by Eva Pray* (photos by Erin Kiel*)
In typical college settings, if I said that I was spending my Spring Break in Mexico, most people (if not all) would assume I was headed to Cancun, Cozumel or one of the myriad other “fun-in-the-sun” destinations our neighbor to the south has to offer. In fact, I’d bet that the idea that I would be traveling to Acuña, Mexico – an impoverished border city across from Del Rio – to help a family build their dream home wouldn’t even crack the top 10 list of guesses. But that’s exactly where my Spring Break 2016 adventures took place.
The TCU Wesley Foundation, University UMC (Fort Worth) and Arlington Heights UMC joined together to work with Casas Por Cristo to build a house for Daniel, Cindy and three-year-old Jamie Vazquez of Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Casas Por Cristo is a non-profit organization that partners with local churches to find families in need of a home. The organization emphasizes to the receiving families that their house is a gift straight from God, which is why the missionaries and the volunteers were sent to build the home for them.
Our team was made up of one experienced missionary, 24 people from three different Fort Worth-based places of worship, ranging in age from 10 to 60+, and all with different levels of construction skill and experience working together to serve this family in Acuña, Mexico. When we arrived at the build site, we were met with an empty dirt lot and a big task in front of us if we were to meet our goal of finishing in just four days. So we got right to it. During those four days, we did everything from leveling the foundation, pouring cement for the floors, nailing together the walls and roof, securing the tin roof, putting in three windows and a door, insulating and putting up dry wall, installing electricity and stuccoing the outside. It was definitely a hard task to tackle in less than a week, but when it was all said and done, this incredible group of people had collaborated, used their God-given talents, shared some laughs and built a house. Seeing the finished house was such an accomplishment for our team. I’m not sure who was happier, the team or the Vazquez family.
A few days after we returned home, the missionary we had worked with in Mexico had already gone back to visit with the Vazquez family. (You see, while the rest of us go back to our homes and comfortable lifestyles, the missionaries are still there and working to continue the relationship with the family.) Our missionary reported that the Vasquez’s had painted the interior walls a bright blue and set up the bedrooms and their kitchen. We saw pictures of clothes up to dry and even a doghouse clad with a new puppy! They had turned the house that we helped build into a home.
I loved sharing this experience with individuals who know the value of spending their vacation time to serve others rather than serving themselves. While I was quite impressed with the amount of work put in and dedication to excellence by the group, the biggest surprise was the absence of ego. Even those who obviously knew what they were doing, had a genuine respect for everyone on the trip. Our age differences and church origins disappeared as we worked tirelessly together to change the lives of others. I came back to Fort Worth with new friends of all ages and a new perspective on my blessed life in the U.S. I simply can’t think of a better way to spend my Spring Break!