Ok guys, I’m ready to finish telling you about Mexico. Pardon the long pause. I sat down to write this several times and just didn’t have the energy or motivation. I’m mean it’s summer after all, time to live life, play outside, have fun right?
Anyway, here we go…..
As I mentioned in my last post, this year I had the opportunity to serve as a leader on a site team the week we were down there. Each site team has a total of 3 leaders, 2 adults and 1 youth, so I wasn’t the only one on the team, which is good, because the house would have never gotten finished! Haha. No, I really had a wonderful team and wonderful co-leaders this year. For the first time in a long time the adults were outnumbered by youth which was was cool to see. It is meant to be a youth trip after all.
While last year almost all teams were building in the same little community, this year we were split to two different areas, miles and miles from each other. 6 teams built in one area, 4 teams in another. My team was part of “the 4” and our community was up on the side of a hill/mountain with a beautiful view of the valley/town below.
When we arrived that first day we got a chance to meet the family we’d be building for, Elizabeth, Juan Carlos and their 3 year old daughter Estefani as well as Elizabeths parents. All 5 of them lived in a tiny 1 room house. Juan Carlos was the only family member who worked and he only brought in $100/week. This was definitely one of the poorer families I’ve built for over the years, but what they lacked physically they made up for in joy and heart.
The first day of our 4 day build is always dedicated to getting the foundation laid. If we can get that done we’re golden. Once we had met the family and found out where they wanted doors etc. we got right to work. Some worked to squaring/leveling the foundation, some took inventory and others sorted through the stacks of 12 ft 2×4’s we had to find the good ones. By lunch we were ready to start mixing concrete.
Over the years we’ve learned tricks to make the build go smoother, and one of them is the more hands you have to do the work the quicker it goes, so when it’s possible we like to match up with other teams to get the foundation mixed and poured. This year we happened to have a team just next door to us so we teamed up with them and cranked out our foundation in a couple hours, then we switched and worked on theirs. Even though it took about the same amount of time overall it seemed to go by so much faster because of the change of scenery and the extra hands to mix.
The second day of the build the goal is always to frame the walls/roof and get them up. Sometimes we’re able to go beyond that, sometimes we aren’t. This year we had a bit of a special situation. The families lot was really small and cramped and the space they wanted us to place the house backed up against a large cinderblock wall on one side and onto their house on the other, meaning we had two walls we wouldn’t be able to stucco in the end. The one wall that backed against the cinderblock wall was one of the longer walls in the house, so we got a little creative. While that wall is usually built in two pieces then stood up, in this case we specially built that wall as one big piece then covered the outside with sheets of plywood (that isn’t actually what it’s called, but forgive me I don’t remember the technical name, you get the jist) and painted it white to make it look finished. I’d never done that on a house before so it was cool to see/do.
The third day is dedicated to covering the walls and making the house actually start looking like a house. This is a day where there is a lot of hammering going on. I managed to hammer three fingers alone (I then had to play guitar that night at campfire, needless to say I had a tough time) and got a nice big blood blister on my thumb. Yuck. Anyways, back to the build. Covering the walls isn’t complicated, there are just a lot of steps. First you have to stretch the baling wire (we attach it to the walls before we stand them up), then you cover the walls in tar paper, next you cover the tar paper with chicken wire, and once that’s all tight and all the holes in the tar paper have been covered with duct tape you’re ready for your first coat of stucco. While we’re doing this there are also people on the roof laying down tar paper, roofing paper and taring the cracks. I haven’t worked on a roof in 7 years so forgive me if I forgot a step there 🙂 I should also mention that all throughout the build so far Juan Carlos, the father, had been helping us. Once we reached the first coat of stucco his true talents shone through. The man was a beast at stuccoing. He was both fast and good. We only had two walls on the house to stucco as I mentioned before, Juan Carlos took the big one and we took the little. It took all of us just as long to do the little wall as it took him to do the entire big wall next to it. Craziness! This once again left us plenty of time to help out the site team next to us stucco their walls.
The 4th day is always about finishing the last coat of stucco and presenting the house to the family. When we arrived Juan Carlos was already hard at work stuccoing the wall again, so we set up quickly to finish our little wall as well. The whole house was done in about an hour. Some of us went for a bit to another site to help since a good chunk of their team was down due to sickness, then we headed to Walmart to do some shopping for the family and when we had come back they had cooked an awesome lunch for us. Chicken and homemade tortillas. They set up a table inside the new house and we feasted, it was incredible. After lunch it was finally time to present the house to the family. This was one of the most emotional presentations I’ve done yet. The family was so thankful for what we had helped do for them and Juan Carlos let us know that if we ever need help in the future he would be the first one there.
This is why I go to Mexico. While I know many people that argue against the effectiveness of short term missions (and I understand their points in many cases), this trip to Mexico is a special situation. It’s not about me, or the person next to me. It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus and giving these families a wonderful gift in his name. It’s not a fancy house by any means. The same thing here in the US would probably serve as a storage shed, but to these families it is precious and life changing. You can see it on their faces and hear it when they speak.
While I don’t know how much longer or how many times I will be going to Mexico with this group, I will go as long as God gives me the opportunity. Even when a stomach bug goes around and it feels like the whole camp is throwing up (I thankfully didn’t get it until I’d been safely at home in Seattle for 3 hours, but still… ugh) there’s something magical about going down with Go Inc. and Amor and I already look forward to what God has in store next year.