We are home.
We left Michigan Tech in Bloomington, IL around 8p.m. on Saturday night and they left for their 9 hour drive through Wisconsin. After we dropped them off, we pushed hard and tried to finish the drive home as fast as we could. We just wanted to be home. Van 1 pulled into Big Rapids around 2a.m. on Sunday morning, with vans 2 and 3 about 30 minutes behind. (The other two vans dropped off Mike, Chris, Emily and Danielle, while Van 1 brought some sick passengers straight back to Big Rapids). After dropping off students at their apartment complexes or dorm rooms, Mitch, Joe, Baleigh and I jumped back on the road to take the vans to Grand Rapids and return them to the rental company. Some people (my grandpa included) said we were crazy to leave at 3:30a, but honestly, we would so much rather get them taken care of that night rather than have to get up and moving again on Sunday to drive them down. Besides which, after unloading the vans in 8 degree snowy Michigan, we were WIDE awake for the drive! By 6a.m., everyone was back in Big Rapids and sleeping for the next 13 hours.
It was a good trip. Every student I've talked to since we've gotten home has had only good things to say and they're already excited for next year! They caught the excitement to build homes in the city that so many have forgotten. They're ready to return to Juarez and bring hope to even more families there.
I asked each team to think about what their favorite parts of the trip and share them with you. The ones that are marked with an asterisk (*) were on their first Mexico trip with His House. Here are the highlights in everyone's own words:
|My apologies! This is the closest I have to a team photo for Team Robey at this point.|
Kelly W. - "The dedication of the houses and getting to talk to the families. Someone told the interpreter that I spoke Spanish and I was really glad that I got to talk with the family during the dedication."
*Justin H. - "Being able to visually see the progress on the house over three days and being able to watch the great work ethic on my team. Everyone jumped in to help on everything that needed to be done."
Jon S. - "The dedication of the house."
Faith K. - "The dedication and seeing how appreciative the family is."
*Brittani F. - "Building the house in general because I'd never done that before, and we got to give it to the family."
*Lauren S. - "The dedication."
Drew B. - "A combination of the plaque at the dedication and working with people I didn't know well."
*Sydney H. - "Being able to experience this trip with my best friend, to watch him experience new things and the opportunity to grow closer together in our walk with God."
*Brandon B. - "Watching God do His work was amazing. It was cool to make new friendships but also strengthen the ones that I already had through God."
Nate R. - "Actually being with my full family for the first half of the trip."
Sam R. - "I liked sleeping in and doing drywall."
Gabe R. - "Visiting Carlsbad Caverns."
(Just to clear up some confusion, Jesus is the homeowner we were building for. His name is pronounced Hay-zues, not the biblical pronunciation of Jesus.)
*Daniel S. - "Building the house and getting to work with everyone in my group and getting to know them."
Nathan C. - "Serving alongside my best friend and watching God work through our group."
Cassie S. - "Hanging out Thursday night (til the early morning) with Keleigh, Mike, Andy and Nathan. And serving alongside my best friend all week at the work site."
*Kristin M. - "My favorite part of the trip was the appreciation of the family that received the gift of the house. The feelings of awe were inspiring."
*Mike P. - "Watching Jesus (the home owner) interact with all of us. And how the Pastor tried to be a blessing to us too by visiting with us."
*Glenn H. - "Helping the family was cool. I appreciated how they fed all fifteen of us lunch for two days - giving us their food."
*Kathryn P. - "Talking to the family and getting to know the others on the whole team. The people on the trip are really cool."
Jim H. - "Jesus (the homeowner) was a bro."
Melissa B. - "Jesus and how helpful he was. Made it easy to communicate with the family."
Emma L. - "How interactive our homeowner Jesus was. He always helped out and was like a part of our team."
*Chelsea V. - "Stepping out of my comfort zone and seeing how grateful the family was and how they said we're God's angels."
Joe H. - "Jesus making the effort to call us by name and get to know all of us (even our majors/jobs). You don't see adults on the worksites do that often. And the jobs that brought our team from strangers to team to family."
Kate H. - "Our work team was so good and they all were incredible to work with. And that we were able to be an example and a blessing to their neighbors and reach out to them as well."
Danielle B. - "Our build group and how well we worked together."
David K. - "Playing with the kids and talking to the family, and the dedication."
Becca C. - "I really liked playing soccer and games with the kids and seeing the house come together by working as a team."
*Tanner A. - "Working/building with my hands to help somebody. I wish I knew more Spanish!"
*Chris P. - "Watching the walls go up and the smiles on the kids faces as they did."
*Mike R. - "Changing the family's life in the 3 days and spending time with my brother (their team leader Andy R. is Mike R.'s brother) and all of my new friends."
*Keleigh R. - "Having the opportunity to serve God with Andy (my brother) and my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was great to be the hands and feet of Christ for the families and further relationships with some great friends."
*Alex W. - "When people weren't building, they were playing games with the neighbors. Especially 5 boys who loved playing football. We got to ministry to them and enjoy time with them. And building the house by hand. I've never done that before."
Cassie M. - "Interacting with the kids and hearing the family talk about how they knew the house was a gift from God."
*Chelsea P. - "Everything I learned. I never thought I'd be able to do half the stuff I did. I also liked to see how happy the kids were."
*Tori H. - "I really loved my build team."
*Jessica D. - "Interacting with the people on my team and the family. The 13 year old daughter wanted to help us and worked on learning English with us. I enjoyed helping translate."
Baleigh N. - "I loved the team that I had and it was great blessing the family."
*Caleb W. - "To be able to serve those less fortunate than I."
*Sarah L. - "Bonding with peoples."
*Sasha B. - "Seeing how little Carol had, yet how much she cared for her animals. It showed me how I need to appreciate more of the little things in life."
*David B. - "I found the quiet times enjoyable."
*Jack H. - "Working on the stucco."
*Erich A. - "Son bathing! (Get it?!)"
*Justin M. - "When Carol
dragged brought me into her house and started feeding me random food."
*Dutch - "Categorizing the different breeds of dogs."
*Sam W. - "When Sasha gave the bandana to Carol."
*Zach A. - "The ability to serve others, whether it was Carol or working at Justin's house."
*Kayla Z. - "It was nice being able to speak Spanish; a skill that I have that isn't used daily, but can be put to use to do God's work."
*Duke - "A lot of bunnies."
Brandon C. - "Watching the people around me learn and grow and how that helps all of us."
Scott A. - "Spending time with everybody."
Megan S. - "Carol, the toothless sweetheart that reminded me of my grandma."
We're glad to be home, even if it meant coming back to classes and snow, but part of our hearts remain in Juarez with Jesus and Lidia, Saul and Veronica, Pedro and Carol, and Maria and her children. We pray for them daily - that their houses will remain standing (it was a bunch of inexperienced builders after all!), that they would thoroughly enjoy their new home and that they will be able to use it to be a blessing to the others in their neighborhoods and churches.
Thank you to everyone who financially supported us on the trip, who prayed for us along the way, who read our blog and shared it online (we more than doubled our readers from last year!), who texted us encouragement and who cheered when we got home. We couldn't have done this trip without you! You are a blessing to us and to all of those in Juarez who have a brand new house. We love you!
We'll return next year to bring more hope, more houses and more Jesus to a city that so many have forgotten. We have not forgotten Juarez.