Imagine a busy home – a mother preparing a meal after working all day, moving about her family, motivating children to finish their homework. A father working hard at his job in a nearby town and arriving home with rough hands and a hungry belly. The children chattering as they come to the table, ready for the traditional Mexican meal. Families have evening rhythms all around the world, the hustle and bustle of catching up on days, mixed with hot food and connection.
In Cancun, this mother and father may be committed in their hearts to one another, but not always committed by law. The cost of both a legal marriage and the accompanying religious ceremony is cost prohibitive for many families in squatter villages. Both the man and woman may have dreamt of a wedding, but other roles have taken precedence over the years – mother, father, co-parent, breadwinner.
Parents in the Strong Families Program in Cancun are working daily to be the best mothers and fathers they can be for their children. Attending programming at the Community Centers of Tres Reyes and Bonfil equip every parent with needed life skills. There they learn marketable trades to earn money, and Bible classes to remind them of their rightful place in the Kingdom. They build strong community through parenting classes alongside others working towards the same goals of sustainability and stability.
Back2Back social workers invest daily in the families through classes, teaching necessary skills to promote positive belief systems. Through intentional conversation and getting to know each family member personally, the social workers understand the family history. “As the staff built relationships and developed trust with the moms, conversations about legal marriage came up,” shared Jenn Holden, Back2Back staff. “We realized many weren’t legally married, and wanted to be. When we mentioned the potential for a wedding ceremony, they dreamt about what it could mean for their families.” The moms talked to their partners, sharing the excitement they felt at being able to officially call each other husband and wife.
“You may kiss your bride!”
The pastor smiled at the couples in front of him. Many acted shy about displays of affection in front of such a large group. However, in the end, each couple embraced as a final step in their marriage ceremony. The wedding march rang out beneath the palapa at the Community Center of Tres Reyes, and the couples exited arm-in-arm.
After months of planning and opportunities for dreaming, seven couples from the Strong Families Program officially married. The ceremony included an exchange of rings, first dances, professional photographs, and the cutting of cake. Family members and their children watched with smiles, witnessing the beginning of change for future generations.
Recently, motivated by the first seven couples, a second group took the bold step of entering into legal marriage in front of loved ones. Together, the mothers and fathers in the Strong Families Program are breaking generational patterns and teaching their children a new, more Christ-centered way.
Months later, the mothers still look at their wedding bands proudly, and the fathers take steps to invest more in their families and the programming in Tres Reyes and Bonfil. The young children and teens testify to a change in their moms and dads and feel the permanency this legal arrangement provides.
“It isn’t uncommon in impoverished communities for a teen’s significant other to move in with a family,” shared Jenn Holden. “Now with married parents, it sets a new pattern for their children, establishing a fresh expectation.”
Back2Back Cancun anticipates future marriage ceremonies, and celebrates the promise each vow between husband and wife means for their children. One step at a time, we are working together to build a stronger future for every boy and girl.