Like so many orphaned and vulnerable children around the world, Leo grew up as a “social orphan” – children who have at least one living parent but whose parent(s) either cannot, or will not, care for them. “I grew up with two brothers and one sister, and we were living good in a big house. We weren’t a really close family. My father spent a lot of time working, and my mom stayed with us all day.”
However, Leo’s father’s increasing abuse led Leo’s mother to remove the children from the familiarity of their home.
“My mom started working. She was working from 6:00 to 6:00 – it was twelve hours. She was trying to give us what we needed: school, food, attention . . . but she couldn’t do that. It was too much for her because she was alone.” As a result, Leo and his siblings began to spend most of their time on the streets and often without food.
In an attempt to care for her children in the best way she knew how, Leo’s mother took an additional step, altering the course of Leo and his siblings’ lives, again.
“One day my mom came to the house and she told us ‘Hey, I found a place.’ She told us it was a really cool place, there was a lot of animals and really cool things there, so we got excited. We said, ‘We want to go there.’ But, when we got there, there were no cute animals, there was no really cool stuff. It was a bunch of kids running around. It was a children’s home.”
At the conclusion of touring the home, Leo and his siblings met eyes with their mother, on the other side of the door. She simply whispered, “I’ll be back soon. I love you.”
So for me, at that time, the children’s home became my first home, because every time my mom took us out, it was like “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to see this, I don’t want to see my mom cry, I don’t want to see my brothers cry, and I don’t want to cry. What I want is to be in a family.
Leo’s mom came back often, but only to visit, never to take them to a home of their own. Eventually, Leo and his siblings settled into the reality of the children’s home being their permanent residence. The family they longed for was not to be. Over the years, Leo admits an increased distance from God, and poor decision making, as a result of the trauma from his childhood – even with the transition and a new environment at Back2Back’s Hope Program campus in Monterrey.
So in November of last year, God brought a friend who helped me open my eyes and to see that only Jesus was the one who could fill my heart; who could fill that hole. He helped me with that and right now I can say I’m really thankful to God for bringing people like him in my life to point out what I didn’t see, that I wasn’t paying attention. Now I can say “Thank you God for them, and for the people you brought in my life. I was totally blind, but now I can see.
The redemption of his story, however, doesn’t end with Leo. Recently he began serving at Children’s Homes similar to where he grew up. The interaction with the children there provides hope and inspiration. His service is cultivating a hunger for Jesus.
“They can see me as hope because every time I go to the children’s homes [the kids] love to spend time with me because they know I was where they are right now. Last April, one of the boys came to me and said ‘I got impacted by your testimony. I want to ask you something: I want to know if you want you do Bible study with me?’ For me it was so exciting. God I’ve been through all this past, all my testimony is for something – to bring hope. So this is a huge opportunity for me, and I say ‘YES’!
God I’ve been through all this past, all my testimony is for something – to bring hope. So this is a huge opportunity for me, and I say ‘YES’!
To hear firsthand from Leo, watch this video.