Building Houses for Christ: VIM Trip to Mexico | By The Rev. Kathy Neary

From March 30 – April 6, six people from Orchards and Salmon Creek UMCs worked on building two small houses in the city of San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico. This ministry is the brainchild of Bob and Randa Ray, who are pastors in the Desert Southwest Conference. Bob, who is retired, formed a relationship with the Methodist churches in SLRC to help build small 400 square foot houses for young families who were attending the churches in the city. These young families live in rental houses for a year, and their rent is used to buy the land on which their house will be built. The materials and labor for the new house are provided by Volunteer in Mission teams. Each house costs approximately $5000 to build.

Our group chose to go to SLRC in the spring when it wouldn’t be too hot, and we were blessed with wonderful weather the entire time. We worked on two houses that had been started by other VIM groups that had come in the weeks before our trip. Our main task was to install dry wall at both houses, but we also helped with the electrical and plumbing installation. It is safe to say we all came away with new and improved construction skills! A team of six people was the perfect number as well: the houses are very small and not many more people can comfortably fit inside to do the work. In addition to Bob, Randa and our team, we received a lot of help from the families who were moving into the houses. At times we would have ten to twelve people inside the house at once! At one house the neighborhood children soon discovered we had brought snacks for ourselves, and they became fixtures at the site. Bob and Randa (an elder on leave of absence to do this work) were gracious hosts and not only showed us how to do all the work, but kept us well fed and entertained the whole time. Bob was a tireless worker, and most mornings when the group was just getting up for breakfast he would be out in his workshop building doors and door frames for the houses.

We stayed at one of the Methodist churches, Templo Ismaschias, and slept on the floors of the sanctuary and the Sunday school rooms. The pastor, Enrique Uranga and his wife, Layla, were so kind and generous with us. Layla cooked us dinner a number of times, and she definitely showed off her culinary skills. It was great to be able to worship at this church, which was filled with children and youth. The Urangas have three children of their own, Pablo, Layla Yael, and Max. Pablo is graduating from high school this month, and we are working on developing a scholarship program to cover his college expenses*. Layla Yael is interested in computers and science, and she will be graduating from high school in a year, so the Uranga family will be working hard to get both kids into college soon.

Before going on this trip a number of folks were questioning us about the wisdom of traveling to Mexico because of safety issues. What we found was that the people of SLRC are just like us: family-oriented, hard working folks who love the Lord and just want to give their children a chance at a better life. The poverty was extreme, and made starker by the fact that SLRC is just a fence away from the U.S. But at no time were we in danger. It was a gift to work alongside such wonderful neighbors, and we can’t wait to return!

Please contact Pastor Kathy Neary at if you would like to help.
Download the full issue of Channels 55, August 2012 here.

Download the full issue of Channels 55, August 2012 here.

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