What does $700 buy you?

A home built for a family in TJ

What does $700 buy you? For starters you could buy a 42 inch Aquos Sharp flat screen television. You can buy a new home computer with around 8GB for that amount. If you are in the hunt, an entry-level mountain bike will cost you about $700. If you are starting University $700 might get your first year books. In need of a vacation? $700 might get you one ticket to Hawaii or 3 or 4 nights in a hotel.

My son Jayden and I returned from a week in Tijuana, Mexico yesterday. TJ is a city of over 2 million with close to 5,000 people moving into the area every month. Tijuana is a border city filled with violence, kidnapping, prostitution and the pursuit of dreams. It is the meeting of two cultures; American culture and Mexican culture bleed into each other in TJ. The American dream seems within a stone’s throw and yet the chaos and poverty of a border culture overshadows the pursuit. As we walked through the Red Light district one evening, giving out gifts, I found myself moved by the raw pain in open sight. In one street block alone there were several hundred prostitutes lined up on both sides of the streets.

It was as though they were in a police lineup. Their faces betraying them. In this one street block many were looking for a dream but ended up caught in a nightmare.

We were in TJ so I could speak at a YWAM training school. One afternoon we visited a community on the outskirts of TJ where “Homes of Hope” had built several hundred homes for the poorest of the poor. “Homes of Hope” is run by YWAM Baja. It is a place where 100s of families, business leaders and student teams come across the border to build homes for the poor.

Over 2000 homes have been built by teams to date in the Tijuana area.

Johnny drove us on the unfinished dirt roads as we made our way to this community. Juan, who calls himself “Johnny” travels every week to serve the single moms and families in this community. That particular day a single mom with 4 children, living in one of the homes built for her, was about to lose her home. This uneducated mother of 4 works as a parking attendant, where she only receives tips, not a wage. The money she had saved to pay for her land had to go for an urgent surgery her daughter recently required. Though Johnny had advocated for this single mom, the land owner had still given her 24 hours to come up with the $700 or she would be evicted. The $700 was already well overdue.

She and children banished to the streets of TJ, if the $700 was not paid in 24 hours.

I could only picture the reality she would face having been to the Red Light district. Johnny collected his friends and together we met the $700 needed… Ecstatic, Johnny raced to find the mom and then the land owner. They paid her land within hours of her eviction. With a signed paper in hand we all knew she could keep her home!

I stood there for a moment and thought to myself, “Look what $700 bought today!” I had forgotten it could buy that much!

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on August 15, 2010.

5 Responses to “What does $700 buy you?”

  1. Terrific use of time, resources, money. I completely agree. My job takes me by the local landfill and observing the waste wood pile I have often thought of how many such homes could be built from just our rejected materials each week in this community. What will it take to turn our sociaty around!

  2. Fantastic account of a heart wrenching yet triumphal story Todd. The disparity between the Amer. dream and reality for so many in the world grows ever greater … this story puts things in perspective. Oh to get one’s hands dirty and support good causes like this.

  3. It often amazes me how much we in North America have compared to what most of the rest of the world has/lives in. We are so blessed and yet it is easy to forget that – reminders like this story help keep things in perspective for me.

  4. I find when I see myself as a global citizen and not just a Canadian citizen I have a clearer perspective on my reality in the world. It is so easy to feel behind or that we don’t have enough…but when enough buys a television in one family and land in another you realize injustice in the world still prevails… so what to do we as wealthy ones on a global scale? Feel guilty? No, I think we live generously and we continue to find contentment when the insecurity that we don’t have enough rears its head in us… As the saying goes…”How much does it cost to live?” …Just a little more than you make… The art of contentment with little or much is the journey to spiritual health in my mind. Feeling guilty doesn’t help but living freely does…


    • A few days ago I marvelled that the same bottle of (Australian) wine in an Idaho gas station can cost half that of the same bottle in Vancouver.

      What does $700,000 get you? An older, under 2000 sqft. home on the east side of Vancouver – if your down payment/annual income can float a mortgage. Instaed we’re looking at paying about $25,000 in annual rental costs – half of what an associate pastor or church planter might gross in a year. I must say, as a global citizen and a Christian, I often feel confused about the “proper” use of time and resources. I feel caught between the leading of a self-sacrificing God, whose kingdom is not thwarted by any financial market and political climate, and the bang-for-environmental-buck green streak that runs through most west-coasters. God has often asked me to do the financially inefficient thing (like seminary), so I should have known we weren’t going to live the American Dream of upward mobility and financial independence in a first world country. So a part of me says sell everything, move to the 3rd world, live well and have time for a healthy marriage, our three children, being a good neighbours, a sabbath, and a ministry. The problem is that He just hasn’t given me permission to do the cost-effective thing. Why? Perhaps treading financial water and living simply and missionally amongst life-long renters, and swallowing the limitations and consequences of being in a hyper-expensive city, might not be the American Dream for some, but clearly the luxury of my life is one that many will only dream of. Thanks Todd.

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