Saint Paul Lutheran Church from Mount Prospect, Illinois made their annual spring family trip to serve families in need in greater El Paso County again last week. This year, they were joined by a group of four from nearby Arlington Heights, led by a former member of Saint Paul, now Pastor at Living Christ. The group was able to help 2 families in Sparks over the course of the week, providing needed home additions for both families.
Part of the crew, which came to be known as the adult team, set out to help the Sparks husband and wife Jesus and Lorena. Jesus admitted to being very nervous and worried as the time came for the team to begin the work project after the previous bad experiences, and also felt like the color of his skin may be a deterrent to those who offer help. They had been taken advantage of in the past by people claiming to be doing work in the name of a church. His fears were quickly relieved as the team began to frame the addition to their bedroom as they need a bit more room to navigate due to limited mobility. The adult team shared that Lorena was an inspiration to them, filling their days with joy as she prepared meals for them and they never saw her without a smile on her face. The leader was heard saying their cautious acceptance of their group was humbling and it is their prayer that the time spent with them helps them continue the healing process from the hurt they felt prior to the arrival of the team.
The kids’ team also built an addition to a home in Sparks. This one was for Laura and her four children, who all shared two bedrooms in their small home. The team arrived to build an addition that had been started by the family, but was nowhere near complete, or even safe from the elements. Being unfinished also posed a safety hazard. They quickly removed the shell and began a new frame, which was later roofed, insulated, and drywalled. This new addition encompasses a new living area and two more rooms. Laura is hopeful to be able to add another bathroom soon as well. Laura and her family were very gracious for the addition to their home and it is their prayer that they will see their friends from Illinois again in the near future.
Daily devotions, El Paso sights, and even a Lenten dinner and service filled up the evenings for the team as they shared stories about their work and how moving it is to be able to give back and help others. For nearly 20 years, Saint Paul has been blessing our mission and families in both El Paso and Juarez. It is a pleasure to think back about how many lives they have changed through their simple
A Word from the Team
This week we asked El Paso’s Steven Cottingham to interview the servant event and share some photos. The servant event team had a few words and smiles to share:
Coming to Sparks by Steven Cottingham
What’s it like, coming to El Paso to add additions to two homes? “It really was a growing experience,” says Scott, one of the program participants. And, it is. The motto of the Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care is “Changing Lives Through Simple Acts of Kindness.” The servant events are more than a simple act of kindness, they are a lifeline to the families served.
As people on these trips learn, it is also a lifeline for themselves. It connects them to serving Jesus in others, as found in Matthew chapter 25. We have all taken a moment to help someone in need. Maybe we have stopped on the side of a busy highway to help someone change a tire, or push a car off the road. We may have helped friends or members of our church move homes, or given them a ride to the store, or hospital.
The members of two Lutheran Churches from Illinois have come to El Paso, and Sparks to help build much-needed extensions on the homes of total strangers.
Sparks is a growing colonia east of El Paso, this is in need. It’s an unincorporated part of the City of El Paso that is dusty, filled with dirt roads, and a sense of hope for two families. I had a chance to stop and talk with five members of this servant event: Lili Duckman and Katherine Menze, of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect. The girls are thirteen and fourteen years old. Also, Scott Berner and Dari Hartmann of Living Christ Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights.
I asked Lili and Katherine why they decided to come on this servant event trip, and why El Paso. “It’s a good experience. You learn how to use tools, and help others,” was Lili’s answer.
Katherine said she wanted to see what it was like to live in poverty. Both girls agreed that they have learned many skills that they can use wherever they find themselves in the future. The use of tools, “I got to use the circular saw for the first time,” Lili said with a smile. “I’ve learned to get closer to others,” was Katherine’s take on what she is taking home with her. The young ones made friends with fellow group members, the families they were serving, and a whole passel of puppies!
Dari said that this was their tenth trip to El Paso, to serve others. Scott, this was the first time he and his wife have traveled down to El Paso.
Scott said he was glad he came along. “It was like a triangle effect for me,” he said. “You know what’s cool? We’ve grown just in the group itself, we’re brand new, and it was really nice. I got to know everyone a lot better. We’ve been able to work together. I think you learn as much about yourself as well as new friends, new relationships, as well as the people you are serving.”
Ten separate trips Dari has made to El Paso. One would not continue to come back if there was not a connection to Christ. “We are serving Christ, and our brothers and sisters,” she said to me after Church. “When you come down here thinking you’re going to be a blessing to someone else, you forget you are going to blessed too.” She recounted how the families they were serving, even though they were of limited means, went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome.
I would like to invite you to consider coming down to El Paso, to serve Him, and others. “You can diffidently see God’s presence in this town,” said Kevin Witzke, who joined us towards the end of our conversation. Come join us, and see God’s work first hand.