Bhoke Magotti had been trying to get to Mexico for a 6-month Stride placement since 2017. First, there was a long challenge to fundraise all the support she needed. Then there was a pandemic.

After that, lengthy issues to do with her Tanzanian passport. It was not plain sailing. And when she finally flew out to Mexico this year, having overcome all those obstacles – there was yet another hurdle waiting for her at border control.

What does it mean when the path you thought God told you to take turns out to be so bumpy? Bhoke reflects on what she learned.

The Final Hurdle

After five years, I’ve finally arrived in Mexico. It’s late at night, I’ve got off the plane at Mexico City airport and can’t believe I’ve made it! All I have to do now is walk through immigration.

Then the guy says, you can’t stay here for six months, no, I can only give you 30 days. What?! I definitely had permission, but there was no convincing them. 30 days was stamped in my passport and that was that.

Yet another obstacle to being in Mexico. Of course, I battled with thoughts that I’d done the wrong thing or I was on the wrong path. Why was everything so difficult? But I’d had four years of persevering with this and I’d become very used to uncertainty. I decided to just do my best for however long I had, and set off for my placement.

Joyful in Hope

My Stride placement was at Casa del Sol, a children’s home in Puebla, home to around 70 babies, children and young people.

When I arrived, fresh from my immigration disaster, I suddenly felt amazing. I couldn’t believe I was seeing this place in real life. I used to look at pictures on the website and try to imagine it. The first day, I kept realising, “wow, I’m actually in Mexico, and I’m speaking Spanish to people!”

As I had experience with children’s work, I thought I might have to lead activities. But what Casa del Sol really needed was a willing volunteer who could be there every day to support the team in any way.

Honestly, in a new culture, that was a relief! It was good for me to step back and just learn from people. I particularly enjoyed the calm routine with the babies and imagining who might find and adopt them. But for 30 days I still didn’t know how long I would be there. In the uncertainty, prayer became so important.

Bhoke with the volunteer team at Casa del Sol

Faithful in Prayer

I quickly learned that prayer was a big part of Latin Link. I would see my name on ePrayer and was positively surprised that so many people were praying for me through all the dramas. When my story was in the last Latinfile, a stranger emailed me saying, “can I join your prayer letter?”

Every day, I was learning to persevere in prayer. When we pray, sometimes we think, “okay, things are going to ease up now,” but that didn’t always happen. But prayer gave me a reason to persevere and hope.

At times I thought, “I was called to this, shouldn’t things be easier?” But living abroad isn’t easy. For one, there’s a new language to grapple with. And the weather – it was the dry season and I spent a lot of time outside with the children in the heat. I loved them, but their behaviour wasn’t always perfect either!

So I just leaned into prayer. There’s one verse that says about being patient in affliction, faithful in prayer, so I knew this wasn’t out of the ordinary. It’s not a bad sign if things aren’t going perfectly.

I learned that God is so good and that he leads us. He won’t lead us astray into a path that is full of trouble and hopelessness. His grace is enough, in every situation.

Costly Love

It wasn’t me having a perfect time that spoke to the people around me in Mexico, either. It was the sacrifice and perseverance involved in me being there. Other volunteers came to the home for two hours or so each day. And I was there nine to five, Monday to Friday, with money I fundraised. Most of the international volunteers had received funding from government programmes. So it was quite interesting for them and the children to hear my story.

“You’re here all day? You raised the money too?!”

It touched people, that I’d come so far and invested so much to help. From what I could understand, it really made them feel loved, and showed them how much God valued them.

What Happened Next

My 30 days were nearly up and there was only one option – travel to neighbouring Belize and go through immigration again in the hope of getting more time.

Ever since I applied for Stride, I’ve learned to hold things lightly. So I was ready to go back to the UK if need be, even though it would have been really sad.

I had no idea what to expect as I passed back through immigration. I didn’t say anything different to the first time. But… they gave me 100 more days in Mexico. Amazing!

I was so happy to have more time to really get stuck in at Casa del Sol. And now my doubts were calmed. Were these obstacles signs that I should quit? No, they just showed me what God could overcome.

Bumpy Ride, Inspiring Story

I always tell people my time in Mexico was a dream come true. I will look back on that time forever. And it deepened my faith. It stopped me looking at my weaknesses and thinking I can’t do this and that.

That I even got there – it was like the impossible happening. And it’s inspired my church in Reading as well. I was the first person to travel abroad for mission, and they’ve been with me on this bumpy journey for five years, seeing how God can work and provide when you persevere with following his call.