youth (2017)


High School: Second Sunday of the month, High School youth are invited to 9:00 Sunday School for discussion on relevant topics of the day. Co-facilitators: Barbara Stretchberry, Megan Piper.

Middle School: Youth will learn and explore confirmation based topics that include spiritual formation experiences and service projects that align with our overall goals. We will study the life of Jesus with special emphasis on our role as Christ’s followers to live out the values of reconciliation, justice, peace, and non-violence.   Tammy Martens leading.

4th/5th Graders: We will begin with a huge art project!! The class will design their very own mural that they will paint on one of the walls in their Sunday School room (first room at bottom of the stairs). After this project the kids will begin doing activities and discussions around the topic of friendship. Teachers: Jenny Dobbins and Kristin Muckian.

2nd/3rd Graders: We will be using a book called “Science, Kids, and Christian Education.” Some of the topics we will cover are air and water, light and sound, energy, force, and motion. The kids will be able to do lots of science experiments each Sunday. They will also spend some time considering bible passages that have to do with these topics. We will discover how we can understand these concepts in different ways. Teachers: Monica Weiss, Rachael Lancor, Brian Lancor.

Kindergarten/First Grade: The children will be seeing, hearing, and touching stories that have to do with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and also stories about the early church. We use the curriculum Following Jesus by Sonja Stewart. All the stories are told using a tray of materials. The kids will have candle lighting time, and a feast (snack) at the end of the hour. For the first 15 minutes of the class, Julie Mazer will lead the kids in singing and music. Teachers: Julie Horst, Terah Shober-Graves.

Preschool: The children will be seeing, hearing, touching stories from the Old and New Testament. We use The Worship Center written by Sonja Stewart who also authored Following Jesus. The preschool children follow the same format and schedule as the kindergarten and first graders which includes music time. Teachers: Emily Lloyd,   Jennifer Walker.

Nursery Care: Provided from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Sunday.

Santa Fe Reflections – Youth Mission Trip

In June, over 30 youth and adults went to Sante Fe, NM on their summer mission trip.  Each work team offered reflections on their experiences.

Thank you to our youth team leaders and our adult leaders








Team Rowan (Conklin)

The biggest take away I will have from visiting Santa Fe is the unique culture you find here. From our first day driving around the New Mexico area I was able to see a kind of culture very different from Madison. One big piece of Santa Fe culture was the art. Almost everywhere we stopped there were local artists looking to sell their Art. I noticed that many vendors were selling beadwork, jewelry, or pieces that incorporated the natural world around them. In Taos Pueblo (a reserve set aside for the indigenous people of Santa Fe) many people made pottery, did baking, and painting. Art is clearly a very important part of what makes Santa Fe.

The other thing that I will leave remembering is how much people care for the city. We worked with numerous associations with members who cared very deeply about the work they were doing. Along with care for the homeless and needy, another common goal among the organizations and the city was preservation of the Adobe buildings. The city has passed building codes to ensure the city stays historical to the way it was hundreds of years ago.

My first workday I helped mine clay from the deposits in the desert rock walls. This clay will be mixed with mud and straw, and then be used to restore adobe buildings. Everywhere we went people were working to improve the city and were proud of the work they were doing. The culture I’ve witnessed this week was a truly unforgettable experience, and if I have any say in the matter, I would love to come back with my family soon. (Maddie Miller,10th Grade, Memorial High School)

I noticed all the people we helped on the Thursday as I worked at a homeless shelter for single women and families (Casa Familia). I saw a kid that looked to be in 7th grade and he was in worn and tattered clothes. This was another reason for me to be thankful for what I have. Many times I am not very aware as to how lucky I am and I take things for granted. The day before I was helping the Santa Fe Watershed cleaning up the Santa Fe River. We were cleaning up part of the river that runs right through downtown. There were multiple times where I saw people using old boxes and bags as pillows and blankets. As I was cleaning up the river, I occasionally looked up and saw people looking at me and my group with the most confused faces—wondering why we were doing this.

Santa Fe had multiple places that were gorgeous. We went on two hikes and the views were great at both these places. At our first hike (Bandelier) we explored caves where people used to live in. The second hike (Tent Rocks) was even better. We walked 3 miles and found ourselves at a beautiful top of a mountain where you could see for a great distance.

We also stopped at Bob and Gail Ansheles’ house (former members of ORUCC) and they made us a great dinner, talked with us, and we played lawn games. We had a great time listening to stories and giving them gifts as we ate our great meal and got closer to knowing everyone else.  (Aidan Muckian, 10th Grade, Memorial High School)

One thing that I noticed on this mission trip was that there were crosses on top of some of the hills and mountains. When we were driving to Santa Fe and driving from place to place I saw small and large crosses on top of the hills we drove past. To me it almost looked like the American Flag on the moon.

As I was thinking about the crosses I started wondering how they got there. I thought maybe people from the surrounding area hiked up to the top of the hills and planted them there. Maybe they used helicopters or other machines. Whichever it was I thought it was amazing that they had enough determination to work as hard as they had to put a cross on top of a hill.

I also wondered why the crosses were there. Maybe people wanted to show their religious beliefs. Maybe they are there for inspiration or as a reminder of safety or happiness. Or maybe it was all of these things. Almost like an abstract piece of art, up to you to determine. For me it was an inspiration. Someone was determined to do something as simple as put a small cross on a hill. That made me realize that I could be determined to do something as simple as cook someone a meal who didn’t have food, something as small as pick up trash for a couple hours. And these small things might even change someone’s life over time. (Lila Eggerling-Boeck, 8th Grade, Hamilton Middle School)

On the trip to Santa Fe I noticed some of the places we visited were very spiritual and had a deep connection. For example at Chimayo a lot of people have been healed. I felt very connected to the Lord when we were there and I could understand why people could be healed there. Another time I saw this was at Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary with Ulla and how she felt and understood the animals and how she helped to make them comfortable during their final years of life. (Caleb Evert, 8th Grade, Toki Middle School)

It was days into our watershed advised river clean-up project when we reached the fenced off banks of downtown Santa Fe. We had approached this day with the knowledge that its centralized location made it the most saturated job but the first steps through the water were still met with apprehension as waterlogged jackets and half-eaten cheeto bags ran over our shoes. I remember my initial reaction as I trampled through the abandoned campsites of the homeless under-bridge communities as disdain and also exasperation for any person that could destroy nature with litter—and for this feeling I am disappointed in myself.

Nearing the edge of the water I stepped onto the banks of the river through dried flowers in chase of a piece of paper deep in the trees, that as I got closer presented itself as a waterlogged copy of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, a book I had read only two summers ago in the comfort of my porch chairs, pool side at Hill Farms or under the lights of my bedroom.

It was that book that caused me to imagine the banks of the river as home, something I of course was aware others experienced but that shocked me all the same. I imagined trying to stay clean for a job the next day or to prepare any kind of meal under a sewage bridge. I imagined not having my house and family to return to after a taxing day, and I couldn’t.

This is what mission trips do for me, they take my knowledge of the way other people live—the kind I know from news reports and facts and figures I it puts me face to face with the reality of homelessness and other pressing challenges. But further than that it provides a way to create change in others’ lives even if it is simply cooking 365 dinners in their year. I am so thankful for this opportunity to serve others, but also this opportunity to educate myself. These trips have influenced the way I see the world and connect myself to it as well as the college path I choose for myself and the way I will live my future. I have a million thank yous to Orchard Ridge’s community, it breaks my heart that this will be my final mission trip!!! (Rowan Conklin, Freshman, University of Minnesota)


Team Anders (Frank)

Going to Tent Rocks (Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument) was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Getting to the top and looking over everything was mesmerizing. I wondered how this structure was formed over millions of years. I wondered how the color in the rocks was formed. I wondered how several rocks made their way onto pillars. The hike up was exhausting but worth it.

Going back down for me felt longer than going up. Maybe I was walking faster or taking less but going back down was just as beautiful. Some of the sizes of the rocks was just dizzying. The smoothness and shape of the rocks may have been the best thing. If you ever have the chance go to Tent Rocks. Try to go in not knowing what it looks like—it will make the experience even better. (Sam Stretchberry, 8th Grade, Kromery Middle School, Middleton)

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to have participated on this amazing and eye-opening trip. I have met some of the most friendly and accepting people throughout the duration of the trip. Sharing this experience with such kind-hearted, loving, and people-oriented individuals was truly life changing.

The part of the trip that really sticks out to me was the Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary. Ulla, the owner and founder of the animal sanctuary, is an inspiring woman with a beautiful philosophy on animals and life in general. She rescues old and abandoned/abused dogs, poultry, and horses purely for the purpose of giving them the best quality of life before they pass on. Ulla’s mission and philosophy has inspired me to be a better person and I hope to return to Santa Fe to work with the wonderful people I have met there. Once again, I am so grateful to have participated on this altruistic and selfless mission to serve the people and animals of Santa Fe. (Tori Wussow, 12th Grade, Verona Area High School)

During the mission trip I noticed what earth is able to do by itself. While visiting Tent Rocks, it seemed to me that someone had built it to look that way. That someone, however, was actually the earth and it took over thousands of years to create. It was so amazing to see how the rocks had eroded to create massive cones sticking out of the ground. Also, while visiting Bandelier National Monument and the cliff dwellings, it was amazing to see how the people of many years ago utilized the earth in such an efficient way—by building houses in the cliffs.

While working at the men’s shelter, it was interesting to see how happy the residents were. One asked me where we were from. I explained that we came from Wisconsin. He was absolutely astonished that we had come so far to clean up the shelter he was sleeping in. It also amazed me how committed the staff was at the site. They were not getting paid much by any means, yet they all knew it was the right thing to do. (Gabe Martens, 10th Grade, Memorial High School)

I suppose I entered this mission trip with the expectation that it would be similar to the last one I attended; which in some ways it was, but altogether was a journey far different from my one to Birmingham. This summer’s journey to Santa Fe was my second mission trip with ORUCC. I’ve never been to this area of the country before, so I was able to see it with a completely clear perspective. As you drive into Santa Fe, the view is breathtaking. The mountains and plateaus reign elegantly over the sparse desert; the arid landscape is split with adobe houses marked with brilliant blue frames. It was nothing like I’d ever seen before, I couldn’t tear my eyes away half the time.

I could write about many things that made this trip different from the last, but two things truly stick out to me. First, through listening to the Pueblo people who so generously welcomed us outsiders to their home, I recognized a great respect for the Earth and all its gifts that exist in Santa Fe. Not only the Pueblo but many others here look after the Earth and understand their connection to it. I, too, was able to reconnect myself with Earth and my place in it through our many walks through national parks. Additionally, I came to terms with a lesson I’ve been hard pressed to learn; how to let go.

We spent many hours with a kind hearted woman, Ulla, at Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary; a home for old abandoned dogs, horses, and poultry who need a place to heal and finish their lives. At Kindred Spirits they recognize death and loss as a natural course of life. I experienced this earlier this year upon losing my beloved cat, Large Marge. And again when I got on the mission trip bus and counted all the missing faces from last year and thought about who would not be there on next year’s trip. But loss is natural, and in many ways makes us stronger and more loving people. We rarely notice how much we care about someone until our love is equaled in loss. But despite losing friends the ORUCC mission trip is always full of love, which never changes. (Charlotte Ravenscroft, 10th Grade, Memorial High School)

Something I noticed on this year’s mission trip was the beautiful animal paintings on the highway walk leading into Santa Fe. It struck me because it seemed to me that a city that dedicated money into making even their highways beautiful obviously was one I wanted to be in.

Another moment from the trip I remember more clearly than others was chatting with Lee and Don, two men who worked for Cornerstone Community Partnerships. Even though it was mostly just chatting while at work on an adobe church, it dawned on me that we were very similar, and cared about many of the same things. It was just a very connected feeling knowing that even on the other side of the country we aren’t so different at heart. (Anders Frank, College Freshman, Eastern Illinois University)

Team Celeste (Kaspar)

Among the many places we visited, the Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary stood out to me. Here we met a woman named Ulla, who, with the help of some colleagues, had created a haven for animals who were nearing the end of their lives. Sure caring for adorable cute puppies is admirable, but to have the willpower to care for them when they are riddled with disease and sickness is truly amazing.

One thing that struck me about Kindred Spirits was the look on the dogs’ faces. I have seen other elderly dogs and they usually bear a grim or sullen look. That was not the case here. Every animal, from Clifford the 10-year-old blind dog to even the turkey—they all wore a smile. These dogs, who had been abandoned or hurt, all seemed so happy to be there. Initially I thought that what was essentially Hospice for animals would be a sad place, but Kindred Spirits was a place filled with joy. It was a pleasure and an honor to assist such a cause. (Aidan Conklin, 12th Grade, West High School)

The mission trip was a great learning experience and made me feel very good about myself. Although the workload wasn’t as big as last year from what I’ve heard, we still made a difference in someone’s life. Not only did we learn to help the people in Santa Fe, but we also helped and learned to understand the animals here.

An experience that stood out to me was the Men’s Shelter (St. Elizabeth’s). This place had very nice conditions and was so welcoming to us. The best feeling was after I finished all the work and I was completely out of energy, but I knew that all of that energy had gone towards making someone else’s life better. The Men’s Shelter also was very passionate about making sure everyone who left had found a job and had a place to live.

Another very cool experience was the El Santuario de Chimayo (Church). You could feel all of the strength and healing when you walked in. It was also very beautiful to sell all the crutches on the wall of people who had been healed. This mission trip is my first and it has been amazing. (Lily Martens, 8th Grade, Edgewood Campus School)

During my time in Santa Fe I noticed many things. I noticed how the air felt, how the heat washed over my skin, and I noticed the people who called Santa Fe their home. Out of all the jobs I did and miles I walked, one thing kept presenting itself to me. I’ve never seen this side of the country or even the planet. I had never seen the rock formations and mountains. This new awareness hit me while I was mining clay—smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

Once we had gotten to the cliff dwellings (Bandelier) I saw a sight that made me drop my jaw–the huge mountains, all different shapes and sizes. I saw how different the colors of rock were layered on each other. All of the cliff faces had different indents and curves. They showed beauty and presented history. I never realized when you slow down and take a look at what we have, we have a planet filled with lush greens and giant mountains. What we have is something bigger than ourselves. (Izzy Schryver, 10th Grade, Memorial High School)

One day we were helping restore an old adobe church. Most buildings in Santa Fe and most of New Mexico are made of adobe. That meant we were just smacking mud on the outside of a church for hours in 100 degree weather. We weren’t expecting this but they gave us soda, Gatorade, water, and food. This was one of my favorite moments because this was something very nice that they didn’t have to do, and the food was very good. (Peter Heise, 10th Grade, Memorial High School)

The week in Santa Fe we worked for a number of organizations including Cornerstone Community Partnerships (adobe work), Santa Fe Watershed Association (river clean-up), Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary (hospice care for elderly animals), and St. Elizabeth’s Shelter (homeless program/shelter). On Thursday I was at St. Elizabeth’s Men’s Shelter helping to weed the yard area and clean the kitchen area. I also helped with river clean-up.

At St. Elizabeth’s we met a few different people including Jake, Adolf, Maria and Buck. When we were done working and we were waiting for the bus, they were telling us about how they got where they are today and how they go to St. Elizabeth’s. When Maria was telling us about St. Elizabeth’s she seemed so passionate and it was very eye-opening for me. She and Buck were talking about how kind-hearted, hard-working we were and that we were one reason for the success of places like St. Elizabeth’s and it really made me realize how important their work and our volunteering means to them. It made me appreciate what I did and what the other people on the trip did. (Rebekah Hoard, 9th Grade, Verona Area High School)

One moment that really stood out to me on this mission trip was when I was working at the St. Elizabeth’s Shelter. The shelter held around 28 men who could stay between 3 to 6 months. It did not matter their background, they were always welcome and were provided with help to either find a job or a new living arrangement. During our hours there, we were able to help them clean their kitchen, bookshelves, chairs, ovens and even weed and re-mulch different areas. We were led by two men, Jake and Adolf, two staff people at the shelter.

At the end of our time there we got to hear from Jake and Adolf, as well as a woman named Maria who helped run the shelter. They each got to share with us how they had ended up where they were today, and how they had found the shelter. The moment that really stood out to me the most was when Maria was talking to us. While she was talking a man came up and said, “This woman right here is why this place runs so well. She is an amazing person, we owe a lot to her. She always puts others before herself.” Maria immediately replied, “No, it is not all thanks to me. People like you (our group) who come and volunteer their time is why we are able to have shelters such as these.” Maria’s gratitude she shared really helped me realize and remember the reasons I always return on mission trips. Volunteering is never about yourself, it is about helping others and giving a week of your life to others. Before we left Maria also shared how we are all so similar in how we love others and love helping others and I truly admired how dedicated and passionate she was about her work. (Celeste Kaspar, Freshmen, Grinnell College)

Team Andrew (Ericson)

Something I noticed at Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary is how Ulla takes pride in the animals she takes care of. When I was there I shaved a shaggy dog named Clifford. We helped him cool off.

We also saw and learned about the Native Taos Pueblo people. We learned that they only use gas appliances and no electricity. We also tried some of their fried bread. We saw an adobe church that was over 100 years old. (Gavin Muckian, 8th Grade, Toki Middle School)

This week in Santa Fe we stopped at Taos Pueblo. When we got there we had a tour of the place. They told us about the history of Taos—how the Spanish hunted them down so they crammed children, women and elders in a church. This still didn’t protect them. The people hunting them down put a bomb in the church and it went off and there were no survivors.

When we walked around the pueblo, I realized everyone was happy. They had no internet, no running water. The stove was a pit of fire. The people got water from a river. But none of them seemed to care. They were happy with what they had. (Kristin Heise, 8th Grade, Jefferson Middle School)

In Bandelier National Monument Park, I was near the end of the trail. I was crossing a bridge when I decided to stop and listen to the water flow. There was nobody around so it was very quiet. I just listened to the birds chirping and the water running for a while. It was so calm, and peaceful, and I could have stayed there forever if I hadn’t got hungry. It was amazing and I will always remember it. (Soren Dobbins, 9th Grade, Memorial High School)

On the mission trip this summer I worked at many sites but the one that sticks out the most is Sonrisa (part of St. Elizabeth’s Shelter). We worked with a man named Neil who told us the story of Sonrisa but also had fun with us and had a mini trivia game at the end. He asked us about the shelter and then jokingly asked if we knew his middle name and first name and when we started guessing we ended up figuring out all of his kids’ first names and his first and last name.

The day we got to learn about Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary was really nice because the woman running it was so passionate about it. She took us on a tour of the animal sanctuary and some of us got a little scared at times but Ulla was very patient with us. At the end of the tour she talked about how she started the place. She combined her nursing experience and love for animals together to make a sanctuary for these older animals that have been abandoned.

One of the coolest places we toured was the Tent Rocks. We were hiking through the canyons and it was very peaceful and I could reflect on things. The hike was tiring but worth it for the view at the top and on the way up was amazing. When we got to the top we could see the bus parked below but it looked like a toy bus because we were up so high.

It was nice to tour Taos Pueblo and hear their history. I talked to some of the shop owners and one sticks out in my mind because when she found out that we were from Madison, Wisconsin she started talking about her son who moved to Madison and she just really opened up to us. (Rachel Hoard, 10th Grade, Verona Area High School)

I caught a slippery tube dude (snake). That was pretty cool. Also there was a crunchy boy (shed lizard skin) in our window. That was also pretty cool. I also wrote two new songs on the piano. That also followed the pattern of being cool. Oh, and we watched Interstellar on the bus, and I got to take home a spiky boy (cactus). Also, my group forgot me at a worksite and left for a café (across the street). That wasn’t very cool. And my shoes got a bunch of sand in them and I can’t wear them anymore. (Miriam Logan, 10th Grade, Erie High School, Colorado)

Starting from months before this trip I had wondered whether or not this trip was a “mission trip” in my mind. I felt like this seemed like we were going on this trip just to have fun rather than do good work to help people from different communities. This thought stayed in my mind until our 3rd work day. I had already mined clay and helped pick up trash from the Santa Fe River but personally I hadn’t felt like I made a difference yet. But those thoughts eventually dispersed as my group and I began work at a homeless shelter call Casa Familia that housed women and families.

We got to Casa Familia and one of the women working there talked about their mission and how she got involved in the program. It was through a national program called Americorps. We had a little tour where she pointed out rooms where people were staying and let our group know that they were housing 30 plus individuals in quite a small space. She then got us working, making dinner which they serve every night to their occupants. I was tasked with making mashed potatoes which obviously isn’t the hardest task but took a fair bit of work. I made the mashed potatoes for Casa Familia and finished and then walked around. I walked past a couple of the people living there and was welcomed with smiles and approving nods. That sense of approval and thanks made me feel great and reminded me of the beauty that mission trips bring.  (Andrew Ericson, 12th Grade, West High School)


Team Lauren (Godfrey)

My favorite work site was going to Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary. I noticed how passionate Ulla was about caring for the animals through their last stages of life. It was so cool to see Ulla treat one of the small dogs for inflammation in one of its legs.

The best place we saw in New Mexico was the Rio Grande because in Wisconsin you do not see the amazing view every day. I was very proud of myself because I walked over the bridge over the Rio Grande. (Lily Zunker, 8th Grade, Milton Middle School)

This was my first mission trip and I have had tons of fun. The first 2 days were very dull as we were getting settled in. Then, on Tuesday, I went clay mining. That was tons of fun. I got to use a pick axe and a sledge hammer to mine and break down hard clay which was lots of fun. It was a few hours of burning sun and dustiness, but it was worth it.

The next day I went to Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary. This was extremely adorable. I got to pet and see tons of animals like small dogs, chickens, geese, and a turkey.

In the afternoon we went to Tent Rocks (Kasha-Katawe National Monument) that was a collection of cool rock formations. At the top of the hike, the view was beautiful.

On Thursday I weeded a garden and spread gravel for a few hours which was boring. I also cleaned out trash from the Santa Fe River. It was wet but fun! This whole trip so far has been very fun, and I hope it’s like this next year. (Ethan Evensen, 10th Grade, Verona Area High School)

The trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico has been very fun. Before I got here, I didn’t think I was going to like it but once we got to the church, I realized the desert wasn’t so bad. It is very hot here but it is also dry so even if you just go into the shade you will really cool off.

My favorite part of the trip has been going to Tent Rocks. I liked that because we hiked up the mountain there and it was a very cool view.

The work sites were also very cool because there was lots of different stuff to do and the work was kind of fun. We also did not work for very long each day. The food was also very good and there was plenty to eat. This year was a really great mission trip, and I am glad I came along.  (Zachary Amburn, 9th Grade)

For me visiting the Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary was very meaningful. Listening to Ulla talk about how she takes care of the animals really made me feel like I might have a passion that I don’t yet. She knew each animal’s stories by heart. But what I felt most touched by was when she said that she didn’t just name them, but that they told her their names.

Ulla explained to my peers and I that the animals had a lot of toxic energy in their past. This really made me think about the toxic energy around me and how I might change that. Her spiritual understanding really touched me—the way she talked about the animals moving on and how their friends missed them. I thought it was sweet that even in the short time that the animals were there, they may have had the closest friends of their lives. One phrase in particular touched me though. Ulla said that we must never forget these animals that have died. I know I will never forget the way she loved and looked into the animals and I for sure will never forget this trip.  (Grace Sherrill, 8th Grade, Spring Harbor Middle School)

At first, I thought that I would have trouble transitioning from being on a bus to Washington DC to a bus going to New Mexico, but my friends were there to help me. At the first work site, Casa Familia, we cleared the garden and backyard. At the river, we picked up trash. And at the Animal Sanctuary we watered the horses and played with the dogs.

But we didn’t do all work. We went to Taos Pueblo, a community of Natives living in adobe houses. We went to Bandelier National Monument and hiked and climbed. We went to Tent Rocks and saw some awesome rock formations. Finally we went to a church and touched sacred dirt. During the river clean-up, I picked up a garter snake, and afterwards, found a lizard on my shoe. Mr. Whiskers, a cat at St. Elizabeth’s Shelter, caught and ate a bird while we were cleaning grills. (Annelisa Frueh, 9th Grade, West High School)

Something that really touched me this week was meeting Ulla who runs an animal sanctuary for elderly animals. When we first visited the animal sanctuary on Monday, I saw how passionate Ulla is about animals and taking care of those who have just a short time left to live. After my group visited the shelter again on Wednesday, I had the chance to learn a lot more about the Kindred Spirits Sanctuary mission. My favorite piece of advice I learned from Ulla was that you don’t need much to do something great to make an impact. Her passion for animals helped her create a small place with a few animals which eventually turned into a greater sanctuary, housing many more dogs, horses, and poultry.

From meeting Ulla and discussing her mission, seeing the way she treats animals as humans was something special. Most people don’t see a reason to invest in a dying animal’s life but at Kindred Spirits they seek to make the last days, months or even years of an animal’s life the highest of quality. Thinking of majoring/studying in something animal related, and then visiting the animal sanctuary opened my eyes to more opportunities. Ulla’s inspiration and love for what she does will stay with me next year and all throughout college as I’m figuring what I love to do and what career path I will take. (Lauren Godfrey, Freshman, UW-Madison)

Team Elise (Carl)

This week on Wednesday, my group worked at a Catholic Church in Ojo Caliente. We all packed lunches before riding the bus one hour there. Once we were there, we mudded the church. We were preparing for it to be replastered. There were interns working along with us. At lunch, as we were finishing up, a woman of the church came by and said, “Aren’t you going to come in and eat? There are Fritos and meat for Frito pies inside.” We all dropped our lunches and ate her delicious lunch.

This experience was really meaningful to me because someone had made us something. Even though we weren’t the same branch of religion, she treated us like we were interns. This showed me that not everyone has to be the same to be treated the same. This woman was inspiring and made me consider my actions for the future. (Jori Gasser, 8th Grade, Badger Ridge Middle School)

I have a fear of heights. As the bus made its way to Bandelier, I was unsettled by just how high the bus was, hundreds of feet in the air with only a guard rail about a foot tall to stop us from careening off into the oblivion. This was of course when we had our temporary driver, and not the legendary Wilson (driver from Kobussen). We arrived safe and sound of course and soon were on the hiking trail.

It started off as a standard trail occasionally passing by the ruins of a home. Then the trail started to go up the rock. The rock face was so tall it was impossible to see the top and bottom at once. It is fine, I figured. They wouldn’t have people go up to the caves, it would be too dangerous. But indeed that was where the path went. As I made my way up I paused at one of the benches to take in the view. I was probably 100 feet up from the base of the park at that point. As I looked at the ruins of an entire village, I had a thought. I would be okay, God would keep me safe. While my fears did not disappear, they did subside significantly. I was able to complete the entire path without constantly thinking about how I was about to fall. For once I actually enjoyed the height. Not so much that I would want to do it again though. (Jonah Rasmussen, 9th Grade, Memorial High School)

The moment I walked through the gates of Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary, I knew it was a sacred place. The abundance of trees surrounding chicken coops and dirt paths leading to horse stalls or dog beds painted a picture of serenity. As the founder and owner, Ulla, stated, “The trees have right of way here.” We ducked under verdant branches to find elderly chickens, peacocks, and geese along with gray-muzzled dogs and slow moving horses. Yet instead of the sad faces I expected to see at an animal hospice, I was surprised with happy, panting dogs whose wagging tails knocked into our legs as we scratched their ears. Horses nuzzled our hands and a gentle goose let us stroke his feathers. I wish I could say the birds were softly clucking to accompany this peaceful scene, but no, they were definitely squawking to show us that this is their home, and they are in charge of it. But I kind of found this beautiful. We were told how timid and fearful all of these animals were when they arrived. They came discarded from shelters or rescued from neglectful homes, and now they gained the confidence to claim this sanctuary as home.

Personally, I felt the love and healing energy radiating throughout the sanctuary. Ulla’s utmost care and passion was clearly evident as well. She worked as a nurse, and then began this sanctuary in 1987. It started small, but slowly accumulated animals, volunteers, and staff until it reached and impressive, yet still quaint size. Ulla’s eyes lit up when she spoke of all her animals and the work she has done for them. I was impressed by her commitment to this cause as well as her kind, yet firm, demeanor. The experience of Ulla telling us about her unending care for these animals like cooking organic food for the, practicing natural medicine, and making their lives peaceful was eye-opening for me. Seeing her passion and commitment inspires me to live a more meaningful life! (Leah Evensen, 12th Grade, Verona Area High School)

I learned a lot about the Santa Fe history, culture and climate through working with and mining the adobe found in the area. When I was mining the clay used to make adobe, I thought about how those deposits and others have been used for centuries for the same purpose. Later, as I worked with adobe plaster to restore a church built in the 1700’s, I realized how strong and effective the adobe was in the New Mexico climate, even more so than concrete, and how much less useful it would be any other area.

One of the people who worked with adobe, Don, explained its significance to us. The Santa Fe area is mainly treeless, so the adobe is one of the only widely available materials. The thick adobe walls are also adept at keeping the sun’s heat out of the houses. Without this clay, the area couldn’t support the population it does, in the city and in the pueblos. I enjoyed learning about this important aspect of Santa Fe during my work this week. (Nate Frueh, 11th Grade, West High School)

My favorite experience on the Santa Fe mission trip was ordering tacos from a Taco Stand near one of our work sites. The reason being is that the woman at the stand didn’t speak a word of English. Like many New Mexico residents, her native language was Spanish.

I like to say that my first love was English, because it is my own native language, Chinese is my third love. However, Spanish is my second and most important love. As a Spanish enthusiast from a young age, I have been to camps, hosted a Costa Rican exchange student, connected with native speakers online, and plan to continue as a college Spanish major. However, the interaction with the woman at the stand was the first authentic interaction of my life.

By authentic I mean that I was forced to use my second language. In school it’s all too easy to flip back into your comfort zone, but when a person doesn’t speak English, you don’t have that option. A seemingly trivial interaction served to remind me of why I continue to learn the language even in an incredibly English-centric world. I am lucky I was born to an English speaking family but I see no reason to stop there. (Elise Carl, 12th Grade, Memorial High School)


Teachers share what teaching Sunday School means to them.

Emily Lloyd

Emily, Eric, Audrey, Owen

Emily, Eric, Audrey, Owen

This past summer, I got an email from Tammy Martens, looking for Sunday School teachers. My heart immediately swelled at the idea, but my brain hesitated. I’ve always been a bit awkward talking about my faith, even with my children. It was one of the reasons I love the Sunday School program at ORUCC so much – it provided an avenue for my children to learn and talk about God – without super awkward Mom trying to say the right thing all the time. And what right did I have to teach anyone about God, especially some of our most impressionable church members? But my heart wouldn’t give up on it. And, Tammy is so wonderful, comforting, and approachable, I got confident I could do it and I went for it. 

Teaching Sunday School has been a tremendously precious gift in my life. It is a small thing that has had a great impact. I have found that whenever you teach you learn, and probably more than you teach to others. This has been true of this experience as well. I have connected with the church community so much through the children in our class and through my co-teacher, Alyssa. I love watching these little people learn and think as we tell the stories each Sunday. Their answers to some very tricky questions are sometimes beautiful, honest, and thought-provoking, sometimes incredibly sweet and funny. These little people have opened up a new part of my faith that I didn’t know existed. This experience has helped me not only feel like a connected member of ORUCC, but has me looking forward to Sunday in a way I have never experienced before. 

Alyssa Haskins

Cameron, Alyssa, Pete, Kohler

Cameron, Alyssa, Pete, Kohler

Teaching Sunday School seemed like a daunting task to me. Who was I to teach others about God? Although I am an extroverted person, I’ve always been extremely private about my faith…so this was outside of my comfort zone. Tammy assured me that the curriculum was easy to follow and, moreover, fun. Half a year in, I can’t believe I was nervous about teaching! It has been a true joy in so many ways, but my 3 favorite takeaways are as follows:

1. I’ve received the wonderful gift of getting to know some of our congregation’s youngest members — how fun to watch them grow and get to know their families;

2. I’ve been able to deepen my understanding on biblical stories in an interactive way;

3. True to Tammy’s word, the curriculum IS fun and approachable. In teaching, I’ve found that talking about faith with my own children has become a much more comfortable, enriching experience.