by Esther Fultz
Wednesday, March 8, 2023, Mazatlan, Mexico – heading back from Back2Back ministries
Exhausted. If I could choose one word to describe how I feel right now, that’s what it would be. I’m covered in dirt and concrete, and every muscle in my body is tired. Yet I feel more refreshed than I have in a long time. This work is hard but not in the way that I’m used to, not hard like typing pages and pages of papers, not hard like reviewing the same questions again and again for exams and holding my breath as I wait for my grade.
Our van bumps along the narrow roads past homes, and I see children smiling and waving at us in the dim light as we pass by. We turn onto the main road, and I see a large group of construction workers walking home after a long day of work. Once again I think about what it would be like to live here. It’s not something I’ve seriously considered, not something that would be a wise choice for me now, but I realize that I could be satisfied doing this day after day, working in the hot sun.
It’s such a stark contrast to my usual mentality as a middle-class American. We’re always chasing something – increased knowledge or status, a pay raise, a promotion. The people I’ve seen here aren’t like this. They live day-to-day, work hard, and take time to connect with others. In Mexico, people seem to be prioritized over achievements. Life isn’t always focused on the next thing, it’s focused on the moment. In the past, I’ve pridefully looked down on people who view life this way, but now that I’m in it, I understand it more. In looking at the big picture, I can miss the details. In looking at the future, I can miss the now.
“God, help me focus on the now,” I pray. “Help me focus on people. Help me not to get caught up in chasing the next big thing, but being faithful to you every single day.”
Thursday, March 9, 2023, Mazatlan, Mexico – at the ocean
Waves crashing against the shore. Wet sand squishing beneath my feet. A warm, salty breeze. Hot sun burning my pasty white skin. I take a deep breath.
It’s our last day in Mazatlan, and I’m determined to take in every last bit of this experience. Later this afternoon, we’ll spend time with the children at the Salvation Army, but this morning is set aside by the staff at Back2Back specifically for us to rest and relax. I have so many mixed feelings right now. I’m so grateful for this trip, the people I’ve met, the culture I’ve experienced, and the ways I’ve learned, grown and been convicted. I’m not ready to leave, yet at the same time, I’m eager to go back to the United States and finish the semester putting these lessons into practice.
“Are you ready?” One of the girls in my small group asks. I nod and grab my Bible and the devotional book the Back2Back staff gave us. Sitting on a big rock that overlooks the ocean, we discuss a devotional about God’s justice and what this means for us. Together, we reflect on the importance of pursuing justice and advocating for the vulnerable when we see injustice – thoughts I’ve often thought about a career in social work, thoughts that came back this week as I’ve learned a little about what injustice looks like in Mexico.
But today, I also reflect on something new – the freedom we have serving a just God. When I get caught up thinking of everything wrong with this world, everything I want to fix, when I get overwhelmed with my lack of faithfulness and everything I want to fix in myself, God is still faithful. God is still just.
Faithful. As we conclude our small group time and I lay in the sun listening to the sound of the crashing waves, I think about God’s faithfulness in my life and realize this word can sum up my biggest reflections from this week and the biggest ways I need to grow.
God was faithful to bring me here, sustaining me through this week, and giving me the skills I needed to show others love. God has been faithful in making me grow and giving me a heart to care for, advocate on behalf of, and bring justice for vulnerable children in Mexico, but it is ultimately his faithfulness that will accomplish these things. Unlike how my middle-class American mindset might lead me to believe, I need to shift my focus from striving for accomplishments, adventure and the approval of man to consistency and faithfulness.
Esther Fultz is a junior Social Work major and the Off-Campus Editor for Cedars. She enjoys thrifting, writing music, hiking and hanging out with friends.