Communities In Schools of Peninsula colleague Cathy Rich shared with me a whole other side to her life pattern.
She joined 21 college students from Youth With A Mission — an evangelical inter-denominational, nonprofit Christian missionary organization — from greater Gig Harbor in Ensenada, Mexico, over the Martin Luther King holiday week to build a house for a needy family. Most were from the Peninsula area who took time off from school, jobs and activities to participate.
The group gathered in San Diego on Friday morning and crossed the Mexican border in vans. They then drove to the YWAM Ensenada base, where they stayed in dorm-style facilities. On Saturday, the group arrived by bus at the build site on the top of a hill.
“In groups, some of us worked on framing the house, others built trusses or painted,” Rich said. “By day’s end, we’d framed the 16-by-16-foot house, and put on the roof. The next day we finished roofing, began sheet-rocking the interior, painting and trimming. It turned out beautiful!
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“The young family we built the house for and extended members of the family worked with us, including the father of the young mom who drove three hours to help us.”
Washington State University freshman Abby Glover recalled, “The family we built for has lived in poverty for years and has nothing compared to average Americans. They were joyful and loving toward everyone and eager to help build. Even neighbor kids joined the paint team and had an absolute blast. The family was so full of love for each other; I believe it rubbed off on every member of our group.”
Team members took the young family to WalMart, where they picked out needed items for their new home. All the team members donated money for this.
“The young mom had never been to a Walmart, so it was quite a wonderful surprise for her,” Rich said.
“We had a symbolic Key Ceremony for the family, presenting them with the key to their new home,” she said. “There were many tears.”
“Ironically it was my daughters who encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and serve others,” said Rich. “They’ve spent several summers volunteering at an orphanage in Ensenada, and I have always been amazed at how it transformed their views on life. Now I understand why. The joy you feel helping another human being cannot be matched. It is humbling and gives you a new perspective on the struggles people face on a global scale.”
Oregon State University senior Madi Rich’s best memory of the trip was working alongside the family and neighbors to build the house.
“I was on the painting crew and the kids didn’t hesitate to pick up a paint brush and help paint the house — and their faces,” she said. “This house will provide many benefits. Children who return from school to a home are more likely to be successful.”
Near Ensenada, the team visited Rancho El Milagro orphanage, which several team members have been serving in summers, brought pizza, had a pizza party with the kids, and played soccer with them a few hours renewing friendships.
WSU junior Chad Glover said, “We brought used Gig Harbor Little League jerseys that were way too big, but when we gave them to the kids, their faces lit up. They were happy getting something new and didn’t care how old or how it fit. I have never seen kids so happy. These people have so little, yet are so happy and hospitable. The kids never stopped smiling and always wanted to help. Even a little thing like a box of crayons meant the world to them.”
YWAM is a non-denominational organization involving youth in serving others around the globe. Volunteers work in 1,100 locations in over 180 countries serving in children youth ministries, bringing medical attention to remote areas, building homes for the needy, etc. Homes of Hope, one of YWAM’s ministries, was launched in 2006 to provide adequate housing for needy families in 21 of the poorest nations. It impacts over 350 families per year. Each house costs about $8,000 to build.
Harbor Christian Church sponsored this house build. Its members donated more than $16,000 last year, enabling two homes to be built through Homes of Hope.
Gonzaga University sophomore Abbey Rich’s favorite part of the trip was getting to work on the house with the family.
“They were so full of love and humility and worked alongside us every step of the way,” she said. “They reminded us what it’s like to find true joy in the little things.”
WSU senior Jenni Glover, the most advanced Spanish speaker on the team, helped members talk to the family, maneuver their way through Mexico, and develop friendships with the people of the neighborhood the team was building in.
“Personally, I got really close with Rubi, the mother of the family, and her younger sister Ruth. We chatted for hours about everything; it was like we were old friends,” Glover said.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.