Memories revisited in Puerto Peñasco

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  • Allejandro, whom Tess met and became friends with during her trip last year, was excited to see his friend again when she returned to Puerto Peñasco for another mission trip.

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Tess Riecke, Staff Writer

There are only a few places in the world that have a hold on my heart. Places I love going and never get tired of. One of them is my grandparents’ house. Another is Sporting Park, home of Sporting, Kansas City.

The last place is Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

Last year, I went to Puerto Peñasco with about 50 people from my church through Amor Ministries and we built two houses.

Last week, I had the same opportunity. Twenty-five of us made our way down to Mexico to build a house for a family in need.

Needless to say, my life has been changed because of these trips.

The trip spans only four days, less than three of which are spent building. The group arrives in Phoenix on Friday where we stay overnight at a church. Next came probably the longest day of my life.

On Saturday, the group was up by 4:30 a.m. to load the vans and drive down to Mexico. The drive from Phoenix to Peñasco takes about five hours. Crossing the border into Mexico isn’t really that difficult. Usually, the border patrolmen just wave the vans through without any questions.

Once we arrived in Peñasco, we dropped off our luggage, made a sack lunch and changed into work clothes. Then we were off to the worksite.

On the first day, we had to pour the concrete and build all seven walls. If we don’t accomplish this, then we get really far behind schedule.

Saturday was seriously the longest day of my life. I had never been more tired yet more exhilarated before.

That evening, I was sitting by the campfire in awe of how the dark sky can be so lit up by the stars. During this time, I was also trying to keep the tears from falling.

We were building in the same neighborhood as last year. When it was lunch time, a few of us went to the houses we had built and saw the families. The mother of the family I worked for came right up to me and just gave me a huge hug.

She then pulled me over to the house and brought out her little baby. She was three months pregnant when I saw her last. Being able to see the baby grow up in a home that I helped build and knowing that she has proper shelter made all of the blisters, sore muscles and sunburns worth it.

While visiting the home, I also was able to see the kids that I bonded with. As their little arms encircled me, all I could do is smile from ear to ear. Over the course of the trip, the kids hung out at the worksite and helped build the home.

I have never been a fan of man-made heights, like bridges, elevators, rooftops, etc. This year I decided to really challenge myself and help with the roofing. I climbed up the ladder, crawled on the roof and then laid down hoping I wouldn’t fall off.

I finally stood up and got to work. Half way through the work, I wasn’t even aware of how high up I was. But getting down terrified me and I needed help. The first thing I did when I crossed the border was call my dad to tell him I went on the roof.

Our group built the house extremely quickly, even though a majority of the people hadn’t been before. Because we built the house in record time, we were able to add on a few features.

We made a patio which had the family’s hand prints and everyone’s name written in the concrete.

The large rocks that were leftover were used to make a rock garden. We also built a bathroom for the family that included a spot for a shower and a toilet. Jorge, the man who owns the house, will have to build the structure around the bathroom and a septic tank. Amor Ministries plans to bring running water to all of the homes within 6 months.

I think my favorite moment of the whole trip was when the family was asked what they were most excited for about the house. They replied, “to have a house of our own.”

This put it all in perspective for me. Things like homes and clothing are almost second thoughts to many people in America, myself included. For some in Peñasco, having a home with a door is a dream that doesn’t often become reality.

For the Cortez family, it did become reality, and I took part in that.
No matter how many times I build a house for someone, I will always want to do more. I will always want to stay longer. I will always want to have those people in my life.

But knowing I made a difference in their lives will get me through the next year until I can see them again.