Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Taking Your Story Home

Sometimes teams return home to share their stories. When they do, they help carry their experiences into the homes and lives of countless others. Simply, they continue to change lives. This article was originally published by the Killeen Daily Herald in Texas.

Are you using your story to change lives?  How?  We want to help you spread the word! Comment below and give us the link to your own stories!

Herald/Catrina Rawson - A photo of Patricia and Juan Carrillo and their family hangs on a bulletin board showing
where volunteers from Immanuel Lutheran Church volunteered their time to build them a small house in Mexico. -
When describing the experience of building a home under the hot Mexican sun, all Immanuel Lutheran volunteers sum it up with one simple statement: "It's life-changing."
"It changes your life because you appreciate absolutely everything that we have and that we had the blessing of being born on this side of the line," said Carol Berridge, a volunteer from the downtown Killeen church.
Each year during Spring Break, a group of about 10 volunteers travels to Mexico and builds a home for a family in need through the short-term mission trip organization, Casas por Cristo (Homes because of Christ).
The families must purchase the land for the two-room, 221-square-foot home, with electricity, but no running water. A board of pastors in Mexico selects the recipients and many wait up to two or three years - often living in their car during the interim.
"We come onto sand," said Cynthia Sparks, who organizes each trip. "There's no foundation, no nothing, and by the time we leave, there's a house."
Each week of home-building ends with a dedication ceremony, where the volunteers hand over the keys to the new homeowners.
"That's what gets everyone," Sparks said.
Volunteer Lee Binkley said the ceremony is his favorite part of the week.
"It's inevitable that they always cry, because they may have never had a door with a key. They've never had a house with windows," Binkley said.
But the volunteers don't take the credit for the new home, just as the name indicates.
"It's not from us," Berridge said. "It's from Christ."
Sparks first went on a Casas por Cristo trip in 2004 with a church in Bartlett.
"I said I had to go again," she said, and has now helped build seven homes in the towns of Juarez and Acuna.
She eventually got Immanuel involved, and the church is currently raising money for its fifth trip, scheduled for spring break 2012.
Each trip costs about $7,000 for everything - including all meals, which they bring with them - and for the past three years, they've raised enough funds to cover it. Of that amount, $4,700 goes to the cost of the house.
The group held its first fundraiser in May - a garage sale at the Lampasas home of volunteers George and Judy Morley, where they raised $1,450.
"We get a lot of donations from the church members so that really helps us out," Judy Morley said, adding they have plans for another sale in the fall.
Sparks said many people ask them why they go to Mexico. Why not help American families? She said it's because they are able to make such a big difference, with such a small amount of resources.
"You just can't do something like this is the U.S. for $7,000," Sparks said.
"It's a small amount of money to do a great deed for people that have very little," Judy Morley said.
Now, the church is working to spread the mission trip into other church communities by inviting other churches' members along to learn the ropes.
On the last trip, volunteers from Leander joined them, and are planning a separate trip now.
"Then we double the build," Sparks said.
For more information on Casas por Cristo, go to www.casasporcristo.org.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Opportunities to SERVE

Has it been a while since your last Casas por Cristo trip? Were some of your best memories made giving a home to a family in need? Then we have good news for you! 

We just added a new date for Team Casas Guatemala! Ring in the New Year with fireworks, perfect weather and changing a family's life forever. Reserve your spot right now. The trip is December 30th through January 5th. 

Want to come build but can't make it that week? We have nine trips to choose from right now and will be adding more soon. Stop putting it off and come with us. You will not regret it!  Register Now 

**We also have a special build with a group that needs a few extra hands. Contact us now if you are interested in joining up October 15th through the 18th 2012 to help a family receive a home.**

Mark your calendars for 2012 & 2013 trips!

2012 Team Casas Trips
August 31st - September 3rd | Acuña, México 
October 5th - 8th | Juárez, México 
December 27th - 30th | Acuña, México
December 30th - January 5th | San Raimundo, Guatemala
2013 Team Casas Trips
February 15th-18th | Juárez, México 
June 10th - 14th | Juárez, México 
June 23rd - 29th | San Raimundo, Guatemala 
June 30th - July 6th | San Raimundo, Guatemala 
August 30th - September 2nd | Acuña, México

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Simplicity and Love

A few pictures are worth a thousand words...
You never know what a huge difference your smallest effort can make.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

One House at a Time

We love sharing what our teams are doing to prepare to build a home for a family in need.  
Even more, we love that this team took our promo video and made it their own.  
This story is not just one of ours, it is all of ours...

What are you doing to raise funds and awareness for your upcoming or past builds??

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer of Change

A blog from summer intern Jess Hehrer

The beginning of the third day...
Our third intern build was a success. We managed to build a single home with only five interns on site. We definitely cannot take all the credit though. We had some incredible help from Josh Crabbs and Brandon Culp on the second and third day.  The pastors in the area also came out to help us sporadically throughout the week. We definitely wouldn't have finished as quickly as we did without their help.

The first day just about killed us. We had to lower the right side of our house three inches, and raise the left side over a foot. Three of us were there to work on the slab. Three people trying to shovel packed stone. Oh my! 

David broke the pick ax, I broke the mallet, and everyone's sanity broke. For some of it, I was bent over using the claw end of a hammer - trying to loosen up the dirt so we could shovel it out. My back was completely cashed, and I spent the rest of the week regretting the hammer idea. The only thing we got done on Monday was the slab. We were all so exhausted. We went back to the church and passed out. At the end of the day, I couldn't even make guacamole because I was so weak. 

Luckily, the Lord provided us the strength and the motivation to push through and finish the house by Thursday morning. What a blessing it is to be able to provide a home for someone. To have the honor of being used by God, and being that person. The person who is right in the middle of providing a miracle. I tell you...if you have never experienced a miracle as tangible as building a home for a family who has nothing...you are missing out. It changes you. It breaks you. It builds you up, and prepares your heart to overflow with compassion. I would recommend anyone to come to El Paso, TX and build with Casas. Or Del Rio, TX or Guatemala. Just do it. :)

I remember hearing at the beginning of the summer, that by the end of our internship we will be frustrated with each other and ready to go home. I kind of understand what they were getting at with that. Everyone is tired, everyone misses home, and everyone is developing their own style for building homes. The more confident we become, the more personalized our styles are becoming. Instead of building a "Justin home," some of us are building Jason Roth style homes, or Mikell West style homes. We are taking the skills that the staff has taught us over the summer, and customizing them to fit our own personalities. At the end of the week all the houses look the same, but the way we get there is starting to vary. It takes a lot of patience and discipline to work together as a single group with everyone wanting to lead the build their own way. I think we managed it well, and I think that as an intern group we get along super well on the work site. 

I am blessed to work with people who are patient, kind, hardworking, and diligent. I spent most of the week in a terrible mood and it was evident by my actions and attitude. Instead of being "thrown off the island," I got an encouraging letter that broke me of my selfish self-pity. Nothing could have impacted me more than a single note did. I love the people I work with...and even though I am ready to get home and see my family and friends...my life will never be the same without the people who spent a summer building with me and helping me grow into a better person. I can't begin to express the impact they've had on me. I love them.

In Christ,

Thursday, August 2, 2012


It all began about a year ago for our family when we went to Juárez, México and built a home for a family in need. My daughter Maylee immediately became friends with a sweet girl named Stephanie (Fani) that lived next door. They played all week without even speaking the same language.  We were building Fani’s aunt a home and she was there every day watching as we worked. Everyone in the family was believers in Jesus Christ and you could see the joy in their hearts despite the circumstances in which they were living.

This was in September, so mornings were cold but the days were warm. On the last morning of the build, we circled up to pray and of course, Fani and Maylee were holding hands. Maylee looked up at me and asked why Fani’s hands were so cold. I told her it was because she lived in a cardboard home and they weren't able to keep warm at night. This is when my heart fell to pieces. My little 6 year old pulled on my arm and with tears running down her face, begged me to come back and build her friend Fani a home.

The problem is that Casas Por Cristo isn't accepting new applications for homes in this area because the need is so great but the builders are few. Because of the violence in Juárez, many American churches have stopped going to serve. I couldn’t share that with Maylee so I just looked at her and told her that we needed to pray that God would provide a home for Fani.

Maylee saw a scrap piece of sheetrock that someone on the team had carved a cross into and she asked if we could take it home. On the day that we dedicated the home, Maylee asked for the whole Mexican family to sign her piece of sheetrock. We got home from the build and my husband framed Maylee’s sheetrock art and we hung it by her bed. Every night this sweet girl has prayed for Fani and her family to receive a home.

I just got home from another build in June. Every time I go on a build, I go by and visit with Fani’s whole family. But this time I saw something different. On their front door was something that represented Hope! It was the plaque that Casas puts up to show that they have been accepted to receive a home. Now, knowing that this was completely impossible without God's help, my heart burst into joy. I ran out of the truck crying and picked Fani up with excitement. It was an answer to our family’s prayers. Just because they have a plaque doesn’t mean that they will receive a home right away. The waiting list has typically been 3 years. But we serve an awesome God and I love seeing Him work. God has been working out the details and we are going to be building Fani a home THIS September! This is only one year from when we first met this sweet family.

God has brought a team together very quickly and we will be building the week of Sept. 9-14. We are asking for your prayers as we follow God to build for this family. We are so honored to get to serve God in this amazing way!

David, Michelle and Maylee Godzisz