Updated on July 5, 2017
This picture is from the summer of 2015, right before we moved to Monterrey to serve these guys full time. Little did we know that Leo would be such a big part of our lives. He was a charismatic kid, that loved to be tough, mouthed off a little, and would always joke around. This picture is actually right before he was kicked out of the Hope Program for all the stupid stuff he was about to do (don’t worry, he would agree with me saying that to you all, it is the truth haha).
We moved down to Monterrey September of 2015 and that next month Leo started hanging out at our house all the time. He came to know the Lord and turned from the bad decisions he was making. Around that same time, we started our Hope Program soccer team, called Los Dos. This is where Leo and I started doing in depth discipleship and mentoring.
Then one day about 7 months later the kid that once got kicked out of the Hope Program came back to speak at a retreat for our children’s home kids. He was the main speaker. He told his story, bared all, and God used him in big ways.
It has been a little over a year since he spoke at that retreat and he just graduated college. We are so proud of the man of God he is becoming.
We have a new tradition here in Back2Back Monterrey. When a student graduates, they are allowed to ring a big bell on campus. The idea is that the students see this bell all the time and hope and dream to ring it one day. They know that day will be when they graduate.
Well, On July 3rd, 2017 Leo rang that bell so hard. As our family spoke to all who attended, this is what I said,
” It is not how you start, or how you run the race that matters most, but it is how you finish. Leo, you got off to a rough start, but you’re finishing well. Also, you graduating means nothing to us compared to you knowing Jesus. We are so proud of you for the fact that you love Jesus with all your heart and are allowing God to use you in others’ lives.”
Well done, my brownie bro. We will always be here for you. We am excited to see the husband and father you will be one day.
Posted on April 20, 2017
God is so good. When we first arrived here in Mexico, the first thing I noticed was the soccer field. Now… B2B staff did the best they could to keep up with the wear and tear on the field. But, it is extremely difficult when the rain comes and the kids play on this field 24/7.
I remember asking one of our Hope Program students, “What is one thing you would love to have happen while your here at B2B?” He replied, ” To play on some good soccer fields.”
I had found a new turf field that was just being built down the street from us, but it was difficult to find time to get onto this field. We also play on turf fields for our league games, but these fields not only cost us to play on them, but they also are very old, beat up, and just not good.
Honestly, I was not even praying for a new turf soccer field. We have education and living expenses for our students that we need money for and those are way more important than turf fields. So, I never really prayed about it or spoke to anyone about it.
Then the summer of 2016 hit and there was one man that asked the question, “Jed, I see that the field on campus needs some work, what if you and the kids could have new turf to play on whenever you wanted in its place?”
I said, “Well, that would be amazing, but we have needs in our Hope Program in paying for kids education, that is more important right now.”
He said, “Well, what if I pay for half of that turf field, and I will still donate to the Hope Program?”
I said, “Well, I cannot argue with that.”
That in and of itself is amazing, especially because we were not praying for it. But, God hears the cry of His children no matter if it is a field or education.
Within a week the funds came in for the field. We were in August and we set a timeline of December 31st to have the other half raised. We, B2B staff, were calling all of our contacts that may jump in on this, but most of our traction would come in 2017. We had raised some money but still needed a big chunk.
Here comes December 30th and we still need a little under half. Then a man calls in about placing a donation online. He wanted to designate it to the field, but was figuring out how to do it online. We thought it would be a smaller donation. But, one of our staff came in after New Years and looked at the incoming donations and saw the amount. That man had given the other half that was needed. We were astonished and amazed. We fully thought there was no way to get this money in on the timeline we had set. Then BOOM, God is like, I can do all things my son.
We have such a good Daddy in our God. He not only loves to answer our prayers, but he loves to give when we do not ask as well. And now we have a new turf field on campus that our kids play on every single day, our team plays on every week, and all of us are just enjoying.
Why does God do this kind of stuff? Well, He loves seeing his children happy and enjoying themselves. And He especially loves doing things when we have no part in them at all, no prayers, no nothing. That way, literally the only glory we can give is to God. Lastly, he hears His children’s cries, and He loves to respond to them.
Posted on April 11, 2017
As she listened to the stories of children requesting their “own” books at the children’s home her heart was touched. She knew from that moment on something had to be done. I mean, she had so many of her “own” books. She knows the value of having your “own” stuff and how impactful it would be if these children had things of their own. It could provide a sense of value, a sense of autonomy, a sense that there is a God out there the does care about their wants and needs.
Usually when someone walks up to you to explain their desire of helping these vulnerable children, it is sad to say, but it does not come to fruition on our end. You do not lose hope that God will not send someone, but you do become a little skeptical. When God places a girl in your life like little Jacqueline, that skepticism turns to how optimism and ultimately how great God is.
This girl was only 14 years old. Most kids her age, if not all, only are thinking about snapchat, instagram, and what movie they will go see next. But, she was eager to find out exactly what the kids wanted and needed within the children’s home. It was explained to her how beneficial it would be for the children to not only have their own book, but also to purchase a certain kind of test to identity education weaknesses. Again, we were a little skeptical because there are not too many 14 year old girls out there willing to pay for something like this themselves. Oh yeah, forgot to tell you that, she wanted to raise this money on her own like a champ.
Her parents were happy to hear this, but also did not know how she would get this done.
When missions guests come to Back2Back on a mission trip we do a nightly debriefing session that teaches people to process, pray, and think about what God is doing during that week. Ultimately the goal is for people to go home and to continue their eager drive for the orphan and not to crash and burn because the high is over.
This girl would not bow out easily. She made a plan and stuck with it. When she returned home she sold baked goods at EVERY possible Home sporting school event she could. She laid out the items and with vigor told people about the books, the tests that were needed, and the impact her trip made on her life. Through that first Fall season she raised over $700 and then because of her advocacy she raised another $800 through generous donors. She raised more money than was originally requested.
The next visit she had to Monterrey we took her around and showed her the impact of her efforts. Usually we do this with adults, but here we were bringing this now 15 year old around and showing her the impact that God has made through her strong desire to fight for the vulnerable children in this world.
I am so excited to see how this girl will grow and what big things God will do through her.
Missions guests, especially the young ones, often ask me if I have any ideas on how they can sponsor a child, get involved, or in what ways they can raise the money. I provide some ideas, but I usually share this story and then go on to say, “It is not how old you are that matters, it is how big your desire and faith are.”
Below is a Thank You note from one of our Volunteer Coordinators on how deep the impact went from this 14 year olds desire to help,
“We are very happy that the kids were able to experience receiving a totally new book for their literature classes in the library, and the kids were even happier! They were able to write their names inside the cover and know that after they finish reading that book with the volunteers, it will not become a part of the general library, but a part of their personal library- the book is theirs!
Posted on February 7, 2017
One of my favorite things to do on Sunday afternoons is to take the little boys to watch their daddy training the Los Dos guys at Back2Back. They love playing soccer with the big boys and running around on the field. We are really exciting about a new development on campus that will affect our soccer team. Stay tuned for more!
Posted on November 22, 2016
Christian is a really good kid. He has a heart of gold, he works so hard, is so respectful, and will be the first one to serve. But, when it comes to deep conversation and talking about Jesus, I have never see that side of him, until…
Two weeks before the trip Christian decided he was able to go and he worked hard to come. This would also be Christian’s first time outside of the state and to the beach.
I was praying hard for a special encounter with Christian. We spent time at each children home, but through each debriefing Christian still was not opening up. We played, spent time on the beach, and ate lots of great food. Still, nothing. Just the same old steady Christian who served, was kind, gentle, and loving. But, no true depth or emotion. For the past couple months I had been praying for whom God was placing on my heart to disciple and mentor this year. Each year I have enough capacity in my schedule to mentor and disciple three or four of our boys in the Hope Program. It is a lot for our family to commit to this, but we feel it is of the utmost importance. At the end of the trip I felt like it was confirmed that one of the boys should be Christian. Christian seemed pretty excited to do it, but the weeks following it was hard for us to get together.
About a month ago Christian came to our house for the first time. We did not spend time in the Word, but we spent time talking. I told him that our house and relationship is safe and nothing will be told to others. That I want to go deep with him and in that we will get to know the deepest and even darkest areas of our lives. We will fight for each other, be there for each other, and ultimately direct each other to Jesus. Christian looked around and for the next 1-2 hours started to speak about his life, his family, life on the streets, fighting, fears, and hopes. I could see him take a deep breath and I could see with his body language saying “finally.” He had been holding so much in for so long, putting his head down, and fighting his way through life. He spent half the day at our house eating two meals, playing with our kids and we would sporadically talk about Jesus, our lives, our pasts, and what it means to be a man after God. I could see him take it in and if he did not have somewhere to be I could have seen him stay the whole night.
You see, most of the kids we serve are around people all their lives, they do not have privacy, they do not usually have the opportunity to speak individually with people and just be one on one. He had our family to himself and we could see him getting filled up and walls being broken down. He has now been over to our house 4 more times and would not miss our discipleship/bible study/ family time for nothing. He spends around 4 hours at our house each time and one of those hours is digging deep in the Word with me.
You see, discipleship is not just sitting down for an hour and going over the Word of God, it is doing life together. Yes, Jesus sat down with his disciples, but there are more stories of Jesus teaching his disciples through life experiences. God continually reminds our family to go deep and allow each young man we disciple to spend an unlimited amount of time at our house.
What I did not know was that God was using our soccer team and our trip to Mazatlan together to continue to chip away at Christian’s heart. I am so excited to see what God has in store for our weeks following and for Christian’s life. He is an awesome young man.
Posted on November 14, 2016
Mario had just arrived to the Hope Program a month prior to our trip. We were unsure if it was a smart thing to allow him to go on the trip when he needed to focus on school, but we ultimately decided to allow him to go. He did not have the time to work his hours to pay for the trip, so we asked him to do as much as he could before and then finish the task after the trip. You see, we had been trying for three years to get Mario into the Hope Program, but it was not happening. Then he started playing soccer with our Hope Program soccer team, Los Dos, and he started bonding very quickly with our team and the players. We believe that Los Dos was one of the catalysts to drive Mario to the Hope Program and we are so thankful that we have him in the program now. He is a kind kid, loves soccer, and has a big heart. Our son Joah loves playing soccer with him because Mario is gentle and kind with him.
Mario had a special trip to Mazatlan. This was his first time outside of the state of Nuevo Leon and thus his first time to the beach.
We arrived and Mario was a natural with the children, but what I did not see happening was the interaction between a boy named Ricky and him at the children’s Home Rancho de los Niños.
Ricky is blind, can barely speak if at all, and has cerebral palsy. Ricky’s favorite thing is movement. He loves walking through grass and in general just walking around. Being around Ricky is a special thing. Although he cannot share the Gospel through words, pray for people, or interact, God uses Ricky more than most I have ever known.
I asked each boy to take Ricky for a walk and when it was Mario’s turn, Mario walked around with Ricky and Ricky stopped every once and while and sat down. He typically will place your fingers on his temples to rub as he has a lot of pain behind his eyes. He will also place your hands on his feet to rub. His feet are not the most clean and I could see some of the other guys hesitate. But, I looked at Mario and saw him jump right into rubbing Ricky’s feet.
I was standing in the field cutting grass speaking with Gabo, the MZT Director, and we looked over at Mario and Ricky. We both were surprised to see Ricky touching Mario’s face. Ricky was so close to Mario’s face and you could see Mario smiling and laughing a little. This definitely was not expected. As I looked at Gabo he said, ” huh that is cool, Ricky is trying to get to know Mario.” It struck me that Ricky is blind and a very common occurrence for blind people is that when they want to know someone deeper, they touch their face so they can picture the other person’s face in their mind’s eye. Of all the boys Ricky walked with today he only had done this with Mario. Gabo started laughing and said, “I am gonna go tell Mario.” I watched Gabo walk over to tell Mario and watched Mario’s face change as he realized.
Later that night during debriefing, we were talking about our favorite moments of the day and Mario brought up this moment with Ricky. He said God touched his heart so deeply. He is not normally around kids with special needs and seeing how God moves through Ricky was a powerful thing for him.
When we returned, a few days later, Mario’s house parent Luis came up to me and said, “Mario really had an amazing trip.” I said, “I am glad to hear.” Luis went on to say, ” That time he spent with Ricky was powerful for him, he is still talking about it, and God is touching his life with that time.” Mario is growing and doing Bible Study with Leo right now. But, as Becca said, the moments you have on this trip no one can take them from you. Remember them and let God move through them inside of you.
Thank you Jesus that God is doing great things through these young men.
Posted on November 3, 2016
Leo has been very close to our family for some time now and I really wanted him to go to Mazatlan with us. Leo is one of the captains of our team and the guys look up to him because he is vulnerable and real about his imperfect past and hope in Jesus. Also, Leo interned in Mazatlan for two summers prior to this trip. I was excited for everyone to see the new Leo. Leo had a tough task of working to provide for himself, to pay for school, and to pay for some of his trip since he is out of the Hope Program now. As the days inched closer, Leo tried to find different ways to pay for the trip and my heart hurt that I could not just pay for him to go. He is like a son to us. But, we knew as a family that Leo needed to find a way and trust God. The day we were leaving Leo came to me and presented me the money for the trip. He worked extra, sold some stuff, and ultimately God provided for him to go.
Leo was so excited to be going back to Mazatlan, a place where he gave so much of himself and decided to truly follow after Christ. When we arrived at every children’s home we visited, nearly every child came running to see Leo. I could see how excited they were to have him back. They missed him and loved on him. One of the days we played a soccer game with the children at Salvation Army Children’s Home and the kids followed him around and went step for step with Leo. You could see that Leo was coming even more alive.
It was great to see Leo leading us in our Bible study every morning. Then, it was especially awesome to see Leo going back to the home he served at most and that was Rancho de los Niños. This is a home for children with severe special needs. Leo sat and talked to the children and joked around with them. He worked hard on our projects and guided little Carlitos as they cut the grass together. He brought such a sweet peace and love to this home.
My favorite part of the whole trip was our last day. We spent half the day at the beach, playing, surfing, and relaxing we then moved onto the all girls children’s home Floreser. Grant, the captain of the home, welcomed us in and asked us to share with the girls. We sat together and I asked Leo to share his testimony. I sat there on the table, watching and taking pictures. My heart swelled with pride and a deep love for Leo. I felt like a father, so proud of his son who has come a long way, fought through trials, and now I get to watch how God is using him to change his legacy and others through his story. You could see all the girls eyes fixed on Leo as he shared his struggles in the children’s homes, his struggles with his pain and how he tried to mask it, and then how amazing Jesus is. Seeing his eyes light up talking about his Daddy God was so special. But, the best part was seeing the girl’s eyes as they saw a man admit to his struggles, own them, but then give them to his Jesus was so powerful. I encouraged them to wait for a man like Leo, to be patient, and to keep their eyes and heart solely for God.
If you were to ask Leo, “Hey, could you have imagined that God would have changed your life like this and to use you like this?”. He probably would laugh and say, “No way man, no way, God is good.”
I thank God for this trip- for making a way for Leo to go back to one of his favorite places and continue to use him in new ways to bring hope.
Posted on October 29, 2016
Jonathan spent most of his life growing up in children’s homes. He is a good kid who usually keeps to himself. So, when I presented the idea of going to Mazatlan, MX with our Los Dos team, I was surprised to see Jonathan so excited. Jonathan immediately started working on the requirements to go. Each boy needed to complete at least 40 hours of service on our campus. The young men not a part of the Hope Program anymore needed to pay for most of their way. We wanted kids to have skin in the game even though what they were bringing to the table would not cover the full cost of the trip. Also, we figured while each young man was working they would be welcomed into a mentoring role by the other men working alongside them on campus.
Jonathan continually planned and worked hard to complete his hours. He was so excited to go.
We saw a glimpse of his disciplined heart as he worked toward his goal.
We left for our trip and Jonathan, in general, kept to himself. Yes he laughed and joked around, but nothing much deeper. After our second day in Mazatlan, I saw something start to break open in his heart. We were in debriefing with Rodolfo and Becca Arguello, our co-site directors in Mazatlan, when Jonathan started going deep, “You know, most of my life I was told I would not complete school and I was not good enough.” He continued to talk about the challenges growing up in a children’s home and then said, “I am so thankful that very soon I will complete high school and go on to college.” Rodolfo looked at Jonathan with a knowing smile. Rodolfo was one of our first Hope Program students to graduate college and now he is an integral part of Back2Back’s ministry with his wife and two sons. God has completely changed his legacy and generations after him. Rodolfo looked at Jonathan and said, “You are a child of God, you are smart, and God has made you to be a great man.” Becca and I were about to cry as we saw God use Rodolfo in Jonathans life. We saw a man who came from the same background speaking life into a younger brother.
Later that night, Jonathan and I lie awake talking in depth about life, Jesus, his future, and my experiences. These were by far the deepest conversations I have had with Jonathan. God continued to show me throughout this trip that by taking these young men outside of the children’s home world they knew, outside of their state, and into a new environment, that God was able to use these new experiences as a way to speak to these boys hearts unlike ever before. God was breaking down walls and using safe relationships to go deeper and to build them back up again on the truth of who God says they are.
The next day Jonathan was able to surf for the first time on his 18th birthday. He just hung out on the waves and took life in. I could see hope well up inside him. What a gift.
Updated on August 21, 2016
God writes the best stories. And He’s a good, good Father.
It was March of 1998. I stepped off a plane into the hot Mexican sun. It was my first missions trip; I was fifteen, naive, and full of hope – ready to change the world. The first children’s home I ever visited was Casa Hogar Douglas.
That same month, somewhere closeby in the city of Monterrey, another teen girl found out she was pregnant. She was fifteen.
Fast forward nearly eighteen years. These two young women’s lives turned out very differently. I went to a private high school, had many friends, a loving family, a supportive church. I visited Monterrey every year from 1998 to 2008, first interning, then nannying, spending long hot summers falling in love with the people of Mexico. I joined the Monterrey staff of Back2Back Ministries for three years. After I moved back to the US, I married the love of my life and gave birth to three precious boys. I was surrounded by love.
Rubi’s mom’s life took another turn. She never went to high school and had two children before she turned 17. Her husband spent time in jail, they split up, she was unable to care for her children, and they were raised by her parents. In 2010 when Rubi and her brother were twelve and ten, they were taken to live at Casa Hogar Douglas.
In September of 2015, my husband and I joined Back2Back staff again and moved to Monterrey with our three small sons. One of the first things I wanted to do after we moved was to find a teenage girl to help us with childcare (we work crazy long hours) and learning Spanish. When I asked the staff who the responsible teens on campus were, Rubi was at the top of the list. Her high school classes were in the afternoons, so it was perfect for us. For the first few weeks she spent two hours with my twins, twice a week. They colored pictures, played soccer, and chased each other around the yard. She taught them to give “chocalas” or high-fives, taught them the thumbs up sign, and over the course of a month, they fell in love with her. We all did. She was smart and funny, kind and quiet at first. She soon got used to Jed’s ridiculous antics and me constantly trying to feed her.
I remember it was right after her seventeenth birthday and we were talking in my dining room about how long ago, God had given us a desire to adopt. I explained that in 1998 when I was fifteen, I came to Monterrey to serve. Her eyes went wide, “That was the year I was born.” I laughed about her making me feel old. Jed was walking by and echoed my heart for adoption, “this time we want a daughter,” he said. Rubi looked at me and shyly said, “Me puedes adoptar.” (You could adopt me) and smiled with her tongue out, a common expression here that signifies joking. We all kinda laughed it off but her words lodged in my heart. “Is that even possible?” I wondered. “Who am I to adopt a teenager? I have no idea what I’m doing with my biological kids most days and they are toddlers!” I thought. I pushed her words aside until later that evening. And then pushed them aside until later that week, and that month. But her words stayed, “What if?”
In the meantime, Rubi continued to spend several hours per week with us and became a familiar guest in our home. She spent the day after Christmas with us and learned how to make Jed’s famous red sauce.
She learned she didn’t have to ask for a glass of water, she knew where we kept the botanera salsa (after I started buying it for her) and was one of the first people besides our families to change the twins’ diapers, fill their smoothie cups, and learn what foods Lucas can and cannot have. She learned that “Zayners like to do hard things” and each of the boys want to pray before every meal. She started practicing with Jed’s soccer team and we went to her soccer games at school to cheer her on. It was quite a spectacle.
Jed and I, believing we were following God’s call on our lives to adopt, began researching adoption agencies. Contrary to what most people assume, the vast majority of kids we work with in Monterrey are not orphans. At least, not in the true sense of the word. We prefer to refer them to “vulnerable children,” in that most of them have biological parents, and if not parents, then grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. For various reasons, they have ended up in a Casa Hogar, which is a home for kids whose families can’t care for them for one reason or another. I’ll estimate and say 98% of them are not adoptable. They are stuck in a limbo between feeling abandoned and forgotten and believing what their mothers or fathers said when they promised to come back to get them when times got better.
We started talking to our friends who have adopted and started looking for agencies who were experienced working with expats, or Americans living in other countries. Very quickly, we learned that it’s just complicated. And that we would probably adopt from China. We started praying even more about God’s will and exactly what child He would bring into our family. I stayed up until early morning scrolling through waiting child pictures and praying. Thanks to my amazing friend Jill, I joined countless Facebook groups and asked lots of questions. I came across a precious baby named Libby and, oh, my mama’s heart. We started sponsoring her and prayed for her as she had open heart surgery. “Is she our daughter?” I wondered. No, but what a gift to be a small part of her story.
The more we thought and prayed, about this adoption, about fostering, about God’s will, we turned the ideas over and over in our hearts, Jed and I both had this feeling in our guts. Like a pit but in a good way. A possibility. Just a hint of a “what if?” Almost every day, we were spending time with Rubi. Every night I texted her goodnight and asked about her day. She was becoming a part of me. Of us. Finally, one night when Jed and I were getting ready for bed, everything spilled out, “Why can’t we just adopt Rubi? We love her. I think she loves us. She’s family. I know she’s a teenager, but I don’t care. What makes a baby more worthy of adoption than a seventeen-year-old?!.” Jed looked up at me over his nightly Bible study, “Are you serious?” He knows after almost eight years of marriage that if I say something like this, it means I have thought long and hard about it and probably waited way too long to process it. Can I get an “Amen” from all you inward processors? I didn’t even wait for his response, “Yes. I think she’s our daughter.” I now know this was something he had thought long and hard about and prayed about every morning and evening for months. His eyes lit up, “I’m in. She’s our girl.”
There was just one thing. Rubi was currently living with a great family in Back2Back’s Hope Program. She was well-adjusted and happy. Who were we to disrupt that? Who were we, these crazy Americans, to think we could raise a Mexican teenager daughter? My Spanish is passable, at best, and Jed is still learning.
I have said this many times, but I’ll say it again, “God writes the best stories. And He’s a good, good Father.” And our Storyweaver was just warming up. In March we found out that Rubi’s house parents took a pastoring job in another town. They would be leaving in August. My heart simultaneously was sad my friends were moving away and incredibly excited, “Could this mean? What if, instead of transitioning into another Hope Program house, she just moved in with us? Is this even possible?” I called Jed. He said what he always says, “Pray. God’s got this.” We did. And He did.
The first week of May, Jed went to CAFO, Christian Alliance For Orphans, in Orlando. Earlier in the year, we had planned he would be researching and talking to adoption agencies about our next steps, but now that we had this new information about Rubi’s situation, it was the perfect time to talk to our Hope Program director. I don’t think I slept the whole weekend, I layed awake praying and asking God for favor and peace. When Jed got home, he told me we had the green light to move forward but there was much to be done.
I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say we spoke to psychologists, social workers, directors, bosses, friends, family — everyone but Rubi. I was bursting. It was like being pregnant and not being able to tell anyone and not knowing when or if the baby would arrive. Every time she came to our house, every time we texted, it took all my strength not to shout, “I LOVE YOU! YOU ARE OUR DAUGHTER I JUST KNOW IT!” During quiet moments, which are few and far between at the Zayner house, I wondered if she would even want us the way we wanted her. More praying. We filled out lots of paperwork, completed medical questionnaires, had a home study — all in Spanish. My brain was sore from thinking. And translating. And hoping I was saying the right things. My prayer was that God would cover it and get me out of the way. He did. Our hearts were growing closer.
Finally the time came for Rubi to meet with all the people — the social worker, the psychologist, her current house parents, the Hope Program director. They evaluated her situation and all came to the same conclusion. This transition made sense for her. It was a natural fit, a healthy family, stability, love. At first, she thought they were just routine check-ins. But one night after she spoke with the psychologist she curled up on my couch. It was late and Jed still had not returned from debriefing the group. She giggled nervously and it all came out in a jumble of Spanish and the beginnings of happy tears “Can I live with you? Ale said something tonight and she asked me if there was any family I would want to live with and I said you,” all of a sudden we were both crying and hugging and just like that, something sacred and holy happened in my living room. I will never forget it. Finally. In that moment, we were a family. Jed came home to two women squealing and hugging and spilling over with joy. It wasn’t what I was expecting. We wanted to be the ones to ask her! I wanted a Hallmark moment, like a proposal of sort; actually I don’t know what I wanted it to look like. But my heart was fuller than it had ever been.
Back in January, Rubi asked us to attend her high school graduation. Now this is not like our graduations in the US. It’s more like a huge wedding or prom with an insane party, DJ, floor length gowns and tuxedos. We purchased tickets. And studied for her finals together. And I drove her back and forth to school a million times for various things. I was getting this mom-to-a-teenager- thing down. I went with Rubi, her house mom and our friend Bethany to rent dresses and get our hair and makeup done. Her graduation was June 25. We found out that morning that she passed her finals and Prepa was finally behind her.
The first song of the night was for parents and their kids. Rubi’s house parents invited Jed and I to join them on the dance floor. It was basically a five-person group hug with lots of happy tears as they prayed for us, blessed us as Rubi’s family, and symbolically placed her in our arms as her parents. It was really happening. She was going to be our foster daughter. We just had to wait a little bit longer.
Originally we were planning to transition Rubi into our home and family when we returned in September from our support raising trip. We wanted to protect her from too many transitions, moving into our home in July, staying with friends in August, and moving back into our home in September. However, it was clear that her heart was ours. Our hearts were hers. We belonged to each other. We agreed to change our flights to only go to the US for two weeks so we wouldn’t be away from our daugher for long. (A side note, Rubi does not have her passport and visa yet. She has no contact with her biological parents so it would be difficult to obtain before she turns eighteen. We hope to bring her to the States for Christmas and you better believe a bucket list is in process. There will be matching footie pajamas and lots of snow shennanegans.)
A few days later, Jed and I were asked to join the Back2Back House Parent’s meeting. Juan handed out a piece of paper.
Zayner House —-> Rubi
It was right there in black and white. We were foster parents. After a chat with her house parents, they confirmed that she was ready. She was already a Zayner. I didn’t hear a word of the rest of the meeting. My girl was coming home. For always. We made a quick trip to the grocery and picked up balloons and flowers. She was already at our house, of course, babysitting our boys, and we just showed up. And asked her to be our daughter. And she said yes.
Back in 1998, when I was a fifteen year old kid stepping onto Mexican soil for the first time, God knew that my daughter was being conceived. When I was about to turn sixteen, He watched over her birth. He brought me to Casa Hogar Douglas, all those years ago because He knew one day my daughter would live there. He had already knit our hearts together. He kept calling me, over and over, to Monterrey, Mexico. He called my husband here, even when I didn’t want to listen. He was preparing our family for our precious, beloved Rubi.
If you need us we will be decorating Rubi’s room, painting our nails, highlighting our hair, having sleepovers, laughing at her Daddy’s spanish, snuggling with her brothers, playing soccer, cracking up over Snapchat filters, and making up for seventeen years apart. We can’t wait to introduce you to our daughter.
Updated on July 4, 2016
“Here we go again” I thought to myself, “here comes the meltdown”. The Casa Hogar Douglas soccer team was down by 3. The other team was running circles around them. I had seen this before, time and time again. I braced myself, expecting the worst: gloves off, angry scowl, angry words, sitting on the ground, turning on each other, a brutal loss. That was the way it usually went.
Kids from hard places struggle to control and understand their emotions and losing can be a hard thing to overcome for any kid. Jonathan in particular is what many would call an “overachiever”. He likes to do his best always and hates when he can’t be perfect. Normally, with each goal scored by the opposing team, his self-esteem would crumble and inevitably turn into a fit on the ground right in the middle of the game. He would just give up. That’s what I was bracing myself for… the inevitable meltdown.
But this time something different happened.
As the referee called half time, Jonathan called all the boys over. Six months ago Jonathan moved into the Back2Back Hope Program and joined the Back2Back soccer team. He’s been learning about teamwork and sportsmanship and growing in his confidence and self esteem through mentorship by his coaches and house parents. So, as the whistle blew, I saw something different in his eyes. He called the team into a huddle. “Alright guys” he began “we are down right now but I know we can do this. Jose – you move up a little. Victor – make sure you’re watching the right side of the goal. I know if we work together we can win this.” His words inspired and encouraged the other boys. They have always looked to him as a leader. They ran out onto the field with new confidence. They looked like a different team out there and quickly scored 6 goals to win the game by 3.
Jonathan is growing in confidence each day and through opportunities like the Back2Back soccer program he can continue to grow and develop in all areas of his life. We can’t wait to see where he will go in life… the possibilities are endless.
Story by: Back2Back staff member
P.S. This is what happens when I presented our Los Dos team with their new and very own branded jerseys. Pandemonium. So Sweet and exciting.