Sunday, March 4, 2018

Tiny Houses

For over 10 years, our church has sent a team to Mexico to work with Amor Ministries building houses for needy families. This year, I joined over 100 other individuals to build four houses over a four day weekend. Friday morning at 5 a.m. found us gathering for the trip to Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

The caravan stopped in Gila Bend for hot coffee and anything else that looked good at Mickey D's.

Upon arrival in Puerto Penasco, we set up tents of all shapes, sizes, and colors that would serve as our homes for the weekend. With that done, we headed out to meet our families and get started.

Part of each house crew started sifting the provided sand & gravel mix for the sand needed for stucco.

Meanwhile, the other part of the crew laid out the forms and dug the trench for the footings.

As the sun rose on Saturday, the foremen and their assistants met near the bonfire to discuss the order of work for the day,

while the kitchen crew got started on breakfast for over one hundred people.

The unanticipated culinary delight (at least for me) was that ice for drinks was plentiful. Nothing like cold water or lemonade after mixing concrete.

We quickly lost count of how many wheelbarrows of concrete were mixed for the floor.

A couple of the young guys took ownership of the concrete pour, and did a great job of it.

Meanwhile, the other half of the crew was framing up the wall and roof sections.

Two roof sections and seven wall sections, with all the wood cut to length by hand. Just like the concrete, all of the work was done with hand tools. These wall sections make up an 11' x 22' two room house.

After a good night's sleep, we were back at it for what would be the LONG day. Work started by standing up the wall sections and getting everything squared up.

The same guys that claimed the concrete claimed the roof. The sheeting was nailed down and then they rolled on the roofing. Meanwhile, the most unusual technique was taking place on the walls. Nails were spaced vertically every five inches on the house corners and then the house was wrapped with bailing wire. The wire was tensioned by placing more nails in a zigzag pattern. Once the wire was tight, the house was wrapped with building paper,

covered with chicken wire, and then the first coat of stucco went on. While all that was going on, the two windows and two doors were hung.

It was a long day with the sun setting as we made our way back to camp.

The last day was a short day on the house. The second coat of stucco was applied and the stoops were poured. By this time, the young guys were starting to lay down on the job!

The family had heard that one of the young guys was celebrating his 21st birthday so they got him a cake.

With the house down, keys turned over to the family, and a prayer for the family said, it was time to head back to camp to break it down, load up, and head home. I was really glad I'd taken down my tent before going to the job site since the wind was really blowing when we got back.

We cleared customs homeward bound before the rains started. Eighty-eight hours after we departed, we returned to the church parking lot with everyone safe and four houses built for Mexican families. A pretty special weekend!

I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.


  1. A very inspiring story and thank you for your testimonial to share God’s love with others. Great job!

    1. Thanks! Not only was it a great chance to give back, but also an opportunity to get to know some friends much better.

  2. What a great thing to do. I used to go on mission building trips years ago. Always felt that I received much more than I gave.

  3. Awesome, John. Thanks for your time and generosity.

    1. It made for a busy calendar but I've already pencilled it in for next year. Amazing what can be done with a group of people with minimal skills and experience but lots of willingness.

  4. Amazing how quickly it went with a large crew! Tremendously enjoyed this post about good people!

    1. It's a pretty impressive design that Amor uses - it leverages lots of people but very few exacting skills are needed. Teamwork is essential.

  5. That wire they put on first must be to make the structure earthquake resistant.

    1. It provides some torsional stiffening and serves to back up the building paper for the application of the stucco.