I felt the full power of human gratitude worshipping with the El Zorrillo Church of Christ in Baja, Mexico, on July 10, 2013. It was expressed in a language foreign to me, but I got it. Gratitude transcends language. Culture too!
I was one of twelve visitors from my home church who came to Mexico to build a new house for a needy family of five belonging to the the El Zorillo congregation. We were part of a larger group of 70 Christians from Canada to Florida (most from Vancouver), that built four houses in one week. Worshipping on Wednesday night, I lost count of the warm expressions of gratitude that various family members (men, women, young and old) voiced during the service. Yet, it remained clear that God was glorified even more than we were thanked!
We began with a 16’x20′ cement slab provided months ago by the hard work of locals. We left a wood-framed, fully insulated house for a family headed by a man who earns meager wages working in the fields. In four work days, we were able to offer what the father probably could not have provided in his lifetime. There is no running water in El Zorrillo, so we built an outhouse nearby.
Our church in Lewiston raised the funds ($8,000.00) to cover the costs for the house we built. Our work was richly complimented by Joe Bever, our foreman, Craig Brown and Steven Fancy at the buzz saw, Pete the electrical genius, and Clark Richardson, our interpreter extraordinaire.
We lived in a tent village at a campground on the beach just south of Ensenada with better provisions than the locals. We enjoyed plenty of food, showers (sometimes warm), flushing toilets and we slept on air (mattresses that is).
When the house was finished, we presented the family with a Bible, a table & chairs, some basic foods, a broom, dustpan and the keys to a house that locks. Powerful gratitude was written all over the faces of the family.
Back in the USA, homes contain an average of two rooms for every person. We built three rooms for five. The average new American house is 2,300 square feet. We built a 320 square foot house. Yet, it seems rare to find the same gratitude on many American faces that we saw on Eladio, Justed, Erika, Anna and Jose’s faces. Okay, Jose was a few months old and all we saw on his face was cuteness.
The most grateful people are not always lined up with those who are most blessed. People with the same blessing scorecards can be quite far apart on the gratitude scale. Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) said, “All our discontents about what we want appear to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.”
The average Westerner lives better than 99.4 percent of all the human beings who have ever lived. Enjoying a level of luxury and blessing few humans can imagine, many Americans can’t seem to get free of our inflated resentments. It’s hard to feel grateful when our focus is increasingly aimed at perceived injustices, left and right. We get upset when our cable or internet connection goes down, or our benefits are no longer free, or a jury disappoints us, or when our abortion “right” gets limited. Some get very angry. Are we going blind to our blessings?
America is also working hard from top to bottom to decompose marriage and deconstruct homes, causing more and more children to grow up without a united mother and father. But we sure do have nice houses! In Mexico, our group followed a master plan for the house we built. God provides a master plan for Christian homes everywhere, but sadly, most Americans no longer trust that God.
I believe God answered our prayers for a safe, productive and enjoyable trip to Mexico and back. We learned anew that the best blessings of all are not received. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). Our group gave up one week of our luxurious lives following that principle and were blessed. Jesus gave his life following that principle and, again, we were blessed!