Thursday, May 27, 2010

God is for us...

“Ronnie, a blind boy who lives in eastern Uganda, is unique not because of his circumstances or the fact that he is blind, but because of his love for Jesus. If you were to meet Ronnie, one of the first things you would hear him say is, “I love Jesus so much, and I sing praises to Him every day!”

One of Ronnie’s closest friends is a girl who is deaf. What stands out about these two isn’t that they are handicapped or very poor, but that they are totally content and obviously in love with Jesus. They possess very little of what “counts” in our society, yet they have what matters most. They came to God in their great need, and they have found true joy.

Because we don’t usually have to depend on God for food, money to buy our next meal, or shelter, we don’t feel needy. In fact, we generally think of ourselves as fairly independent and capable. Even if we aren’t rich, we are ‘doing just fine.’

If one hundred people represented the world’s population, fifty-three of those would live on less than $2 a day. Do you realize that if you make $4000 a month, you automatically make one hundred times more than the average person on this planet? Simply by purchasing this book, you spent what a majority of people in the world will make in a week’s time.

Which is more messed up – that we have so much compared to everyone else, or that we don’t think we’re rich? That on any given day we might flippantly call ourselves “broke” or “poor”? We are neither of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish pastor who died at the age of twenty-nine. Although he lived in the early part of the nineteenth century, his words are astoundingly appropriate for today:

‘I am concerned for the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in the great day….I fear there are many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudgingly at all, requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh my friends! Enjoy your money; make the most of it; give none away; enjoy it quickly for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity.’”

This passage from Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love was so convicting for me; it’s the same as when I meet a new family in Mexico and realize something new every single time. This was my second house as an intern, my sixth house with Casas in general, and I feel like it’s finally beginning to hit me. My first build in 2007 obviously hit me pretty hard because I had never been exposed to poverty. God rocked my world that spring break and the thought of Mexico stuck with me. I thought of all the kids that might grow up not ever having the opportunity to go to school, the opportunity to learn about Jesus, the opportunity to walk out of their homes without being afraid of what might happen to them.

What really hit me this week was the fact that this family had been waiting two years for a house. Two years. 730 days living in a small shack with seven other people, making eleven total. And I complain about my small bedroom in my apartment.

We have so many things that we take for granted. I’m sure most of you realize this. We have the freedom to choose what we might like to do with our lives. We have the freedom to attend school even if we can’t afford it. We have the freedom to leave our homes at night and return safely. I can take a shower every day. I can get on my computer and talk to people around the world. We can come home to our air conditioning. We know (most of the time) where our next meal is coming from.

Each family receives something called a hygiene bag, which just has different things for them to use to clean their house and also things like toothbrushes. But the one thing that got me (and I had no idea about this until yesterday) was the waterless shampoo. They get waterless shampoo to use in the winter when the water is too cold to wash their hair. Can you imagine? I can’t.

Last night, some of us interns were talking and praying and a friend of mine brought up a good point. When you’re driving the border you can see the nice, brick homes on the El Paso side and the cardboard shacks on the Juarez side. What did those people do to deserve nice homes that the people of Juarez didn’t do? The people I’ve met in Mexico are some of the most loving, hard-working people I’ve ever met, yet they make nothing, if they can even find a job.

Yesterday we dedicated our second house and the family made us lunch. Tortillas, chicken mole, rice, and Mexican Coca-Cola (my absolute favorite). When you think about it, it probably cost them almost a months salary to make us lunch. That’s how much this small house meant to them.

My life during the school year is so superficial. I worry about the stupidest things. Never once have I had to worry if I am going to be cold tonight or if I’m going to get a meal tonight. I am not sure that I completely get it yet, what the families feel when they receive a home, but I’m hoping and praying that God will break my heart for them.

I know this was long and that I may have rambled, but I feel like there are so many feelings running through me right now. We have one build this weekend and then one more next week before we start leading teams, and I’m beginning to get nervous.

I am so glad that I decided to come despite the fact that Juarez may be dangerous. So many people have turned their backs on Mexico and I want the people here to know that God hasn’t and that we haven’t.

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? – Romans 8:31

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Our First Build

This was our first week of training, and I have to admit, I don't think God could've picked better people to intern together. I feel like all of us have known each other for so long. There are 6 guys and then Lisa and me, who are the only girls! At first I thought it would be really intimidating to work with so many guys, but it's been great so far.

We (my roommate Lisa and I) got our truck for the summer. His name is Peña...all the trucks in the fleet have names. He's an F250 that you have to stick your arm out the window to open the door from the outside, but we love him anyways :) Our house also rocks. We each have bunk beds, but since it's only the two of us we can choose which bed to sleep on whenever we want to. We have an amazing kitchen, which we plan on using to hopefully make delicious meals for the other interns every once in a while.

Monday we started out at 5:45 in the morning and went over things that we would usually do when our teams first pull into the office in El Paso, like introducing ourselves and going over some of the rules of crossing into Juarez. It took us a few hours to get everything together and get across the border.

Every build I've ever done with Casas has been on the outskirts of Juarez in an area called the Kilometers. Out here, the roads aren't paved and most people build houses out of whatever they can find. Sometimes the houses are a little sturdier than others, but "houses" range from old cars and buses to cardboard shacks.

The family we built for this week lived in a house that was probably on the higher end of the ones that I've seen in the past, but they were nevertheless in need of a blessing. The mom was a single mom...I think she had five kids ranging from age 4 to 15. The dad was abusive and had left a long time ago. I saw brokenness in this family, but I also saw so much hope.

We built what's called a double in 3 days. A double is a three-room house (30 ft. 4 in. by 14 ft. 5 in.) I felt okay the first day, but by day two (Tuesday) I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed. We learned everything from leveling and squaring the foundation, pouring the cement, standing the walls, leveling and squaring the walls, squaring the roof, putting the roof on, wiring the house, putting up blackboard, chicken wire, and stucco, all the way down to putting in the doors and putting on the trim. Part of me is afraid to make mistakes, but I know that's the best way I'm going to learn. I also still have three more builds with staff members before we go out on our own to build with church groups.

Today we dedicated the house, which involves giving them a Bible, praying for them, and the pastor coming and talking about Christ and His love for them. The oldest daughter got really emotional as the pastor talked about how they don't have to live in the past anymore. They don't have to carry the things that their father did to them, because they have a Father in heaven who is so perfect and loves them unconditionally. As we prayed over them, the mom began praying softly in Spanish which always tears at my heart.

And, of course, I snagged a few pictures with the kids, who are always my favorite part of building. My job for part of today was running the stucco mixer, and getting 3 buckets of sand, one of cement mix, and one of water can get pretty tiring, so I had help from two boys (about ages 4 and 5). Probably my favorite part was watching the youngest try to use the shovel instead of his small cup to put sand into the bucket.

We crossed back over the border today, which was kind of intimidating since I was driving. The first thing the border patrolman did was ask me "De donde vienen ustedes?" which means, "Where are you coming from?" We're not supposed to let on that we speak or understand Spanish when crossing the border, and I've never heard a border patrolman use Spanish with someone crossing back into the US on any of our trips. So I kind of freaked out, played dumb, and said, "I'm sorry?" He looked at me like I was out of my mind, but that's okay, because we got to pull through unlike the team in Luke (the other truck) who got pulled into secondary to be searched because they acted suspicious :)

God is going to do big things this summer, and I can't wait for all the things that we are all going to encounter together as interns. He is our protector. I've never felt in danger in Juarez and again didn't feel in danger this week. Of course, it isn't safe, but we just have to use common sense and trust that God will continue to watch over us as he has all these years.

Miss you guys,

PS - Some pics from this week. My face is filthy from the stucco mixer :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Beginning

So this is my first blog post...and to be honest I'm not completely sure what to write about.

I wanted to create something to allow you, family and friends, to see what God is doing in my life this summer through Casas por Cristo. I want to show you what I have fallen in love with.

I hope to find peace in God this summer. This semester has been one wild rollercoaster ride. For some reason, my mind just wasn't on school at all. My grades faltered. I forgot assignments every week. I left my kindergarten class in tears three times because I didn't think I could handle it anymore. But I made it! And now I'm looking out on what may become one of the best summers of my life, and I can't wait.

I should probably tell you a little about Casas if you don't already know about it. Casas por Cristo (Houses because of Christ) is based in El Paso/Juarez and builds homes for families in need. Last year they expanded to Acuña where many families have now received homes. Casas was started in 1993 and around 900 families have received homes just in the past few years.

This summer, I'll probably spend most of my time in Juarez leading the different volunteer teams that come down to build. Right now, there aren't enough teams for us to build with every single week, so on off weeks we are going to try and raise the money and build a house ourselves, which I am so excited for! I am so excited for all the people I am going to meet! I'm inviting you to follow me this summer and see for yourself what God is doing through Casas por Cristo.

I leave Saturday and I know it's going to be so hard to say goodbye to family and friends, but I know that God has so much to teach me and the other interns this summer.

This video is from the house our church just built in March:

If you want to find out more about Casas: