Category Archives: Real Life Ministries

Adventures in Mexico… thus far

Summer 2006: my first week in Ensenada, MX. 2 houses and VBS. Hearts were softened and only the Lord knew the work he was beginning. I would have laughed hearing where I am now…

Summer 2007: With a youth pastor’s prodding and plans that fell through… Ensenada round 2: 2 more houses, and a little more VBS. Still, I had no intention of becoming an intern. There were ‘other things’ I wanted to do…

Summer 2008 from May to August, I served as a missions intern with Real Life Ministries in Ensenada, MX: trusses, concrete, walls, electrical, lath, stucco… we built houses but presented homes. I couldn’t get enough.

Summer 2009: back in Ensenada for more but this time at Gabriel House,  caring for kids with special needs, teaching, doing therapy, mentoring, loving. Love is patient. Love is kind…. Love never fails. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  

New Years ’09/’10: returning to the kids that had captured my heart, the people that have become my friends, and the place that feels more and more like home.

Casa Bethesda, Martin Luther King Weekend: Coahila, MX, another home for people with disabilities in Mexico… loving on and working with those there… learning so much from them. I will always be hit by needs but amazed by the joy of the Lord at work.

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Back for a visit

For three summers I worked with Real Life Ministries, with Dennis and Debbie Hollenbeck to build homes, and last summer I served as an intern working all summer as opposed to just one week. Today though, I got a special treat. I got to go back to visit—not only Dennis and Debbie and Sergio—but also one of the families whose home I worked on last summer.

Horizon Youth 508Almost a year ago now, we went to Javier’s house to meet him and his father Pascuel and to look at the site where we would build his new house. Disabled and in a wheelchair, Javier struggled to get to his house sitting on the side of a hill. So we built him a new one. After two weeks on the project, we left with the walls stuccoed and the sheetrock hung and electric run.

Today though, I got to return to see how much farther it has come. I got to see the tiled floor, the plumbing, the windows, the textured and painted walls and ceiling, the handicap accessible bathroom and lights and ceiling fans, and as of today the new countertops. It’s amazing to see how it has come along from where it was.

Javier's House 006Javier's House 002Javier's House 007

Even more, it was amazing to see Javier and Pascuel again, and to talk with them over lunch. Some of my most lasting memories from last summer are from the two weeks I worked on their house and spent getting to know them, so to return to get to once more see my dear friends truly warmed my heart.


A couple final words after the summer…

I don’t know where to start or what to say. There isn’t any way that I could possibly put into words all the ways that I was able to witness God’s hand at work in Mexico this summer. However, I want you to know that God worked. He worked through me to impact my brothers and sisters in Mexico and He stretched me and revealed Himself to me in new ways. This summer, we worked with 9 groups from two countries and five states. We built 11 houses and put on 6 Vacation Bible Schools. Today, around 30 people have made those houses their homes.  But the summer was so much more than numbers. Numbers cannot even begin to describe the way that God has been working in the Ensenada area.

The lives of the families receiving homes are forever changed. They prayed. Their families prayed. And their churches prayed. Matthew 21:22 reads “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” And so it was. God brought groups of children, students, and adults from Mexico and all across the United States to be the answer to their prayers. He allowed us to be His hands and feet. There is nothing like it—nothing like handing the keys to a home over to a family who never thought it possible.  We were constantly reminded that with God, all things are possible. Through tears they gave thanks to God and to the group, and through tears, the groups gave thanks for the opportunity to serve them and be God’s hands and feet in such a powerful  way.

The first week, the color of the skin spoke strongly to the family as they saw the jovenes group from our local church work each day in their own community. Then, as the first group from the United States presented the home they had built, the mother broke down crying when she heard they had also given her a couch that doubled as a bed. Another answer to prayer. So she cried out, giving thanks to God. The group from my home church came and built two homes in one week, blessing two women with the opportunity to start fresh—with hope for a future. As the next family arrived on the worksite, they could hardly believe their eyes. No hay palabras para explicarlo, the mother said over and over, there aren’t words to explain it. The following weeks, I understood the feeling as we built a house for Javier and Pascuel, two severely handicapped men living on the side of a hill in a home they could hardly get in and out of. Still, joy radiated from Javier, permeating the hearts and souls of everyone working on his home. None of us will ever be the same—not because of the house we built him, but rather, because of the way we saw Christ in the lives of Javier and Pascuel. They have no source of income, but they rely solely on God, praying for every need. And He surely provides. Then, as one of our interns was injured during the next project, we were able to see how God had provided us not only with a hard working staff, but with friends that had become family who brought encouragement in a time of need. And as we helped a small group build the first floor of a home for Marisol and Antonio, we were all touched. Everyday, both Antonio and Marisol were outside working alongside us just as hard, if not harder than all of us. And that week I found that I was not just building a home for a family in need, but for a friend. Then, as we finished out the summer, we were able to see the ways that God had worked in each and every one of us. For me, that meant learning to trust God more with every moment—with the big things and with the small things. It meant learning patience; it meant Him planting in me a deeper desire to participate in international missions.

I was able to witness God work in and through me this summer in entirely new ways. I was able to be His hands and feet in Ensenada. I was able to be part of His answer to many prayers. So I want to once again thank you for making this possible not only through your financial support, but through your prayers. They were answered. Because of you, there are families that have a home for the first time. Lives have been forever changed. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve God in Mexico this summer, and I hope that the ways in which God worked in and through me this summer are an encouragement to you and testify to His faithfulness to answer your prayers.


And so it ends…

I built my last set of trusses, poured my first and last cement slab, put up my last set of walls, screwed in my last sheet of lath, and stuccoed my last wall. This afternoon, we presented the last house of the summer. We put the tools away in the shed, closed the door and locked it. We finished off the summer with fun and games amongst the staff, but it is still hard to believe that it is over. It is hard to believe that I have been here for eleven and a half weeks. Now, there is no more work to be done. It is finished.

However, although all the houses are done for the summer, God is still working and will continue to work long after I board the plane. I have gotten to witness God work in so many ways this summer, and I know that it is not just because I answered His calling to come here for a couple of months. There have been many people across the United States and in Mexico that have been praying for Real Life Ministries, Las Tres Palmas, and the work that we are doing, and without that we would not have been able to accomplish what we have done this summer. I am forever grateful for each and every person who has lifted me, the groups, the families, and the other staff up in prayer.

Because of prayers, house after house was built and presented to families in need. Week after week, we had nothing but dirt on Monday, and a house with four walls, a cement foundation, and a sturdy roof on Thursday. Needs were met for the family, and their cries to God for a home were answered. Groups came and went, and as they did, lives were changed. God opened the eyes and the hearts of the students and adults that came to see the needs and the people- their brothers and sisters in Christ- and to come to love them. We developed relationships with those we worked with and were able to hear about new senses of gratitude and appreciation. Hearts were touched, and lives were changed. We had almost no problems with students with attitudes or lack of respect for any of us as the interns and staff. We had few accidents (none serious with the exception of Ben’s knee which is now much better) and no one got really sick (not even me!). The staff grew together and became well… family. We now have a second home here in Ensenada that we know we can come back to whenever we need to.

I have been stretched, yet have learned patience and humility. I have learned to trust God in a whole new way. He is totally in control of everything and no request is too big or too small. He is so good and so faithful and so loving. I am falling more and more in love with Him every day, and I desire more than ever to serve Him. I don’t know where all God will take me, or what all He will ask me to do, but I feel like international missions will always be a huge part of my life, and I am eager to be used for His Kingdom as I return to Baylor.

Please pray:

1. That all that has happened this summer will not merely stay in Mexico, but will be a part of who I am and who I am becoming.

2. For the last days together with the other staff

3. For the transition from working and living in Ensenada, to going to school and living in Waco

4. That God will give me the words to say as I share with friends and family about the ways He has worked this summer

5. For safety in travel Monday to San Diego, CA, Tuesday to Little Rock, AR, Thursday to Marshall, TX, and Friday to Waco, TX


Week #12… the last group

The last group arrived a little while ago. It is hard to believe that I have been here for 11 weeks now. It doesnt seem that long ago that I was sitting on a plane with very little idea of what this summer would really look like. But now, I look back on the summer and am amazed. God has done so much. I have seen Him work in ways that I never expected, He has touched my heart in ways that I can hardly comprehend, I have witnessed lives completely changed by a week’s work, and God has taught me things this summer that I only thought I already knew. But the summer isn’t over, and God isn’t done using me or teaching me in Mexico.

Our last group is from Illinois, and is a small group of only 8 people. Nevertheless, we will build a house this week and a family’s life will be forever changed by the work that is done. But we still need prayers.

Please pray:

1. For the completion of the project

2. For safety as we finish the summer

3. That we as a staff can reflect and see all the ways that God has worked and is working in and through each of us.


Family.

As the summer comes to a close, I have taken some time to reflect on all that I have learned, the ways that I have seen God work this summer, and the lives that have been touched. I cannot share with you everything, but I feel that I must share one of the greatest blessings that I have been given. I have always thought myself blessed to have a great family- two great parents and an older brother. But I never thought that I would be so blessed as to have TWO families. But that is what I have come to realize in the past weeks.

Here in Ensenada, we have become more than staff. We have become more that friends. We are family. We work together. We play together. We joke with each other. We encourage each other. We bicker a little and laugh a lot. We all play a different part in the team, and in the family.

Dennis is the driving force behind us all. We joke that his team is the pirate ship, and Debbie’s the cruise ship. Dennis pushes us to do our very best, but after the work is done, he is there to play and joke around. He is like a second dad to me now and Debbie, a second mom. She is a mother figure to us all and shows the sympathy and gives the encouragement. She is always working in the background, but is so important. Sergio is the oldest intern and is full time staff. He knows what is going on and is our ‘second’ boss. Ben is the ‘sailboat,’ evenkeeled. Very little slows him down- even when he fell through the roof a couple weeks ago, he got back up and kept going. We can always count on Fernando for a smile, a joke, and a laugh. He named himself Donkey from Shrek. It fits well. Ruben is quiet, but hard working and we can always count on him to get the job done well. And Ana Christina does VBS. She leads the children and the groups so well, and she is always so encouraging to all of us, always offering sweet words, a smile, or a hug.

I can’t imagine this summer without any one of them. They all will hold a special place in my heart forever. Because now, I don’t just have one family. I have two. I have an american family. And I have a mexican family. Here I am one of six. I have one older brother, three younger brothers, and one younger sister. And thats what we are-Sisters and brothers. Family.


Two left…

Friday night we presented two more houses to a family in need and a church in need. It gets me every time. This week, all the students from Valley Community Church lined up with roses to hand the family as they walked down the aisle to the door of their new home- roses to add the first splash of color to their home. They followed by giving them a stove and thanking them for the opportunity to serve. And the family, through tears of joy, gave thanks to God and to all of us for being an answer to her prayers. The other home will be used to house missionaries that come to visit the church in San Antonio de las Minas.

Although the work can be hard, the time with the group can be draining, and the art of not doing can be frustrating, it all is so worth it when you look into the gracious eyes of the mother who now has a new home for her family. Any difficulties, any hardships, any struggles that week- they are all forgotten as we present the house. It never gets old, and I never tire of doing so. There is something about being the hands and feet of Christ in this way that I just can’t quite seem to get enough of. And I don’t think I ever will. So many people are ready for summer to be over- to head back to their lives at school. They are counting down the days until they will be back among their friends. But as excited as I am to see everyone and to hear all that they have experienced this summer, I am not counting down the days. All summer I have been “ready”- ready for the group, ready for the day, ready to work hard- but now I am not ready. I am not ready to only have two weeks left, or to finish the summer, or to board the plane. But with that said, I still have two weeks left, and I plan to make the most of every moment- to finish strong and to do it all for the Lord-for Jesus.

So as we work with our next to last project, Pray:

1. that we finish strong with the same purpose and energy that we began the summer with

2. that the project runs smoothly (it is different than our typical project)

3. that Ben, another intern, heals quickly from his dislocated knee