EL PASO, TX.—Churches are taking advantage of their spring breaks to take their volunteers to help build up communities—literally.
Members from Trinity Lutheran Church will be traveling to a community near El Paso to build homes. The more volunteers, the better. Last year, 44 volunteers used their teamwork to build two homes in only three-and-a-half days.
The trip is coordinated by Amor Ministries, a San Diego-based mission group that organizes thousands of volunteers to build hundreds of homes each year in Juarez.
It may only take a few days to build the houses, but the impact the building experience has on the volunteers is much longer and more profound than the work they do.
"One year we had a family start crying on us," he said, "I almost started crying, too, because I was so moved,” said Jason Adams, a 17-year-old high school junior who is participating in church project for the fourth year.
His visit to Juarez the first year also served as an eye-opener to the great need among the people living there.
"I was kind of amazed. It's so much different than what we have here," he said. "The way they live, it's cardboard boxes and packing crates. It really makes you appreciate what you have here."
That’s why, this year, Adams is making the 15-hour trip from Garden City to El Paso to again not only build homes but build lives.
Armor Ministries arrange for the volunteer groups to stay in a large camp site in Juarez. Trinity's Christian life minister and youth director Leland Jackson said at first it was hard to spend four nights in the camps. The volunteers took outdoor showers while wearing swimsuits and some experienced back pain after such heavy labor as mixing cement.
Although when the trip was first arranged, the volunteers were somewhat reluctant to join, they are now even eager to go.
"In '95, when the trips started, the attitude was, ‘Why are we going down there when people here need help?'" said Jackson. "Now, it's ‘When are we going?'"
The groups starts at 6 a.m. with breakfast and a devotional or prayer and then they go the work site, where they work until lunch, Jackson said. The groups work until they have to leave by 6 p.m. They then return to the campground and start preparing dinner while others from the group clean up. By 8 or 9 p.m. dinner is over, Jackson said, and there's a Bible study before quiet time at 10 p.m.
Armor Ministries isn’t only building homes for the people in Juarez but also teaching them self-reliance.
All the tools used in construction are man-powered, hand-powered and back-powered, Jackson said.
"By us doing it, we're showing them they can do it on their own," he said.
However, any help is appreciated from future volunteers.
"Hopefully, when they come back, they'll see the needs that are here," he said.
For some, lending a hand will always be part of the plan for spring break.
"It keeps drawing you back," Adams said. "You get that feeling of helping someone, and you want to do it again."