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A new kind of gift exchange

December 31, 2019

Sometimes, when Roxy Sanchez pulls into her driveway, she pauses: “I just sit there and look at my home. I’m finally home,” she says. In Bloomington, Texas, the road to get there has been long, and it has forever changed her faith in God.

When Hurricane Harvey struck in August 2017, Roxy and her husband, Lupe, an electrician, took shelter in a nearby church. “I don’t remember the name of it but it was an Apostolic church,” says Roxy. She held her newborn grandson on her lap as the wind howled. “I thought, if the roof falls off this church, we’re going to die,” she recalls. Then one of the church doors flew open. “In came three men,” she says, “They were crawling. Their faces were full of mud. They were all wet. Their hair was all messed up. The roof had just blown off their mobile home. It rolled off like a tin can. They had tied a rope around their waists so they wouldn’t get lost.”

When all of them emerged from the church after the storm finally passed, they didn’t recognize their town. “The ditches were full of water,” says Roxy. “Wires everywhere, posts had fallen. The wind had taken signs from who-knows-where and just placed them around.”

When she and her husband went to check on their home, they found two feet of water. But worse, the home itself had separated. “There was a big, two-foot gap inside the house. It looked like a giant hand had pushed my home off its blocks.”

She filled out an application for disaster assistance from the local long-term recovery committee. Meanwhile, she and Lupe moved into a small home offered by Lupe’s father. “Then that house caught fire,” says Roxy. “The little bit we had, we lost.”

As they struggled to find a new place to live, Roxy remembers the day her phone rang. “It was the caseworker saying I got approved for a home. It was like winning the lottery. I just cried tears of joy.”

That same night, Roxy and Lupe had dinner with crews from Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), the people who would build their new home.

As MDS began working on the house, both Roxy and Lupe pitched in to help. Now that their home is complete, they simply kept helping. Lupe has been hired to wire the homes that MDS continues to build for other people. Roxy volunteers with interior work, making a meal once a week for the volunteers. Both are planning to serve as weekly volunteers on a future MDS project.

At first, Roxy says, her husband was in doubt: “He said that nobody does anything to help like this. I told him that he just had to have faith in God. Being around such wonderful people has brought my faith up so much that I started to going to church and I started doing the right thing for God,” said Roxy. “This is the greatest gift of all.”