Tag Archives: Mission trip to Mexico

South of the Border~Part 3

29 Apr

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Bill Stars Plane


Tuesday morning after breakfast, we drove to the building site, where our visiting group was split up into two teams, with two Kennedy Team Leaders in each team to keep us on the right track, and we got started. Each team was assigned to build a house on their pre-finished slab, and the race was on to see who could finish first.



It was amazing how organized the Team Leaders were, as they assigned the various tasks to our team members. There were materials coordinators, wood cutters (my main job), wood shapers, painters and builders all working smoothly together at one time. A lot of the wood materials had been ordered cut to length, so the assembly process was fast and fairly easy.


The 2”x 4”walls were assembled on the slab, and then each was raised and braced in place, while being attached to the slab floor with pre-installed j-bolts, nuts and washers.

Next the joists were built (I had a hard time keeping up with all the angle cuts for our house on the chop saw) and the corrugated galvanized tin roofing was nailed in place. Once that was done, a plywood loft was built over the rear half of the house, where smaller family members could sleep. As you can see in the photo below, the tail-end of the joists were pre-painted (on the ground by the painters) to save time and reduce the use of troublesome ladders after assembly. As I mentioned earlier, this was also done with the soffit and fascia boards as well as the window and door trim.



Then heavy insulation was fastened in place between the joists, under the tin roof, and covered with plywood to help keep the loft area from getting so hot. A sturdy and child-safe ladder was built to give access to the loft area.



While the roof and loft work was going on topside, another team was drilling holes and running electrical wiring in the wall studs. Once that was done, the exterior plywood sheeting was nailed to the walls and gables, the window and door holes were cut, and the windows were installed.



While all the time these activities were going on, the shaper team was busy at work cutting scalloped trim boards, and the painting team was busy painting window and door trim boards and the completed (ventilated) soffit and scalloped trim boards. The small (3’x 3’square) shower enclosure was plumbed (cold water only) to provide the much-needed hygiene that most of the colonia (unregulated settlement) dwellers did not have access to. I understand that a latrine system was used by the colonia families, but I don’t remember seeing it or being told about it at the time. The only toilet I ever saw or used was located next to the John 3:16 Church, and it was very small. A kitchen area was not designated in these houses, as the colonia families were accustomed to doing most of their cooking outside their “homes” and would most likely continue to do their cooking outdoors when the weather permitted doing so.




—–To Be Continued—–


South of the Border~Part 2

22 Apr

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane


Monday we were up early for breakfast, after which we loaded up the vans and began the 175 mile drive to the border. Our caravan of vehicles stopped at Eagle Pass, TX for lunch (our last American meal for a week), and then it was across the border (Passport & luggage check) and on to our destination in a small colonia of Nava, Mexico which is located about halfway between Del Rio and Laredo, TX.


We had been supplied with detailed lists of things to take and not take (to help speed us at border crossings), as well as “Cautions” about not eating any food or drinking any water not provided by our hosts. This was to help keep the visiting groups in good working condition and keep us from coming down with a case of “Montezuma’s Revenge.” It was a long (but uneventful) trip, except for that short delay at the border crossing (I think the guards were looking for a “donation” to let us pass). The rest of the time was occupied with lots of singing and laughter in our van.



When we arrived at the colonia (small unregulated settlement), it was rather shocking for our visiting group to see the utter desolation and primitive conditions most of the local people lived in. The area had been picked clean of any possible building/covering material (no matter how small or flimsy) and used for shelter. In many cases, there didn’t seem to be any way to keep the weather (hot or cold/wind or rain) out of their shelters.



I had heard of people living in cardboard shacks, but as our hosts drove us around the area, explaining the basic layout, I mentioned to the woman sitting next to me, “It’s hard to believe people can actually survive in conditions like this!” All she and her friend could do was shake their heads in agreement.

After our long drive from San Antonio, it was getting late in the afternoon, so our hosts showed us some of the support structures they had built to help the local people and the colonia maintain a decent lifestyle. First there was the John 3:16 Church, where many different types of services were held each week, and where we would eat our lunch meal each day.


Next was the Dorcas House sewing center where some of the local women and girls were taught how to use the sewing machines, and the materials they were supplied with, to make clothing for their families and to sell.


And then there was the Carpenters Shop where some of the local men and boys were supplied tools and wood and taught how to build furniture for themselves and to sell. As a side note, I was interested to learn that all of the tools, wood, sewing machines and materials the local people have access to, have been donated to OSM for use as part of their ministry to help the colonia support itself.



After the tour, we headed to the small town of Allende where we checked into our hotel. Once we were checked in, we were taken to the local Methodist church where the gracious church members had prepared dinner and music for us.   The food was great and we all had a wonderful time getting acquainted, with lots of relaxing laughter, music and singing. After the festivities, a bunch of us strolled the streets of Allende, and even found an ice-cream parlor for some desert. Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.




—–To Be Continued—–

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