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.