You’ve probably seen the real estate ads this time of year, enticing with their “home for the holidays” headlines. No doubt, there truly is something special about spending the holidays in our warm, comfortable homes surrounded by family.
But when we think of what “home for the holidays” means this year, it isn’t so much about our home or those we’ve built for neighbors. No, instead, we are thinking back to Thanksgiving week, and the incredible opportunity we had to work alongside other Lakeway folks to make “home” a reality for another family.
The trip was coordinated through Casas por Cristo, and organized by the Lakeway Church. The goal: to build a home for a family of four in less than four days – he, a pastor, and she, a hairdresser – in Acuña, Mexico, just across the border from Del Rio. Our group of 22 Lakeway volunteers must have looked like an unlikely construction crew when we arrived early the first morning, our team ranging from elementary-school age to retirees. But before lunch that day, we had a slab poured where earlier there was only a blank dirt canvas. By end of day one, walls were framed and placed in position and roof rafters readied. For the next two days, the job site resembled a bustling ant mound with small groups teamed up on the roof; others installing insulation, sheetrock and electrical inside, while yet others tackled the exterior wall board and stucco, set windows, painted trim, and even built a dog house out of scrap lumber.
This family is one of hundreds who have applied through the program, praying, hoping and waiting sometime years for their dream of a home to become a reality. When we gathered with the family on the last morning to dedicate the home, watch them nail their new address plate above the front door, and give them the keys, it was an emotional moment not soon forgotten.
Casas por Cristo began building homes along the U.S. / México border in 1993, first in Ciudad Juárez and later expanding to Ciudad Acuña, México; San Raymundo, Guatemala; and Santiago, Dominican Republic. More than 5,000 families now call a Casas-built project their home. At just 20 ft. x 17 ft., the home is about the size of the typical living room in our new Lakeway homes. But, the families served often are living in structures made of cardboard, wood pallets or other scrap materials. In addition, extended families often live together, making their small living area very crowded. The families served earn an average of $60 per week or less.
Casas por Cristo’s work is about a lot more than just building a house. It is about building community, showing love, serving others. The reality is, though, that we received as much – more – than we felt we gave.
Neale Donald Walsh famously said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” We couldn’t agree more. Our comfort zones were pushed that week, but the payoff was priceless. And when we wake up this Christmas morning, we’ll be thinking about a sweet family in Acuña who, at last, is home for the holidays.