It was just Day One in Ensenada when a beautiful miracle began to unfold. The house build was going along swimmingly with local pastors, church members, YWAM volunteers, the family,their family, plus our little team from the midwest all working away like ants on a hill. My official capacity was to capture the story of the day through photos and video so I decided to walk through the neighborhood to create a fuller picture of where our family lived. My dad, the self-appointed supervisor of all things, came along to “keep me safe” (I think he just wanted to look busy, lol).
The neighborhood was really quiet that morning. Some people peeked their heads out of doors and windows as this blonde lady with a camera and her distinguished, mustached chaperone passed by, but it seemed that most residents were away at work or school. Dogs, cats, chickens, and a goat or two, on the other hand, were everywhere. Lounging in the middle of the road, barking at us like they might eat us or squawking and cock-a-doodle-doo-ing indignantly on the end of a string.
I saw this cool scene at the top of the steepest hill; a man on an iPhone in one of the poorest neighborhoods in North America shepherding a bunch of cows up the side of the mountain, a really beautiful house and garden in the foreground. I wanted to capture it and immediately started to scurry up the dusty hillside. My dad just stood at the bottom, waiting for his crazy-loco-en-la-
As I made my way up the hill I saw a family, thirteen of them in all, walking single-file across the hillside like a scene from the Sound of Music, superhero T-shirts in place of curtain-play-clothes, the little one (Lupita, I would later learn) sipping on a three-liter bottle of Coke. I was so excited to find people outside their homes, people to connect with (my most favorite thing in the world). In my limited and broken Spanish, I said “Buenas Dias”, asked them how they were and asked their names. I introduced myself as Au-na, the way they could understand my name most easily, and chatted a bit about who owned the houses nearby. I asked if I could take their photos and they
Gabriela, the mother, who we would later learn had turned around to talk to us at the nudging of a voice, caught up to us as we began to walk back down the hill to the job site. “How can I get a home like that for my family?” she asked in Spanish. “We struggle. My children cannot go to school, our home is very small and we are very many. A home like that would make a great difference for us.” (a general translation, as I am just learning ). I tried to explain the process a bit as she motioned for us to come and see their home, an invitation that felt like an honor and one we happily accepted.
I asked Gabriela to walk over to the job site with us where a translator could help her learn more about a Homes of Hope house for her big, wonderful family. Through the interpreter, we heard more about little Lupita (Gabriela Guadalupe), who is actually their granddaughter. Their oldest child, Lupita’s mother, was badly beaten as a young girl and never fully recovered. She died when Lupe was a year old from complications due to her injuries. The family stopped attending their church when a pastor suggested that their daughter’s death was some kind of test of their faith. So heartbreaking and senseless. They have been struggling emotionally and physically since, isolated from community and friendship.
Just a few days before we arrived in Ensenada, Gabriela told us, she had been praying that she might find her way back to God and into a church family again. When we parted ways that first time on the hillside a voice prompted her to turn around and talk to us. We had no idea that through my crappy Spanish skills, my desire to connect to people and my dad’s reluctant willingness to follow me up that steep hill, we would be a conduit to bring God and his people right to her doorstep just days later.