Extreme Home Makeover: Mexico 2011

I think I'm finally ready to share about our trip to Mexico this past summer to build a home for this needy family...

... I've wanted to share MANY times already, but truth is, I'm still processing... 

... and I've not been sure how much to tell...

... and I am honestly not sure WHO really wants to know WHAT.

You see, we all KNOW that poverty exists in our world, but not everyone wants to face it, to see it (and I mean REALLY see it)... it makes us uncomfortable especially those of us who live in affluence (myself included and pretty much EVERYONE who lives in North America... even our poorest are abundantly wealthy compared to most of the world).   

Anyways, for those who are merely interested in seeing a super FUN video we did... 

Extreme Home Makeover: 
Mexico 2011

Here it is!!!  First though, I want to say a 
to all our supporters who contributed to the building of this home!!!  An extra special shout out goes to attendees at our "Crop for Mexico" scrapbooking event and the "Scrapbook Your Heart" retreat as YOU (YES YOU!!!) gave enough to build and furnish THIS ENTIRE HOME!!!!!  Please consider this as YOUR home and YOUR family whose lives will be forever changed...

WARNING:  The following is now a long post on my honest heart's cry about my trip... my life is an open book... I have nothing to hide... I just truly desire to share what I have learned.  But in doing so, PLEASE understand that my goal is NOT TO GUILT!!!  
My goal is rather simply TO INSPIRE!!!  

And the difference, I believe, comes in YOUR perspective as you read, not mine.  

I'm just telling my story.  You get to decide how you respond... but I pray that you read with the attitude of seeking what God might want you to learn, to change, to do, to give and yes, maybe to even consider coming along!!  We are going back again next July and I can bring ANYONE along with me!!!

 So read on only if you think you really want to hear "the rest of the story" ... and careful, you might just be inspired too, to change your life :)

When I was only 7 years old, my family of 6 piled into our station wagon and headed on a camping trip from Calgary all the way through the states to Tijuana, Mexico.

This trip became the "epic" vacation of our childhood as we battled the heat driving through Nevada (no air conditioning in the car!)

and we got to go to Disneyland (I kicked Porky Pig and he spoke to me about not kicking people then gave me a hug... funny what we remember as kids!)

And we finally made it to Tijuana Mexico!!  For those who have never been, most people park in the US and walk across the border which is what we did.  So there I am, 7 years old, on this exciting adventure with my family and as we are walking across the bridge to Tijuana, I see children playing in what looked like a garbage dump.  I was captivated by the scene.

I remember asking my mother why those little children had no clothes on and why they were playing in the garbage and she told me that is probably where they live and that they likely didn't have money for a lot of clothes.  I know we spent the entire day in Mexico (there are pictures of me there), but I honestly remember NOTHING else other than that scene of those poor children.

Fast forward to this past summer... I was on the bus with 42 people driving back from Mexico to Calgary and as we passed over the border in Tijuana,


It hit me like a ton of bricks!!!  I was finally DOING something about the exact same poverty I had witnessed at age 7... I just helped build a new home in Mexico for children just like those I had seen 38 years ago while crossing the exact same border.  

Life gives us defining moments... some are good, some are bad, but ALL help us define who we are and help us understand who we've become.  I always knew that my experience in Mexico at age 7 was a defining moment as it softened my heart even at that tender age to poverty in our world.  I love to give to those in need...  so much so that I joke with Brad to let me know when my gift of giving exceeds his gift of getting! (The great news is that Brad is actually like-minded and I can't tell you how many times we both come up with the exact same amount in our heads to give to something!  Cool eh?)

 And I'm desperately trying to raise my kids to do the same!  Over the years, we have packed countless shoeboxes and sponsored children all over the world... 

We even took the kids out of school for almost a month to take them to Chain of Love in Brazil... an organization that rescues street children and gives them a home with loving parents (we got to meet our 2 sponsored children Alexandre and Carina!!) 

So prior to going to Mexico this summer, I have to say that I was feeling pretty good about how much I give, how soft my heart is towards those in need and how well my kids are learning the same values.

Yup, I was feeling pretty proud about fighting the battle against our North American culture bombarding us with messages of how money, status, fame, popularity, getting ahead is the goal and wanting more and more is the norm!  I figured we must be doing good because even the government thinks we give too much and are constantly auditing us for our giving!!

So the last thing I expected then, was the impact this trip would have on me in this area.  I've seen poverty first hand, I've watched World Vision on TV (and DONE something by sponsoring), I've given to countless causes, but until this summer, I didn't realize how far I still had to go... 

I didn't realize how truly obscene my wealth is compared the rest of the world. 

I didn't realize how good AND bad I would feel because of this trip.

  Picture this... we had some extra $ and sat down with the the family to see what else they might like us to buy for them.  They didn't want anything... the house was already too much.  (The dad finally admitted he would like another hat if possible... he only owned one... I had brought 4 hats just for myself... different ones to match my work outfits... I suddenly felt completely ridiculous.)  

On dedication day, the family was expressing sheer joy at the gift of their new home, but also expressed how sorry they were that they could never repay us for what we did.  They thanked us profusely for our immense sacrifice to come and build them a home... then they begged God to in return bless us... bless US... and it felt sooo good and yet soooo wrong...

Later that night, one of my team members finally articulated what I was feeling...

"I would be utterly embarrassed if they saw the home we live in back in Canada.  Our wealth is simply obscene."

And I humbly agreed.  We are obscenely blessed beyond imagine.  Here is our home...

So even after months, I'm still processing what it all means... what I'm being called to do... and not do. 

 I have several life lessons I'll share, but make no mistake... I've not "arrived" (not sure we ever will while on this earth).  But in the meantime, I am continuing to pursue an answer to the...

 "How then shall I live" question

This is the question I ALWAYS ask as often as possible... it is the question that ensures continued growth and perspective as we go through life.  It helps to solidify the life lessons and actually put some action to the lessons.

So... in no particular order, here are some of my
Top "Aha's"
beyond what I've already mentioned:

1.  The "face of poverty" is different once you've actually seen and lived amongst it for an extended period of time.  And we didn't even really "live" amongst it in Mexico... we got to leave the community each day to go back to a comfortable house with running water, electricity and wireless internet!!!  I have a new appreciation for what their day in day out life is like, but I'm sure I still don't even come close to truly comprehending!! And I've still never experienced the worst poverty like we see in some other parts of the world... at least not yet :)  On my bucket list!!

2.  I've always sought "balance" in my life... trying to balance everything that's important including my money.  But balance is no longer my goal!!  I'm seeking an imbalance!!  An imbalance towards doing more for others and less for myself... giving more of my time, money and energy to others... I'm still a firm believer in taking care of myself, my health, my family, my home, etc. but I've been fooling myself thinking I've been achieving a "good balance".

3.  I've been digging into my Bible (did you know God speaks more about money in the Bible then He does about almost any other subject?) and I'm realizing I still have a LOT to learn!!  And I've also happened upon this book... 

Let's just say WHOA!!!!  This is a super thought provoking read!!!!  I actually borrowed a copy and now need to order my own cuz I've GOT to highlight and "work" it out in the pages.

4.  I've never really given "until it hurts"... not sure I'm ready to do that... not sure God's even calling me to do that... but I do know I'm being MUCH more intentional about putting aside more of my resources for others.  For example, when we go out to eat as a family, we order water then come home and put in our special "bucket" the amount of money we didn't spend on drinks.  When I shop on 10% Tuesday, I come home and put the savings into the bucket.  Unexpected money... our family has a "formula" to apply that includes giving an extra percentage of it away to a good cause that we discuss as a family.  Little things like this are helping... but again, we're so blessed already that we hardly notice so I'm still working though this one!

5.  How do you change the world?  One person at a time.  One family at a time.  One community at a time.  It's hard to not be overwhelmed by the need.  Hero Holidays receives about 30-40 requests per week for a home.  They only get to build 30-40 homes each year.  Imagine needing to choose whose life you will change and who you will say no to.  I couldn't do it.  But allowing oneself to be paralyzed into doing nothing is completely wrong... do something!!  Do anything!!  Not everyone can actually GO build a house and that's okay!!  But we all can still play a part in meeting the needs of people... can be as simple as a smile for someone who has none, a phone call, a card in the mail, a meal, a visit, a prayer.  Start looking around you and I know God will reveal how you can make a difference.

Okay, I'm going to stop now.  As you can tell, I've had a LOT to process and I'm still going strong on it!!  Pretty sure I'll be processing for the rest of my life!!!  

It's ALL GOOD though!!!

And I am hoping to go back to Mexico again in July 2012 to build another home!!  I had so many people ask about doing this and am pleased to let you know that you have the chance to join me!!!  I'd be thrilled to share the details with you if you're interested.

AND... for those asking, YES we will be having another

scrapbooking event!!!

We raised $7001 at the last one and I'm super stoked to see what we can do at the next one!!  Be sure to watch for details :)

Thank you for taking some time out of your busy lives to read what's been on my heart.  My prayer is that you will be inspired to take some steps to change your life as well by helping change the lives of others.  And please understand that it's not out of guilt that I do anything, but rather out of love for my Jesus who has done everything for me and I simply wish to love and live like Him and inspire others to do the same.


Michelle said...

Thanks for sharing Allison. Love the video.

Anonymous said...

Allison! Your kindness to the world humbles me, and I was so touched reading about your experience. My husband and I went to Mexico this past year to a wedding. We really didn't get to experience "real" mexico, but on the way through the villages to the ruins we saw a "TINY" portion of the poverty. I often look around my home. We have an 800sq ft. home with no basement, and feel cramped, and wish for a bigger house one day. Really our family of four - just about five lives in a MANSION compared to these people with all the creature comforts of electricity, running water, etc.
Thanks for your story. It reminds one to stay humble and APPRECIATE what we have, rather than to always strive for more.
I hope one day to be a part of something like your Mexico project. I feel it is important to give back, and what a truly positive message to our children!
Thanks Allison

KellyCreates said...

You are an inspiration, Allison. Thankfully the world has people like you and your family in it...people who care and DO something, instead of talking and doing nothing. God bless :)