It was 1996, and we were co-leading a Mexican missions trip that lacked substance. Painting a wall around a church, we wondered what God was doing in Queretaro, Mexico. We had visited an orphanage once in Albania while in college and it had moved us. Was there an orphanage in this city? Todd asked.
We jumped in a taxi and found an orphanage. After initial conversation with the director, he told us the front window was broken and the kids hadn’t eaten meat in a year. We could come back the next day and do something about that, if we wanted.
The next day while serving hamburgers, I followed a preschool girl up to her dorm room and watched as she and her friends hid burgers under their mattresses. Todd and I talked the whole way home about people we knew who would buy hamburgers for orphans, if they only knew how.
We shyly began to tell our friends and family we were saving money to move to Mexico. We bought a map to put on our kitchen wall. We enrolled in a beginner Spanish class. We talked to every Mexican we could find. There was a fire burning in us and we didn’t know exactly how to explain it to people, but it felt like a magnet pulling us towards something we couldn’t see.
During spring break, 1997, we visited Monterrey for the first time. This was the city we had decided to move to and we wanted to check it out. It was a terrible trip! We were hot, and eventually sick, felt lost and we questioned this calling. It took a lot of prayer to get us back on track after we arrived home.
The next month, in a huge step of faith, we asked our bosses for a year’s leave of absence from our work. People around us began asking questions,
“What organization are you going with?”
“What is your plan?”
“How long will you be gone?”
“How’s your Spanish?”
We had lame answers to most of their thoughtful questions and we knew it. Our answers were along the lines of “We are leaving our jobs, spending all our savings, hoping to learn the language, not get sick, and set up a bridge between what we know and what we imagine.”
We left late June of 1997 and headed south. It takes three days to travel by Isuzu Trooper from Cincinnati, Ohio to Monterrey, Mexico. We didn’t understand how to cross the border, get a visitor’s visa, or read a Mexican map. More than once, we had to turn around and go back to the border for the correct paperwork. We hired a taxi once we got into town and followed it to the address of the house we had rented. We arrived and the floor was covered in cockroaches. It was the year of El Nino and the 115-degree summer heat felt epic. We had been there one night and already it felt hard.
Nonetheless, we prayed in that house on Avenida Rio Panuco fifty people from our hometown would get on a plane and visit us. Before the year was up, we’d host three hundred and fifty.
Once guests started arriving, we didn’t know where to put them. The girls slept on the floor of the second story, sharing our bathroom. The boys slept on the floor of the living room and anywhere else they could find. Everyone mainly hosed off on the back deck, and I ordered chicken or pizza every night since the kitchen wasn’t designed to cook for 30 at a time.
It was a tremendous year, one I would re-live over and over. We gave birth to our daughter, Emma, we met and fell in love with the Mexican church and our hearts were permanently broken for the orphan. We discovered salsa and soccer, mountain hiking and four hour meals. We danced for the first time in worship and cried about children not our own.
In the following spring of 1998, the consensus was God had been moving a long time within that community before we ever showed up, but he was clearly inviting us into his work. We talked to the Back2Back board and purchased property in nearby Colonia Los Cristales. It looked to everyone like an acre of land housing an old thread factory, but to me it looked like roots.
If we knew then what we know now, that nearly 20,000 people would sleep under its roof to date, we’d have probably just knocked it down and started from scratch, but thankfully God doesn’t show us what we can’t handle. All we could see was the step ahead, and so in lockstep with the growing Back2Back family, we walked forward in reckless faith.
Wild. Fearless. Reckless. A willingness to trust even when lacking understanding. As Back2Back Ministries celebrates 20 years, we want to share how stepping into the global orphan care movement has made your faith more wild, fearless, and, perhaps, even a bit reckless. #Back2Backat20