For someone who spends an awful lot (too much?) of my time thinking, reading, writing and teaching about worldview issues, I certainly was surprised and shocked when confronted with the tangible reality that my own worldview has been woefully inadequate and incomplete. My wife and three of our kids just returned from a five day trip to Monterrey, Mexico with Back 2 Back Ministries and I am still left a little speechless by it all. (You can read the story of this ministry in Beth Guckenberger's new book: "Reckless Faith")
We met with, played with, served, and did construction at three different locations with some of the most destitute people on Earth. These are orphan kids whose entire day consists of wondering where their next meal will come from; kids who have been wounded emotionally and physically in some of the worst ways imaginable. Yet they want nothing more than a piggyback ride, or a hug from people they have never laid eyes on before. They want to sing worship songs and play soccer or baseball with my boys. They simply want to know that someone cares that they exist.
We watched as their eyes lit up because they were given a backpack with a notebook and some pencils in it so that they wouldn't be the only kid in school without one. We watched as a 6 year-old folded his school clothes and put them in a bin labeled with his size, so that the other kids his size could share them. We watched as little Brian spent the afternoon chasing a chicken around his mostly dirt yard, catching and petting its squirming body, then letting it go so the whole game could begin again -- each chase ending with the same exclamation, "Yo tengo, Yo tengo!" ("I have it, I have it"). We watched, when it was time to leave, as little Brian repeated another phrase -- "Por qué te vas?" ("Why are you leaving?")
I could go on and on but frankly, my descriptions cannot begin to convey the intensity of the experiences we had over the last 4 days. The pain and misery of these kids is overwhelming. But still they smile. Most actually seem content with their physical situation. The only thing these orphans seem to lack is hope. They have been devastated by the fact that they don't have a family to love them and help heal their emotional wounds. As a result, three teens attempted suicide the week before we got there.
And that is the real mission of Back-2-Back -- offering hope to replace the hoplessness you cannot see. Yes, they smile and laugh when you show them love, but each little instance of happiness is a frighteningly small deposit in a bankrupt psyche that has been created within them as a result of being abandoned.
On a wall in the meeting room where our days began and ended was a large mural titled, "Esperanza del Mañana" -- "Hope for Tomorrow." Though I have no delusions about the tiny impact our little family trip may have had on them, I can only pray that it is part of a much larger deposit into those accounts that many more will give. I would encourage anyone who reads this to consider being one more depositor.
I have often heard people say that a mission trip like this "changed their lives" and, to be honest, I have wondered about the sincerity with which I have heard it said by people who really seem no different on the outside. I have been cynical about the claims of those who have gone to serve, and ignorant about the severity of the suffering that goes on with those who need to be served.
Shame on me.
As our plane left the runway in Monterrey yesterday morning, I gazed out the window through a steady rain. I realized that the kids I had been singing with the afternoon before, then lay in a muddy shanty trying to sleep and I was brought to tears by the thought. I don’t know that anyone will be stunned at the sudden, radical transformation they will see in me. But I can tell you this: My four days in Monterrey will never allow me to look at our world the same way again.
If my life has been changed, it is only because I have been given a tangible realization of how blessed I am and how negligent I have been about the plight of those who suffer daily in this world.
If my life has been changed, it is because I can no longer claim ignorance about that fact. I no longer have an excuse. I am obligated to do something to affect my little sphere of influence in some way that offers hope for tomorrow to those who have no idea that such a thing is possible.