We are safe and sound, back in the good old US of A after three exhausting, incredible, indescribable days in Juarez. It’s almost impossible to put this experience into words, but I’ll do my best to give you just a taste of what we got to do this week.
As we crossed over the border Monday morning, the change was almost instant: wealth to poverty, extravagance to desperation, happiness to hopelessness. Everywhere we looked, we could see the traces of despair and destitution, and it broke us completely. Our hearts broke as we saw the conditions that so many people in Juarez have to live in every single day.
After entering Mexico, we briefly stopped by the SHOC, a compound owned by Casas Por Cristo, to drop off our belongings and prepare ourselves for our first work day. We grouped up into teams, piled into vans, and headed out to our five work sites, anxious and excited for the work to come.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what this process looks like, our work site is a lot owned by a Mexican family that has been earnestly waiting for a home. They normally have another house already on the lot, but it is constructed out of cardboard, wooden pallets, and any other materials they can find to give themselves a little bit of shelter. After being introduced to the family, we start off with a prayer, give the day to God, and then get to work. At the end of each hard, exhausting day, we head back to the SHOC, where we spend time unwinding, hanging out with friends, eating delicious dinners, worshipping our awesome God, praying for the families we’re serving, and regaining our strength by sleeping on the floors of the compound.
The first day was fantastically productive due to a surprise from Casas: cement trucks! In the past, we’ve had to mix cement completely by hand, which makes for a very slow first day. However, with the cement truck, we were able to complete the foundation, build the roof and walls, and put the walls up (and some groups were able to get even farther). Because of this, we were able to complete our houses more quickly than normal, most of us finishing up early on the third work day, while one team finished in just two days.
Upon completion of the house, we have a dedication ceremony, in which we present the families with two sets of keys to the house, a blanket, and a Bible. After that, we spend time in prayer, praising God for the work that he has done and asking him to continue his work in the family. This experience is always very emotional, both for the families and for us, as there is much that we wish we could say, but could never communicate through words.
So there you have it: in three short days, God was able to use us to bless five families in ways that only he is able to. It all went by so quickly, I can hardly believe that it actually happened.
We’re in El Paso now, serving at the Casas Por Cristo headquarters by cleaning and helping them with any projects that need completion around the compound. After one last night of food and fellowship in El Paso, we will be hitting the road bright and early tomorrow morning, heading back to good old Big Rapids.
I won’t lie: this week has been… challenging, humbling, frustrating, uncomfortable, sweaty, painful, heartbreaking, and exhausting. But it’s been worth it, because it’s also been full of the most fantastic, indescribable joy.
One of the questions Heather posed to us last night was this: what are you going to take away from this trip? How is this going to change the way you live? I still don’t know all of the ways that I have been changed by this experience, nor do I know all of the ways that God has worked in my heart throughout the past week. However, I do know that some images will never fade from my memory: the brilliant, joyful smiles of the children who lived next to our work site, the laughter and community I’ve been able to share with 64 amazing people, the servant hearts and encouraging actions of the members of my work team, and the tear-filled, heartfelt, wordless embrace I shared with Yasmin, the woman we built our house for. I don’t know what any of that means, and I don’t know what to do with all of that, but I know that I have been changed this week (and I’m confident that I’m not the only one).
Thank you for your prayers and support. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel back home.
Again, thank you, and God bless.
After spending a wonderful night in Roswell, NM, we were able to have a makeshift church service in the parking lot of our hotel. Mitch spoke briefly about Psalm 23, and about the fact that, no matter how dark or hopeless things seem, our God is always, ALWAYS in control. After that, we were given roughly an hour to explore the strange city of Roswell, and then hit the road again. The road between Roswell and El Paso was beautiful, winding drive through arid mountains, and we finally arrived in El Paso yesterday afternoon. We were able to catch up with a former FSU His House grad, play with his adorable puppy, and finally relax and unwind after an extremely long van ride. Our evening involved a delicious, meat-filled dinner at Rudy’s, followed by a crazy Walmart run, in which we were broken into teams of four, given a list of supplies, and then set loose on the unsuspecting Walmart employees and customers in an attempt to gather all of our needed supplies. We spent the night in a building owned by Casas Por Cristo, and will soon be heading across the border to Juarez, ready for our first day of work on the houses.
We are looking forward to begin work on the houses and to meeting the families that we will be building for. I literally can’t even wait to see what God is going to do on this trip. I have no idea what he’s going to do, but I know it’s going to be incredible. It always is.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We are incredibly grateful for them. We may or may not be able to post more updates while across the border, so stay tuned!
We are safe, alive, and currently in Amarillo, TX, waiting to eat at Denny’s (with very cramped legs and very big appetites).
After a time of prayer and preparation, we headed out from Big Rapids at 5:45 last night, drove through the night, and throughout the entire day today. Our trip began slowly, since we were met with driving rain and wind throughout most of our journey through Michigan, but we were able to make it out of the land shaped like a hand without any major problems. We’ve traveled through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and now into Texas! We were delayed a few hours while our friends from Michigan Tech drove from the Great White North and braved a snowstorm to meet up with us, but we have continued to journey through the night, slowly getting closer to our final destination.
In a few short hours, we’re going to be piling into 15-passenger vans and heading down to El Paso, ready for a week of sweat, dirt, hard work, incredible people, and intimacy with Jesus. I can’t even wait.
Our group of 65 people will be spending a week building houses for families that don’t have them, showing the love of God to them in physical form. We’re going to serve, to be His hands and feet, to grow closer to Him, and to show His love to these families. Although our team is made up of people from across the state of Michigan, we all have the same goal: to bring glory to God, because it’s not about us; it’s all about Him.
Keep us in your prayers, that God’s will will be done, that we will remain unified, and that we will ALWAYS keep our eyes fixed on Him. We’ll be using this blog to post pictures and updates as the trip progresses.
Below, you will find a video produced by Casas Por Cristo, as well as pictures from last year’s trip. God bless, and thanks for all of your prayers!