I’m constantly amazed by how God uses us. The very idea that 160 virtual strangers, with few skills and a wide age spectrum (we’re talking early teens to mid-80’s here) could come together for a week and accomplish so much is mind blowing to me.
I mean I know my way around a camera in general, can paint a picture and can plan a mean vacation, but building a house? Let’s just say people aren’t knocking down my door to build a bird house for them let alone a people-house.
But still I go, and God reminds me that it’s not by my strength but by his that any of this can get done. After all, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called” right?
This years trip marked my 7th mission trip to Mexico with the group now known as Go Inc., comprised of a collection of churches from WA, OR and CA. While normally my church flies down on Friday to meet up with the group this year the opportunity presented itself for us to go down on Thursday to help set up camp along with a few other church groups, and man was it hard work. I’m pretty skilled at setting up a regular camping tent , and have gotten to the point where I can set one up in less than 5 minutes, no problem. But in Mexico we don’t sleep in regular tents, we sleep in old Army tents, which are huge, and community encouraging but a beast to put together. I never realized how much work really went into setting up camp or truly appreciated those who did it, but it’s something I will never take for granted again.
I can’t be sure exactly how long it took us to set everything up because of the sheer haze of exhaustion clouding my mind, but I would guess it was somewhere around 4 hours or so. By 9pm that night, while everyone else stood around the campfire socializing I was back in our mostly empty tent, since the other churches we were with didn’t arrive until the next day, conked out.
And alas, there is no rest for the weary. We were up bright and early at 6 the next morning ready to work again. This year I was given the honor of leading my churches Mexico team as well as being a site leader for a team while in Mexico, something I again felt utterly unqualified for. Part of being a leader is taking part in what we call a 2-day build, which allows leaders to brush up on their skills and the elements of building an Amor house in order the better lead their team members when we set to work the coming Monday.
The two day build is essentially a normal house build just accelerated (it usually takes us 4 days). That first day 26 of us set to work. While half the team worked on marking out and leveling the foundation the rest of us sorted through stacks of 2×4 and sawed them to appropriate lengths, getting ready for framing the walls later on and biding our time until we were ready to mix the concrete for the foundation.
A really cool thing about this two day build is that it was in the same little neighborhood we had worked in the year before. At around 10 o’clock, while I was standing out in the street wrapping up the 2×4 sort this little red car pulls up and lays on the horn. Next thing I see is a woman jump out of the car yelling “Amanda! Amanda!” followed by her 3 kids. It was Maria, the mother of the family I had built for the year before. She had seen me from their house and had rushed down to say hi and see if any of the others were there as well. A couple hours later I got a chance to go up and see their house, the house we had built for them, and it was pretty incredible. They had finished the inside, putting up drywall and putting laminate on the floor. Although small, only two rooms, it looked like a real house. She then led me back to the small one room building that had been their house before, proudly exclaiming that it was her kitchen. While Maria’s kitchen didn’t look like a kitchen you would find in any American house, I couldn’t help but get the biggest smile on my face. It was a beautiful kitchen, because she loved it.
That first day on the two day build we were able to finish the foundation as well as a couple roof panels. That left a lot of work for us to do on the second day, so, as soon as we arrived we got right to framing walls. By lunch-time the house had been assembled and was ready for us to start covering the walls. Five hours later the house had been covered in it’s first coat of stucco and was essentially finished. While we planned on having a team come back to do the second coat of stucco later that week, we finished the day by presenting the keys to the family and officially giving the house over to them. With about 20 hours of work total the house was technically finished and livable, and for the most part it was amateurs that built it. That is incredible.
Sunday, like normal, was a day of rest. We split up to go to different churches in the morning, my team this year once again went to The Ark, a large church in Tijuana. The last several trips I’ve done to Mexico I’ve been able to go toThe Ark and it’s always such a blessing. While worship is primarily in Spanish (the way I like it!) the pastor always gets the message translated for us. This year it was especially hilarious because he kept getting languages confused. One minute he would be preaching in Spanish and the next in English. This gave the poor translator a tough time and us a lot of laughs.
The rest of the day was filled with memories. Van rides with my family for the week, aka Team 5, tacos at El Flaco and palletas for desert, cold sodas and churros from the Amor Store, and just relaxing. After 3 days of hard work it was a welcomed opportunity to rest and recharge for the week to come, and boy would it be needed.
Because there are so many parts of Mexico that deserve to be talked about, but attention spans tend to be small, I’ve decided to break this post into two parts. So don’t fear, the story doesn’t stop here. Stay tuned for part 2 of the story of Mexico 2014, coming in the next couple days.