The pitted, furrowed road was not kind to the dusty white van. Our tired bodies jerked this way and that. We bounced along past piles of debris, slatted wood homes, and crumbling graffiti-riddled walls on each side of us.
Being our second day outside Mazatlan, Mexico, the scene outside our windows was a familiar one. Although, a picture I will never forget.
We halted to a stop next to a sagging tent, made of dirty blankets, that had never seen better days. “We’re building this house,” our pastor/tour guide said, except in Spanish. I squinted out the window at a rough concrete wall with a window and door cut out.
Outside the van, we slipped through a wood-paneled gate. Some panels pink and some purple and some simply natural and dirty. On the other side we were met with welcoming greetings and handshakes from the builders. The kindness and acceptance we had experienced the entire trip was astounding. We smiled and tromped up a dirt slope and into the new, yet unfinished house.
I took in the protruding rebar and the crunch of the unswept construction site floor under my feet as the pastor guided us through. A house with one large room, a “studio apartment” if you will. That of course, would be better than the tent next door. He showed us the working bathroom with plumbing in comparison to the outhouse with a shaggy towel for a door.
We “Ahhh”-ed at the baby chickens and little kitty cat as we rounded the corner into the “kitchen,” a fire pit and rickety table out in the open air.
It wasn’t until we entered the tent and met the family, that I realized the incredible importance of this tiny yet new, dry house with four walls and a roof.
We met the weather-worn mother who was holding a tiny baby in her arms. “They’re twins,” the pastor said, gesturing to the hammock hung through the middle of the room. I peaked inside. Another tiny, swaddled baby was sleeping. In my head I started to count the children. One, two, three, four, five, six. Oh, my goodness, six children.
I took in the contents of the space. An old chaise sofa that was half-covered in a pile of dirty clothes. On the empty part of the couch sat a little girl, who when she saw us, did her best to straighten her hair and dust off her clothes. Three other little boys leaned on the sofa and gazed at us.
Our translator asked the mom how she felt about the new house. She said she was very happy. I would be very happy, too, if I was her. Then the pastor said, “Too small for eleven people.” Eleven? That means there are nine children. Six in the tent and the rest outside.
There I stood in Mazatlan in the makeshift home of a family of… eleven. Those darling faces needing a cooler, dry place to live. And the pastor and his church were building them a home. The home will be complete with wood paneled sides and freshly painted in a bright color. It will be clean and more sanitary. They only need wait one more week before they can move in.
What a God-thing. His work, in the most visible, tangible way. Providing for children in need.
I know that this family will begin to rise up. They will have a better place to live, they have food to eat from the near by feeding center. When their basic needs are met, people can begin to dream and hope again.
These precious children will have a future.