All of our bags went through a scanner and then we individually pressed the button. If you got a green light you passed on through, if you got a red light your bags were searched. I got green and headed outside to reload the bus.
While we waited for everyone, Tatiana gave Jay his second ballet lesson.
This time he learned the pas de chat (step of the cat) and a spin. Watch out Julliard.
Then it was an hour and a half drive past Tijuana, down the coast of the Pacific and through the streets of Ensenada, Mexico.
The ocean and mountains were beautiful and I stared out the window the whole drive. The most interesting thing was looking at the houses and little neighborhoods we passed. There were a few high-rise hotels, many unfinished, built between hundreds of small houses and shacks. The unequal distribution of wealth is so obvious and unsettling.
One of my favorite images from this trip I don't have a picture of. When our bus pulled up to our family's lot they were sitting outside of their old house. My eyes found little Diana first--her jaw literally dropped and her eyes opened up wide with such joy and shock that we had finally arrived.
We circled up on the foundation first thing. We were introduced to Sylvia, a single mom to 11-year-old Iriving (yes, IRVING Camp Tecumseh people), and 4-year-old Diana. They'd been living in a small house just a little bigger than their mattress on a dirt floor.
I'm not sure when this new concrete foundation had been laid, but the building supplies were delivered that morning-- they'd been waiting for us to arrive since they applied to the program months ago. It's crazy that all of this would come together in just two days. We prayed together to bless the day with safety and God's presence before we jumped in.
Before we got started and got all dirty, we took our first group picture at the site. I wanted to capture as many moments as possible.
I gathered all the moms together too-- Carrie, Syliva, Renee, Michelle and Cheryl-- for a picture. These women are each so precious, loving and kind. It was a blessing to be around them and have them each take me under their wing on this trip.
And then we built a house.
We all dispersed into different jobs--framing, trusses and painting with the instruction and help of everyone from YWAM. Our whole trip was through YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and this particular branch of their ministry is called Homes For Hope.
While Diana started coloring in the new giant coloring book Michelle brought her, everyone on the paint crew got to work on the wood that would become the exterior walls of the house, painting them all blue.
We lined them up and down the street and worked like a paint army with brushes and rollers, buckets and paint pans.
It was just so cool to get to do this as a community of friends and families. Everyone worked side by side, helping one another out to get the job done. I never heard anyone complain, never heard kids arguing and we constantly had smiles on our faces.
One group worked on getting the pieces ready for the roof. We cut the boards for the trusses with a circular saw. (Oh, that's the old house on the right side of this picture.)
Did you notice? That's ME using the circular saw. The dads wanted me to get the full experience and told me I had to learn how to use it. After their quick explanation of how to keep the saw in line with the pencil marks I realized it's just like a sewing machine! They didn't get the connection, but were great encouragers as I cut through a set of boards.
We switched around jobs during the day--Hadley hammered some of the frame together, Diana got so excited about scooping out paint refills and Libby loved getting to use her Spanish with the family.
We took a picnic lunch break for sandwiches, chips and cookies. Diana pulled her little camping chair up with all the big girls and ate her Doritos and ham sandwich with us. We were there to work, but the theme of the day was equally about community and relationships and doing this together. We found plenty of time to talk and laugh and have fun together.
Jeremiah, one of the YWAM builders, was a trip and proved entertaining our entire build. It didn't take long to figure out that he definitely knew what he was doing and he was full of sass. He showed us how to tackle each step but made a few jabs at our hammering abilities, pointing out that he could drive in a nail in just two swings compared to our eight or eleven.
He wasn't only good at taking selfies but would also take pictures for us when we asked.
I love the relationship Haleigh and her mom Michelle have, that they're so close and have so much respect for each other. I loved getting to share in this adventure with Haley and see how excited she was about helping this family.
This day was full of so much joy, blue skies, smiling kids, Ellie's giggle, Diana's hugs, Haleigh's paint covered pants, Jay's jokes, Ben's stories and Carrie's encouragement.
I loved seeing sisters Libby and Emma work together. I know that they both care so much about each other and it was cool to see them working side by side. I love seeing JD with his nephew and nieces and how he can be so goofy with them. (Do you see those paint mustaches?)
This was a day of living life till it was bursting at the seams and still packing in a bit more love and hope and faith in action.
Once the beams were painted we started nailing the trusses together. I gave it a shot but failed miserably. I know when to own my weaknesses and this was one of them. I transferred back to the paint crew after about five nails.
Diana got outfitted as the day went on with safety glasses, a YL snap back and gloves. She loved being in the middle of the action.
Soon the walls were assembled and ready to be put together. We called everyone together and we all momentarily paused our other jobs.
Just like an old-fashioned barn raising, we lifted the walls up together.
Once the outside walls were up and the interior wall got set in place between them, we attached it all to the foundation. We used these special nails to pound the boards into the concrete but I still don't really understand the physics behind it. How is it possible that it was easier for me to nail a board to concrete than it was for me to nail two boards together?
In cabin times, bible study and Campaigners in the past year Haleigh has told stories about coming to Mexico last Thanksgiving. The first time she talked about it I remember she teared up talking about the kids and couldn't finish what she was saying. She has such a heart for missions and for kids that live in conditions like this. She hopes to be a missionary some day and go make serving her lifestyle. It was such a blessing for me to get to walk alongside her in the trip this year and serve with her. We pray to become more like Christ that our words and our hearts will be more like His. It was so cool to see her heart molded after His while we worked here on this house.
A few years ago the Nikcevich family had a 100-year birthday party for their house. They packed their house with friends and family, served buckets of Yats, asked Jake Ousley to perform live and let everyone write prayers and wishes on the walls of their living room. They were planning on repainting and wanted everyone's words to be part of their house. Before all the drywall was installed inside our new house for Sylvia and her family I asked if we could write on the walls too. We grabbed a couple Sharpies and everyone got to work.
I love that even after we leave, our words and prayers will still be surrounding Sylvia, Irving and Diana as the play and sleep and eat and live inside these four walls.
We got back to work painting 40 pieces of trim that we would install tomorrow. I quickly learned there is always more painting to do.
We installed the windows and door near the end of the afternoon. The trusses were brought inside the house and balanced upside down until they could be securely attached. Jeremiah climbed up to start the job but most of the roof would be done the next day.
It's crazy that this morning there was nothing and now at the end of the work day it's so much easier to see what this house will look like.
Jim was talking to me later about how it's one thing to give money to a cause, but to come and actually give your own two hands is something totally different. We get to radically change Sylvia, Irving and Diana's lives with this home but it also changes us in the process. Getting to see Lukas, Brett and Tyler work on the walls together, seeing Mimi lifting boards and swinging hammers all day, watching Ellie painting beside Carrie on all the boards, hearing the guys hammering all afternoon long together was incredible. This is love in action.
We taught Diana how to make the peace sign in pictures. Getting to play with her and make her smile and laugh was one of our favorite parts. I think we would have just brought her home with us if we could have.
It was only a day but we'd already done so much.
Hannah and Hadley are two of the little sisters on this trip and I loved getting to know them better. They both were such good workers and so goofy even through all the hard work.
Grande gathered us together at the end of the day to congratulate us on our work before sending us off for the night. All day long he would whistle "10,000 Reasons" or sing "Oh Happy Day"-- a constant stream of worship and praise as he worked. His heart was focused on serving joyfully the entire time, a mindset that I believe was as natural as taking a breath for him.
Back at the YWAM base we ate a taco dinner with the other team and all the families that live at the base.
We were exhausted after such a long day. Back at the hotel, first priority was to shower. After that we opted to go to sleep rather then venture out for a churro. Tomorrow would be an even bigger day and we wanted to save up our energy.