I gave myself a small break to mull over the amazingness that I was just a huge part of this past week, but now I am super ready to tell all of you about what I got to participate in. I thank you all, again, for being a very important contributor to my getting there and doing God’s work for so many children, staff, and caregivers that needed the encouragement and inspiration that our group and so many others brought to Monterrey, Mexico, this week. I thought that since you all thought this was important enough to sacrifice some of your hard earned money and thoughts or prayers, you’d like to hear about what happened in this seven-day life changer. If you are not a reader, and prefer to hear my story through photos, please click this link to view the pictures many others and I took while on the trip.
The theme for the week in Monterrey was the bible verse Jeremiah 42:6. In The Message, this verse says “Whether we like it or not, we’ll do it. We’ll obey whatever our God tells us. Yes, count on us. We’ll do it.” The idea behind our theme for the week is that no matter what, we will do what God puts in our hearts to do. Even and especially if it is something so far our of our comfort zone that we can’t imagine doing it. Even if we hate it. Even if it is hard, gross, or awkward. We’ll do it.
During the week we stayed at Back2Back’s campus in Monterrey. A 12-foot wall surrounds the campus with a gate at each entrance and cameras all over the place. It has several rooms that are used as classrooms during the school year, and dorm rooms in the summer when there are groups visiting. There are two swimming pools, mostly to entertain the kids who visit the campus from the Casas Hogar. There is a giant cafeteria and two shelters, or palapas, in Español. There are also several buildings that house permanent staff and summer interns, and 6 Hope Program homes. The Hope Program is the program run by the ministry that takes 50 students at a time and educates them through high school and college. Since in Mexico, education only goes through 9th grade, which usually means kids become independent at age 15, Back2Back began the Hope Program. In each Hope House, there are up to 8 students and 2 house parents.
Each day was basically the same skeleton. Wake up at 7:45, breakfast until 8:30, quiet time and bible study from 9 to 10. At 10, we boarded the bus each day to one of three different Casas Hogar (children’s homes, in Español). Each Casa Hogar was about an hour from the Back2Back campus, and when we got there we would spend about 5 hours doing various things with the kids or with the community, and most times there was construction to be done. Around 6 or 6:30, we’d return to the Back2Back campus, have dinner and at 7:15 we would gather in our groups for de-briefing. This was a chance for us to come together and discuss the things we experienced and to tell about our “pictures of the day” or the most impactful thing we experienced that day. Finally, at 8, we would gather in the Big Palapa for worship. Some nights there was a small sermon, but most nights it was an hour of just singing together.
The first Casa Hogar that we visited went by ERJ. Not entirely sure what this stands for, but this is the first place I got to start impacting some of the nicest, most loving children I have ever met. The second was a community about an hour from the Back2Back campus called “Cadareyta,” Finally, we spent two days with the children and caregivers at Casa Hogar Imperio de Amor.
We spent the days playing Spanish bingo, making felt and foam necklaces, friendship bracelets, playing Uno and soccer (I played soccer! In front of other people! And even got a “Muy bien!” from some of the very experiences soccer players on my team). I got to teach the kids how to play Ochos Locos, or Crazy Eights, and Pesca, or Go Fish. They loved it! I got to re-learn everything I was taught in the four years of Spanish class in high school at Mercy. It’s amazing how much you remember over 6-10 years.
While about half of us played with the kids for most of the day, the rest of our group that went from The Vineyard and Hope Church helped build new bathrooms in the dorms of the children who lived here. They were finally going from communal showers and stall-less toilets to showers with doors and toilets in stalls with beautiful tiles and pretty substantial water pressure. No doubt that this was an incredible blessing for them. We helped to finish building the second floors of the church in Cadareyta, and serving the children and community dinner in the worship area of the church.
While staying on the Back2Back campus, and throughout the days working at the Casas Hogar, one of the Hope students, Roberto, and I became pretty close friends. He helped me learn a lot more Spanish, and I helped him learn a few new English words. At the beginning of the week, he was a shy 15-year-old who seemed to lack confidence and didn’t have a huge amount of trust in people. It seemed to me that he came from a pretty hard background. Somehow, on Tuesday, I learned that the following day, tres de Julio, was his birthday. He was going to be 16 and was incredibly resistant to any type of celebration. He was also very adamant to not be in any of the hundreds of pictures that were taken by our group over the week. A few of us got together and decided that we’d like to make him a card and get him an ice cream and a Coke for his birthday. He seemed to be surprised and pretty happy about it, but didn’t really express that to any of us. He kept it to himself and went about his business. Finally, on the last day for us in Monterrey, he approached me and asked if he could take a picture with me, and presented me with a letter he had written for me and a coin that he described as “very important and special, and just for me.” I was floored! This came after I decided to be his third sponsor from home to help pay for his room and board, food, and tuition to finish high school and college. It was the high light of my trip – finally getting to make a connection with this kid who seemed so kind and giving, but lacking so much confidence! I was able to show him that I believe in him and will support him in his success in the future – what a gift!
That’s it – that is my story! It was an amazing, eye-opening, life-changing experience and has influenced me to do so much more in my life. I can’t wait to go back next summer, and look forward to continue going each summer for as long as possible. Thank you all again for being such a huge part of this for me, and helping me to be God’s hands and feet for the last seven days. Don’t forget to check out the pictures from the trip at this link to my Picasa web album!