Church Group Builds Secure Homes in Mexico

Julia Sabey, Staff Writer

This past spring break, students made the annual trek to Tijuana, Mexico with Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church to build houses for impoverished families. In its 25th year, 235 high school students and adults volunteered to sit on a bus for the almost 15-hour drive to the Amor campgrounds just outside of Tijuana.

Amor Ministries is the organization that pairs churches like MVPC with churches in Tijuana. Every team of students and adults affiliated with MVPC built a home for a family belonging to the same church.

Students were divided into teams of about 14 people, with 1 or 2 students leaders and 2 adult coaches. Student leaders were required to be leaders at MVPC for the duration of the school year, then fill out an application to serve as a Mexico leader.  Team leaders were paired and chose a color to represent their team. They then were assigned about 12 high school students, at least one boy and girl from each grade to ensure diversity in the groups. Over the course of the week, teams bonded over the construction of the physical home and during lunchtime discussions.

“I’d say lunchtime discussions are what makes Mexico unique from just a house building trip,” said Maroon Team leader Ellen Gerst. Teams discussed tough life questions about faith and forgiveness during lunchtime on the work site.  Each day, leaders posed a question that every member then had the opportunity to answer. “Your team really grows closer and start to trust each other more than they may their school friends,” Gerst said.

Gerst added, “Being a leader this year was super cool because I got to have really good one-on-one conversations with people on my team after lunch.” Leaders were expected to create an environment that encouraged students to open up abut their feelings and trust that their team members would be supportive.

One of the most important aspects of the houses that organizations like Amor build is that the front door has a lock. This lock allows the families in Tijuana to confidently leave valuables in their homes and go to work. In many cases, one family member, usually the mother, has to stay home all day to guard the family’s “home” while the father goes to work and the children attend school. The houses MVPC builds enable the entire family to leave the home for work or school without worrying that they will be robbed during the day.

This year, one part of the trip was that one of MVPC’s teams built their house adjacent to the existing community church, giving the church room for a classroom. Because the Amor houses have doors that lock, the church can put computers and other valuable teaching tools into the classroom. The church was also grateful for the new roof, which did not leak despite the rain that poured down during the latter half of the week.

“They had already had an Amor house built there but it was built really poorly so it leaked. The mom said that all of the problems in Tijuana come from water, so we knew we needed to fix that,” said senior Sofa Settle, who co-led Red Team with senior Sydney Lowe. “So our team spent a whole day on the roof, sealed it, and used about 3 buckets of tar to make sure it was leak-proof. We covered our roof and the other roof. A few weeks later, the pastor messaged us and said ‘No water. All is good’ so that was really awesome to know that it didn’t leak and our hard work paid off.”