Jose made his way to the front of the crowd and walked slowly toward the large, black elephant. The tall cutout was covered in different colored chalks, looming and difficult to miss. This One21 Youth Retreat was Jose’s first. He and his younger brothers, all living with a foster family within Back2Back’s Foster Care Program, attended together and learned about living a life designed by God.
“The Elephant in the Room” was the theme of the recent One21 Youth Retreat in Monterrey – a yearly event that includes children and teens from the Hope Program, Foster Care Program, and partnering children’s homes. The teens and speakers discussed different obstacles we all experience, creating barriers to living the life God has written. After a weekend of talks, small group discussions, and worship, each attendee was encouraged to vulnerably write their “elephant” on the figure as a way of metaphorically laying down their burden.
Jose kept to himself during most of the retreat, taking in everything happening around him. The eldest of his three brothers, Jose is healing from the difficult places he’s been. Chris Cox, One21 Director, invited the teens to write down their elephants, an invitation to a fuller life. Jose walked slowly toward the front and looked up at the towering elephant before him. As he lifted the chalk pen to write down his elephant, the emotion he’d held at bay all weekend arose, no longer suppressed.
Jose broke down, feeling the weight of his own elephant in the room becoming too much to carry on his own. Asael Flores, a Hope Program House Parent and cabin leader for the weekend, approached him, speaking truth over him and praying freedom. Jose released the lie he was responsible to rescue and protect his younger siblings. He returned to the elephant and laid his burden down.
In the final talk of the weekend, Chris shared the Gospel. He shared that the beauty of it was, in giving our lives to Him, Christ takes on the heaviness of each moment, He lightens burdens, and He carries us when we cannot walk on our own. Jose raised his hand slowly, as Chris asked if anyone wanted to be baptized.
That afternoon, Jose entered the water heavy, and arose lighter, looking forward with hope – for himself, for his brothers, for his future.