Come along with us and see by way of at least a few* pictures (*a relative word) what we’ve just experienced as a family over Thanksgiving. I challenge you to look at the pictures and not wish you were with us! You won’t see beauty in the land—but you’ll see beauty in the faces of the people we went to visit. You could call it “service” if you want — since we are all to be servants to each other — but for us it’s more like spending time with our extended family who just happen to live in the colonias outside Juarez, Mexico. Quinn and Dusty and their family had already paved the way for these relationships, as they have made many trips and taken as many as 40 along with them at a time. But after our family shared this experience a year ago, we couldn’t not return to see those we met and quickly grew to love and to add to our extended family.
So this is not the story of the “wonderful work” we went to do in Mexico. It’s letting you see what will continue to draw us back each Thanksgiving until our bodies wear out or we wear out our welcome!
After two days of travel and two nights of sleep, we arrived on the job site.
Here we got to meet Jasmine (pronounced Hasmeen) and her two sons, Fidencio and Alvieri. Fidencio is paralyzed from the waist down due to cerebral palsy. Jasmine works in a car-part factory from 1 to 6:30 a.m. seven days a week to provide for herself and her boys. A home of her own will make life just a little bit easier for them.
The neighbors don’t even try to cover their curiosity.
The team gathers on the previously poured foundation for prayer and instructions.
Then we grab our hammers and nail aprons and get to work.
With 16 house builds under their belts, Quinn and Bailey know just what to do.
First we build the frames.
Just in case you couldn’t recognize the tops of our heads.
The siding goes on. That’s Dusty’s mom, Randee.
Quinn works with her father-in-law, Neil.
Addison and Marissa. It’s a well-oiled machine.
The siding gets attached to the frame. Cassidy and her Gum work in tandem. I wish this post included sound effects. Think: Noah’s ark.
Jasmine works side by side with me.
My niece Krista introduces the boys to the art of nail whacking.
Hammering comes naturally to Neil and Randee.
Also working alongside were Judy Fields and her son Kevin. You’ll see Gary Fields overseeing the crew as the Missions Ministries rep.
Time out for Neil to love on Fidencio.
After my short career as a carpenter, I traded in my nail apron for the preferred “task” of holding baby Sage while she napped. And for those curious about our proximity to danger, take note of the mountain in the distance. The city of Juarez is on the other side. We build in kilometer 30.
It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Once assured her Sage is content, Erin’s ready to work.
Even from a distance (away from the banging), I have to take my pictures. The lot is so small, much of the building has to be done in the “road.”
And since the back wall will back up to another home, now is the time to paint!
Quinn got to choose the colors, which will always remind us of Sage’s first house build. The colors: Soft Sage and the trim, Deep Dusty Rose.
All painted now and ready to stand upright.
Here it’ll lean until the other walls are ready.
Paul’s on sawdust removal duty.
Time to raise wall el número dos.
Holding it in place…
…while the cross walls are…
…nailed in place. Whew!
John takes time out to shoot some pics.
The babies and mamas get acquainted.
Next the roof frames go on.
I hold my breath while the Mexican workers balance-beam—backwards.
Thankfully, our gravity-bound team members take the ground positions.
Juan Carlos, don’t look down!
There is no rest for the weary. Jesús, the job foreman, motions for Mauri to head toward his next assignment: cutting windows.
Men and their power tools!
Kevin cuts another.
I’m sure Jasmine will always remember which window she cut.
Once the holes are cut, Quinn gets busy installing the windows.
Kevin’s view of the same.
And then the trim.
Inside Krista and others install insulation.
Up top, more nails and more hammering.
A good view of the neighborhood.
The work crew puts on the day’s finishing touches.
Randee and Fidencio manage to communicate without the benefit of language.
And Paul finds work of his own.
Heading home for lunch. Yes, all of this work was accomplished in one morning!
— the following morning, after a hard rain fell —
Back on the job. Heavy drywall gets nailed in place.
Cassidy learns how to mud.
Outside the painting begins.
Cousins! Their mothers are sisters.
We’re thankful for this important addition to the eightythreehundred houses—a water purifying filter!
Don’t forget the baño!
Everyone gets in the painting act because…
…another storm wants to threaten our progress.
We move forward with the trim paint.
Addison gets a short tutorial: “The key to successful trim painting is to take your time.”
But when a storm is coming, it’s hard to take your time.
I love this!
And then it came…a deluge. We ran for cover, grabbing boys and paint trays and drywall on the way in.
Afterward, Kevin assesses the damage.
And the road becomes a river.
We quickly finished up what could be finished up, and I snapped this as my hoped-for picture of Sage Charlotte-Rose with her sage-and-dusty-rose house. Not to worry. The house will be finished and a concrete wheelchair ramp poured in a few days.
We gathered for the dedication. Erin read from Deuteronomy 6.
Then Krista shared some important words of love and hope for Jasmine.
When she mixed up the usual order, Jesús gave her a hard time. A true sign of friendship! And it brought a rare smile to Jasmine’s face.
Then the moment came to receive the keys.
We gathered around Jasmine and asked God to bless the dear family who will now have a home of their own.
Krista, who doesn’t think she speaks Spanish very well but really does, distracted Jasmine with conversation while…
…we carried in all the purchases Quinn made in advance of mattresses, household goods, linens, food, diapers, formula, and toys for the family.
Krista gives a tour through the boxes while…
…the boys just relish their new home.
John couldn’t very well come to Juarez without a Nike soccer ball for Fidencio and Alvieri.
A highlight of the day was watching Dusty show Fidencio a video of himself and seeing him laugh and laugh!
Look at these great pics John captured of the event!
And one final picture of the team with its slightly soggy results. Bill Orange on the left, Missions Ministries team center manager, joined us for the second day of work.
And that was that! In two morning shifts we built another house. I say “we”—but as Erin pointed out in one of our morning devotional times, the Mexican workers could build a house without any of our on-site involvement. We could raise the $8,300 and write a check. But reading from 1 Corinthians 5, she taught us that to “conciliate” means to overcome distrust. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors as well as ambassadors for our country. Without our physical presence to build this house, Jasmine and her family and her neighbors wouldn’t recognize the care we have for them. We have laid the foundation for an ongoing relationship that can offer hope and encouragement to Jasmine’s wounded spirit. We might never know the extent, but we will trust that God will use this home and our small efforts for his good purpose for Jasmine and the community that surrounds her.
And we did other things!
Like the food outreach. We fed 150 people.
And offered crafts for kids and adults alike.
Making “God’s Eyes.”
And maracas (plastic cups glued together with dry beans inside) to decorate.
And delivered the donated diapers and formula for the babies!
To tell this story I have to go back to Gilbert, Arizona.
All of the supplies that have been collected or purchased by financial donations had to be loaded into a U-Haul at the Andersons’. One of the three caravaning cars pulled the trailer to El Paso.
In an El Paso Walmart parking lot we transferred the supplies from the U-Haul to the Missions Ministries trailer, which would be taken across the border later that day (along with all of our luggage).
This much didn’t make it and had to be moved to storage for the next border crossing.
In Juarez, it all had to be moved from the trailer to the staging tables for an official photo.
A diapers and formula bucket brigade!
In the front is the 50-pound suitcase that accompanied us from Oregon.
Quinn released her usual perfectionist tendencies to allow for a slightly haphazard portrayal for this update.
And then when it started to drizzle, Dusty enlisted his kids’ and the security guards’ help and moved everything lickety split to the storage building. All for love of the Babies of Juarez.
The privilege of visiting Juan Carlos, Briset, and Megan!
There’s no acceptable way to express our joy in being welcomed into the home we built just one year ago.
They walked out to greet us and proudly invited us inside to see for ourselves.
Their smiles melted our hearts and gave us hope.
They still have the cross Paul made for them.
Little Megan stole the show as she confidently instructed the Anderson kids and John in how to play the game.
Briset went inside and got the book Krista and Erin made as a gift for them. She paged through it, pointing to the pictures of each of us. This had such an impact on me because it demonstrates the continuing relationship we can have with these dear Mexican friends.
And then John kindly posed the same shot from a year ago. I do love a good series!
Oh how it warmed our hearts to see this young family thriving!
Just a few highlights from the Friday night church service!
John and Mauri rehearse for their part in the service.
Krista prepared a special greeting in Spanish. What did you say, Krista? We really do need to learn the language.
They sang a song they learned from their Spanish teacher at Gilbert Christian to use on their October trip. It was lovely and they sang with confidence.
Afterward, Cassidy handed out special packets of dry beans, rice, and a Bible verse from her school class.
And Paul got to hang out with his special friend and fellow house builder, Juan Carlos.
Quinn and her family have maintained a close relationship with Guadalupe and Selso, who live in the first house the Andersons built.
Another important visit.
We stopped off at the library we visited last year to see Susy, who oversees this ministry with the children. Krista has a similar after-school ministry in her home for the children in her neighborhood. She calls it “homework club.” Krista has been building relationships between her kids and Susy’s kids, sharing cards and books across the border.
Life at the team center!
This post is already long enough (relatively speaking), but I need to include a few pictures of the place we call home while in Juarez.
Surrounding this meeting space are the very comfortable motel-like accommodations.
We all seemed to gravitate to the rooms we had last year.
Sorry, all the swings are taken.
But you’re invited to join the guys on the basketball court.
You will never leave this room hungry. Trust me!
We share these remarkable grandkids with Neil and Randee.
The cooks treat their guests like royalty. Sage is looking a little sad because she didn’t get to eat any of the food served. Maybe next year, sweet pea.
And so I conclude!
If you made it all the way to this point, you might stay just long enough to let me encourage you to think about coming with us next year. We are not an exclusive group and would love to share this experience with you. I’d be happy to send you an information packet via e-mail that will answer any of your initial questions.
Also, here’s my thanks to Kevin and Randee and Neil and John and Quinn and Dusty and Mauri for augmenting my photos with theirs to help tell the whole story.