How a Community Service Project Will Change Your Family
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Are you looking for a community service project? You don’t need to leave the country to find volunteer opportunities to do with your kids.
For instance, a good idea might be to go to the Texas-Mexico border. My family has ministered to the people in The Colonias doing VBS, soccer camps, construction, painting, and food distribution for many years.
When I first signed up with my husband, I thought the trip would be rather easy since it was in Texas.
I was wrong.
Doing a service project is heart-wrenching no matter where you go–even if you are in your own city or state. My family was not prepared emotionally for the things we saw. It changed us forever as a family and as human beings. Personally, I am glad it changed us. We are better for it.
In this post, I am going to tell you why you should do a community service project with your family, and how it will change them forever. First, let me explain our experience so you can see what it might be like for your family.
Doing a Community Service Project with Your Family
My family chose a service project in an impoverished area called The Colonias down in South Texas because our church-sponsored it. It was a good choice for us because it was not only inexpensive but it was also close.
You may wonder what are The Colonias. They are communities in an unincorporated makeshift area about a mile from the Texas-Mexico border. These areas are just beyond the municipal boundaries of any city or town.
Many sections of land have no drinking water, electricity, or sewage service. Texas has the largest number of Colonia residents; more than 500,000, mostly immigrants, who live in these shanty houses.
The land in these areas is subdivided by unscrupulous owners who sell a plot, often to buyers who don’t understand the terms of the agreement. Many times the owner will give false promises utilities will be installed. Of course, it never happens.
If the terms of the agreement are not kept, the family is thrown off the property only for the same thing to happen again to the next unsuspecting residents.
Sadly, these people have no recourse since they don’t understand English and barely have enough money to live.
The Housing in the Colonias
Many of the houses in the Colonias barely stand up straight because they are built with a mixture of plywood, cinderblocks, metal scraps, and tar paper.
Residents have extension cords running from one shanty to another trying to get electricity to their shelters. Some shelters are little better than a cardboard box.
While driving through the area, I saw one make-shift home that had three “walls” (scrap wood) barely secured and no roof. A baby was sitting outside of the “home” in the 100-degree heat left in a stroller by himself. There was no one around.
It was beyond imaginable. I wanted to stop and rescue the child, but we had to keep driving to our destination. This is the hardest thing about being a community worker; you are overwhelmed with the thousands of needs everywhere you turn.
When we arrived, we set out on foot to distribute food and tell people about God. One home we visited was basically a dumping ground for garbage and old metal scraps.
The “house” was a big box on blocks with no electricity, water, or sewage. The people inside were barely existing.
It smelled like death. Yes, death has a smell.
We found dead rats under the house that had been meticulously slit open and gutted. It appeared they had been eating the rats for food. This still haunts me. I don’t know how they were living this way.
The good news is that a day later our teens decided we should all go back and help them clean up their yard. We also brought more food for the family.
All of this happened because we discovered them while walking in the area, and the teens decided to go back the next day. This one act changed the trajectory of a family’s life. Eventually, they accepted Jesus and moved.
From this one experience, my kids learned how their behavior affects others greatly, not to mention how blessed they truly are to live the life they have. They would never have learned them this at home in Dallas. There are some things you just have to experience first hand.
Why a Community Service Project Will Change Your Family
You may wonder why my family keeps going back to the Texas-Mexico border in an area that is unsafe, dirty, and forgotten. It is because volunteering has changed my family. And it can change yours too. Your kids are no different than mine.
My otherwise, phone-addicted teenage children, put down their cell phones for several days and worked in 100-degree heat roofing, distributing food, painting, and singing songs with elementary age children because they fell in love with them.
This alone changed me as I watched my kids find the true meaning of life. True happiness is not found in a bigger house, a faster car, or a better job. It is found in giving to others who will never be able to pay you back.
When you see your son pick up trash in a stranger’s yard for hours or you see your daughter give a child extra snacks because he has not eaten all day, it makes you realize this is the best thing your family has ever done together.
My family found true purpose in the heat, dust, and dirt of an abandoned area that no one else cares about. We found who we really are as people and as Christians who love Jesus.
I will be forever grateful for this experience as it truly bonded my family together and they learned how to have compassion for others.
My daughter has said over and over again she would rather be in South Texas than on a big, fancy vacation.
What Community Service Project Will You Do As a Family?
Don’t miss the opportunity to do a community service project with your family. Find something that fits you and your kid’s passion. It will make the time together more meaningful and fun. It helps if they have friends doing it too.
Warning: Your kids may complain at first, so don’t give in to the whining. Once you get there, everyone will eventually settle in and find where they fit best in the community activity. Make sure you have a great attitude and are willing to help or your kids will pick up on it.
They won’t want to help if you don’t help.
Once the day is over, talk as a family about what happened and how everyone felt about what they saw. Let them share their experiences. You will be amazed at what they learned. In fact, you may even cry when you see how it changed them forever.
I would love to hear how your community service project changed your family. Write it in the comments below.
Check out this video about the Colonias in case you are interested in planning a trip to the border or you can read about the immigration issue from a Christian perspective and find out what is really going on down south.
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Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Parenting and Family. This is a place for moms with preschool age kids or older to talk about their struggles with parenting, family life, education, or marriage. You will find biblically based advise from other moms who want to raise godly kids.
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