by Dirk Van Dyke
This past President’s Day weekend, for the 16th year in a row, Emmanuel Presbyterian Church sent a contingent to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), Mexico, to build a house for a family with housing needs. This year, we worked with the Duarte family of Puerto Penasco to build an Amor house.
For Emmanuel, the Amor Mission Trip is truly a church-wide event. Our participation is much more than the few people who go to Mexico. It’s everybody who contributes to the fundraising to buy the building materials. It’s the Crafters who make quilts and curtains to help make the building a home. It’s everybody who makes cookies and foodstuffs for the trip.
This year’s construction contingent comprised 26 workers. EPC sent 18 people (including three children under the age of three), and for the first time, we had a canine participant. For the past few years, we’ve combined efforts with Palo Cristi church, but this year they were only able to send one member, although Palo Cristi did contribute significantly to the fundraising. In addition, seven friends of EPC joined the trip, and it was good to include this help from outside our congregation.
To determine who gets a house, the Amor organization works with local clergy in Mexico to identify people with real housing needs and then matches them with volunteer groups, like our group from Emmanuel, willing to build a house.
Amor has a few models for this mission effort. In our case, we raise the money for the construction material (e.g., lumber, stucco, cement, roofing, nails, etc.). We send the money to Amor, and they purchase the material in Puerto Penasco and deliver it to the build site. This helps the local economy and saves us from the border issues of importing building materials.
This year, we built a home for the the Duartes. The extended family (three generations, seven people) was living in a two-room Amor house. On a sad note, the patriarch, Julio Duarte, died just ten days before we arrived to build the house. Julio’s widow Thomasina, son Enoc, with wife Celia, and their three children Abdias (age ten), Genesis (age four), and Mimi (age two) would live in the Amor houses. We built the new house adjacent to the old one, so that they could connect the new house to the old. Enoc explained that they planned to use the two rooms in the old house as a kitchen and living room, with the new two-room house for bedrooms.
It should be mentioned that Enoc is a pastor, and the small church building is right next door to the Amor houses.
In spite of the mourning, the family was very gracious, and they were eager to help with the build, as well as providing excellent fish tacos and burritos for lunches. Some members of the congregation also stopped by to help with the construction and lunch preparation. It’s a great way to get to know people working and eating together – and we felt like brothers and sisters in Christ, even with the communication barriers.
A few observations from the trip. It seems that there is an overall slight improvement in the general standard of living in Puerto Penasco. It’s a big city, but it’s nice to think that the 16 houses we’ve built and the much larger Amor effort have made a difference – beyond the obvious difference for the 16 families living in solid, secure housing.
The trip is more than the construction work. After a hard day’s work, we’d enjoy watching the sun set over the Sea of Cortez. The breeze off the water smells so nice, coming as it does over the sea, the narrow strip of Baja, and beyond that, the wide Pacific. Puerto Penasco is a beautiful location.
There is much less light-pollution in Puerto Penasco, and we enjoyed vivid stargazing. Low tide came at night while we were there, and we learned that Puerto Penasco has one of the biggest deltas between high and low tide. It was fun to walk over the reefs, which were underwater at high tide, to get to the water’s edge.
Thanks to everybody who helped the Duartes get their new house, and God willing, we hope to build a 17th home next year.