Saturday, July 31, 2010


I'm really not sure how to feel right now. I know the summer is coming to an end, but it's a crazy feeling. I feel like I've been living someone else's life for the past three months, and I'm going to go back and everything's going to be just the way I left it.

I'm not sure how I'm going to handle going back to my life. For the last three months, I have been uncomfortable over half the time. Everything about this summer goes against what the world teaches us to be as women. I am sweaty, smelly, my nails are dirty, my hands are callused, my skin is always broken out from the heat, I have the worst tan lines known to man, but as I sit here writing this I am almost in tears because I know I am leaving in two weeks.

A few years ago if you'd told me I would be spending three months like this, I would've said, "Uh, no thanks." But this summer has been the best of my life. And the fastest. I know I am going to go back and sit in a classroom and wonder if this summer ever happened.

But I feel like I am going to be back someday. Last night I laid awake for quite a while because my heart is so restless right now and this is what was running through my head:

My heart is restless because I want to do more. This is just the beginning for me.
I know God brought me here at this time in my life for a reason. If I had come after graduation, I wouldn't be going home. But I have to go back, because YOU have to know. Juarez is not the city everyone makes it out to be. Yes, it's dangerous. Yes, there is violence. But I have seen NOTHING this summer and have never been in danger. These people need help. They live in a poverty-stricken country with corrupt people ruling over them. We who have so much have been called to show compassion to those who are struggling just to survive. I am coming back to show you the real Juarez, where two million people live, most of them waiting for someone to save them. I am coming back to give you the opportunity to serve in Mexico alongside me.

I read this quote in a magazine interview with David Crowder: "...there's a difference between compassion and justice. Compassion is when we're all sitting on the side of a river watching people drown and respond by pulling them out. But justice is when somebody pokes their head up and says, 'You know what? I'm going to go upstream and see who keeps throwing everybody into the river.'

Somebody needs go upstream and get to the bottom of the issues that are causing these things. Of course, we also need compassion. That is a necessary response. We can't stand at the side of the river and allow the people to drown, but we have to be involved in changing the system, as well.

And so we always challenge students, kids, parents, whoever is in front of us. Somebody's got to give their lives to these issues and be willing to spend the time and the energy and have the fortitude to not wind up in hopelessness."

What I'm about to say might hurt a little, but it's true and it's something I've learned this summer and over the past couple years. In the United States, most of us live in a fantasy world, with nice houses, our own beds, our own cars, food in our cabinets, tons of clothes, and air-conditioning (I haven't had AC for most of the summer and am definitely thanking God for it right now as I sit in the hotel in Del Rio, Texas).

Most of the world doesn't live like we do in the States. Over 80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day. That's a salary of about $3600 a year. About 50% live on less than $2.50 a day. Why is this? I just don't get it. These are human beings we're talking about. People. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. People who love, laugh, have dreams, have needs. Today, over 28,000 children will die because they have nothing to eat. One child every three seconds. I saw on the news last night that they've been saying 12 people a day die in Juarez, but they didn't specify how. I can bet you it's not because the cartels kill them, it's because they live in cardboard shacks in 100 degree weather.

God brought me here for a reason. It's time to stop talking about changing the world and start living it. It's time to figure out why people are drowning in that river and who's throwing them in.

God gives us life for a reason. He wants us to enjoy it and realize our dreams! My dream is that one day every child will get to go to school and that they will get to eat good food and drink clean water, that they will have a house to come home to.

God has allowed me amazing opportunities to try so many new things and just get out of my comfort zone. I've learned to build a house, work with electrical, stucco, lay concrete, work with power tools, I've attempted bouldering, slack-lining, and gotten to go hiking. I've met people who have nothing but their faith, people who live out of minivans and cardboard shacks. I got to attend church camp and lead high schoolers and share my passion for Casas. I've gotten to attend two church services in Mexico and see how they worship and love one another. I have new friends whom I consider family.

I am a different person than most of you knew when I left. I have more confidence in my God and in a sense, myself. I am learning the difference between having a gentle, quiet spirit and letting people walk all over you. I am learning to stand up for myself, but still represent Christ. I have doubted, I have wanted to rip my hair out and scream, I have praised, I have laughed, I have spoken so much Spanish that my brain might explode, I have been humbled. God has changed my heart this summer, and if I come back and seem like I'm not there, it may be because my heart is still in Mexico.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I think I am beginning to reach the point in my summer where I’m wearing down. Most of you have probably (or maybe not?) heard of Hurricane Alex hitting Monterrey, Mexico. I don’t know the statistics, but I saw the news and saw the faces of the people who lost their homes and loved ones. I’m not sure, but I think it might be the Hurricane Katrina of Mexico.

Anyways, Casas builds in another city (Acuña, Coahuila) about 7 hours east of Juarez, therefore closer to the ocean and much more humid. The hurricane blew in a ton of rain and so my first week there (last week) it poured most of the time. A couple of the sites were underwater, with materials floating around. The river that runs through the city was overflowing and moving really quickly, like if you fell in you were done for.
So our first build in Acuña went pretty well despite the rain, but this past week was a little crazy. Our team flew into Del Rio (the Texas side of Acuña) around lunch time, and we ate with them and then crossed over the border and took them to the church we would be staying at for the week. They came to our site (Caleb and I built together this week) and helped us with our form. We realized that our site wasn’t going to be big enough to build the standard Casas single, which is about 22 x 11 ft, because there was a high concrete wall and then about 12 feet and a cinderblock bathroom. So we could either a) set the high wall right up against the concrete wall and bolt it in, or b) remove one stud from the house, making it 16 inches shorter. We went with plan b, because although it made the house smaller, we thought the house would last longer. Even with cutting the 16 inches out, we still had only about a foot to work with on either side once we got the walls stood. So that night, Caleb and I re-worked the measurements for the house and prayed that it would turn out right!

After the first group helped us build the form, we had to go back over the border really quick to pick up the other half of the group that flew in later, the people that would be building with us all week. As we were coming back over the border, the international bridge was about 6 inches underwater in the middle, and we were afraid we might be stuck in Mexico. We brought our second group to the church and then realized that all of the bridges in Acuña were closed due to flooding, so we wouldn’t be able to get to the warehouse to pick up our tools. No tools, no building. Caleb and I quickly decided that we needed to try to find a way to get to the warehouse, and luckily we did find a way there. We loaded our tools, and as we were doing so, one of the Casas staff members pulled up with large water barrels in his truck and told us that the entire city was out of water (ironic) and some places were out of power. He needed water to pour his slab, so he had come to the warehouse to gather the rainwater that had collected in the truck-loading areas.

We finished our house Friday morning and then dedicated it, then headed for the border. On our way to the border, we got into a car accident and it took about 3 hours to get everything worked out. We left Del Rio at about 7, got pulled over about 2 hours later because the police wanted to search our truck (I’m sure our giant blue tarp tied down with Romex and our drivers’ licenses from four different states were a little suspicious), and we rolled into El Paso at about 2:30 this morning.

But even though so many things didn’t go right this week, it was still a good week. Long, but good. The people on our team had great attitudes and even made awesome awards for each other and for us every day. I got the Extreme Exterminator Award for killing a cricket with my hammer, and the “Did you open it?” Award for reminding Caleb twice to open the liquid nails before he tried to squeeze it out, along with a couple other ones that the kids came up with.

Over 500 homes were destroyed in Acuña this week, which adds even more to the suffering there. While I was at church camp, one of the other leaders gave me a book by Max Lucado called Outlive Your Life. It’s basically a collection of different stories of different people who have gone above and beyond. In one of the chapters I read recently, he talks about suffering and how we are so afraid to look it in the face. When we see the homeless person with the cardboard sign, we look straight ahead. When we see the person in front of us who can’t afford their groceries, we act like we’re reading through the magazine rack.

Here’s an excerpt from what I read:

“Some years back a reporter covering the conflict in Sarajevo saw a little girl shot by a sniper. The back of her head had been torn away by the bullet. The reporter threw down his pad and pencil and stopped being a reporter for a few minutes. He rushed to the man who was holding the child and helped them both into his car. As the reporter stepped on the accelerator, racing to the hospital, the man holding the bleeding child said, ‘Hurry, my friend. My child is still alive.’ A moment or two later he pleaded, ‘Hurry, my friend. My child is still breathing.’
A moment later, ‘Hurry, my friend. My child is still warm.’ Finally, ‘Hurry. Oh my God, my child is getting cold.’ When they arrived at the hospital, the little girl had died. As the two men were in the lavatory, washing the blood off their hands and their clothes, the man turned to the reporter and said, ‘This is a terrible task for me. I must go tell her father that his child is dead. He will be heartbroken.’
The reporter was amazed. He looked at the grieving man and said, ‘I thought she was your child.’ The man looked back and said, ‘No, but aren’t they all our children?’ Indeed. Those who suffer belong to all of us. And if all of us respond, there is hope.”

In Matthew, Jesus tells us that what we do for the least of these, we do for him. We can’t forget the people who suffer around us. Look around you! I promise you don’t have to go very far to find someone who is suffering. It may be your next door neighbor who is struggling with losing a parent; it may be your college classmate who doesn’t really think they should continue living; it may be your sister who doesn’t think she’s worth it. One thing I’ve learned this summer is this: There is so much more to life than what we make of it. It’s so much more than graduating college and getting a job and retreating into your shell. Go above and beyond, push your limits. Because you only get one life here on earth. Why waste it trying to gain everything you can? Serve. Experience. Laugh. Live. Love.

I’ve never really been sure why God wanted me here in Mexico. I’m not a builder by any means. I had never built anything before this summer (except for when I came with my church, and we all know I usually sat in the dirt and played with the kids, or played the part of “chicken-wire-stretcher”). Wednesday the church that I was building with had a community night where they grilled hot dogs and handed out free clothing to people in the neighborhood. I noticed an elderly lady carrying a trash bag filled with clothes she had picked out, and she was struggling a lot. I ran up to her and offered to walk her back to her house, to which she gladly agreed, saying, “Pesa mucho” (It weighs a lot). I took the bag, which was in fact pretty heavy…I was struggling a little, and we walked the two blocks to her house. She let me come in to her small two room home and she turned the fan on, turning it all towards me saying I needed to cool down. She started talking about her neighbor who had taken her in when her husband abandoned her. “I got these clothes to give to her because she has given me a place to live,” she told me. Then she said she had to go back to the church because she wanted to go to the service, so we left her house and headed back. I started walking pretty quickly, and she told me that I walked really fast. She told me how she had diabetes that makes her legs and feet swell so much that they bleed sometimes and she doesn’t sleep well. I slowed down and she looked down at my feet, saying, “You have good feet for serving God.” That night it really hit me. I am here to serve. I’m not here because I’m excellent at building homes or because I’m the perfect team leader. God has brought me here to serve Him and to serve His people. And it’s been amazing so far. Tough, but amazing.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Last Two Weeks...

I can´t believe it´s already much has happened since I last posted anything.

Last week, one of the other interns (Andy) and I went to a high school church camp in the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico. We went with the director of Casas (David) because he used to be a youth minister for one of the church groups that came, so he had asked us to come represent Casas and lead some of the students.

What we didn´t realize, however, was that we would be assigned a D-group to lead. I was pretty nervous at first because although I have led small groups before, it has usually been with younger students. We had seven awesome students, with Davids daughter joining us sometimes. The theme for the week was Story, and we focused on the story of Joseph from Genesis. Each day we walked through a part of Joseph´s story, beginning with him being sold into captivity. The day that we focused on captivity, the students had to go around and pick up rocks and write things on them that represented the things that held them captive. What the students didn´t know was that they would be putting the rocks in a small bag and carrying them on their wrists for 24 hours.

That day we went to Sitting Bull Falls and swam around in some pretty cold water (and the students had to keep their rocks on the whole time). A lot of people hiked down, but I got to ride in the van because I was sick for a few days before that (you know youre a Casas intern when all of you talk about how many times you´ve puked this summer).

This week was a huge reminder to me of when I used to go to Survive with Olivet. It reminded me of being broken and restored. It reminded me of family and how much God´s people care for one another. I saw so many students who got to cut off their bags of rocks and then lay them at the foot of the cross...super awesome.

We got back Saturday and then stayed up late at Alexis´ place watching movies. Then Lisa and I got about 2 hours of sleep before heading out with Shane and Kevin for Acuña, where we built this week. It is about a 7 hour drive from El Paso, and our truck, the Peña, loses AC after a while so we drove with the windows down most of the way. Luckily it wasn´t too hot!

We stopped in Del Rio for lunch at Rudys BBQ and then a few last minute things at Wal-Mart, then headed over the border to David Quiñones´ house. He works for Casas and makes sure things are going okay in Acuña. He and his wife have been so gracious to us. Delia has done our laundry and fed us. Their two sons are also really cool, and today we spent a few hours working on a 500 piece puzzle.

We built this week with a team from Iowa, and they were awesome! I am really surprised they still wanted to work with us after we got them lost three times on Monday morning in the pouring rain. (Acuña is about the exact opposite weather-wise from Juarez...80% humidity on top of the heat). We didn´t have a ton of interaction with the family this week, because they lived on another street, but they did stop by to invite us to lunch, which was of my absolute favorites.

The build was pretty quick...we started Monday and dedicated Wednesday afternoon, then headed over the border to eat dinner at Chilis and see our team off.

Now we are back at David´s house for the weekend and we will celebrate the 4th of July in Mexico...I think we are planning on making a "traditional" 4th of July meal for David and his family...maybe some hot dogs, little smokies, and all the finger foods you can think of. We are also going to the river to swim on Saturday which I am very excited about!

That´s kind of what has been going on the past couple weeks! Thank you for your prayers and I miss you all! This summer has been AWESOME but I miss my family and friends. Can´t wait to see you in August and tell you all everything that didn´t make it into the blog.