February 26, 2007

Tijuana House-Building With A Purpose
by Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

Every year a group from Altadena Baptist Church sets off to Tijuana to build starter houses for families in poverty. Our goal is to lend a helping hand to people in need.

Actually, that’s just one of our goals. The other goals are all about us. We go on this trip to stretch our characters, to see what God is doing outside our own back yard, and to learn about a different culture. We hold ourselves to very high standards as we try to fit in as best we can into a foreign culture.

We’re pretty good at building houses. We’ve been doing it for over a decade. Ferman, Norma, Paula, Irma, Guadalupe, Bernardo, Elizabeth, Antonio, Laura and Jasmin are just a few of the many people we’ve helped over the years. We’ve provided homes for grandparents raising grandchildren, families abandoned by their fathers and husbands, mothers-in-law with nowhere else to live, factory workers, vendors, waitresses, knife sharpeners, child care providers, those employed in the tourist business, etc.

Most years we build a starter home on an empty lot. The people in the poor neighborhood of Las Cumbres are able to purchase their own land, but must have a structure in place within a few months of ownership in order to keep the land. Often they don’t have enough money for construction materials in addition to the payments on the property. Sometimes they are living in cardboard shacks, so the need is real.

The house we build is really a 12’x12′ room, complete with window, door and roof. Later on the family will pour their own cement floor, and add rooms on, as they are able to. Each house we build costs $775 in materials alone. We build two or three houses depending on the size and strength of our group. We fund-raise in order to purchase the materials, and then provide the free labor.

In addition to building houses, we are building our character. Imagine a variety of personalities in very tight quarters. Then add in more dust and garbage than we’re used to, more physical strain than we’ve exerted in a month, submission to other people’s rules and schedules, getting lost and turned around in a foreign county, fitting into another culture, and the challenge to each of the team members is obvious. It’s a trip designed to get everyone hot, tired, frayed, frazzled, angry, irritated, and in that state, to learn how to pull through it together. As we do this, there is a great personal reward. We even manage to have fun at the same time.

Our 2007 trip is scheduled for April 13-15.

If you are interested in going on this trip, please sign up with Pastor Connie. We are beginning the fund-raising phase of the trip, so the team must be in place soon.