In association with Baja Christian Ministries

Building Houses and Latrines in Baja California Mexico



By Alan Hayase - September 2005

Wow!  That was a great trip.  I got to work early Monday morning in preparation for a long day of meetings.  We had a product manager from our corporate office in town to pitch his offering to the local team and to two of my customers.  I wasn’t doing any presenting and it was a good thing since I kept thinking of that family we met in Baja.  I had a great night sleep and may have sawn more wood at night then during the day in Tijuana, but my customers probably thought I was zombie. 

After getting home and telling Linda and the family about the trip, and how we completed building a house for a family who lost everything when their home burned down, she told me to be careful because Satan likes to attack after these mountain top experiences.  I thought about it a moment and replied that it was, and yet it wasn’t.  Don’t get me wrong because I truly enjoyed every minute of the trip.  In fact, I enjoyed going down there so much that there was not much I would change, except…I keep thinking of that family, and their living conditions, the trash everywhere because there’s no one coming to take it away…and the lady across the street doing her laundry in a dirty five gallon bucket.

Here in California, we enjoy the spoils of being the world’s fifth largest economy, in the richest most powerful nation on the planet.  Yet Jesus said in Mathew 19:23, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Does this trouble you?  It troubled the disciples.  Did that lady washing her cloths in a dirty bucket feel rich?  Well, compared to the family across the street, she had clothes to wash. 

Was that lady complaining that the Federales weren’t providing her with a Maytag Neptune front loader that she felt entitled to?  I doubt it.  In fact, come to think of it, she looked content to do her laundry in that dirty paint bucket, as did probably every family in the neighborhood.  Maybe I don’t need to upgrade the old Kenmore to a front loader.  That paint bucket sure seems to work just fine.

While back on the jobsite pounding nails, a young teenager came by to help steady a crib block I was working on.  I was so tired I didn’t even acknowledge his help.  But in mid swing I noticed he was a member of the family whose home burned down.  I stopped, and asked him if this was his house.  He didn’t speak English and neither did I know any useful Spanish.  But I asked again, “You live here?”  He smiled and nodded.  Was that Erik or Mario?  I forgot to ask.  I gave him the hammer and pointed to where the nail should be driven and he excited pounded away.

For the next two hours he followed me around like an eager puppy dog.  And the whole time I was thinking of a way to witness to this guy, but how.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been remotely proficient at witnessing in English, much less trying to accomplish anything in Spanish.  We were running out of time, so I showed him all I knew about carpentry, and how to square-up a crib block, all the while praying that the Lord would tell me how to witness to this young man.  There just was no time to stop to think because we still had lot of work to go before we could dedicate the house.

I kept praying and praying, but I guess I didn’t stop to listen.  And eventually we completed the rest of the roof cribbing together.  We were sweating like pigs in the heat in the upstairs loft of the house because there was no insulation and definitely no air conditioning.  I started thinking of how he and some of the eighteen members of his extended family will possibly end up sleeping here in this part of the 16x20 home the size of my family room back in California.

Back home in Yorba Linda the city motto is "the Land of Gracious Living."  But here in Baja, the people seem to have eked out their own grace in living.  One of our fist tasks in Baja was to build two latrines because flush toilets are a luxury.  Because of the lack of facilities, one learns to watch where you are stepping.  In my world, a porta-potty is roughing it.  Shall we say that their world is a bit different.

Then I remembered that Jesus said in Mathew 19:24, “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god.”  Ouch!  All the riches we have in California could not buy a ticket to heaven.  John MacArthur adds that “<nor> can anyone merit enough divine favor to gain entrance to heaven.”  Maybe once I get past my materialistic worldliness, the Lord will allow me to speak.

I never got to say anything to witness to the young man.  But looking back, it was all in God's plan.  Maybe the Lord wanted this young lad to be a carpenter.  Maybe even join this ministry that we were working with, to build houses for others in need.  And maybe the Lord has a great plan...second thought, I know the Lord has a great plan.

In the end, I learned that ministry isn't about me or what I did, but what He did for me.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16. 

Walking through life will bring many experiences.  Some will challenge you.  Some will add to your foundation.  A few will rip you out of you shoes and carry you through your tough times.   Unequivocally, Baja fits into the later classification.  We may not be able to build a house for everyone in Baja, but we can give it our best shot, particularly if we keep the “kitchen drawer hammers” at home.

God bless.


Used here with permission


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Last modified: April 06, 2007