Tijuana, Mexico is an awful place. Driving through this city for the third time, for my third mission trip, doesn’t make it any easier to see. The houses I see from the major highway are made of multicolored plywood and makeshift roofs. It is full of run down stores that make me wonder if they ever looked appealing while they were still in business. But this isn’t even the hardest part.
This is a week my youth group and I get to build a house for a family. Maybe they don’t have enough room. Maybe it simply isn’t holding up anymore, or it isn’t healthy to live in. The fact that I get to take part in this opportunity makes me incredibly nervous and somewhat discouraged, yet excited all at the same time. Amor Ministries is who we’ve always gone through and the people are so helpful and know how hard the work is going to be, so they prepare us well.
The group and I wake up early Monday morning and head over to the site to meet the family and receive instructions from the guide on what we’re going to do and where we’re going to build. Like years past, we find out we’re building a double home. All this means is that we’re making the home twice the size of a normal one, but building them together. We have five days and several eager teenagers ready to take on the task.
Day One: We level the hard, rocky dirt with rakes and shovels to make sure our foundation is stable and reliable. Then we begin making the concrete to pour our foundation.
Eating lunch has never been more fulfilling. It feels like the day has dragged on forever but it’s only 1:00 and we still have a few more hours to go until we can go back to camp. Starting a day at 8:00 makes it feel even longer.
Now that lunch is over we begin to make the walls. We have to try and pick the best wood because sometimes we get bowed pieces, which makes constructing a straight wall pretty hard.
I see the young boy peeking through the window at us and his squinted eyes tell me he couldn’t be happier; they sparkle and my thoughts are confirmed. I pretend I don’t see him and then steal a quick “I caught you!” glance in his direction. Before I know it the sparkly eyes dart away, but not before they peek back through the glassless window.
The walls are built and we’re putting them up. I’m so tired, but the little kids coloring in the coloring books we brought them pushes me to keep going. We need to give them a home. The walls are up and now it’s time to go back to camp. Now we get to relax and play guitar around the campfire while we talk and laugh.
Day Two: After our instant oatmeal breakfasts we go back to the site to continue working on the house. Today we’re nailing in wire on the surface area of the walls. It hurts my hands and I’m getting blisters.
Now that we’re done with that we’re putting nails through small squares of roofing paper. We’re doing this because other people in the group have to cover the walls using the large rolls of roofing paper we have. This is why I put the wire up first, because if I didn’t there wouldn’t be any support for the paper and there would be holes all over the place! That would be fun to fix…
We’re done for the day. We’re three days ahead. We should only be done putting the wire on the walls. Now back to camp after a long day.
We’re back at camp now. We’re going to play a few games of Mafia before we go to bed. I love this card game. I was the mafia for the first time ever! Too bad I didn’t fool them.
Day Three: This should be the last day that we work. I can’t believe we’ve already done this much! The staff from Amor Ministries says we work a lot faster than most other groups.
Today we get to stucco. This is pretty tedious. We have to use the concrete mix but we can’t have any of the rocks in there like we did for the concrete!
We use a big “sifter” where two people shovel concrete mix into it, and two people shake it back and forth. Then we throw the rocks to the side. It hurts my back so bad! At least I’m getting some arm muscles though, right?
Now that all of that is finished, we take the trowles and go over the roofing paper with the homemade stucco. We get done with the first coat pretty fast but now we have to let it dry. It’s a good time for lunch. Bethany, Teller, and I eat lunch inside the shaded, cool house.
Lunch is over now. Time for the second coat of stucco. We finish this in about an hour and half. Now we’re done.
The Amor Ministry staff comes to the house and we gather inside the family’s new house with them. My youth pastor Amy hands the keys over the the mom. It’s such an amazing experience to see the family accept their new keys to their home. I’m so lucky I got to participate in this. It will shape me for years to come.
Well, now we get to go back to camp and pack up to leave a day early!
Day Four: Now that we’re all packed up we’re going to eat some authentic Mexican food right near the coast. I like what I got, and I’m especially fond of the Fresca I bought. I’ll get another bottle.
Time to go home. That was an amazing experience. I’m so grateful for what I’m blessed with, and I’m glad I got to help a family who isn’t as blessed as I.
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