My first Casas build was in November of 1995 when I was five years old. My parents were friends with Mary and Wesley Bell, who started Casas por Cristo, and we built with a group from our church at the time. I have done a weekend build in Juárez annually ever since, only missing one year due to a surgery. This makes the build this month my 25th house built with the organization. My parents lead our team, Faith Foundations, which now consists of friends and family of all ages.
Building with Casas was a family event we did each year while I was growing up, and I soon fell in love with the trip. When I was I kid, I looked forward to riding in the Casas bus, collecting bottle caps with my older brother and the other kids on the trip, hammering blackboard, chicken wire, stuccoing, and going on the roof. I loved going to a local store to buy sodas and tortillas and playing soccer or football with local kids. As a young kid, it was difficult to truly understand the level of poverty we were walking into each year, but I am so grateful that I was exposed to serving the Juárez community at such a young age. I was always excited to be able to give the family the keys to their house or the Bible at the dedication. I knew that what we were a part of was having an impact and that it was something I wanted to keep doing. During my teen and college years, I brought friends along with me, learned to take more lead on elements of the build, and continued to look forward to the trip each year.
In 2011, I moved from Arizona to Oregon, and in 2013, my husband (then fiancé), Brad, came with me on his first trip with Casas. He is an electrician, so my dad was so excited that he didn’t have to wire the house anymore! Brad has since partnered with me to make sure we continue to travel down for the trip each year and has a heart for the organization as much as I do. We started inviting friends and co-workers from the Portland area in 2014 and continue to bring more and more people each year. Building a house for a family in need is something that people from all backgrounds and religions can get behind, and we have seen how our friends with all different beliefs will come back year after year to serve without hesitation.
In 2018, our son Samuel was born. He was seven months old on his first Casas for Cristo build and 19 months on his second. I’m so grateful that my parents raised me building these houses, and my husband I and plan to pass this legacy onto our children. Not only that, we hope to continue to build up our own team from Oregon that will build annually.
I think back to my favorite memories of Casas for Cristo builds as a child, and not much has changed. I still look forward to all the same things (except chicken wire), and now as an adult, I realize what a privilege it is to be a continual part of the Casas por Cristo legacy and to serve the truly wonderful families of Juárez.