Seventh! I can hardly believe it. But then I scroll through the previous six posts about our Thanksgiving “builds” and it all comes back. Actually, several builds came back while we were down in the colonias outside Juarez, Mexico. During a break in the schedule, several of us got to visit Jasmine, our “second home for the holidays.” She is a single mom with three smalls, one with cerebral palsy. We learned that Fidencio’s wheelchair is broken, which means he had to stop attending school (provided free to the disabled). The dad left the family years ago, so Jasmine’s mom stays overnight with the kids while Jasmine goes to her factory job that pays around $5 per 12-hour shift. Obviously, there is no excess to buy a new wheelchair.
The kiddos were especially pleased with the toys Randee brought for them. As hard as life is for Jasmine, it would have been much harder without a home of her own. Thankfully, Krista and Erin have enough Spanish between them to assure her of our continuing care for her and our attention to Fidencio’s need for a wheelchair. [Quinn talked to friends who talked to their people, and we hope in a few weeks 10-year-old Fidencio will be back at school!]
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Our team in 2010 consisted of four parents, two offspring and their spouses, a niece, and six grandchildren (one in utero). Our 2016 team consisted of 34 people! And because I’ve learned that team members use my blogpost to illustrate what a “build” is like, I will try to include as many of our team in the pictures. However! I am admittedly chauvinistic, and will probably overpost pictures of our family. You probably won’t judge me too harshly for that. So hold on to your hat; we’re about to build our seventh house!
Beginning at the Beginning
This is far from the beginning, actually, because before this there was shopping to do and funds to raise and lots of administration on daughter Quinn’s part and … and … and, but we have to start somewhere and this is it: an empty trailer purchased for this purpose and named Faith.
Our hands were not present to help load the many diapers and formula donated or purchased with donated funds.
But all hands present were on deck!
Including these, our Macy granddaughters, Brynn and Sage.
And when it was full . . .
Babies of Juarez and the Matches
All team members gather at the Harvest Christian Center parking lot, where Missions Ministries personnel show up with a trailer. Babies of Juarez owns its own trailer now, so we don’t spend as much time transferring supplies.
Still, there’s a bit of calm chaos as we even out the loads. The U-Haul was used to transport the purchased household items you’ll see later.
You might remember that Dusty had six surgeries to combat infection in his healing knee. The road to recovery has been long and hard, but he was determined to not miss this build.
Mauri always carries a hacky sack in his pocket for such a time as this. The border crossing has changed since October. No need to fill out short-term visa forms for the teams anymore! And different this time, the vans (sans people) drove through a scanner rather than physical inspection. But there was a glitch. The patrol wanted to see the title of the Babies of Juarez trailer, which was back in the Andersons’ Yukon. Oops! While two vans headed to the team center, the third stayed behind to figure out a solution, which was to use Mauri’s phone to find the insurance information online. Whew! Disaster averted and a note made for next time.
A delicious dinner waited for our arrival. No shortage of authentic Mexican food at its finest.
Next on the evening agenda: unload the trailers and stage the diapers and formula for a photograph to be shared with all the donors. A good portion of these supplies were purchased with funds given to both Dorothy’s Match and Legacy Match.
Photo accomplished, it’s time to move the product back to the storage rooms.
How lovely that the younger set determined it is now their job to organize and shelve the formula . . .
. . . and then the diapers, by size. And to do it with a lovely smile.
The Job Site – Day One
We’d already met the family — they joined us for dinner on arrival — now it’s time to build a house! The Mexican team had already built the baño and poured the foundation.
We circle around the foundation, and Pastor Francisco offers a prayer of thanks. The biggest smiles are on the faces of Baltazar, Tania, and Mia. (Two-year-old Jasmine was in their rental house with Grandma.)
The project start-up wouldn’t be complete without the presence of Jesús (his back to us) to taunt and cheer us.
New to us was Colton Morrison. He and his wife, Sarah, are our team center hosts. Each brings an invaluable skill set—Colton, with a construction background, and Sarah, a registered nurse. Here Colton teaches the first-timers the fine art of hammering nails in just the right place.
Gum (Mauri) shows granddaughter Brynn what to do.
She digs right in. Owen counters at the other end.
Then Sage gets after it.
Quinn and Jesús give each other friendly grief just like siblings.
I warned you — about pictures of my family.
Uh oh. Another one. Son John with Erin and the girls.
Quinn, John, and Neil add to the cacophony of hammering sounds.
Niece Krista puts her Spanish to good use (on every build) befriending and enabling Mia to participate in building her own home. It’s a joy to behold. My camera is full of pics like this one.
Maycee, a young friend, does her part.
Lea and Scott (and who is that photobomber?) pose for Dusty’s camera.
Betty and Naomi and Marissa do one of the harder jobs of prepping the front trim.
Randee helps with documentation.
Rarely seen together at the site, Quinn and Dusty take a simultaneous water break. It was almost easy to forget Dusty is still recovering from that crazy knee infection.
But with a team of 34 (though not all were at the job site), we didn’t have to work very hard anyway.
Meet Samuel and Irina. They are missionaries to the US from Romania. My own reaction to learning this illustrated my shameful arrogance in thinking people from the US go to other countries as missionaries, not the other way around. What a privilege to meet these two and witness their heart for people and service! Samuel is pastor at New Life Romanian Church near Phoenix. He and Irina have assimilated into our culture very well in the two years since they left their families for an undetermined length of time, based on God’s leading. Their English is perfect; Irina also speaks Spanish. Their visa does not allow Irina to work for money, so she volunteers her time at the church. Absolutely delightful folk—Romanian Christians helping to build an insulated house for one deserving family in Mexico on Thanksgiving. On two occasions, as we gathered to pray before meals, Samuel blessed our food in Romanian. We eventually learned that Romanian will be heaven’s official language.
Time to raise Wall #1.
Half the workers hold Wall #1 in place while the rest raise Wall #2.
Mia and her dad, Baltazar, in on the fun.
I try to imagine how Baltazar, Tania, Mia, and little Jasmine are feeling right now. This has been their rented home. It has no insulation and openings in the walls makes it very hard to stay warm enough. They were able to purchase this property, required to qualify for a Missions Ministries home.
Walls #1&2 are held in place while the Mexican team quickly add the bracing and end walls. It’s a thing!
Then the roof trusses are added. At least that’s what I’ll call them.
Outside: roof, windows, trim work
Inside: Insulation, electrical
It’s coming together! Please don’t miss what’s happening on the ladder to the roof. That’s Chago hauling TWO five-gallon buckets of tar to the roofers. The man’s a beast!
This is my favorite part, up on the roof, hammering the shortest of nails, the feeling of accomplishment. Could life be any sweeter?
I don’t think so.
Teamwork at its finest! I neglected to photograph or mention that at one point in the morning Tania and Mia came out of their soon-to-be-former home with a huge bottle of soda and a stack of styrofoam cups to serve us refreshments. They both had huge grins on their faces. The joy of offering something we have to someone in need is universal, and I was so thankful to be a witness of that shared moment.
These two — Angie and Tera — and their families have shared friendship for many years, which has continued even though one family moved from South Dakota to Arizona. They’re getting the food ready to serve.
Laura is my scooping partner. She adds the beans; I add the cheese.
I was quite pleased to capture this pic of Brynn serving because . . .
. . . I remembered snapping this pic of Cassidy doing the same on our very first build together in 2010. Because who doesn’t love a perfect match-up, yellow shirts and all?
What would a food outreach be without this visual? Dusty holding a baby.
Once all the hunger is satisfied, we move on to the crafts. I’ll tell the story of Sage and her beads in another post, but it is especially appropriate for her to bring this craft to share.
Krista brought tattoos. (Can you see the tiny moustache tats on their fingers?)
Sadly, my only pic of Mauri with his fuzzy pipecleaners is, um, fuzzy.
Connect Four was a big hit with the kiddos, thanks to Neil and Randee. Bailey tried to teach the game, but the special interest geared toward releasing all the pieces to the ground. No matter; entertainment and connection is the goal.
Job Site Day Two
This wouldn’t be a complete report without at least one shot of the dining room where all that good Mexican food is served and devoured.
After breakfast we head back to the job site. The weather had changed significantly—colder and very windy. The little girls braved the weather long enough to roll on some paint, but before long they moved to the shelter of the van with their coloring books and some of the middle-school girls.
Betty’s hair gives you the idea.
When we smiled too much we added new meaning to the expression “gritting our teeth.”
Lea and Krista take on the muscle-challenging high parts.
Let me tell you about Randee. Earlier this year, while she and Neil vacationed in a different part of Mexico, Randee broke her femur. A surgeon repaired the damage in a nearby hospital, and after a week or so she was able to travel home to Seattle. But it didn’t heal right, so back to surgery to re-repair it. Is it ironic that Randee and her son Dusty now have identical foot-long scars on their left thighs, and in the same year? And what do “they” say about getting back on the horse? Randee exemplifies the meaning that phrase.
Can you see Baltazar steadying Tania while she paints the top of the baño?
10-year-old Mia was invited to add her own flare.
While the outside gets a coat of paint (with added sand from the wind), this is happening inside.
Drywall, then . . .
. . . mud.
We ask the family to stay inside their rented home while other work takes place. None of this next part is expected.
It’s Lea who makes this happen. She’s the one who shops yard sales and Goodwill with a vision for the particular family. She and Scott rented a U-Haul to transport everything to El Paso. She’s the one who directs the placement of each item. (Think Fixer Upper!)
Along with the rest of us, Mike waits outside, using his fluent Spanish to converse with Pastor Francisco, while Lea and her stagers work their magic inside the house.
And then it’s time for the dedication. Krista gives Baltazar and Tania a Bible signed by everyone on our team. She offers a blessing. Jesús translates while we express our care for them and our happiness for their new home. They also hear that we represent a large group of Americans (mostly) who pray for them and gave their money to build the house. Then Jesús translates while three of the four say their own thanks to us for coming.
Pastor Francisco prays a blessing on the house and hands them the keys to their new home.
Finally, we all gather around and pray together.
The moment arrives for them to see the inside.
Happy tears are shed by Mia and both of her parents.
Before we leave the site, we pose some pictures to help us remember this day in all our lives. Somehow we always manage to get an extra kid in the picture. Can you find him?
Before we go, though, we need a picture of the Romanian delegation. Left to right: Dorin and Laura, who were with us last Thanksgiving. Dorin worked in the clinic, which I’ll show you in the next section, while Laura found no task too difficult. Well, no task short of carrying two five-gallon buckets of tar to the roof. Next is Naomi, Laura’s sister, and beside her is Betty, a junior in high school. They all attend New Life Romanian Church, pastored by Samuel with Irina. So Dorin and Laura took their enthusiasm from last year back to the people in their church and came back as six. They’ve already committed to come back next Thanksgiving but also to form a team entirely from their church for sometime in summer 2017. As Mauri says, “This is addicting.” Clearly.
Dusty captured this great shot of one of our rides to or from the site or an event, which gives me the opening to share one of the highlights shared each morning during devotions. Bailey said his highlight from the previous day was riding in the van and hearing three languages being spoken.
Before or after a meal, foosball called out.
When physicians join the team, the clinic can be opened and offered to folks in the colonias. You met Colton on the job site; here you meet Sarah, his wife (far right). She oversees the clinic with expertise and enthusiasm. Here you also see Dr. Popa and Dr. Finkbeiner (both opened the clinic last year as well), who also work together in Phoenix. The next two are Finkbeiners as well, Taylor and Gwyneth, who didn’t want to miss an opportunity to work alongside their dad. Taylor is studying nursing at Azusa Pacific, and one of her highlights shared from the previous day was getting to practice IV pokes on Sarah. Next to Gwyneth is Lynn, who taught/teaches Spanish to our grandkids at Gilbert Christian, offered translation for the doctors. Then Adriana, a Mexican nurse employed by Missions Ministries, and ___?___ (sorry, I don’t know her name), a new translator.
I stayed behind to take those few pictures at the clinic, but visiting the orphanage was mentioned by several team members as a highlight.
The Church Service
“This Is Amazing Grace” — Quinn reported this is a song the Mexican churches sing with gusto. So Mauri learned it, and then our team sang it together several times (most already knew it) at morning devotions. And then sure enough the Mexican congregation sang it (with gusto). We were prepared to stand up front and sing it for the congregation, inviting them to sing along in Spanish. And we all sang it with gusto. It was powerful, this dual-language thing. This is amazing grace, this is unfailing love, that you would take my place, that you bear my cross. Powerful. I wish you could all experience it.
Quinn followed in English after Pastor Francisco’s wife read the Scripture in Spanish.
The O’Shea family sang “In Christ Alone” in both Spanish and English.
Then Mike, who also taught/teaches our grandkids Spanish at Gilbert Christian, preached in Spanish, with Jesús translating in English.
And after an offering and another sermon and other songs, they closed the service by singing “This Is Amazing Grace”! Again.
Time to Head Home
Third and final morning devotions together. It’s so good to sing as Mauri and John lead the rest of us in songs to our very souls, to each other, and to God.
Even Claudia, the head cook, joined in.
Some special goodbyes. Krista and our beloved Leo.
A quick shot through the van window once we hit the paved road.
The Macy family returns to the US.
John and Juan Carlos toss the frisbee while we wait for everyone to process through the border.
More goodbyes and “See you next year!”
Faith heads back to Arizona, much lighter going home. “She” will rest up in the Andersons side yard until next month when Quinn and Lea load her again, this time with furnishings and household/food items for a teamless build (the Mexican crew will do it all). Another family will have a home for the holidays.