Posts Tagged ‘children’

A New Song, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

May 6, 2011

This spring, we have been teaching the children in the Rio about worship. It has been fantastic! A donor supplied us with money to purchase instruments for the children and thus the idea sprang into action. Our heart was to teach the kids not only how to worship the Lord but reasons we have to worship Him! When we truly know His character there is nothing left to do but worship.

My favorite day of our worship unit with the children was when we taught them about Miriam praising the Lord after he saved the Israelites from the Egyptians. Miriam took up her tambourine and praised the Lord with a new song!

Hope teaches the children about how Miriam praised God

After learning about Miriam, we decided as a class that we would write a new song to the Lord just a Miriam did. Back2Back staff member, Cheque, got out his guitar. I pulled out a dry erase board and we began to write a song of praise to the Lord, worshiping Him for the ways that he loves us. Cheque and I started out the song, but in no time the kids were shouting their ideas as well. It was the children who came up with most of the words and reasons why we praise the Lord.

Children from the Rio wrote the lyrics to the worship song

It was beautiful for me to hear these children, who live with very little, shouting out reasons they have to praise the Lord! Oh how true it is! Within twenty minutes our song was done, Cheque had a tune, and we all began to worship the Lord with a new song! We have now added this song to our collection and sing it each week.

“God saved us from the Egyptians

Let’s sing to the Lord

God loves us very much

Let’s sing to the Lord

God created us

God healed us

God protected and provided for us

Let’s sing to the Lord. ”

– Written by the children Back2Back serves in Rio 1

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Peeling an Onion, by Mindy Webster, Back2Back Mexico Staff

May 3, 2011

Last week, in our ongoing staff training, we talked about the connection between anger and fear.  The short of it is that most anger is rooted in fear.  Think of anger as a basket of onions.  Anger is that outer onion skin that makes the onion messy and dull but protects the insides.  When you peel off that onion skin of anger, what’s left are layers of fears, like the layers of an onion.  Often, our anger is rooted in a variety of fears.  But if we go deeper and ask God to help us deal with our real root fears, God can take them away and that onion isn’t there anymore.

Juan, one of our house parents, shared with me the impact this made on one of our teen girls in the Hope Program.  She didn’t want to speak English to a visiting group member, even though her English is actually very good.  She said she felt embarrassed to speak English around people.  Juan, armed with this new knowledge and sensitive to a nudge from God that there was more, asked her what she was afraid of.  She shared that she was afraid to make a mistake.  Juan explained to her the onion analogy and said he felt that was a surface fear.  After more discussion, she discovered that deep down inside she is really afraid of being rejected.

She was dropped off in a children’s home at age two, and felt that she must have done something horribly wrong for her mom to reject her.  All her life she’s worked to make sure she’s not rejected again.  She gets good grades in school and does her chores and tries to make everyone around her feel good.  Juan and his wife took the opportunity to share the truth of the Gospel with her, that Jesus never rejects us.  They prayed together and through lots of tears she expressed that it was the first time she felt like she understood what was going on inside of her.  She could see all of the ways in her life that she was working to not be rejected by people, but what she already has is a Heavenly Father who will never leave her.  What incredible hope!  When she stopped looking at the onion skin and looked inside, God’s truth could be revealed and the process of removing that struggle has begun.

Playdates with Wendy, by Kathy Couch, Back2Back Mexico Staff

February 11, 2011

One day, I was at one of the children’s homes we serve.  Standing by herself was a little girl.  She appeared to be the saddest thing I had seen in a long time.  I started asking around and found out that her and her sister had been dropped off about a week before.  That was in September.  As I went home that day, that little one’s face haunted me.  I don’t think I had ever seen a truly sad two-year old before, at least not that I could recall.  God kept bringing her to my mind.  I returned to that same home to talk to the little girl’s care giver.  During this conversation I found out that during the morning this little one was the only one in her dorm.  So being the multi-tasker I am, I figured if I picked Wendy up once a week that would give the care giver a break and little Wendy some one-on-one time.  Two-for-one bonus!

The first week I picked her up, she was not sure what was happening.  Tim and I took her to the grocery store, which we are now sure she had never been before.  This alone was pretty overwhelming for her.

Grocery shopping with Wendy

Then, we brought her home.  Wendy did well most of the morning, until I went to feed her lunch.  I moved her from the bar stools to the table.  All of the sudden an all out, total loss of control, screaming with tears fit followed.

One of our boys came in the door and yelled, “What is that?”

I just pointed to the floor.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  I went to pick her up to show him why she was on the floor and she did the ‘limp kid’ thing and slid back down to the floor.  He then went over and just started to rub her and talk softly to her.  She did not stop, but he did not either.  As I stood closer, I could hear him praying.  I just smiled.

Since then, she has started to come around.  She is smiling; I had never seen that on her face before!  She is talking, all be it mostly ‘no’ but still it is talking.  She is now interacting with more people.  I am so glad that I listened to that little prick in my conscience about this sad, little girl sitting at a children’s home.  I hope that our relationship somehow gives her hope and makes her feel special.

Kathy with Wendy

 

Children of the Kingdom, by Greg Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

September 3, 2010

In this time of year, things move a little slower in Mexico.  The hustle and bustle of over 700 guests in Monterrey for Back2Back summer mission trips is over and the pace of life once again becomes more manageable.

I am the captain for Manantial de Amor, one of the children’s homes that Back2Back serves in Monterrey.  I love visiting these children during these slower times.  I find that without having to manage groups and projects, I am able to give the children more of my time and focus when I am there.

Recently, I’ve found myself just sitting and watching these kids, these precious children.  I get caught up in pondering their ‘miracle-ness,’ if I may create a word.  Each one of these little children is just absolutely adorable, beautiful and precious to our heavenly Father.

I think that God is having me consider what it is about them that he finds so valuable.  Let me explain.

Each day our children do devotions where they study the Bible and pray a bit.  At dinner time, I ask the boys to share what they studied.  One of my boys shared how he had read Matthew 19:14.  This is where Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children from getting to Jesus in hopes that they might be healed if they were to touch him.  Jesus told the disciples, “Leave the children alone and let them come to me for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Then I recently read a blog entry from Jim Betscher, a fellow Back2Back staff member.  He too referred to the same verse in Matthew and it just happens that it was the exact verse that I planned to hone in on for this blog post.

Lord, what are you trying to say to me?  What is it about children that makes the kingdom of heaven theirs?

Now that I am an adult, now that I am ‘mature’ and ‘have it figured it out’, now that I am wise and learned and have many experiences to guide me in this world, what is it that I have lost from my childhood?  How can I regain the precious state of childlikeness that you so value?

Lord, thank you for these precious children, these 400 or so children of God that we serve here in Mexico.  I know that they are but a drop in the bucket of all the orphans in this world and yet but a drop in the drop in the ocean of all the kids on earth, but they are oh so precious.  Thank you for using them to show me what they have that I do not.

Rukmini, by Back2Back India Staff

May 17, 2010

Back2Back partners with a feeding center in a Hyderabad slum that provides evening meal and education for poor children in the area. This is the story of Rukmini, an eleven year old girl who our staff recently met at the Feeding Center. Rukmini’s father works as a laborer on a brick transporting vehicle and her mother works as a daily laborer on construction sites. Her elder brother, now age fourteen, dropped out of the fifth grade and starting working under a mason, learning construction work to become a mason in future.

Rukmini is a sweet, intelligent and disciplined girl, who is very interested in studies. Last year, while she was studying in the sixth grade, her parents made her discontinue her schooling to look after her younger sister Vennela, who is four years old, and her grandmother, who is blind and bed-ridden.  Even though she was not interested in staying at home and missing school, her parents made her stay at home and look after them against her wishes. The feeding center has become an oasis for her regular evening study.

Rukmini comes to this center along with her sister. She actively participates in the study and attracts the attention of all the volunteers, the directors and visitors with her pleasing manners, good behavior and sharpness in her studies. Although she discontinued classes, she continues to read her old books and would like to move forward with the intention that she would get an opportunity to go back to school again and continue her studies.

Rukmini became a victim of her circumstances and helplessness of her poor and uneducated parents. There are many such instances among the families in the slums. The Feeding Center is an oasis for many poor children. Please pray with us for Rukmini and the other children in this slum area and for the directors of this feeding center. We are privileged to come along side them as they provide nutrition and education to these needy children.

Children studying in the evening at the Feeding Center

Children enjoy a nutritious meal at the Feeding Center

A young girl works on her homework at the Feeding Center

Two Year Anniversary of the Rio Soup Kitchen, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

April 26, 2010

Recently, we celebrated the two year anniversary of our soup kitchen in the Rio, a shantytown community that Back2Back serves! It was a fantastic day filled with good food, fun, and fellowship. The comedor was packed out with people! We had worship, preaching, prayer time, children’s church, slide show, and a meal of yummy arrachera!

The comedor filled with faces as we worshiped the Lord and thanked Him for the ministry in that place over the past two years.  I mainly help out with the children’s ministry during soup kitchen Saturdays. Sticking with our theme of the fruit of the Spirit the children are doing an activity with a story that illustrates faith. We had over fifty kids come to the class. Usually we plan for about thirty.

The children did an activity involving a story about faith

Working on a craft about faith

Enjoying a meal together

After the preaching and children’s classes, we all gathered together for an arrachera meal. It was delicious! Arrachera is a special meat that has been marinated and then grilled. It is sooo good. It was so fun to provide this meal for these people as it is typically expensive and not affordable by many of the families we serve. We also gave out elotes! Elotes are corn on the cob that have been boiled and coated with chili and mayonnaise. It is a Mexican favorite and often is preferred as a dessert of sorts.

Our great grillers who worked for hours to prepare the meat for us to eat

Thanks to everyone who has helped support the soup kitchen financially and prayerfully over the past two years. God is moving and doing great things in that community. We are privileged to celebrate two years of ministry and thank all who have played a part. Blessings to you!

Mexico’s Children, by Ben Rickert, Back2Back Mission Trip Participant

March 15, 2010

Last year, the American media was obsessed with Mexican crime. Throughout the year, our Michigan airwaves were packed with stories depicting horrible acts of gang violence and warnings that Mexico’s government was unable to control the drug trade. That may or may not be true, but many people were canceling their vacations and many students involved with Riverview Church and our campus ministry were having second thoughts about traveling to Monterrey to serve with Back2Back during Michigan State University’s spring break.

Still, about thirty students made plans to travel anyway, and as we were making the arrangements I did some research and was shocked to learn that illegal drugs are among Mexico’s most profitable exports and that the United States is the biggest customer. I was amazed to hear such harsh criticism confidently coming from the country that shares at least half the blame. I then knew that our local airwaves needed the rest of the story, so I packed my digital recorder and headed to Mexico. What I learned by speaking with leaders of Back2Back and the orphanages there is that this greater story of addiction and unrest is directly related to the rising number of abandoned children in Mexico.

The final radio piece about Back2Back that I worked on gained some attention after being aired a handful of times by MSU’s radio station 89FM, “The Impact”, and actually just received an award from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters! It’s exciting to see the project gain support, but it’s more exciting to know that word is getting out about these kids in Mexico. They are real, live kids with real lives. They like to color, kick soccer balls, and eat ice cream and their needs will remain even longer than the American media will stay interested in their country’s needs. To help them, it will take commitment on a personal and spiritual level, like Back2Back taught us (and we were all perfectly safe the whole time, by the way!). It will also take a large-scale decision on the part of both countries to put aside selfishness before we see vast improvements in all of these problems. I hope you enjoy and are challenged by the piece and I am grateful for Back2Back’s help in this project.

Listen to the radio piece about Back2Back.

The Heart of Jesus, by Jessica Biondo, Back2Back Mexico Staff

December 25, 2009

What a wonderful season Christmas is! I love that after thousands of years, the birth of Christ still brings healing, restoration and peace. People often talk about the “Spirit of Christmas” and in reality, the spirit of Christmas shows the heart of Christ and the things that he desires for us all year long.

The month of December has been a whirlwind of spreading Christmas cheer and showing Christ’s love on the precious kids that we serve. The month started off with the women’s group coming down with suitcases filled with presents, decorations, crafts and all things Christmas. Over the course of the week we have the privilege to visit each Casa Hogar that we work with and set up a tree and make ornaments and give each child their own Christmas gift! What a blessing it was to see the joy and excitement in the children’s faces as they opened up their gifts and worked together to decorate their trees.

I will never forget one sweet little boy, Santiago, opening up his present of a huge dog stuffed animal and coloring books and markers, but the thing he was most excited about was the small tube of travel toothpaste. When he saw the toothpaste his eyes got wide and he gasped and he held it like it was a priceless treasure. The rest of the day he carried that tube with him where ever he went. This made me really sit back and think about how much I take things for granted, especially around Christmas, when there is an abundance of blessings everywhere I look.

It requires a lot of Christmas cookies to feed 500 kids!

The presents are wrapped and ready to go!

Children from the children's homes were so excited to receive Christmas gifts!

Decorating the tree at the children's home

Danny loved my candycane ears! When I bent down to give him a hug he pulled them right off my head and tried to eat them! He thought they were real candycanes!

Christmas is truly a time of joy, generosity, peace and restoration. Praise the Lord for the hope that he provides for these children who have so little. I am honored to be able to love on them and help them understand the reason behind the gifts, crafts, cookies and parties.

I pray that you are resting in the hands of the One who came 2,000 years ago so that we could experience a love unlike any the world had ever known!

Merry Christmas!

Back2Back Christmas Gift Catalog: Give a Gift to a Child in Need

November 18, 2009

Celebrate the true spirit of Christmas by giving a life-changing gift to an orphan in need.  Choose from dozens of items in our gift catalog to help the children that Back2Back serves in Mexico, Nigeria and India!  Your gift will make a listing impact in the life of a child this Christmas!

View the gift catalog online and choose an item by clicking here.

Christopher’s Shoes, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

November 13, 2009

The sound of many little hands applauding echoed throughout the bus. The bus driver turned around in surprise. I too was taken back. The smiling faces kept grinning, the hands kept giving praise. Mama Connie, one of the caretakers at Casa Hogar Villa de Juarez, nodded her head saying, “Thank you God!”

The twenty children from the children’s home knew why they were giving thanks… Christopher especially was thankful that day… God had heard his specific prayer and sitting on the bus that day were a pair of brand new shoes just for him.

A church group from Cincinnati came to Monterrey with money specifically set-aside to buy new shoes for the children at Casa Hogar Villa de Juarez (VDJ), a children’s home that Back2Back serves. We loaded up twenty kids on a bus and headed to Wal-Mart. Each child was allowed to pick out a pair of gym shoes. We were pinching toes to make sure there was room to grow, searching for Barbie and Spiderman designs, helping the teen girls find something fashionable.  Finally, we all loaded on the bus with shopping bags full of shoe boxes.

Back on the bus, Christopher tapped Mama Connie, a VDJ caretaker, on the shoulder. “Look!” he said, pointing to his feet. The entire sole was falling off of his old shoe! Mama Connie looked Christopher in the face and said, “God has answered your prayers Christopher.”

She turned to me and explained that Christopher had been asking God for new shoes and that Jesus had heard that prayer and provided for him. Mama Connie stood up and told the rest of the children on the bus that God had met them and answered their prayers that day through these people who had heard God and come to take them shoe shopping. The kids smiled. Mama Connie asked the kids to applaud the Lord and thank Him for answering their prayers and providing for their needs. The bus echoed with the sound of grateful hearts that day, not just for the new shoes, but for the physical reminder that God cares for His children.

Christopher's Shoes

Christopher on the bus, holding his old shoes

Weary in Doing Good, by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 30, 2009

If you have children then what I’m about to tell you will not come as a surprise.  Parenting is many times a thankless job. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we love our kids and we know that ultimately we are not only serving them but also the Lord, and that we should not parent with the motivation or expectation that our children will be grateful for the hours, the sweat and the tears that we pour over them – but sometimes you just wish they would express some small form of a “thank you”. As parents to six children of our own, and house parents to eight teenage boys here in the Hope Program, we have the special pleasure of seeing this lovely “thankless” spirit day in and day out….multiplied by fourteen!

So…more true confessions:  Sometimes this “spirit of thanklessness” (I believe I just made up that word!) can make a parent lose steam. It can make one wonder why they spend their life cooking, cleaning, reminding people to do their chores, making sure people are getting to bed on time, and up on time, and that they’ve finished their homework. Sometimes it starts to get old. The good news is that God is great at taking over when we reach what sometimes feels like the end of ourselves. Julie and I want to brag on the Lord that He’s doing a great work in us in this season of our life. I think that in some ways we had reached the end of ourselves. The wonderful news is that He is making all things new – including bringing renewed focus and vision, renewed passion and love towards our boys, and even what you might describe as personal revival in our relationship with him.

In the midst of all that God is doing he recently gave my wife specific encouragement with regard to her role as a mother to 14. In Galatians 6:9 we are reminded, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” It sounds like such a simple command – but yet if we are trying to “do good” out of our own strength it can become so very difficult. Praise God that the very motivation to “do good” is from him, and that ultimately all the good we do is for him or for his glory as we serve those around us. And so it is with that renewed vigor that Julie and I are tackling each day, and each task as we press on to serve and love those who God has called us to minister to.

A few days ago we were cleaning out the closets and came across some things that have not been used in awhile. We got out some puzzles as we figured they could be good family activities for all ages. Just as we suspected, our young children and our boys have loved them. They have been taking turns throughout the day, and late into the evenings putting them together all over our kitchen table. It’s been very fun to watch. The other thing we got out of the closet were some refrigerator magnets of the alphabet. We plastered them all over the front of our fridge and assumed that at least our two youngest could entertain themselves. Much to our amazement nearly the whole household has gotten use out of them, making designs, writing the names of people in our family, and practicing spelling words – both in English and Spanish.

The other night Julie and I returned home later after being out and encountered a very special message that some of the boys had created for us. There on the fridge, spelled out in letter magnets was the following, “We love you mom and dad – thank you – by your boys”.

Our hearts were touched indeed. What a special thank you! So simple, yet so profound. It meant the world to us because as parents you long to hear it or see it in any form. But more than being just a message of thanks from our boys it was an encouragement from the Lord, “Do not tire of doing good.” I’m not sure he could have made it any clearer. Thank you Lord. May you continue to give us even more love to love, and more desire to serve those around us.

10.30.09 - Weary in Doing Good

School Uniforms, by Back2Back India Staff

September 18, 2009

A friend of ours who is an American working in Hyderabad went with us to visit the children at Eternal Joy Home. As you may recall, these children received the blessing of scholarships to a private English Medium primary school this year. Most schools in India, whether government-run or private, require the children to wear a uniform specific to that school. Some uniforms are very simple; others are very elaborate and include the school emblem, a tie and belt.

The school had donated a few old used uniforms to a couple of the children at EJH but most of them were wearing their street clothes to school. You can only imagine how the kids felt at this school. Most had been set back at least a few grades since they didn’t speak much English. Their classmates came from intact families with mothers and fathers. And “the kids from the orphanage” couldn’t even afford proper uniforms. When our friend learned of the situation, he was very moved. He had grown up in a large family and attended Catholic school. As one of the younger siblings in his family, he always had hand-me-down clothes including school uniforms. He tells of the other school children making fun of him in his old outfits, which were stained and worn. Fortunately, he could defend himself but he still recalls the psychological impact of this harassment.

Our friend generously offered to provide uniforms for the children at EJH. Some of the children are at the private school;  others, who joined later, still go to the government school and a few of the special needs children are not able to attend school. We hired a tailor and bought bolts of cloth so that each child would have a set of new clothes. Once all the uniforms were complete, our friend and two of his daughters came to visit the kids and hand out the uniforms. It was a very happy day.

Receiving his new uniform

Receiving a new uniform

Against all the odds, the children are getting good marks and they enjoy school. Now, they have nice new uniforms – just like the other kids at school.  How rewarding for our friend to identify a need close to his heart and give such a meaningful gift to these children!

The ERJ children in their new uniforms

The EJH children in their new uniforms

A Beautiful Day, by B2B India Staff

September 11, 2009

It’s raining! It’s pouring! The monsoon rains have finally come to Hyderabad, India and are a welcome relief from the near-drought conditions. Thank you to everyone who prayed for this rain. And, thanks to our God for providing this “shelter” in a sun-scorched land.

Last weekend, my old concerns about the monsoons resurfaced. It had been raining all week, but we had planned a big event on Saturday. The children at Eternal Joy Home were going on a field trip! They were going to have a picnic lunch and play at a scenic spot.  So, I started to worry. “What if it rains?” I’ve prayed for this rain and now that it’s come, I feel the need to put qualifications on it – “just not tomorrow, God.” But as usual, He had it all under control. We woke Saturday to beautiful blue skies.

When the twenty children piled into two SUV vehicles, it was the first time that most of them had ever ridden in an independent car. They didn’t care that there was no air-conditioning. Open windows made it easier to wave at passing cars and trucks. We found a shady spot near a lake, overlooking a big rock mountain. Amid some grazing cows and a baffled goat herder, the children enjoyed their picnic lunch.

Meal time

Meal time

Then it was time for some games – cricket, badminton, Frisbee and jump rope.

Playing frisbee

The children enjoying a game of frisbee

They played a version of “duck duck goose” called “sumba, sumba, cumba” and the smiles on their faces were priceless.

The children play an Indian version of duck, duck, goose

An Indian version of duck, duck, goose

After that, our friend from the US gave all the children chocolates. Wow!

For many of the children, this may have been the best day of their life. For just a couple of hours, they enjoyed what we so easily take for granted as a normal life. God provided for these orphans just as He promises to do. The next day, we had record rainfall in Hyderabad.

Back to School, by Caroline Burns

August 24, 2009

School is starting up again for the children in the homes we serve here in Monterrey.  With the start of school, comes back to school shopping and new school supply lists.  For a director of a children’s home, this can be a difficult time financially.  Not only are they trying to make ends meet as kids return from summer break, but in addition, many new kids are dropped off for the first time and directors face the enormous expense of purchasing school supplies for fifty to eighty kids all at once.   I have the privilege of overseeing all of Back2Back Mexico’s donations.  Midway through our summer season, I sent a few emails out requesting school supplies in anticipation for the heavy donation needs during this back to school rush for the children’s homes.   My faith was encouraged when visiting short-term mission groups brought several hundred spiral notebooks along with other necessary school supplies items just four days after sending the request.  And I’m pleased to report that after communicating with each children’s home director for their needs, spending almost all of this past week in our donation room organizing the deliveries, and driving around Monterrey like some sort of children’s home Santa to deliver everything – everyone’s needs were met in full.

I love working with our donations because I love to see God provide for the orphan child.  Several of the homes we serve have God’s Promises to the orphan child as found in the Bible printed on the walls throughout the home and their dorm rooms.  This week, I’ve been fascinated to see Deuteronomy 10:18 which says, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing,” come to life right before my eyes.   I’m convinced this week more than ever of how passionate God loves the orphan child.  There is something just angelically holy about each one of these precious children – the King of Kings loves them.

In English, "God promises to give you food and clothing."

A promise to orphans from scripture is painted on the wall to remind the children of God's provision. In English it states, "God promises to give you food and clothing."

"God promises to help you," a reminder painted on the wall at one of the children's home.

"God promises to help you," a beautiful reminder for the children.

During meal times, the children are reminded of another one of God's promises to orphans found in scripture: God promises to be your Father.

During meal times, the children are reminded of another one of God's promises to orphans found in the Bible: God promises to be your Father.

Caregivers, by Back2Back India Staff

August 21, 2009

At all of the children’s homes where we serve, there are workers and caregivers. These are mostly women, some of whom are widowed and thus outcasted by Indian society. Some have their own children and maybe are working at the children’s home in order for their child to have a place to live and go to school. Others have their own families but dedicate most of their day or even stay overnight with the orphan children. They are paid the typical Indian minimal wage of 100 rupees (~ $2 USD) per day or less. They work long hours –  cooking and cleaning, watching over the children, getting them ready for school, supervising their chores, monitoring homework, providing first aid and counseling them when they have a problem. They provide the children with the physical and emotional “Shelter” that we’ve discussed as a part of our summer theme.

When foreign visitors are around, the caregivers often stay in the shadows, watching as the children interact with new people, who give them candy and play with them. Today, while a group of visitors was entertaining the children, I spent some time with Laxmala, a cook at one of the children’s home. She cooks three meals a day over a gas stove in a very hot, poorly ventilated little kitchen to feed the fifty children that live at this home. After the group members had painted all of the hostel girls’ fingernails, I noticed Laxmala scratching at her old Manicure for a Caregiverchipped nail polish.  So, I asked her if she’d like her nails painted. She bobbed her head and smiled widely! Her hands were work-worn and tired from all the time spent washing, chopping, stirring, and serving. I wish I could send her for a nice spa manicure, but she seemed to appreciate my efforts. She is a humble servant, caring for the least and lost children of Indian society. It was my honor to paint Laxmala’s nails.

I thank God for her and the many people that the Lord raises up and uses in this important role of caregiver. They have a major influence on the lives of the children. Although I doubt there is a “Caregiver’s Day” on the Hallmark calendar, we need to let them know how much we appreciate the care that they give. Let’s pray for the caregivers at all the children’s homes served by Back2Back Ministries.

Bringing Light to Darkness, by Jim Betscher

August 19, 2009

Many times when we take a group of Americans to serve at Rio III, an impoverished community in Monterrey, Mexico, I tell them that we are bringing Light to the Darkness. As soon as we get off the bus, we can see the darkness that is associated with sin. If we only look at the shanty community, we could be depressed by the conditions that the people live in. I know that unthinkable things happen to the children that live there. Many suffer from abuse and neglect at the hands of those who should love and care for them.

Children outside their home at Rio III

Children outside their home at Rio III - © DSL Images

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be brought out in the open.” (Luke 8:16,17 NIV) We know that a light shines brightest in total darkness. We want to put the Light on a stand so that all can see it!

Realistically, I know that the hundreds of kids who live in Rio III may never own a car or eat three meals a day or live in a house like I do. But, I will feed them and clothe them and work to meet their needs of health care and shelter in the name of Christ.  By meeting these needs, I gain a platform to share with them the eternal salvation God offers them, through His son Jesus. My ultimate desire is that they will be able to spend eternity in a place that knows no pain or suffering.

Darkness, like the streets of Rio III can be pretty scary sometimes. But darkness always disappears when light confronts it. We simply want to be that Light!

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

I Will Not Leave You as Orphans, by Benjamin Riggs, Back2Back Mission Trip Guest

August 3, 2009

The last night that I was in Monterrey, before communion Matt Massey shared some awesome insight to Jesus’ words at the Lord’s supper.  He spoke about how a bridegroom builds a house in order to have His bride to be in marriage.

“He is finishing a house to come get His bride,” Matt said.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about that and the scripture that was the backbone for discussion and theme for the week, the idea of Shelter, based on Psalm 91:1.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow the Almighty.”

What I took as a “typical” psalm at first has slowly been turning into part of the definition of my walk with the Lord. During the week, I was captivated by the fact that dwelling in the shelter of the Most High was a reality for the psalmist, as opposed to an idea. Secretly, while I gave my answers at our small group, I longed to understand that more.

Before arriving in Monterrey, I had been neck deep in college books and a society that sells me the lie that everything is about me. I hadn’t really seen how I had let it work its way into my walk with the Lord until then. In Monterrey, Jesus began a serious revival of heart from checking out Psalm 91:1 and being in the company of the staff, interns, volunteers, and children we served.

Part of the change in my heart was from seeing how He continues to sanctify and Father His children, just as He has promised. As much as He continues to change my heart to look more like His, I was made aware of the fact that this change involves more than just me. Since the experience of serving and loving in Monterrey, I have been more aware of how passionate Jesus is about the Body of Christ; He has given us the Spirit and He is indeed building a house (Ephesians 2:22). The more I saw what Jesus was doing in Monterrey, the more I saw the involvement of the Holy Spirit and it’s presence in the Body of Christ to serve and love those that He has and promises to continue to love.

During a ropes course exercise, we came face to face with the task of trying to put our entire group on a platform that was just big enough for me. One plan that we tried was putting the smaller people in the middle, while others linked arms around them.

Ben and his team during a ropes course exercise

Ben and his team during a ropes course exercise

With all this discussion of shelter, the image of the Body came to my heart. In the past when I’ve thought about the Body, the phrase being His hands and feet always came to mind. I’ve seen this past week that along with His hands and feet, Jesus is also changing us to have His heart (1 Corinthians 12:24-25) for the poor, sick, orphaned, imprisoned, and lost.

While on earth Jesus’ body was obviously the embodiment of the Most High that we seek shelter in.  Now we are being pieced together part-by-part into His body, to continue His presence, as He is the cornerstone of this structure (Ephesians 2:20) and the Head of this Body (Ephesians 4:15, Colossians 2:19). We are to provide shelter for others to dwell in as we dwell in Him. I experienced that reality being welcomed and loved by the staff, interns and others that I served alongside and now love. The last day I was there I fell in love with a little boy from Del Norte: Jose Daniel. There wasn’t a part of me that wanted to leave him, but I know that God has a plan for that little guy. As I was leaving him, I was reminded of Jesus’ promise in the book of John.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”(John14:18).

Since returning home from Monterrey, I know that I can continue to be an extension of His Body by reminding others that He has not left any of us as orphans. He is coming back for His children. He is coming back for His bride.

Benjamin and Jose

Benjamin and Jose

Trust, by Beth Guckenberger

July 31, 2009

Last week I was at one of our squatter village sites, walking with an unbelievably gifted professional photographer (check out his pictures), helping him capture some images that could translate their world into ours.

During our outreach, a B2B staff member spends one-on-one time with a boy from the Rio - © DSL Images

During our outreach, a B2B staff member spends one-on-one time with a boy from Rio III - © DSL Images

A little girl plays outside her home in Rio III - Photo courtesy of DSL Images

A little girl plays outside her home in Rio III - © DSL Images

Outside their home at Rio III

Outside their home at Rio III

I was struck by the poverty, which I have walked among for a decade now, but some days it can still make the breath in me escape.  Another friend who was with me challenged me to always articulate a theology that reflects the reality of what I am seeing.  Since our theme this year is shelter the question begs How is He sheltering these forgotten people? How am I inserting my ideas of shelter into the Psalm 91 passage? How can shelter be metaphorical, even metaphysical?

We walked a little farther and I saw a little girl, around eight years old, kneeling outside of her shack, filling up an old Coke bottle with water. “Can we take your picture?” I kneel down and ask her. At that moment, I see her eyes for the first time.  Haunted. Hunted. Empty. Lonely.

“That’s the unmistakable look of a sexual abuse victim,” I whisper to my friend.  She was shaking her head quietly, signaling to us to move on.  We honor her and pass by.

A 100 yards later, I turn my head and see a man beside her, big, angry, with a stick in his hand, swinging it, looking at us. “God!” I just cry out in my spirit, wondering what I can or should do.

Shelter. What does it look like? For her? For me?

I come home and search for answers. I want the wisdom to handle myself well when confronted with those situations.  I read promises in Proverbs about searching out wisdom like a hidden treasure.  I am on the hunt.

My friend, Jenny sends me this quote from Brennan Manning’s book, Ruthless Trust.

“The theological arguments that support an interventionary God are many and varied. Frequently people report that they have experienced a physical cure or inner healing. And they have. “Yet” as John Shea writes, “one brutal historical fact remains-Jesus is mercilessly nailed to the cross and despite legions of angels, God did not save him from that hour… This side of the grave Jesus is left totally invalidated by the Lord of heaven and earth. Trust in God does not presume that God will intervene.”  Often trust begins on the far side of despair. When all human resources are exhausted, when the craving for reassurances is stifled, when we forgo control, when we cease trying to manipulate God and demystify Mystery, then, at our wits end, trust happens within us, and the untainted cry, “Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit,” surges from the heart.”

I am there. Even as I write this, I feel the trust swell within me, there are answers to my questions, there is hope for that little girl, there is a theology that understands the injustice in the world.  I don’t have to know all the answers to the when, the why or the where.  I just have to believe in the Who.

Shelter, by Angela Ramos

July 29, 2009

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord. “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  Psalm 91: 1-2

Shelter is the theme of this year’s Back2Back devotional.  Every group member, along with staff, receive this five day devotional during their trip.  As staff in Nigeria, we are taking a deeper look into each daily devotional.  We are thinking about questions like: What do you think of when you hear the word shelter?  In what ways does God provide shelter?  How does God provide shelter to the less fortunate?

When I first think of shelter, I think of protection.  But after studying God’s word and being in the midst of the less fortunate, I have found a deeper meaning.  Yes, God is our protector, but if something bad happens that doesn’t mean that God has ceased to protect me.  When we walk in the ways of the Lord we are not promised to live a pain free life.  God’s shelter is always with us no matter our circumstances.  His shelter is a constant peace that no matter what happens, nothing can take away His love from us.

On day three of the Shelter devotional, it states that God’s shelter is a “state of mind”.  That really hit home with me.  In America we can have a lot of false shelters.  We rest easy in our spouses, cars, homes, finances, our grocery stores, clothing stores….basically our modern day conveniences. Sure, we know God is there, but do we really know this?  Do most of us rely on the things around us rather than God himself?  Is it easy to just assume that God’s shelter is with us because we have all of these conveniences?

In Africa we don’t have any of the American conveniences. Everything here is more difficult and time consuming.  Like I said before, the need here is so great.  How does a widow who lives in a tiny hut with five children and no electricity and running water see God as her shelter?  In their hearts they know God is with them and they trust the Lord to provide for them and to protect them.  They have nothing, yet they are content with God and what He has given them (which is not much by our standards).  God’s shelter is a state of mind.  He is constant no matter the circumstances.  He is constant no matter what one has or does not have.  He is the same God to me and to the poor orphaned child in Africa, and to you.  His love never fails and is unending.

To be honest, it is going to be hard to come back home to the modern day conveniences.  Chris and I really like the pace of Nigeria.  Being here makes you appreciate what you have all the more.  Even our boys have been able to see the differences; one is in the education they are receiving compared to what the children here receive.  We are trying to help teach them these truths about who God really is.  It’s not about what we have, even though we are thankful for EVERYTHING He has provided.  All we have is because of Him.  It’s about who we are in Christ and living our lives fully for Him.  Giving everything, holding nothing back.

Visiting local waterfalls near B2B Nigeria base   (Top: Chris &  Angela/Bottom L to R: Caleb, Micah & Noah)

Visiting local waterfalls near B2B Nigeria base (Top: Chris & Angela/Bottom L to R: Caleb, Micah & Noah)

Lola, by Brian Hubers, B2B Mission Trip Guest

July 27, 2009

Last week I traveled with a group from Northstar Vineyard to Monterrey, Mexico for a week-long mission trip with Back2Back.  It was my first time there and it was nothing short of incredible.

On Sunday, our first day in Monterrey, we served at Casa Hogar Douglas (CHD), a local orphanage. Some of us started working on leveling uneven terrain to prepare for the concrete that would be poured there starting on Monday.  It was hard physical labor but there is something therapeutic and satisfying about a project that a team can sink its teeth into and see results.  When I stopped for a water break, I noticed a young lady sitting on the cement floor of the palapa, or outdoor shelter area.  She was tired and unable to stay awake.  It was apparent that she had some type of disability.  I filled up my water bottle and headed back to my digging.  We made great progress with our project.  As we wrapped up for the day, I was looking forward to the concrete work on Monday and seeing the area transformed.

Each evening, there is a time of worship and debriefing about the day.  On Sunday night a Back2Back staff member, challenged us to get out of our comfort zone and try something different on Monday.  She said, “If you naturally gravitate toward working on the concrete project, maybe you should paint or spend time with the children.”  That hit me.  I knew that was for me.  I love working with children, but I have to admit I was feeling anxious about the language barrier.  I wanted to see the concrete project completed and I felt like being with the kids all day would be more challenging.  But God had something else in mind.

Monday morning we returned to CHD.  I decided to step-out of my comfort zone and join the team that was playing with the children. As I headed to the palapa, where some of the children were congregating, I noticed the same young lady from Sunday.  I took her hand and together we walked to a picnic bench and sat down.  I learned that her name was Lola.  As we began to interact I couldn’t tell if she could hear me or see me.  I said a few words in Spanish and English but she didn’t react.  Someone gave her a lollipop and she held it a couple of inches from her face to see what it was.  Lola then handed it to me to open.  I glance to my left and notice a line of wheelbarrows at the work site and question if I should really be playing with the children, rather than helping with the concrete.

Just then, the Lord quieted my heart and in that moment, I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be.  Although I didn’t know if Lola could hear or see me I talked to her.  We patted hands a lot and every once in a while she smiled.  She only had a few teeth but nonetheless her smile was beautiful.  It hits me that I should start praying for her.  Once I started praying blessing and protection over her, I just couldn’t stop.  The words kept flowing and before I knew it I had been praying for twenty minutes.  Then, my prayer turned into song and I began singing praises.  Simply put, it was “a God thing”.  I had never done that before; it’s all I can do to stay focused in prayer for five minutes.

One of the other older kids from the home came over to take her somewhere.  Maybe she was trying to rescue me or perhaps she was jealous of all the time and attention someone else was receiving.  But Lola wouldn’t budge.  She held my hand, refusing to stand up.  I tried to communicate to the other girl that it was okay for Lola to stay with me, but I couldn’t tell if she understood.  We continued spending time together, her face beaming as she started to pat my face, first gently and then more aggressively until she was almost smacking my cheeks.  It hurt, but she was enjoying it so I smiled all the more.  By that point, Lola and I had spent over an hour together.  It was a sweet time in His presence.  I had seen her as God saw her and I couldn’t get over her true beauty.

Then, it was time for lunch and that did get her attention.  After she left to eat, I talked with a Back2Back staff member, who explained to me that Lola has severe Down’s Syndrome and is actually 38 years old!  After lunch, Lola and some of the other children took a rest.  I didn’t see her for the remainder of the day.

That night I couldn’t stop thinking about her or talking about my time with her. I shared with the team that although I didn’t think Lola could see or hear me, the hour we spent together was truly wonderful.

On Tuesday morning, a group of men from our team had the privilege of serving breakfast to the kids at CHD.  The kids had no idea we were coming.  Not only do they treasure extra time with the visiting teams, but most of the homes can’t afford to serve the children breakfast, so the meal itself is a special treat.

The kids were still asleep as we prepared breakfast.  When we finished, we rang a bell to wake them.  All twenty of us created a receiving line.  As sleepy little ones with eyes half open headed our way, we cheered to greet them.  Their excitement was visible.  I saw Lola coming toward us.  I was excited, but at the same time I didn’t know what to expect.  She walked straight to me and grabbed my hand.  I escorted her in to breakfast and served her.  And what an honor it was! The guys decided to sing and dance for the children. Lola watched, smiling her near toothless smile.  It was the most beautiful thing I saw the entire trip.

Spending time with Lola

Spending time with Lola

You Have Been Saved, by Shannon Kahrs, B2B Mission Trip Guest

July 23, 2009

It was the first day serving in Monterrey.  It was our second trip as a family to Back2Back Mexico, but it was our first time there since we adopted our five-year old daughter, Yanni, from China three years ago.

The entire family together at the beginning of our week in Monterrey

The entire family together at the beginning of our week in Monterrey

We worked on building projects at a children’s home. The orphanage basically consisted of three large rooms:  a kitchen/dining hall, a girls’ dorm and a boys’ dorm.   In the mid-afternoon, Yanni had to use the bathroom.  Knowing the conditions of the bathrooms, if I’m honest, my first thought was “Can’t she wait?”

I shooed away the flies and sat my daughter on the toilet. I wanted to tell her not to touch anything but I knew it was futile.  As I waited for her, I leaned against the wall praying that she would finish quickly.  My prayers weren’t answered, or so I thought.  Tired from working in the heat, I slid down the wall and slumped on the floor to wait, as she was taking a long time.  I tried to reassure Yanni that the flies wouldn’t hurt her. The other toilet was jammed and swarming with even more flies.  The sink was falling off the wall but did trickle water. There was a dirty bar of soap in the sink and not a towel in sight. From where I was sitting, I could see bunk beds and a few cribs all lined up.

As I watched Yanni’s little body on that huge toilet and the flies swirling about her, it hit me. This is where my daughter came from – we saved her from this life. No sooner had I had that thought when God whispered in my ear, “Daughter – this is what I saved YOU from.”  I spent the rest of that time saying “Gracias” over and over.  From that point on, I was no longer worried about the physical conditions just grateful.

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?

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?

Redemption, by Cathy Huffer

July 13, 2009

There’s a field on the other side of the street in Rio I.   For the most part, it’s been vacant.  The only sign of life has been the layer of weeds sprouting up.  After the rainy season the ground covering becomes so thick that sexual predators have been known to hide there to prey on children.  The recent hot weather has caused the weeds to become dry and brittle, making them much easier to pull.

A short-term mission team from Cincinnati came up with the idea of converting the land into a soccer field complete with goals.  The group and the local children worked hard side-by-side to clear the field.  After finishing the project, the day ended with a rousing soccer match.  The celebration of their efforts was the culmination of a day of difficult work.  As I watched, I was reminded of the verse at the end of Joshua’s story found in Genesis 50:20.  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  While some people had used this field for evil, God will now use it for good.  Praise God for the many ways He chooses to work to display His redemptive power.

The mission team pulling weeds as they prepare the land to be converted to a soccer field

The mission team pulling weeds as they prepare the land to be converted to a soccer field

Excited for his first game on the new soccer field

Excited for his first game on the new soccer field

Two neighborhood boys admiring the new soccer net

Two neighborhood boys admiring the new soccer net

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!

A Change, by Caroline Burns

July 8, 2009

School is out for summer!  As summer vacation begins, some of the orphans we serve leave their children’s home to temporarily stay with any living relative who may be willing to take them in for a few weeks during the break.

I hardly know how to wrap my mind around this reality.  It’s difficult to understand how someone can provide food and shelter for them for several weeks but not all year.  Similarly, in the past few weeks we have learned that a few other children from various homes have been reunited with a parent (for what we have been told will be a permanent change).  Orphan children returning to their families for good is supposed to be my dream come true.  But if I’m honest, in my core, I’m not there yet emotionally or mentally.  I find myself doubting that these moms, many of whom are prostitutes, have turned their lives around and are now able to provide for their children.

But God spoke to me today and encouraged me through two women at Rio III, a squatter’s village that we serve.  Olga and her husband live near Manantial de Amor.  Olga’s vision is to be a light for God to the people of Rio III.  A strong supporter of Back2Back, she often partners with us through her church, as together we serve the community.  After a day of outreach, Olga stood up to thank the American team for serving and encouraging her in providing for the community.  Afterwards, two women from the neighborhood shared their testimonies with the group. They explained that they used to be hated in their community by everyone.  They had lived lives full of anger and bitterness. Often they would abandon their families for weeks at a time.  Their children would beg them to come home and only then would they briefly return before leaving again.

At first, they hated Olga’s church.  But that started to change when their children began attending the church and they saw God’s goodness manifest in their lives.  Eventually, they got involved with the church and Bible study Olga facilitates.  Since then, these two women have changed dramatically.  They are growing in the Lord, serving in the church, and striving to be loving mothers.

Two Women from Rio III share how God has transformed their lives

Two women from Rio III share how God has transformed their lives

I immediately realized that if God can change two of the most despised women in the community, He is more than able to radically transform the lives of the moms who have taken their children out of an orphanage and are trying to do what is right.

Absolutely nothing is impossible for God!  I want to invite you to pray with me for the children who will get to go home for a few weeks this summer and for those who might get to return home for good.  Would you join me in praying for their safety and that God would do a mighty work in their families?

Sarahi, by Cathy Huffer

July 1, 2009

There has been a faithful Back2Back supporter, who I’ll call Jill, who has regularly donated money for a little girl named Sarahi.  Sarahi lives in the Rio, which is one of the squatter’s villages that Back2Back serves. Sarahi is eight years old and just finishing 2nd grade.  Jill has helped to fund Sarahi’s education and provide staples for her family when they were without food and other basic necessities.

Sarahi

Sarahi

Recently, I told Meme, who helps with our Rio ministry, that I needed to talk to Sarahi’s mother, to see what they needed as I had just received another donation from Jill on their behalf. Meme informed me that Sarahi’s mother had kicked her out of the house and that her grandmother had taken her in. Sarahi’s mom is currently pregnant with twins and has another daughter who is a few years younger than Sahari who was allowed to stay in the home. I have had many people, Meme, Sarahi and her grandmother, try and explain this to me and yet it’s still difficult for me to understand how this can happen.

I could see the hurt on Sarahi’s face when she asked another woman and myself to pray for her. As I prayed, I told her that this was not a surprise to God and that He had already had placed someone in the states, Jill, to care for her. That was just one way God was showing her that He loves her. I don’t know what a girl that age can understand but her countenance changed drastically after our conversation.

I shared our theme verse of Psalm 91:1-2.  “He that dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress. My God, in whom, I trust.”

As Sarahi learns to trust the Lord, He is showing her how He can shelter her through her grandmother, through Jill and through others like you who are praying for her.  Will you take a moment to lift up Sarahi in prayer today?

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

Father’s Day with the Fatherless, by Matt Cooper

June 26, 2009

This past Sunday morning, I accompanied a visiting team from Cincinnati to Casa Hogar Douglas in the morning for church.  This is the seventh Father’s Day that I have lived here in Mexico, but for some reason it really began to dawn on me throughout the morning what a depressing day this must be for the children we serve.  How sad must it be to acknowledge a day separated out to celebrate fathers for a child who doesn’t live with their father, for a child who most likely can’t remember the last time they saw him, or for a child who quite possibly never had the chance to known him at all?

So we arrived at the Casa Hogar and I pointed the group in the direction of the chapel.  As I began walking up the hill towards the chapel I was almost holding my breath.  I could not help but wonder if Father’s Day would even be mentioned, if it would be the proverbial elephant in the room, or if we would just go about our business serving them as if it were any old day of the year?

We filled the seats in and around the children from Douglas and the worship leader began with his normal Sunday greetings.  Shortly after saying “Good morning” he popped the question that I had feared he might.  I literally felt myself hold my breath as he asked, “Who knows what today is?”  Of course they likely knew the answer to the question, but I couldn’t help but wonder what must be going through the minds of the seventy abandoned children that filled the chapel that morning.

Were they feeling sad?  Was some part of them angry? Did they feel like that got ripped off in the Dad Department?  How could they begin to wrap their minds around something that I as an adult barely understand myself?  What exactly is there to celebrate on Father’s Day when you don’t have a dad?

Then the unexpected happened as the worship leader instructed those seventy children to look around them, to locate a dad in the room, and to go and give them a big hug.  I couldn’t believe what I began to witness.  On tip toes and with wide eyes the children began to look around, and then they dispersed themselves throughout the crowd.  All of a sudden it wasn’t about them, or what they were missing out on so to speak, but it was about them wanting to bless someone else in the room.  And let me tell you – I was blessed that morning.  As more than half a dozen kids made their way to the corner where I was standing.  One by one they embraced me, and wished me a Happy Father’s Day – and the same thing was happening to other dads all across the congregation.

What an amazing Father’s Day it was.  I’m not sure why I should be surprised – it is just like God, really.  He used a room full of fatherless children to bless a handful of Fathers in a way that none of us will soon forget.

After the church service, we had a Father's Day cookout for the children.

After the church service, we had a Father's Day cookout for the children.

Two Boys at Casa Hogar Douglas

Two boys at Casa Hogar Douglas

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

Vessel, by Beth Guckenberger

June 22, 2009

This week we are being visited by Calumet Christian School out of Columbus.  One of their teachers, Chris, has been coming here for a couple of years and now comes twice a year, once with his school and once with his church. They are a group of men who have decided to focus on one area of our ministry, a squatter’s village we call “Cadereyta”  They are choosing to invest deeply in the people and the mission happening there.   He showed me this video his team put together from their trip in January.

There are so many needs in the world, so many good causes, so many people who would benefit from our gifts, or our time, that some days it’s overwhelming to me to decide where and with whom I will spend my energy.  Watching this video was a good reminder for me that we aren’t responsible for taking the gospel anywhere.  God is already working, we just need to go and show up and be the vessel or extension of His already present pursuit of people.  The lives you see in the video are being impacted by a small group of men from Columbus, Ohio.  It begs me to ask the questions:  Where else can we be a reflection of God’s goodness?  And what obstacles can I remove that prevent me from leaning into an area, relationship or need God might be calling me to serve?

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

Makeshift Shelter, by Mandy Lail

June 17, 2009

We recently took our boys to a nearby lake for some fishing where I happened to capture this photo of Leo.  Leo lives with the Cooper Family in the James House as a part of The Hope Program.  Just like my boys he is getting ready to graduate from Secundaria (middle school) and will start Prepa (high school) in the fall.  When I look at this photo I can’t help but think about my boys, in fact all the students in the Hope Program.  To me this photo represents this season of their lives.

 

Leo on the fishing trip with the Lails

Leo on the fishing trip

 

Leo is standing on a rickety dock about fifty feet from shore.  Overhead is a makeshift covering.  Nothing fancy but it protects the two boats underneath from the occasional rain and the intense sun exposure. This is where our students stand: on a rickety dock with some makeshift shelter overhead.  It’s not the best they could have, but it is some shelter.  And what lies ahead of them is a like a lake and a series of mountains.  I think it’s a mix of emotions for them.  All they know is this makeshift dock and for some it’s even better shelter from where they’ve come.  But it’s all they know.

I wonder . . . do they have a sense of longing when they see those mountains?  Do they think I could have that, I can go there. I can leave this rickety old dock and scale a mountain? Truly I think they have more fear. They believe the lies they’ve heard or told themselves I can’t do it.  I don’t have what it takes.  I should just stay here. I think they look with a sense of longing for something more but it’s often overtaken with a sense of sadness and defeat.  They think I want it, but I can’t do it.

This summer our theme is SHELTER.  Would you join us in praying for our students in the Hope Program?  Please pray that God would show Himself to them and that they would have hope.  In the Hope Program they are given opportunities through education but for many it seems like that far off mountain is unreachable or unattainable.  Pray for their journeys as they learn how to step away from the hurts of their past and stop believing that they have nothing to contribute. Please pray for their courage to step out from their old, rickety, makeshift shelters and find true shelter in Him.

 

 

Intercession, by Beth Guckenberger

June 10, 2009

This week I have been reminded of the power of prayer… something that I can overlook as I am busy “making things happen”.

There is a guest here from North Cincinnati Community Church, whose mother, Barbara Shaw passed away this last year. In the final few years of her life, she had a painting hanging in her home of two girls from Mexico. It was purchased at a Back2Back banquet, from a young artist who painted it from a photograph. Barbara didn’t know these girls, had never traveled to Mexico, but saw a role she might play in intercession for them.

The painting was acquired three years ago. Within six months of her intercession, these two girls’ lives drastically changed.

Todd and I have known them our entire stint here in Mexico. When I first met Lupita, she was not even walking. Carolina was a spitfire toddler that caught my attention and heart right away. That was in 1997. Ten years later, in 2007, the girls were in a difficult position (due to the behavior of the oldest) and needed to leave the children’s home. They were without any other family or resources, so Todd and I took them in. They began to live for the first time in a family.

These last couple of years, as they have become our foster daughters, we have all grown in our understanding of family. There have been steps forward of growth and grace, and steps backwards. I am trying to understand what ‘shelter’ really means – God’s shelter over our family, our extension of that shelter over the girls, the rest He promises for us there.

This week, Mark, Barbara’s son, showed me a picture of his mom, opening up the painting for Christmas. I couldn’t stop the tears. Carolina and Lupita love Jesus. They love our family. They love each other. They love the community here. Their lives today are radically different than the day she opened up that painting.

What role do I think her prayers played in that? I honestly don’t know exactly, but the evidence stares me in the face every night across the dinner table.
I displayed the picture Mark gave me on our fridge and last night I told the girls this story. Carolina immediately had tears in her eyes, still stunned by a God who has left the 99 to go after her in such a relentless way. Lupita’s eyes got really big, and she spoke first, “God has always loved us, hasn’t he? Even before we loved Him back.”

Barbara with the Painting of Carolina & Lupita

Barbara with the Painting of Carolina & Lupita

The Gift of Hope, by Angela Ramos

June 6, 2009

This week, Chris Ramos, Back2Back Director of Missions, is heading off to Jos, Nigeria with his wife, Angie and their three sons.  For three months, they will be staying at the Back2Back Nigeria base and serving in the local community.  As they prepare to leave, Angie reflects on her first visit to Nigeria, nearly three years ago when she and her husband Chris served alongside Back2Back missionaries, Jason and Emilee Munafo.  Continue reading to discover how Angie experienced hope in a fresh way.

It was October of 2006 and we were mid-way through our stay in Jos, Nigeria.  I sat on the floor of the place where we were staying and I looked at the four of us Americans sitting there.  I was overwhelmed and scared and feeling sick to my stomach.  The need there is so great and so many were depending on us to help them.  I thought to myself, how? How is this all going to fall into place?  How is God going to make this all happen through Chris and me and Jason and Emilee?

I remember feeling so small and powerless and what was before us was so big.  I knew there would be so much work that needed to be done when we got back to the US and in my sense of panic, I felt like there wasn’t much time.  My mind was spinning with so many different thoughts.  I knew right then that God was going to stretch our faith and we were going to grow and learn to depend on the Lord more than we had thought.  With so many people there looking to us for help, part of me wanted to just turn around and go back and say forget it, it’s too much.

Later that week we were at the village telling everyone good-bye and reminding them that we would be back soon.  Word that we were there spread so quickly, that by the time we were getting back into our car to go to the airport, we were informed that Ikira, the “agricultural guy” of the village of 1,000 people, contracted typhoid.  Ikira had showed us the village a few days before.  He walked us around the place.  We had spent several hours with him and many of the villagers that day.  Now, he was very sick and needed money for medicine.  He thought if he could just let us know that he was sick, that we would be able to help.  Not really knowing what we could do at this point, we asked one of the villagers to help us.  Minutes later the three of us were getting into the car and the villager was directing us to the medical facility where Ikira was staying.

We walked into the dirty hut-like building not knowing what to expect.  From the outside, it looked like an old condemned building.  It was dark and very small.  My bathroom medicine cabinet probably had more supplies in it than this place.  There was a women sitting on a cot holding her very sick baby.  Ikira was lying on another cot, hooked up to an IV.  When Ikira saw us he sat up and smiled.  He had hope.  We had felt so helpless, but despite that when Ikira looked at us he had hope.

Looking back at that moment, it all seems so clear to me now.  It’s as if I am experiencing that moment all over again.  HOPE.  That’s what we bring through Christ.  How could I turn back and say “forget it”? God has a plan and that plan involves us.  As we reach out our hand to help others, it’s really God’s hand reaching out.  It was really God’s feet that walked into that medical building to check on Ikira, not mine.  He reaches when we reach out and He steps when we step.  God loves the Nigerians we’re serving (John 3:16) and has a plan of hope that involves Chris and me (and our boys).  It involves everyone who will step up and give to this ministry.  It’s in these moments that we have such an amazing opportunity to tell them how much our Creator in heaven adores them and wants to have a relationship with them.

Ever since that trip Chris and I have been amazed at “how” God is putting all of the pieces together.  As I sat on that floor in Nigeria and wondered how, I sure didn’t know, but God did.  I am so glad He has a plan.  Chris and I are humbled that He has chosen us to be a part of it.  Now we are on the brink of a new experience as we get ready to leave for Nigeria.  This time it’s with my whole family.  It’s a different dynamic.  But we are still offering the same thing:  HOPE through Christ.

Children in the Village

Children in the Village

Handing out soccer balls to children in the village with the Munafos

Handing out soccer balls to children in the village with the Munafos

Chris spending time with a child from the village

Chris spending time with a child from the village

Church at Casa Hogar Douglas, by Mandy Lail

June 4, 2009

Recently, some Back2Back staff members organized Sunday morning church services at Casa Hogar Douglas (CHD), one of our children’s homes in the Monterrey, Mexico area.  God has blessed this new venture with an awesome worship leader; extremely talented, gifted with the children and such an obvious heart for the Lord.  The old chapel is pretty run down and through some generous supporters they have repaired the roof and modified the walls for better air flow.  It’s such a blessing to the CHD workers to have a place to worship where they feel comfortable and the kids too.

The greatest blessing for me is worshiping among the kids from CHD.  There is such power in the concert of voices, such power in the prayer and praises being offered by the B2B staff, the CHD staff, adults from the community and even the kids as well.  The Lord’s presence is obvious.  Every time I am there, each time we praise His Holy Name as we sing, I feel His pleasure so strong it feels as if we have supernaturally carried the children right to His throne room and laid them at His feet.  Now I’ve been to a lot of good churches, even worked at two great ones, but nothing has compared to worshiping among the least of these…

Thanks to Caroline Burns for capturing the service on video.  Click below to view:

Worshiping during a Sunday service at Casa Hogar Douglas

Welcome from Todd & Beth Guckenberger!

June 1, 2009

Welcome to Back2Back Ministries Official Blog!  Staff from Mexico, Nigeria, India and the home office in the US will be sharing their thoughts on life, God, faith and orphan care.  We invite you to come alongside us in our journey and share your thoughts and comments!