Students to build houses for families in Mexico during spring break travels


Noah Hausmann

Having a roof over one’s head is something many take for granted, but not everyone is so fortunate. This spring break, a group of Northern students plan to give the gift of houses to people in need.

On Friday morning, eight NMU students from His House Christian Fellowship will team up with 22 Ferris State University students to drive over 1,700 miles, one way, to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on a nine-day mission trip to build two houses for impoverished families there.

This mission trip is through the nonprofit Casas por Cristo (CPC), which connects volunteer build teams with families in need in Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Founded in 1993, CPC and its volunteers have built over 5,100 houses. This will be the fourth year that NMU’s His House will journey the 30-hour car ride to Juárez.

For Mara Smith, a sophomore elementary education major, this is her second year on the trip. Last year, she was shocked to see the impoverished neighborhoods, where garbage is abundant, people have to pay for drinkable water, “which is something we take for granted,” she said, and not every home has a bathroom. She called the experience “humbling.”

Smith is looking forward to getting to know the families that they will be building houses for, even though speaking Spanish isn’t her strongest talent.

“I learned that you don’t have to speak the same language as someone to connect with them and share Christ’s love with them,” she said. “I think it’s pretty universal, just through your actions.”

Smith admitted with a laugh that construction isn’t her forte either, but working as a team makes building houses in only a few days not so intimidating.

“It’s honestly difficult just getting a nail in straight for me,” she added. “Overall, you’re just doing little tasks, and it just comes together at the end.”

Pete Elenbaas, the His House campus minister for NMU, said he’s confident the students will work well together, help people in need and grow personally. Although the trip will be fun and challenging, at its heart, the students are on a mission to share God’s grace, he said.

“We can graciously give a gift to the family, that meets a huge need in their lives, that’s tangible,” Elenbaas explained. “It’s about communicating to them that there’s [another] gracious gift that has been given to them through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and remission of sins: freedom from the power of sin and death.”