Video Summary of Mexico Loft House Build, March 2023
On the weekend of March 10-12, a team of 5 of us went to Mexico in partnership with Hands of Mercy (HoM) as ambassadors of Jesus and representatives of StoneBridge Community Church to help build homes for needy families. StoneBridge had sent teams to Mexico in the past but this was a different experience in several important ways:
-Prior to this trip, the last team to go to Mexico went in March of 2020, literally days before the COVID-19 epidemic caused the entire world to go into quarantine, effectively halting all air and ground travel into and out of the US. International travel became virtually impossible for over a year. Even after travel restrictions were lifted, most people were reluctant to travel to less-developed countries where health-related precautions were less prevalent and the economic impact of the pandemic has led to possible increases in criminal activity.
The Global Missions Committee at StoneBridge had discussed whether it was prudent to resume global mission trips on multiple occasions and had repeatedly concluded it was not, until recently. StoneBridge’s first step back into the global mission field was hosting our first post-pandemic pre-build of a loft house in the church parking lot last Fall. When it was determined that a large enough team of volunteers to trailer the house to Mexico and assemble it could not be recruited, we opted to let HoM arrange for another church to take the trailered house and assemble it. And we continued to pray for wisdom and guidance.
Meanwhile, Pastor Jonathan continued discussions with HoM and it was agreeable that a smaller team from StoneBridge could join a larger team from another church to complete a build of one or more houses. After further discussions, the StoneBridge’s Global Missions approved sending a team under this arrangement. So, on the weekend of March 10-12, the StoneBridge team partnered with Southwest Church of Indian Wells and HoM to do our first post-pandemic build.
So, how did it go?
Apart from the usual heavy traffic on the LA County freeways, the drive down to the Yugo Ministries complex in Ensenada was timely and free from complications. For those who don’t know, Yugo Ministries is an American ministry based in Mexico that serves Ensenada in a multitude of ways, including but not limited to collaborating with HoM on their home-building projects. They also have a wonderful facility that can house multiple teams of volunteers coming from all over the world.
Travel from the border to Ensenada was uneventful. I did not anticipate seeing many Americans in Mexico but from the time we crossed the border until we arrived in Ensenada, I saw an equal if not greater number of cars on the road with California (and a few Arizona and Texas) license plates than cars with Mexican plates. We stopped for a brief visit of the Port of Ensenada and walked around for an hour and felt safe, not observing anything that gave us cause for alarm.
The drive from the port to the Yugo compound was also uneventful, except for encountering a multitude of potholes once we turned off Baja 1 for the final few miles. Yugo’s compound is bordered by tall walls with lockable gates to enter and exit the complex. The parking lot is a fenced-off space outside the main compound. Although the lot had a lockable gate, HoM advised us that it was not necessary to lock it, even with trucks loaded with tools and equipment in their open beds.
At Yugo we were introduced to the families whose houses we were building, treated to a wonderful soft-taco dinner and attended a worship service Friday night in the chapel. Before bedtime, the StoneBridge team engaged in a few friendly games of cornhole and some very competitive games of Foosball.
On Saturday morning we enjoyed a morning chapel service and a big breakfast before departing for the build sites. It had been raining on Friday night and the property where we were scheduled to build was at the top of a tall, steep hill which could only be accessed by an unpaved dirt road. Think sticky, thick, gooey mud. We watched from the foot of the hill as the truck pulling the trailered house attempted to climb the hill, only to repeatedly slide backwards as it approached the top. After 45 minutes, we concluded there was no practical way of getting the house to the build site. Our team leaders called the other two teams and found out they were facing similar conditions. It was looking like we might be returning to Yugo with the houses still on the trailers. Fortunately, God had other plans…
An hour later, we were told to get back in our vehicles and follow the lead van. We ended up at a property of another family, one who had been earmarked for a future build, in a semi-rural neighborhood on level ground. We parked and began unloading the trailer and got to work. Southwest’s team were almost all seasoned veterans (even their teenagers!) of previous builds, and seemed to know exactly what order to assemble the parts of the house. Pastor Jonathan, Jack Weed, Joey Lusche and I pitched in wherever we found opportunities, but Caterina Grasso found her way into the thick of the work with the Southwest folks. She may have done more work than us four guys combined! Fluent in Spanish, she also established great rapport with the family receiving the house and the local neighbors who joined the build. Not to be outdone, Joey volunteered to do the perilous job of installing and nailing down the aluminum ridge cap, some 15 feet up, on the peak of the roof. Way to go, Joey!
The afternoon ended with each member of the build team speaking words of blessing to the family receiving the home.
Dinner that evening was tasty Beef Milanesa with creamy mashed potatoes, gravy and salad, followed by an evening worship service. We rejoiced in how God had provided and how we got the privilege and opportunity not to just build a home, but to be part of God’s kingdom in Mexico.
And one additional blessing awaiting us. On most of our previous trips, it took several hours for our vans to pass through customs and cross the border back into California. The five of us made a “friendly bet” as to how much time our return crossing would take. Pastor Jonathan won when we passed through the border after a wait of only an hour and ten minutes!
In conclusion, do we consider this mission trip to be a success? I believe the whole team would agree that the answer is a resounding, “YES!!!” Here are some of the reasons why:
-Many people in our families and congregation have justifiable apprehension about traveling to less-developed countries considering what we have seen in the news and media. Based on what I observed and experienced this weekend, the safety issues in the parts of Mexico we were in were no different than on any of the previous trips we have done. Phil Cordova, President of HoM, says many churches have voiced similar concerns, but in the 20+ years HoM has been accompanying teams to Mexico, including the past three years, there has never been a safety-related incident. On the drive home, the five of us were already talking about how soon we could return for another build trip.
-Because of the size of our church, StoneBridge has been challenged in the past and present with finding church members with trucks that are capable of towing the heavily-loaded trailer without that responsibility falling on the same members every trip. By partnering with a larger church, HoM is able to draw on a larger pool of people who have such vehicles.
-Partnering with another church also means that StoneBridge is not limited by its ability to assemble a large enough team to assemble a house on our own. Certainly our hope is that we will send larger teams in the future, but that no longer has to be the “deal breaker” it once was.
-In addition to transporting the trailered house, many of the administrative matters associated with any of the Mexico house builds were handled by Southwest Church’s leadership team, for which we are grateful.
It’s my hope that by reading this, you are inspired to join this exciting ministry in the future!
Global Missions Elder Mike Wilcox
It has been a difficult beginning to the year. I have not lost hope that help will come for Haiti, but the truth is that Haiti is in a civil war. The challenge has become how to maintain ministry in the middle of chaos.
Last month, the last of Haiti’s elected officials left the country. It’s estimated there are more than 200 gangs now running the country. Where police stations once stood, gangs have taken over. It’s also estimated that more than fifty percent of Haitians are suffering from malnourishment. A reported 10,000 have been diagnosed with cholera, and this only represents those who have sought medical attention.
The last few weeks have been difficult for the ministry. We were forced to abandon two containers of food at the port. The containers would have guaranteed the compound two months of supply for our staff, children, and the community’s needs. Pastor Poyis has been resourceful to feed his people, but it has become extremely costly and difficult to obtain food.
You may have read our urgent prayer request just a couple of weeks ago. Pastor Marcelin and three of his church leaders had been abducted by a gang in Onaville. They’ve since been released and are safely home with their families. This is the reality of life in Haiti for pastors right now.
As I write to you, the children are celebrating the sixth anniversary of the Regency Home opening its doors to its first children. Pastor Poyis told me they happily made their celebration plans, and they don’t know what goes on outside their walls. They continue to grow and thrive.I am so thankful for the faithfulness of Pastor Poyis, Jimmy, CV, and their wives. I am thankful to the Lord for His hedge of protection around the compound and our Children’s Homes.
There's no fixing Haiti. Suffering is an inescapable part of life on earth, and denying that would be foolish. Jesus Himself said, “the poor you will have with you always.” But despite that reality, we take up the responsibility of acting generously and compassionately toward the needy—just like Christ did with us.
So I ask that you pray with us that our ministry will pursue radical faithfulness in the opportunities in front of us, and that God will use His church as a beacon of hope to those who need it most.
Thank you, friend, for your continued support and prayers.
Greetings from the Muzaales and the Dayspring Community.
We do appreciate all your prayers that you send to the Father on our behalf. We are thankful to God for His unending grace and protection upon our lives. Just as we were overcoming the effects of Covid 19 that saw us being locked down for about two years, again the eastern part of Uganda got hit with a severe famine in May, June and July. And as if that is not enough, Ebola has hit the Western part of our country and a few cases are being reported even in parts of Kampala, the capital.
In Jinja we have not had any cases so far and it is our prayers that it does not come to us. However, a directive from the ministry of education has been issued to the effect that all schools nationwide be closed in two weeks (by Nov 25th) to prevent outbreaks of ebola in school communities as have been found in the two districts under lockdown already. This cuts the term short by two weeks since the original official closing date was December 9th.
The funds from StoneBridge help much to cover for the pupils who are vulnerable or whose parents are underprivileged - this number totals about 50 pupils post covid. Thanks to StoneBridge Community Church for relentlessly stepping in times of need.