Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Rajeshekar, by Todd Guckenberger

August 14, 2009

I spent some time today talking with the Back2Back directors of our ministry in India.  I was encouraged to hear how they are making a significant impact in a small orphanage of about twenty-two children.  The orphanage can cover the cost of rent, food and the basic needs of all twenty-two orphans for a mere 400 dollars a month.  When Back2Back considers partnering with and serving at a particular orphanage, we consider several factors.  One of the criteria for partnership is that the leaders of the children’s home must deeply value the spiritual growth and development of their children and be dedicated to providing them with the best education possible, as that is their only hope of breaking free from poverty.  The directors of the orphanages must be committed to raising children who make a positive difference in the world around them. The Back2Back field director in India described how the demeanor of the children has become more joyous since he and his wife have begun to consistently serve there alongside the orphanage director to help the home provide for the basic needs of the children.

All the children there have received a full scholarship to a local top-ranking private school, allowing them to receive an excellent education.  I was especially impressed by one particular story that they shared about a boy named Rajeshekar, who was born without hands.  He is one of the top students in his class; he is extremely bright and has an unbelievable potential to succeed academically.  But at the same time I was incredibly discouraged thinking about the fact that his school years would be the best years of his life.  In India, children born into a low-class are treated as outcasts and have to fight severe discrimination their entire lives. Those born with birth defects are even more shunned by society.  His class within the caste system, along with a serious birth defect seemed to leave him doubly disadvantaged.  I immediately commented to him that these might be the best years of his life. After all, his children’s home and school were sheltering him from the harsh reality he would likely face after graduating and leaving the orphanage.  Our director agreed.  We continued talking, discussed our role in helping children like Raj overcome the enormous odds stacked against them.  We concluded that the only way of helping those who are marginalized is to continue to create relationships and partnerships in India that provide us with opportunities to walk alongside the “least of these.”

It does not matter if it is India, Mexico, Nigeria, or another part of the world.  Regardless of location, God has called us to serve widows and orphans.  To Back2Back it is a clear commandment and call in our hearts and by His grace He will continue to lead us to the marginalized.

My prayer for Rajeshekar is that we can come alongside him and empower him to pursue the dreams and goals that God has placed in His heart.  Please pray about getting involved with this children’s home, through our ministry in India.

Below is a video of Rajeshekar learning to ride a scooter with a little encouragement from the Back2Back staff member who was filming.

What’s in a Name?, by Back2Back India Staff

August 7, 2009

Prior to my first mission trip to Back2Back Mexico, I asked my friend to teach me a few phrases in Spanish to make sure that I could communicate with the children at the children’s homes. One phrase that I worked really hard on was “Me llamo es . . . ” (or “My name is . . .”).

On our first children’s home visit, I immediately forgot how to say any of the Spanish phrases.  But it didn’t really matter. There are more universal forms of communication than spoken language – a smile that says “I’m happy to see you” or being grabbed by the hand and led to the swing set. I also discovered that the Spanish phrase I needed to know was “What is your name?”  I was reminded by God that it’s not about me.

Sometimes love expressed through action and care communicates more than could ever be said in a conversation

Love expressed through action communicates more than could ever be said in a conversation

Many of the children in India know and speak some common English phrases like “Hello. How are you?”, “What country are you from?”, and “What is your name?” In turn, we try to learn the children’s names. One of the orphanages served by B2B India has over 200 children.  That’s a lot of names to learn. And these are not names that we are accustomed to. Their names are Kalpana, Sujatha, Gayathri, Najaraju, Thirupathi and others that are foreign to our ear and our tongue. One of our mission trip guests just started assigning the boys names he could remember like John, Mike, and Joe. The kids thought that was very funny!

Each child wants you to remember their name and they quiz you later, asking “What is my name?” How delighted they are when you do remember their name and at least try to pronounce it! These are children who are often forgotten by society, abandoned by their own families, and living in the streets without food or clothing. A name may be the only thing they have. At the Christian children’s homes, they are taken in, given food, shelter, clothing and an education. They are taught that God knows them by name.

Now, when I ask them “Ne payru yemiti?” (Telugu, the native language, for “What is your name?”), I try very hard to remember that child’s name and I pray God’s blessing on him or her.

Please join me in praying for these children by name…..

Ashok, Karunakav, Mounika, Maheshwari, Swapna, Lavanya, Swethia, Madhuri, Rajasekhar, and Bhasker.

Ashok & Karunakav

Ashok & Karunakav

Mounika & Maheshwari

Mounika & Maheshwari

Rajasekhar & Bhasker

Rajasekhar & Bhasker

Swethia & Madhuri

Swethia & Madhuri

Swapna & Lavanya

Swapna & Lavanya

Interested in an Internship with Back2Back?

July 30, 2009

Back2Back summer interns gain practical hands-on ministry experience by serving at our sites in Monterrey, Mexico; Jos, Nigeria; or Hyderabad, India.  Interns work alongside Back2Back staff members and assist behind-the-scenes to host summer mission trip groups.  Interns help to facilitate daily work projects at local orphanages and outreaches to impoverished communities, contributing to our mission of providing care for today and hope for tomorrow to orphans. The program includes discipleship and leadership training directed by Back2Back staff members.   Back2Back offers options in terms of length; selected candidates can request to intern for one-month or two-months.

Intern applicants must have participated in a week-long mission trip at the ministry base where they wish to intern and possess a mature Christian faith. Interns are required to be 17 years or older and have completed their junior year of high school at the time of the internship.  Priority is given to applicants 18 years and older.  All internship positions are unpaid.

The deadline for Mexico summer 2010 internship applications is October 31, 2009.  The deadline for Nigeria and India internship applications is October 15, 2009.

Interested? Email Chelsie Puterbaugh at chelsie@back2backministries.org to request an application for a Mexico internship.  Contact Chris Ramos at ramos@back2backministries.org to request an application for an India or Nigeria internship.
Hannah Cessler (far right), Back2Back India 2009 summer intern

Hannah Cessler (far right), Back2Back India 2009 summer intern

A few of the July 2009 Mexico summer interns during an evening out

A few of the July 2009 Mexico summer interns during an evening out

Nigeria staff and interns (left to right): Angela Ramos (staff), Sara Dundon, Amanda Shrom, Corrie Guckenberger (staff), Stephanie Hasso, Tina Black

Nigeria staff with a few of the summer 2009 interns (left to right): Angela Ramos (staff), Sara Dundon, Amanda Shrom, Corrie Guckenberger (staff), Stephanie Hasso, Tina Black

Zach Nachazel with Abigail at a Nigerian children's home that Back2Back partners with

Zach Nachazel, 2009 Back2Back Nigeria intern, with Abigail at a Nigerian children's home

Back2Back 2009 intern spends time with a local girl in Nigeria

Back2Back 2009 intern, Stephanie Hasso, spends time with a local girl in Nigeria

2009 Nigeria intern hanging out with a girl from the village near the Back2Back Nigeria base

Sara Dundon, 2009 summer intern, holds Amina, a little girl at a children's home & school with which Back2Back Nigeria partners

Emily Greider, a summer 2009 intern, along with Tim Couch, Back2Back Mexico staff member

Emily Greider, a summer 2009 intern, along with Tim Couch, Back2Back Mexico staff member

Emilee (back row, center), a 2009 Back2Back Mexico intern, along with Becca Gantz (right)

Emilee (back row, center), a 2009 Back2Back Mexico intern, along with Becca Gantz (right)

Shawn, a summer 2009 intern, at a work project in Monterrey

Shawn, a summer 2009 intern, at a work project in Monterrey

Some of the June 2009 interns and B2B staff members enjoying a night out at Fede's Tacos

Some of the June 2009 interns and B2B staff members enjoying a night out at Fede's Tacos

Rita Haworth (left) & Emily Geib (right), two of our July 2009 interns

Rita Haworth (left) & Emily Geib (right), two of our July 2009 interns

Helping out during a concrete project

Helping out during a concrete project

During a work project

Shawn Gerber during a work project

Spending time with the children

Quin Bergh with a new friend

One-on-one time with the children

Adam Gellenbeck spending one-on-one time with a child

Back to School, by Back2Back India Staff

July 24, 2009

Ahhh, those familiar words…..Have you even thought about “Back to School” yet?

The children in India returned to school in mid-June. Their “summer holiday” is during May when the temperatures reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit. You can imagine how hot a classroom is that doesn’t even have a ceiling fan, let alone A/C, because the school building doesn’t have electricity.

In the state where Back2Back India operates, the local language is Telugu. There are Telugu medium government and private schools in which all instruction is done in Telugu. There are also private English medium schools in which all instruction is in English. Since English is the preferred language of commerce, English medium schools are highly desirable.

Eternal Joy Home is one of the children’s homes that B2B India works with. Last year the children went to a government Telugu medium school that was several kilometers from the children’s home.  There was no transportation provided. The directors and children fervently prayed for a better situation. In June, this home received a huge blessing. The principal of a nearby Catholic English medium school came by and offered to enroll the children in his school and provide bus transportation. What an answer to prayers!

During English class at their new school

During English class at their new school

With this blessing come several challenges. The children, who are up to age twelve, speak only Telugu. They know a few English phrases – “How are you?” “What is your name?” “Praise the Lord!” and sing one or two Bible songs in English. But for the most part, they do not read or comprehend English very well. So all the children were placed in the kindergarten classes to see how they would do. In just a few short weeks, several of them were moved up one or two class levels.

This week I learned that one of the girls is 1st rank (has the highest scores in the class) in Telugu subject. Her brother is 1st rank in Social Studies. And another boy is 1st rank in English! God is so good.

This young boy recently ranked 1st in his class in English

This young boy recently ranked 1st in his class in English

These children have a long way to go in their education but what an awesome opportunity God has provided them! This is a great example of B2B’s vision to break the cycle of poverty with education.  Please pray with us and the children that they continue to do well in school and live out the amazing plan God has for their lives.

Mirrors, by Back2Back India Staff

July 17, 2009

How many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror? Catch a glimpse in the rear view mirror? Check that your tie is straight? Stand sideways to see if you look thinner?

For five months, we lived in an apartment that did not have a mirror. Other basic living needs always seemed to take priority over getting a mirror hung. Interestingly, several things happened without having a mirror – my husband stopped shaving and I didn’t see my increasing number of gray hairs! But why do we look in the mirror? Is it about vanity and self-absorption? If we are always looking at ourselves, what are we missing?

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror…

Mirror Reflection

Windex will shine up a mirror and make the reflection more clear. But I’m still looking at ME. By not looking at myself for those months, I had more time to look at others.

… then we shall see face to face. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

When we see face to face, it’s no longer just about us. When we look at someone instead of fixating on ourselves, we can see them – their hopes, their fears, their dreams. Looking at someone face to face means you have to get close. You have to interact.

Face to Face

Many of the children that we serve are the least and the last in Indian society. They don’t always look so good – their face may be dirty or their clothing torn. But when you spend time with them you realize that they are truly beautiful. Innocent, sweet children who greet you warmly and whose eyes light up when you remember their name.

When we get to heaven, we will see God face to face. But for now, when we look at these precious children, we can see a glimpse of God here on earth. Who are you looking at?

Eyes Wide Open, by Hannah Cesler, Back2Back India Summer Intern

July 10, 2009

My first week interning with Back2Back India has opened my eyes. There is no way I could have been fully prepared for my initial visit to this hostel (children’s home) in rural India. I was a little nervous when we pulled up, but was instantly comforted by familiar verses painted on the walls in English and the native language, Telegu.

One of the girls in the children's home helping with meal prep

One of the girls in the children's home helping with meal prep

Upon arrival, I was given a tour of the girl’s dorm. Each room (equivalent to the size of my bedroom) is meant to house eight girls. Since the children are used to sleeping on the ground, they are somewhat able to fit in these rooms.  Some older girls came to greet us and they asked me to lead them in the song, “If you’re happy and you know it” which the kids knew even better than I did! I was especially amazed by the sanctuary. It was clean, open and bright—it made me happy to know these kids were getting the best when they were worshipping Jesus.

After we explored the girl’s side of the hostel, we went to check out a new project being started to expand the boy’s dorm. Seeing the method of construction blew my mind–hundreds of sticks were used to support the building while construction continued right on! Twice as many men were working on the building than were needed. Due to the low labor wages in India, this is not an unusual occurrence. I was just starting to pick up on the inefficiency behind a lot of what goes on in India!

Construction Workers in India

Construction Project in India

We stumbled into some of the bathrooms on the boy’s side. They looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in years and the smell was something no child should have to face every day. Apparently, this kind of cleaning is meant only for the lowest of workers in India; therefore, a bathroom will be left filthy before anyone would voluntarily take care of these duties. I started to get overwhelmed and frustrated at the reality of how much there was to do and how much I didn’t understand about this country.

It was the first day of the new school year and it seemed a bit strange to only see a couple boys running around. The classrooms were empty, both of people and of any sort of wall décor. We talked with one of the teachers who informed us that the kids take several weeks getting back to school. For those that return on time, the month of June is a bit slow as government schools typically prolong starting school until the majority of kids have returned. We learned of the efforts to fund the teachers and the cost of buying enough books for the children. It astounded me to learn that it would only take about $100/month to finance a teacher and $3/year to provide each student their textbooks!

Following the tour, we were invited into the director’s home where we were served mangoes and authentic Indian food. It was evident the difficulties due to lack of funding are only the beginning. Several factors play a role that are not so easy for the American mind to fully understand. With the majority of India being Hindu, many people find the significance of “fate” very important. In other words, if a child is orphaned or disabled, they believe it is their fate and therefore people do not feel obligated to help them. Poverty is rampant, women face oppression on a daily basis, and the people look to false gods for answers. In the Christian community, however, there is hope.

At this hostel, so many difficulties these children would be facing on the street are being avoided. With a little support these children can receive even more attention–a better education, improved facilities and the spiritual care they need to go on to do great things.

While the poor situation at this hostel was disturbing to me, I am hopeful with the direction and support of Back2Back, paired with the love of Jesus in these workers’ hearts–this place can transform! Once I got past my initial frustrations and focused on the numerous projects on the horizon, it’s easy to understand why Back2Back is called to be in India. I truly cannot wait to see what God has in mind for this hostel, the future of these children, and India!

Pray for Rain, by Back2Back India staff

June 30, 2009

Before coming to serve in India, I had lots of questions. Many centered around monsoon season. When would it rain?  How much rain?  Does it rain all day?  Everyday?  No one was really able to answer those questions. “We’ll just see,” said my Indian friend.

Monsoon Rain Clouds

Monsoon Rain Clouds

I like warm sunny days. We had plenty of those. I don’t really like rain so I anxiously awaited the monsoon. It was predicted to arrive May 26. But as with most things in India, the monsoon was late. Then I was told that the rains would start around the first of June. It is now the end of June and the rains have yet to come. It might be an El Nino year. Who knew that El Nino would follow me to India! No rain – lucky me or so I thought.

With the lack of monsoon rain, India is on the verge of a drought. The water reservoirs are drying up. Power outages are becoming more frequent. Farmers are struggling to grow crops. The cost of vegetables has increased by 50%.  This has put a huge strain on the already meager budgets of the children’s homes trying to feed over 200 children daily.

The government programs are ill equipped to handle such crisis. A recent headline read: Chief Minister Calls for Prayers as Government Woos gods for Rain Desperate to protect its people and country from economic harm, the government is calling on all religions to offer special prayers for rain. Most Indians are Hindu, some are Muslim and a small percentage (2-3%) are Christian.

A verse from the Back2Back summer theme of Shelter comes to mind. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11).

We need to turn to our God for His shelter. In contrast to the idea of a physical shelter to protect us from the rain, in this case rain is the shelter we seek. Rain that will fill the reservoirs and water the crops. Rain that is vital to India and essential to the survival of so many poverty stricken people. Please pray with us for God’s shelter –  the monsoon rains to come to India.

Shelter in Telugu, the native language

Shelter in Telugu, the native language

Reflections on a Weekend with Back2Back India, by Todd Kutzke

June 29, 2009

Todd Kutzke recently served at an Indian orphanage alongside the Back2Back India staff. He shared thoughts from the experience on his company blog, which I’ve reposted below.

Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to visit a few orphanages around Hyderabad. It’s an incredibly humbling experience. A little while back, I read a fantastic book titled “Three Cups of Tea” which really gets you thinking about the importance of education in fighting poverty. There is little secret to the fact that India has a large population in extreme poverty that can’t even get access to basic necessities such as clean drinking water. But beyond the basic necessities, I’m a firm believer that investment in education is needed to sustain a level of life above the poverty line.

On a personal level, I feel it’s important to capitalize on opportunity to give back to the community in any way possible. Not only is it humbling, but it helps reinforce how fortunate many of us are (especially in the first world countries) and what an incredible opportunity we have to give back to society. Even on a team level, I’ve looked to set at least one event a quarter where the team gets together to give back to the community through some volunteering activity; a great opportunity to give back and build morale at the same time. And when I see things like the Microsoft Unlimited Potential work, it makes me incredibly proud to be part of a larger organization with long term commitment to enhancing way of life for so many.

Here’s a video of some incredible kids from one of the orphanages with which Back2Back partners in India:
Video: Ghatkaser Kids

Sisters, by Back2Back India Staff

June 24, 2009

Recently a new girl came to our hostel (children’s home). Naveena had come from another children’s home about five hours away. School was out for the summer and all the other children had been picked up by whatever family they had to go “home” for the summer.  But Naveena had no family to visit. So she came to our hostel where there were still other children.

Naveena’s mother was a well educated Indian woman who developed mental health problems. No longer able to hold a job, she wandered from town to town requesting money from anyone with whom she had been acquainted. When Naveena was only 4 or 5 years old, her mother took her to the children’s home and asked the director to care for her. Her mother was never seen or heard from since. Now Naveena is 10 years old.

It was her first day at the new hostel. She shyly introduced herself to me and clung to my side. Shortly after I met Naveena, Thirulma, one of the older girls at our hostel came to greet me. “This is my sister” she said and put her arm around Naveena. Naveena smiled – her dark eyes shining. In Indian culture, many people will address someone as sister or brother so I wasn’t sure whether this was really a blood relative or not. Then Thirulma explained that she was taking care of Naveena, just as she would do for a sister, helping her adjust to the new hostel and ease any fears.

That same day, the director of the hostel gathered all the girls together. It was the birthday of her late sister – an older sister who had cared for the younger siblings. The director loved her sister and cherished the way her sister had cared for her when they were young.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to care to for one another. I saw God’s love demonstrated by these women today. Is there someone who needs you as a “sister?”

Naveena with her "sister"

Naveena and Thirulma - sisters in Christ

Where in the world are we?

June 3, 2009

Back2Back Ministries serves in four areas:

Monterrey, Mexico

Jos, Nigeria

Hyderabad, India

Mason, Ohio (the Back2Back home offices)