4 Questions with Jed Zayner

My name is Jed Zayner. I moved from Monterrey, Mexico to Cincinnati, Ohio, and my role is Community Development Manager. I’ve been on staff with Back2Back for almost five years.  

1. Why did you join Back2Back? 

Well, my wife has grown up within Back2Back, all of her family are deeply connected with with the ministry, and she was a part of some of the first ever mission teams Back2Back ever had. Up until we were married, she hadn’t spent more than six months away from the Monterrey campus. After seven years of marriage and working in the US, God called our family of five to Monterrey, Mexico. God actually called me first through a fast I felt called to do in 2014. I fasted from all kinds of media (TV, movies, games, social media, etc…) for the whole year of 2014, and during this time God was working on my heart in a big way. Around March of that year, God led me to understand the gravity of my own sin and the enormity of the Cross in my life. It was in that moment I wanted to do something about it and I called my wife and told her I felt like we needed to sell everything and move. She said let’s do it, because God had been calling her specifically for eight months, as well. With abuse, father abandonment, and poverty being a common theme during my childhood, it was easy to fit right into the mission of Back2Back. Through discipling or mentoring kids/teens from vulnerable places, God can help heal and grow these kids/teens from the pains of their past.

2. What have you learned since you’ve lived on the field? 

I think the most important thing I learned is the world does not move at the pace I want it to! While most would say this is obvious, Mexico is much more laid back and things generally take way longer to get done. I had to realize the majority of my frustrations or anger were built on the premise that people do/get things done on my timeline. I had to realize we are all made different, and with a hasty mentality things can be missed, like relaiotnships, prayer with one another, or the sweet little God moments always coming up.  God taught me to be okay with the in-between and that He loves to work during those times. He’s also taught me to be aware and expectant of how He wants to move or change someone’s life. 

3. Share a funny/embarrassing moment when the culture you’re familiar with was met with new cultural traditions? 

Within my first few weeks of living in Monterrey, I went in to hug a Mexican Children’s Home Director. As I went in to hug him, my head approached the left side of his shoulder, because that is the way men hug in the US, but not in Mexico. Mexicans hug with their heads going towards the right side of your body. So, as I went to his left side and he to my right side we were left with me almost giving this man a kiss on the lips! It definitely was awkward, but he understood my lack of cultural knowledge and just laughed it off, and showed me the Mexican way to hug. From then on, I informed every mission guest I met about the hugging technique in Mexico! 

4. What’s something from the culture you live in that you’ll keep with you forever? 

Mexico is a beautiful country and has incredible people. One huge and important thing that God taught me while living there is the lack of being relational with others in America. For example, nowadays if someone knocks on your door unannounced, a person is more startled and skeptical than excited. In Mexico, people are ten times more relational than most Americans, and I love the intentionality of relationships and truly caring about people. Yes, it was frustrating that people would be 15-20 minutes late for things, but they were late because they were connecting with people, and it taught me that my life should not be built around the next task, but around what others need or connecting with those around me.