By Adam Gellenbeck, Back2Back Field Staff, Mazatlan, Mexico
Sixteen-year old Alberto loves textile arts, soccer and skateboarding. He enjoys spending afternoons with Back2Back staff at a local skate park. He strives to be a leader in his children’s home, someone they can look up to and come to for advice. He is passionate about living his life as an example for the younger boys in his dorm. Alberto has a compassionate heart and a desire to serve. “When I grow up, I want to help other people in need,” he says.
As an orphaned teen in Mazatlan, Mexico, Alberto could be involved in so many other things besides soccer and skateboarding. Statistics indicate orphaned children have an increased likelihood for involvement in drugs, human trafficking, or the black market. But Alberto is not a statistic, nor are the other four boys at Salvation Army Children’s Home who have no family to visit on the weekend.
At Back2Back, we strive to provide children like Alberto with the love and encouragement they need to thrive in the midst of difficult circumstances with no family support. Each weekend, the boys watch as one-by-one the other children are picked up for a weekend visit with a family member. They wonder what they did wrong for their family not to visit them. I love building into these boys for many reasons, but the greatest reason is to share hope with them. I invest in them through fellowship and community, cultivating a sense of belonging and giving them a chance to be themselves. It is amazing how a trip to the movies or dinner together at a taco stand provides a sense of belonging and acceptance. They enjoy typical boy antics – rough-housing and practical jokes, but ultimately each boy has dreams and hopes for his future.
Back2Back’s dream in Mazatlan, Mexico is to build a stronger sense of hope for each of the children we serve, a hope based on the promises of a faithful God. We are in the midst of a land campaign to develop a Back2Back ministry site in Mazatlan, a project that will allow us to better serve children and empower them to break free from the cycle of poverty. This is only possible through the Body of Christ coming together. The vision is for a ministry site that will not only facilitate mission teams and the staff, but also create an environment of hope for each child’s future. The property will also include multi-purpose space for teen retreats, child development, training sessions for local caregivers and churches, and ministry time with current Hope Education Program students. In addition, we will construct six Hope Program houses for teens like Alberto. We envision a Hope Program in Mazatlan that will allow orphaned children to live in a home, experiencing a healthy family life for the first time. The goal is to not merely meet each child’s physical needs, but to equip each child with the tools and resources to have successful futures by investing in their spiritual, emotional, social and educational development.
The more time I spend with Alberto, the more I see his incredible potential and just how much God cares for him. I’m grateful to play a role in helping him understand the love of his heavenly Father. I’m excited for the completion of this project, as it will enable us to provide better care for the children we serve, ensuring they have the tools to pursue an education when they age out of the children’s home. As we come alongside orphaned and vulnerable children, we are eager to see how God begins to renew lives and rewrite futures.
For more about the Mazatlan vision, click here.
By Chad Huber, Back2Back Mazatlan, Mexico Field Staff
Recently, one of the older girls who lives at Rancho de los Ninos Children’s Home realized that a very special friend was visiting her again. Fifteen-year old Cinthya met Tracey when she visited Mazatlan with a mission group from Riverview Church in 2013. Tracey has a passion for speaking life and affirmation into the lives of teenage girls. She makes a point to stay in touch with them by sending notes, pictures and encouraging them on their social media pages. When Cinthya saw that Tracey had returned for a visit, she ran into her arms and wept. This is what it looks like to go after hearts with love. You never know how much power your encouragement holds in the life of a young person like Cinthya.
By Gabriel Velasco, Back2Back Mazatlan, Mexico Director
Leo Hernandez, a student in Back2Back’s Hope Education Program in Monterrey, Mexico, has experienced God working in his life in a very real and personal way over the past year. Despite challenges in his life, Leo has also proven himself to be goal-oriented and a hard worker. After receiving a positive recommendation from Leo’s current Hope Program house parent, we invited him to participate in Back2Back’s summer internship program, serving alongside our full-time staff and volunteer groups here in Mazatlan, Mexico. During the process of raising financial support for his internship, Leo frequently sent me messages about how excited he was about this opportunity.
While Leo and I had many conversations over the summer, one of the most significant took place soon after he arrived in Mazatlan. Leo grew up in Manantial de Amor, a children’s home in Monterrey. The Salvation Army Children’s Home, one of the homes we serve here in Mazatlan, reminded him of the children’s home where he grew up. Early in the summer, our team had the opportunity to provide respite care for the twenty-four children at Salvation Army. One night, while we were rushing around trying to get twenty-four children to bed, I quickly asked Leo to lead night time devotions. He looked at me, hesitated, and asked what he should share about. In the chaos, I didn’t give him much direction.
After getting all of the little girls to their dorm, helping the kitchen crew clean-up and completing other chores, I paused to check on the boys’ dorm. Leo was sitting in a chair, with a circle of children gathered around him. They alternated between listening closely and interrupting, asking questions and chiming in as he shared with them that he also grew up in a children’s home. He has been in their place, and he knows how they feel. They shared some of the things they face at school and with their friends, and Leo was able to use what God has taught him to comfort them and speak truth into their lives that night.
Every time Leo visited the Salvation Army Children’s Home this summer, the kids came running at him, full-speed, with hugs and excitement. He was their super-star and hero this summer. Before he returned to Monterrey, Leo and I had a conversation about what God says about us as His children. I asked him if he was allowing God’s words and promises to take root in his heart. Leo replied that he needed to think about it more before answering. But, there was no need for a verbal answer- I watched him living God’s truths out every day.
By Gabriel Velasco, Back2Back Mazatlan, Mexico Director
Shirley, a Hope Education Program student, was one of the girls who had lived in our Hope Program home when Kelly and I were house parents in Monterrey, Mexico. I remember the day when she came to live with us. She was shy and reserved, trying to soak everything in. Little did I know that once she felt comfortable with us it would take an army to keep her quiet, in a good way, of course.
As a house parent to Shirley, God allowed me to see incredible leadership potential in her. I remember our endless talks about what she was going to study at college over midnight snacks. We loved hearing the girls share from their heart. It was a privilege to have a chance to speak life into them and share God’s heart with them. Kelly and I consistently affirmed them, telling them that we believed in them and what God could do through their lives. All these conversations and memories came to mind this summer, when Shirley came to Mazatlan to serve with us as an intern. In that moment, I was overcome with anticipation and excitement for one of our girls to serve alongside us as an intern. She had worked as hard as any other intern to come, not really knowing what to expect, but expecting God to work in her and through her.
It has been an emotional experience for Kelly and I to see Shirley growing in her faith, seeing her believe in who God says she is. On her last day in Mazatlan, we prayed for Shirley with all the other interns. I was full of joy, as she was beginning to better understand what God says about her and everything that she has to offer to His Kingdom. Seeing Shirley grow in her faith as she steps into new opportunities has given me tremendous joy. I thank God for the privilege of being a part of her life.
Articulate, outgoing and personable – fifteen-year old Rubi exudes confidence. She loves people and enjoys helping care for the younger children at the orphanage she calls home. In her spare time, she dances to traditional Mexican music.
Each child at Salvation Army Children’s Home in Mazatlan, Mexico bears a story that is all their own. Fifteen-year old Rubi is no different. She arrived at the orphanage after fleeing an unsafe situation in another state in Mexico. Now, at Salvation Home, Rubi has a safe place to live, hot meals, nurturing care and a warm bed. For the first time in her life, Rubi has access to education and space to dream of what her future might hold. She hopes continue her studies at a culinary school and one day become a great chef. Rubi, and other orphaned teens like her will have the opportunity to pursue their dreams through the Hope Education Program in Mazatlan.
We recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the launch of our ministry site in Mazatlan, Mexico. Back2Back Mazatlan was started to provide holistic care to orphans at three children’s homes in this area. Beyond the vast number of orphans in this city is the face of one little boy: nine-year old, Jose Angel. After child services discovered neglect at his home, he and siblings were dropped off at a local children’s home. We quickly discovered that he had never attended school or learned to read, as he had been forced to stay home to care for his younger sisters while their mother worked a double shift at a factory six days a week.
This year in Mazatlan, we are excited to focus on partnering with local volunteers, nationals from within the community. One such individual is Alejandra, a high school senior who heard of Back2Back through staff members who attend her church. Over her Christmas break, she began tutoring Jose Angel. Thanks to Alejandra’s encouragement and coaching, Jose began receiving the one-on-one attention that he needed. In a few short weeks, he advanced from taking several minutes to struggle through sounding out a single sentence to reading with comprehension. His confidence is up and even his teachers have taken notice of his progress.
Alejandra’s family also took notice, and wanted to get involved. They began mentoring two of the teen girls from Jose’s children’s home, building into them one-on-one and taking them on weekend outings to give them a reprieve from life at the orphanage. Now, with her last semester of high school back in session, and with the busyness of dance classes and pom squad, Alejandra is rearranging her schedule to allow her to continue visiting the home on a regular basis. She and her family have recognized the call to be the hands and feet of Christ, serving those in need. Locals, such as Alejandra and her family, and others like them, are exponentially increasing the impact Back2Back can have in Mazatlan.
Thank you for coming alongside us to bring hope to orphans like Jose in Mazatlan and beyond! We are grateful for your partnership on this journey!
It’s hard to put into words how amazing yesterday was for the Back2Back Mazatlan staff! We spent the day serving at Rancho de Los Ninos, a children’s home in Mazatlan that caters to orphans with special needs. Our staff started by cleaning their bathrooms and floors while the children were at school. They needed some attention to say the least. Then after the children returned home, we pulled out the Christmas decorations and that’s when the real fun began. We were so excited to spread Christmas cheer to the children during what could otherwise be a difficult time of year.
A few especially sweet moments are etched in my memory: Victor’s sweet smile the entire time we were hanging Christmas lights on the tree. Jesus Tigre and Julian, two boys who are wheelchair bound, so excited to touc h all of the decorations. Ricky helping me put HIS ornament on the tree and sitting right by the stereo as it blasted Christmas music the entire time. Decorating gingerbread houses which were quickly sampled by the children. Carina and Carlitos eager to help put the ornaments on the tree, putting several ornaments all on the same branch. The older boys helping us reach the top of the tree and helping us hang paper chain garland over the whole house. This day will forever be one of my favorite memories of serving. Bringing Christmas cheer to children’s homes is a simple, yet powerful way to show Christ’s love and communicate the true spirit of Christmas.
This time of year, we’re especially thankful for you! Thank you for coming alongside us with your support, as we serve orphans in Mazatlan! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!
We have been on the ground in Mazatlan for two days now and as always words can’t adequately express the work Back2Back is doing and the ways God is showing up. One of my greatest joys is watching God move on the team and I’m just thankful …I’m able to be a part of it.
Today, we worked at a children’s home at The Salvation Army and we witnessed a young girl get dropped off. She never came outside to enter act with us, but she was extremely emotional. I can’t imagine what was and is going on in her mind… Did she get kicked out? Did her parents split up? Did she have nowhere else to go? What will she be thinking tonight sleeping in a strange place where she doesn’t know anyone? How long will it take her to start to open up to someone? How will this affect the rest of her life? Is this something she get over? Then the I wonder how this will affect her relationship with God… Does she even know God? How will God redeem this? So many questions and so many thoughts run in through my mind and I can’t imagine the thoughts running through hers.
Now we are back at the house and all the way back I couldn’t help but think about my kids and my family. I’m so thankful and grateful for what God has given me. I pray I live my life as the best possible steward of what God has entrusted me with.
God come and pour Yourself out on the team during our remaining time here.
The ever-growing statistic of 163 million orphans in the world tells us that there is plenty of work to be done to serve “the least of these.” Back2Back desires to not only be a
voice for orphan children but to also go where God leads to serve them directly. In the last year, God has been leading Back2Back to launch a new site in Mazatlan, Mexico,“The Pearl of the Pacific.”
The opportunity to serve in Mazatlan has come through our ministry partnership with Riverview Church in Lansing, Michigan, who has been supporting and taking trips to children’s homes in Mazatlan for a number of years. As Back2Back has expanded its ministry sites, we have created a process for new site development, which is a strategic approach to thoroughly researching the site and prayerfully considering our calling there. Back2Back has taken two exploratory trips to the area and we feel like God has orchestrated and ordained our visits there. We know of six children’s homes in the Mazatlan area and have visited and begun relationships with the directors and caretakers in five of the six homes. The directors and caretakers all share a deep love of God and a deep desire for the children in their care to experience a brighter future. We have also made a connection with a social worker from the DIF, Mexico’s Department of Children’s Services.
On our most recent visit, we spent time with three pastors of local churches in Mazatlan. We are confident that we will be able to partner with these churches to help meet
the needs of orphans in Mazatlan. This fall, two boys from one of the children’s homes there, Rancho de los Niños, will be coming to Monterrey to be a part of the Hope Education Program. This fall, Back2Back is making decisions about staffing for the new site, contacting possible partners to champion the ministry in Mazatlan, taking another trip to Mazatlan to look for staff and mission team housing, and continuing the relationships with the children’s homes. The goal is to have staff on the ground at Back2Back Mazatlan the beginning of 2012 and hosting mission teams of up to twenty-five individuals.
If you have questions or would like to know more about how you can partner with Back2Back Mazatlan, please contact J.J. Lail at firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-250-8296.