What did you do over Memorial Day? Have a barbecue? Travel to see family? Jump in the pool to escape the oppressing heat?
Those are all great things to do, but I want to tell you about something just a little bit different.
This past Memorial Day, a brave group of Paradiem clients, employees and others made their way to Tijuana to build a home for a family in need. In our group of twenty people, about half had built a house in the past. Ten other brave souls decided to follow God’s calling for themselves and their family and courageously strike out to do something new and unknown.
A trip to Mexico with Amor ministries is really a relatively low maintenance venture. When you arrive, tents are set up, tools are provided, a foundation has been poured and has cured and all your meals are provided. All these conveniences leave time for lots of work, lots of fun and a great deal of impact as you encounter a world very different from your own.
Oddly enough, this year we built a house just two miles from the US border. We were incredibly close to home, but traveling through the Tijuana neighborhoods was so incredibly humbling for adults and children alike. Trash abounds, there is no grass to hold the dirt so it blows everywhere, the people are smiling, proud and eager to make a good impression.
Our group was made up of many people who had never met before, but you would never know it. What a team!! We joined together to complete a common goal and did so by God’s grace and we were working within His Spirit.
Building a house is hard work–work that can be divided up and completed by many people of all ages. This year, we had a total of 11 adults, 5 teenagers and 4 children. Each and every individual was integral to completing the task. How do we build a house? We began with framing walls. Those that are able cut the boards (with a hand saw!). Those that are able measure the boards. Those that are able sit on the boards keep them stationary so that others can cut. Those that are able nail the boards. Everyone has a purpose.
After framing the house, we work on the roof as others prepare the walls for stucco. Stucco is our final task and my absolute favorite because everyone is NEEDED at the same time for stucco—some mix concrete, others carry the stucco to those who are actually using the trowels to apply it to the house. Short people work down low and tall people work up high. The differences and uniqueness of each individual is embraced and everyone is necessary.
Building a house is a transformative experience. It is transformative for the family. This year the family we built for had four sons, aged 6 to 18. When we presented the house to the family, the mother told us that she was a Christian, too, and that her goal was that her home would help her “Mexican brothers and sisters.” I feel this will happen. In the days we were there, we saw many family and friends at their home. It was obvious that their home, even in its poor state, was a refuge to many.
What we have learned over the years is a building a home is transformative for the builder, as well. This is why we keep going back (for six years now). Giving God’s gift to another is humbling. Seeing the way others live gives tremendous perspective. Stepping away from the conveniences of our own lives is integral to this process. Joining with others enhances this experience. God knows fellowship is so important to each of us. The fact that we are joined with others as we give sweetens His gift to us. You see, as we are working hard to give God’s gift of a house, He is giving us a far greater gift—His peace.