The planks of wood sat stacked one on top of the other. Each table held several stacks, waiting for the fathers and their children to arrive. Sets of tools – hammers, nails, and sand paper waited alongside the stacks. To some, they were simply piles of wood and tools, but to dads and their children, they were a connection, a teaching opportunity, an experience in putting pieces together to build something stronger.
Darlene Ruiz, Back2Back staff, has long dreamt of bringing fathers from the Bonfil and Tres Reyes communities together for stronger connection and involvement with their children. “Both moms and dads are invited to parenting classes,” explained Darlene. “The dads typically work during the day, so the moms show up, and it’s been that way from the beginning.” Still, her heart was to help facilitate deeper community for the fathers.
In 2018, staff members Jenn Holden and Becca Arguello decided it was time to celebrate Father’s Day with the dads, like they celebrated Mother’s Day with the moms. “We talked with the coordinators and put an event together,” said Jenn. The event was successful and incredibly encouraging to all who attended, so the staff looked to 2019 and the ways they could foster more moments like this.
Together, the Cancun team strategically planned to seek out opportunity to earn trust and create space for fathers to connect – with staff, each other, and their children, in 2019. It’s been a long held dream, and now God is providing the people and the moments to make it happen.
She held the sandpaper in her hand and ran it against the grain of the wood. Her look of concentration turned to inquisition as she looked up at her father, standing next to her. He read the question in her eyes and smiled, “You are doing great! Keep going.” Dads from two different communities and their children were gathered under the palapa at the Community Center in Tres Reyes. As part of the initiative to create more space for dads to connect with their children, they were building wooden chairs together.
“It was more than just time for dads and their children to connect,” shared Jenn. “We were unable to have a set of tools at every station, but it ended up allowing the dads to connect with and help each other.” It does not take a fancy banquet or an expensive night out for connections to be forged – just planks of wood, the tools to build something, and shared knowledge.
Three intentional events took place this year for the dads of Bonfil and Tres Reyes and their children. On the surface, they were field trips and creative workshop, but the moments witnessed and conversations held, ran much deeper. Fathers stepped into teaching roles – instructing their children on how to sand a piece of wood or paint a chair. They bragged about their kids – one father was overheard sharing with visiting mission guests that his children were hard workers and kept good company in their peers. They were given moments to be proud and share that pride with their children and strangers, alike.
Back2Back staff often lead prayer walks through the neighborhoods the families call home, and the dads now check in with the staff, familiar with their faces and stories, and desiring deeper connection. Recently, a visiting mission team prayed over a Tres Reyes family, and a wooden chair sat in the corner of the room. It was well-built, polished, and sturdy. Staff members pointed it out, and the father of the home beamed with pride, as he explained he and his daughter made it together. If one didn’t know the story, they’d believe it was just another wooden chair in a family home, but it’s more than that. It’s a tangible reminder that like planks of wood, families are stronger when they’re together.