Laura is just like any other mom. She cleans her children’s clothes and hangs them out to dry, she makes sure there is food on the table before they go to sleep at night, and she wants the best in life for her children.
The only difference is that she will go to bed hungry more often than not, the walls that surround her and the children are rotted and crumbling and their home has become more of a shelter than a refuge. The windows are broken, and the rain drips through the ceiling into buckets, the carpet is hard and muddy from all of the water, and a single lightbulb is the only thing that provides light in their kitchen - which has to be screwed in by hand every time it is used because the light switch has long been broken.
Laura’s family has lived in her house since 1928. She grew up with her aunts and uncles, cousins, and other extended family members and has many fond memories of running around the large backyard and playing with the other kids. The home is a legacy, and more than that, a fond memory of the past and the establishment of her family name.
Six years ago, Laura’s husband went out to get something from the store and never came back. He left Laura with their six children and Laura’s uncle, who is 71 years old and legally blind.
During Thanksgiving in 2013, a member of Sandals Church heard about the Chavez family and went to their home to ask if they would like to have a homemade Thanksgiving meal provided to them. Upon seeing the decaying home, the Sandals Church member felt that something more than a meal needed to be provided to this family. That following Christmas, volunteers from Sandals Church delivered gifts to the Chavez family so they could enjoy Christmas together. One of the volunteers was overwhelmed with the circumstances of the home, and went to Sandals Church staff to share the story and ask if there was anything that could be done.
The people of Sandals Church got to work and recruited some business owners within the church who went to Laura to offer to fix her roof and a couple other small projects around the house so it would be more livable. Another woman in the church offered up her own home for the family to stay in while their home was being repaired.
Laura and her children knew their house would be getting a new roof, but they did not know the real extent of the repairs that were planned.
When the team arrived, they had plans far beyond just repairing the roof and fixing some wiring. They tore the house apart to its basic frame. They threw out the rotted walls and floor, replaced the water-damaged ceilings and roof, repaired all of the electricity and outlets, built new cabinets and planted flowers and trees outside.
All of this was completed by more than 100 selfless volunteers who gave their time and resources to make this happen over the course of a few weeks. The generosity did not stop there. Sandals Church announced that it had set up a registry at Target that anyone in the church could purchase items from to help a family they didn't know start over.
The church had no idea what the items were specifically being used for, but without hesitation, in only a couple days, the registry was purchased in completion. That meant that the Chavez family would be receiving food to stock their cabinets, new beds, bedding, decor, supplies, desks and so many other things to complete their home.
On Thursday, May 8, it was time to reveal the brand new home to the Chavez family. Their neighbors gathered in the streets and peeked outside their windows as over 200 Sandals Church members arrived for the reveal. Laura and her family were blindfolded and driven to their home where they heard cheers of their church family as they got out of the vehicle. On the count of three, they all removed their blindfolds and turned to see their new home. Tears began to roll down the faces of this grateful family, overwhelmed by what they saw in front of them. The surprises had just begun.
One of the worship leaders from Sandals Church guided Laura and the family up to the front door of the house, and when she opened it, there stood Jonathan, Laura’s oldest son, who Sandals Church had brought home from college for Mother’s Day weekend to surprise his mom. Laura could be heard throughout the crowd as she muttered his name through happy cries. Hugs were in order for each family member as they rejoiced with their brother.
Christina took the Chavez family on a tour of their new home. Each room was an emotional experience for each as they felt the feeling of being in a home once again. The entirety of the experience was unreal for each family member as they reveled in the love they felt from their church family, and they dreamed about cooking a meal together in their new kitchen.
This amazing story was shared with the church on Mother’s Day, 2014, so that everyone knew where their donations had been going. Pastor Matt Brown shared the vision for this project and why it was done.
"We wish we could meet every need we see. But while we can't do everything for everyone, we each can do something for someone." -Pastor Matt Brown
Tears filled the audience as people watched the before and after of this project and they were shocked at the joy that was in Laura’s face - even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
The generous people of Sandals Church made this story possible. Real family cares for one another without expecting anything in return, and on Mother’s Day Sandals Church got to see what it can look like when we become Our Real Family.