October 2023 Casa Hogar La Familia Newsletter

New 12-passenger Toyota Van — After six months of attempting to locate a used van to supplement the two vans we already have, we officially gave up yesterday and wired 50% of the price of a brand new Toyota van to Pastor Nahum Guttierez of Colima, who offered to assist us in buying the new van.

Even buying a new van was difficult. It seems the supply chain is having some difficulties meeting the demand for vehicles. We expect the van to arrive at the earliest in October and at the latest in November.

The only problem with the new van is that there is very little space for transporting luggage, which all of our missioners bring when they visit La Familia. We will be adding a luggage rack on the roof of the new van when it arrives. See the way the luggage rack will be installed on the photograph we have included with this article.

Comparable photo of the van we purchased with luggage rack installed

One of the primary reasons we had to purchase a new van is because of the erratic schedule the Mexican bus companies sometimes publish between the City of Puebla and Tecamachalco, which is the closest hotel to where the Casa Hogar is located. We don’t currently have enough transportation to accommodate the children to and from school and our mission teams, which are critical to La Familia’s purpose.

We would like to offer our special thanks to Pastor Nahum who does so much for La Familia. Pastor Nahum pastors a large church in the City of Colima that is located in the State of Colima near Guadalajara farther South in Mexico.

Nanci Danielsen, who is leading mission teams to Casa Hogar La Familia, is in the process of putting together a team from Lighthouse Free Methodist in Fort Worth, TX. They have been assigned their projects to complete during their visit and plan to arrive in Mexico on Wednesday, October 26.

Fishersville United Methodist Donates two pairs of shoes, socks, and underwear to each of the children of Casa Hogar

Children who just finished shopping for school supplies
Children with shoes, socks, and underwear they received as a gift from Fishersville (VA) United Methodist Church
Children with Juan Francisco looking at their new shoes
Kevin with his new shoes
Adasa with her new shoes

Many thanks to the generous donors who supplied the funds to purchase school supplies for the children at Casa Hogar La Familia.

July Newsletter

June was a terrific month for the Embrace the Dream ministry at Casa Hogar La Familia. I led a team 13 missioners from Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Downers Grove, IL to spend eight days working on projects at La Familia.

Saint Andrews Mission Trip SuperStars

This mission team from Saint Andrews Episcopal in Downers Grove, IL visited La Familia during the last week in June of 2023.

Project #1

Move the “Garbage” storage area to a newly built area just inside the gate located on the undeveloped portion of the property.

One of our missioners, Mike Spitalli, is a master contractor who is highly experienced at working with not only wood, but metal, as well. We purchased the metal to build the roof, the side walls and a gate to protect the garbage cans from being drenched when it rains or invaded by stray animals.

With Spitalli’s leadership, at least a dozen different individuals participated in the construction of the new garbage home, including Mary Meade, Freddie Kuhlman, Guenter Conzelmann, Steve DePeder and special mention “David”.

The garbage area had to be relocated because the new bodega currently occupies the space previously used for garbage storage.

David is doing his fair share of the work.
David is doing his fair share of the work.

Project #2

Silvia, one of the La Familia directors, loves trees and roses, so our mission team from Saint Andrews planted plenty of both. Laura Morris was the leader of this project. Here are photographs of the new plantings:

Project #3

Juan Francisco and Silvia (our directors) built a small office located in an area of the property that is a private, quiet place to process new children who have recently arrived at La Familia. These offices are ideal for providing privacy, but there was just one flaw — the roof leaked.

The Saint Andrew’s team removed the roofing membrane that was used to provide a base for the water-proofing material and reroofing. This work took the majority of three days and multiple trips to the hardware store. Steve DePeder, Jim Morton, Guenter Conzelmann with coaching from Mike Spitalli spearheaded this project.

Finished Product

Project #4

Several months ago Silvia’s Uncle arranged with a Mexico City-based charity to supply bicycles for each of the children at La Familia. The kids were ecstatic. Since the delivery of the bicycles, a significant number of them have been damaged. This condition led us to Project #4 headed up by the Rector at Saint Andrews, Rev. Gregg Morris with assistance from Freddie Kuhlman, Nina Kuhlman, Jim Morton and others.

Age is apparently not a factor when it comes to repairing bicycles.

Project #5

Silvia asked the ladies from the Saint Andrew’s team to reach in time and recall some of the skills they had perhaps not used in several years: Using a sewing machine.

Several women on this team worked feverishly to complete this project before the team was scheduled to return to the US and produced some excellent work. Ellen Spitalli, Gracia Morton, and Angeli Tomkins are three of the missioners who worked on this project.


Because approximately 80% of our children are abandoned as opposed to orphaned, parents’ financial circumstances sometimes change and they are in a position to care for their children. At the present time, we have 26 children at La Familia, down from our peak this past winter at 30.

While I was at La Familia with the team from Downers Grove, IL, we received two new girls the day before we left to fly home. The two girls are sisters and their names are Angelique and Oyuki.

Angelique age 14
Oyuki age 11

A few days later we received three additional children: Rubi, 7 years of age, Gael, 6 years of age, and Leonel, 3 years of age.

Rubi, age 7; Leonel, age 3; Gael, age 6

May 2023 La Familia Newsletter

This past Sunday, the second Sunday in May, was Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a very special day at my mother’s old hometown church that was established on this day in 1799, in St. Pauls, NC.

You may be thinking, “Why did they establish a local church on such an important day as Mother’s Day? Some of you may have already guessed the answer to this question: If your guess was because Mother’s Day didn’t exist in 1799, you were right. It was not until 1914, when the then president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, officially established the second Sunday of May as Mothers’ Day.

I went to St. Pauls on Sunday for two reasons: the first was to honor my Mother’s side of my family, and the second was to hear the guest preacher preach. He is my cousin and his name is Mike Feely. Some of you remember Rev. Mike Feely from the mission teams he led to work at La Familia. Mike Feely is the man whose persistence introduced me to our ministry at Casa Hogar La Familia.

Rev. Mike Feely
Rev. Mike Feely

I will be forever grateful to Mike Feely for the guidance and direction he gave this ministry in the early years and we want him to know he is always welcome to join one of our mission teams in Mexico.

Shopping for a 14-Passenger (Used) Van

Thanks to some very generous donors, we have raised enough money to purchase a 14-passenger van for use at La Familia. Several months ago, the bus company that provided public transportation between the City of Puebla and Tecamachalco discontinued their service, so the directors have offered to drive up to the bus station in the City of Puebla and drive us down to the Santa Julia, the hotel we use in Teca.

The pick up arrangement works find for getting mission teams from the City of Puebla to Teca, but it does nothing to provide mission teams with transportation back and fourth to La Familia from the hotel and still give the staff enough transportation to transport the children to school and other destinations they need to travel to on a daily basis.

We have asked Pastor Nahum to use his resources to help us find a third van so we can meet our obligations on mission trips. Colima-based Pastor Nahum operates eight children’s homes and is the head pastor at a very large church, so he has a lot of excellent resources.

We expect to hear some news on the new camionetta this week.

Akin, newest addition to Chuy’s and Damaly’s family

Illinois—Based Mission Team Arrives in June

Saint Andrews — Episcopal from Downers Grove, II is Sending a 13-person Mission Team to La Familia in June. Silvia is already putting together a list of projects for them to work on. They also are excited to learn that Silvia also has a trip to the Water Park on the agenda.

April Newsletter

Happy Easter Everyone.  On behalf of Embrace the Dream, we hope you will have a fantastic Holy Week celebration with your family members.

I am in a great position to report to you what is going on at Casa Hogar La Familia because I have spent two weeks in Quecholac and Tecamachalco with two different mission teams over the past three weeks.

Week #1 at La Familia

Our first mission team departed for Mexico on Wednesday, February 15 and returned to the States on Tuesday, February 21. Even though we began our journeys to Mexico out of four different East Coast airports, we all rendezvoused in Mexico City Airport to continue our journey via the most comfortable and luxurious buses, maybe in the world.

Six-member mission team #1 from L to R: Betty Herrin, Jeanie Fath, Shannon Lee Smith, Bill Lee,Yvonne Moore, and Sarah Baker in Sandy’s Restaurant, Quecholac.

Our project with the first team was to make tablecloths and and “runners” for the new tables in the dining room.  Here is a photo of the work in progress:

Jeanie Fath, Fairfax, VA ironing new tablecloths.

My daughter, Shannon, and fellow missioner, Sarah Baker removed all of the shelving from the kitchen pantry and first washed and then dried the shelving before putting a fresh coat of paint on the wood.

Shannon Lee Smith and Sarah Baker painting pantry shelves.

During our visit, a group of professional haircutters descended on La Familia and provided complimentary haircuts and hairstyles for the children.

Week #2 at La Familia

Our second team arrived in Teka on Tuesday, March 14 and returned to the US on Tuesday, March 21.  This team was made up of veteran missioners from Federated Church in Kingfisher, OK.

Led by GaGa Ball Court architect, Brian Walter, one of the projects the men from Federated Church undertook (with several of the children helping) was to build a “GAGA Ball” Court for the children.  Several of us had never before heard of GaGa Ball, but the new game quickly became a big hit for the children.

GaGa Ball Court

The new game quickly became a huge hit for both the children and the missioners alike.  One aspect of the game that appealed to everyone was that the games were over in a matter of a few minutes and another game quickly began.

The missioners couldn’t keep their hands off Akin.  He is “muy guappo.”

Missioner, Doug Baker, from Enid, OK holds the very popular Akin.
Patty and Tony Stroudemire finally wrestle Akin away from Doug Jackson.
Adam Click and Memo and his wife, Ana sitting at a dining room table with little David looking on.
Popocatepatl active volcano
Popocatepatl active volcano

New Bodega

If are facing the front of the Casa Hogar and look to the left, next to where the garbage used to be kept, you will now see a new bodega to serve as a storage facility for the Casa Hogar.

When we left La Familia last week, we left both money and instructions for Silvia to retain the professional talent to erect an all metal door (with keyed lock) in the opening and knock a hole in the side of the wall and insert a window to give us more light inside the bodega.  When Robert Sawyer originally envisioned the space over the new bodega, he was seeing either an apartment for staff or a dormitory for future children, so the first preparation for this vision is now in place: a stairway from the ground up to the roof.

This is as far as we are going for now, because we are preparing for the future, not beginning construction for the future.  I just wanted everyone to know that we are looking ahead and trying to envision what steps we can take now to reduce the construction cost in the future.

The casa hogar is looking great.  Silvia and her staff do a terrific job of keeping the home clean, neat and yet livable.

Bill Lee, Embrace the Dream Foundation, Inc.

January Newsletter 2023

On Friday night, January 20, at a surprise event for Marshall Sansbury, veteran missioner at Casa Hogar La Familia, Pastor Frank Briggs congratulates Marshall for his service.
Marshall Sansbury commenting on his “surprise” evening at Lighthouse Methodist.
(L – R) Silvia, Bill Lee, Juan Francisco, and the man of the hour, Mr. Marshall Sansbury.

Marshall has been working as the liaison between Lighthouse Fellowship in Fort Worth and Casa Hogar La Familia since the year 2000. He has also served as a mentor to me as I have attempted to learn the ins and outs of the business of overseeing a children’s home. I will be forever grateful for his wisdom.

There was a time when we lost our directors and had no one to take their place. There was another time when we lost our lease on the home and had no place to house the children we were responsible for. Thanks to a lot of answered prayers we are happy to report that Casa Hogar La Familia is now developing strong Christian men and women who are learning the love of Jesus Christ and developing the responsibility to provide for a family.

Sylvia Clark presented an inspirational keynote address.
Joining Jazmin at her table are Fred Schultz (center) and John Nunnally (right) at Laurianne’s Restaurant in Tecamachalco.

Nurse Jazmin, is a recent graduate of the Nursing School at the University of Colima. Joining Jazmin at her table are two missioners from Lighthouse Methodist Church in Fort Worth, TX.