Cecilia Valencia and her husband Daniel Lopez sighed with relief when they learned they qualified for a new home build by Buckner Domestic Missions. Getting a new house meant they could move out of their tiny trailer. It meant their daughter Sarai could have her own room and not sleep on the couch any more. It meant they could have electricity and light in their home after dark. For Cecilia and Daniel, it meant security and safety for their three children.
What they didn’t know, however, was how much this home build would test their faith.
Just weeks before the home was scheduled to be built, the project was suspended after the mission teams who were going to build the house were forced to withdraw after their leaders suffered medical emergencies. Cecilia and Daniel were disappointed but determined to trust God. They prayed for a miracle.
Their miracle arrived with a group of fathers who rose up to help one of their own.
Cecilia and Daniel have never been afraid of hard work, but no matter how hard they tried, they could never get ahead. Daniel painted houses and Cecilia sold mole sauce to the community of Peñitas, Texas.
Little by little, they saved money to fix their home but never got far in home repairs. Emergencies always arose requiring them to use their savings.
Recently, Daniel started to repair the trailer’s only bathroom, but he was forced to halt the repairs when his stepdad had a stroke. Daniel and Cecilia sent all their extra income to his mom to help out, leaving the bathroom in their trailer half finished.
“You always want something better for your family,” Cecilia said. “My husband has always made a lot of effort to make things work. We would get the money and something would happen and we would have to use it for something else. It’s been very difficult, especially on him because he’s always working.”
Noticing her neighbors getting new houses, she asked them how they did it. Her neighbor explained how the Buckner Family Hope Center was helping them improve their living situation and providing them with the tools to improve their relationships, finances and spirituality.
Cecilia was intrigued, but she was hesitant to go to the Hope Center. She was afraid the Hope Center would require her to switch denominations in order to receive help. Her neighbor assured her they would not try to change her faith and convinced her to check it out.
Stepping into the Hope Center changed Cecilia’s life.
She started taking classes – Faith and Finances, Jobs for Life, parenting classes and a bow-making class. Daniel started going to a fatherhood class and their children attended youth classes. Cecilia and Daniel started working on a family plan with one of the family coaches at the center. And Cecilia started to notice a difference in her family.
“At church, I used to greet people timidly,” Cecilia said. “But at Buckner, they taught me about presentation and how to greet people, and how to show sincerity. Now, I am much more confident when I talk to people at church. And Daniel started interacting more [with the children]. He talks to them, picks them up and plays with them.”
She even noticed a change in her 14-year-old daughter, Sarai.
“I used to get angry and frustrated at my younger siblings,” Sarai said. “I didn’t know how to deal with it so I’d just scream. I used to yell to cope, but I learned better ways to cope with the stress and frustration without yelling and taking it out on my family.”
Part of their family plan included a business initiative for Cecilia to further her mole business. She took a canning class to learn how to properly store the mole to increase the shelf life and improve the presentation. Through the Faith and Finances class, she learned how to account for her business.
“My mole would sell, but I never had anything documented,” Cecilia said. “I never knew how much I spent so the profit margin was nonexistent. Now through those classes, I can see how much I spend and my profit.”
Their life was starting to improve. When they learned their home build was suspended due to medical emergencies with the missions groups, they felt horrible.
“I did feel bad that the house wasn’t going to be built,” Cecilia said. “But it goes even deeper than that. I felt as though there was spiritual warfare going on. I didn’t want more people to suffer on our account. We’d rather wait on God for the blessings. We prayed for God to give us an alternative plan, because we didn’t want other people to get hurt.”
Daniel and Cecilia asked their church to pray with them regarding their home. When Sergio Granados, another father in the fatherhood program who also attended their church, learned about the suspended home build, he knew he needed to help and decided to mention it to the other fathers in the program at the next fatherhood meeting.
“Something inside wants you to be good to others,” Sergio said. “Not because we want to look good to others, but when you help others, it builds your own self esteem. I don’t know how to do all the other construction work, but I do know how to build a roof, and when I found out they needed help, something inside me said I needed to volunteer.”
At the next fatherhood class, Gabriel Flores, Family Hope Center coach and the instructor for the fatherhood class, announced that one of their own needed help to build a new home and asked for volunteers. He was overwhelmed with the positive response.
“They were all on board, and it just grew and grew until they had a team of people who could build the house,” Gabriel said.
And it didn’t stop with just Daniel and Cecilia’s house. Once the fathers were out there working on the house, they traveled to other homes being built at the same time asking if they could help them as well. Sergio in particular was anxious to help, traveling to every house asking if they needed assistance with the roof.
“They already wanted to help out and all they needed was an opportunity,” Gabriel said. “This concept of having a responsibility not only to your family but also to your community is new for these fathers, but that is the beauty of this situation. Out of darkness and desperation, this awesome program rose up and said we want to help. They wanted to help Daniel and his family, but they also wanted their whole community to know they are there for them too.”
With tears in her eyes, Cecilia praises God for blessing their family with a new house.
“The new house means everything to my family,” she said. “Now we have the space to be a family. We have more comfort. We have light. This house will bring us a sense of completion for our family. It is a blessing.”