A Not-So-Typical Family Vacation

Multiple families standing and kneeling in front of a small green house

It could’ve been a trip like any other, but Shauna and her family didn’t take the usual vacation. Instead, they assembled their family and friends to spend time with strangers, and they made memories for many in the process. This is because their vacation was eye-opening, heart-expanding, and life-changing. They built a house for a family in need and, more importantly, they demonstrated to this family and to themselves how profound a life with Jesus can be when it involves sacrifice.

Shauna, her husband, and their two boys, along with her parents, her brother, and family friends, sacrificed five days of their lives to serve on a Homes of Hope team in Mexico. Homes of Hope (HOH) is a ministry of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) who have been inviting youth into international missions work for 60 years!

Shauna told me how great the trip was for her family and the family they served, and I want to share their experience with you. Below is an interview with her.

Simple picture of a microphone

Hi Shauna. You and your family did something most families never even consider. What exactly did you do on your trip with YWAM and what is Homes of Hope?

My family and I traveled to Tijuana Mexico over Thanksgiving break and built a home for a local family who owned their own land but needed some help with their house. Homes of Hope is the ministry within YWAM that coordinates all the details of this trip, including the approval process of the family that receives a new home.

Why did you decide to join the Homes of Hope effort in Mexico?

We’ve been wanting to do a missions trip of some sort with our sons for a long time and after a lot of prayer, this was the right trip at the right time for us. HOH has been doing this since 1990 and we liked how they were doing it.

Were your boys excited to take this trip? Did their enthusiasm change over the course of the trip?

Overall, yes they were excited! But they weren’t sure what to expect so there was definitely some nerves felt as well. As soon as we got picked up in California by a YWAM missionary and driven across the border, all of our excitement continued to gain momentum from that moment on. I don’t think my boys complained the whole trip… What a MIRACLE!

Did your boys miss any school days and did they do homework while in Mexico?

We left on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving so both boys were already off of school and we returned Sunday night. So, thankfully we didn’t have to deal with homework on our trip.

Can you share some fun family memories from this trip that are not necessarily related to the ministry work of Homes of Hope?

We had so many! Our first day in Tijuana was a cold rainy day. That didn’t stop our boys from making themselves comfortable on the YWAM base. All the boys on our team played soccer in the cold rain, on a drenched field, shirtless. That alone would’ve made their trip a success.

Did you, your husband, or Homes of Hope develop any initial goals for your visit to Mexico? Did you meet those goals?

Our goals were to complete the house build in 2 days, get to know the family we were building the house for, and be open to what God wanted to teach each of us individually. All goals were met, Praise God!

Your husband, Chris, is a pastor so he’s familiar with ministry and sacrifice. How was this Homes of Hope work a different ministry experience for him?

Besides the effort of signing us up online and making sure all our passports were up to date, we didn’t have to do much besides show up and do what we were told. That was kinda nice and different. Even though we were serving the family in Tijuana, we were also being served and led by all the amazing missonaries that live there on the base in Tijuana. Their sacrifice was a blessing to us for sure!

What do you appreciate about the YWAM and/or Homes for Hope ministry?

The missionaries through YWAM have to raise their own support to be able to do what they’re doing. They're choosing to live a life of sacrifice all for Gods kingdom. They are a blessing to anyone who signs up to come alongside them for this special kingdom work. In addition to that, they have a great system in place. They have an extensive approval process for the family who receives the home which includes having to own their own land and they have to have a job. They supply all the tools so we just had to show up!

What would you say to people who might consider a Homes for Hope trip but are sure they can’t build a house (or who are reluctant to serve God in other capacities)?

Don’t limit what God can and will do through you! Stepping out in faith is one of the best (and scariest) parts of walking with God through life. On my own strength and my own abilities, I’m VERY limited. Missions trips are great opportunities to take that next step in your faith to see what God can do through you. The fear of our limitations is exactly what our enemy uses to keep us stuck in a safe, boring, miracle-free relationship with God. If my 10-year-old son and my 70-something-year-old mom can build a home in Mexico, so can you!

You said you were allowed to meet and interact with the family for whom you built the house. Tell us more about this. Did you get to watch Homes for Hope give them the house?

This is one of the most impactful parts of the trip. The family, as well as their neighbors, worked by our side building their new home. They put their own blood, sweat and tears into this build until it was complete. We had a “key ceremony” at the end of the project and as a team we all said a few words of blessing to the family. We prayed for them, gave them one last hug, and, through tears of joy, drove back to YWAM’s base to process our experience.

What was the family’s relationship with Jesus? If they didn’t know Him, did you or your team have the opportunity to share about Jesus and the good news of His salvation?

They did have a relationship with Jesus and went to a local church. During the key ceremony we were able to share that it is only because of Jesus that we were there helping them build their house. Because He first loved us, we wanted to love this family in this way!

What are some lessons learned and take-home nuggets your family embraced after returning home?

We were reminded what it means to put others’ needs before our own. This project was all about this other family. We traveled, sacrificed financially, worked through our fears of safety traveling in Mexico with our kids, gave up our traditional Thanksgiving holiday, and got a lot of sore muscles from the physical work, all for strangers. Sometimes it takes that level of sacrifice to wake us up in our faith and make a greater impact in our relationship with God.

Do you plan to do another YWAM trip? If so, what will you do differently?

We are in the process of nailing down a date for our next trip! Another factor that helped our boys on this trip is that we had family as well as family friends with us. That was key to our boys having a positive experience. They worked alongside friends and shared in this amazing, life changing experience. I hope that our next trip works out so that my boys have friends again.

Is there anything else you’d like say about your trip or Homes for Hope or YWAM?

Even though our big goal was to build a home, it became very clear that the ultimate goal was all about connection with people and sharing Jesus’ love with them. As an American, it is so easy to be hyper-focused on accomplishment and efficiency that we can lose sight of what matters most. This trip provided us the experience to deal with the tension of the American way versus Gods way. I highly recommend this trip for those who are willing or curious to step into that tension!

Simple picture of a microphone

Do we step into this God-honoring tension? Have we considered taking a trip to serve others, maybe even with YWAM and Homes for Hope? We don’t need to assemble 14 people like Shauna did. YWAM can match us with other families to build that house.

Short-term missions may not be for everybody, but serving and sacrificing is definitely God’s design (Luke 9:23, Romans 12:1, 1 John 3:16-18). He wants us to step outside our comfort zones for the sake of others. “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.” Stepping out in faith is scary sometimes, as Shauna said, but when we take our eyes off ourselves and follow Jesus’ lead, we can do amazing things for people. And this is exciting and God-honoring!

Maybe it’s time for a not-so-typical family adventure.

Read more about how God expects our sacrifice.

John Ortberg, quoting the title of his 2014 book and Bible study guide. See also Matthew 14:28-31).

If you want to know more about the exciting life we can experience through Jesus and how to have a relationship with Him, please email me at authordlv@att.net.

Read more blog posts here.


  1. Thank you for this! Mission trips have been game-changers for my personal faith walk and my heart for humanity. Great article, as always.

    1. That's good to hear, Jessica. I still remember your walk with the lions. Our sacrifice expands our faith and heart and service. God must've designed it that way.

  2. Even while building a home, connections were made and God's love was shared. Thank you for sharing about this.

    1. Yes. That's often the case, right? We build relationships when we go through something together. I suppose a key to that is maintaining a common focus. When we fight internally, things fall apart. But when we overlook our differences and work toward a common goal, we grow together. Thank you for noticing this point.

  3. Love how she gave her children the gift of experiencing ministry!

    1. Yes, inviting children into sacrificial ministry is not easy to do but what a difference it makes when we find the right opportunities. I'm thankful for Shauna and others who are not afraid to include their children in ministry.

  4. Enjoyed this interview with Shauna, Stephen. Amazing they took their Thanksgiving break to help others. This is a true picture of being thankful to the Lord. Amazing a house can be built in 2 days. Love how she said this, "Don’t limit what God can and will do through you! Stepping out in faith is one of the best (and scariest) parts of walking with God through life."

    1. I'm so glad Shauna agreed to this interview. Her story is encouraging. God will definitely use us when we step out for Him, and He'll often use us in ways we may never have imagined.

  5. I loved her reminder to not limit what God can and will do through us. So often we miss opportunities because we're afraid or have a lack of faith. But God is greater than our lack of resources or skills!

    1. Yes, Emily. If we show up, God will work wonders. He wants us to be willing and to trust His work, and He does the heavy lifting.

  6. I'm so glad you shared this amazing family ministry story, Stephen! Such an inspiration. We took a family ministry one year and it was life-changing. But I loved hearing about this family's trip, because it was short-term which made it much more do-able. HOH sounds like an awesome ministry. Thank you for sharing this good news of Christians sharing His love around our world!

    1. This was too good of an experience not to share, Melissa. We need more people like Shauna and her family! People who are willing to step forward and sacrifice for the sake of God's kingdom. That's what God expects of us.

  7. What a wonderful testimony of sacrifice and God's love through this family. I love YWAM and all that they stand for. Two of my children have gone on mission with them. Thank you for sharing their story! Inspiring!

    1. I'm glad you children were able to go on missions with YWAM. It's great to minister in ways that are out of the norm sometimes, or to step in a direction that is unfamiliar. It broadens a number of things and our hearts expand in the process.

  8. Mission trips change us more than they change those we work with during them. I pray this family’s story inspires many others to go.

    1. Yes. God blesses us when we take steps and make sacrifices. Our service impacts us in ways we don't expect or even hope for sometimes.

  9. This is a powerful post. You're so right about the impact that mission has upon us and our families. My husband has taken several of our children over to India, and it has impacted them greatly. Thanks for sharing a mission closer to home. The tips given for large family missions trips were helpful.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Melinda. I hoped that Shauna's experience would be relatable in such a way that we could imagine doing the same thing - considering the same decisions, understanding what the work could be like, pondering about the relationships we could build, etc. Shauna explained things in this way and helped us understand the impact we could have either abroad or here at home.


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