As I write this, it is night three here in Monterrey and we have just finished our group debriefing session! We meet each night in the “Big Palapa” down by the soccer field, and we all walk down together, Mexican sodas in hand. Tonight I chose an apple soda called Joya. It tastes of apples, bananas and fizzy Mexican soda magic (my favorite ingredient).
Life has been so fun since we’ve arrived. Our first day here, we were given a tour of the Back2Back campus and met some staff members of the program. Everyone here is so friendly, and their passion for Back2Back is refreshing.
Sunday, we went to a church called VidaIn. It reminds me a lot of my church back in Nashville. The sanctuary and worship reminds me of church in America, and it makes me feel right at home. We were each given a headset to hear the sermon translated, but we’re all so intrigued by the Spanish language that it’s hard to pay attention to the translator. This country is so beautiful, and the language is even more so!
After church, we meet the kids from one of the children’s homes, Del Norte, in a park overlooking some of downtown Monterrey. We serve them pizza (I’m in charge of handing out plates) and begin to engage with them. This moment is where the language barrier really starts kicking in. I begin growing nervous because I want to be able to connect with the kids, but how can I do that if I can’t speak their language?
Later in the afternoon, each one of us are paired with two of the Del Norte children to play with at a children’s museum called Planetario Alfa. I grow more anxious as each of us are being assigned to our kids. Who am I going to get? Will they like me? Can I do this?
I am called over to two 10-year-old boys, Cristian and Daniel. Immediately, they both grab my hands and begin talking in rapid Spanish, saying, “¡Mira!, ¡Mira!” They want me to show me everything. I instantly feel accepted and, soon, we arrive at the museum. I manage to ask my boys if they’re excited, and Daniel yells, in English, “I love Legos!” I could tell he was so proud of himself for knowing that English sentence. I promise him that we’ll play with all the Legos when we get inside.
Spending the afternoon with those kids began a tugging on my heart. I had so much fun watching them experience something they had never experienced before. These kids come from homes so neglectful and impoverished; they are so burdened with abuse and pain. It was a privilege to be with them in that moment, a moment I have taken for granted too many times.
Today, Monday, that pull on my heart continues. After a morning of devotions, trauma training and a bumpy bus ride, we arrive at the Del Norte Children’s Home. This is where we will spend most of what's left of our week.
We get a tour of the grounds, and I grow more and more emotional as we go further along. One image that will stick with me forever is the closets, stocked floor-to-ceiling with piles of donated clothes. The children living in the home will go to the closet each morning and grab a shirt and pair of pants for the day. None of these kids have a shirt to call their own—it’s all shared. This reality is something I don’t think we ever realize. We have the luxury of going and choosing what we want to wear each day, but never acknowledge that it’s our outfit, our favorite shirt. At Del Norte, one red tee shirt could be 12 kids’ favorite.
We meet so many incredible staff members there. Elias is a man who has two children of his own, yet takes in two more foster children and introduces them to a family setting, working hard to free them from their abusive lifestyles and teach them a life of love and freedom. Hermana Marta is an 81-year-old woman responsible for creating Del Norte. Her story of God’s provision in organizing the children’s home had everyone a little teary-eyed by the end. The power and grace of God is woven through every stitch and tile in that home.
Today was hard. We worked hard, we sweat a lot and we experienced a different world. We entered a home that welcomes children being dropped off by a parent who may never come back for them.
That. That is what I’m doing here. That is why I felt called to take this leap out of my comfort zone—to show compassion and service to this group of people, and to love on those kids with every ounce of love I’ve got! This week may have just started, but we have already experienced what feels like a year. These kids have already stolen some of our hearts, and I can only look forward to what is to come in the rest of this week!