Several months ago, on a warm fall night, a fire broke out by the river near where we live. It’s not clear how the fire started, but I remember seeing smoke and flames and quickly packing the essentials in case we needed to evacuate. Fortunately the town’s volunteer firefighters managed to put the fire out before it spread too far, but not before it had left several large sections of the river bank blackened and charred.

This week, I went for a walk along the river and was struck by the sight of vibrant patches of green already reclaiming much of the scarred land: new growth pushing up through the ashes in that quiet, ancient dance of rebirth. I am reminded that life can thrive even in the midst of hardship and setbacks. Resilience and Restoration are not just words, they are realities.

Our hopes for 2022 are rooted in this simple vision: building supportive relationships and sharing adventures that invite young people to experience restoration in their lives.

Since we live in Mexico, a key part of this vision is … you probably guessed it … speaking Spanish! This winter we have reunited with our beloved teachers at the Pacific Spanish Institute in Ensenada, to invest more time developing our language skills. We are so grateful for these wonderful ladies who have taught us so much!

Everyone needs a study break, so a couple Saturdays ago we invited two of our most avid rock climbers, Nahum & Uziel, out for a climbing session. At the start of the day we each went around and shared our hopes for the new year. Both boys expressed hope that the schools would reopen for them to attend class in-person and that they could continue programs with Aleph. We prayed together and then spent the afternoon playing on the rocks.

The excitement and growth we see in these young men is inspiring. One of our winter dream projects is to build a 22’ indoor traverse wall in the new youth center – a space for young people in the community to play, train and connect. (We are still waiting on the final green light from the church … so sharing this might be premature … but we are also too stoked to keep it a secret.) Here is a concept design that we’ve drafted for the wall.

We will keep folks updated on the progress of this project and ways to get involved. Big swells, cold water, and rainy days naturally make the winter months a slower season for surf and climbing programs, but we are excited to have this time to focus on language and other ways to connect as we prepare for programs in the coming months.

Big thanks to everyone encouraging, supporting and praying for us! None of this would be possible without you.

Much love,

Dustin & Jess

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