Sunday, March 2, 2014

Building Houses...and Hope

They shall build houses and live in them…
They shall not build and others live there.
Isaiah 65:21–22

Isaiah was only partially correct. In the ideal world, the houses that are built will not necessarily be lived in by the constructors. But that can be a good—a great—thing.

Salvador contacted me on Friday. He is the comisario (“mayor”) of San Marcos. I knew that he hadn't wanted the job (which involves lots of responsibilities, but no salary). When the village assembly proposed his name in January, he said that he had no money; he requested that the village give him a year, so that he could go (illegally) into the United States and work for a while. Then he would return in time for next January’s election of “mayor.” The people said they needed him now.
Salvador (in green-and-white shirt) and other elected leaders from San Marcos
San Marcos is a very poor village, and families there lost lives and homes during the terrible rain storm and landslides in September 2013. Salvador and other village leaders have been requesting for months assistance from different levels of government so that at least ten houses can be built for families that lost their houses in September.
Alejandra preparing our chicken broth for lunch
That struggle for help has led nowhere. And the villagers are concerned that the next rainy season is drawing near (late May, early June). Enter Ligia and Arnulfo.
Ligia and Arnulfo, architects
Ligia and Arnulfo are professional architects and earn their living from their work in Mexico City. However, in their “free time,” they voluntarily visit impoverished areas in all of Mexico and offer their services (at no cost) to communities. They were hoping to visit San Marcos on Saturday, but the community had no way to get them from Tlapa to San Marcos and back. Enter Mission Mexico and its four-wheel-drive Nissan truck.
Part of the great road to San Marcos
Yesterday I drove Salvador and Ligia and Arnulfo to San Marcos (one hour on pavement; two hours on dirt road). It was interesting to note that on the two hours of dirt road to San Marcos, I didn't encounter a single vehicle, and on the two hours on the dirt road back from San Marcos, I didn't encounter a single vehicle. It wouldn't be the best place to break down.

Once we got to San Marcos, a village assembly was held, and Salvador explained to the people that if the community wanted to continue pressuring and waiting for a government response to the need for houses, that was fine. But if the community wanted to organize and work together to build ten houses in the next few months—before the rainy season beginning in June—Ligia and Arnulfo would gladly assist in the construction effort.
Village assembly in San Marcos
The people agreed to do the construction of the houses on their own. Ligia and Arnulfo will help with finding appropriate plots of land in the community, designing the simple houses, and arranging water and electricity connections. The people will do the hard work: making adobe (mud bricks)—about 1,200 for each house—cutting beams, chipping in for cement for flooring, etc.
Hopefully, Natalia and her family will have a house to live in soon
A lot of hard work has to be done in the next few months. There is always the possibility that things won’t work out as planned. But the first steps have been taken toward a new life for ten families in the village. The houses won’t bring back the loved ones lost in the landslides, but they will offer hope for a new future.
Part of the future in San Marcos
Salvador is proving his worth to the community. In February he invited a brigade of “volunteer” doctors to come to San Marcos (where there is no health clinic) to tend to the ill. The doctors did that, but they also discovered that almost all of the children in the village have lombrices (“worms”) in their intestinal tract. The local water looks clean, but it’s not safe to drink. That discovery of the lombrices has helped families become more conscious of the need to boil their drinking water.
Another part of the future
One of the best parts of the trip for me was getting to know Ligia and Arnulfo. What an incredible commitment by them—and by their families! Ligia has been doing this kind of solidarity work for decades, and she has no plans to quit. Arnulfo, like me, has a wife and two daughters at home. They, like my family for me, support him in his effort to help the impoverished of Mexico. At the same time, it was encouraging to them to know that Canadians, through Mission Mexico, are helping to make a difference in the lives of the poor here. Thank you, Mission Mexico.
Waiting for my Mexican Keurig to prepare my coffee in San Marcos
So, if the prophet Isaiah were here, I’d have to tell him that some people are building houses and other people are living in them. In this case, though, it isn't due to the “oppression of the destitute and the abuse of the needy” that the prophet Amos denounced (4:1). It’s due to the desire of the poor people of San Marcos to follow Jesus’ invitation: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

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