My name is Matt Cooper. I originally moved from Indiana to Monterrey, Mexico, then to Cancun, Mexico, and then to Cincinnati to work in the US Office! My newest role is Director of Staff Care. I’ve been on staff with Back2Back for 16 years.
1. Why did you join Back2Back?
During our scout trip to Monterrey, my wife Julie and I met a sibling group of 5 who were living at Casa Hogar Douglas at the time. I remember specifically interacting with a couple of the older brothers, and Julie held the youngest, a six-month old sister, on her lap nearly the entire time we accompanied children from the home on a field trip to see Christmas lights. As we learned of their story, I remember being deeply moved by the fact they were in the children’s home because their parents were in prison. I was so saddened at the thought that the five of them, but even more so this young baby, would spend the remainder of her childhood in a children’s home, without the loving care of a permanent family. I knew that God was calling us to be an extension of His grace and love to the fatherless, and to make a difference not just the lives of these five, but in all that He would put in front of us.
2. What have you learned since you’ve lived on the field?
I have learned that without Jesus, and without first going to His well of living water, I literally have nothing good or lasting to give to those around me. I have learned we need each other to become more like Jesus, and in fact, God, in His multi-faceted grace, even puts those around us to help us (even sometimes when it feels like sandpaper) become more and more like Him. I have learned that I have FAR more to learn from those I’ve been called to serve, than they actually have to learn from me.
3. Share a funny/embarrassing moment when the culture you’re familiar with was met with new cultural traditions?
One time we were standing outside on the Monterrey campus, and our three-year old son was suddenly stung by a bee. Before we realized what was happening…a very pregnant Mexican woman (who happened to be visiting from the local community) spit in her hand and began rubbing it on my son’s leg where he had been stung. I’m pretty sure we all just stared in disbelief, and she confidently explained how lucky we were that she was there in that moment, because the spit of a pregnant woman is good for neutralizing the sting!
4. What’s something you’ve learned from an American/National you work alongside? OR What’s something from the culture you live in that you’ll keep with you forever?
Recently, someone (a Mexican national staff member) asked me what I missed most about living in Mexico after living there for 11 years. As I reflected and shared, I laughed, because the things I think I miss the most are some of the same things that, at first, were the most foreign or even completely rubbed me the wrong way. I appreciate that relationship trumps, whether on a phone call, or a meeting, or during a visit to someone’s home – you never rush in to get business done, but rather make sure that you connect and find out how they and their family are doing first. I appreciate that when you go out to eat that it’s actually an EVENT, and might take hours. I appreciate that a waiter will NEVER make you feel rushed by leaving you the check (in fact, it’s often hard to flag him/her down and get them to bring it:) I appreciate (sometimes) that time is relative, and the connection, the memory, and the celebration trump the beginning and ending time of party. I appreciate that they are a warm culture that takes time to intimately greet each and every person in the room…both when you enter, AND when you leave!