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.