Archive for the ‘US’ Category

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving, by Claire Rogers

September 9, 2009

When Wendy Kuremsky’s  thirteen-year old daughter, Caroline, decided to participate on a Back2Back mission trip with her school, Wendy had no idea just how much that one-week in Mexico would change her daughter.

Wendy remembers the day she picked up Caroline from the airport.  “When she landed in Dayton, OH, after the trip, we got in the car and before I even had my keys out, she had the light on and was showing me the things she did on her digital camera screen and telling me about the kids.  It clearly had an impact on her,” she recalls.  “About a week later she was in another’s mom’s car on the way to dance lessons.  The mom called me afterward and told me how Caroline was so articulate about the trip and that it was obvious she had changed.”

Caroline serving in Mexico on a Back2Back Ministries mission trip

Caroline serving in Mexico on a Back2Back Ministries mission trip

Caroline had been touched by the suffering and poverty she had witnessed.  She felt compelled to do something practical to help the orphans that she had met at the children’s homes where Back2Back serves.  As her birthday approached, Caroline began planning a big party, as she had every year before.  But this time, her celebration would be different.  Instead of accepting traditional birthday presents, Caroline made a special request to attendees, asking that they bring an item to be donated to the children’s homes in Mexico.  On the invitations, she suggested a few specific items that were most needed in the orphanages:  socks, shoes, flip flops, and blankets.

The Kuremsky’s were amazed by the response.  Almost everyone who was invited to the party attended.

“It was literally overwhelming how everyone responded,” Wendy says. “We purposely set up a long table right near the entrance to our yard and put some buckets on it.  When people brought their donations, we’d sort them into the buckets.  It was so exciting to see what families had chosen. In no time at all, the buckets were overflowing.  Another little table was added and we started putting stuff on the ground under the table.  It was very fun the next day for Caroline to look through and see all the things she knew the kids could use.”

Wendy ‘s heart was touched by Caroline’s zeal.  It was inspiring for her to see her daughter’s deep compassion for the children she had met and her determination to do something to make a difference, even after the trip was over.  “God can indeed teach valuable lessons to us through our children,” she says.

Caroline’s older brother, Tanner, has also served on a Back2Back Mexico mission trip.  Impacted by the experiences of Caroline and Tanner, Wendy and her husband, Michael, decided to take a family trip to Mexico to serve at the children’s homes together.  This November, they are joining several other families, for Back2Back’s annual Thanksgiving week mission trip.  They will be taking several extra suitcases, stuffed with socks, shoes and blankets, all of which were donated at Caroline’s birthday party.  While there, they will deliver the items to the local orphanages.

The Kuremskys think that serving children in need is the perfect way to spend Thanksgiving together as a family.  When asked what prompted them to forgo a traditional Thanksgiving celebration, Michael responded, “There is no better way to express our gratitude for how we’ve been blessed as a family than to serve people who haven’t been as blessed as us.”

Interested in participating in the Back2Back Thanksgiving mission trip, Nov 25-29?  There are still a few remaining spots open for families or individuals.  If you would like to join the Kuremskys in Monterrey, Mexico this Thanksgiving, please email the trip leader, Brian Bertke, at brian@back2backministries.org

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Beth Guckenberger’s Speaking Schedule

August 26, 2009

Beth speaking

This fall, Beth Guckenberger, one of the directors of Back2Back Mexico, will be speaking at several US venues, while she and her family are temporarily living in Cincinnati (through December).  If you’re in the area, please feel free to join us!

October 2-4: NASCAR and Nationwide chapels, Kansas City

October 10: Monterrey, MX with FCS and PureNRG

October 16-17: Intimacy Retreat, Vineyard Community Church, Cincinnati, OH

October 25: Northstar Vineyard Community Church, Cincinnati, OH

October 30: North Cincinnati Community Church, Cincinnati, OH

November 12: Campus Crusade for Christ, Indiana University, Bloomington

December 13: Northstar Vineyard Community Church, Cincinnati

December 15: Hope Church MOPS, Cincinnati

Check back often – the schedule below will be updated as new speaking engagements are booked!  If you are interested in scheduling Beth for a speaking engagement, event or retreat at your church or organization, please contact kate@back2backministries.org to check Beth’s availability and receive additional information.

Ribbons and Bows, by Claire Rogers

August 5, 2009

Last year, Casey Ochs attended the 7th grade at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Her world studies’ teacher, Steve McCollum, leads a mission trip to Back2Back’s Monterrey, Mexico base every year.  During class, Casey saw a picture of a little girl that Steve had taken during an outreach to Rio III, a squatter’s village that Back2Back serves.  The little girl in the photograph had a chicken bone in her hair.  Steve explained to Casey that the bone was the only thing the girl’s mother had to put in her daughter’s hair.

Upon hearing that, Casey felt called to do something, so she took action, inviting the girls in her class, as well as her teachers, to bring in ribbon and barrettes to make hair pieces for the girls in Mexico.  She called her outreach “Ribbons & Bows.” Casey worked tirelessly collecting donations and hosting bow-making parties, where she and her friends assembled hundreds of hair pieces.  Last spring, over Easter break, Casey was able to see the fruit of her labors.  Steve McCollum led a group to Back2Back Mexico.  While there, Steve’s group traveled to the Rio with Back2Back staff members to hand-deliver beautiful new hair bows to the girls in the Rio.

God desires to use each of us, like Casey, to make a difference by responding to the call He has put on our heart –we must just be willing.  Casey’s story is a wonderful example of the impact we can make when we become attentive to the needs of others and respond with action.

The girls collected bows, ribbons and barrettes to assemble into beautiful hair pieces

The girls collected bows, ribbons and barrettes to assemble into beautiful hair pieces

Casey and her friends at a bow making party

Casey with her friends at a bow making party

A few of the finished products

A few of the finished products

Casey and her friends distributing bows to girls at the Rio

Distributing bows to girls at the Rio in Monterrey, Mexico

Crazy Love, by Claire Rogers

July 15, 2009

This summer the Back2Back staff is reading Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.  Chan urges readers to resist the temptation to be satisfied with the status quo and instead respond to God’s invitation into a passionate love relationship.  He challenges readers with a call to forsake complacency and apathy and follow God wholeheartedly.

Crazy Love

Here is an excerpt from Chan’s book that I found to be particularly impactful (pages 93-94):

“As Tim Zizziar said, “Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  . . . God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward.  He measures our lives by how we love.  In our culture, even if a pastor doesn’t actually love people, he can still be considered successful as long as he is a gifted speaker, makes his congregation laugh, or prays for “all those poor, suffering people in the world” on Sunday.

But Paul writes that even if “I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2-3 ESV).  Wow.  Those are strong and unmistakable words.  According to God, we are here to love.  Not much else really matters.

So God assesses our lives based on how we love. But the word love is so overused and worn out.  What does God mean by love?  He tells us,

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends . . . faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

–   1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 ESV

But even those words have grown tired and overly familiar, haven’t they?  I was challenged to do a little exercise with these verses, one that was profoundly convicting.  Take the phrase Love is patient and substitute your name for the word love.  (For me, “Francis is patient . . . “) Do it for every phrase in the passage.  By the end, don’t you feel like a liar?  If I am meant to represent what love is, then I often fail to love people well.

Following Christ isn’t something that can be done halfheartedly or on the side.  It is not a label we can display when it is useful.  It must be central to everything we do and are.”

As a staff, that is our challenge as we provide care to orphans.  Our call is to not just offer clothing and shelter to children in need.  Our mission is to meet the needs of the orphan, both spiritual and material, out of the overflow of Christ’s love in our hearts.  Love must be our motivation and at the core of everything we do.

God calls us to wholehearted faith characterized by love.  That is the mark of the Christian faith and our prayer and hope is that it permeates through every fiber of our ministry.  Our organization is rooted in Christ’s mandate to love sacrificially.  In 1 John 3:16-20, we see God’s compassion for the poor through the example of Christ’s love manifesting itself through His willingness to surrender everything, even his very life.

Crazy Love has encouraged us as a ministry, but it has also prompted me to examine my own heart for any areas of my life where I have become complacent.  Chan’s exercise was especially powerful. As I replaced the word love with my name, I was convicted of ways in which I haven’t allowed Christ’s generous love to reveal itself through my actions, often because of fear or complacency.  His kindness and merciful love should compel me to pursue a deeper relationship with Him and likewise love those around me radically, laying at His feet anything that is hindering me.

What attitudes or areas of your life might God be asking you to surrender to Him so that you might love more radically?  What is holding you back?

The Lost Sheep, by Beth Guckenberger

July 3, 2009

What a great opportunity we had as a ministry to address the enthusiastic crowd of students gathered at the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati for the Summer of Service Conference. Over 900 teenagers from 14 states came for a week of showing God’s tangible love to the city through outreach and service projects like helping build homes with Habitat for Humanity.  Each evening, the students attended a service with a time of worship and teaching from a speaker.

The evening program that I participated in was full of stories of how God intersected the body with the world.   I spoke that night about the story of Jesus leaving the 99 sheep and going after the one that had been separated.  That he was not satisfied to have almost everyone… his heart was for those that live outside of the flock.  I challenged the students to be a generation not willing to just “party” among the 99, grateful you aren’t lost anymore, but to be willing to go wherever the road takes you in pursuit of that one.  It was a powerful evening and I pray there was interest sowed in their hearts for the fatherless children of the world.

Sharing with the Students at SOS - © Photos by CRT

Sharing with the Students at SOS - © Photos by CRT

Beth Telling the Story of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15 - © Photos by CRT

Telling the Story of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15 - © Photos by CRT

Praying for Students - © Photos by CRT

Praying for Students - © Photos by CRT

After the talk, students were invited to receive prayer - © Photos by CRT

After the talk, students were invited to receive prayer - © Photos by CRT

No Better Place to Be, by Christy McMurry

June 19, 2009

I have learned that my definition of submitting to authority and God’s definition is oftentimes very different. God’s definition of submission is to voluntarily arrange yourself under authority. When we do that, we cooperate with a leader in order to ultimately accomplish a much larger work than we could ever do on our own.

In the past, I had always viewed submission as being weak or somehow being in bondage to people or situations I did not want to be enslaved by.  I was always an independent person, thinking I knew exactly what I wanted and that I not God was in control. Thank goodness He never gave up on me and put just the right people in my life at key times to speak the truth in love.

For example, I have the great privilege to work with followers of Christ everyday who are submitting to not just God’s authority over their lives but they are also submitting to one another to accomplish the goal of carrying out God’s orders regarding the poor, and children that have been abandoned.  I am in awe of the fine people that I work with every single day and the sacrifices that they make in order for our world to be a better place and to carry out God’s work.

I am learning how to submit to authority every single day and am actively seeking out situations to submit by simply being an active listener to those in need and responding by speaking God’s truth to them, by praying over those that need prayer at any given time, and by not rebelling when God is clearly trying to tell me something.

I have finally begun to realize that when I submit to God and live my life the way He intended, I get the best results and experience life in a way I couldn’t be more thankful for. As I continue to apply God’s truth of submission to the other areas of my life I know I will find peace, excitement, love, joy, and all the things I’ve been wanting for my life all along. When I submit to authority I am under God’s covering.  And there is no better place to be!

Hands Open

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)