And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Mark 16:15
Once again the Bethel Baja Build Team – Las Humildes (The Humble Ones) had an enriching and successful build for a wonderful family of five. The six Bethel members: Laura Barmore, Kayla Folsom, Keith Folsom, Kenneth Olson, Robert Olson, and Kymberlee Schneider joined forces with 58 other members from the Shenandoah Presbytery, representing eleven congregations and built four houses for four Oaxacan Indian families. Each build team had 15 to 17 members and included a mix of youth and adults.
Living in shacks often built of tarpaper, plastic sheeting, and flattened cardboard boxes and nearly always with a dirt floor, the Oaxacans are exposed to the elements and bacteria in the soil, with no chance of keeping their shelters or themselves clean. The houses we construct, though not the traditional houses we know, are nonetheless very nice wooden structures measuring 20 X 22 feet built on a concrete slab. We have the ability to customize each house according to the family’s wants and needs.
This year our family needed three bedrooms with a kitchen and separate family room, all this in roughly 440 sq. feet! The beds and counters were built on site with an outside shower structure and outhouse provided. Each room was equipped with functional windows, screens, and electricity. A treat for Antonio, the father, was the lockable front door and screen. Marcelina, the mother, loved the pictures of her family as they typically have no photos of themselves and the rocker she can use to nurse young Saul. Before we dedicated the house we shopped for used furniture, household items, and groceries to make their home complete.
The build teams began late Monday morning and finished up late Friday morning. Because relationships are stressed as the most important part of the trip, a central focus of the work was to get to know the family members, interact with them, and show them the love of Jesus Christ.
There were several outreach opportunities during the week. One evening, team members piled into vans laden with boxes of clothes and health kits to hand out at a new work camp community and another evening we attended a local church service where through translation we learned how these people were finding Jesus in the midst of their struggles.
This was the fifteenth consecutive year that Shenandoah Presbytery has made a trip to Colonia Vicente Guerrero, approximately 200 miles south of San Diego, CA. To date, 724 people have now participated in the Baja Mission trips which began at Augusta Stone Presbyterian Church in 2000. The project has grown to include members of 37 Shenandoah Presbytery congregations representing all six Mission Communities. To date there have been 49 houses and two school houses built, an addition to another house, rehabilitation of a schoolhouse, re-roofing of at least two other houses, assisting with the construction of a church, and the installation of a water purification system. Several other miscellaneous projects have been completed at the mission base and in the colonias (communities) over the years. The Shenandoah Presbytery has now built houses in fourteen different colonias.
The Lord has blessed us with safe travels and changed the lives of many of our team members, as well as the Oaxacan indigenous people we serve. God truly is working his purpose out as strangers from multiple congregations come together in the name of the Lord to travel across lines drawn in the sand to minister to those who have so little in the way of basic shelter, personal needs, and material goods and in many cases, do not know the Lord. Out of the love and care of all who participate directly and those who provide generous donations, relationships have been forged, lives changed, homes built, and the love of Christ known. This year two special funds have been established to support ongoing programs: the Uniform Fund (helps children purchase uniforms so they can attend school) and the Emily Sterrett Memorial Fund to support larger facility needs at the mission base.
Yes, you are making a difference!
Mark your calendars for next year’s Baja trip July 19-25, 2015.