First off, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who donated to our trip this year, whether it was funds or prayer or coats.
This is the first time we've gone as a church group to Juarez since 2008, and I was so pumped about it. Builds have gone down so much that only three or four houses went up in Juarez last week. I am reminded that God is still working in that city no matter how many houses go up (although I'd prefer it were more).
The week went well with the interns building right next to us. We all stayed at the same place (the SHOC) in the Kilometers, a very poor area on the outskirts of Juarez. This is quite possibly my favorite place to build, if it's okay to have a favorite!
Instead of telling you about the house itself, I want to tell you about a family who is very close to my heart. Kevin and I built for them last summer. The odd thing about this build is that we never actually met the family we were building for, but we met the grandparents (Carmen and Mauro) who lived on the property. The mom (whom I believe to be single) was in Monterrey because her son had stomach cancer and he was being treated. Every day, Carmen made us breakfast and sometimes a snack around lunchtime. Every day, she gave the high school girls working on our team a "lesson" in cooking. I remember she told them that when they could shake their hips and cook rice at the same time, they were ready to get married. She was so in love with her husband who worked hard on their land and keeping their pigs fed and taken care of (many families have pigs as a source of income and maybe food...I'm not completely sure). I remember her saying that on her first date with her husband, he took her to dinner and she said she knew she had to have him for dessert. And coming from a 55 year old woman, this is hilarious (maybe coming from anyone that's hilarious).
The thing about Carmen is that she had diabetes pretty bad. Her feet were black in some parts and she had to sit down a lot because they hurt so bad. She had a bed on their makeshift porch where she laid down in the shade to stay cool. For some reason, this woman touched my heart and stands out among many of the families I've met. I came back to visit once a short time after that build and then promised I'd be back to visit later.
So last week, a year and a half later, I came back and I brought some blankets I wanted to give to her. I picked some out of our donations that I thought were special because my mom and I had made them. I had half of my team with me because we were on our way to the Soriana (Mexican version of Wal-Mart) to pick up some stuff for the dedication party. I got out and saw Mauro immediately. He greeted me and then quickly took me and my team inside to show us what he had done with the house since we built. It was all painted and his three grandkids were still sleeping. "Flojos!" he joked at them as we walked past. We moved slowly through the house as he uses a cane to get around. He started talking more quietly about his grandkids and the house. Then all of a sudden he said, "I lost my wife this year." And he started crying. "Disculpeme," he said. I didn't know what to say, and honestly I knew if I said something I would break down too. Even though I knew Carmen for only a few days, her love for God and her family had this lasting effect on me.
Mauro then took us outside where he showed us everything they had planted before Carmen passed away. He told me that he just wasn't able to keep up with all of the flowers and the cactus they had planted. He started talking about how he missed her so much, that he loved her and no one else. And then he started crying again. He said it had only been a few weeks since she died, and I couldn't take it anymore. It's hard to describe a 65 year old man sobbing, but it tears at your heart. So I went to the van to get the blankets I had and while I was there I cried pretty hard for this woman and her family. I cried because part of me feels like if she had a better home then she wouldn't have died (remember the house we built wasn't for her. She always said she wanted her kids to have a home because she would be okay without one), or maybe a way to get to a hospital that could take care of her.
God spoke to me this week, reminding me of life after death. Mauro knows that Carmen is at God's side, and I believe this too. It was a reminder of the calling God has placed on my life, to share about him and to help those in need.
I hope the blankets that I wanted to give to Carmen keep her grandchildren warm this winter. Mauro asked me to pray for the rest of his wife, and in a way I know that she is already resting better than she ever did on Earth. And I can't wait to see her again someday.
I wish I had taken a picture of them. I have one in my memory, but it's not super clear and I wish I had one to look at.
I hope you enjoy these pictures, most of which are from my friend Heather. Thanks again for donating, praying, and sharing what you have with those who don't have.
Preparing the foundation for concrete.
Putting in some anchor straps to hold the walls to the concrete.
Nailing together the beam that runs down the middle of the roof.
After standing the walls.
Putting up blackboard.
The dreaded chicken wire.
Handing out some toys.
Putting the roof on.
Carrying the next roof section over.
And more stucco.
Some of the other team built a slide for the kids.
Soccer in the street.
We had a dedication party, complete with balloons and over 200 hot dogs.
My brother talking about Matthew 7:24. I was so proud of him!
Roman nailing the plaque to his new home.
And of course I had to add the one of the precious baby girl that I got to hold!