Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beautiful Things

Have you met Jess Hehrer?  She is one of our summer interns. All of our interns are sharing their stories from the summer on our Casas Intern Blog. Keep up with them over the next two months as they follow God into the "strange places" that He leads!

June 15th:

After this week:
  • My lips are so chapped I can't feel them
  • I have blisters on both heels
  • I smashed my knuckle with a hammer, causing bleeding and massive swelling
  • My hands hands are so dry I can't fully open them without help
  • I learned that you can get a blister within a blister
  • I have at least three blisters on the palms of both hands
  • My ankle got owned by a 2x4
  • I got used to being dehydrated and hungry
  • My hands are in so much pain, I can barely wash my hair
  • My tank top had salt lines on it from sweating so much
  • I have the black lung from inhaling so much insulation and drywall dust.

But none of that compares to the emotional and mental challenges I faced this past week. This week was a pretty big deal for all of the interns. It was our first build without any staff members. No one was there to keep us on track, and there was no one there to fix any of the mistakes or challenges that would occur. Except the interns. [dundunduuun] We were "fortunate" enough to have a double as our first build. The seven of us put over fifty hours in to that house so that it could be finished and dedicated by Friday afternoon. To give you some perspective - they generally recommend that a group has around twenty people if they plan on building a double. Oh. my. gosh. 

I am fairly certain that everything that could have gone wrong this week did go wrong. I could go on and tell you every detail...but seriously. There were a lot of things that we had to overcome, and it would take way to long to tell you about everything. In summary, our site was very small, and very uneven. We had to shorten the house, and use all of our stucco sand to level our the foundation. Our windows were too big for the wall, and we also had to move our materials twice a day until we used them.
Our super small work site. I am on the slab working with others
 trying to finish the cement before it dried.

 It was absolutely incredible to watch our team handle the problems. We had to think outside the box, maintain positive attitudes, and work incredibly long days. There were definitely times when frustrations were pretty high, but at the end of the week we were still friends. That in itself is pretty dang awesome.

We put over fifty hours in to a home. Our blood, tears, sweat, and love went into that house, and we received no personal gain at all. The family didn't seem to appreciate the house as much as we would have expected, and we almost ran in to the weekend. We had to deal with hunger, sunburn, dehydration, exhaustion, and injuries. A lot of us had our own personal battles to deal with too. Problems back home, uncertainties about the future, or just working through the changes that God is doing on our hearts.

We paid for this internship. We paid to be uncomfortable. In fact, some of us are still paying for this internship, and Casas is still raising money for us to build houses. The longer I am here, the more I realize that it isn't about money, materials, or houses. It's about relationships. Even though we didn't make a connection with the family we were building for, we connected with the community and a family right next door.

All week we were blessed with little hands and feet running all over the place. The kids in the neighborhood helped us clean up at the end of the day, and they entertained us endlessly. My little guy Moses, would explain to his friends that I didn't speak Spanish [No habla espanol] and that I only spoke English. The other kids would stare at me and slowly nod their heads. Haha. I have never felt so incompetent.

Moses is in the middle. I really hope I see that kid again this summer.
The boy on the right is Leslie's brother.

On our last day a lady came over and asked if I spoke Spanish. After explaining yet again that I don't know Spanish, I went to go get David to see if he could help her. She wanted us to come over when we were done to pray for her daughter who was 'special'. 

When we were finally done with the build and packed up the trailer we walked around until we found her. She took us into her home and led us to her daughter. Her home was beautiful. When I walked through the door I was greeted by a smooth concrete floor and stuccoed walls. Simple but clean. She and her husband had built it themselves piece by piece. The house was relatively small, and the living room was also the bedroom. Immediately to our right we saw her daughter. Her name is Leslie and she was wrapped in only a sheet and was laying on the bed in front of a fan. She smelled like stale urine and sweat, and her legs were so limp that I knew she wasn't able to walk. Her eyes wandered back and forth but never seemed to focus on any particular spot, and her fingers were constantly moving. I am pretty sure she had a silent seizure while I was in the room. She was smacking her lips and her eyes were fluttering in the back of her head. Not for very long...just a few seconds, but long enough for my heart to break. I would imagine that she was probably eight years old or so. We prayed for her, talked to her mom for a bit, then headed back to the States.

I went to watch a movie with the guys later that night. I cried all the way back...from Hawkins all the way to Rich Beam tears rolled down my face. I cried for the people of Juarez. I cried for Leslie. The very fact that she has a family who loves her enough to take care of her is a blessing. I cried because I knew I didn't understand, but I was filled with confidence in knowing that she has the love of Christ with her. I cried because of how faithful her family was in asking for prayer. No matter where I am in the United States, I will never be in the same spot as that family. We are so fortunate to have so many options for healthcare. I cried because that family is the most beautiful thing I have seen in Mexico so far. It broke my heart and renewed my Spirit.

The Lord is so much bigger than I ever imagined. I don't need that 'feel good high' or miraculous signs. His presence is made known every single day, and my reliance on Him grows deeper with every week.

In Christ,


"All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us.."

Beautiful Things - Gungor

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A New Mission

Guest post by Janette Roth:
Thoughts on changing roles from Casas por Cristo staff member to mother of two and her new role in ministry.

A little over a year ago, Jason and I became pregnant. I was excited thinking about taking our baby across the border into México and having him or her beside us as we led teams. I had hoped that Casas would let me continue to work there part time in the office, because I love working. I love being productive, seeing things get accomplished, and having something in my life that’s “mine." My work. My name attached to my title. I enjoyed being a partial bread-winner, and I liked feeling like I was contributing something to this home, financially. I didn’t necessarily love the actually process of building a home, but I LOVED building relationships with the teams and the families for whom we were building. That was the best part of all!

And then, at our 8-week appointment, a routine ultrasound surprised us when there was not one baby, but TWO! That changed everything. I knew immediately that I couldn’t work part-time with two babies who would require my attention and care. I couldn’t be on a worksite, helping with the build, with two babies strapped to me. That little ultrasound changed everything. At the time, Casas had to cut staff because of the decline in the number of houses we were building, and I reluctantly, with tears in my eyes, submitted my letter saying I would take a voluntary lay-off. I was just 13 weeks pregnant when I completed my last day in the office. I spent the majority of my pregnancy slightly bored with life as a homemaker. I still wanted my life to matter for God, for the Kingdom, and to be honest….for me.

The babies arrived late November, and the first two months were a whirlwind of exhaustion. I felt like I was in survival mode, and if I was able to take a shower and get 3 consecutive hours of sleep, then I felt accomplished for the day. But once the babies fell into a better routine, the reality of life as a mom really set in. I spent my time changing diapers….no longer changing lives across the border. I heard someone at church refer to me as “the twin’s mom”…and that’s when I realized I was losing my name and was becoming the adjective used to describe me. There were moments at home when the boys would smile, or cuddle with me, and all felt right with the world. But there were just as many moments when I would hear Jason speak of something happening at Casas, and my heart broke a little that I felt trapped in the walls of our home, caring for babies who we felt were still too young to take their first trip to México.

I’m sure there are moms who are reading this, silently chastising me for not just loving every single minute of being a mommy, but I would be lying if I said that every minute was glamorous and everything I had hoped it would be. Jason and I set out to make one baby. God decided to give us two, so although we were along for the ride, it’s not exactly what we envisioned when we said, “let’s try to have a baby.” Sometimes I get sad at everything I had to give up in order to care for these boys, while Jason gets to continue being “Jason” to people outside of this home. And the first time the staff got together for a “staff” photo, while I stayed to the side with the babies, I got tears in my eyes. It was like seeing part of a family that I wasn’t as close to anymore. I used to lead teams in México, and now I’m “Jason’s wife and the twin’s mom”…and someone whom I’m sure new people have a hard time imagining could once drywall a room as well as any guy and could stucco like a whiz.

BUT- in May, we finally felt our boys were old enough to venture to México. Their first “build” was on home 4,000. As we approached the worksite, our very white babies with the blue eyes drew the mother and grandmother of the family, and they stayed near those boys all day. They held them, played with them, and opened their old, pallet home to them for their naps. They looked for old toys for them to play with and used their blankets on the ground to protect them from the hot sand. While we hovered over those boys, we chatted. Without being distracted by the need to lead a team, I had uninterrupted time with the women in this family to talk about our children, our families, and later, Jesus. Being a mom is important in México, and with these two boys, I was in the “club." These women could now understand me better, and just having those boys present opened doors to conversations and relationships that had previously been difficult to crack. I feel like the ministry Jason and I can have is so much more enhanced now. And two babies? Well, people just seem to come out of the woodwork to see TWO babies! The attention they garner is just more of an opportunity for conversations to be had.

And on the flipside of that, my heart was melty as I saw my boys being passed from one family member to the next. My boys will be raised on a mission field with people who look different and speak differently than them. They will be raised with children from another culture. They will be raised seeing their daddy pouring himself into service and their mommy speaking another language as she interacts with the families. My children will not know a time when loving through actions and words is not a part of every day life. They will get to see the love of Christ played out in a very real way all the time. Service will be normal for them. I love that.
I think, ultimately, that being a mom is all about sacrifice. I can see now just how many things I’ve had to surrender in order to raise these babies that God has blessed us with. I don’t love that I’m slowly losing my “name” or that a majority of my day is spent changing diapers. I may miss being able to go to work or feeling like I’m contributing financially to my family. But in the overall scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. If these are the things I need to sacrifice in order to raise two young men who will chose to love Jesus and use their lives as living testaments to Him, then anything I’m giving up now will be worth it. I have two mission fields now. One in México and one in our little house on Nashville Ave.

But if you see me, feel free to refer to me as Janette. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dear Interns...

This summer will make you stronger.
It will break you. It will push you beyond what you think you are capable of, and then some. But if you continue to endure; it will make you stronger. This summer will empty you until you have nothing left to give and replace it all with Christ.

There are college students around the world doing internships and summer jobs right now. They are camp counselors, lifeguards and baby sitters. But right now YOU are in Juárez, México and Acuña, México and San Raimundo, Guatemala building a home for a family that doesn't have a place to live. You are pouring the last of all that you have to give out to a family in need. You are becoming the hands and feet of Christ to a family and to one another.

Your summer will look completely different from everyone else you know. You may not have group led quiet times and devotions. Your worship may look like blisters and sweat. But every second that you give yourself away, you are being made stronger.

You have been chosen.
You have been chosen to be a part of something that no one else will ever understand.
Stay strong. Finish the race that's set before you. And know that every challenge, every mistake, every moment you want to quit, is the exact moment that you are being made stronger.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."  Hebrews 12:1-3

Jess, Debbie, Jessica, Zach, David, Andrew, Dave, Armando, David
You will never be the same

Monday, June 4, 2012

Home 4000

Home 4000 was never about a home. It was about 19 years of believing that our God was and is all that He says He is. It was about 19,000 people having homes that did not before. It was about hundreds of thousands of people seeing the glory of God. It was about you and about me and about none of us at all.

Scripture says that God cannot be unfaithful; He cannot deny who He is. (2Tim 2:13) He will use us if we are willing, but if not, even the rocks will cry out. God will be glorified in this city, the question is if we will choose to be a part of His plan. Are we are willing to step out on faith and follow a God that we proclaim is big enough for all that we will ever need?

The dedication of Home 4000 was an emotional one. It was filled with the tears and hope of all that we have been through, all that we have trusted Christ for, all that we have seen. God was glorified on May 18, 2012. He was glorified in a city that needs to be reminded that He is alive. He is not downtrodden, he is not afraid, His glory is begging to be shown. 

He is enough.

4000 was just the beginning. Will you join us for 4,000 more?

Check out the photo gallery from Home 4000!!