Mazatlán, aptly named the Pearl of the Pacific, rests on the west coast of Mexico almost directly across from the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. Grant Keys and his family have been serving with Back2Back in Mazatlán for just over three years, but the Keys family started surfing only 6 months ago.
FloreSer, where Grant serves as a captain, is a unique children’s home in Mexico. Home to many girls rescued from abuse and neglect, and grappling with matters of self-esteem and self-worth, FloreSer’s vision is to come alongside in the restoration of teenage girls ranging in ages from 10 to 17.
It occurred to Grant there was potential to combine his new love for surfing and his role as captain at FloreSer to benefit the girls. Surfing provides an opportunity to be in God’s beautiful creation, but it also allows one to experience, in a healthy way, the fun lying within that creation. Additionally, in a way only the Lord can author, the surf instructor Grant works with – and who now works with the girls, as well – is a local pastor.
“I’ve talked with Javier, not about preaching at the girls, but about praying for opportunities to share God’s truth and love with them – and how He has changed his life personally. My prayer is they would see a God who is real and powerful, who loves them, and can do amazing things through personal stories and experiences.”
Surfing serves the girls physically. It is great exercise encouraging proper nutrition and hydration. Many of the physical demands overlap with the educational aspect of surfing. One has to learn how to sit on the board in the water, how to position one’s body on the board for optimal paddling, and how to stand up and balance oneself in order to ride a wave. The girls are learning about reading incoming waves, as well, and what the best position is to catch the incoming wave.
“It is amazing to see the smiles on their faces saying, ‘I did it!’ ‘I can do it!’ What’s next?!'” shares Grant.
In addition, the FloreSer girls always surf in a group – creating an atmosphere both encouraging and celebratory.
“It’s really emboldening to hear the girls lifting each other up,” says Grant. “You can regularly hear them calling out to each other – ‘It’s alright, try again.’ ‘You can do it!’ ‘Way to go!’”
As the girls become more accustomed to the water, more comfortable riding and catching waves, their self-talk is shifting from untruths to tones of affirmation. Being a witness to young girls going from speaking lies to themselves about not being able to overcome obstacles to instilling truth about their ability to persevere is a powerful change surfing is providing.
It is in the learning of a new skill, in the grasping of their abilities, the girls at FloreSer are learning to not only champion one another, but to be a champion for themselves.