Serving in Acuña: Building, Blessed, Changed

September 15th, 2015

The week of June 21, AGF took its second short-term missions trip, traveling to Acuña, Mexico with a group of 20 to build a 3-room house with Casas por Cristo for a family of six. The team worked hard, played hard, ate hard, fellowshipped hard and slept hard. It was an incredible week full of gratitude and joy. As we stepped out of our comfort zones, eyes were opened, lives were changed, and unity was found amidst diversity.

Once we all safely arrived in Del Rio Texas, we crossed the border into Mexico early the next morning. We arrived and began leveling the site, framing the foundation, and digging, all in preparation for the cement truck. We then began framing the walls, which we would put up the next day. Day two of building involved putting up and securing the walls, as well as getting the roof framed and put up. We also covered the framed walls with blackboard and chicken wire. Day three included shingling the roof, insulation, stucco and dry wall. By the end of Day three there was a really nice looking and well built house. Day four consisted of touch up, clean up, electricity check and other small projects here and there to finish up. This day also included a trip to Yolanda’s house, a local woman who serves food to around 30 neighborhood kids every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Out of the nothing Yolanda has, she gives everything because of the grace she has been given. She serves her Savior and she serves her neighbor, and she does it with a joyful and grateful heart.

Day four ended with the dedication of the house to the Betancourt family and the handing over of the keys. The dedication was filled with prayer, powerful words and lots and lots of tears; tears of gratitude and joy. This family now has a safe, strong and comfortable home to live in.

Throughout the course of the week we experienced incredible hospitality from the Betancourt family, the Casas por Cristo staff, the pastor, family and members of the church we stayed at as well as all the folks we met in Mexico. Over and over again, we found them giving out of their “nothing”. It’s hard to find the words to adequately express such a powerful time with our group and our brothers and sisters in Mexico. Though borders separate us, community extends past borders, and I was reminded of that once again.

I asked one of the surviving families that came with us to describe their experience. Watching those who have given so much, who have given everything, continue to give even more is a powerful witness to grace – grace that transcends understanding. Please read their about their experience below:

On October 15, 2008 my life was forever changed.  My husband SGM Jerry D. Patton, and father of my four boys was killed in a parachute training accident.  It has been a long road these past few years.  I have struggled to find my new self, new life and healthy ways to cope with this traumatic loss and change. I’ve attended a few widow get away weekends with various organizations; leaving me with a few new friendships and a fun time for a weekend, but I needed something more, something that lasted; something with more meaning and value.  My heart was searching for a way I could serve, and serve with others next to me that experienced some of the same challenges I had gone through. I also knew I needed to strengthen my relationship with God, and to do this I needed to surround myself and boys with people that valued life, had godly values and wanted to make a difference toward others and this world. 

I had met Brittany Grider at a widow conference early on in our husbands’ deaths. We were both pretty frazzled and didn’t have a lot to say to one another. We were both trying to muddle through the weekend; still in shock. I could sense right away that Brittany was an amazing, strong, godly lady. We lost touch for awhile, but God graciously brought us back together a few years later. We met up and she shared about AGF, its vision and purpose. Thank you God!!!  Just what my boys and I needed, perfect timing!!!!  I signed up for the Acuña, Mexico trip to help build a home for a family in need.  I was so excited!!  It felt right and good. It would teach my boys some building skills they have missed out on, not having a father here to teach them the proper way to hammer, drill and cut wood. It would show us poverty in a way we have never seen it. It would help us remember to never take our home and cars and comfy beds for granted. It was hard work, but we saw the finished product and saw the love and tears and thankfulness in the family’s hearts when we presented them their new home. We were finally able to work side by side with godly people, and also people who had suffered a traumatic loss of a loved one in the military. I finally made some friends that seemed to have a deeper purpose of life, people who learned and grew from grief and pain. The build with AGF was the first big step my boys and I made in our walk with God and the most meaningful work we have done yet!!! It was a way to serve God while honoring our fallen heroes. I thought about my late husband Jerry, every day while I helped build this home in Mexico and how proud he is of us and our hard work. We were finally honoring him in the right way; by serving others. I also thought of Aaron Grider and the ultimate sacrifice he made. I thanked Aaron for choosing a godly wife Brittany. Through Aaron’s loss, Brittany’s pain, and their godly values, AGF was started. It’s bitter sweet. Thank you Aaron and Brittany. My life and boys lives are forever changed by our service with AGF and the opportunities you are providing for us to give back. God Bless!!!!  – Molly