We recently returned from a 12 day visit to Mazatlan. If you prayed for this trip, THANK YOU! We truly felt the prayer coverage. The Lord taught us so much during our trip, and we are just beyond grateful for the opportunity we had to go back, as well as allow our girls to experience Mexico! The first week, we spent a ton of time with the staff. We had dinner with each staff family individually and also with the entire staff several times. We got to know each family’s story and how God had brought them to Mazatlan. It was a great time for us to ask questions and get a clearer idea of what life looks like in Mazatlan. Grant and I were also able to visit the three children’s homes with our girls. Ezra and Evie started playing right away and looked right at home. It was neat to see that there is no language barrier when it comes to kids playing together. We visited the beach a few times, too, as it was just a short walk away from the Team House. The Team House is where groups stay when they come to Mazatlan for short-term mission trips. The Mazatlan site director and his family, along with the other staff/families all live in the same neighborhood, within walking distance. The executive directors of Back2Back, Todd & Beth Guckenberger and their family stayed in the Team House with us for a few days, too, and it was awesome getting to know them. The Lord met us in some cool ways while we were in Mazatlan. I’ll share just two. This past July, a former Mason student of mine sent me a message on Facebook. She had read this blog and knew we were struggling a great deal with fostering. She shared a story with me that greatly impacted my life. In November, while in a quiet time on our first trip to Mazatlan, the Lord brought this story back and again used it to encourage me. Two Sundays ago, Beth Guckenberger was speaking at our church service held at the site director’s home in Mazatlan. A few minutes into the service, Evie was crying so I left the room and missed the rest of the message. I felt pretty sorry for myself all day, as I was really looking forward to church. That evening, Beth spoke again. This time, Grant took care of Evie so I could stay. Guess what story she shared? I literally almost fell out of my chair, as Beth began to describe the exact same story that my student had sent me nine months earlier. Beth had taken a trip to Israel and observed some sheep on a hillside. The sheep were in a perfect line and moved ahead just a few steps at a time, as the shepherd weaved in and out of the line speaking to each sheep. The sheep would turn their heads toward the sheperd then obey him immediately and completely; for, if they didn’t, they would not eat. You see, the green pastures that Psalm 23 talk about are really not that green at all! Rather, it’s a barren desert. The sheep had to trust that the shepherd would lead them to the small tufts of “pasture.” How differently I read that Psalm now! I had always imagined that pasture as green and lush, a place that I could “fill up” then be set for a while. Instead, the Lord taught me that I must be 100% dependent on Him, completely trusting that He will lead me to that next tuft of grass. And, while waiting, my head is turned up to Him, ready to hear what He has to say. Another surprise the Lord gave me was regarding a Donald Miller book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Grant decided to bring it and read it while in Mexico. I had started it about a year ago but didn’t get beyond the first few chapters. One evening, I had the book with me, and one of the staff commented that this book had been the tipping point to saying “yes” to coming to Mazatlan. She said that another staff member had actually included that in her testimony and had also been a huge part in the decision to come on staff with B2B. Well, I had to finish it, then! That night, as I was reading, the Lord did a little something. I read about a dad with a 13 year old daughter. She was rebelling, and her parents were obviously very upset about it. The night after we talked, Jason couldn’t sleep. He thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized that he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she’d chosed a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence. “She’s not a bad girl, my friend said. “She was just choosing the best story available to her.” At this point, I had a huge lump in my throat. I thought about Ezra and her independent spirit. I thought about how similar she is to me and how incredibly rebellious I was and still am, at times. I knew that it was my and Grant’s responsibility to create a family story that allowed her a great role to play. “I started researching some stuff on the internet,” Jason said, “and I came across an organization that builds orphanages around the world. And that sounded to me like a pretty good ambition, something maybe my family could try to do together. It sounded like a good story.” Cue the whole body goosebumps. Ok, God, I hear you. p.s. The orphanages were in Mexico 🙂 The second week, a small group of 16 arrived. Grant followed the “group schedule,” which consisted of a meeting in the morning and spending the rest of the day at one of the children’s homes completing work projects then play time with the kids. The girls and I participated in some group activities but had to be back at the Team House for nap time. A few times I felt like the girls were in the way of the work projects needing completing, but the Lord always allowed us to connect with some kids before leaving, confirming our visit that day. I also drove to the grocery and got gas during this week! The last day, several staff, the group, and our family went to the aquarium with the kids from Salvation Army. For most of the kids, it was their first time! It was incredible seeing how excited they were to see the sea lion show, sharks, alligators, etc. Ezra and Evie had a wonderful trip. There are 8 children that are part of the staff families, and the girls loved spending time with them. Ezra even got to attend a sleep-over with the other girls. She cried when we left and asked if we could live in Mazatlan forever 🙂 While still a lot to process, Grant and I will continue to move forward as the Lord allows. There are still several steps before anything “official” would happen. In the meantime, we would be so grateful if you would continue to pray for our family. This is obviously a huge decision, and we want to be careful to not get ahead of the Lord. We will keep praying that the Lord directs our steps and that we will obey whatever He asks of us. Feel free to check out our pics from the trip!! If you have any specific questions or would like to know a little more detail about our time spent in Mazatlan, please let me know! https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200483521226803.1073741826.1120447828&type=1&l=717b741f87 Please check out Back2Back‘s site, too! There are many opportunities for short-term trips, as well as more information on how Back2Back serves the orphan child.