Author Archives: Mexico Team
Up bright and early this morning! Our team is off to Monterrey! We are excited for ALL that God has in store for us!
Wednesday morning brought a routine that was now becoming familiar to the team—wake up, eat some Zucaritas (Frosted Flakes), drive to Rancho, work, play, and return just in time for dinner. It’s amazing just how much a trip like this can open up a new dimension of your life, even just for a week. In the absence of work, classes, soccer practice, emails, church, Netflix, and all the comforts of American living we began to find the laughter, conversation, and Christian community our (yours too?) souls crave. The closest comparison available might be an experience like summer camp.
It has taken us until the middle of the week to feel at ease in this new dimension. We’ve waded through the small talk and novelty of discussing the inconsequential differences of living in Kansas or Indiana or Arkansas or Virginia. Back home, when we get through the surface topics, we’ll just return our stare to the glow in our palms. But there is a magical consequence awaiting those who resist this urge. It’s called connection.
In connection, there is a world of meaning and color. Gifts like joy, understanding, compassion, and empathy. There are a number of reasons some turn away from connection. It’s much easier to maintain a sense of control if there is no thing and no one you’re tied to. You might learn some independence. Survival might get a little easier if there’s only yourself to look after. Compartmentalizing your life can help each area stay nice tidy.
This way of living might appeal especially to those of you reading who identify as an introvert. However, living disconnected can leave us feeling and operating a lot like an orphan—vulnerable, confused, and fearful. The effects of which are a vast array of ways people find to hurt themselves and others.
See, Back2Back understands that God has wired each of us for connection—even the orphan child who is abandoned by their family, who seemingly has no one to turn to and no where to go. It is connection that builds the brain and a person’s ability to take care of themselves. It is connection that brings us into meaningful relationships and friendships. And it is connection with Jesus that we get to know the creator and lover of our souls.
Wednesday we continued to work on the renovations at Rancho. Dirt was moved, picnic tables were stained, fences were mended. While we worked with our hands and made connections with fellow group members, it was exciting to envision the many ways these buildings and spaces will enable connection for so many children and adults in the future. Connection that will enable each independence in lifestyle, interdependence in community, and complete dependence on Jesus.
We also helped the kids make some decorations that will brighten up their new bedrooms. How cool is that?!
Amassing amounts of bug bites, sunburn in unusual places, and a surprising number of insde jokes– all signs that we have hit the halfway point of our trip in Mazatlan, Mexico!
While physically we’re becoming more comfortable with our environment, spiritually and mentally God continues to push us outside of our comfort zone by expanding our view of His world and the people He’s placed in it.
In the car ride home yesterday some of us were asking one of the American staff members about the cuisine in Mexico. He confessed that while Mexico does a lot of things well when it comes to food, there are still two things that need some improvement: pizza and pastries.
He then began to talk about how the pastry situation is especially tricky because they always look so good. And yet every time he bites into the delicate piece of sweetness, he’s let down. So much so, that another family on staff with B2B has turned it into a phrase. When something seems incredible on the outside but then turns out to be a major let down, you can say you’ve been “Mexican pastried.”
While hilarious this is in the context of desserts, haven’t we all been Mexican pastried in our lives? Like Edmund’s insatiable hunger for Turkish Delight, sin presents itself as an irresistible dessert only to leave us with an agonizing stomach ache. And along with the stomach ache from our gluttony we’re confronted with a desire to hide: shame.
Personally, I’ve only experienced the burden of shame for my own actions. It was a new concept today to realize that much of the shame these orphans carry is for the actions of others they’ve unfortunately had to witness.
While shame may mask itself differently for different people, it results in a burden too heavy for us to carry. While weighed down by the shame of our sin, we can quickly become spiritually paralyzed.
Shame, whether for our actions or others, is a paralyzing weight in our lives that keeps us from living with boldness. The only antidote to this weight is to throw it off to someone who can carry it for us with ease: Christ.
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. H will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”
Psalm 103: 8-12
Many of our work projects for today were continuations of work yesterday. We finished filling in a plant area with dirt, and then leveled the area This required taking wheelbarrows full of dirt up a fairly steep ramp, so of course this led to what seemed like a montage of failures. A group of people also started staining picnic tables and putting together a fence around the soon to be basketball court.
We ended our time at El Rancho with some free time to play with the kids. This time consisted of coloring, puzzles, reading books, and singing to one another. It was a sweet time to connect with a child one on one for a longer period of time.
One incredible trait about most people with specials needs is that they are unashamedly themselves. Their is no inhibiting aspects of their identity, because there is no shame in who they are. What a freeing example they set for us to follow.
Lord, help us to understand Christ’s sacrifice for us more fully, and to accept it with all that we have. Thank you for bearing our shame we carry so that we can be free to live boldly for you. Amen.
Monday: Not Forgotten
It’s our nature to forget. The past is a bit like a picture that sits in the sun—freshly printed and illuminated by the sun’s rays, you’ll be able to see the colors and shapes in the photo pretty clearly. But like the pictures in our mind of days gone by, the photo will fade over time.
These snapshots we take all throughout our lives can sometimes be restored or recalled. A song can remind you of the time you first heard it or a smell will bring back memories of holidays from years ago. However, even these memories are somewhat washed out. A memory can remind us of a loved one who has passed, but it can’t bring them to us. A memory won’t let you wrap five senses around someone.
Pictures have come a long way. We don’t have to worry anymore about them fading—even if you leave your phone or thumb drive in the sun too long. While these digital advances can preserve a photo, they can’t preserve the memory. You might even find an old photo and wonder to yourself, “I know I took this photo, but I can’t remember when or why or who the people are in it.”
We’re forgetful people; no doubt. That’s probably why we often fear others are forgetting us—because we forget them! From time to time, we all feel forgotten in some way, but the Lord is teaching our group something very important this week: He has not forgotten anyone.
What We Learned
After breakfast each morning, the staff here lead us through some training called trauma competent care. This training is meant to help us understand the behaviors of children who have suffered significant trauma in the early years of their lives. It’s really important that teams get this background before heading out to interact with the kids at Rancho.
We learned there are two kinds of trauma: abuse and neglect. The instructor asked the group which they thought was worse, and you might be surprised to find out that neglect has a greater negative impact on a child than abuse. Because each person has been wired for relationship, there is no greater need they have than connection.
There is nothing as damaging to a child (or any person) as being forgotten.
What We Did
Our schedule Monday through Wednesday will go mostly unchanged. We have breakfast, get some training, and then head out to Rancho. We spend the morning working hard on construction projects, and in the afternoon, we spend time with the kids before packing up and heading back to the team house for dinner, worship, and debrief.
Here are a few shots of the team hard at work:
In the first you see us filling and leveling the bottom of a large hole. This hole will eventually be a trampoline for the kids to jump on. Because of the many varieties of physical disabilities, the hole allows the trampoline to sit at ground level. This way the kids don’t have to struggle to climb up in.
The second photo shows team members staining boards that will be made into custom designed picnic tables. The custom design will allow the children with wheelchairs to wheel right up to the table. In fact, one of our group members commented in our debrief how diligent the men building the tables were about getting the exact specifications to make this possible. No detail is overlooked (or forgotten) when it comes to caring for these kids.
Isaiah 49:15 says: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Sadly, people forget each other. We neglect the needs of our closest friends and family. Maybe you find yourself in that place today. Do you feel alone or forgotten? Do you feel like God has left you wandering on your own?
I hope you are encouraged by the fact that God is going to great lengths to show his love to the kids at Rancho—he hasn’t forgotten them, and he hasn’t forgotten you!
Saturday, June 16: A Pool Party Welcome
Hello, from sunny Mazatlan, Mexico and the Traders Point team serving alongside our friends from Back2Back this week. Back2Back Ministries is an international non-profit organizaion that is dedicated to being a voice for orphans. If you’re curious about the courageous work they are doing to help vulnerable children all over the world, visit back2back.org.
What you might not read about on their website is just how intentional and genuine their staff is. We have been welcomed so well, and while Back2Back exists to serve the needs of orphans and impoverished children, the folks here have already ministered to our team in meaningful ways.
Just after 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 16, six of our team members took off from the Indianapolis airport. Dallas was an important stop as we convened with four more members; three from Virginia and one from Arkansas. The group was complete and our flight to Mazatlan was a breeze. We landed and figured out that the people on our flight wearing the same blue t-shirts were also headed to Back2Back this week. Staff arrived, and the blue shirts from Kansas got in one van and the gray shirts from Indy got in another.
B2B, like its name suggests stands back-to-back with partner organizations to meet the spiritual, physical, educational, emotional, and social needs that they may overcome their life circumstances and break free from the cycle of generational poverty. They do this with three such groups here in Mazatlan, and upon our arrival, we spent some time with two of them at a pool party/cookout (we’ll get to the third here in a moment). Many of our team were nervous about the language barrier—wondering how we would ever connect with and show love to someone we can’t speak to. It turns out that fun is somewhat of a universal language and we enjoyed our Saturday afternoon together splashing around and eating hamburgers.
Exhausted, we settled in and got to bed early—we would need the rest for an exciting and full Sunday to come.
Sunday, June 17: Breaking Ground
El Rancho de los Ninos might be familiar to some of you who have been around Traders Point or who have invested in this relationship with Back2Back here in Mazatlan. Rancho is the third of the three groups mentioned earlier. Rancho is a facility where 14 orphaned children with special needs live under full-time care. Rancho is where our group will spend each day of this week laboring with our hands and opening our hearts to these 14 amazing young kids.
Some exciting things have been happening at Rancho and we are so thrilled and humbled to be a part of what God is doing here. Last week they celebrated the completion of four family-style housing units that they will use to begin transitioning the boys into. They currently reside in dorms in a single building. The care they receive there is and has been a wonderful thing for them, but B2B’s goal is to put them in homes with a family. These brand new facilities will do just that. It will also allow the kidss to have somewhere to go home to—someone to go home to. This provides some healthy separation from the place where they sleep at night and the place they receive therapy and education for some. This is a really, really big deal for the lives of these kids, and we are praising God for the completion of those buildings.
The celebration continued today (Sunday) as we “broke ground” on some big renovations that will be made to the center the kids are currently living in. We’ll be able to tell you more details about these renovations in the coming days, but as we toured Rancho today, we all agreed there is an overwhelming amount of hope and excitement about the future here—amongst the staff and caretakers and amongst the children. We are especially excited about these renovations because our love for these kids and the potential an updated facility might have on their lives. TPCC’s special needs minister, Wendy Wilken, has been working with B2B staff on plans for the renovations and how Traders Point can help resource this new center to better serve the needs of not only these 14 but for other orphans and vulnerable children in the community.
This occasion served to remind us all on Father’s Day just how much our Heavenly Father loves each of us and how dearly he loves the children of Rancho de los Ninos.
As we get started tomorrow on some of more physical work that needs to be done around the facility, please pray for our team, the B2B staff, the caretakers, and for the many vulnerable children around the globe.
Here’s a look back across some of the new construction toward the resource center awaiting renovation.
Today, a bittersweet day, was our last time in Monterrey with the kids.
We started off the morning with full bellies from our Thanksgiving feast and headed to our last talk with the Back2Back staff, which reflected on the Foster care system that they have created here in Monterrey. It was an enlightening experience to hear about all the effort that they put into this program so that these kids can get more focused one-on-one mentoring or more of an ideal, traditional family.
Next we headed over to Douglas to finish off some projects that we had started this week. Thats right you guessed it! More concrete fun for our group! We finished off a patio and sidewalk for the home and the men finished the wall they drywalled. We received much praise from our leader, Irving, who thanked us for our hard work all week and how much we were able to accomplish. He said our hard work allowed him to finish things he didn’t think would get done for a long time! The lady chefs of our group also went in and cooked a HUGE pot of spaghetti for our team and the children from the home.
One of our most cherished memories was being led by Sammy and Irving to pray over each individual child’s bed. They placed each child’s picture on their bed and we were able to pray for these wonderful children that we met. So many emotions were felt not only by us individually, but a collective outcry to the Lord was felt in the room. Even some younger children began to cry and it was so meaningful to see that they understood the magnitude of that moment. We had specific, tangible experiences with these children and now we were seeing where they lived and how truly how blessed we are. This was such a great moment to sum up the week and allow us to truly feel the weight of the love we had for these children.
We then served them lunches, ate with them and later played more games. Throughout Casa Hogar Douglas you would see the younger boys and girls playing on the slide with some of the children from Douglas, the older boys playing soccer or under the palapa with games, the girls playing on the swings and even some wrestling matches! We even got to play our last soccer game with the kids from the home and had some of our big guys from TPCC play. It was an intense match-up of the Americans vs. the Mexicans! Its no surprise who won, the children from the home definitely beat us out.
That was when Sammy told us it was time to leave. All of our hearts sank a little. Our goodbyes that lasted 10-15 minutes, were some of the hardest moments, but in these moments we remember what the Back2Back team taught us in using this love to make a change.
We all discussed at our debrief what God was teaching us and how to allow this change to take place back in the states.
Picture of the Day: Ben
Ben shared with the group how his son, Will made such a beautiful connection with one of the children at the home and at the good-bye even began to cry a little. This touched him so much to know that his son was gaining something out of the experience and truly feeling for his friend from the home.
We are so, so full. That is the only word I can think of to describe our attitude in this moment. We feel filled with the spirit and God’s wonderful heart for orphans. We have such a good, good Father and feel blessed to be used by Him to carry out His plan for these children’s lives.
Goodnight for the last time from the TPCC Monterrey Team.
Today was so special to our whole group, because it was Thanksgiving! We have been continually blessed as a group, because we come to serve and yet we are served in return.
All of the Back2Back Staff came around us and prepared such an amazing day. Not only the Back2Back staff, but the families from the Hope Program served us today. They opened their homes and allowed a family from Traders Point to come in and be apart of their Thanksgiving dinner and family time. Every single TPCC family had good feedback and said it was such a special time for them.
To begin each TPCC family was paired with a house and was assigned a traditional side dish to help prepare (sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole etc). Which was such a great way to bond with the family despite a language barrier. We were able to eat with the family and even had ice breaker questions in both languages.
After dinner, we walked up to the beautifully decorated Palapa for a time of worship and reflection. The worship team sang beautifully in both languages and recited meaningful verses as well. There was a resounding unified voice that radiated throughout the cold night, even with people from all different walks of life and different languages. There were also thought-provoking stations that asked each person to reflect on different aspects of their faith. For example, one asked us to write down on a sheet of paper a lie we believed about ourselves and then nail it to the cross. After we would write on a new nametag of what God says of us and what is true.
This along with worship allowed each of us to take a moment to stop and think about our moments throughout this week and what God has been teaching us. The spirit moved in this precious moment and will be a favorite memory for our team for a long time.
We are so grateful to the Back2Back team, the Hope Program families and God himself for this wonderful Thanksgiving day. We are truly blessed and have been given immeasurably more than we could ever ask for.
The Monterrey team was extremely excited to begin our 4th day of work and play at Douglas.
We started off the morning with another Trauma Competent Care with Sammy, which allows all of us to learn about some of the science behind certain things we observe in the home. Then we headed to Douglas to begin another day of fun with Concrete making! The technical men again worked on the wall that they had previously moved and were able to dry-wall it today. They said it was both awkward when the girls came home to see them in their home, but also exciting once the girls realized that these strange men were actually going to allow them to have all their kitchen appliances in one place. The concrete team continued their fervor from the first day, but this time carried the heavy concrete all the way down a hill and through an alleyway and up a ramp. The concrete team would like to extend a huge thank-you to the engineering skills of young Zach. He fashioned a wonderful ramp for all the hard workers to wheel their concrete up! It would have been way more difficult without his careful crafting! We had some spills, some falls, some trips and some injuries, but we ended up finishing and definitely impressing Irving our work team leader.
The second half of the day was the absolute favorite of many. We got to take all of our wonderful kids to the…ZOO!
While Sammy set our expectations low, we each were paired up with two Mexican children and took on a scavenger hunt at the zoo and had an amazing time! Some of us were even able to learn new spanish words for animals. Except for Nate, who recalled confidently at our debrief, “My team saw the ‘Pavo Real’ which I don’t know if you all know, but thats Flamingo!” We all had to laugh, because “Pavo Real” is actually spanish for Peacock. We all had a great laugh out of it. Now, to top it all off, we got to eat some delicious chicken at “El Pollo Loco!” In my opinion, this was my favorite meal here so far, although not very good for you. We all had such an amazing time in our teams that allowed us a more intimate setting to get to know the children from Douglas.
Picture of the Day: Julie
Julie shared with us how awesome it was to see all the young kids on shovel duty. Since we had to haul all the concrete down a huge hill, most of the adults were on wheel-barrow duty, and so the kids were tasked with shoveling all the sand into the machine- no easy feat. Julie described how proud she was to see how they worked so hard and were able to get the job done efficiently, without complaining.
**Since it was such an eventful day, we will do two pictures of the day.
Picture of the Day: Kate
Kate shared how awesome it was to see the kids getting comfortable with us volunteers. She explained a sweet instance, where one of the boys from Douglas was so tired from playing that he snuggled up and fell asleep on Nate’s lap on the bus.
It is these proud and sweet moments in which we see God teaching and revealing more to us. The picture of the day reminds us to be present throughout the day, open to experiencing God at work in any moment. We all feel the change stirring within our own hearts and hope to continue to individually fully take part in this process.
Goodnight and blessings from the Monterrey Team.
Our third day was my personal favorite thus far. We began our day by heading to Douglas and were split into 2 teams. The first team of our more technical guys went up to a room and actually moved a wall to make more room for these young girls’ kitchen. Then the second team was blessed with the task of pouring concrete. We were shoveling sand, pouring water, and adding cement into a huge (and loud) machine, to produce concrete that would help make a walkway and small patio near the boys dorm. Everyone worked extremely hard. We had shovelers, wheel-barrow movers, water pourers and cement handlers. It was awesome to see everyone contribute to one unified product. We were all very proud to see a smooth patio and walkaway at the end of the day. Some of my favorite observations were seeing young kids like Trey working extremely hard and getting almost covered in cement. Also Carlie, or as we like to call her: Wonderwoman, getting cement ALL in her hair and yet continuing to work even harder.
After a grueling day of work, we enjoyed a mole sauce with chicken with the kids and began our time of play. We again played soccer in the fields in between the mountains and TONS of uno of course! We grilled out hamburgers later and bonded with the kids over some of the food we really enjoy.
Picture of the day:
Suzanne: Suzanne shared with us how she was able to bond with Carime. She shared this moment where Carime reached up with her arms for Suzanne to hug her and how this melted her heart. Suzanne has a shared a desire to either be a mother to many children or even eventually adopt a child. She is opening her heart to what God may show her while she is here, that relates to his future plan for her.
A verse we all were able to meditate and focus on today was:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
Goodnight and blessings from the Traders Point Monterrey Team