I was only three years old – too young to remember but old enough to never forget. My parents fought everyday, until finally my mom left, disappearing from my life. My dad tried to take care of us, but he struggled. By the time I turned five, my sister and I were taken to Douglas Children’s Home, and my life would never be the same.
Soon after I moved into Douglas, I began kindergarten. I needed my mom’s love. This hole she left was filling with anger, sadness, and distrust. Thankfully, Lorena, a caregiver at Douglas, prayed and read me Bible stories at night.
My mom visited twice between kindergarten and sixth grade. I tried coping by staying busy, playing with friends and spending time with mission groups from Back2Back – anything to distract me from thinking of my mom. At the end of middle school, I faced a huge decision. Do I go back to my dad’s house or move forward in the Hope Education Program? My dad encouraged me to, “fight for your dreams.” The problem was, I didn’t really have any.In the end, I wanted to be near my sister who was in the Hope Program, so I moved on-campus bringing with me all the hate I felt towards my mom.
In the summer of 2010, something started to change inside me. I went to a retreat, and it felt like the speakers were talking directly to me about forgiveness and perseverance. I had never thought of the pain a lack of forgiveness could bring to my life. I said to myself,
If this God really exists, I want Him to show Himself and do something in my life.
One of the leaders prayed for me and whispered, “God has not left you. Open your heart to God, and it will be different from this point forward.” When he finished praying, I felt an overwhelming sense of His presence. I had a real encounter with God.
It wasn’t long before old feelings about my mom came flooding back, and my trust in God shifted with those feelings. My houseparent in the Hope Program developed cancer, and had to leave. Angry, I shouted at God, “Why do people I care about leave?”
I started to withdraw from everyone. I began spending a lot of time alone. My behavior became uncontrollable, and I was vomiting the things I wished I could say to my mom on others. I yelled and acted in rage. It reached a point where I had to decide to work through my feelings or my future in the Hope Program would be in jeopardy.
For the next year, I went to counseling and prayed to God asking what He had for my life. Slowly, I was learning I did not want to hate my mom anymore. Early in 2013, God spoke to me while on a mission trip to Cancun, creating a desire within me to serve children who were living what I lived through. God was transforming my thinking, and I returned home feeling more positive, calm and focused.
Not long after the Cancun trip, my pastor spoke about forgiveness – a theme that kept resurfacing in my life. As he spoke, I thought of my mom, crying and praying really hard. I told God, I want to be OK. I want to be happy. A few days later in my time with God, He pointed out I had many people supporting me, but no one is going to do the work for me. I asked God, “What do I need to do to be better?” He replied,
You need to forgive your mom. Not forgiving her holds you back. You need healing in your heart.
I gathered my courage and called her. I will never forget that day. When she answered, I cried and couldn’t believe I was actually speaking to her. I shared my desire to see her, and she agreed. After we hung up, I cried,
“God, I’m leaving this all in your hands. Please take control of everything I’m feeling and what I am about to confront.”
I sat, waiting, at a train station. Four hours passed, and I questioned if I had gotten the time wrong. Just as I started to lose hope, I saw her. In a crowd of people I recognized her immediately. I ran to my mom, hugged her, and whispered, “I forgive you for everything that happened between you and dad. I want to be OK with both of my parents. Everything that has happened is in the past.”
We spoke for a while, and then I returned home feeling closure with my past. A week later, I sat reflecting and realized God has something better for me. I know I can be close to God when I have doubts and questions. I don’t have to push Him or anyone else away. I have peace.
My life has changed since the day I was dropped off at a children’s home 15 years ago. I continue to visit my mom. I love this photo of my aunt, myself and my mom.
I pray, read the Bible, and serve where I can. In June 2014, I served on a mission trip in Haiti, where I shared my story with the boys who live there. Since Haiti, I have been thinking a lot about where God has taken me. I never thought God would take me to a place of healing or use my story to heal others around the world. Whatever God says, I want to do; wherever He sends me, I want to go. My path, the one I must travel, is the journey of a healed heart.
Mario, living in Monterrey, Mexico, is pursuing a Communications degree through Back2Back’s Hope Education Program.