Doubts pestered my normally worryfree spirit as I heard God laughing. Why not let me take care of it? I have in the past. What’s so different about this year? A smaller-than-usual family team made plans to spend our fourth Thanksgiving at Kilometer 27 outside Juarez, Mexico, building a three-room insulated home for another family. Despite the fact that God had provided all the funds and muscle needed to get the job done for the past three years, I worried. Ha! Ha! laughed the God who orchestrates the universe. Worry not! Leave those concerns with me.
So I did. And beauty happened. Through unexpected sources and generous donations, enough was raised for the house, some furnishings and provisions, and a neighborhood food outreach. Grandson Bailey recruited four high school friends; two were brothers who brought their parents and sister, establishing a strong team. Beauty.
There’s beauty anywhere God can be seen. Sometimes we have to look past litter and bony dogs and ramshackle houses, cobbled with scrap wood and porous cinder block. The differences in our living conditions are striking, an adjustment forced upon us every time we cross into Mexico. Many parents don’t name their babies for the first six months, so great is the infant mortality rate. Factory jobs require 12-hour workdays for the take-home of $5; and if they miss a day, they become unemployed. Their government stifles education by making private kindergarten a prerequisite for admission to state-subsidized first grade. People come out by the hundreds for a free meal, maybe the only one they’ve had that day. But God always shows up in the beautiful people he created.
We arrive at the Missions Ministries team center and are immediately served a delicious meal served by the Mexican cook staff we now know by name. They greet us as family. (It helps that our Arizona kids and grandkids are regulars, making four similar trips each year.) Our presence there, along with other teams throughout the year, provide the cooks and the construction staff with steady employment.
Early the next morning we head to the job site and meet the family who will receive the home. We don’t share language but are instantly drawn to their smiles. Some families wait a year for a house, so I try to imagine their excitement for this day.
The foundation and the baño are already prepped, so we get started with the framing. Those first few nails never seem to go in straight, but before long our hammering skills return. I wish you could hear the cacophony, which increases as we nail the siding to the frames. Joyfully, we watch Jorge, Margarita, Cynthia, and Jorge, Jr, grab hammers and work alongside us.
Raising the walls, attaching the roof frames, nailing down the tarred roofing, and insulating the interior complete the first day’s tasks. We’re grateful for the Mexican construction crew who defer to our involvement whenever possible but take up all of the slack. We don’t want our inadequacies to affect the overall quality of the house.
On day two we paint the exterior and drywall then mud the inside. Somewhere in the process Raúl steps in and adds the electrical wiring. Plumbing is a rarity in the colonias, though water is delivered to on-site tanks for showers, laundry, dishes. The homes we build improve the lives of those who receive them by freeing their earned resources for clothing, feeding, and educating their children, giving them hope for a better future. When we’ve finished our work, we carry in the furnishings and provisions purchased as “extras” to help them get started.
As our team gathers outside the house following the prayer of dedication, Jorge bounds through the front door, grinning ear to ear and offering us the sourdough pretzels he has just received. We are forever attached to this dear man and his family. We don’t seek reward but reward comes anyway. We’re rewarded in relationships with precious people outside our borders who—just like us—work hard to make a living, love their kids and want a good life for them, and feel satisfaction in accomplishment.
I imagine God’s joyful laughter as Jorge and Margarita set up housekeeping in their own home. They’ve invited us to visit them when we return next November, Lord willing, to build again. With the need so great, we sometimes wonder if sharing a few days and a few dollars can make any difference at all. But it sure made a difference to this family. We made a dent, and one more family has a new home for the holidays.
Since building a house is only part of our Juarez adventure, you’re invited to click HERE for the rest of the story.