April 2024 Newsletter

I was the leader of our first mission team in the Spring of 2024. We had a mission team made up of nine missioners from Federated Church in Kingfisher, Okla. Patty Stoudemire was our liaison at Federated Church.

We had an absolutely perfect week in every respect, especially with respect to the weather. Not a drop of rain. It was also harvest time for the vegetable crop behind the casa. The workers were harvesting the Spinach crop during our visit.

Anyone who has traveled to La Familia over the past few years has observed that the two bodegas on the property were in bad need of organizing and cleaning. To accomplish this, the Federated Team with the help of Chuey and several of the older boys pulled every item in the bodega outside and stacked every item in a separate space.

Every possible item that may be needed for any purpose was returned to the bodega in a highly organized manner. I believe you will be impressed the next time you visit the casa.

Before photo of the bodega
Freshly organized bodega

One of our directors at Casa Hogar La Familia — Silvia Arias — loves growing plants more than anyone I have ever worked with in Mexico. The job of planting and growing is more difficult in the region where the Casa Hogar is located for two reasons: #1 is because we get a relatively small amount of rain in that part of Mexico and for things like washing dishes and watering plants, the casa relies heavily on water that is trucked in. Water is not plentiful.

When we first built the casa hogar, there was not even one blade of grass growing naturally, but Silvia was determined to have fruit trees and flowers in the area around the front of the casa. This photo is one of Silvia and me in the shade of several fruit trees outside the front side of the home. I hope you can see that Silvia was successful at getting her fruit trees and flowers to thrive.

Silvia and Bill Lee in the shade of Silvia’s fruit trees

Perhaps our greatest success story over the past 23 years that I have been associated with La Familia has to do with the five Urbina children who were reared at La Familia. I met them when the oldest child—Isabel—was just eight years of age. The youngest was Fernanda who was between one and two years of age.

The young woman in this photo is the second oldest child, Jazmin. Everyone associated with Casa Hogar La Familia is incredibly proud of these five children and the way their lives have blossomed because of the opportunity they found at La Familia. In just a few weeks, Jazmin who is already a Registered Nurse will become a Registered Nurse specializing in Intensive Care.

Jazmin Urbina and Bill Lee

On our last day of the mission trip, the mission team spent that day in the City of Puebla, one of the most beautiful and safe cities in Mexico. This photo is of seven members of the Federated Church mission team from Kingfisher, Okla. The photo was taken in front of a water fountain in front of the Principal Cathedral located on the Town Square of the City of Puebla.

Team in Town Square in the City of Puebla

On the mission team’s last day at the Casa Hogar it is becoming a tradition for the “Ladies of the local church” to surprise the team with a home-cooked lunch made up of local foods. Note the banner on the wall behind the food table with a big WELCOLME Oklahoma Team.

February 2024 Newsletter

Children at La Familia who received new school uniforms for the new school year.
Juan Francisco and Silvia with Lighthouse team members from Fort Worth.
Friends for Life!
Redrawing lines on the volleyball court.
Group of La Familia children at the play table.
Lighthouse team at lunch prepared for them by women of the church. The Fort Worth-based Lighthouse Fellowship mission team is made up of Jerry Mitrea, Rick Zarate, Reiana English, Debra Mehalko, April Schofield and team leader Nanci Danielsen
The Lighthouse team brought a gift of Bibles to all of the children of La Familia.

December 2023 Newsletter

Lighthouse Fellowship, our donor church in Fort Worth, arrived in Quecholac with a relatively small team, but a team that came to work, and work they did.

Led by Nanci Danielsen, the team’s number one goal was to install the new playground equipment several teams helped purchase. They had to put in some long days, but when they left, they left with a new playground in place. (See Below)

New swing set

Notice the small structure next to the perimeter wall. This is a good photograph of the garbage shelter the team from Saint Andrews’ — Episcopal erected back in June of this year.

swing construction

This is the base for the swing set, etc. We paid a cement professional to pour the concrete, then the team took over by adhering the safety pads to the concrete.

new concrete for swings

Lighthouse mission team members with help from some of the children at La Familia repaint the boundary lines on the court in front of the casa.

Lighthouse mission team members

Nanci Dalielsen and her team from Light Fellowship in Fort Worth were invited to the home of one of the members of the local church for a home cooked meal.

Nancy with home cooking

A taco chef (the children named him “Taco Man” visited La Familia to treat the kids to some fancy tacos.

taco man chef

New 14-passenger Toyota van for La Familia.

We searched for a used van for over six months and failed to find one on the Mexico market, so we had no choice but to purchase a new one. Our thanks to Pastor Nahum Gutiérrez Maldonado of Grupo Amor Church in Colima for using his contacts to find the new van for La Familia.

La Familia New Van

Six Flags Trip

La Familia Directors Silvia and Juan Francisco. Silvia’s uncle is an extremely kind and generous man who chartered a bus to take all of the children to Six Flags Park in Mexico City.

A visit to the home of the beautiful princesses at Six Flags.

Princesses at Six Flags

La Familia enjoying the rides at Six Flags.

La Familia enjoying the rides at Six Flags.

Eight La Familia children attending universities and Technical Schools

  • Isabel and her sister, Fernanda, are studying at the University of Colima.
  • Daniel is in his last year at the University of Colima.
  • Juan Carlos is studying to become an electrician when he graduates from technical school.
  • Josué and Rodolfo are rooming together off campus in Puebla and both are attending engineering school.
  • Jazmin is taking a post nursing program in Tecamachalco to become an emergency care nurse.
  • In addition to her job at La Familia as a volunteer, Karen is also attending business school classes.

Our thanks go out to the donors who help fund these college students or sponsor individual students. An advanced degree is one of the key goals that Embrace the Dream has established for the children who wish to attend college.

Vacation Bible School

This past summer Lighthouse Fellowship in Fort Worth funded a Vacation Bible School for not only the children of La Familia, but also the children of the members of the church that meets on the second floor of La Familia each Sunday and each Thursday evening.

This was an idea from Nanci Danielsen who is a member at Lighthouse. Participating also in teaching at the Bible School were members of the Grupo Amor Church that meets in the main building at La Familia.

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 2023

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