What have you done as a service project lately? Was it something that meant a lot to the people you were serving? Was it something that brought the love of Christ into their lives and showed them that people truly care?
Jessie and Steve Cota, twelve-year-old twin brothers who live in the Nogales Branch, Tucson Arizona Rincon Stake, performed that kind of service. But they didn’t do it as a quorum project or as an assignment from the branch president. They did it because they saw a need and found a way to fulfill it.
With help from their father, they built a house for a homeless family.
The house the twins built is similar to dozens of other houses that cover the hillsides of Nogales, Mexico, a town that straddles the border of the United States and Mexico. The house is small, is made mostly of plywood, and has no plumbing. But it is now home to a family of six—an abandoned mother and her five children, who used to live on the street.
“My aunt, who lives in Mexico, met this woman in the hospital,” Steve explains. “She found out the conditions the woman and her children were living in and knew they needed help. She talked to my father, José, who is first counselor in the branch presidency, to see if something could be done.”
Something could. Word spread quickly in the branch. Church members contributed what they could, and Brother Cota, a builder, was able to get materials donated from a construction project he was working on. The aunt donated property behind her own home as a site for the new construction.
“Everybody helped out,” Jessie says. “But to be honest, my dad did most of the work.”
Brother Cota, however, gives credit to his sons. “They really enjoy working. They helped put the floor in, hauling buckets of water so we could make the cement. They helped with the framing and with the roof. We’re especially proud of the roof, which has asphalt shingles and should last many years.”
It took three to four weeks, working on Saturdays, to complete the structure. “We felt good, knowing we were helping someone who needed help,” Steve says. “We learned a lot doing this together. We learned about how Church members can reach out to help others in the community. We learned about construction. And we got to be better friends with our father.”
“We like to nail things together,” Jessie says. “Maybe I’ll be a builder when I grow up, too.”
Brother Cota just smiles, then says, “The important thing about this is that now the children who live in this house will have a future. They have protection from the weather and a chance to go to school.”
We visit for a minute more, talking about birdhouses the boys are building as a hobby, about Steve’s baseball games and Jessie’s love of football, about future plans to build an outside bathroom to go along with the house.
Then the woman, surrounded by her children, greets the Cotas warmly and poses for a photo with them.
“These,” she says, “are the people who gave me my home.”