A Love Without Borders

Construction specialist Carlos Jaramillo was perfectly content with his life in Rutledge until he learned about a way to use his skills for a greater good. He has since made multiple trips to build simple homes for people along the United States-Mexico border.

by Kari Apted

Carlos Jaramillo entered the mission field somewhat reluctantly. He is the son of a first-generation American with grandparents who immigrated from Panama. Jaramillo’s family only spoke English at home, and he jokes about being the white guy with the Hispanic name who had to teach himself how to speak Spanish to better communicate with his construction industry coworkers. A lifelong resident of Georgia, Jaramillo’s contentment with his life here meant he had no urge to travel. 

“I always had this mindset, ‘Everything I need is here. Why leave Georgia?’” he said. “But it’s funny how God moves. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home—I got saved as an adult—but before I even knew Him, God was preparing me for this.”

Jaramillo has always loved to work with his hands. 

“I wasn’t a school person at all,” he said. “It’s not a coincidence that I do construction work. Even when I’m not at work, I love to be busy working with my hands. I learned that in God’s economy, what the rest of the world calls work, He calls service.” 

“It’s beautiful to see community come together with service and missions.”

Carlos Jaramillo

Jaramillo cites Ephesians 2:10 as the verse God used to call him to mission work. It says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Jaramillo says this verse made him realize that service to others was not optional and that he should perhaps reconsider expanding his horizons. His friends had gone to build houses for Mexican people in need through a charity called Casas Por Cristo (Homes for Christ), based in El Paso, Texas. In 2018, the organization invited Jaramillo to come along, and he accepted. 

Casas Por Cristo began building homes along the United States and Mexico border in 1993. First, it focused on needs near Ciudad Juarez, but the charity has since expanded to other areas in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. It only takes four days for a team of 18 to construct these simple two-bedroom houses. To date, the charity has united construction workers, local families, pastors, churches and missionaries to provide over 6,500 homes to needy people. This type of ministry was custom-built for Jaramillo. 

“I really enjoy it. Juarez is known as an area of high crime, but this poor desert city just has my heart,” he said. “There is nothing more gratifying than seeing the joy in the face of the home receiver. It really is a blessing both ways. I ended up going to Juarez twice that first year.” Jaramillo felt a drive to form stronger connections with the people of Juarez. “I thought, as great as it is to build a house to benefit a family, it didn’t fulfill me,” he said. “It was like, ‘Here’s a gift. I’ll never see you again.’ I wanted to do more.” Jaramillo connected with Zach Bryan, a missionary who introduced him to David and Michelle Gatis. They are part of a church in Juarez called Algo Mas (Something More) that provides hands-on ministry to the local population. In 2020, Jaramillo did a build with Casas Por Cristo through Algo Mas. “That time, I saw a community, not a one-time build,” he said. “It did my heart good, to say the least, to know I’d see them again. It’s beautiful to see community come together with service and missions.” 

His connections to Juarez deepened when he went on a non-build trip with his father. Algo Mas had electrical difficulties, and his father spent a week rewiring the church building. 

“It was a real joy to share that with him,” Jaramillo said. “He spent his free time playing with the kids. He said, ‘Man, these people are so nice here. This atmosphere is different.’ I told him we had the same kind of fellowship at church in Georgia.” 

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Jaramillo and his wife, Natalie, met and married at Church 213 in Covington. In 2023, Pastor Ryan Wyatt organized a missionary trip to Juarez, and Natalie joined her husband in Mexico for the first time. 

“We had a big group of 18 that went with us,” Jaramillo said. “I had been waiting to experience this with my church family, my community.” Natalie enjoyed playing with the kids at Algo Mas and learned how to apply stucco siding, even though she did not know what stucco was when she arrived. “The first time I tried, everything came falling down. They had to show me how to do it a couple of times, but then it finally stuck,” she said with a laugh. Her favorite memory was the dedication service they held when the simple home was complete. “I’m a drummer, and we sang in both English and Spanish,” she said. “The praise team from Algo Mas was there. It was a beautiful connection between their congregation and our team.” 

Jaramillo has now taken seven trips to build houses in Juarez, but 2024 will be the first year he will not add another Mexico stamp to his passport. His desire to serve has not faded, but his focus is needed at home. He and Natalie are expecting their first child in July.

“God puts us all through seasons, some when you can go on mission trips and others when you’re needed at home, but I know I’ll go again,” Jaramillo said. “God gave me a heart to serve and a willingness to say, ‘I’m here, Lord. Use me.’” 

Click here to read more stories by Kari Apted. 

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