Spring break a ‘week of transformation’ in South Texas community

Volunteers from University Baptist Church in Houston and other congregations around the state helped transform the lives of seven families over spring break. (Photo / Aimee Freston)

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PEÑITAS—In seven days, volunteers from around Texas changed the lives of seven families in one Rio Grande Valley community.

Teams from across the state worked in Peñitas to build more homes simultaneously than Buckner International ever had attempted during a spring break mission effort.

“We have never seen an effort come together like this,” said Javier Perez, director of Buckner Domestic Missions. “This is a significant step forward for each of these families. It’s a week of transformation that will resonate throughout the community for years to come.”

Eleven teams scattered across the colonia, working from sunup to sundown, to construct homes for vulnerable families who qualified for a homebuilding project through the local Buckner Family Hope Center. Families earn points to qualify for a house by volunteering and attending Hope Center classes on job skills, parenting, managing finances and developing strong family relationships.

In addition to building homes, some volunteers led a sports camp and taught classes—including financial planning and a tutorial on how to can food—at the Hope Center.

DavidHenryUBCHouston 300David Henry from University Baptist Church in Houston worked on a Buckner International homebuilding project in a South Texas colonia. (Photo / Aimee Freston)“It’s not just about the work; it’s about the people,” said David Henry from University Baptist Church in Houston.

Volunteers traveled to the Rio Grande Valley not only to serve families, but also to make themselves available as God’s servants, he emphasized.

“God gives each of us those gifts and talents, and it’s up to us to make sure we find the spots to use them,” he said.

The construction of a new home is part of helping each family attain its goal of economic self-sufficiency.

“We seek to transform the lives of vulnerable families in all we do,” said Rebecca Estevanes, director of the Hope Center. “Little is more transformational than ownership of a safe, secure, stable home. These families have worked hard to strengthen themselves by learning new skills, becoming better parents and developing strong relationships. Volunteer teams … help catapult families even further forward by building homes that reflect the families’ newfound strength.”

For the first time, a group of Peñitas fathers served by the Hope Center worked on a home for their neighbors. The men were so excited by the project, they started work a week early.

FranciscoGutierrez 300Francisco Gutierrez had the opportunity this spring break to work alongside volunteers who built his own home last year. (Photo / Aimee Freston)“Giving back is one of the key components we teach at the Hope Center,” said Gabriel Flores, who leads the center’s fatherhood classes. “When they saw the need for a new house in their community and the opportunity to make that happen, they jumped at the chance. Many of these guys have the skills needed to build a house. They use them all the time. Now, they’re using them to strengthen their community. It’s truly beautiful.”

Francisco Gutierrez, who attends the fatherhood class at the Hope Center, was particularly eager to help one group of volunteers. They were the same group that built his new house during spring break last year.

“They made an impact in my life,” he said. “I feel the need to lend them a hand, because they have invested in me. I realized the amount of effort a mission team takes to come here, and I’m grateful that they come. It brings me joy to help the mission teams and my own community in this way.”


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