On a Mission: The Art of Pulling Together

https://pattyschell.com/2017/06/30/on-a-mission-karen-sanchez/

 

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”
Hebrews 10:24 NLT

Karen Sanchez has the unique ability to get people together. . .

to get things done, and her involvement with uniting the community with Hands of Mercy (HoM) is no different. In fact, this agency’s purpose has a special place in her heart. By teaming up with HoM, Karen, whose life’s work as a realtor is to pair families and houses together, has the opportunity to extend this passion to the underserved of Mexico. What’s more, she wants others to get involved and join the fun.

How does helping families in Mexico can make our high desert community a better place to live?

Hands of Mercy works through groups in the US who sponsor the building projects with their resources. They purchase the building materials for a small 12’x12’ loft house and then gather community members to partially assemble the house before delivering it to its permanent place in Mexico. This whole process gives people an opportunity to serve others by giving money, swinging a hammer, or providing a box of household goods to welcome the family to their new home.

But it doesn’t stop there.

It also builds community here through working side-by-side to accomplish the task. What is even more exciting about Hands of Mercy is they have made the entire process family-friendly. Young and old can come together to provide a family with a basic structure that will give them security and raise their standard of living. Relationships are built as neighbors serve together. It empowers them to think beyond their front door, giving them a much larger worldview.

Karen serves as a catalyst in this endeavor. She has organized fundraisers and has spread the word through her various connections, encouraging people to get involved in not only giving money but also in the actual building process. If that’s not enough, she and her husband organize lunch for all who participate. In the end, well over three hundred people have had a hand in making a family’s life better while forming connections in their own community; now multiply that amount times four.

Just this past April. . .

the fourth house made its way down to Baja to its permanent location. The recipient, a woman who had been homeless for ten years, will now have a safe place to call her own. This is much in thanks to Karen Sanchez. She has taken her talent for making connections and used it to bring people together in a significant way. And through that, families, friendships, and communities are strengthened, making the world a better place to live.

Above all, put on love–the perfect bond of unity.
Colossians 3:14 HCSB

 

To contribute financially to the next loft house build and be part of something pretty great, go here.

To learn more about Hands of Mercy and the work they do, go here.

Lessons from a Foreign Land

https://girlonadventure.com/2017/04/27/lessons-from-a-foreign-land/

It’s been some time since I visited Tajikistan, but the lessons will remain in my heart forever.

One AM.

Our plane touched down in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. We were all ushered into a cement block building to wait in line for passport control. One-by-one we were summoned into a small room to present our visas and answer a few questions. Small problem. I didn’t speak Farsi. I stood there, listening very carefully but not comprehending. Somehow the man behind the desk seemed satisfied with the documents and my affirming nods that he released me from his presence.

Outside the building and reunited with my traveling companions, I was caught up a flurry of activity. Porters were grabbing at our luggage trying to gain a few American dollars in their pockets. Owners of taxis crowded in demanding that we use their service. It all felt very confusing and a bit scary trying to make my way in a strange land in the dark of night.

Then a familiar face came into view. Our contact came toward us warning off the aggressive drivers. He grabbed the bags and motioned for us to follow. He guided us safely to a van that was waiting to transport us to our destination.

As the week played out, I learned many things about the culture I had been plopped in the middle of. Village life was quite different from the world I had left at home. For safety’s sake, an escort was needed wherever I went. I covered my hair so I would not find myself the topic of whispers and ridicule. Bathrooms were a challenge. Electricity was intermittent. Meals were served on the floor. Men and women did not socialize in public. There were military check points, calls to worship, and houses hidden by high walls and locked gates.

Yes. Everything was different and if it had not been for my guide I would not have been able to navigate through the rules of this community. What I knew of life did not make sense in this culture. It was all so foreign.

In my current trek through Psalm 119, I came across a similar thought in the second segment of the book.

“Open my eyes so that I can truly see the marvelous things in your law. I am like a foreigner in this land. Do not hide your commandments from me. I desperately long to know your regulations at all times.”

Psalm 119:18-20

Oh, how God’s ideas can seem strange to us.

Like the Psalmist, it sometimes feels like we are in a foreign land when we are learning about God’s ways. What we knew of life is now turned upside down. The culture is new. The language seems odd. It isn’t always easy to wrap our minds around why things work better His way. We need Him to guide us. Then, little-by-little, we begin to see how the customs of this unfamiliar place start to make sense.  As we put into practice those marvelous things He reveals, they spare us from humiliation as they guide us to success. It’s beautiful when it starts to come together.

As for the rest of my time in the Tajik culture? Before my trip concluded, candlelight in the power outage became romantic. A glimpse of a married couple sharing a private conversation seemed mysterious and precious. Even the lessons in tying my head covering the right way or how to apply the perfect unibrow [ I have a photo somewhere.] made me feel more connected with the people of that country.

I began to get it.

Their ways worked in context with their culture. What seemed strange when I began my time there became normal and comfortable before I left.  Foreign no more—Tajikistan, its people and their ways occupy a place in my heart that brings great joy each time my thoughts wander there.

Hope Under Consruction

We sat on the floor of the newly constructed tiny house eating fried chicken legs. This was the first meal this little home would see. In a collaboration with families from California and a minister in Mexico, a young family would move from their cardboard hut to a house with screens on the windows to keep the flies out and a floor that didn’t turn to mud when it rained. It was an occasion to celebrate, the chicken along with tortillas and fresh salsa—our feast.
The day started early as we pulled up to the dirt lot where the house would be built. In anticipation of the new home that would stand in that location, red geraniums had been planted bring a pop of joy to the otherwise drab landscape.

Once decided where the house would stand, a frenzy of hammering and painting mixed with conversations in broken Spanglish and the laughter that comes with it began. The whole process became the conduit for two cultures to come together. And, as the house went up, so did hope for a better life.

When noontime drew near, more friends and family arrived to witness the ‘house-raising’ and prepare a meal for its workers. The ‘kitchen’ in which the chicken was cooked that day was an open fire in the yard. This was where all the cooking happened for this family, and they were experts in dealing with open flame, creating chicken that was crispy, moist, and delicious. Every bite was savored, leaving nothing but the empty bowl at the end of the meal.

The experience of working side-by-side would change communities both sides of the border. The house, as great a thing as it was, was not the star of the day. Relationships were built with each nail that was hammered. Memories were created, and when looking back, they would be listed as some of the best.

hom-pic1

We have always held to the hope, the belief,the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.

Franklin D. Roosevelt


I have included some recipes for your enjoyment just in case you would like to recreate our celebration feast. It was delicious.

Fried Chicken

The fried chicken served on this day was literally just chicken fried in oil over the open flame. No flour dredge. No nothing. But, YES on delicious.

 Not keen on boiling oil over an open fire? ‘Yikes’ is all I have to say!

Simply bake or grill your chicken with a little seasoning for a yummy outcome.

hom-pic3

Pico de Gallo

  •  1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • freshly squeezed lime juice to taste
  • salt to taste

Combine ingredients and chill for an hour.

Flour Tortillas

This a new recipe I tried using a food processor and a tortilla press.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1.  Place all ingredients into food processor. Pulse several times until a soft dough ball is formed.
  2. Remove, cover, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Divide into eight pieces.
  4. Press each piece between parchment paper with tortilla press. Reposition a quarter turn and press again.
  5. Cook over medium heat in lightly oiled skillet about 1 minute each side, or until lightly browned.

Enjoy!

hom-pic2

For more on this great ministry along with videos of house builds and ways you can get involved, see Hands of Mercy website.

For Goodness Sake

 . . . make every effort to add to your faith, goodness. . .

2 Peter 1:5

goodness – the state of being good – pure, moral, conscientious, meritorious, worthy, exemplary, upright, beneficial, having admirable, pleasing qualities


Danny, the leader of the Hands of Mercy building project, teared up as he stood watching his team congratulating the little family on their new home. Handshakes, hugs and comments on the success of the day passed throughout the group. Although dinner was waiting, no one wanted to break the moment.  It had been a good day.

I am so glad I was there to witness this life changing event for a young mother and her children.    At the end of the day, theirs were not the only lives that were altered. A team of twenty individuals had answered the call to do something good and this would have a lasting effect on them as well.  That is the way of things when you put your faith into action by practicing what is good.

The word goodness from the focus verse in 2 Peter, is the Greek word areta which means: moral excellence; a virtuous course of thought, feeling or action. This step of adding goodness to our faith is a strategic one. Now that we have put our faith in God, aligning ourselves with him, Peter says, “Add goodness.”  It makes sense that we would follow God in his ways by choosing to do what he does- do good.  It was his own goodness, after all, that has called us out of a life of “corruption. . .caused by evil desires” and “has given us everything we need for a godly life.” 2 Peter 1:4

Romans 12 gives a Goodness Plan for our lives, calling us to become “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. . .” by being “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” It gives us a way of seeing things differently by thinking and acting in a way that is good. And in this way, we are “not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

That, my friends, points to a major reason to add goodness to our faith – It overcomes evil. Goodness is something definitely needed when it comes to living a godly life. It also allows us to participate in the divine nature which gives us a deeper knowledge of who God is.

The challenge set before us is to continually choose good in everything we do. We not only will be changed by doing good, but it also has a way of affecting others in the most positive way while bringing attention and glory to the Father. So, for His sake choose goodness.

God’s definition of doing good –

     “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me–put into practice. And the peace of God will be with you.”

Philippians 4:8-9

            ”You are the light of the world…let your light shine among others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify the Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16


Hands of Mercy

            Hands of Mercy, a non-profit based in Redlands, California, whose mission is to strengthen the Body of Christ by discipling families and individuals of all ages to love others in tangible ways through building loft houses. A loft house is prefabricated in church parking lots in the US then assembled in Mexico. Though not luxurious by any definition, a loft house gives some basic protection and shelter from the elements. A loft house is a 12-foot by 12-foot structure with 4 windows, a lockable door and a second story attic loft for sleeping that is reached by interior stairs. The kit-house consists of prefabbed panels made from simple building materials, widely available at most home improvement warehouses: 2x4s, 2x6s, plywood and tar paper roofing. The house has a raised wooden floor, covered with linoleum, built on concrete piers. This speeds construction time by eliminating extra days to pour and cure a cement slab. Work teams can build loft houses on land that would not be suitable for slab construction. For about $4,500.00, these homes exhibit a visible testimony to the love of Jesus to the new home owners and their entire community.

Hands of Mercy Loft House

Hands of Mercy Loft House

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us.

We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.

1 John 3:16