Little Jorge stopped 10 yards short of the finish line amidst our yells to continue on to the finish. Unphased, he knelt down in a 3-point stance, looked up and with a fierce look on his face, sprinted to the finish line, and jumped in my arms. My heart burst for this child, who I sponsor through Back2Back.
Jose, in an arms-wide victory pose, stood on a makeshift podium constructed from a water cooler and concrete cinder block. You might take finisher medals for granted, but I assure you that these kids do not. They wear them proudly. In this 3rd year of the OCR mission trip to Casa Hogar Douglas in Monterrey, Mexico, Jose finally won the obstacle race, that for 2 years he had only been able to hear about in envy from his housemates. For you see, he had not been allowed to compete the previous 2 years from consequences of his own bad behavior. This little victory, that he loudly and happily claimed after 2 years of frustration, could perhaps be one of those turning points in life.
I was 5 minutes away from falling asleep when Mark came into the dorm room and told me that Leslie wanted to talk to me. She had missed that night’s fitness challenge we hosted for the Hope Program kids on the Back2Back campus and she was upset about it. When I saw the dejected look on her face, I offered to go right then and give her a one-on-one session. And with an endearing smile on her face, she readily accepted. So I put my hoodie and shoes back on, dragged myself back outside and we killed a workout together in the cold, wet foggy night.
Pictures of the day
Each evening, led by a Back2Back staffer, our OCR mission team and a team from Westford Church in North Carolina shared our “pictures of the day.” These pictures encapsulated defining moments of our experiences. Those moments described above are just tiny snippets. There is way too much to describe in a blog post. But I will tell you that there was mountain climbing; much-needed labor to improve the children’s home; a fitness challenge competition for Hope Program kids; realizations of how much we take for granted; donations of medals, apparel, and gear from various OCR-related companies and individuals (thank you all!); good-natured ribbing of team members; falling in love with those kids; delicious, authentic Mexican food; learning about the effects of childhood trauma; interactions with Back2Back staffers who I now count as friends; and for me personally, there was cherished time spent with Jorge and my other sponsored kid, Mario.
Planning for year 4
One of the great things for me has been watching the first-timers have their expectations greatly exceeded – just as mine were in January of 2016. The 2017 trip was just as fulfilling. The 4th annual trip in 2019 will be planned soon. If you have even the slightest interest in coming along, contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can assure you that no one who has ever went on this mission trip has regretted it.