Jèsus handed his drawing to Ximena Zarate, Back2Back Cancun Staff, as he walked out of the room. She looked down at the page and saw Diego* written at the top. “Jèsus?” she called after him. He turned around and looked directly at her, “I want to be called Diego.” She made a mental note and smiled at him. “Okay, Diego. No problem.”
Fourteen-year old Diego had been coming to the Community Center for a little while, but hadn’t participated much. “Diego kept to himself quite a bit in the beginning,” shared Ximena. “He always showed up, but he didn’t respond to questions or show interest in playing with others.” Ximena and the rest of the staff at the community center prayed about ways to help Diego.
“Many of the children have two names. We called Diego, ‘Jèsus,’ because his name on our paperwork was Jèsus Diego,” explained Ximena. “Once we realized he preferred being called Diego, we were hopeful stronger relationship would build.”
“After that conversation, I saw something come alive in Diego,” shared Ximena. “He started participating, and was more conversational.”
Diego’s attendance at the community center remained consistent and staff saw improvements in his attitude and a growing desire to be a part of group activities. With awareness of previous trauma, though, they kept their eyes open, ready to speak truth to Diego in the event it was needed.
“He came to the center one day and went to his classes, but soon after, came back out and asked me to open the gate so he could leave,” explained Ximena. She approached Diego with care, asking him what was wrong as she walked beside him. “He didn’t have much to say, but I wanted to reassure him in that moment – this is a safe place for you, Diego. You are wanted here. You are cared for. You are protected.”
Back2Back staff recognized Diego might benefit from one-on-one time with Elizabeth, the psychologist at the center, and made space in the schedule for him.
“We honestly weren’t sure if he would come,” confessed Ximena. “But he showed up consistently, growing more open with Elizabeth each meeting. She helped Diego to see God is always on his side, that He is worthy of Diego’s trust.”
Diego has continued to attend therapy with Elizabeth and consistently shows up to classes at the community center. Diego’s mom recently came to Ximena. “He is a different boy,” she told her. “In moments when I feel overwhelmed, Diego tells me to trust in God, to believe in His work in my life.” Ximena could only smile in confirmation.
“Diego exudes joy now,” she said. “To see him exhibiting happiness and willingly participate in group activities has been transformative for not just him, but the staff team at the center.”
Diego is found celebrating birthdays and kicking the soccer ball alongside other children. He is soaking in the comfort that comes with trusting God with every last detail.