Around 25 years ago, I first started hearing Steve Fawver and Shawn McConaughey talk about trips to San Luis, Mexico, to build houses for those in need. Back then, youth from Newberg Friends and North Valley Friends would join Getaway/Giveaway, an organization started by Clyde Parker, pastor at Eugene Friends Church. The joy of serving, eating tacos (or great food at “the chicken place”), and building community by working alongside people from our churches was compelling, and I wanted to have the opportunity to join.
About 12, maybe 15 years ago, NFC and North Valley Friends formed a new organization of our own, called Equipo. Jim Fisher and Leslie Murray and many others wanted to change the model a bit. Rather than just go build houses and then leave, the goal was to establish a relationship with one church in San Luis, so that over years, relationships could be built. I loved hearing that…and I wanted to have the opportunity to join.
Over the last five or six years, I’ve listened to Eric Muhr talk about further exciting changes Equipo was making. Nueva Esperanza, the church in San Luis, was taking more and more ownership: choosing the families who would have houses built, continuing relationships with those people, working with DIF (the Mexican equivalent of our DHS)…and I wanted to have the opportunity to join.
In past years, family situations or work responsibilities kept me from going. But two years ago, I decided that I was going on this Equipo trip no matter what. Our youngest daughter, Aubrey, and I joined 56 others from 2nd Street, West Chehalem, North Valley, and NFC. And all the things I’ve been excited about over the years as I’ve listened to the stories proved to be better than I imagined when I saw them for myself!
On the long van ride on the way down, I listened to Erinn Baker from North Valley. She’s a junior at George Fox, and she has been coming to San Luis since she was a freshman in high school. She’s now on the leadership team for Equipo and has gone to San Luis on advance teams, become close enough to consider Pastor Rafael and Vene her family, and spent enough time working with DIF that they are telling her she can come work and intern for them when she graduates. Her love and respect for people there was compelling.
We arrived Saturday night. Sunday night, Nueva Esperanza hosted a dinner and worship meeting. They invited all the people from the church and those for whom homes had been built in the past to come join us and meet us. I saw with my own eyes how amazing it is to stay relationally connected, as hugs and laughter and tears were exchanged
between some from our team and those they had built homes for 2, 4, 6, and 8 years ago.
For three days on our work site, I hammered nails and carried and cut plywood boards with Javier. Equipo built his home in 2013, and this was the third time that he was coming back to join us in helping build someone else’s home. He brought a lot of joy to our work crew, not to mention saving us by his skilled work.
And on the last day, I saw 20 or 30 people from Nueva Esperanza travel around with us to visit all the homes we had built. This church had spent the previous 18 months volunteering to build the first story of two of the homes we built, which meant they already knew these families. They were the hands and feet of Jesus long before we arrived, and will be long after we have returned home. My respect for that church could not be higher.
I am so grateful for the chance to see for myself what an amazing ministry partnership Equipo has become! This is something to celebrate.