I think if you asked any of our kids what their favorite part of our Mexico trip was (parts one and two are back HERE and HERE if you missed them), they would say when we got to give the completed houses from the year before to two families who had been selected to receive them.
The ones we built still needed to be finished up (rooms framed out, walls mudded), and while we were working on them, others were putting the finishing touches on two homes started last year so they would be ready for the families who would get to live there.
We were lucky enough to get to go visit the two families on the first two days.
I’m not sure the exact system they go through to determine which families get these houses but I do know it must be tough.  There is a lot of need in that area.  I know there is some kind of application process and a lot of research on which families could benefit the most.  I also believe a lot of prayer goes into the process.
I also know, (and I LOVE this part), that the families who receive the homes from Families Helping Families are given some responsibilities to create ownership.  I do not think it would work to just hand over a house.  I believe people need to feel like they put something into it.  The selected families work to keep the houses in a system I don’t fully understand but that apparently works wonderfully judging from how beautifully the homes already given away are kept up.
I already posted this first picture on my first post, but let’s just take a look at these cuties for a second:

Especially that one in the front 🙂

Those two little boys lived here with two other siblings and their mom and dad.

And a few dogs and chickens too.

When the guy in charge told them they would be receiving a house in the next couple days, I’m not sure they completely comprehended what was happening.  The Dad stood there stoically, and the mom stood snuggling her baby, her eyes filling with tears.  It was all in Spanish, but the kids and I got the impression that they were quite amazed, but still pretty apprehensive that this would really happen.
The next day during a work break we drove down the train tracks along a seemingly endless row of makeshift dwellings.  A little crowd of Mexican children with huge smiles stretched across their faces ran as fast as they could to keep up with our car.  After bumping along aside the train tracks for a while we came to where the second family lived:

We repeated the same scenario we did the day before: Ralph explained the new house and how it would work to help them get moved in.

Again, I’m not sure they fully understood or dared to believe this could be happening to them.
We passed out bubbles to all the little kids (that family has EIGHT of them, and there were other kids gathered around as well).
So the next day after working our little tails off to get those four houses we were building done (back HERE), we piled in our cars and headed to the completed homes to meet the new families there.

It’s tough to express how cool it was to see those homes complete: the same plans we had been working on for the past three days in the other area, but ready for families to come make them theirs.

They had a little ceremony and then presented the homes to the families.  I know at least one of the homes was all set up by a boy for his eagle project.  He brought tons of donations from working to gather it all back home.  A pretty cool project I must say.

It was so fun to walk through the houses and envision the ones we just completed being given away like this next year.

…but even more fun to catch a glimpse of the sheer delight on the faces of those sweet families.

They were pretty stoic in the pictures, (and really, I couldn’t wait to leave them alone and let them bask privately in all that stuff that will be such a blessing to them).

But Elle and Dave caught a glimpse of them through the windows…a moment of unconcealed excitement, and a silent tear glistening in the Dad’s eye.  A Dad who works his heart out and has had such trouble making ends meet.

Yes, this is a life-changer.

And we got to witness it.

Hand-in-hand with a gorgeous sunset.

It was a little piece of Heaven to be there with those good people and realize how much we take things so for granted.

That night we had a “Fiesta” celebration with all the volunteers.

I think it would be an understatement to say that Claire liked it 😉

(That was just a clip from a video of her dancing while the mariachi band played.)

We set off hundreds of lanterns.

Bright, colorful lights that filled up the dark night sky.

As I watched them float up, up, up one by one, it reminded me of the last time we did lanterns back HERE.

I thought once again about how much we are like those lanterns.  We all need a little loving help to raise up a little higher.

I thought about how much light that trip had given our family.

I know service helps those you serve and lifts them up.

I know these families lives will be changed and their lights will shine a little brighter and be lifted a little higher.

But I believe we gained much more by giving.

Because our hearts are changed forever.

And when my children talk about this trip (or when Lucy thanks Heavenly Father in her prayers every single night that we got to go), I can see those little lanterns shining in their eyes.

Yes, they understand just a tad bit better the joy of giving.

How I hope we can all remember that feeling even when enveloped back in the hustle and bustle of life back here in the desert.


  1. They don't have adequate and safe housing. They live on little per day. I'm sure it is hard to pick which one gets the next house. But what do we want them to do to get it? To keep it? What to givers expect from receivers? That they be grateful, the most needy and wisest in thriftiness? I think we are missing something.

  2. Thanks for sharing. What a neat experience. I have been trying to think of things for my kids to help them be more grateful for what they have. I hope we can do something like this when they are a little older and more capable.

  3. Since you obviously care about helping others I wanted to share a very valuable resource with you: "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. It's incredibly educational and insightful, and has helped my family and church make sure we are able to help others effectively without hurting them, their families, or their communities and economies. Consider putting it on your book list. 🙂

    Link to it on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0802457061

  4. What a great experience you gave to your kids. I did and exchange program in Jr. High and stayed with a girl my age for a few days. It changed my life forever and helped me be so grateful for my life. I hope to give the same opportunity to my children.

  5. I am doing my Eagle Project with Families Helping Families and I am making a presentation about the building process. I wanted to get permission to use some of the pictures on your blog that document the building process. I wouldn't use the ones of your family- just the overall building pictures. Thank you. Josh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *