Picture this: your roof is a left-over scrap of tin. Your walls are discarded garage doors. Without a foundation, your kids sleep on the dirt floor. Chickens roam freely in and out of your home. You have no running water, no sewer system, and very little food.
For tens of thousands living in the impoverished shantytowns on the hills of Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico, living conditions are deplorable. So for the past 13 years, volunteers from Gateway Community Church (Chino, Calif.) and GracePoint BIC Church (Ontario, Calif.) have been helping families build new lives.
Every Memorial Day weekend, these congregations lead a team of volunteers to build houses for brothers and sisters south of the border. Partnering with Baja Christian Ministries, a para-church organization dedicated to building houses and lives for Jesus, teams construct between two and three homes every year. Whether framing or hanging drywall or painting, there’s a job for everyone.
For families receiving new homes, the experience is moving. “We’re not just building houses; we’re giving families their dignity back,” says Steve Airth, senior pastor at GracePoint, who helps organize the trips. Upon completion of the new home, families tear down their old house and assume a mortgage on their new house—roughly $7,000. Taking on a mortgage gives parents a tangible means to provide for their families; this is their house, their mortgage.
The completed houses sit on a sturdy concrete foundation and consist of two bedrooms plus a loft. Able to spread out across multiple rooms, families receive much-needed privacy and personal space.
To date, the congregations have built over 25 houses. And they don’t plan on slowing down soon. “These are God’s people,” says Steve. “And the more we see them as our brothers and sisters, the more we realize what this work is not only doing for them, but in our hearts as well.”