Casas por Cristo (Houses because of Christ) is a mission organization, founded in 1993, that builds homes for families in need in México, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. In four days, volunteer teams transform an empty lot into a complete home. Families served receive a renewed trust in God’s love and faithfulness as volunteers are awakened to the realities of poverty and the importance of humanitarianism and service in the name of Christ.
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I built Crispin's home last summer with the Christ Community Church of Milpitas youth group. I knew he was going to be profoundly affected by his home and his experience with the group even though I did not know his whole story until now. The other day, when I went to visit, I did not have anyone else with me, so I think he felt comfortable sharing his story, even though it was painful. We were both crying by the end.
Crispin grew up in a very poor family. He told me stories of sharing one egg between five siblings because they did not have enough money to eat. He and his wife were married at eighteen and fifteen, respectively, and now have four children of their own. When they were first married, they stayed with Crispin's parents because they had a roof over their heads there. That was fine for a few years, until he began to have trouble with his family, and they kicked him and his kids out of the house.
Crispin said that was the lowest point of his life. He had three kids, and no place to call home. He could barely provide food for them, and they would often eat every other day, because that is all they could afford. He had a few sheets of tin that they slept under, but they had to keep selling the tin, sheet by sheet, to have money to eat. Eventually, Crispin found himself with only a few sheets of tin left and nothing else for his family. He was at rock bottom, and could not find a way out. Someone offered him $30,000 quetzales for his oldest son, Edwin. It was unbearable for Crispin to think about selling his son to human trafficking, but he could not think of another way to provide for his family and keep them alive. He almost went through with the deal, and even met with the guy who was to buy his son in Quetzal City, but something told him to go home and be patient.
When he got home, one of the local pastors sought him out . He told Crispin that God wanted to bless him, and that he needed to have patience. Crispin was confused by that statement, but the following week, he was approached by Pastor Gregorio, another local pastor. Gregorio told him that he needed to prepare because he was going to receive a house.
Crispin told me that he could not believe it when he heard, and he did not believe it until the materials were dropped off at the site. His wife and kids were ecstatic, and he was filled with joy, because he knew that this was the blessing from God that the pastor was talking about.
At the site a year ago, Crispin told me that "he could have never imagined" such a blessing in his life. He sobbed when he saw that the group bought two beds for his family to sleep in, because they had all been sleeping on the floor. He also loved working with the team. Crispin helped build the entire roof of his house. His was one of the most touching dedications I have ever witnessed.
Crispin talks about how he loves the group that came to build for him and that he prays every day that God would take care of them and walk with them wherever they might go. He knows that they were the hands and feet of God and the medium that God used to provide for his family and save his son Edwin's life.
It is always interesting to think about how a family's life is changed by the physical gift of a roof over their heads, but it is even more incredible to see how God uses us in ways we could never have even imagined. All we did was answer His call to build that house that week. But God used our work to accomplish so much more, and we were all blessed.
Story by Christie Ritter, Summer Intern
Christie is finishing her master's degree in Civil/Environmental Engineering at the University of Colorado. She just completed her third summer internship with Casas por Cristo.
"I love how Casas gives me a way to serve God and his people around the world in a tangible way." - Christie Ritter
Meet Ryan and Leanne de la Peña and their seven kiddos. Ryan is currently one of our Team Coordinators. He works hard to ensure our teams are organized and prepared for their trips. He joined staff back in 2003 as a resource coordinator. After a few years away, he decided to return in 2013.
Interview with Ryan
1. Tell a little bit about yourself and where you're from.
I was first introduced to Casas por Cristo in 2001 when I came on a trip with my home church from Colorado Springs to build a home for a family in Juárez, México. My wife and I have seven beautiful children, Aurora (11), Ethan (10), Silas (8), Eli (7), Landon (5), Elliana (3), and Israel (2). My current responsibilities include building with teams in our four locations, Juárez and Acuña, México, San Raimundo, Guatemala, Santiago, Dominican Republic, and scheduling trips as Team Coordinator. Leanne stays busy caring for our growing family and homeschooling our children. We are excited and thankful for the opportunity to use our lives to serve God in México, Guatemala, and the Dominican.
2. What made you choose to serve at Casas por Cristo?
After experiencing firsthand the poverty of México and seeing the need for the Gospel, I followed God's call on my life by becoming an intern. After completing 3 internships, I felt God leading me to come on staff full time in 2003.
3. How have you seen God through your ministry at Casas por Cristo?
I have seen God in several ways. I have seen Him through the growth and strength of the local church as a result of our Casas Teams and through the impact on the families who have received homes.
4. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
With a large family it has been difficult to raise enough support to sustain us. Without a strong support base it is difficult to maintain a household. Regardless, I trust God to provide for us, and my family and I will continue to serve him despite our circumstances.
Pray for our family as we continue to try and raise support.
Pray that we would raise our children in the fear and admonition of God.
Pray for our ministry here at Casas and for the work I do with our teams and families.
After Casas por Cristo's humble beginnings in 1993, the small group of employees operated out of a home on Tularosa Street in El Paso, Texas, then a store front on Piedras Street, and later a home on Gold Street.
After hopping around from place to place, in 2006, Casas por Cristo purchased a parcel of land at 7201 North Loop Drive and made it the permanent home for our headquarters. Since then, we have converted old existing adobe homes into office and warehouse space. After ten years here, our old adobe office buildings have begun to deteriorate, and our ministry's growth and expansion have left us bursting at the seams.
Existing offices at 7201 North Loop Drive
Therefore, we are excited to announce our plans to construct new office and warehouse spaces and sell a portion of our land to help fund the proposed projects.
We need volunteers to donate their services to help us complete these projects in a fiscally responsible manner. Please contact us if you would like to offer your skills pro bono to help us continue to reach families with the love of Christ through the building of quality homes.
Meet Pastor Jose (Joe) Borntreger (pictured to the right). He has been an active member on our Pastors Committee since 1997. He is originally from the US, but has been serving the people of Juárez for many years.
Jose and his wife have helped start five churches in Ciudad Juárez over the last thirty years. Since 1997, Pastor Jose has been sponsoring families to receive homes through Casas por Cristo. In his years of service, he has helped provide quality housing and share the Gospel with 168 families. He is in a unique situation as one of our local pastors because he is fluent in both Spanish and English. Therefore, he is able to share about Christ with both the families he sponsors and the volunteer teams that come to build homes.
Pastor Jose recently sponsored the two families pictured above to receive homes through CpC. Both of their homes were built by a group of youth and adults from Parkview Christian Church in Mt. Carmel, Illinois. At the home dedications, Pastor Jose shared with each family that the homes were not just a physical blessing, but they were also to serve as a reminder of God's love and provision for his children. These homes were to represent hope and grace to the entire community. Pastor Jose then shared with the team that he appreciated their sacrifice, time, and energy to help him in his ministry. He said he feels the volunteer teams really come to help him and his church. While the homes were being built that week, Pastor Jose was busy visiting the work sites and overseeing the addition of a second story to his church's building. As a result of Pastor Jose's partnership with CpC, their church is now bursting at the seems and needs more space to keep up with the steady growth!
At one home dedication, Josefina Valdez (pictured above), the matriarch of the family, broke down in tears as she tried to convey how much the home meant to her and her family. She has been praying for God's provision for her family for a long time. You see, this has been an incredibly difficult year for Josefina, her four children, and her seven grandchildren, who have all been living together in a tiny shack made of pallets and cardboard. Earlier this year, Josefina lost a four month old granddaughter to an illness. She said this new home represents hope for the future for her family. She thanked God for sending a group of strangers from another country to provide for her.