On Thursday’s I post from the vault. This post is from August 2007.

We just returned from our first mission trip as a family. We went with a team from our church to a small village in Baja, Mexico, to build houses for three families. We had an amazing time, and wanted to share some pictures and stories with you.

The village we visited was remote and rural, and very different from the Mexico we have visited before. The people lived in extreme poverty, more like the conditions we’ve seen in Africa or India. Most of their homes were shacks built of found materials, like garage doors or large pieces of scrap wood. There was no running water, no sewage system, no paved roads, and no trash service, so the streets were lined with garbage and rubble. Having our kids there, it was hard to imagine how these families live there day in and day out. It humbled me to think of how bummed I’ve been over inconveniences like not having remote keyless entry on my car, or when I can’t find a double cart at Target. These mothers must navigate their children down hilly, dirty streets without cars or strollers, they live in one-room shacks with numerous family members, and cook their meals inside windowless homes in 100+ degree heat. The family our team built a house for included a mother, her two grown daughters, and their four children. Needless to say, the they walked through their house for the first time, it was an emotional experience for all of us.

We have a huge heart for tangible missions and building houses was right up our alley. Turns out that years of home improvement came in very handy on this trip! I enjoyed painting and spackling drywall, while Mark tried his hand at framing and roofing. And Jafta . . . well, he tried everything. I had purchased dozens of toy tools to bring for him so he could feel included, and of course he would have nothing of the plastic hammers and went straight for the real thing. We tried to follow behind him making sure nothing got ruined, or painted, or smashed. He had a great time and every day begged to “build more houses”. On the last day when we gave the keys to the family, I really think he understand what we had done. It was awesome to see him get to be a part of that. He was also a huge hit with all of the local kids. I don’t think anyone had seen dreadlocks before, and everybody was feeling his hair! And India . . . well, India was oblivious to the whole operation and we were blessed beyond words by some team members who hung out with her in the morning while got our hands dirty at the worksite.

As always, we came away changed as well. It was a poignant reminder of the blessings in our lives and the importance of family. Parenting can be so all-consuming that it is hard to find moments when I am reminded of my own identity outside of “mommy”. This trip was a great reminder of our heart for missions and helped solidify our family identity as passionate about service. Jafta has been begging to go back to Mexico every day since we got home. It was challenging and stretching, and also exciting to do missions with our kids and feel motivated to find more ways to serve as a family.