I started out as a great white missionary who was going to move to Mexico and save the world. Now, I’m a full time advocate for local development who is generally against great white missionaries going into the field. That was a big jump. Someone recently asked me how I went from one extreme to the other. I met a guy named Edgar.
I work for 1Mission. We’re a nonprofit giving people in poverty the opportunity to earn a new home by serving in their community. One way we do that is by hosting short-term teams who come for a weekend at a time to help build homes. In March of 2009, we had a group cancel last minute because they said it was too dangerous to come to Mexico. Regarding the danger, it just doesn’t exist but that’s not what this is about.
We had already purchased the materials, the house needed to be built whether the group was coming down or not. We gathered up some people we’d built for in the past and the neighbors of the family receiving the house. This is the first house we built using exclusively local labor. It was a powerful thing to be a part of.
At the house dedication, Edgar (the man to the furthest left of the picture above), gave a small speech. He said, “If there are a bunch of Mexican crabs in a bucket, when one tries to escape, the others will pull him down. Today, we got down on our hands and knees to serve each other. We gave of ourselves to create a ladder so that each one of us could get out of the bucket together. We don’t need anyone else’s help for us to serve each other.”
Needless to say it was an inspiring moment for the local volunteers and for me. We saw a glimpse of our future in real life.
Fast forward to today. Just a few weeks ago we built over 16 houses in one weekend. Those 16 houses represent 3200 volunteer hours served in the community (by locals)! We could have parachuted a team in, built a house, and lives would have been changed forever. Instead, we encouraged community members to get involved and to become active participants in their development, not passive recipients.
It all started with a group that cancelled last minute. What obstacles are you facing right now that could become your future reason for success?