We got back from the Back2Back campus in Monterrey, Mexico, early Sunday morning and I’ve been wanting to post about how our trip went but hadn’t been able to pin point exactly what I wanted to say. It was great to be able to go on this trip with MaKenzie but we both sure did miss our little baby Maebyn. Funny how your life changes from checking facebook or email in your free time to watching (and re-watching) the same videos over and over of your kids when you’re away from them. Even though MaKenzie and I were together on this trip, our family still felt separated. Although we greatly missed our daughter the trip was great and we experienced a lot in the 5 days we were in Mexico. I couldn’t help but see her face in the faces of the kids at the orphanages we visited and my heart broke over and over, thinking that they did not have a parent somewhere out there who was missing them like I was her.
While we were in Mexico our days were pretty planned out for us. Some days we worked, some days we played with kids, and some days we did both. Our main work project consisted of laying a concrete floor in a new building that was being constructed as a new orphan home. We worked tirelessly and managed to lay 50 yards of concrete in 115 degree heat (yes, you read that right… 115 heat index one day). It was tough work to say the least but it felt good to be working and working with a purpose. It was also fun to spend some time with MaKenzie’s co-workers and get to know the people she is around everyday in the office. She’s lucky, they are a great bunch and tons of fun. All in all, it was just fun for us to serve. Isn’t there something about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty with hard work that makes the end of the day that much sweeter? MaK had a big impact on the children and the adults there. She did not do or say anything that made that impact, it was merely the fact that she was pregnant, in a vulnerable state, and still willing to serve and work alongside of us. She did everything we did and did not sit out of anything – despite my asking millions of times for her to slow down. The Lord greatly used this act of servant-hood to speak to the people there. Everyone we came in contact with couldn’t believe that a woman, pregnant, much less pregnant with twins, would come and help serve them. I think her act of merely “going” really showed the people of Monterrey love and that was really humbling to see. She’s got a pretty cool testimony from the whole experience too, God worked in some powerful ways in her own life.
After having several days to think about our experience there was one point I felt like God kept impressing on my heart in a different way each day and that was the reality of poverty – in many different facets – that exists in our world today. In the places we personally visited throughout Monterrey, physical poverty was obvious and all around, yet that wasn’t what struck me. Beth Guckenberger, the woman who started Back2Back Ministries with her husband Todd, talked about different kinds of poverty; financial poverty, relational poverty, spiritual poverty, and emotional poverty. All I could see was the physical poverty that was all around me but as the week went on, I started to see that the physical/ financial poverty was not having the biggest impact on the children and the other areas of poverty (relational, spiritual, emotional, etc.) was really making an impact on them individually. Don’t get me wrong, we are called to serve the poor and needy and there is a big need there but I began to see how we all live in a state of literal poverty in so many areas of our life and just because it might not be as obvious to the naked eye as financial poverty, we ignore it.
As we went from one orphanage to the next and met different kids from different areas it became more and more obvious what a significant impact Back2Back was having. Children who were a part of the Hope Program and in the Back2Back sponsored orphanages seemed to be more spiritually, emotionally, and relationally rich. The impact of being in a family setting where there was a father and mother figure teaching these things made a huge difference into the whole development of the children. I was impressed by the development of children who have had to deal with abandonment, abuse, and neglect from the moment they were born. Was there still financial poverty there? Yes, but what stuck out to me the most was that the kids that were in the most danger where the ones stricken with emotional, spiritual, and relational poverty. These areas of poverty were all directly correlated to events that have taken place in these kids lives – events that warrant feeling angry, hurt and confused about relationships, especially their relationship with God. Whether it was abuse, abandonment, no provision, or not feeling loved they all lead to a place of poverty in their lives.
I couldn’t help but feel like we all live in poverty in one or more of these areas. We live in an affluent culture where we rarely come in contact with physical poverty like in Mexico but the other forms of poverty are alive and well within every society and culture. No parent wants to pass along the burden of financial poverty to their children. This is eminent in almost every culture and especially America. We all want better lives for our kids and for most of us that means trying to pass down more opportunities for provision than what we had – or continuing the trend of tirelessly working at the cost of our family. Whether knowingly or unknowingly we pass down our emotional, spiritual, and relational poverty to our kids without a second thought. These are things that we can not always see, they aren’t valued by our culture, and it’s hard to measure so they get shoved aside in our pursuit for “a better life”. I’ve been wondering how often I excuse my own decisions and motivations to obtain something that is here and now, while making my family and children sacrifice in the process. Makes me think of 1 Corinthians 9: 25 – “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
The lasting impression from Monterrey that I pray stays with me always is that I want my family to be spiritually, relationally, and emotionally rich. I don’t want my family to live in financial poverty but the thing that I most long for our family to be wealthy in is loving one another and others from a holistic, healthy heart. To love as we have been so greatly loved.
Happy to back in America but thankful to have had the opportunity to serve,