On Thanksgiving Day, the girls and I met this family and once again God moved in our hearts.
When we arrived, there were literally kids everywhere. They had one older boy sitting on a crate with a very old bicycle turned upside down in front him trying to fix it. There were a few little ones playing with some old toy cars and trucks on a dirt mound on the side of the house. Soon other kids and several ladies came filing out of the house to greet us. They quickly began pulling out crates for us to sit on and even covered them with some of their clean clothes so that we would be more comfortable and wouldn't get dirty. They didn't stop until we all had a place to sit under their makeshift porch (a torn tarp extending out from the doorway).
After we sat down and began to chat, another lady came to the doorway with a newborn baby. The baby was a month old. The same age as my newest niece whom the girls and I were missing so much! As I tried to count up all the people that seemed to live here, more arrived. Some were curious neighbors, some were more family members that lived up the hill. The missionary explained that although not all lived here with the mother-in-law that they pretty much all "stayed" here during the day which meant that they probably had their meals here which is why we had brought two dispensa (food) bags to this home.
The mother-in-law peeled onions for a local grocery store and one of her sons that lived there was a butcher in town. Neither job was full time. Both were "as needed." The two jobs together was not near enough to support these families. Jobs in General Cepeda are very hard to come by. I later learned that some of the sons had gone to live in Saltillo (closest big city) for awhile in order to find work, leaving the women and children here because it's more expensive to live in the city. On top of barely having enough to feed their children, these women also did not have their husbands here with them.
I remembered back to when Travis had to work away from home for only a week at a time. I remember how difficult it was for me and for the kids. I remember how lonesome we were for each other's company even though we spoke on the phone every night. I remember how tough it was to be a "single" mom every other week. I remember packing up our three babies and going to my mom's or grandma's house daily, not only for a little help, but for a little bit of adult conversation.
As we sat visiting outside under the torn tarp, I began to notice that there was clothing hanging out of the exterior walls. I got up, pretending to go see the goats with the girls, to get a better look around. This is what I saw on the side of the house.
The family had used scraps of tin they found to patch up this side wall. The clothing that I originally saw hanging out of the house had been stuffed in the cracks to keep the cold out. My heart ached even more for these women and children. The mother-in-law allowed me to go inside and take a look around. The ceiling had a large black tarp on it to keep the rain out because the roof leaked. General Cepeda is in a desert area, so they don't get much rain which is good thing in this case. But when it does rain, the water drips off the edges of the tarp down the adobe walls. The inside walls were damaged also.
Back outside, I felt God tugging on my heart. I knew that I was being called to do something. I knew that He had sent me here for a purpose. But what? What could I do? I felt like I needed to take pictures to show Travis. Would I offend them if I started taking pictures of their poor living conditions? So, I sat and just prayed. We were about to leave when I just blurted out to the missionary translator, "I want to help these people. Ask them if I can take pictures of their home?"
I'm not sure what all was said back and forth between the missionary and the mother-in-law, but eventually I was told that I could take pictures. We walked around the house and found yet another crumbling adobe wall and an unfinished addition.
We returned to the mission house for our Thanksgiving Feast, but I could not get this family off my mind. Travis and I talked about it and were in agreement that we must do something, but what? We talked to our missionary friend that had been the translator that day. We asked if she could bring us back to the house, so that Travis could look at it. She decided that we should also take one of Family Missions Company's Mexican missionaries (and local "carpenter") back with us the next day to see what exactly could be done. He knew this family well and was happy to help us figure out where to begin.
When we returned to the house, Travis was able to explain to me what he had learned from his two roofing projects and pointed out the inadequacies of the current roof. He also noticed that this house didn't have a floor either. I was too busy looking at the "tarped" ceiling and the crumbling walls that I hadn't noticed the bare dirt floors.
As we walked back to our car, he also noticed that there were a large number of extension cords strung together coming from the house, crossing the rocky, dirt "road," and heading up the hill into a neighboring house. The electricity that they did have came from a neighbor---a neighbor who probably could barely afford to take care of their own needs. Yes, the poor are the most generous of all.
We left there knowing exactly why God had called us back to Mexico, why Travis & the boys had been on roofing projects during both trips, why the girls and I had been on this home visit team. He was calling us to greater humility. Over the past two years, we had changed our life dramatically. We had simplified our life to the point of being ridiculed by friends and family. We had curbed our spending on luxuries drastically. We had begun to support more "causes" out of our need and not our excess. We had grown in our faith so much with each "sacrifice." And were happy to be where we were and not where we used to be. Yet, He wanted to show us that we still had a long way to go!
We found that total cost of repairs (replacing the existing roof, repairing the crumbling walls, adding cement to the exterior walls, and giving them a cement floor) would be around $1500-1800. Not as doable as the doors and windows, but still very doable. We just had to figure out how raise the money and how to get it back to this family. Since being home, we have prayed about it and have discussed it with FMC, and have figure out both.
We decided to make this "The Ultimate Christmas Gift" named after one of our favorite movies The Ultimate Gift. Instead of wasting so much money, which we all do no matter how hard we try not to, this Christmas we are not giving our kids or our extended families (& friends) gifts that they don't need, want, like, or will be tossed out at the next garage sale.
Instead, we are going to give this family something needed, something that will last, something that will be whole-heartedly appreciated, something that will change their lives---a roof, solid walls, and a floor because we found that the ULTIMATE GIFT IS GIVING to those who truly need the gift.
If you'd like to help us in giving the Ultimate Christmas Gift, there are several ways:
- Contact me or Travis privately.
- Buy baked goods from "Emily's Bakery."
- Send a check directly to:
Family Missions Company
12624 Everglade Rd
Abbeville, LA 70510
Please put "Seilhan Project" in the memo.
- Go to Family Mission Company's website and donate online using your debit or credit card. Please put "Seilhan Project" in the comment field at the bottom.
If you don't feel called to help with our project, we challenge you to find another "Christmas Project." There are thousands of great causes that you can get involved in and millions of other families that are truly in need. But most importantly involve your kids! Have them "give up" a gift in order to help someone in need.
Mexico Christmas Project Update