Serve HIS Kids    

Blog- Updates


Pilar Update       January 2016

 Hola Amigos!

 Happy New Year!  We hope everyone had a joyous Christmas.  We are looking forward to 2016 with optimism and hope as Dawn completes her treatment.  Dawn is officially cancer free! (Yeah God!)  She is scheduled to wrap up her remaining Herceptin infusions in the next few months.  We continue to enjoy our winter in Minnesota with family and friends.

 Things at Pilar are good.  The warmer weather we enjoyed in November and December in Minnesota was also felt in northern Mexico.  Temperatures had been in the 70’s and 80’s through the fall, including some nice days during the Christmas break.  The run of warm temperatures couldn’t last all winter and the cold and wet weather returned for New Years.  Unfortunately the turn in weather occurred just before Dawn and I visited Casa Hogar on New Year’s Eve and the following week.  The cool and rainy weather was offset by the warm smiles and welcoming of our friends and the kids at Pilar.  Our visit was highlighted by a New Year’s Eve fiesta with lots of food.  Dawn did plenty of cooking and baking during our stay, keeping the cocina warm and busy.

 In October, Serve His Kids welcomed a mission team from Crossroads Church in Woodbury Minnesota to Casa Hogar.  During the week we did a number of activities with the kids and several work projects.  We continued the ongoing battle to seal the roof on the cocina, sealing more leaks and making progress in keeping the water out.  We also continued the battle against the always encroaching vegetation.  The preceding months had been warm and wet, creating the perfect situation for the weeds and grasses to grow out of control.  The team spent days threshing and weed whacking and pruning, making a huge dent in the never ending job of weed control at Casa Hogar.  The team also spent lots of time in the cocina, helping prepare meals, leaning authentic Mexican cuisine from Robert and Paty, and of course eating lots of good Mexican cooking.  No one went away hungry!  A big “thank you” to Blake Kaiser, Erin Hewitt, James Brown, Tim Stauffer and Sue Wagner for giving their time and sharing their talents with the kids and staff at Casa Hogar.  You have made a lasting impression on everyone at Pilar.

 Also special thanks to Crossroads Cottage Grove for their support.  The congregation collected items for the orphanage including rice, beans, oil, socks, underwear, and hygiene items.  They also provided gift cards to purchase rakes, food and many other supplies for Casa Hogar.  ¡Gracias por todo!

 Serve His Kids is currently making plans for mission groups to join us in March.  Dawn and I will be at Casa Hogar for much of March and are looking for individuals and families interested in missioning with us.  If you would like to join us the week of March 14th or March 21st, please contact us for information.

 Thank you for your prayers and support.  Please continue praying for the kids and staff at Casa Hogar, that God’s hand remains on them, protecting and providing for them.   Please pray for Mexico and its leaders and people.  Please pray for us as we continue with Dawn’s treatment and healing.  We pray for God’s guidance and continued blessings.

  Also prayers for the mission team of dentists and support people headed to Kampala Uganda, January 14th – 30th.  We will be serving young people afflicted with HIV/Aids who otherwise would be unable to receive dental care.

Dios le Bendiga,

Mark and Dawn Haas


Pilar Update       Summer 2015

Hola Amigos!

 I hope this letter finds you well.  It has been several months since our last update.  Our prolonged stay in Minnesota continues and is going well.  We have been staying in an apartment in the home of a generous friend in Cottage Grove.  We have been blessed and support.

Dawn is doing well with the cancer treatments.  The chemotherapy treatments in January and February were physically demanding on her, but she persevered through them.  The treatments in March, April and May were less invasive, but still filled with trials.  In June she began the final treatment regimen which will last through March.  It is the least intrusive of the treatments which allows our life to be more “normal” than it has been.  Dawn’s hair is growing back now and she is sporting a cool fauxhawk.  It has been a long road with surgeries, infections and medications, but the prognosis is very good and things continue to improve.  God is good.

Life continues at Casa Hogar.  It was another tough winter in Northern Mexico.  The temperatures were below normal and the precipitation above, so another cold and wet winter season.  Spring brought more rain and wide ranging temperatures.  There were large swings from week to week and even day to day.  One day in early March saw a nearly 50 degree temperature swing with a high near 90 one afternoon and a low below 40 the following morning.  Summer brings everything back to normal; hot, dry and windy.  I must admit that I haven’t missed the 100 degree days of July and August at Casa Hogar.

Dawn and I were able to visit the orphanage in June.  We had a great time catching up with the kids and trying to get plugged back in at the orphanage, even for just a short time.  Sara and Paulien continue to take care of things at Casa Hogar and at the church.  Roberto and Paty welcomed the newest member to their family.  Roberto Abimael was born on May 31st and is doing well.  The kids continue to grow and learn.  The ample amounts rain and cool weather created the perfect mix for crops and all vegetation.  While the farmers were bringing in a good harvest, the kids have been busy keeping the weeds and other vegetation at bay.  It is a never ending battle.

In March Serve His Kids brought a group from Crossroads Church to Casa Hogar.  We had a great week of ministry cooking, doing work projects and lots of activities with the kids.  Thanks to Rick Ross, Kylie Ross, Scott Burdash, Allie Deery, Mandy Heitcamp, Zac Wilmes, Michaela Igo and Meena Thao for spending a week at Pilar.  The group was a blessing to the orphanage and enjoyed spending the week loving on the kids.

Serve His Kids will be returning to Casa Hogar in October.  Please join us October 17-24 to share the love of Christ and serve at the orphanage. We will be holding an informational meeting on Sunday August 30th following the 11:15 service.  For more information please contact me at or Rick Ross at

 We have a new mailing address.  Please send mail to:     Serve His Kids    P.O. Box 487     Cottage Grove, MN  55016-0487

 Please continue praying for the kids and staff at Casa Hogar, that God’s hand remains on them, protecting and providing for them.  Please pray for Dawn, that she remains strong during her treatments and continues to heal.  Also pray for us as we seek God’s guidance in the coming months while we are away from the orphanage.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Dios le Bendiga,

Mark and Dawn Haas


Pilar Update       February/March 2015


Hola Amigos!

Our stay in Minnesota is going well.  We continue to be blessed by friends and family with prayers and support.  Dawn’s chemotherapy treatments in January and February were physically demanding on her, but she persevered through them.  We look forward to returning to Casa Hogar full time.

Spring has been slow in coming and staying in northern Mexico.  It comes, then it leaves, then is comes a bit more.  It was another tough winter at Casa Hogar.  The temperatures were below normal and the precipitation above normal, so another cold and wet winter season.  The rollercoaster of temperatures continues with large swings from week to week and even day to day.  One day in early March saw a nearly 50 degree temperature swing with a high near 90 one afternoon and a low below 40 the following morning.

 Our friends Dennis and Kay Kronberg returned to Wausa Nebraska after four months of serving in the Rio Grande Valley and Reynosa. Everyone at Casa Hogar appreciates the time they spent working and serving at Pilar.  They made an impact at the orphanage with many repairs and maintenance, music lessons and spending time with the kids.  We look forward serving with them again.

Please continue praying for the kids and staff at Casa Hogar, that God’s hand remains on them, protecting and providing for them.  Pleasepray for Dawn, that she remains strong during the difficult treatments and continues to heal.  Also pray for us as we seek God’s guidance in the coming months while we are away from the orphanage. 

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Dios le Bendiga

Mark and Dawn Haas


Pilar Update       December / January  2015

Hola Amigos!

We hope this update finds everyone well.  It has been a busy and difficult time since our last update.  December and much of January were much cooler than average and unusually wet at Casa Hogar, but that didn’t damped our spirits.

In mid-December a young woman at our church celebrated her Quinceañera, a celebration of her 15th birthday.  In the Mexican culture it is a celebration to mark a girl’s transition from childhood into young womanhood.   The young woman chooses a formal gown and family and guests are invited to celebrate the happy occasion.  The celebration was held at our church with an evening filled with music, games, gifts and of course food!  Everyone had a great time.

Christmas and New Years were also a wonderful time at Casa Hogar, filled with lots of food and friends.  The annual Christmas pig was cooked, along with turkey and brisket.  The feasts included a variety of foods including beans, rice, fresh flour tortillas and many desserts and cookies.  The kids enjoyed opening gifts to top off our Christmas Eve festivities!

Early in January brought a visit from our good friends Conner Rand and Callie Cole.  Conner has been to Pilar de Esperanza many times and is loved by all the kids.  They look forward to his visits and the fun and laughter that he brings.  This was Callie’s first visit to Casa Hogar and I believe she had a great visit, even if the weather didn’t cooperate.

I returned to Minnesota on January 12th, leaving Casa Hogar on the 9th, driving with our good friend Terry who flew to South Texas to accompany me.  We had hoped Dawn would be able to return to Casa Hogar during Christmas week for a short visit, but complications kept her in Minnesota.  The four weeks we were apart were very difficult.  While Dawn was in Minnesota with doctor appointments and waiting for chemo to begin, I was at Casa Hogar preparing for a prolonged absence from the orphanage.  It was our first time apart during the Holiday Season in our thirty years of marriage.  We are now several weeks into the first of four chemotherapy treatments.  The treatments in total are projected to last one year.  We will remain in Minnesota for the foreseeable future.

 It was also very difficult saying goodbye to the kids and our friends at Pilar and the church.  We are looking forward to when we are able to return to Casa Hogar and our mission.   Serve His Kids will provide financial support to the orphanage during our absence, continuing the mission to assist in providing nutritious food, opportunities for education and guidance for spiritual growth.   We appreciate your continued support of Serve His Kids and the mission in Northern Mexico.

Serve His Kids will be sponsoring a short term mission trip to Pilar de Esperanza orphanage.  The dates for the mission are March 14-21.  The trip is being organized by our friend Rick Ross and will include various work projects, assisting in the cocina and lots of activities with the kids.  If you are interested in spending a week with our friends at Casa Hogar please contact Rick at or me at for more information.

Please continue praying for the kids and staff at Casa Hogar, that God’s hand remains on them, protecting and providing for them.  Please pray for Dawn, that she remains strong during the difficult treatments and continues to heal.  Also pray for us as we seek God’s guidance in the coming months while we are away from the orphanage. 

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Dios le Bendiga,

Mark and Dawn Haas


Pilar Update       November 30, 2014

Hola Amigos!

We hope this update finds you well!  Our apologies for the tardiness, it has been a busy time.  The roller coaster of temperatures that defines winter in Northern Mexico has returned.  Beginning in October, the cold fronts are numbered as they pass through, dropping temperatures 10 or 15 degrees as they go.  As winter progresses they temperature range increases, as does the precipitation.  In December it isn’t uncommon to see 30-40 degree temperature shifts.  The week may begin with highs in the eighties on Monday, a cold front on Tuesday, and then highs only reaching the upper 40’s and lower 50’s on Wednesday.  The cold fronts come through with a noticeable shift in the wind, from south to north, then clouds and rain.  It is usually blustery and miserable as the front passes, then sunny and cool.  Cool is a relative term, for us Northerns 40’s are cool, for the locals it is cold.  The parkas, gloves, mittens, hats and scarfs come out when we reach the 50s.  I must admit, my blood has thinned a little, I do find the 50’s and 40’s are on the cold side now.  The temperatures then begin to slowly build up over the next few days, adding 8 or 10 degrees to the previous day, until we have reach the 70’s and 80’s again.  The process then starts over with the next cold front.  It typically takes four or five days for a front to reach us from Minnesota.  Usually if it is cold for people in the north, it is also cold people in the north of Mexico too, just a different kind of cold.  On the plus side the insects disappear in the cold!

The kids are looking forward to the Christmas season, the tree is up and the decorations are hung.   We are looking forward to the parties and the food, as well as the wonderful music.  But especially the food.

We began the month of November in Minnesota, where it was relatively cold, even for a northerner.  We participated in Missions Weekend at Crossroads Church, meeting with friends and supporters as well as building new relationships with new friends.  We had a very good time.  We also had a medical issue looked at, a small lump that was discovered during a mammogram for Dawn.  The lump was biopsied and examined, and a diagnosis was made as stage 1 breast cancer.  The cancer was considered very small and in very early stages, we are very grateful for this diagnosis.  Dawn underwent surgery the day after Thanksgiving and the cancer was successfully removed.   We have been staying with our son and his wife in St. Paul as she recovers from the surgery.  We are thankful for our family and friends for the support and prayers we have been given.  We are truly blessed. 

The tumor was examined and determined to be a level 3 cancer, an aggressive fast growing type.  Because of this Dawn will need to undergo a long treatment of chemotherapy.  The treatments begin on December 29th and will continue for several months.  With the chemotherapy treatments, the prognosis for remaining cancer free is very good.  Please continue to pray for us, for successful treatment and for strength for Dawn as she recovers from surgery and prepares for chemo.  Please also pray for Dawn as she continues to be separated from the orphanage and the kids at Pilar.  We know God is in charge and good will come from this.

I returned to Casa Hogar for a short time in November and am returning again for a short time in December.  We will continue to support Pilar Esperanza as much as possible from Minnesota through spiritual and financial means.  Please continue praying for the orphanage for a joyous Christmas season.  Also prayers for all of Mexico and its leadership during this time of turmoil in the nation.

Thanks to all for the prayers and support.

Dios le Bendiga!

Mark and Dawn Haas

Pilar Update       October 31, 2014

Hola Amigos!

Fall has finally arrived in Northern Mexico with welcome cooler temperatures in the low 80’s during the day time and 60’s in the evening.  It is a very nice change from the heat of the summer.  We are now able to sleep comfortably without the need of air conditioning.   The cooler weather also allows for more activities and pleasant working conditions.  The cooler weather also marks the decline of the critters around Casa Hogar, although the moscas are still in abundance. 

We are still working away at catching up on all the growth of the grass, weeds and other vegetation from the abundance of rain we had in September.  The sound of weed whackers is heard daily, with heaps of cuttings piling up in various places.  It is a persistent battle in the spring and fall, after the rains come, to beat back the fast growing plants.  Much of my time has been spent running the whackers or fixing them.  The lawn mower we have bit the dust early in the battle so the two whackers have taken most of the work.  With some hard work and spare parts, we should have things back in hand by the end of the month.

October brought a small group of men to Casa Hogar with three friends from Minnesota coming to visit on October 11 thru 18.  We spent the week doing various projects including repairing water lines, lots of plumbing and electrical work, and some concrete work.  We were also able to catch up on several maintenance items that have been hanging around for too long.  We also had some fun with the kids, playing some baseball and doing craft activities with them.  Thanks to Scott Burdash, Ryan Burdash and Keith Chellsen for a great week of work and ministry.

October also brought a visit from Paulein’s mother all the way from Holland.  After her 9 hours of flying, she was at Casa Hogar for three weeks.  It was nice to visit with her and a great time for Paulein.

We have a need for prayers for Alberto and his family.  In the August Update we told of Alberto finding his father, grandfather and sisters after nearly twenty years of separation.  Last week Alberto received a call that his father was ill and in the hospital in Veracruz.  He took the bus and traveled 8 hours to be with his family at the hospital.  Alberto’s father had a large intestinal tumor removed.  His recovery has been hampered by infections and other complications.  Please pray for Alberto and his family.  

Pilar de Esperanza continues to collect donations to purchase a 15 passenger van to safely and efficiently transport kids to and from church, school and other activities.  Pilar has applied for matching grants from the Mexican government in hopes of raising enough funds to purchase a new vehicle.  A response is expected in the next few weeks.  The vehicle being considered is a Toyota Hiace.   It is multi-purpose van which is well suited for use at the orphanage.  Check the Serve His Kids web site and Facebook page for pictures.  Serve His Kids is working alongside Pilar de Esperanza and a group in Holland to raise funds for the vehicle.  If you are interested in helping to provide safer and more efficient transportation for the kids at Casa Hogar, please contact us.

Thanks to those who have already donated!

Dawn and I will be traveling to Minnesota November 4 thru 13 to be part of the Missions Weekend expo at Crossroads Church in Woodbury.  We look forward to visiting with our friends at Crossroads and talking about Serve His Kids, Pilar de Esperanza and ministry in northern Mexico.   We are packing our cold weather gear in anticipation of the November weather!

Thanks to all for the prayers and support.

Dios le Bendiga!

Mark and Dawn Haas

Pilar Update       September 30, 2014

Hola Amigos!

We hope all everyone is well; things are going good here at Casa Hogar.  The cooling rains that began in early September continued for most of the month with several inches falling on the dry and burned up vegetation.  In a matter of weeks, the bare ground has gone from being dry and cracked to having grasses and all varieties of other stuff growing out of everywhere.  For several days frogs made an appearance and the evenings where filled with the loud croaks of millions of the little green creatures with white expanding throats.   The frogs were here for a week, and then disappeared as quickly as they came.  The silence of the evenings has returned.

The rain has brought an abundance of moscas, the pesky little house flies are everywhere.  The mesquite trees buzz with activity as the flies congregate in its cover.  The bug zapper in the cocina is noisily zapping away, trying to keep up with ever present pests.  Hopefully the outbreak will die out soon with the return of dryer weather.  We’ve been busy running the weed whackers in an effort to knock down the vegetation.  It is amazing how quickly things grow with a little water.  We went from bare ground to stuff growing 2-3 feet tall in a weeks’ time.  It will take us most of October to catch up!

We have returned to our regular school time routine at Casa Hogar, a nice change from the relative chaos of the summertime.  The kids keep busy with school work and regular chores, and a rotation of kitchen duty.  The boys always find time for a quick game of fútbol, or some soccer related competition.  The balls that fly everywhere are usually flat.  A new ball will only last a few days before a thorn, sharp rock or dog puts an end to its inflatedness.   Even basketballs fall victim to this inevitable end. 

The beginning of the school year also brings us the return of Kylie Ross for the weekends at Casa Hogar.  Kylie is a good friend of ours from Cottage Grove Minnesota who is attending the University of Texas Pan America in Edinburg Texas.  Kylie was a frequent visitor with us last year and we are grateful for her return this fall.  Kylie enjoys spending time with the kids and is a great help during her many weekend visits.

During the month we had few visitors to Pilar, but October promises to bring groups and visitors from far places.  A small group of men from Minnesota will be visiting the week of October 11th thru 18th.  We have plenty of work lined up for them as well as several activities with the kids.  The boys are looking forward to playing baseball a few times during the week, although it may take some time to get the field into playing condition.  We are also looking forward to the arrival of Paulein’s mom coming from Holland next week.

Pilar de Esperanza is looking into purchasing a 15 passenger van to help transport the kids to church and to various activities.  We have been using a combination of pickup trucks and smaller vehicles to get our group to the different activities and destinations.  This usually involves using 4 or 5 vehicles when we need to move all of us, with several of the boys in the back of the trucks.  We have an older model school bus, but it has proven to be unreliable and very expensive to operate.  Sara and Paulein have begun fundraising efforts and are hoping to sell the bus to help raise the money needed.  Serve His Kids will also be helping in this effort.  We are hoping to raise enough to purchase a newer vehicle and eliminate many of the problems associated with older used up vehicles.  If you are interested in helping to provide safer and more efficient transportation for the kids at Casa Hogar, please contact us!

Dawn and I continue our mission of helping the kids at Casa Hogar by providing food and helping with its preparation as well as assisting where we can the school.  We continue to build relationships with the kids and people in the Reynosa area.   Thanks to all for the prayers and support.

Dios le Bendiga!

Mark and Dawn Haas

Pilar Update       August 31, 2014


Hola Amigos!

We pray that all is well with everyone.  We are finally getting a break from the hot and dry weather of the past few months.   We have had no rain during July and August with the high temperatures breaking the 100 degree mark every day.  With the strong winds from the south, things have become even more dry and dusty than usual.  The past several days have brought relief in the form of cooling rain and northerly breezes.  Things are beginning to green up again and the temperatures have dropped into the low 90’s during the day and mid 70’s in the evening.  A welcome change thanks to Tropical Storm Dolly. 

The rainy weather brings with it a few unwanted critters, mosquitos and tarantulas.  We haven’t had many of either of these critters this year because of the dry spell; hopefully they won’t be here too long.  The tarantulas are not the giant variety like we had last year, but the smaller 2” diameter size.  The cats have been taking care of them as they creep up.

We have had a busy August here at Casa Hogar with visitors staying with us from Holland and Minnesota.  Mirjam is from the Amsterdam area, she was with us for 3 weeks.  She spent lots of time with the kids and helped Paulien prepare the classroom for the coming school year.  She brought along some fun activities and brought us to the Reynosa Zoo.  The zoo was very interesting in that we were able to be hands on with many of the animals including camels, ostriches, water buffalo and American Buffalo.  I never realized how much buffalo like corn tortillas or how far their tongues will reach to get one!  Mirjam will be especially missed by the girls with whom she always had something fun to do in the evenings.

Dawn’s second cousin Nick from Cottage Grove Minnesota was with us for 5 weeks.  Nick spent a lot of his time helping us in the kitchen and became quite good at making aguas (beverages) for everyone.  He also became handy with a pick, shovel and wheel barrow as we moved lots of rock and gravel during his stay.  Nick has returned home for his senior year of high school.

In addition to the zoo, were also able to get to the water park, the pool and the ocean near Matamoros a couple times this summer.  Notice the water theme, the kids love to swim and me too.  With the start of school this week, we will be settling down into a regular schedule.

We have an inspiring story to tell of Alberto’s search for his family and personal history.  Alberto is one of the adults who lives and works here at Casa Hogar.  Alberto is 25 years old has been here for fifteen years.  Alberto arrived in Reynosa alone at age 8 via bus from somewhere to the south.  He did not speak Spanish when he arrived, but Westeko, a language of one of the indigenous Mexican populations.  This made communicating with him very difficult and getting him back to where he was from impossible.  Alberto eventually came under the care of Sara and Pilar de Esperanza, and given the name Alberto.  He quickly picked up on Spanish and attended primary and secondary schools.  He has attended Bible College in Mexico City and recently completed an electrician’s course at a technical school in Reynosa.  He has become an important part of Casa Hogar and the church.  Over the years Alberto would recall memories from his childhood, remembering his father and his two sisters as well as many places around his childhood home.  Alberto had a desire to fill in the blanks of his personal history, find his family and locate his birth records.  Through some research he was able to find an area where Westeko is still spoken and identified a small town from where to start looking.  With the help of Google Maps Alberto was able to identify where he went to school and locate his family’s house.

 In June Alberto put together a plan to look for his family and began fundraising for bus fare and related travel expenses.  A special thanks to those who contributed to Alberto’s adventure.  On August 4, Alberto boarded a bus bound for Tampico Mexico and eventually to Tantoyuca Mexico.  Alberto spent a total of 12 hours on the bus.  When he arrived he began remembering places and was able to find the home with his family still living there.   He had a grand reunion with his sisters, his father and grandfather.  He also discovered he had numerous nieces and nephews and extended family.   His sister and many of his family still only speak Westeko!  When Alberto inquired about his records, his sisters told him they had held them for him and kept them up to date.  Alberto’s sisters said they had been praying for his return and knew one day they would see him again.  Alberto spent two weeks with his father, sisters and extended family.  They live a simple life of farming in a rural area with no electricity or running water.  He enjoyed every minute of his stay and returned with great stories and lots of pictures.  He remains in contact with his family through a niece who has a cell phone.  He hopes to visit again for Christmas!  A great story of God’s perfect timing.

Come visit us!    Serve His Kids is putting a mission trip together to come to Pilar Esperanza for the week of October 11th thru October 18th, 2014.  There is still time to join in; Rick Ross will be coordinating things in Minnesota.  Contact Rick at or me at with questions.

We continued to give thanks for prayers and support.  We truly appreciate all the blessings we have received and pray that we can continue to serve Him in all that we do!

Dios le Bendiga!

Mark and Dawn Haas


Pilar Update       July 31, 2014


Hola Amigos!

Dawn and I had a nice visit to Minnesota in June and enjoyed some cool weather accompanied with lots of rain. We had a great time catching up with family and visiting with friends and relatives.  It was interesting to see what had changed in the year that we have been in Mexico.  It was noticeable to us that things are much greener in Minnesota, but the roads aren’t much smoother.

July in Reynosa means lots of hot weather and this year is no different.  The highs this month have been right at the 100 degree mark nearly every day, with a few days topping 102 degrees.  The wind seems to cool things off and the few days that the wind doesn’t blow are difficult to get through.  The late afternoons are pretty quiet while everyone looks for a shady spot with a breeze to relax for a short time.  We have had no rain the past 3 or 4 weeks, so things are beginning to dry up and blow away.  The afternoon sun is very hot and will burn in a short time.  We plan our activities around where the shade will be at a given time.

The hot and dry weather also brings out the insects.  The flies in the cocina are being kept in check with the help of the bug zapper.  After two attempts with faulty zappers, we finally have a fully functioning unit hanging on the wall.  The machine zaps away during the evening hours, taking out most of the ever present and irritating moscas.  This allows people to eat their food without using one hand to cover their beverage to keep the flies from landing on their glass or in their aqua.

The battle with the hormigas continues in full force this summer, picking up where we left off last fall.  This year I am better prepared with improved knowledge, experience and most importantly pesticides. There seems to be additional sizes and colors of the pesky little ants this year.  I know I will never  win the war, but I’ll put up a good fight.

June and July have brought a number of groups from all across the United States.  Early in July a large group from Missouri was here with a bunch of enthusiastic high school students and adults.  They spent the week digging, trenching, painting and having fun with the kids.  The following week a large group from Kentucky and Tennessee visited Casa Hogar for a few days and did more digging, painting and concrete work.  The concrete work is quite intensive in that all the work is done by hand.  There are no mixers or cement trucks; the sand, rock, cement and water is all mixed by hand on the ground and wheel barrowed to the desired location.  It is physical work and the heat makes is even for difficult.  The group leveled, formed and poured 3 pads measuring 12’ x 14’ in two days.  Good work for a group of high schools students and their leaders with little concrete experience.

The middle of the month brought some friends from the Boston Massachusetts area.  Victoria Buckley, Robin Lovett along with Gary and Sandy Ruggiero visited for the week of July 12-19.  They are part of a much larger group that had been visiting Casa Hogar for many years previous.  They brought with them lots of activities, games and food.  Highlights for the week included a pizza party at a water park and a fun filled day at the Olympics at Casa Hogar.  The Olympics included fun events like water balloon toss, walking stilt races and a real discus toss.  Teams were chosen representing Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.  The competition was fierce and medals were awarded.  Afterward ice cream was served and everyone was happy.  It was a good day ending a very good week.

The end of the month brought a family member for a visit.  Dawn’s second cousin Nick Frazer is visiting from Cottage Grove Minnesota.  He will be with us for a few weeks to help where is can and spend some time with the kids.  Nick seems to be adjusting to the heat and living here at Casa Hogar.  The kids have taken to him, keeping him busy with soccer, American football and afternoon water fights.  The kids also make sure to show him where every bees nest, ant hill and spider web can be found.  Since Nick is not fond of these things or insects in general, it makes for some interesting encounters.

Dawn and I continue to see God at work this summer.  We continue to be blessed by the groups that come and people we meet.  We are grateful to our family, friends and church for the prayers and support we continue to receive.  We give thanks to God the many blessings He has brought to us.

Serve His Kids is putting a mission trip together to come to Pilar Esperanza for the week of October 11th thru October 18th, 2014.  There is an informational meeting planned on August 16th, 2014 at 10 am at the Washington County Library in Woodbury Minnesota.  Rick Ross will be coordinating things in Minnesota.  Contact Rick at or me at with questions.

Dios le Bendiga!

Mark and Dawn Haas

Pilar Update       May 31, 2014


Hola Amigos!

Summer is in full swing here in Northern Mexico!  We have bright blue skies and plenty of sun everyday with highs in the 90’s.  Thankfully the wind still blows strong most days making the hot days a little cooler.  We’ve had a little rain the past weeks keeping most of the plants alive.  The sorghum harvest is going strong this week and it looks like a good one.  The wet and cool spring allowed the crops to get a good start and withstand the hot and dry conditions of the past month.  The farmers with be very busy the next few weeks harvesting and hauling their crops.  It’s a good thing to see!

The warm weather continues to also bring a bountiful harvest of flies, spiders and ants, and of course the always present cucarachas!  The flies in the cocina are building and we are taking a different tact this summer.  We are hoping to eliminate some of them with a bug zapper.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

The weather also brings visitors and groups to Casa Hogar.  We love to have visitors and the kids look forward to meeting new people from all over.  We’ve had several groups visiting and look forward to many for over the course of the summer.  Let us know if you’d like to stop in and visit.

The kids are working to finish up their school year.  With classes going until the end of June, the kids are anxiously anticipating the end of classes and a little free time.  It has been a good year at the school with the kids moving along through their curriculums.  For most of the kids, mathematics seems to be the sticking point.  We have lots of multiplication tables floating around right now.

Dawn and I will be traveling to Minnesota in June; we will be in the Twin Cities June 13 thru June 24.  We look forward to some cooler weather and lots of visits with family and friends.  We are grateful for the continued prayers and overwhelming support we have received over the past year.  We look forward to what God has in store for us in the coming year.

Dios le Bendiga!

Mark and Dawn Haas

1001 S. 10th Street    Suite G # 811              McAllen, TX   78501                         612-598-9260

Pilar Update       April 30, 2014


Hola Amigos!

Spring has come and gone and summer has returned early.  The beginning of the month was wonderful, with highs in the 70’s and 80’s and ended with the last couple days with highs of 105 and 103 degrees.  While we welcome warm weather, it is a little too much too fast.  The past days have been much more pleasant.  Apologies to our Minnesota friends who can’t seem to break free from the cold grip of winter.  The once green and colorful landscape has dried out and is turning brown.  We have not had any measurable rain since mid-March and none is expected any time soon.  We are hoping the corn and sorghum crops planted earlier this year are mature enough to survive the dry spell.  With the bright sunshine and constant wind, the dusty conditions have also returned.

The warmer weather has also brought the return of all the critters that have been relatively dormant the past several months.  The spiders, cockroaches, flies and ants have all made their presence felt the past weeks.  The numbers are nothing like what is to come, but the few bites I’ve felt have reminded me to get prepared.

April has been a busy month at Casa Hogar.  Earlier in the month we loaded up the bus and visited one of the local water parks in Reynosa.  Although the water was still a bit chilly, we had a great time swimming and zipping down the water slides.  We brought a lunch and a soccer ball and made a day of eating, swimming and playing.

We had our spring break in mid- April.  All the schools in Mexico take two weeks off at Easter, one week before Easter Sunday and one week after. It is a time for families to take vacations, travel and visit week was a busy one with services on Thursday evening, Friday afternoon and a Sunrise service on Easter Sunday.  It was a nice service celebrating our Savior’s resurrection!

On April 30th Dia de Niño was celebrated here in Mexico.  On children’s day there are special events throughout the community and at the schools.  Here at Casa Hogar we held a celebration for several families with children that have cancer.  There was lots of food and drink along with clowns, inflatables, piñatas, and swimming in the fountain.  We were also visited by a group of students from a church in Reynosa.  They entertained the kids with music, games and skits, and provided lunch and lots of candies!  Celebrations for Dia de Niño we also held at church with games, clowns and more piñatas.  Children’s Day is celebrated throughout the world on various days and is a big deal in many countries, including Mexico.  I haven’t heard of it before, the kids look forward to it and had a great time.

We had some sadness here at Casa Hogar.  Sara, the director here at Pilar de Esperanza and Pastor at our church, lost her mother on April 24th.  She had been ill for quite a while and in pain.  Please pray for Sara and her family during this time of sadness.  Please pray for our friends Fabi and Mario who lost their grandmother.

Dawn and I continue to do what we can to help here at Casa.  We are attempting to learn to cook a little more Mexican like in our meal preparation.  Learning how the distinct favors of Mexican cooking are created is interesting and eye opening.  We are picking up on many of the subtle aspects of the culture and have learned of all the ways corn tortillas are used in every meal.  Beans and rice are becoming my close friends.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.   We continue to build relationships with those we meet here at Casa Hogar and work on our Spanish language skills.  There are still plenty of projects and opportunities to work here at Pilar, if you are interested in visiting please contact us.  We plan on returning to Minnesota for a couple weeks in June, we look forward to visiting with family and friends during that time.

Dios le Bendiga!

Pilar Update       March 31, 2014


Hola Amigos!

Spring has finally arrived here at Casa Hogar!  The weather has improved greatly with highs in the 70’s and 80’s and lows in the 60’s.  It’s been a long hard winter here in northern Mexico, as it has been and continues to be in most parts in the north.  The warmer weather coupled with the above average rainfall the past several months has led to a lot of vegetation and lots of green all around.  The warmer weather is also bringing the animal life out of its winter slumber.  The migrating birds are in abundance, primarily with the loud and messy grackles.  We’ve also heard the familiar honking of Canadian Geese flying overhead.  The less appreciated animals are also showing up with abundance, especially spiders.  Not the big hairy kind, but the smaller faster ones.  They show up everywhere and in everything.  We’ve have a couple of encounters with the shiny black ones with the red spots on the belly too.  The cockroaches are beginning to make their presence felt too.  The fly swatters have been found and are getting a workout.   It had been pleasant not having to deal with the critters during to coolness the past several months.  The hormigas and moscas will not be far behind.  We are preparing to do battle in the coming weeks.

March has been a very busy month for Dawn and me.  After returning from Minnesota early in the month, we made preparations for a group to visit Casa Hogar.  The group of nine people arrived on March 14th and 15th and stayed with us for a week.  Members of the group consisted of friends from Minnesota as well as a new friend from New Jersey.  The group spent a lot of time with the kids doing crafts and activities including baseball, kickball and of course soccer. We also spent time doing a number of different science experiments with the kids.  Special thanks to Rick Ross for organizing the group and putting together the science projects.  The kids are still talking about the messes they created and the fun they had.

The group spent much of the week working on the roof of the cocina.  The roof has been leaking for several months and was causing damage on the interior of the building.  We spent the week removing old roof material, repairing cracks and resealing the roof.  We are hoping the long week of work will do the trick and keep the water outside where it belongs.  We were also able to do several other repair projects around the campus.  The weather was good and the Mexican food was excellent.  Thanks to all who came and stayed with us.

We have also been fortunate to have visitors from several other groups the past weeks.  We have new friends hailing from Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.  We have lots of activity and several projects in the works.  If you have an interest in visiting us, please let us know.

Dawn and I continue to learn and grow into our roles here at Pilar de Esperanza.  We keep busy helping with the kids, making breakfasts and dinners and working on a variety of repairs and projects.  We continue to see God working in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  We feel His presence around us and are grateful for the experiences and protections He provides.  We continue to be blessed in ways we never imagined.  Thank you for your prayers and support!


Dios le Bendiga!


Mark and Dawn Haas




Pilar Update       February 28, 2014


Hola Amigos!

We hope this letter finds you well!  Things are beginning to warm up here at Pilar de Esperanza.  We have had some beautiful days the second half of February with several sunny days and highs in the 70’s and 80’s.  A welcome change from the cooler weather we had been experiencing.  With the above average rainfall this winter, we are seeing lots of greening and a number of blossoming plants all around.  Our temperatures continue to roller coaster up and down with the passing cold fronts, which seem to roll through on a weekly basis.  With the increasing heat from the sun our low temperatures have been on the rise, which we greatly appreciate.

Our friends from Nebraska, Dennis and Kay Kronberg, are returning to Wausa after two months of serving at Casa Hogar.  All at Pilar appreciate the time we spent together and the work that was completed during their stay.  We will miss having them with us and look forward to seeing them again.

We are looking forward to welcoming a mission group from Minnesota in a few weeks.  Serve His Kids is organizing a mission trip to Pilar de Esperanza in March.  We are planning a group to visit for the week of March 15 – 22.  The group will stay with us at Casa Hogar and help with multiple projects and love on some great kids.  Contact me for details.

Dawn and I begin March in Minnesota.  Dawn’s brother Mike lost his battle with liver disease last week.  We celebrate his life and will miss his smile and loving character.  We have been spending time with family the past days, which has help offset the really cold temperatures.

Please pray for us and our family.

 Mark and Dawn Haas




Pilar Update       January 29, 2014


Hola Amigos!

I hope this letter finds you well!  Things south of the border are good.  We had a fun time for New Years and have returned to our regular school schedule.  Well, as regular as the weather allows.  It seems the cold has been a factor in the north as well as the south in many things, including school schedules.  When the weather gets really cold, which is in the 30’s here at Pilar Esperanza, things tend to slow down.  On the cold days classes will be delayed an hour or so to allow the sun to warm things up.  We have had quite a number of these days in the past few months.  Without heat in the most of the buildings, it continues to be difficult to get the kids out of bed and ready for school.  Delaying school an hour allows them a bit more leeway to get ready.  This morning classes are canceled with the temperature hovering at the freezing mark.  It rained quite a bit last night creating some beautiful icicles on the cactus’ and mesquite trees.  We are hoping to get into the 40’s todays, 80’s by Friday! 

The cold makes many aspects of life at Pilar Esperanza and in northern Mexico a bit more difficult.  Although the cold isn’t nearly as severe here as it is in the north, we are far less prepared to deal with it.  On the bright side, our cold days tend to last only a short time.  A week ago the high was 35 degrees; three days later the high was 80.  From winter coats to shorts and tee shirts in 3 days.  I must admit that I don’t miss the frigid temperatures and nasty wind chills. We haven’t missed the snow, the shoveling or the poor winter driving conditions either.  The roads in Mexico make driving difficult enough, I couldn’t imagine what they would be like if they were covered in ice and snow.  The highways tend to be pretty good with only a few holes and bad patches, but the side roads and residential streets are another story.  These roads are unbelievably bad with top speeds only 10 or 15 miles per hour.  There are holes and mud, with many areas that are nearly impassable without four wheel drive vehicles.  When it rains, things get worse.  The water drainage is nonexistent causing large pools in intersections and areas of flooding.  This occurs whenever it rains filling the holes with water, making it difficult to know how deep they are, slowing things even more.  Casa Hogar is located on a gravel road that is about 3 miles from a main paved road.  When things are good it takes 10 or 12 minutes to travel the short distance.  Things have not been good and the 3 miles takes 20 minutes to travel.  If it has rained recently it takes even longer to wade thru the small lakes that have formed.

Traffic in the City of Reynosa is always heavy.  Being a border town, there are many large trucks moving goods between the U.S. and Mexico.  The trucks are everywhere.  Customs at the border crossings causes long backups of semi-trucks on each side of the river.   Over the past several months I’ve learned to drive like a Mexican.  I can avoid deep pot holes, narrowly miss dogs, cats and horses in the road, drive at ridiculous speeds for the situation and not run into others doing the same thing.  Here, stop signs are suggestions and if you hesitate you end up waiting and making those behind you wait.  My new Mexican driving style is to be defensively aggressive.  I need to remember to change back when I am back in the States.  The rough roads and driving has taken a toll on our Honda CR-V.  So far the tally is one flat tire, two cracked windshields and numerous dings and chips.  Well, at least I haven’t had to use the ice scraper….yet.  

On January 2nd Dennis and Kay Kronberg from Wausa Nebraska came to help at Pilar.  They plan to be with us thru February.  It has been great having them here with us lending a hand.  Dennis is a great mechanic and has been a real asset in chipping away at our never ending repair and maintenance list.  Kay has been great helping in the classrooms and in the kitchen.  We can never get enough of her fresh baked breads and cookies. 

We have a bunch of birthdays coming up in the next few weeks here at Casa Hogar, about seven at our last count.  Dawn has taken on the task of baking and decorating birthday cakes for their special day.  Last week Jony turned 19 and requested a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (my favorite).  It was delicious!  We look forward to many varieties of cakes in coming weeks!

Dawn and I continue our mission with Serve His Kids.  Over the past seven months we have been able to purchase and prepare lots of tasty and nutritious meals, and are learning a few things about Mexican cooking along the way.  I am still unable to eat most of the salsas as they are way too hot for me.  We have been able to help at the school with math, English and curriculum, and spiritually through devotions and mentoring.  Our purpose becomes clearer with each passing week as our relationships continue to strengthen.  

Serve His Kids is offering a mission trip opportunity to come to Pilar de Esperanza in March.  We are planning a group to visit for the week of March 15 – 22.  The group will stay with us at Casa Hogar and help with projects, in the kitchen, and hang out with some great kids!  If you are interested in coming or would like more information, please contact me!

Thanks you for your prayers and support!

Dios le Bendiga,


Mark and Dawn Haas                                                            

Pilar Update             December 27, 2013


Hola Amigos!

We hope the peace, joy and hope of Christmas has filled your hearts and homes.  Dawn and I are enjoying our first Mexican Christmas here at Pilar Esperanza.  In addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus, we have been enjoying Christmas time with lots of food and time with the kids. 

Over the past several weeks, the kids have been invited to many Christmas celebrations throughout Reynosa.  Some are hosted by companies like Wal-Mart and Soriana (a grocery chain here in Reynosa) while others are hosted by churches or charitable groups and individuals.  We have been to ten or twelve parties in the past weeks in all parts of Reynosa.  It has been interesting loading the kids onto the school bus and traveling around town.  We have had a lot of fun and have met many generous people. All the celebrations include lots of food, presents for the kids and Piñatas filled with lots of candy.  Lots of Piñatas filled with lots of candy.  I like candy, but Mexican candy is different.  I’m used to sweet candy covered with sugar, Mexican candy is covered with things that are hot, like picante hot.  There are peppers and chilies on this candy, some hot enough to make your eyes water.  The kids love it.  I do not.  I am having candy cane withdrawals.

Christmas Eve was filled with food preparation and lots of it.  One of the pigs was taken and cooked into several tasty dishes.  In addition to the pork we had turkey and beef, salsas, tortillas and potatoes followed by pie and empanadas.  Good food and lots of it.  Christmas day we did it all over again.

The kids are on Christmas vacation for the next couple weeks, we are scheduled to begin again on January 6th.  A few of the kids are away this week with family, they will return next week.  Things have been going smoothly at school, with the exception of some issues with the weather.

It has been unusually cool here in northern Mexico, or more accurately, it has been cold.  We have had several occasions when the low temperatures have dipped near freezing in the past several weeks with highs barely getting into the 40’s.  I realize it has been cold in the north too, but you ‘all are used to being cold for long periods, here we are not.    Couple the below normal temperatures with a strong wind from the north and we have had some bone chillin’ mornings.   We have delayed the start of a few of our school days by an hour so we could wait for the sun to rise to warm things up a bit.  Sitting in cold unheated class rooms makes paying attention in class difficult. 

The kids had a good laugh when I pulled out my trusty winter bomber hat one cold morning.  You know, the kind with the ear flaps that fold down and strap under the chin.  I brought it on a whim along with some fleece gloves; I didn’t think I would actually need them.   Funny how their attitudes changed when one of the groups provided similar hats and gloves for Christmas gifts.  They sure do like them.   I don’t tell them I’ve been wearing long underwear on a few of the really cold days. We have some warm days in between the cold fronts that move through, putting us on a roller coaster of temperatures.  Last week we had days that reached the upper 80’s, while today it has been raining and 58 degrees.  The insect situation is still minimal, with sightings of hormigas and moscas on the warm days.  I am still declaring victory for the time being.

Dawn and I spent Thanksgiving weekend at my parents’ home in Mesa Arizona.  We had a great time with them and enjoyed a bit of a rest.  It was a long drive, (17 hours) but enjoyable on our travels to Arizona.  Our return trip to south Texas was not as nice as we caught the south end of the ice storm that covered most of the state early in December.  We encountered numerous delays and realized how unprepared Texas is for winter weather.  It brought a new appreciation for the winter driving skills I’ve accumulated over the past years.  Again, something I had hoped I wouldn’t need.  The locals say that this has been an unusually cold start to winter.  They also said that it had been an unusually long hot summer.   I’m just glad there isn’t snow on the ground.....that would be unusual…..hmmm

On Saturday December 21st we were able to attend the Quinceanera celebration for Pamela Valdes, the daughter of our good friends Mario and Fabi Valdes.  Quinceanera is the celebration of a girls fifteenth birthday.  It marks the transition from childhood into adulthood for young women.  The celebration is filled with tradition, dancing and of course good food.   It was a great party.

We are looking forward to the coming New Year and the celebrations that accompany it.  I’m sure there will be lots of great food, treats and some fireworks, perhaps a piñata with some sweets.  We look forward 2014 with the hope of good things happening here at Casa Hogar and in the city of Reynosa.  We are grateful for the places God has taken us and look forward to what He has in store for us.

May God’s blessing be upon you and may you have a prosperous 2014!


Mark and Dawn

Pilar Update             November 20, 2013


Hola Amigos!

All is well at Pilar de Esperanza!  We are continuing to learn new things and see things in new ways as our journey continues here in northern Mexico.  We continue to be amazed by the blessings we have received and how God continues to work in our lives and those around us.  We continue to see small miracles happen every day and appreciate little things we took for granted in the past.

The slower, more relaxed pace of life has taken a while to adjust to, but we’re getting accustom to it.  We’ve found that there are several benefits to slowing down, reducing stress and simplifying things.  We sleep very well at night, even with the dogs barking, roosters crowing and cows and pigs making their noises.  I no longer have neck and back pain (stress) and haven’t needed a chiropractor since we left.  I’ve lost weight, nearly 20 pounds, and physically feel really good.  The down side is that most of my clothes are too big and don’t fit very well, but I can live with that.  Slowing our pace has also given us more time to work on relationships, with the people here at Pilar, with each other and most importantly with God.  Amazing things happen when you let everything go and trust God.

We have finally cooled down a bit after a really hot summer.  With highs in the 70’s and 80’s and lows in the 60’s, we’ve reach fall here in the Rio Grande Valley.  We had our first bout with “cool” weather last week with a couple nights with lows near 50 degrees.  The “frio” temperatures had the kids bringing out their heavy jackets and pulling up the hoodies.  I even had to wear long pants for a couple days after wearing shorts daily since we arrived.  We are expecting even cooler temperatures this weekend, with lows dipping near 45 degrees and highs only in the 50’s.  These temperatures typically last only a few days before things warm up again.  This is a good thing, since we don’t have heaters here at Casa Hogar.  Waking up to cool temperatures reminds me of camping in Northern Minnesota….any time of the year.  It’s really difficult to get out of bed.   Most people in the area have little tolerance for cool weather; the public schools here close down if the low temperature drops below 45 degrees.  Things tend to really slow down when the temperatures drop, it’s a great time for movies and hot chocolate. 

The cooler weather has make things more difficult for one of the children here at Pilar.  Michele is six years old and suffers from asthma.  The cooler temperatures have presented some troubles for her which resulted in two trips to the hospital.  Please pray for her comfort and for the medications to bring relief.

The cooling has brought one benefit; fewer insects.  I am happy to claim dominance over my nemesis hormigas!  Although it may only last until the weather gets scorching hot again, I’ll gladly take a break from battling the red ants while I can.  We have had a decline in spiders and most other insects, even the moscas have declined in numbers.  The few that remain seem to be a bit more aggressive and bothersome, but I don’t think they are here for much longer.  I had my first experience with Africanized bees.  We had a group about the size of a basketball in one of the Mesquite trees near the cosina.  They were no trouble and left after a few days.  I did have to remind a few of the boys that they shouldn’t throw things at the bees or there could be trouble. They must have understood what I was saying, or they weren’t very accurate when throwing.  I like to think the former.

School at Pilar is going well with the kids are making progress in their curriculum.  I’ve been able to help in with math and English as well as an occasional devotion.  The troubles I had been having with numbers in Spanish are quickly disappearing as I have been helping the kids with their multiplication tables.  The words in may be different, but numbers are the same everywhere.  I am surprised that I remember long division as well as I do.  I am looking forward to high school algebra in January!

Dawn and I returned to Minnesota for a short time in early November.  We were in town for the wedding our son Michael to his sweetheart Jenna.  They met several years ago while serving as medics in Iraq with the US Army.  They had a beautiful day for a small outdoor ceremony at Como Park.  We are very fortunate to add Jenna to our family!  The happy couple makes their home in St. Paul.    We were also able to spend time with our eldest son Tony and his wife Ingrid.  They drove from their home in Lincoln Nebraska for the happy day.  Our visit went very quickly and we were able to depart a few hours before snow arrived in the Twin Cities on November 5th.  It was great to visit with family and connect with a few of our Minnesota friends.  We apologize to those we missed.  We are planning to spend time over Thanksgiving with my parents in Mesa Arizona.

The holiday season is approaching fast and we are looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with the staff and kids here at Casa Hogar.  The kids have been telling us about the great food and fun gatherings that happen during Christmas time.  There are a few groups in Reynosa that make things special for kids by hosting Christmas parties.  A few celebrations are already on the calendar.  We look forward to being a part of the festivities!

Dawn and I would like to thank everyone that has supported us and Serve His Kids over the past months.  With your help we have been able to provide and prepare a great deal of food for the people at Pilar de Esperanza.  We have also been able to help support the ministries and school that happen here every day.  The prayers and support we have received is overwhelming and humbling, we greatly appreciate it.  We are blessed to be here and blessed to have so many people caring for us and the kids at Casa Hogar. 

Gracias por todo, que Dios te bendiga

Mark and Dawn Haas

Pilar Update             October 17, 2013


Hola Amigos!

Everything is going well here south of the border at Pilar de Esperanza.  We continue to learn new things and make improvements in our Spanish language skills.  September was a very rainy month here in northern Mexico.  The Rio Grande Valley caught some of the northern reaches of Hurricane Ingrid, bringing several inches of needed rain.  It seems that the rain here comes in large quantities in short amounts of time, causing flooding in low areas.   Areas south of us in Tampico and Victoria received large amounts of rain from Ingrid and are still struggling with the flood problems.  Areas to the west were hit by remnants of Hurricane Manuel which created several problems with flooding.  There are currently two tropical storms in the Baja area of Mexico which will bring additional rain and troubles to these same areas.  Please pray for the people affected by these flooding problems.

The moisture is welcome in the Reynosa and McAllen areas which have been in an extended drought situation for several years.  When we arrived in July, nearly all the crops had dried up in the fields.  The brown which covered everything has been replaced by green grasses and weeds.  Things are growing everywhere.  Of course with the moisture and green comes the added fun of mosquitoes, gnats and flies which arrived in abundance.  While the flies have always been present (moscas), the mosquitos and gnats where something new for us.   Minnesota is well known for this problem and we were prepared with our DEET spray.  It has been dry again for the past few weeks and the mosquito and gnat problem has gone by the way side.  The problem with flies is as bad as ever, with several days being nearly unbearable in the cosina.   The sticky fly strips we hang in abundance fill to capacity in a day or two, while the moscas seem to be immune to the Raid sprays we are using.  Fortunately the cold front which brought colder temperatures to Minnesota and some snow to the Dakotas arrived last night, cooling us into the 60’s for lows and 70’s for high temperatures.  The cooler weather slows the moscas and allows us a reprieve from the nuisance for a few days.  We will be back in the upper 80’s in a few days and back to the battle.  We look forward to the cold fronts coming thru, although that won’t be the case in December and January.

Last week (October 5 thru 13) we had the privilege of hosting five men from Crossroads Church in Woodbury Minnesota, our home church.  Four of the men drove the 24 hours in a van filled with tools and supplies.  The group spent the week working on many projects on the campus including building closets for a new space for the kids, repairing plumbing problems and repairing and improving some electrical issues.  The men found plenty to do making repairs and improvements to the property.  They also found time to play a lot of baseball and enjoyed interacting with the kids. There was plenty of laughter and fun throughout the week.  Thanks to Terry Syverson, Jim Knox, Mark Lundquist, David Beeson and Scott Burdash for breaking away from their families and lives in Minnesota and spending the week here at Pilar de Esperanza.  We look forward to seeing them again in the future.

The kids are a month into the school year and have found a nice routine to the week.  The school is on campus using a Christian home school program taught by Paulein and Paty.  The kids are in class from 8 am until 2 pm.  There is typically homework assigned each day in math, science and writing.  The problem of getting homework done on time is one that knows no borders.  The curriculum is structured to fit the abilities of each student, from kindergarten thru high school.  The students are provided uniforms and curriculum as well as note books, pencils and all things need for success in the classroom. The kids seem to enjoy the challenge of school work, and I enjoy helping with homework when I can.  It has been a few years since I helped with 6th grade math, but I’m up to the challenge.

Dawn and I have been busy doing projects, preparing meals and helping with dishes.  The house we live in is becoming our home and we are becoming more familiar and comfortable with our surroundings.  With the help of Roberto, I am becoming familiar with the roads and traffic in Reynosa.  I’ve become better at spotting the giant sized speed bumps before going over them and avoiding the many holes and obstacles found in the roads and streets.  I am still struggling with the language differences, especially with the numbers.  This makes things a bit difficult while at the store.  If I can see the amounts I am fine, but it takes me a bit to figure out the amount if I am told, without a visual.   I’ll keep practicing and it will come.

Dawn and I have consolidated our two U.S. phones into one with a new phone number:  612-598-9260.  We only have the phone active while in the U.S., which is typically on Fridays.  The best way to reach us it via e-mail at, or

We continue to see God working around us and through us, and see small miracles happen every day.  We are amazed by the love and support we have received, God is good!

Gracias, Dios le Bendiga,

Mark and Dawn

Serve His Kids


Pilar update       September 4, 2013


Hola Amigos,

All is well south of the border here at Pilar de Esperanza.  It continues to be very warm, this week with added measure of humidity.  We have been having late afternoon showers (down pours) this week to accompany the temperatures of 95-98 degrees.  Needless to say, it gets to be pretty uncomfortable late in the day.  I’ve experienced new levels of sweat over the past weeks making me think about the cool fall evenings of Minnesota and Wisconsin.   I did get wind of several complaints from the Minnesota State Fair about hot weather and humidity for a couple of days.  Most people in Reynosa live it every day without air conditioning.   The temperatures here are very consistent, highs near 100 degrees, lows around 78 degrees.  The variable is the wind; if it blows strong things are good.  If there is no wind it gets to be a very long day.   Fortunately the wind blows 10-20 mph most of the time.

As I mention, it has been very rather wet and humid the past week or so.  When there weather is wet, some sort of insect tends to come out the ground and become a nuisance.  In July we had a lot of spiders, some were very large including some softball size tarantulas.   In August the hormigas (ants) really came to life and thrived.  They are everywhere all the time and are my nemesis.  I may have mentioned them in an earlier update.  They were particularly bad last month.  A mouse I had killed in a trap was cleaned to the bone in less than three hours by these tiny eating machines.  With our current rain, the moscas have come in force.  Although they are just ordinary house flies, there are so many that it makes you a little crazy.  I have never seen so many flies, and they are everywhere too.  We have bug bombed the concina twice to rid the food service area of them, but in a matter of days they are back.  In the pig pens the flies are so numerous it is a bit frightening.  The really scary part is that I’m getting used to them. When I stop brushing them off my ears, nose, face and food, then I may need some professional help.  I am glad that they are ordinary house flies and not the horse flies or black flies that are so bad in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  I tried to explain to the kids that they are a combination of a mosca and a hormiga, but they didn’t believe that such a creature could exist.  I’m just happy they are not here.

We have been very busy the past several weeks which included a visit from our friends Rick, Leslie and Kylie Ross,  cleaning out the storage unit in McAllen,  getting ready for school to begin and making final preparations for the wedding of Roberto and Paty here at Pilar.  The wedding, which was this past Sunday September 1st was a great success.  The weather was hot, but breezy and comfortable.  There where around 200 people in attendance, including friends from Lexington Massachusetts, San Francisco California and Minnesota.  Check my face book page for pictures of the event.  The boys all have tuxedos and the girls are in beautiful dresses.  I had the honor of escorting the bride down the aisle.  It was a memorable event, filled with Mexican tradition and beauty. 

Our friends Rick and Leslie Ross and their daughter Kylie visited a few weeks ago.  They came to south Texas to bring Kylie to the University of Texas, Pan-American in Edinburg Texas to begin her master’s degree program.  She is studying for a Master of Arts in English as a Second Language degree.  We hope to see Kylie often in the months ahead.  We spent the afternoon showing them around Pilar and introducing Rick and Leslie to the kids.  Kylie has been to Pilar many times on mission trips with Crossroads Church and is no stranger to anyone here.  Rick has also been to Pilar on a mission trip a few years ago and is involved with missions at Crossroads.

We are beginning our third month here at Pilar; we have finally brought all of our belongings into Mexico and found some space here for everything.  We are beginning to feel at home in our new location.  Of course we have the usual home repairs to do, fix the sink and countertop in the kitchen, find and repair the leaks in the corrugated steel roof, repair the bad spots in the ceiling created by the leaks in the steel roof, those types of things.  Dawn is finding her way around the garden again, only using plants that won’t die in the sun and heat.  I didn’t realize there are so many variations of cactus.  The trees in the yard are primarily mesquite and palm, and nearly everything growing has thorns, some have really big thorns.  We are adjusting to the lack of green in the landscape.  What people call grass here is the stuff I spent many summers in Minnesota trying to remove from my lawn.  We encounter something new every day.

We have been trying different things in the kitchen, trying to find a balance between what the kids like and what we are able to do.  Kids are kids, so corn dogs and French fries are always a hit as well as pancakes, French toast and any chocolate flavored cereal for breakfast.   We are always looking for good deals on fresh fruit and vegetables in Mexico, but have found that the produce is fresher in the US, even though much of it is grown in Mexico.  We purchase most of the staples needed in Mexico, bread, eggs, flour, sugar and milk, while buying any type of frozen food and meat products in the states.    Frozen items such as ice and ice cream tend to be much more expensive in Mexico, but tend to melt quickly during transportation from the US.  Most of the donations of food from various people and organizations consist of eggs, beans, rice and potatoes, mostly beans and rice.  We have lots of beans and rice.  Fortunately the kids like beans and rice, but rice more than the beans.  We eat rice every day.  The donations are very sporadic and in unusual quantities.  Monday a church from McAllen gave 200 lbs. of beans and 200 lbs. of rice, the week before it was 150 eggs, 900 lbs. of broccoli, 150 pieces of bola bread (Mexican bread) or 50 cases of Lincosa milk in individual drink boxes.  The donations are always welcome and always used; some items just take longer than others.

We received some good news last week, the IRS has granted our 501(c)3 status.  This makes Serve HIS Kids an official tax exempt nonprofit corporation, granting us tax exempt status on purchases and making all contributions tax deductible for the donor.  It also opens doors for us in regards to grants and similar opportunities.  It is a big hurdle to clear and was much faster than expected.

Please continue to pray for us as we continue to adjust to a much different life style than we have been living.  The days are very long and there are times that we wonder what in the world are we doing here?  God is faithful and provides answers for all of our questions.  Just the hugs we get every day from Victor and Michel are enough for us.

Dios le Bendiga,

Mark and Dawn





August 11, 2013


Hola Amigos!

I hope everyone is doing well!  Dawn and I are adjusting well to our new environment and life here at Pilar de Esperanza in Reynosa Mexico.  We have accepted the spiders, scorpions, and cockroaches, but continue to do battle with dreaded red ants.  Perhaps it is because they are everywhere and we are outnumbered a zillion to one, or because they are so small that they seem harmless, I am not ready to give in to my tiny nemesis.  As long as they are present, we will continue to do battle.

We had rain Sunday!  It was the first rain in 5 weeks, lasted about 15 minutes and dropped about an inch of rain.  The kids loved it, running and splashing in the large puddles and they stood under the runoff from the concina.  No showers needed tonight, plus some of the laundry was taken care of too.  It has been very hot the past few weeks, as I may have mention previously.  Last week we had temps over 100 degrees every day, with 107 being the hottest.  Fortunately we also had a steady breeze from the south and southeast gusting near 30 mph at times.  The strong winds and the dry conditions lead to some pretty heavy dust storms and blowing sand.  Needless to say, we have been finding some shady places to spend in the afternoon times; being in the afternoon sun is way too hot for a Minnesota boy like me.  My farmers tan has never been better!

Last week we loaded up all the kids and drove to Bagdad Beach near Matamoros and spent the day at the ocean.  It was a beautiful warm and sunny day, we had a great time.  It was quite different than any beach I had been to, you could drive right out on the sand and go up the beach until you found a spot to your liking. Lots of sun and wind, and lots of sunburn to go with it.

Dawn and I continue spending time in the concina, cooking up breakfasts and dinners for the kids and adults here at Pilar.  I have become pretty handy at crack’n eggs making French toast and pancakes 60 and 70 at a time.  Dawn and I have become savvy shoppers at the local grocery stores, quickly converting pesos and kilograms into dollars and pounds to get a better grasp of what things cost.  (The prices are very similar to prices found in the U.S.)  I now know the Spanish names of most of the fruits and vegetables and how to tell a good mango from a not so good mango.  We next hope try our hand at authentic Mexican food, with some direction from our friends here.  Thank you for supporting our ministry, For His Kids, your contributions provides the food we serve.

We continue to prepare for Roberto and Paty’s wedding.  The two young people spent much of their youth here and they will be married here on September 1st.  We have been cleaning things and preparing for a large group for the celebration.  School begins the week after the wedding, on September 9th.  

I am looking forward to school beginning, I look forward to the order and routine that school brings.  Summer is a bit chaotic, people on vacation, schedules are out of whack, the weather is hot, and a little routine will be good for me.  We have been at Pilar for six weeks and I am still trying to find a new normal.  I’m sure it will take some time.  I’m looking forward to helping in the class rooms and seeing how things operate during school time.

Dawn and I have been keeping up with the Sunday teachings from Crossroads on line.  It has been great to hear the great messages and as well as the familiar voices of James and Phil.  We do miss our Sunday fellowship with our friends at Crossroads.  I’m also in need of a little Savoy pizza.

Please continue to pray for us as we continue to build relationships and find our new normal. 

Dios le Bendiga,

Mark and Dawn

Life at Pilar July 23, 2013

Hola Amigos!

Dawn and I continue to adjust to life outside of the United States and enjoying our adventure at Pilar de Esperanza. The adventure of the week has been adjusting to the new and interesting insects here in Mexico. There are three primary culprits we are dealing with here, moscas, hormigas, and cucarachas. Moscas are just plain and simple house flies, th...ey don’t bite or sting, but they are irritating! In the cocina there are hundreds of moscas, thousands of moscas. They fly in your face, in your beverage, in your food, they are everywhere. The other day we sprayed the moscas, killing thousands. The next day new ones have taken their place. We have screens on every window, but with 20 kids around, there is little chance of keeping the moscas away. Having a pig farm on the property and a cattle ranch across the field doesn’t help. Let me know if you have any solutions!
Hormigas are ants. There are a wide variety of ants here, big ones, little ones, black, brown or red we have them all. It is the little red ones that are the worst. They are everywhere. If you drop food on the ground a little red ant will be on it in 10 seconds, in one minute there will be 50, in 5 minutes there will be a food line coming and going from whatever you have dropped, hundreds of ants coming and going. And they bite! Take it from me, you do not want to grab a glass that had juice in it and sat out overnight. My hand was covered by red hormigas and all of them where biting me at the same time. Tiny little pinches, that swells up like a bad mosquito bite. The little bump takes a day to go away. Rojas hormigas are not my friends.
Cucarachas, as you most likely know, are cock roaches. They are also everywhere, but there are only two kinds, big and little. The little ones are primarily in areas where there is food, they may be an inch long and they run really fast. The big ones are primarily around water, sinks, bathrooms and showers. They don’t run fast, but then they don’t run at all. I’ve been in several stare downs with 3” long cucarachas that won’t run away; fortunately I’ve come out on top of these confrontations. Dawn has fly swatters strategically place in every room of the house; I am never more than two steps from one of our industrial strength swatters. Even in the shower a swatter is within easy reach, which awkwardly enough is where most of these battles take place.
It continues to be hot, near 100 today, and windy with winds around 30 mph. The forecast calls for several more days of the same. I am beginning to get accustom to the hot weather and drink unbelievable amounts of water. The water purification system that was installed last November works great, and with some ice and flavoring, tastes great too. I’ve had lots of flavors to try in the past weeks; Pilar receives fruits and vegetables from a grocery store in Reynosa that are no longer saleable. We usually receive a pickup truck load of produce boxes that are oozing with all sorts of rotten bananas, mangos, potatoes, celery, lettuce and a wide assortment of things I’ve never seen before. Pilar receives this in exchange cleaning the produce storage area at the store. This happens every Saturday morning. After the boxes of produce are unloaded from the truck it is sorted into 3 groups, good to eat, good for aguas and good for the pigs. Aguas are any drink that is made with water in it. The good for aguas group, as you may guess, is any fruit or vegetable that is too ripe or soft to use right away. The good parts are put in a blender and water is added to it. I’ve had aguas from bananas, pineapple, mangos and a few things I’m not quite sure what they were. One agua I was surprised by was pepino, or cucumber agua which is really very good.
Dawn continues to try new menu items with the kids and is learning new things from the Alberto and Sara. We continue to meet new people, Victoria and Robin Buckley from a Boston area church visited last week. They usually bring a large group in July, but due to changes at the Covenant Church, they came solo this year. They are great people with a real heart for Pilar. We have been making new friends at the church in Reynosa, and continue to work on our Spanish. We are helping with the preparations for the big wedding on September 1st Roberto and Paty at Pilar. Lots of cleaning and planting going on.
We do not yet have internet or phone service in Mexico, we are still hoping to get this resolved in the next week or so. When we have service, we will be able to communicate better and have regular updates. Our word of the month has been patience, patience in all we do. As we have mentioned, waiting is a way of life here. Slowing down has been a difficult for us, we are used to always being on the move and going, going, going. Even with the pace slowing, the days still go very quickly, beginning at 7 am and always continuing past 10 pm. With the AC, sleeping has not been a problem. We continue to build relationships with the kids and have a great time communicating and miscommunicating with them, always a smile and laughter.

Things are good, please continue praying for us.

Dios le Bendiga,

Mark and Dawn