By Matt Cooper, Back2Back Mexico Director
During my recent visit to Back2Back’s ministry site in Mazatlan, Mexico, I was greeted at the airport by Grant Keys, one of our staff who serves at the site. Grant explained the day’s itinerary to me and to the visiting mission team. He shared we would be dropping our bags off at the team house and then heading directly to Floreser Children’s Home to spend the afternoon with the girls who live there.
As the team gathered their luggage, Grant approached me and asked, “Would you be willing to share some of your story with the girls at Floreser while we are there today?”
I quickly agreed, but immediately I began to ask God, What part of my story would you want me to share?
After arriving at Floreser, we spent time doing icebreakers, exchanging names, interacting and playing purposeful games and laughing as we connected with the girls. It was a light-hearted afternoon of creating new memories. The girls appeared to genuinely enjoy themselves, and I was beginning to feel insecure that anything I could share with them would be received as boring, at best.
Thirty minutes before dinner, Grant asked the girls to gather together so I could share with them. Once again, I felt like their fun was coming to a screeching halt. One last time I uttered a prayer under my breath. I felt God saying, “Just give them hope”.
We gathered around two picnic tables, and as I first began to speak, all I could focus on was how fidgety and distracted the girls seemed to be.
“Have you ever been afraid?,” I asked them. “What things in life are scary to you?”
At least half of the girls began to timidly share their ideas.
“I’m afraid of the dark,” shared one girl.
“I’m afraid of bad things happening.”
“Lightening, thunder and scary dogs,” said another girl.
I followed up with a second question, “Are you ever scared of the future? The unknown?”
Once again, they began to share their fears, this time a little more shyly. “I worry about what I’ll be when I grow up and where I’ll study,” shared one girl.
“Where I’ll live,” said another.
Their growing interest was apparent – at least half of the girls were now identifying with the conversation.
I validated the girls for sharing their fears, and just how real fear can be when you don’t know the future. I began to tell them about my first trip with Back2Back when I was a member of a small team of 10 people from my church. It was through those experiences that week, I began to feel like God wanted me to move to Mexico. I explained that, for me, this scenario was filled with so many unknowns – it was frightening and even almost crippling at times. Yet in those times of the future feeling unclear and scary, the true hope we hold onto is that God goes before us, behind us and walks beside us – hemming us in from every side.
It was silent. Their eyes were locked on mine. They appeared to be hanging on every word.
In their stillness, I continued to share. I explained how Back2Back started the Hope Program in Monterrey, Mexico years ago. I shared that my wife and I were house parents to teenage boys there. I helped them understand that those boys had grown up with many of the same fears they have. I finished by helping them see that God had His eyes on those boys – God went before them. One-by-one God replaced their fears with hope – and He wanted to do the same for the girls at Floreser,as well.
Two days later, I saw Gennie, a Back2Back staff member. She had visited Floreser the day before and couldn’t wait to tell me about her interaction with the girls. They were excitedly telling her the story of a man who came and shared with them about God and an opportunity for their future.
“Do you know him, Gennie?,” they asked. “Do you know Mr. Hope? He told us about having hope for our future!”
Matt Cooper oversees ministry sites in Monterrey, Cancun and Mazatlan, Mexico. His role is one of advocacy on behalf of our work in Mexico and ensuring alignment of our work there with the overall direction of the ministry.