Living with Open Arms

By Kathleen Seaman

The Perez Family

Pictured: Photographs by Cecy Ayala, photographybycecy.com
Styling by Brittany Ross
Special thanks: Coreopsis

California transplant Mike Perez came to Waco by way of Colorado Springs, which is where he met his wife, Marie, a Waco native. Now, Mike and Marie live in North Waco, right off the lake, with their four young children as well as Marie’s mother.

Marie home-schools three of the kids: Shiloh, Karcsi and Anthem. The youngest, Rivey, is just 5 months old. Mike works for Dwyer Group as a franchise developer where he sells Mr. Appliance franchises to entrepreneurs. Wacoan writer Kathleen Seaman also works full time for Dwyer Group, so she was excited to sit down with Mike and Marie to learn a little more about their family.

As the youngest of 16 children, Marie is used to a loud, lively home, so Mike’s funny and adventurous spirit is the perfect complement. The family of six laughs all the time, and they love to be outdoors exploring, fishing, hiking, canoeing and camping. Shown by their community involvement, especially at their church, the Perez family has a heart for serving others and seeking out anyone in need of a friend.

WACOAN: How did you two meet?

Marie: We were neighbors in Colorado. We owned homes on the same street across from each other.

Mike: In Colorado Springs.

Marie: Can I tell her how you proposed? I just think it’s funny.

Mike: What? Say how we met, but go ahead.

Marie: Anyway, he was just my neighbor, so I met him. But he used to do stand-up comedy in [Los Angeles]. He flew me to L.A. and proposed on the stage of The Ice House [Comedy Club]. He did a comedy act, and people thought it was part of the act, but he was really proposing and called me up on stage and did a whole routine. It was fun.

Mike: I think you had a good idea [I was going to propose]. We did horseback riding near the Hollywood sign. I set up a tour for her to go through the backlot of Warner Bros. Studio, so we did all this cool stuff and then kind of wrapped it up with that.

WACOAN: Mike doing stand-up does not surprise me.

Mike: My career is budding in Waco. I’m actually performing over at [a local budget motel] on Franklin [Avenue].

Marie: He’s joking.

WACOAN: Oh, what night? We’ll advertise it and make sure you have a big crowd.

Mike: That’s funny.

WACOAN: Marie, where are you originally from?

Marie: Waco. I moved to Colorado for seven years, and that’s where I met him. We had our first baby there. Then we moved back here.

My family is all here. I went to school at Waco Christian Fellowship, which is not even in existence anymore. It was a little school. So I went there, moved away and came back.

WACOAN: What took you to Colorado?

Marie: I actually went to help with a church plant there. I loved it there, so I stayed. It’s a great place to live. Beautiful there.

WACOAN: And Mike, you’re originally from L.A.?

Mike: Yeah, born and raised in L.A. And going from L.A. to Waco is a total shock. But traffic’s good here, so I can’t complain.

Marie: You like it here.

Mike: I love it here. I have no desire to go back. I’m glad to be here. It’s a great place to raise a family. The culture, the atmosphere, the housing — it’s a great place to be.

WACOAN: How did you end up in Colorado?

Mike: I just bought a house there, sight unseen, and moved out there. I had some tenants who were living out there for a little bit, and they moved out. So I said, ‘OK. I’m going to move to Colorado, I’m going to rent out my place in California for a year, and I’m just going to stay in Colorado for a year.’ That was my plan, and then I met her, so I stayed. So it was a good thing.

WACOAN: Why did you move to Waco from Colorado?

Marie: My family is here. My parents are older, so we moved here, and we bought this house with the intent of living together. Then, my dad passed away when [Rivey] was born, so five months ago, and my mom [still] lives with us now.

WACOAN: What is it like having your mom live with you?

Marie: It’s fun. We enjoy living together. She helps out a lot. She’ll help watch the kids if I need to run out or something. She does laundry and dishes. She has arthritis, so some days it’s harder for her to move around. But other days she likes to help and do those things, so it’s a big help.

Mike: It’s been great. A lot of people would not understand or maybe not want to live with their in-laws. But it’s been a great experience for us. They’re great. The kids love it. It’s been good for everyone. It just gives a good dynamic of having all these generations in one home.

Marie: And then my extended family is here. I have a lot of siblings.

Mike: Tell her how many you have.

Marie: I’m the youngest of 16.

WACOAN: Sixteen?

Marie: Yes, it’s a combined family. My mom had eight [children], and my dad had seven. Then they got married and had me.

Mike: How many great-grandkids are there? Eighty-something?

Marie: No. [Rivey] is a grandchild, and she’s like the 60-something grandchild, and there are lots of greats, too.

WACOAN: What is it like being the youngest of 16?

Marie: It’s loud.

WACOAN: My mom is the oldest of seven, so I understand that. My family is loud.

Marie: She’s probably the oldest-type personality. I’m super flexible for the most part, and nothing I plan ever happens because it gets interrupted.

WACOAN: What’s the age difference between you and your next sibling?

Marie: Seven years.

WACOAN: So, you’re the baby, but with such an age difference, it seems like you’d have elements of the oldest-child or only-child personalities.

Marie: Yeah, I think you do. You get kind of a blend.

Our house is a revolving door because my parents live here, so the siblings and the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren are coming to visit. So if you just did the numbers, there are guests all the time. We have a lot of people coming in and out of our house.

WACOAN: What about your family, Mike? Do you have siblings?

Mike: I’m the youngest of three.

Marie: So, we’re both babies.

Mike: We’re both babies, so we get a lot done.

Marie: No. [Laughs.] We can be talked out of any responsibility.

Mike: ‘Oh, we’ll do that tomorrow. Let’s go to the mall. Let’s have yogurt.’

WACOAN: You said that you and your parents all moved into the house at about the same time. How is the house set up? Are there two master bedrooms?

Marie: Yes. It has two masters. There’s one on this end and then one on the opposite end of the house. It’s perfect. The kids are in the middle. This house is the perfect setup.

WACOAN: That’s very unique. I mean, how many houses in Waco have that setup?

Marie: It didn’t even advertise it. The Realtor was like, ‘This is the house for y’all.’

I actually just walked in and saw the [backyard and deck] and was like ‘I’ll take it’ because I just like the outdoors. But it’s such a gift from God because it’s set up just right. We love it, and we live out on our deck and enjoy the outside, and the lake is right there.

WACOAN: And this part of Waco has these great trees.

Marie: Yes! We love it. Except for right now with the pollen falling out of the pecan trees.

WACOAN: Yeah, if you have allergies, it’s a little harder. How long have you guys lived in this house?

Marie: Karcsi is 5, so four years.

WACOAN: Is that how long you’ve been back in Waco?

Marie: No, we moved to Waco seven years ago. Right?

Mike: Yeah, Shiloh was a baby.

Oh, this is newsworthy. Three of them were water births.

Marie: Born at home. We moved from Colorado where everything was a little more natural, so it was interesting moving here. But I feel like now, there is a big movement toward that. There are a lot more midwives.

WACOAN: For the birth, did you have a midwife? A doula?

Marie: I just used a midwife, but I like the doulas. I used a postpartum doula this time. But just a midwife [for the birth]. Mike’s my doula.

WACOAN: Why did you decide to have at-home water births?

Marie: I had my first baby in Colorado where you had a lot more options, and I came here where there weren’t as many options. I was just looking for a more natural option, and I started watching YouTube videos.

Mike: Lots of YouTube.

Marie: And I thought, ‘Oh, I could do this.’

WACOAN: Marie, tell me a little about what you do.

Marie: I’m a hairstylist, but mostly now I home school our kids. I also run a moms ministry at [Antioch Community Church] called Nest. That takes a lot of time, and that’s fun.

WACOAN: Are you still actively a hairstylist, or is that something you used to do?

Marie: I do it on the side. I do it as much as it’s peaceful for me to do it. I have a few customers that I’ve kept.

WACOAN: Can you tell me a little more about Nest?

Marie: We run two semesters a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. We usually meet every Wednesday for breakfast, time for worship, and a speaker, an occasional craft.

We’ve grown a lot. We’ve had to cap it off. I think we capped it off at about 120 women this time. We’re slowly trying to expand child care. It’s hard to get child care for that many women.

WACOAN: How did you get involved in that?

Marie: I started going when I moved here. That was seven years ago. It was a great place for me to meet other moms and get connected and learn how to be a mom.

WACOAN: How did you end up at the Dwyer Group, Mike?

Mike: I got to the Dwyer Group because we decided to move to Waco, and Dwyer Group is unique — and Waco is unique — but in some cases [you’re recruited to the Dwyer Group] if you know someone who knows someone who knows someone. We mentioned that we wanted to move to Waco, so right away my sister-in-law took my resume, gave it to her neighbor, the neighbor took it to the Dwyer Group, and the Dwyer Group called me.

Marie: His sister-in-law is my sister-in-law, Susan Peters, she [is the executive director of UnBound, a local human trafficking prevention organization], so she’s connected in the community.

Mike: She just wanted us to come down [to Waco], so she said, ‘OK!’ She went in, boom, got my resume. I came down to interview, and a month later we moved because the Dwyer Group brought us down. That’s how we got here.

WACOAN: What is your background in? What did you do before coming to Waco?

Mike: I was in banking, banking sales. I worked for a credit union, business development. In Colorado, I did some marketing for a window and door company, did some sales for them, managed a call center there for them. Did a little bit of everything there.

WACOAN: I’ll play dumb for a minute. Mike, what do you do for Dwyer Group?

Mike: I’m a franchise developer for Mr. Appliance, [one of Dwyer Group’s franchise brands].

Marie: Which means what?

Mike: When individuals are looking to own their own business, they want to do something different. I get to show them [the Mr. Appliance franchise system] and offer them the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. So, I sell businesses for the Dwyer Group. It’s a great company, by the way.

WACOAN: What do you like about Dwyer Group?

Mike: I like the culture. I like the family environment. I like the friendships that I’ve built. It’s an opportunity to help others.

WACOAN: Tell me about your kids.

Marie: We have four kids. Shiloh is 7, Karcsi is 5, Anthem is 3, and Rivey is 5 months.

WACOAN: Those are very unique names. Do any of them have special meaning for you?

Marie: We named our kids kind of after what was going on and what God was doing in our lives at the time that we had them. Shiloh means “messenger of peace.” I had kind of gone through a tumultuous time and then life had sort of settled down.

Mike: And then you met me.

Marie: And I met Mike, and he’s very peaceful. My life had become very peaceful. So that’s kind of how we’ve done it. We named them after the particular time.

WACOAN: What does Karcsi mean?

Marie: Karcsi means “joyful song.” Anthem means “song or hymn of praise” to God, and Rivey means “river” — it’s Rivey Grace — so “river of grace.” My dad died at our house the same week she was born at our house, so we felt like she was God’s grace for us at the time. There was a lot going on at the time.

WACOAN: Tell me about the kids’ personalities and what they’re like.

Marie: Shiloh is probably a typical firstborn. He’s a leader. He wants to be a judge, rule the world. He actually does help and has helped a lot with my parents. He’ll make them coffee, or he helped out a lot when my dad couldn’t really move much anymore, kind of running back and forth. Losing my dad, I think, affected him probably the most. But he’s super helpful with the little ones.

Karcsi is very kind and gentle and sweet.

Mike: She can meet anyone. She can make friends with anyone, everywhere she goes.

Marie: She’s our social liaison. The other kids send her out, and she makes friends with everybody.

Anthem is loud. He’s very funny. I think he’s got Mike’s personality the most. So, he’s very funny, but he does scream a lot. We’re working on saving that for the outside.

Then, Rivey is a baby, but she’s a super sweet and happy baby. Very easy.

WACOAN: She’s behaving very well.

Marie: This is typically how she is if she’s fed and slept. She’s good.

WACOAN: And you home-school the three older kids?

Marie: Yes, we do Classical Conversations. [Classical Conversations is a nationwide organization that supports home-schooling parents at the community level. Its curriculum follows the classical model through a Christian worldview.]

We like that a lot. It gives us a good group of friends. [Home-school families] go once a week [to a local campus], and they go through the material [as a group]. Then you go home, and throughout the week, you go over the material [on your own]. There are three different campuses in Waco. We meet at a local church here. We meet every Tuesday.

I really like it. I don’t think on my own I would cover that much information, so it gives me some structure to my own [lessons]. People say to me, ‘You have so much going on. Why are you home-schooling?’ Honestly, I feel like it’s the most peaceful part of our week and day. It gives us a chance to all sit down as a family and keeps us connected because we are doing a lot. Our kids do sports and stuff. It allows us to do sports and ballet and piano because we have extra time.

WACOAN: Why did you choose to home-school?

Marie: I think we just felt like with our family and all the busyness, it was just the thing for us to do, and it’s worked out well. And honestly, I like the level of education that my kids are getting. I feel like it’s hands-on, and I can really educate them one-on-one right now. I’m actually enjoying that, which is odd because I’m not really an educator.

Mike: I really appreciate you doing that because it’s a lot of work.

I come home from work every day, and I get to see the kids. I get to hang out with them. I get to make them lunch. I see them so much more than a lot [of other parents get to see their kids].

The education that they get — these guys are learning Latin. They’re just learning so much more. The history that these guys know. There are things that I don’t remember learning that these kids are learning.

WACOAN: You’re teaching them, Marie. Do you feel like you’re learning with them?

Marie: Yeah, I am. Even math, they’re teaching math different now.

WACOAN: I don’t understand that. How can you change math?

Marie: They did! They have! Successfully. Isn’t that weird? It’s just math. Literally, the way they add is different. I’ve kind of had to learn along with them, but I’m like, ‘Well, if I keep up with them, I’m OK.’

WACOAN: Is homeschooling your long-term plan?

Marie: I just take it year-by-year. I didn’t set out to do it indefinitely, but I could see myself doing it indefinitely. We’re enjoying it at this phase. Maybe when they get older — but I’m not sure. We’ll see.

WACOAN: You mentioned sports. What are all the extracurriculars that the kids do?

Marie: We do piano, ballet, soccer, swimming. We’ve done different ones. We’ve done tennis. I try to do things that [all the kids] can do. Like soccer, everybody can do. Piano and ballet are in the same area, so I can drop one off at piano and drop one off at ballet. I was thinking about doing gymnastics just because I can take them all. Or things that are close just so we’re not running everywhere. Soccer is walking distance almost because the [Heart of Texas soccer complex] is just down the street.

I try to keep it so it’s not too much running around, but when you home-school, you are home all day. It’s a little different. I’m not picking them up from school and then running them around. It kind of gives us an outlet to go somewhere.

WACOAN: Is Mike involved at all with the homeschooling?

Marie: He basically just helps with whatever is going on. He’ll help with the schooling, but we’re typically done by the time he gets home so he really doesn’t have to do much of that.

Mike is probably the most unselfish person I know. He comes home, and the second he walks in the door, he starts serving. He typically does a lot of the cooking, which is great. It helps me a lot. He likes to cook and is a great cook, so he either comes in and cooks dinner or takes over dinner if I’m cooking, which I love. He coaches soccer and all that good stuff, but I’d say my favorite role is cook.

WACOAN: Is that an Instant Pot I see over there on the counter?

Mike: Oh, you know that!

WACOAN: What do you have cooking tonight?

Marie: What’s cooking tonight? We have rice and beans in there, and I think we were going to make tacos with that, right?

Mike: We’ve got a new eating style right now.

Marie: Yeah, I don’t know if you want to put that in [the article].

Mike: Put it! We home-school, and we’re vegans.

Marie: We recently switched to being vegan. We’re just trying it out. We like it so far because we feel good.

Mike: Vegan life. They home-school, they water birth, and they’re vegans!

WACOAN: I met your dog, Fredo, when I came in, and you mentioned you have three dogs, right?

Marie: Yes. That wasn’t intentional, but we do. We had two.

Mike: Then we adopted one.

Marie: We adopted one from the Dwyer Group.

Mike: [A coworker’s] daughter had a dog, and she asked, ‘Can you watch it for a couple weeks?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, sure.’

Then a month later, we were like, ‘The dog? Are you going to get the dog?’ They were like, ‘Eh, well.’ They didn’t really want it. We took it. She’s a good little dog.

Marie: They’re all little dogs. We have a cockapoo, a [bichon frise], and a [Yorkshire terrier].

WACOAN: All of those are breeds that don’t shed, right?

Marie: Yes. I have a nonshedding rule in my house. If you live here, you can’t shed.

WACOAN: I should have made that rule. Maybe for future dogs.

Marie: It’s well worth it. I don’t care about the size, as long as there’s no hair coming off you.

Mike: We had a cat too that didn’t shed. For my allergies.

Marie: He was a Cornish Rex. They only have that bottom layer of hair, so they don’t shed much. They’re cold all the time, so they’re always trying to snuggle. It was actually a really good cat.

Mike: That was the best cat ever.

Marie: He was ugly.

Mike: He was ugly, but even people who didn’t like cats would be like be like, ‘Ugh, what is that?’ And they’d end up liking him because he was so cool.

Marie: He was like a dog.

WACOAN: My mom has an unfortunate-looking Chihuahua that’s cold all the time, so she’s always in clothes. But she’s super sweet and likes to cuddle. Maybe because she’s cold.

Marie: That’s how he was. ‘Please, body heat!’ Kronk was his name. R.I.P.

WACOAN: Like from ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’?

Marie: Yes.

Mike: He was such a good cat.

WACOAN: What are the dogs’ names?

Marie: Cubbie, Fredo and Molly. Molly’s caused us to know our neighbors really well. She goes down to our neighbor’s almost daily. Stays there. We go get her every night.

Mike: And our cats, Sally and Katie.

Marie: Yeah, we do have two outdoor cats.

WACOAN: What do you guys like to do as a family?

Mike: Camping.

Marie: We love to camp, and we love to camp at Airport Park. There’s actually surprisingly a lot of people that do. I’ve found out because it books up really fast. You have to book it ahead of time. But we like to go camping there because then we can come to town if we need something.

We like to go down to the Texas beaches. We like to travel.

Mike: Port Aransas.

Marie: We like to go eat frozen yogurt.

Mike: That substitutes for dinner sometimes.

Marie: The other day we went for a family date. We went paddle boating with [Pura Vida Paddle]. It’s underneath Buzzard Billy’s. They kind of built out the bottom of Buzzard Billy’s, and they have the dock there. They have paddle boats. They do yoga on the paddle boards and stuff. We literally had our whole family on a paddle boat.

WACOAN: All of you guys?

Marie: Everybody including the baby. It was fun.

Mike: Well, it’s good exercise.

Marie: It’s work.

Oh! We like to canoe. We have a canoe that our whole family can fit in. The bummer of it is I cannot push it because it is so big.

Mike: It’s 200 pounds, 300 pounds.

Marie: We lead a lifegroup at Antioch. It’s families. We get together here at our house. Then [some weeks] the girls will get together somewhere, and the guys will get together.

One thing that Mike and I do that helps our relationship is every morning we have coffee together and read our Bible together before the kids get up.

Mike: That’s our deal.

Marie: We make that happen, which has helped us stay connected.

Mike: Then you have, in the afternoon, some tea, and I’ll have at work a cup of coffee in honor of you.

Marie: If we’re together, we have it together.

Mike: If not, I’m like, ‘I’m having coffee. It’s coffee time for me. My wife’s having something, so I’m having something.’

WACOAN: What else do you guys like to do when it’s just you two?

Marie: We go out on dates often without the kids.

Mike: But we always do the same thing though.

Marie: Yeah, we like to shop together. Even if we don’t buy that much, we just like to wander around.

Mike: We like to window-shop. Window-shop and [eat frozen yogurt].

WACOAN: Where do you go?

Marie: Central Texas Marketplace. We’ll go eat and do that. We just find it relaxing to wander around.

WACOAN: Where’s your favorite place to shop?

Marie: Probably Marshalls.

WACOAN: Where’s your favorite place to eat?

Mike: Three Spoons! We must be there a lot because when we went there last week —

Marie: The girl was like, ‘You had your baby!’

Mike: Food places? Where do we go for lunch?

Marie: A lot of times we go [downtown] around the Dwyer Group. Ninfa’s.

Mike: We don’t really do chains so much.

Marie: We like trying all the new local places. And since there are so many opening up right now, that’s fun. We like different foods. We really like ethnic foods, so we like when those things open up.

Mike: Oh yeah, the Indian place, Stone Hearth.

Marie: We’ve been there lots of times. We like Indian. When we go out of town, we’re always looking for different food. He likes Ethiopian or different types of food. That’s probably the L.A. in him.

Mike: That’s the neat thing about Waco that’s happening now — there’s so much growth. It’s exciting to see all the new food places. It’s not just Tex-Mex, but there’s so much more that’s coming to Waco.

WACOAN: How often do you guys have a date night?

Marie: We try to go every week. If not, every other week. We try.

Mike: We lost our babysitter. She moved. So, we’ve got to find a new babysitter. You can put that in here. We’re looking for a babysitter.

Marie: She graduated and moved. I keep getting the Baylor students that move.

My brother and sister-in-law watch the kids a lot, too.

Mike: Anything else? We are a fun family. We better think of something. No one’s going to want to read this. ‘Boring!’

Marie: We laugh a lot.

WACOAN: You got any jokes?

Marie: He doesn’t do jokes on demand. He is the funniest person I know. He keeps me laughing. That’s nice. Especially after such a heavy year, I’m so thankful for his sense of humor.

Mike: People will say, ‘Tell a joke.’ I don’t have jokes. I just like to work off of somebody and ad-lib with them a little bit.

WACOAN: What types of things did you talk about in your stand-up?

Mike: It was more cultural things that connected with the crowd in California. I don’t think some of that would work as well here, so that’s probably why I don’t get on stage here. Although I do miss that aspect of it. I do miss the crowds.

It was going to a Catholic school in a rough neighborhood. The set was kind of based on that. Kind of poking fun at cultural issues. I could do it here, too, but I need to perfect it. I don’t know if I’m ready yet.

WACOAN: What do you like to do when you get time to yourself?

Marie: I’ll go first, and give you time to think. I like to read. I like to be outside. Camping is relaxing to me. I like to go for a walk or exercise.

WACOAN: What do you like to read?

Marie: Christian books, family books, mostly non-fiction.

WACOAN: What’s a recent book you’ve read you could recommend?

Marie: Bob Goff’s ‘Everybody, Always.’ That’s probably my favorite right now.

WACOAN: What about you, Mike?

Mike: I exercise. I do CrossFit at CrossFit Misfits.

Marie: I tried to do CrossFit once. It gave me a panic attack. I was like, ‘Y’all are yelling at me!’

WACOAN: I’d never be hardcore enough for CrossFit.

Mike: I’m not either. You know that. You just partner with the people. I work out with a group of guys. We’re called the masters division, so anyone over 45 is kind of that. So, I’ve got my group of guys. We watch out for each other so we don’t strain our back or anything.

Marie: You like to watch comedies.

Mike: Yeah, I do. I like to watch shows that are canceled and reruns. I also like to watch movie trailers.

Marie: Yes. That’s so annoying, but I love you anyway.

WACOAN: Do you end up watching the movies?

Marie: No, he just watches trailers. Who does that? Now Shiloh likes to do that. You’re ruining all those movies.

Mike: Also, I got this from my dad. At the end of a movie, we sit there and just watch the credits. Being from L.A., I’d like to see where it was filmed, if I know somebody.

Marie: I would say cooking is also a hobby for you. He likes to cook, and he cooks well. I like to find good recipes and then give them to him, and he cooks them.

Mike: Or she’ll start something —

Marie: And I’ll be like, ‘Ah, this is too complicated. Here, take it over.’

WACOAN: What are your plans for the summer?

Marie: We always try to make it down to Port Aransas. We like it down there because we can drive on the beach with the kids. I know people dog Texas beaches, but coming from California, we actually love Texas beaches. We like the warm water. We like to fish.

Mike: We’re actually thinking about renting an RV and doing that. Last year we did that, rented an RV.

Marie: Yeah, we rented an RV and drove around the Guadalupe [River]. We were thinking it’d be fun to rent an RV and go down to the beach. It’s a fun way to travel with the kids. Then, we’ll probably go to California. We always do that. Then hang around here. Go to Hawaiian Falls.

WACOAN: How often do you guys get down to the lake with the canoe?

Marie: It just depends on the season.

Mike: We can also fish down there, too, so the kids will go fishing. Our son, Shiloh, is big into outdoor survival stuff, so he’ll go back there.

Marie: We let them go exploring.

Mike: They can explore and find out what type of edible plants they can eat and what plants not to eat.

Marie: Yeah, that’s a hobby — identifying edibles.

WACOAN: How would you describe your family in three words?

Marie: Dedicated, spontaneous and fun.

WACOAN: Is there anything else I need to know about your family?

Mike: I actually have something I wanted to share. We [made this poster] at New Year’s. We wrote who we are [as a family] and what we want for the new year. It just says, ‘Perezes love God, love people, give to those in need, serve others. We have open arms, we love coffee, we’re always ready, we laugh out loud, and we forgive always.’

Marie: And we always tell our kids, ‘Perezes look for lonely people.’ We try to find people who don’t have a friend and be their friend. We try to ingrain that in our kids. That’s who we are. Mike and I have a heart for people that are displaced or lonely. I think that’s what Jesus did, and that’s kind of our heart and sort of our passion to reach out to hurting people. And we find them. And they find us.

Mike: I don’t want my kids to be in a world that can be selfish. I don’t want them to be selfish. I want them to think about others before themselves. It’s looking for those in need. Karcsi is great — all my kids are great at finding someone that’s hurting or just maybe lonely and in need of a buddy.

The same thing at church. We do Next, which is a place where anyone that comes to Antioch — which is so big — they’re able to connect and meet people at a smaller level. We do that because we like to connect with people. We do lifegroup because we like to connect with people. There’s just a need. This is who we are.

Marie: In the grand scheme of Waco, we have a heart to see that in Waco with our neighbors.

Mike: About 20 guys at Dwyer Group, we pray in the morning every Friday before we get to work — it’s voluntary — and we were talking this morning about the story about Jesus that says, ‘Who’s our neighbor?’ People think it’s just who lives next to you, and it is, but it’s the person that gave you coffee, the person that collects your trash, the person that cleans your yard. Anyone is our neighbor. If anything, that’s something we want to strive for. We want to love neighbors as ourselves. All kidding aside, if anything, that’s what we really want to do, and that’s why we’re here.

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