“All you need is the arms and the want to do it, and you can get it done.”
-The Tobiason Family
Generally speaking, Spring Break is a chance for your children to relax and play and spend their energy so that they can make it through the next couple of months until Summer. However Erik and Karen Tobiason had a different idea of how they wanted their family to spend Spring Break. The thought, was simple, “let’s take our children on a short-term mission trip for the purpose of growing closer as a family, while teaching our children compassion, mercy, and the impact of serving.” The impact, however, was beyond anything Karen and Erik could have ever imagined.
Six years ago the Tobiasons reached out to an organization in Baja that builds houses for families. Initially they were told they couldn’t come because they didn’t typically have teams so small. However, the gentlemen in charge simply “had a good feeling about them” and decided to make an exception. Bringing along four of their six children, they packed up the van and headed for Baja. The experience was everything they could have hoped for. As they were driving back over the California border their children were already begging to return the following year. When they got home and started sharing about their time in Mexico, Karen says, “we would tell our friends and family about it and pretty soon we had all these people wanting to give up their Spring Break to come with us.” Beginning with just extended family and close friends the Tobiasons have doubled their team size almost every year. Now in their 7th year of serving the people of Baja, Mexico, 80 people joined their family to build 3 houses over a matter of four days.
The beautiful thing about the Tobiason family is their excitement and awe at the way the Lord has built this ministry that they never had any intention to build. There are a handful of obvious ways in which this ministry is blessing the people of Baja. Not only are they providing a home and security for families, but they are also lifting a substantial financial burden. With the money they would be saving to buy a house no longer necessary, they are free to purchase other things like uniforms for their children which is a requirement for education. While Karen and Erik feel fortunate to be able to, “bless as they have been blessed,” it is clear the biggest impact on them has been all of the ways God is working behind the scenes: in finances, in details, and in hearts. Karen shares of the countless times that funds have come in, “just in time,” enabling them to build more houses as their team has grown. She will get choked up as she recalls the time a family came a few years ago and the father had never been able to take a vacation with his family due to work. “We were standing there dishing up our dinner and he had tears in his eyes in disbelief that his daughters would be willing to work so hard for a family that they didn’t even know. That is an experience and memory that they will always have,” says Karen.
Although Karen and Erik can see the many positive side effects these trips have had on their family, perhaps the most beautiful aspect is how much their lives have had an impact on their children. Their children will tell you that while the trips have taught and shown them so much, the thing that has been most impacting is to watch their parents through it all. To see them work and continue to say, “yes,” to building more houses and bringing more people, even though the organizing increases exponentially with every new member. What the Tobiason family teaches us is the ripple effect caused by obediently following Jesus. They set out with a simple mission not knowing where it would take them. Now 7 years later they are an example to families of what it looks like to be together, build together, and in turn, provide comfort and security for families in a different part of the world.
Like all stories in life there have been challenges. In fact as Karen puts it, “I feel really out of my element most of the time.” However, they have watched as the Lord has stretched them appropriately each year and trust that He will continue to remain faithful whatever the future looks like. Due to the continued growth of the ministry opportunities, they have created a non-profit organization with board members to help sort out the details. With excitement, the Tobiasons are praying and beginning to wrap their heads around what the future might look like. If there is a need they might build a church or a school to encourage these communities further. In the meantime however, they are continuing to do what they always set out to do. “We are just going to continue to honor God as we move forward and give him the glory,” says Karen. The combination of their humble hearts and a commitment to honor God sounds like exactly what is needed for God to do His best work.
To find out more and to serve with the Tobiasons through Bend2Baja2Build visit HERE.
Written By: Mekenzie Stearns || Photos By: Erica Stubblefield & Various