In March of 2014, a dream of Pastors Salomón and Mariela as well as Vida Abundante (Abundant Life) church members began to unfold. The Pastors’ vision was to acquire land to develop a permanent multi-purpose facility to serve the community. They targeted their search in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood, one of Cozumel’s areas of greatest need (high incidence of family issues including addictions, economic need, suicide, violence, etc.). A property in the heart of the neighborhood became for sale. It had a couple of rooms in need of repair that could become a home for the pastors’ family, some partial construction and enough space to construct a center.
It is more than a church. The goal is to construct a building over time for worship services and youth activities that serves the broader community as an educational center and refuge for hurricanes and other community needs. Both pastors recently completed a year of intensive training to become certified as international chaplains to lead community projects and serve as first responders for natural disasters, including travel to other areas of Mexico as well as other countries including the US.
Significant fundraising efforts by members and generous donors led to signing a purchase agreement and the land was fully paid for in 9 months! Over the next two years (2015-2016) improvements included: roof repairs and modifications for the pastors’ family rooms; roofs installed over two partially constructed rooms and an additional space to make small classrooms, bathrooms and a storage area. During these two years, worship services, educational activities and community events were held under the same tin roof that was donated in 2010 and moved from previous temporary locations.
The biggest challenge with the tin roof open air structure is that anytime there are significant rains accompanied by wind, worship services and other activities have to be cancelled. It is extremely hot in the afternoon sun and there is no protection from mosquitos.
An architect hired in December 2015 developed a plan to maximize the space available, ensure construction complies with local requirements, is handicap accessible and to provide cost estimates. It may take a number of years to raise sufficient funds for the entire construction project so it was decided to build in phases as funds become available. This “build as you can pay” approach is typical for local families, organizations and businesses.
Constructing the cement block exterior structure is planned in three phases followed by installing windows and doors; then several phases of interior work. The facility is being built in thirds including the walls, columns and roof for each section from the front altar area to the back of the church that is the street entrance. This allows activities to continue during the construction process:
Apr. 2016 – Phase 1 front wall built to form the altar area
Oct. 2016 – Phase 1 two side walls and columns completed
Jul. 2017 – Phase 1 Support beam (1’ thick, 30” high spanning 39’ wide), roof and electrical installed
Nov. 2017 – Phase 2 Walls, support beam, roof and electrical installation completed allowing space to hold worship services. A “bodega” to store tables and chairs built beside altar. Begin phase 3—Construct north side wall.
Dec. 2017 – Gather cost estimates for next steps. Meet with architect and engineer to discuss modifications to original plan to accommodate kitchen and bathroom needs for building to serve as community hurricane refuge center and facilitate educational events.
Next Steps…2018 and beyond
Jan. – Jun. 2018 Launch fundraising campaign; cornerstone dedication with key donors and church members; finalize plan modifications and funding needs. Continue Phase 3 as funds are available to construct south side wall, column, back wall/façade that faces street, and roof section.
Phase 4 Install windows and doors to fully enclose the structure.
Phase 5 Construct kitchen/serving area; modify access to existing exterior bathroom or add bathroom
Interior and exterior finishing – As you see from the photos, the walls are rough cement block. Two coats of cement will need to be applied on the exterior and interior by hand to create a smooth surface to be painted. This is a lengthy, labor intensive process. Tile or some type of flooring will be installed over the cement floor to provide a smooth surface that can be easily cleaned. The total floor space will be approximately 1,100 square feet. Other needs include: Shelving and storage cabinets, chairs and additional tables, sound system, projector and screen, health and safety equipment (signs, first aid supplies, fire extinguishers), etc.
Transforming the dream to reality is a HUGE challenge for a small congregation of families that have very limited resources. In addition to the financial aspects of the building project, the time invested to plan and supervise the construction in the absence of having a general contractor, finding available building materials, weather, and having to start/stop building as funds, materials and workers are available complicates the process.
The pastors and members are thrilled with the progress that’s taken place to date. Thanks to several individual donors and organizations like Volunteer Christian Builders who have contributed funds along with members’ fundraising efforts for Phases 1 and 2, Vida Abundante now has a small space protected from rain to worship for the holidays. The space will expand as phases are completed. 2018 presents new opportunities to continue serving the community while building the church.
Larry and Karen in Cozumel