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Church members build home

Posted: November 28, 2008 9:44 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Seven First Presbyterian Church of Newhall members (left to right) Beverly Stokes, Scott Bullock, Candy Belcher, Rod Belcher, Rachel Durley, Fred McIntosh and Victoria Stokes begin their home-building task in Tijuana, Mexico in October. Because the area was rocky and uneven, the mission workers had to level the area before the ce...

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Nine middle-class United States citizens living in Santa Clarita tasted poverty for one weekend in mid-October. Living in tents set up in a rock-strewn, dusty parking lot surrounded by an old chain link fence, these nine individuals drove to the building site and tirelessly worked to build a house in a poor Tijuana, Mexico, neighborhood.

The team of nine included eight adults - Scott Bullock, John Favalessa, Candy and Rod Belcher, Rachel Durley, Fred McIntosh, Art Moore and Beverly Stokes and a teenager, Victoria Stokes.

Each was commissioned by the First Presbyterian Church in Newhall and sent to start building a house under the auspice of Amor, a group dedicated to building homes for needy families.

It is not often that pain and exhaustion make you feel good, but for these nine people, the time spent breathing dust and sweating buckets of water was characterized by the group as a memory to cherish. They completed a cement pad and framed all but a front half wall on the house in Tijuana.

They worked all day Saturday leveling the ground, building a frame for the house pad, mixing cement, pouring cement and smoothing the finished cement pad. Some stayed Sunday and finished the framing of the house, except for one small wall in front.

Art Moore, the mission member voted engineer and contractor, characterized the trip as special. Moore described the trip as awesome and truly different than any other trip he's been on because of the bonding between the family and the church members.

Moore said this was the first time in his experience that a host family worked side by side with them.

"The family - father, mother and 15-year-old daughter - framed the roof while we were framing the house's walls," Moore said.

Generally, the groups go down and work on a house and have little or no contact with the families they are helping.

"Not in this case," Rod Belcher said. "We had a lot of contact. They made hot snacks for us each day. The family worked with us. Working with them was fantastic. I think it made me work harder than ever. I put out my back and had to get cortisone shots to relieve the pain in my back. I got the shot one day after I returned. The pain was worth it."

Because this project was new, the work crew from First Presbyterian had to build a dirt foundation for the pad, and then build a wooden form for the pad. It was this pad that the cement was poured into.

"To me the work was strenuous," Durley said. "We did not use any power tools. Everything was done by hand. We used only shovels, hoes, rakes and wheelbarrows. It was hard work."

Agreeing with Durley, McIntosh said, "We worked our butts off."

All agreed that it was worth it, and they would go on another Amor building project. The consensus of the groups was that the family - Jordon and his wife, Adriana, and daughter, Joana - were the driving force behind their work.

"Watching the family work, made us realize how important this house was to the family," McIntosh said. "We wanted to get as much done as possible."

Teresa Howell is a member of the First Presbyterian Church.

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