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Pine Island group brings mercy to Mexican town

The mission trip is the fifth undertaken by members of Saint Paul Lutheran Church, ELCA in Pine Island.

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One of the mission teams from Saint Paul Lutheran Church, ELCA, gathers with the family who will move into their new house build by the team during a recent mission trip March 19-26, 2022, organized by members of the church.
Contributed / Karen Doll

PINE ISLAND — Leaving Vicente Guerrero, Baja California, was hard.

"I was shocked at the poverty and the level of emotion that hit me," said Teri Dose, a Pine Island resident who traveled to the Mexican town. "I literally cried on and off for a couple of days when I got home."

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Rachel Schwalbach of Pine Island, left, hugs Mersserat Lopez, of Las Aves, near Vicente Guerrero, Baja California, Mexico, during a recent mission trip March 19-26, 2022, organized by members of Saint Paul Lutheran Church, ELCA, in Pine Island.<br/>
Contributed / Teri Dose

This was Dose's first mission trip to Mexico. Along with her husband, Laverne Dose, her daughter, Rachel Schwalbach, and her daughter's friend, Liz Honey, the family joined 27 members of Pine Island's Saint Paul Lutheran Church, ELCA to build homes for needy families during a recent spring break trip March 19-26, 2022.

"The level of poverty that these folks live with," Dose said. "I’ve been a social worker for 30 years here, but I've never seen poverty to that level."

Dose and her team build a home – a 20-by-22-foot wood home on concrete slab with a door that locks and windows – for a family that had been living on a dirt floor shack made of cardboard, plastic and cast-off plywood.

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The shack shows a typical living space for a family in the Las Aves area of Vicente Guerrero, Baja California, Mexico. Mission teams from Saint Paul Lutheran Church, ELCA recently took a mission trip March 19-26, 2022, to build wooden homes on concrete slabs for families in the area.
Contributed / Karen Doll

The trip was organized for the missionaries from Pine Island by YWAM – Youth With a Mission – a California-based organization that focuses on building homes in the Mexican state.

Karen Doll has been on all five trips to Vicente Guererro with Saint Paul Lutheran.

Doll took a trip to an orphanage in the city in 2001 with a friend, and learned about the mission trip opportunity. A few years later, she'd convinced her pastor to let the church sponsor a mission trip – after raising funds for the project – and took their first trip to Baja California in 2008, going again every three years until COVID made them skip 2020.

Families are encouraged to go together, and it's recommended children 12 and older participate.

"When we get down there, we have to work hard, so if there are younger kids they’d have to have their parents watch them," Doll said. "But the whole time we are there, we are surrounded by children."

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Karen Doll, front row, second from left, has helped organize the mission trips for members of Saint Paul Lutheran Church, ELCA, to Vicente Guerrero, Baja California, Mexico since 2008.. The church recently took a trip to build houses for poor families March 19-26, 2022.
Contributed / Karen Doll

The larger group splits into groups of about 10 or 11 to build a home for a family, Doll said.

The recipients of these homes are very poor families who make just dollars a day working in the fruit and vegetable fields. Often, the children have to leave school in about third or fourth grade to help support the family, Doll said.

When the missionaries arrive, they find families who have purchased a piece of land for a home, but paying off the loan for that land can take a generation, and any thought of building an actual home might take another generation. So, by building a home for families, those families can keep their children in school longer, Doll said.

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“It’s the only way end this cycle of poverty," she said.

Doll said church members in Pine Island fund-raise the money for building materials, and when they arrive YWAM has a cement slab poured, materials and tools on site, and the missionaries need just follow the plans. This year, they were able to add solar panels to the homes to give them electricity.

"We'll get there on Monday, and by Thursday we have a house built," she said.

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Map of Vicente Guerrero, Baja California, Mexico.
Created with Datawrapper

YWAM has helped mission teams build more than 2,000 homes in the region, she said.

Pastor Marie Anderson from Saint Paul Lutheran said the mission trips provide a tangible benefit for the families in Mexico – a real home that is safe and helps them move away from poverty – but it gives much to those who go from her church as well.

"God expects us to provide for others," Anderson said. "There's a reason why we don’t just spend money. Our point of view for the world is enlarged, made broader."

The experience, she added, often has a lasting impression on the missionaries, making them more grateful for the things we have here in America, and, hopefully, giving them the desire to help more people, whether here or abroad.

"For kids, it opens their eyes to a level of poverty they haven’t been used to," Anderson said. "But what I see happening, is when parents and kids go together, they have a chance to have faith conversations that generally don’t happen at home."

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Having gone now five times to build homes, Doll said the experience also teaches those on the mission teams to step back and see what is important.

"Our society, with all our wealth, what we’ve lost is the family," Doll said. "The people down there, they are there for one another."

Related Topics: PINE ISLANDNONPROFITSFAITH
Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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