By Sarah Nace, Back2Back Cancun, Mexico
Do you remember what it was like to see the world as a child? The excitement of picking out whichever candy bar you wanted from rows upon rows of choices at the gas station. Your first visit to the movie theater. The joy found in digging for buried treasure in the dirt under park benches.
I love how children tend to see the world with purity, simplicity and wonder. And I love that my job gives me the opportunity to see the world through their eyes so much of the time. I was most recently reminded of this while taking some of the teenagers from the Bonfil community to youth group at the church I attend. Bonfil is an underdeveloped community in Cancun, Mexico where Back2Back serves. It was a whole new world for them: a water dispenser with funny little red plastic cups, swiveling air conditioners, blue Bibles with doves stamped with black ink on the pages, new songs, the expectation to sit and listen quietly—SO much newness, both overwhelming and invigorating for them.
None of the teens go to church regularly, and while some of them have been on special holidays, none of them had ever been to a church like this. Though I struggled to keep them quiet and attentive, painfully aware of the backward glances and whispers from others each time they said they were tired of sitting in the class and wanted to play, I was overcome with love for them when the teacher asked what we would ask God for if we could ask for one thing. Other teens asked for an Xbox or cello, but. Oscar leaned over to me and whispered “peace and harmony”.
Later, I was overcome once again when the teacher asked us to turn to Joshua 1:9 in our Bibles. I smiled knowing this was one of the verses they had memorized with me. When the teacher began to read the verse, one of the boys pushed past three of the other students, grabbed my arms, and with a look of absolute amazement exclaimed, “Sarah! I know this verse! It’s the one we learned together! It really is in the Bible!” I couldn’t hold back my laughter as he tore through the pages looking for Matthew 6: 9 -13 (the Lord’s Prayer), another passage we had memorized.
So after a night of new experiences and saying goodbye to the teacher who thanked me for bringing a van full of visiting teens (who he agreed are “full of life”), we got back into the van and headed home. It was pure excitement the whole way back—“We loved it!” they shouted.
“Won’t you please take us with you on Sunday, too, Sarah—please!” asked one girl.
“I made friends with the boy next to me today, Sarah, and his name is Jeffrey.” interrupted the boy sitting next to her.
“Who wants to go back again next week?” I asked.
“Me!,” they all shouted in unison. And I smiled, happy to be in a van full of teens who want to go to church,- kids who are delighted to find verses they know in the Bible and take little red plastic drinking cups home from church as souvenirs.
Sarah Nace is a site social worker with Back2Back Ministries. She is a dreamer and lover of stories who spends most of her time giggling with children in Cancun, Mexico.