Posts Tagged ‘children’s home’

You are Beautiful, by Jen Powers and Jessica Groves, Back2Back Mexico Mission Trip Participants

October 4, 2011

We had the thrill, honor, and privilege to come alongside an incredible ministry, Back2Back, and partner with them to use a free dance camp in the children’s homes to communicate that Jesus is pursuing the heart of every girl, calls them His princess, heroine, daughter, and His beauty. We are back from our trip and awestruck, even still, at how such an incredibly awesome God would allow us three to be a part of sharing His crazy, wildfire love to the orphan girl using dance as the vehicle.

We pray with every fiber in our being that the message we shared has begun to take root in their hearts and that these girls really begin to believe into the truths that there really is a Kingdom, there really is a King, and we really are His princesses. And most of all, that this is no fairytale. Every day in class, the girls prepared for the recital to be held on Thursday night. The evening of the show came, they were both excited and nervous as they walked to the pavilion where they would perform. The space was packed with an audience of children’s home staff, Back2Back staff, and short-term mission workers. As each dancer was introduced, the audience erupted with cheers and held up signs with their names. Then the sweet girls began to dance – from the boisterous two-year-olds, to the shy fifteen-year-olds – spinning, jumping, all joyfully praising their heavenly Father.

They were all lovely, and you could see in their faces as the crowd cheered them on, that they believed it too. They had such confidence in their carriage and in their eyes, just like princesses. After the performance, Beth, Back2Back’s director, murmured through tears, “It was so amazing to see these girls feel beautiful.”

After all, isn’t this how God wants all of his daughters to see themselves -completely captivating, and totally adored? One of the sweetest moments we were able to witness was the girls engaging in an activity to love their friends in a tangible way on day four of camp. They drew names from a hat and made princess crowns for one of the other dancers. We circled up when everyone was finished gluing on the last gem or affixing the last, perfect sticker to their friend’s crown. Then, in that moment, they begin sharing life giving messages and words of encouragement to each other that they thought on while assembling the crown. The girls said things like “You are beautiful”, “You are smart”, “The King is captivated by your beauty” as they placed the crown they made in the hand of their friend. It was such a sweet moment as they learned and were witness to the power of speaking truth into someone else’s life.

There were endless smiles, little girls growing taller with confidence as older princesses of Jesus crowned them and spoke life over them. There’s something beautiful that unfolds as you watch one princess speak to the heart of another…and watch them receive it in full confidence. As much older princesses of Jesus, we as women hesitate to receive compliments or encouraging words. These girls took the gift and allowed it to bless them. If only we allowed the Lord to do the same moment by moment. We might just have that same skip in our step too…

Celebrating right after the recital with a big group shot - beautiful girls relishing in the joy of dancing before their King.

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A Difficult Day, by Cathy Huffer

September 19, 2011

These are the kids with whom Jesus is now staying.

Some of the children at Manantial de Amor with the directors of the home

All names have been changed in the story.

So many emotions went through my head yesterday. You see, I thought I was just going to help out a friend from the Rio and a couple hours later I’d return home. Good deed done and nothing different. Boy was I wrong.

Diana is a girl who must be 26 or 27 years old. She lives with her six year-old daughter and her boyfriend. Truth be told in my three years working at the Rio 1 community (a poor neighborhood of wood, tin and scrape houses that people have built along a riverbed), I maybe have seen him a time or two. And the one time I saw him, he was drunk. Diana is my friend. She is quiet and hardly speaks unless spoken to. In fact, I learned more about her and heard her speak more words yesterday than in the three years combined since I met her.

Meme, a Christian leader in Rio 1, had told me that Diana had a brother who wanted to go to a children’s home and asked if I could help them get to Manantial de Amor. This children’s home is about twenty minutes from their house and is one of the closest to them. I said sure, not really thinking through what I’d experience that day.

When I went to pick them up, I saw a smiley twelve year-old boy who spoke few words. It must run in the family, I thought. Diana was glad to see me and asked Sarah, her daughter, to hurry along as she went with us. As we drove there, I tried to start the conversation with simple questions asking them if they had the paperwork they needed, asking Jesus if he was nervous.

To my surprise, he quickly answered, “no.”

But Diana volunteered, “I am.”

When we arrived at Manantial de Amor, Mama Cony, the director, asked “So are all three of you wanting to enter in the children’s home?”

Twenty-six year old Diana is not even five feet tall so I knew she had asked the question innocently. We explained that Diana was there with her daughter, Sarah, to see if her brother, Jesus, could enter the children’s home. It was then that the hard questions came.

“Do you have custody of your brother?,” said the children’s home worker.

“No, not really, but I’m the one responsible,” answered Diana

“Where’s your Mom?”

“She died 9 years ago?”

“And your Dad?”

“He abandoned us before Mom died,” she explains.

“Where is your Dad now?”

“He does drugs and is an alcoholic. Hard to say for sure.”

“So Jose has been living with you?”

“He’s been living with me sometimes and my other sister sometimes. She’s younger than I am. We can’t afford to continue to raise him and he really wants to go to school.”

The questioning reveals that Diana is not married, and her boyfriend hardly gives her enough to raise her daughter. As we sit there, I realize that he has brought nothing with him except his papers (birth certificate and school papers).

The worker says something that puts a lump in my throat.

“So let me see, his birthday is….tomorrow,” he states, but it almost comes out as a question.

What a 13th birthday memory he will have, I think to myself.

As they finish the interview, he is brought two pairs of pants, two sets of underwear and three shirts. He is shown his bunk bed that will be his new home. The worker does a great job of explaining the responsibilities that the home has to him, including visiting rights that she will have. He explains that they want to maintain a strong relationship with him and his family. The lump comes back in my throat. He also explains that the responsibilities Diana has include signing up Jose for free public health insurance and not taking him off the property for fifteen days, etc.

When he finished, she looks to me and says, “Now what?”

Her voice cracked.

I was grateful that the worker answered quickly, “You can stay as long as you’d like but you’ll need to say goodbye sometime.”

When it came time to say goodbye, Jesus seemed strong. Not seeming sad at all. I remembered another child that we work with once tell me that he never gets homesick. The sad feeling that I felt when I heard that swept back over me as I wondered if he no longer gets homesick. Then I looked at Diana, I’ve never seen a lot of emotion on her face before either. But I could see it now.  She didn’t want to show her hurt to her brother. You could see the effort she was putting into being strong for me. As for me, I was crying for them both. I knew Jesus needed this home. I knew Diana was grateful for the opportunity her brother would have to go to school and eat well. Still I also knew that if they could they would trade it all to be together. Today was Jesus’ birthday. I found myself thinking and praying for him all day long.

“Do not be discouraged. Do not be afraid for I the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I pray this promise over Jesus and all the kids that we serve. I have a new appreciation for the workers who don’t just provide clothes and food, but so often are there to wipe away tears, listen, pray with and over children, to teach them that Jesus Christ is the only one that can change lives. Sometimes we experience difficult times with others. I used to try and avoid it, now I see the blessing in being a part of the intimate moments of people lives. Yesterday I thought I was going to run errands for a few hours. But what God had for me changed my life. Lord, help me see what you have for me tomorrow.

Lola, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Monterrey, Mexico Staff

August 5, 2011

Lola had lived at the government children’s home for close to a year before I met her. She had been removed from her home as a teenager due to abuse from her mother. Now Lola is 17. Despite her background, she smiles and laughs and engages with others.

While I was at Back2Back’s site in Cancun, we took Lola and others from her children’s home to the beach for a fieldtrip! These kids are not able to get out much, so for them a trip to the beach was quite the adventure.  While we were smearing sun block on one another at the beach I fell into an amazing conversation with Lola and don’t know if I will ever be quite the same…

A beach field trip is a rare treat for this children's home in Cancun

While we slathered on the SPF 30, Lola began to tell me that the director of the children’s home was thinking of placing her once again with her mom. When I asked how she felt about that she told me that she was nervous. After suffering abuse at the hands of her mother, she didn’t have much confidence that it wouldn’t happen again.
“However,” she told me, “I know that wherever I am God will never leave me. He is always with me.” I looked at Lola a bit surprised. She was not living in a Christian facility, how did she know this?
“Wow!” I said, “You are absolutely right. The Lord will never leave you nor forsake you, but how do you know that? Have you been to church before?”
“No,” she answered, slathering the sun block on her shoulders, “I’ve never been to church.” Lola glanced around as though making sure no one would overhear.  “You see,” she said, “I have dreams.”
I stopped rubbing in the sun block on my nose. My curiosity was immediately peaked. What did she mean by ‘dreams’?
“When I go to sleep at night I dream about God,” she told me. “I know that He is my Father, that He loves me. I know that He created me and that He loves me more than anything else He created.”
“You are so right on,” I said, so surprised by all she was saying that a large glob of sun block dropped from my hand to the sand. “Has anyone ever told you about the Lord?”
“No, nobody ever has.”
Shocked, I put the sun block bottle down altogether. I asked if Lola she had ever dreamt about a man named Jesus Christ.
“Oh yes,” she said, filled with joy. “I know that He died for me and because He died I am alive. He lives in me.”
Really shocked this time at how Sunday-school-perfect her answers sounded, I asked again, “Are you sure no one has ever told you this?”
“No,” she said. “I have dreams.”
“Okay Lord,” I prayed. “I’m going to stop doubting now. Why couldn’t you speak to Lola with dreams?”
For some reason, my limited brain only allowed space for this sort of thing to happen with unreached tribes in Africa, but here He was showing Himself in a very personal way to His beloved in a children’s home in Cancun. We talked all through the salvation story. Lola tracked with me the whole time, agreeing with what I was saying like she had known it all her life.
“The story doesn’t stop here,” I said, “There is someone called the Holy Spirit who had come to help us. Have you ever had dreams about the Holy Spirit?”
“Oh yes!” replied Lola with joy in her voice, “not long ago I was laying down in my bed in the dorm at the children’s home. It was night and we had a fan blowing in our room. I felt the breeze blow around me and it felt like huge arms that were embracing me. Then I saw a white dove and I heard a voice that said, ‘I am the Holy Spirit. I want you to invite me to live in you and be your guide. You need to listen to my voice and follow me. Don’t follow any other voice. I am your guide.’”
I stood there dumbfounded on the beach, in awe of Jesus! He had spoken every part of who He was to Lola. He had revealed Himself to her without anyone else in the middle. This abused teenage girl had an authentic relationship with Jesus and was being led by the Holy Spirit because Jesus cared that much about her. He cares for the orphan and loves them so much more than we do. He revealed everything to this girl and I was there simply to confirm that it was God. I felt my Spirit struck with the revelation that He does not need me at all… but that He has graciously invited me in be a part of His story.
Lola and I spent some time praying together on the beach. I prayed for her continued growth in the Lord and boldness to share Him with the other girls in her dorm. I asked if she had a Bible and she said no I explained that the Bible was an additional way for her to learn about God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and offered to get one for her. I don’t think I have ever seen someone so excited! She was literally jumping up in down in the sand and hugging me.
“You would do that?” she said. “I would love a Bible!” Arrangements were made the next day to purchase one for her.
This was my highlight of the two weeks I spent serving at the Back2Back site in Cancun! God is so big! He is so good! He is fully capable. He takes care of His own.
UPDATE:
Below is a photo of Lola with her new Bible from Back2Back.  She is eager to begin to learn more about her Heavenly Father through study of his Word.

Lola is eager to begin learning more about God through her new Bible

God’s Provision for Manantial de Amor, by Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

April 7, 2011

Manantial de Amor (MDA) has three different locations. With three light bills, water bills, and three of everything else, they have often found themselves in need. This children’s home has been based on trusting the Lord on a day-to-day basis and as a result of their trust in God and not man we don’t always know of their need.

Last week, the directors, Edgar and Cony, knew that two of the three locations were in need of food, so they led the children in prayer. On the day where it seemed that they would have nothing to eat, Cony went to get a bag of carrots to try and make a soup out of them. Upon her return, she came home to a kitchen full of food (you can see the photos above). Because of a prompting from the Lord, a Back2Back donor contributed money specifically requesting that it be used to feed children in our children’s homes. My husband, Greg, had gone to the store and stocked MDA’s shelves and refrigerator with food. Back2Back along with Manantial de Amor were able to give God the glory as we did not know the need only God did. And He orchestrated the timing perfectly to fill the need of the kids.

I love that God could do this by Himself – He is big enough. But He put it on the hearts of someone in the US to donate money.  And He chose to use Back2Back to be the hands to give, so that in the very time of a great need He could come in to provide for these kids. God cares for these kids. He can prove for you too. Are you struggling to trust Him to provide for you? I pray this encourages you.

God’s Provision, by Lonnie Clouse, Back2Back Mexico Staff

February 14, 2011

The past few days have been very encouraging as we have had two different families from North Carolina come to visit.  We took one of the families to visit a children’s home (orphanage) that we serve, and we noticed that they needed groceries. The pantry had no fruits or vegetables. We went out shopping and purchased the food that they needed.     It is always a good feeling to return to an orphanage after shopping and know that all the kiddos will have good and healthy food to eat.

The kids are given homework assignments to complete with a computer and they did not have one so they were at a disadvantage.  They had four or five old computers there and none of them were in working order. The caregiver was trying to piece them together to make one that worked. (These children are obviously at a disadvantage as it is,  and they need every possible chance to succeed. They even have to wear a different logo on their uniforms that singles them out from the other students.  The logo has the name of the orphanage on it.)   God also laid it on the family’s heart to help provide a computer for the home so, we went and purchased a computer for them, and took it to the home.  As we walked into the dorm the kids were mentioning something about God.  I asked the caregiver what they were saying, and he said that they recognized that this computer was from God because they had been praying each night that God would provide one for them.  My heart fluttered to know to know that God had used us to provide for the children in need that particular day.

I went back to the home today with some special friends of ours from the NASCAR community. These friends had a hot dog sale weeks ago at their local church and raised hundreds of dollars for the orphans.  They purchased new school uniforms for the boys and also donated the money to purchase a printer for the computer. There are still plenty of needs at this particular home, but God is at work in the hearts and lives of many different people to provide for these orphans in his timing.

Isaiah 1:17-Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans. Fight for the rights of the widows.

Today, I walked into the room where the computer is and found this written on the screen by the caregiver:

“Dear God, One more time you teach me your mercy with me and your faithfulness that is great.  You have answered one more of my petitions.  I ask you to bless Jon and his family (the ones who purchased the computer). Thank you for putting on their hearts to buy this computer. Now, I’m asking you to cover this computer with the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ.  That in the name of Jesus this computer could be a blessing to those who do not know You.  To reach young people for Christ…”

A few boys from the children's home with the new computer

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

 

They are Loved, by Caitlin Gromacki, Former Back2Back India Intern

January 13, 2011

God showed me his love through the kids in India. We visited this small orphan home the first few days and then a week later had them join another orphan group for a concert. I was able to play games, sing songs and hug the kids, but because of the language difference I didn’t really get to know them each super personally. When the kids arrived to the concert we hadn’t seen them for about a week. I just remember their big smiling faces running towards us from their bus. This one little girl runs up into my arms, and I picked her up. I twirled her, and she held on to me so tightly. Next thing I knew she pressed her lips against my cheek and gave me the biggest kiss ever. I was shocked, I mean I didn’t even remember her name, yet she loved me so deeply. I knew at that moment this was how much God loves his children, including me! We don’t have to do anything and he loves us! He cares for me like an orphan who knew me for only two days, yet it would seem like we had been best friends since the day she was born.

At one home that I served, there were almost 200 kids. It is a lot harder to give them the one-on-one attention that they need. They call each other sister or brother, so when you actually call them by their first name their faces light up so big. They loved every moment we were with them, even if it was just sitting next to them while they ate dinner. The kids in India need attention and quality time. They need to know, just as I did, that they too are loved!

High, Low, Thankful, by The Whited Family, Back2Back Mexico Staff

January 8, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  This Christmas was very interesting.  We had never realized how dependant we were on the mental stimulus for the holidays that comes from the weather, fireplaces, stores playing music (in English) and the constant reminder from the upcoming ABC Family Christmas shows.   But rest assured with all of those things gone we still had four amazing and very real reminders of exactly what time of year it was!

Most of the kids we work with have somewhere to go for Christmas:  mom or dad, aunt or uncle, grandparent, someone that will step in and at least help them avoid the pain of waking up alone in a children’s home on Christmas morning; but a few don’t.

We had the opportunity to have a family of four at our house for the Christmas Holiday.   In the midst of our very limited Spanish and their non existent English, these 14, 12, 11, and 10 year olds gave us a crash course on what Christmas was all about. We had such a great time.  We played Wii, fed them sugar cereal, and took them out for hamburgers. (All of which was a first for them) There was money donated from a few people that had been on mission trips to Back2Back for their Christmas gifts.  It was a real joy watching them open their gifts and have stockings with their names on them.  One of the boys loves music and playing the guitar.  A B2B supporter from the United States bought him a used acoustic guitar and sent it down, he was ecstatic when he saw it!

For those of you that know us well or have had dinner with us as a family, you have probably experienced the Whited mealtime tradition of “High, Low, and Thankful”.  The point is to create conversation, purposeful rabbit trails, and a structured format to share your day with the others around the table.  A day or two before Christmas a good friend of mine named Rodolfo was also a guest for dinner and since he is fluent in five languages I thought this would be the perfect night for high low and thankful.

As we went around the table I was completely shocked and caught off guard by what these kids had to say.  I thought for sure the rare break from beans and tortillas would be a big hit.  Maybe the Carmel corn and amazing line up of movies we picked out would be on the list. Based on the kind of “lows” I have some days, I was even a little nervous to include that part of the game knowing it could get ugly or negative pretty quick.  After all was said and done there was one common theme with each one of these kids.  Each and everyone, above all else, were thankful to have a family to be with for Christmas!  No gifts, no snacks, no movie, just time and attention…love.  The part that really threw me off was that in spite of being asked the same question in different ways not even one of the four could come up with a single “low”.

I have had a lot of Christmas’s, but even with no snow and no TV, I have never felt like I was more in the center of what the season is all about than at that table looking at four lonely kids loving being loved.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support, we miss you all!

The Whited Family

The Practice of Prayer, by Kathy Couch, Back2Back Mexico Staff

December 27, 2010

Last summer, my daughter and I spent several weeks in Hyderabad, India serving at Back2Back’s India campus. While we were in India, we stayed with 100 hundred girls at a children’s home that Back2Back serves. Every morning, without fail, the bell would ring for prayer at 5:30, and then with the same consistency the electricity would go off at 6:00!  I would lie in bed and listen to their voices blend together, first with songs then with prayers.  The older girls would be on their knees on the hard concrete. Every day I was reminded to pray.

Throughout the years I have developed a fairly consistent Bible devotion time with God, but my prayer life can be somewhat hurried.  I am always thinking of what I need to do next or who I forgot to pray for.  It is consistent, but not generally a time that I spend seeking God’s will for that day.

I would listen to the kid’s songs and prayers and they would play through my mind all day.  “I love Him, hay hay hay, I love Him hay hay hay, I love Him, hay hay hay hayyyyyy I love my Jesus,” they sange.  Even when I left India, it took a couple of weeks to quit playing that song in my head.  I miss it now.

It is amazing that I went halfway across the world to a society that is 80% Hindu, 18% Muslim, and only 2% Christian to be reminded of how important prayer is.  Prayer is one of our daily connections to God.  It should resonate through my soul all day.  It should be what is constantly playing in my head.  I think I witnessed what God meant when He said in Hebrews 8:10, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be My people.”

Those kids allowed time for God to write those things on their heart.  I need to do the same.  I need to give Him my attention and not just go through the motions.  When I think back on those girls, I see them on their knees.  What a great testimony to the power of God in a somewhat Godless society.

 

A New Family in the Rio, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 13, 2010

A few weeks ago a new family of seven entered the doors of the soup kitchen in the Rio, an impoverished community that Back2Back serves. One glance told us that this family was in need of help. Mom, Virginia, is younger than myself and has five little kids. The oldest is nine and the youngest (a set of twins) are two. Virgina, her husband, and children had moved into a shack with her mom after being unable to pay rent for their own place. Their house is smaller than most kitchens and houses nine people.

After seeing the children arrive at the soup kitchen on Saturday dressed in school uniforms (because they didn’t have other clothes) and smelling as though they had worn the same uniform the whole week, I realized that we needed to help. A few days later I dropped off several bags of clothing and toiletries and loaded kids, mom, and grandma into my car to go school shopping. Thanks to a donor we had money to buy the oldest kids new uniforms, school shoes, and notebooks.

I think the best part for the kids was just riding in my car! They laughed the whole time.

The family and Back2Back ministry partner, Meme, outside their home.

The twins in the cart while their brothers and sister try on shoes.

Three beautiful children with three beautiful new pairs of shoes!

Francisco, Joanna, and Brian with their newly purchased school supplies.

I didn’t really realize how much in need this family was until one day when the grandma asked me if we had any dishes they could have. I went to their home later that week and saw that the kids were drinking out of pieces of plastic coke bottles! The Back2Back staff pulled together as well as some donors and we were able to supply them with cups, plates, silverware, etc.

By God’s grace I have had many interactions with the family, including prayer and a sharing of the gospel with them! Please keep them in your prayers! Currently we are trying to get them connected to the government resources that are available to them as well as trying to satisfy some of their basic needs. Please pray for me to have wisdom and discernment to know what to do and what not to do and how to help, but not enable. It is for families like this one that we, as Back2Back, have a Rio ministry. Virginia is a prime candidate to take her children to a children’s home because of difficulties in providing for them. Our hope is that by coming alongside them and helping them to provide for their children’s basic needs, we will prevent them from reaching the point where they need to drop off their children at one of the children’s homes.

Pray for this family! Pray for me and the other Back2Back staff, as we seek the Lord on what to do! He is faithful!

 

The Blessing of Being Remembered, by Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 4, 2010

Recently, I had the opportunity to pass on letters, photos and small gifts from a friend of the ministry to some kids at a children’s home near our apartment. The first boy is all of four years old and is cute as can be. I showed him the letter from my friend.  With it, she had included a photo of her with him, from when she met him during a Back2Back mission trip.

He is too little to read, but as soon as he saw the photo he smiled and pointed at my friend. As I asked if he remembered her, he grinned from ear to ear and said yes. He listened intently as I translated the letter. He couldn’t have been happier. As he sat there holding the letter, his face reflected contentment, knowing that he was remembered.

This other girl is older, around eight years old. Once I found her, I pulled out the things another friend had given me to give to her. This included a photo album filled with pictures of my friend with the girl during a visit to her children’s home.  She thumbed through the pages, her smile growing with every turn. She had very few words but as she walked off, she headed straight for her friends to tell them that she had been remembered.

What a powerful witness to a child at a children’s home. God loves you so much that He sent someone to play with you for a day, couple of days, a week. Then a time much later you receive word from them. They remembered you. It’s a message that you are special. It’s a message that you are loved. It’s the message that Jesus Christ offers to all of us. As we face death, He says, I remembered you and I died on the cross for you and rose again so that you can live with me now and forever. I remembered you….

Reflections from My Time in Mexico, by Nate Gangwer, Back2Back Mission Trip Participant

September 13, 2010

It remains extremely difficult to articulate my time in Monterrey, Mexico.  Most of what affected me and changed me and challenged my faith and broke my heart cannot be expressed with words and what can be expressed with words is still too much for a brief paragraph that someone might read.  I could write pages and talk for hours and show dozens of pictures and tell dozens of stories and read Bible verses and share songs and still what I feel in my heart and know down in my soul would be inexpressible.  And if I were asked to comment on my time cutting up tree stumps and loving orphans and serving the kingdom of Christ in Mexico five years from now I would still have great difficulty in sharing my convictions.  So I will limit my writing to one story.

Photo by Nate Gangwer

Throughout the week I had the privilege of removing stumps and trees, serving in a few different orphanages and a Rio.  This task was completed with a tremendous amount of labor and my shirts were often caked with dirt and soaked through with sweat so that mud developed along the front of my clothes.  I spent time fixing a chainsaw which repeatedly broke leaving me and my friends no other choice but to use machetes, pick-axes, and a regular ax which unfortunately broke after only an hour of use.  I tell you this background not for your sympathy or gratitude or approval, but to simply let you know that by the afternoon of our last day serving the beautiful children of Monterrey I was very tired.  I felt like someone had taken metal rods and glued them to my joints so that normal movement was nearly impossible and the word stiffness was a great understatement.

Photo by Nate Gangwer

On the last day, our group took orphans from a children’s home on a field trip.  We went to a local play place with a bouncy house and video games and hot dogs that could be washed down with soda and chips. The kids were eating and I finally had time to stop moving and rest.  So, I crawled up to this little stage at the front and flopped down next to some friends.  Then I looked up and saw for the first time in my life the pinnacle of God’s creation: humanity.

Looking back on the Creation story, God’s glory becomes manifested more and more with each day and the intricacy and mastery of His workmanship becomes more evident.  Creation crescendos and God’s uses all of His glory and might and love and power to create humanity after His image.  On that stage as I watched little boys and girls shove their mouths full with hotdogs and quench their thirsts with soda something inside of me shifted. Something inside me broke.  I have a passion for photography and I find myself standing in awe of God’s created sunsets and mountains and raindrops and beautiful colors and shapes.  But at that moment as my tired body lay on that stage I realized that I had been focusing on the wrong beauty.  Like always my heart missed being aligned with Christ’s.  I was focusing on the beginning of creation and neglecting the masterpiece: us.  The power of the Holy Spirit broke my heart in that realization and my perspective altered. People are the purpose of creation.  They are the reason that God’s justice is fulfilled by His grace.  People are God’s top priority, His primary concern.  Jesus Christ died for no other reason than to satisfy the will of God and bring about a supernatural and divinely controlled communion for the most beautiful thing in all creation.

Image by Nate Gangwer

The word compassion comes from the verb ‘pati’ which means ‘to suffer’ and the word ‘cum’ which means ‘with’ giving a literal translation ‘to suffer with.’  So when Jesus has compassion on the multitude in Matthew 9 He shares in their suffering.  In Colossians, we are challenged to be clothed with compassion.  When Jesus is greeted by the grieving soldier whose daughter had died, Jesus in all His glory and humanity and divinity, knowing the Old Testament claim in Jeremiah 29 that God has a plan for prosperity and comfort of His children, Jesus goes and weeps and mourns with the family even though he knows God is sovereign and even has the power to raise her from the dead, which he does.  In that story Jesus’ humanity and divinity are so intertwined that he has compassion and suffers with His creation.

I hope that we as a society will have brokenness like Jesus and be moved as He was moved.  I hope that we pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to come and grant us the ability to give everything we have to the Kingdom of God and the glory of Christ and have eyes that view the beauty of humanity as God sees it and are then moved to compassion.  May we give as the church in Acts gave and live with such a passion and love for God’s people that miraculous revitalization would sweep through our hearts and turn society to the foot of the cross on which Christ died.  I could write pages on what God taught me in Mexico and the weeks that followed, but instead I encourage you whoever you are to join me and so many of the martyrs and followers of Christ into a place that says ‘Yes Lord, I will follow you and love your people no matter the cost.’  The beautiful children of the world in all their innocence and purity in joy can pull a heart closer to Jesus like few things. The world desperately needs compassion and love; it needs the Gospel.

Photo by Nate Gangwer

Waiting for our Return, by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Mexico Staff

September 7, 2010

Months ago, before Back2Back’s  first trip to explore the possibility of expanding into Cancun, I dreamed of meeting a young boy in Cancun. I’m not sure that I could describe much detail from the dream, other than the fact that I remember entering a children’s home and being greeted by ONE boy, a boy who was very happy to see me, and a boy that was very hungry for my attention.

During our first scouting trip here in March, we visited a home just outside of Cancun. It is a very humble children’s home run by Catholic nuns. The home has eleven children in their care, ten of which are girls, and just one boy, Jorgito.

Matt with Jorgito

During our visit in March, we spent the afternoon visiting with the caretakers, sharing some donations with them, and interacting with the children. I spent a good chunk of time coloring and playing frisbee with Jorgito. He was extremely hungry for attention. He stuck to me like glue that afternoon. As we left, and I thought back to my dream it began to click that perhaps Jorgito was the boy from my dream. It wasn’t as if they had the same face or anything, but rather, it was what the boy in my dream represented. He represented the obvious need, and he represented that we would be well received.

So now we fast forward almost six months and it’s late August.  Julie and I, along with the other Back2Back Cancun Staff, Mauricio and Lizy, went back to visit the home. We pulled in, and one of the first people to come running to see who we were was Jorgito, of course. Keep in mind it’s been almost six months, but immediately he greets me with a big smile and says to me, “You’re Mateo! I remember you!”

I couldn’t get over it. I had spent all but a couple of hours with the boy, SIX months ago, and it was as if he had been waiting for me to come back. When we walked further onto their property I ran into one of the nuns working at the children’s home, the same one who had received us in March. She too immediately remembered us. She said, “You’re Matt, from Back2Back. We’ve been waiting and wondering, but I just figured you weren’t coming back at this point.”

Excitedly I was able to explain that now we will be living in Cancun full-time, and that we want to serve them in any way that we can. I really could barely get over the fact that not only the caretaker, but also this small boy very clearly remembered us and had been waiting for our return. In a prophetic sense, this spoke volumes to me. Their very expectancy told me that we are needed here. It was a great moment of confirmation from the Lord that we are exactly where He wants us, that His timing is perfect, and that He indeed plans to use us for his glory in this place – especially in lives like that of Jorgito, and many more just like him.

Hurricane Alex Update, by Beth Guckenberger, Back2Back Mexico Staff

July 22, 2010

Thank you for your immediate response to our pressing repair and relief needs here in Monterrey, as a result of Hurricane Alex.  As a staff, we have been praying that we would be available in the aftermath of the storm to meet people’s emotional and physical needs.

Thank you for joining us as:
1. We have begun repairs to the Back2Back campus.  We are repairing both existing water damage (to the roads, dorms, walls, etc…), as well as reinforcing existing systems (water drainage, septic systems) so that in the event that we were to have a similar tragedy in the future, our systems would be better able to handle it.



2. We have been providing daily meals to families in Rio 3, an impoverished community that we serve. We have been coming alongside ministry partners in the area, such as Olga and her family, as they have been meeting the needs of the estimated 1,000 homeless individuals in the Rio. This has required both financial and human resources. The rebuilding will be continuing for a while, but with your help, we have been able to offer food, medicine, water and building supplies.

Families line up to receive a meal

A child from the Rio enjoying her lunch

3. In the other Rio communities that we serve (Cadereyta and Meme’s Rio), we have provided meals, clean water, cleaning crews, encouragement and help as they clean out their homes.  The jobs of many in the communities have been impacted by the rain (they collect or recycle garbage for example).  As a result, many have experienced weeks without employment. The staff has been attentive to those needs and grateful for your contributions.

Back2Back staff member, Jim Betscher, shows families in the Rio how to purify their water using Pur water filtration packets

A family receives a food package from Back2Back staff

Connecting with a woman from the Rio during the clothing giveaway

A woman receives a new outfit at a Back2Back clothing giveaway

Clean-up crews salvage damaged items from homes flooded during the hurricane

Hurricane clean-up crews help a family in the Rio pull their car out of the mud

4. Our children’s homes have all been visited by staff and summer groups and most of the clean-up is completed.  The majority of them experienced little physical damage, just water damage and the inconvenience of clean-up.  We have found ourselves continually grateful for God’s protection during the storm.

The hurricane and its effects are still talked about daily in the city.  You can’t drive anywhere without seeing the effect on roads and bridges.  We have been praying and are mindful of our responsibility to speak truth and use this experience to strengthen our own faith, our understanding of the Lord and our relationships with those we serve. Thank you for continually giving us the tools we need to reach out to the community.

Mission Trips to India, Back2Back India Staff

July 14, 2010

It’s good to be back in India! We arrived this week in advance of the mission team. Ten youth and adults from a church in Virginia are coming to serve with us this week. We also have three Back2Back interns and two additional Back2Back staff on this trip. We are looking forward to what God has planned for us and the needy children in the rural areas around Hyderabad.

This month’s activities will take place at two of the children’s homes served by Back2Back India.  We will have a good dose of “kid time” with crafts and games. The children have prepared special singing and dancing for us.

Part of the time we will spend at the schools, seeing the importance of education and maybe even being “substitute teachers” for a couple of classes!

Work projects will depend on the rain, availability of supplies and present needs at the children’s home.

There are always plenty of needs. A likely highlight of the trip will be a special musical concert from the members of our church band in Hyderabad who will travel to the children’s home to perform. The kids cannot wait (and neither can I)!

Currently, Hyderabad is averaging temperatures cooler than Cincinnati. But it is monsoon season and we have experienced heavy nightly rainfalls. Our prayers are with our staff, interns and guests in Monterrey where they received “monsoon-like” rains from Hurricane Alex. Thank you for your prayers for the team coming to India and the work we’ll do this month. Look for upcoming blog posts about the trip.

Fabulous Fatima, by Kathy Couch, Back2Back Mexico Staff

May 28, 2010

There is this lively little five year old girl at one home we serve.  Her name is Fatima.

Fatima, with my husband, Tim, while spending time at our house

She is a bundle of energy and orneriness oozes out of her pores! During Semana Santa (the week before Easter), several of the kids went  home to stay with relatives for the holiday.  Not Fatima.  She stayed at the children’s home because there was nowhere else for her to go.  That in itself made me very sad, so I thought of what I could do to cheer her up.  In my world cookies always help so I brought her and seven other kids, that did not have anywhere to go, to my house, to make cookies.

They had a blast. They all helped measure out ingredients and felt like pastry chefs as we baked and ate the cookies.  She and her little friend Angel cleaned the dishes.  They were allowed to play in the sink with suds and water as long as they wanted.  I even had a little stool that they could stand on!  Pretty close to heaven for a five year old.

I could not help but think of how this “normal” thing in my life never happens in these kids’ lives.  They are not allowed to play in the kitchen while someone cooks.  They don’t get to lick the beaters or eat raw cookie dough (I know you are not supposed to do that!).  They cannot eat delicious warm cookies right out of the oven.  For a disheartened moment, I was incredibly sad for little Fatima and for all the things that she was missing in childhood.  But then I looked around and realized that God had brought many people into little Fatima’s life to make it better and I just happened to be one of them!  Praise the Lord for loving the orphan.

2 Corinthians 4:7 “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay pots containing this great treasure.  This makes it clear that our great power is from God and not ourselves”.

Shelter Child Sponsorship Program Expands, by Claire Rogers, Back2Back US Staff

May 4, 2010

Eternal Joy Children’s Home (EJH) near Hyderabad, India was founded in 2008 by a Christian couple whose vision was to care for physically and mentally challenged children living in poverty. The home that began with six children has since grown to provide for up to twenty-five children ranging in age from two to twelve years. Several of the children have special needs, including Down Syndrome, polio and birth defects. Eternal Joy Home provides a loving family environment for these children, many of whom would otherwise be outcasts in Indian society. Thanks to the care of the directors of the home and Back2Back staff, these disadvantaged children are able to receive an education and pursue their dreams, securing a brighter future for themselves.

Last month, we expanded the Back2Back Shelter Child Sponsorship Program by launching the program in India, in order to give the children at EJH an opportunity to receive the benefit of sponsorship.  Through the program, sponsors can make a lasting difference in the life of a child at Eternal Joy Home. By contributing toward the expense of providing nutrition, housing, clothing, health care and educational opportunities, as well as spiritual training and personal development, child sponsors are helping a child to receive the resources they need to thrive and grow. Similar to the sponsorship program in Mexico, families will have the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with their child through update letters, prayers and even visits to their children’s home, should they choose to take part in a future Back2Back mission trip.

Aware of the success of the Shelter Program in Mexico, the Back2Back India Director was eager to launch the program in India.  She shares, “There are an estimated 35 million orphans in India.  The poverty is striking and the caste system puts these orphaned children at a severe disadvantage. We cannot care for all the needy children in India alone, but with your partnership, Back2Back can go deep with the children through the Shelter Child Sponsorship Program.  Sponsorship can make a tangible difference in the lives of the children at EJH, by providing care for today and hope for tomorrow.”

Del Norte Library, by Caroline Burns, Back2Back Mexico Staff

April 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help Erica and Kim paint a mural at the new Casa Hogar Del Norte Children’s Home library addition. They did a fantastic job! Here are a few pictures to show the day by day progress of that week:

If you have ever served with us in Monterrey and visited this children’s home, you’d remember it no doubt. It is the one that looks sort like it’s out of some imaginary world – one where the kids have trampolines, a HUGE auditorium, outdoor kitchen, homework rooms, a bakery, music rooms, a computer lab and now a huge second story library with outdoor patio. And to top it off, the woman who is the director of this home started the orphanage in her RETIREMENT. This home screams from every direction that God is actively blessing those children, He will hear them, come to them, lift them up, make them a home, give them food and clothing, execute true justice for them and all the other promises that God has made in scripture to the orphan child. And to top it off – those scriptures are actually physically written on the walls in case you missed the obvious.

Why a library? Martha, the director of the home, was in the states visiting a church in Texas last year and saw their children’s ministry area complete with a children’s library. You know what they usually look like – bean bags, colorful carpets, fun art on the walls, tons of books, a few computers, etc. She asked the Americans she was with if the kids liked this kind of library. Martha was a bit amazed at the idea that reading could be fun. You see, in Mexico, the average school aged child reads one book a year. In the states – the average is not much better but at least it’s at twelve books a year. The kids here very much so associate reading with punishment.

But Martha, a woman of VISION, got another vision for her children’s home and thus, the library addition began. We sat down with her and asked her on camera why she wanted a library for her children – she said something that I was not in the least expecting.  She said, “So the children will know who is God.”

Her reason for everything she does for the children was so that the kids would look around at the orphanage they live in and think, “This place is different. Why is this place so different?” And the answer would involve the reality of how much God passionately loves them and is caring for them. Pretty much NO ONE, no orphanage, no local civic center, nowhere has a children’s library and if they do – it won’t begin to compare to what Martha is building. And the reason is so that the kids might know who God is.

Listening to her testimony of the children on the streets that Martha would see everyday many years ago and how she made a decision to care for them which ultimately led to the children’s home Back2Back serves today, it was all I could do to not just cry. Martha is incredibly humble. I’ve never met anyone like her. But what really gave me the chills that day was that she is BELIEVING on faith that the new directors of that home, whoever they will be, and she needs new leadership because she is really old, WILL BE ABLE TO BETTER CARE FOR THE KIDS THAN SHE CAN. After hearing WHY she was building a library, I was shocked. But hearing that Martha honestly believes that God will provide new leadership to follow in her footsteps that will do far greater things than she has been able to – will forever be imprinted on my mind. If you’ve ever met Martha, maybe you can understand a bit of my surprise at hearing this. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone as AWESOME, strong, determined, full of faith, dedicated, gentle, sweet natured, kind, generous and passionate as Martha.

I want to believe the best is yet to come like Martha does. Don’t you?

Dreams, by Back2Back India

March 22, 2010

Ashok is a bright, energetic and friendly 12 year old boy at one of the children’s homes served by Back2Back India.

In October 2008, his mother was killed in an accident. His father is a coolie, a manual laborer unloading sand trucks. As a poor widower working long days, he was unable to take care of his children. So Ashok, his sister Maheshwari and younger brother Karunakar were begging daily to live. In May 2009, these three siblings joined the children’s home.

Ashok is very attentive to and protective of Karunakar, a little 4 year old who is often fussy.

Recently a short-term service team from the UK served with us in India. They shared the story of Joseph with the children. (Genesis 37, 39-47:11) As a related craft activity, the children colored construction paper “coats” in many colors.

The next day, the children drew pictures of what their dreams were – what they wanted to be when they grow up. Some wanted to be police officers, others teachers and pastors, and even some doctors.

Ashok helped Karunakar draw the dream of becoming an architect. Ashok then put Karunakar’s dream in the pocket of his own multi-colored coat. When I asked Ashok about his dream, he indicated that it didn’t matter; it was more important that his little brother’s dream come true.

Ashok, Maheshwari and Karunakar are just a few of the many children that Back2Back serves in India. We are providing care for today and hope for tomorrow so that each child can dream a big dream. We pray that just like Joseph, as these children work hard and trust in God that all their dreams may come true.

Help from LifePoint Vineyard, by Jim Betscher, Back2Back Mexico Staff

March 1, 2010

A group of eighteen adults from LifePoint Vineyard came to serve with Back2Back in February. On Wednesday of that week, we headed to Casa Hogar Douglas, a children’s home we partner with, to work for the day. I had a list of projects planned for the group to work on ahead of time. But, when we arrived, the workers at the home told me that the septic line was clogged and sewage was backing up. When I was dividing up the job assignments for the day, I asked if a couple of the men could check out the problem and let me know what they thought we needed to do. Within the first hour, they discovered we had a big problem. About 200 feet of an 8″ sewer pipe was clogged and in some places crushed. I really thought this was a problem that might take weeks to fix. But these guys were determined to fix it that day.

They quickly came up with a plan that involved jack hammering concrete, cutting out old damaged PVC piping and replacing it with new. They gave me a list of parts that they would need, and we abandoned some of our initial projects to concentrate on this more important one. I sent Mauricio to purchase the new parts and we got busy jack hammering. As the afternoon went on, we could see that we might end up working into the night. These determined guys were unanimous in wanting to finish this project before they left.

As the sun was setting, and we were working by flashlight, many of the kids were beginning to go to sleep in their dorms. But just outside their window, they could hear eleven men fighting for their cause. These men weren’t angry or even upset. Instead they were laughing and joking about working in the dark.

The part that impressed me the most, was how safe these young kids felt as they went to sleep that night. Most nights, children in a casa hogar go to sleep feeling insecure. Sometimes, they may even have fear about something that is going on in their life. And for many kids in a children’s home, men have let them down the most. But on this night, the young kids at Casa Hogar Douglas, went to sleep knowing that eleven men were working with the joy of the Lord, in very unpleasant conditions, for their benefit. For at least one night, the men of Lifepoint Vineyard brought peace and security to the frightening world these kids live in. And they did it in a very simple way.

He Loves them More, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

January 27, 2010

This past week I had a conversation that entirely blessed me. Lalo is a pastor and the director of a children’s home we work with called Imperio de Amor (IDA). I was at IDA with a group of Americans playing with the near fifty kids who were at the home that day. In the midst of the play I got a moment to talk to Lalo and to hear some of his story. IDA got a call and is expecting to receive five more kids within the next two weeks. Already IDA has an average of eighty kids. I couldn’t even imagine the weight of responsibility Lalo must feel for these kids. I asked him how he was doing and if he ever felt the pressure or burden of caring for so many hurting children. He said that the only time it really becomes hard is when there is not enough food nor money to pay bills.  Then, he said, he feels the pressure. Lalo continued to tell me about a time he felt that pressure in the first few months that he started IDA and the amazing way the Lord came through for them. This is his story:

“Two years ago, when IDA was just a few months old, we ran into a bit of a crisis. There was one day when the money just ran out. The kids were hungry and asking me for food but there was none to give them. We had already borrowed $2000.00 pesos to pay bills and more bills were due. I was scared and not sure where the money or food was going to come from. I prayed and prayed. ‘This isn’t the character of God to abandon His children’, I thought to myself. That night I went to sleep praying and troubled. During the night I had a dream. In my dream I saw a Back2Back staff member come to the kitchen in the casa hogar (children’s home) with a carpenter. He said that the carpenter was there to fix something in the kitchen. I watched as the men went into the kitchen to work. Slowly the carpenter turned and I saw His face… it was Jesus! I woke up and went to the kitchen in the morning to see if there was food. There was none there. Just then one of the boys ran in saying “Hermano! hermano! There is a man out on the road with a truck full of bread and milk.” I went outside to find this to be true. This man had no idea we were in need of food and he was there to provide breakfast for the children. Later that day an American man came to visit the children’s home. He brought with him a gift of $700.00 dollars! Enough to pay our debts, the bills, and to buy more food! God was so faithful to provide for his children.”

I was in amazement of our wonderful Savior as I heard this story! I asked Lalo if the kids at the home knew this story. He said that they all knew it! He wants the Children to know how their Father in Heaven takes care of them on a personal level! He shares with them every time God provides.

I love that our God loves these children so much more than we ever could. He provides for them even when we can’t. Jesus is the one who is watching out for them, loving them, feeding them… thank you Jesus for your mercy! Thank you, Lord, for surrounding these kids with caretakers who love you and reflect your presence. Thank you for being our good Abba Father…

Scissors, by Mandy Lail, Back2Back Mexico Staff

January 5, 2010

I can’t believe it’s been a year already.  January 1, 2009 our family moved into the John House (part of the Hope Program) here on the Monterrey, Mexico campus.  Just a few short days later, five boys who had been living in children’s homes moved in as well. At the start of 2010 there is so much to look forward to.  We have lots of challenges ahead in this new year, but I can’t help but be hopeful when I remember how faithful God has been in 2009.  We have come a long way as a family.

Just a month or so ago one of the boys and I were talking about scissors.  He needed to use some and we couldn’t find any around.

Of course the mom in me starts asking “What happened to the pair I bought you for school?”

He tells me he used to keep them in a spot above his bed (he sleeps on the bottom of the bunk bed) but can’t find them now.

I am thinking and ask, “Why did you keep them there?”

After a short and rather cryptic conversation I begin to understand.  He kept them there for protection, in case he needed to protect himself at night.  He tells me that the childrens home, he slept with a stick under his bed for the same reason.  It’s sinking in, I am beginning to understand.  And then I innocently ask, “But you don’t need them anymore?”  And he answers “No.”

We have lots of challenges to face with our boys this year.  A hard start to high school, an ongoing court case, and the always present chores, homework, GIRLS, etc.  But my boys feel safer than they did last year.  My foster son no longer sleeps with a weapon for protection.  That is a blessing I cannot deny.  And with that in mind, I look forward to what God has in store for 2010!

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!

Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Back2Back Ministries!

November 25, 2009

As Thanksgiving approaches, we cannot help but celebrate the many ways in which God has been faithful and blessed Back2Back Ministries. We would like to take this opportunity to share just a few highlights from 2009 for which we’re thankful!

In Mexico: As a result of the Back2Back Hope Education Program, six children who we met when the ministry first began have now graduated from college, forever breaking the cycle of generational poverty in their families.

Junior, one of the six Back2Back Hope Program students who graduated from college this year (pictured with B2B Directors, Todd & Beth Guckenberger)

In Nigeria: We have expanded our full-time staff to include John and Corrie Guckenberger and Will and Theresa Reed. Through the generous land donation of Self-Sustaining Enterprises, we are beginning to develop a permanent Back2Back campus with staff and group housing. We are also launching the Hope Education Program in Nigeria and building an education center on this land, allowing us to provide more opportunities to the children that we serve.

Will & Theresa Reed will soon be joining the Back2Back Nigeria team

John & Corrie Guckenberger joined the Back2Back Nigeria staff this year

In India: We have begun a partnership with EJH Children’s Home, as the directors of this home share Back2Back’s vision to show love and provide care to children in need.  This particular home cares for children with disabilities, a ministry that is desperately needed in India, a country where those that have a handicap are marginalized by society.

A few of the children from EJH

In the U.S. Office: We have increased our staff in the US, allowing us to expand and improve our communications and have a greater impact in meeting the need of orphans. We also have begun a child sponsorship program, the Back2Back Shelter Program, which enables us to better meet the physical, spiritual and educational needs of the children we serve.

Beatriz

Beatriz, the first child to receive a sponsor through our new child sponsorship program

We truly cannot praise God enough for the ways in which He has blessed and provided for our ministry this year. These successes would not be possible without your commitment to partner with us. As we look toward the future, we are excited about how God is working through Back2Back Ministries.  Please know that you are a part of our Back2Back family and we truly appreciate your love and support of the orphan child.

Please keep the children we serve in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

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

Party Fun at Imperio de Amor, by Christy Ross, Back2Back Mexico Staff

November 2, 2009

Recently, a group from Christ United Methodist Church in North Carolina served alongside us at the Monterrey children’s homes.  They were able to go to Imperio de Amor children’s home and have a birthday party celebrating the kids’ birthdays that are in July through September. The group brought money to buy tons of candy and a pinata. They also brought along festival type games to play with the kids. There was a big cake made up of cupcakes (quequitos),the group blew up balloons, and they had fun with the kids as they opened up their gifts.

One of my love languages is gifts. I love receiving gifts but I also love giving gifts. I am thankful I can be used in this way working hard to come up with great gifts that each child can enjoy. It also makes me smile thinking of the kids as they open up something that is specifically for them and that there are lots of people to get excited with them at the parties.

Thanks Christ United Methodist Church for loving on the kids and for buying them a pinata, candy, and for bringing the little skateboards for the boys!  Also I want to give a big thanks again to the second grade classes at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy for making the birthday cards, necklaces, pencil decorations, and placemats. They are all so cute and each child received one for their birthday.

Enjoy the pictures from the party!

Birthday Party Fun at IDA 1

10.29.09 - Birthday Party Fun at IDA 2

10.29.09 - Birthday Party Fun at IDA 3

10.29.09 - Birthday Party Fun at IDA 4

10.29.09 - Birthday Party Fun at IDA 5

10.29.09 - Birthday Party Fun at IDA 6

The Prayer of Louis, by Jim Betscher, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 28, 2009

The lives of the kids who live in the children’s homes that we serve are often filled with pain. Many times, their lives are filled with bad memories of their families and a void of real love. In all of the work that we do, we want the kids to experience love and to know that God loves them perfectly. I love it when a child has an opportunity to exercise his faith in God and realize that God always loves them. Recently, Luis, a nine-year old from Casa Hogar Douglas (one of the children’s homes we serve) had this opportunity.

Luis

Javier, the head care giver at this children’s home, has been going to each dormitory at bedtime and praying with the kids. A few weeks ago, he was in the young boys’ dorm, and he asked if they had any prayer requests. Luis, the oldest of four kids in his family that live at this children’s home, said that he wanted to pray that a relative would come and visit them on Sunday.  It had been weeks since anyone had come to visit them on visitation day.

Some of the other kids laughed and said, “No one is coming!”

But then, Javier calmly asked Luis, “Do you believe if we pray that someone will come, that it will happen?”

Luis answered “YES I DO!”

They prayed together that night for his mom to come and visit. That next Sunday, their mom came to visit them.

I remember the day that Luis, his two younger brothers and his sister were dropped off by their mom at the children’s home. It was about a year ago. I remember because I had tears in my eyes as she left them. But, none of the kids were crying. I know that their lives have probably always been full of sadness, heartache and pain. One of the hardest parts of our work, is witnessing the heartache and pain that so many of these kids carry. But I am also lifted up, each time I can witness God’s faithfulness in their lives as well.

Concert for the Children’s Homes, by Beth Guckenberger & Becca Gantz, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 26, 2009

Thoughts from Beth Guckenberger:

pureNRG, a music group from Word Entertainment was our guest this past month in Monterrey.

pureNRG

They partnered with the James Fund and Payless Shoes in a marketing co-venture that resulted in thousands of donated shoes for orphans around the world.  Hundreds of those were sent to Mexico with b2b and we were able to do a giant footwashing event that placed new shoes on literally hundreds of children in one of our squatters’ villages. The three members of the group served alongside their James fund counterparts and record executives and reached out to two of our childrens homes during work days and then all of the homes one afternoon for a giant concert.  We began the concert with various children’s homes performing for each other and then culminated in a long set of pureNRG songs and their testimonies.  The children loved the concert, singing and dancing and enjoying the time altogether.  What a treat to labor beside our James Fund friends and Word Entertainment who has brought gifted artists like Mark Schultz and pureNRG to speak out with their voices for the children we serve.  It was a fantastic week and we are all new and loyal fans of this great band!

Thoughts from Becca Gantz:

Has anyone heard of the Christian music group pureNRG?

pureNRG’s mission is to entertain, educate and promote Christian values for young people by using wholesome, uplifting lyrics, along with music and dance, in order to provide a positive role model. pureNRG has been a favorite on Radio Disney and has a top selling album out on Fervent Records. They recently toured with MercyMe, BarlowGirl and Skillet.  Their mission is to entertain, educate and promote Christian values for young people by using wholesome, uplifting lyrics, along with music and dance, in order to provide a positive role model.

The members of the band, JORDAN, CAROLYNE, AND CAROLINE, were just here on a mission trip with Back2Back. We had such a blast with them!  They are super fun, energetic, and eager to serve.

One of the nights they were here, they put on a mini concert for ALL the casa hogars (children’s homes) we serve here in Monterrey. Instead of it being just a concert from them, all the homes had something prepared as a little present to them.  The Douglas girls performed a tambourine routine and the rest of the homes sang a couple of songs.

Performing for pureNRG

I am pretty sure it was all of the children’s homes first time to see anything remotely like a concert. There were a lot of kids, LOTS OF SMILING FACES, lots of food for dinner, and most of all LOTS OF FUN.

Dinner before PureNRG concert

Enjoying the concert

PureNRG concert

I also had the privilege of debriefing them one night after serving at the children’s homes.  These three teenagers blew my mind. Their focus is completely devoted to God and there was no doubt in my mind that God has specifically chosen them, to share the Gospel in such a unique and fun way, for a reason.

pureNRG with children from one of the children's homes we serve

Carolyne and Caroline from pureNRG with children from one of the children's homes we serve

With Jordan, Caroline and Carolyne from pureNRG

With Jordan, Caroline and Carolyne from pureNRG

Hear from the members of PureNRG on their experience in Mexico here, here, and here!

Annual Strategic Planning Retreat, by Claire Rogers, Back2Back US Staff

October 19, 2009

Recently, the US and Mexico staff gathered at our Mexico campus in Monterrey for our annual strategic planning retreat.  During the daytime sessions, we brainstormed how we might continue to grow and improve as an organization, while staying true to our mission to provide “care for today, hope for tomorrow” to orphans.  We also visited all our ministry sites, both children’s homes and communities such as the Rios and Cadereyta, and participated in team-building activities.

One evening, we attended a chapel service at one of the children’s homes we partner with, Casa Hogar Douglas.  Some of the girls from the children’s home performed a dance to “Lord I Lift Your Name on High.”  It was captured using the video feature on a camera that someone had on hand.  Check it out, along with some photos from the week, below.

Briefing before team building activities

Briefing before team building activities

Team building activity

Team building activity

The staff split into small groups for a series of team-building activities

The staff split into small groups for a series of team-building activities

Brian Bertke at Rio I

Brian Bertke at Rio I

Kristine Hall before a church service at Rio III

Kristine Hall with children from Rio III

Shooting video at Imperio de Amor

Shooting video at Imperio de Amor

A few staff members during a dinner out at El Pollo Loco

A few staff members during a dinner out at El Pollo Loco

Chris Ramos, spending time with the children at Del Norte Children's Home

Chris Ramos, spending time with the children at Del Norte Children's Home

Shooting video footage of Angel, one of our ministry partners at Cadereyta

Shooting video footage of Angel, one of our ministry partners at Cadereyta

A few members of the US staff at Cadereyta, one of the local communities where Back2Back serves

A few members of the US staff at Cadereyta, one of the communities that Back2Back serves

Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico staff, with Meme, a local ministry partner

Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico staff, with Meme, a local ministry partner

Back2Back US Staff

A few Back2Back staff members before heading back to Cincinnati

A Great Awakening, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 14, 2009

This past summer, God blessed me with the opportunity to increase my Spanish by studying in an intensive program in central Mexico. This is a picture of one of the many stands in and around San Miguel de Allende where I studied.

Children selling dolls at a stand in Monterrey

A doll stand in San Miguel de Allende

Often women and children will sit on the curb and sell dolls similar to these… it breaks my heart to see these children there for hours. One day, I walked by a little girl of about six years sound asleep on the pile of dolls that she was supposed to be selling… precious and heartbreaking at the same time. Seeing so many children on the streets makes me so appreciative of the children’s homes that we work with here in Monterrey. Sure the job of caring for so many kids and homes is hard, but it is worth it to see them having a childhood, going to school, learning about Jesus….

Hope, spending time with the children at Meme's Rio, a squatter's village where Back2Back serves

Spending time with the children at Meme's Rio, a squatter's village that Back2Back serves

One day in San Miguel, I was calmly sipping my coffee in Starbucks (yes, Starbucks has taken over this part of the world too!) when a little girl, ten years old, came into the store and asked me to buy bubble gum from her. I have to admit that my first reaction was to kindly deny.  But, after the girl left, I began to think about the interaction I had had with her. I began to feel convicted for brushing her off in the same way everyone else had in this town.  Here was a girl who in so many ways is exactly like the children I serve in Monterrey.  I thought to myself how Jesus would have handled that situation and quickly gathered my things and went out to search for the girl. I found her sitting by her mother on the corner still selling the gum. I asked the girl how much her gum cost and ended up having a beautiful conversation with her. I learned that her name was Maria and she was ten years old.  She was thrilled to discover that I was a teacher. She told me which were her favorite flavors of gum and I promptly bought two. After a few more minutes of chatting, I said goodbye and began to walk home, feeling a little less convicted.

On the other street corner, I ran into an older woman with a small child. Both were sitting in the middle of the sidewalk with their hands outstretched, asking for money. I asked the woman if her child could have the gum I just bought and then began to talk to her about her life. Maria Paula and her grandson Erik Julian live outside of San Miguel with many other family members. Maria shared with me that it’s hard to provide for all the mouths she has to feed. Currently four of her fourteen children are still at home.

Maria and I talked for awhile and I was able to share with her about how the Lord has provided for me on multiple occasions when times were tight. Although I am sure I have never experienced what this lady has, she seemed to be encouraged by my stories. I prayed for her. She cried. God’s spirit was there. And I wondered why so many times I get caught up in my own bubble, my own goals, my own agenda and forget that I am on this planet not for my purposes but for His. This was a great awakening day for me… that ended with the gift of three new friends.

The Lucky Ones, by Matt Cooper

September 22, 2009

A few days ago, I was able to share special moment with two children that live in children’s homes where Back2Back serves. One was with Joel from Manantial de Amor. One was with Gaby from Casa Hogar Betesda. Joel and Gaby are two very privileged kids. They aren’t necessarily privileged because of who they are or what they have. They aren’t privileged because they are receiving the world’s best education, or because they are well traveled. They don’t live in any special neighborhoods, and they wouldn’t likely win any awards for being the best dressed. Sadly enough they don’t even live with their families. However, God has placed them in a children’s home where they are being loved and cared for.

What makes Joel and Gaby special is that they have both been chosen. Back2Back has started a new child sponsorship program, the Shelter Program, and Joel and Gaby are two of the lucky ones. I call them lucky because I know for a fact that that’s how they feel. Today when I met with Joel, I hand-delivered him a backpack that sponsors from Michigan gave me to give him, when we saw them during a recent trip home to the US. The look on his face was priceless, as I explained who the backpack was from, and as he began to unload the candy, pictures, school supplies, and other goodies inside.

“A pencil box!” he exclaimed, “I needed one of these!”

I explained to Joel that God already knew his need, and that He sent the things, through his sponsors, just in the perfect time. Without a doubt I witnessed a child feel loved, not just by his sponsor, but even more importantly by God as well.

Spending time with Joel at Manantial de Amor

Spending time with Joel at Manantial de Amor

Joel was excited to discover that his backpack was filled with school supplies that he needed

Joel was excited to discover that his backpack was filled with school supplies that he needed

Joel showing off his new backpack

Joel showing off his new backpack

After leaving Manantial, I went on to Betesda, another one of the children’s homes that we work with.  I sat down beside a five-year old girl named Gaby and explained to her that a woman back in Ohio had chosen to sponsor her.

She immediately started looking around and asked, “Where is she? I want to see her,” she said.

I quickly explained that she wasn’t here today. I reminded Gaby of a time back in June when her sponsor had visited, and worked on projects in her children’s home, walked down to the park with her, and shared a snack of popsicles.

“Do you remember that Gaby?” I asked.

She nodded her head. “Yes, I remember. Can I have a picture of her so that I can remember her?” she asked.

Together, we scripted a letter to her sponsor, asking about her family, and requesting a photo.

“Can I send her a picture that I’ve colored?,” Gaby asked.

“Of course you can sweetheart,” I responded. “She is going to love it!”

Gaby

Gaby

The Shelter Program is a way for every child we work with to have an individual sponsor. Those sponsors financially support “their child” by giving $100 a month, which goes directly to the children’s home expenses for the care of the children. Why $100? Because that is exactly what it costs to provide for that child for one month. It ensures that the child will be cared for emotionally, physically and spiritually so that they can thrive.  The money covers the cost of health care, an education, food and clothing.  The program also gives each child the opportunity to develop a deep and lasting relationship with someone who is invested in their lives and committed to their success.  We’ve found that many of our sponsors have already come to think of their sponsor children as part of their family.

Some individuals or families choose to sponsor a child they have met during a trip to Monterrey. Others may not have met personally, but we will give them a chance to build and strengthen that relationship through letters, pictures and correspondence throughout the year. Joel and Gaby are two lucky kids, but there are hundreds more children we work with here in Monterrey just waiting for sponsors. They all deserve the privilege of feeling loved, of feeling like someone cares, and feeling like someone remembered them. They all deserve the privilege of feeling special. Please consider partnering with us in this very important project. There is a child waiting for you!

Interested in sponsoring a child? Email Claire Rogers at claire@back2backministries.org

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 Different Kind of Thanksgiving, by Claire Rogers

September 9, 2009

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

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

Caroline serving in Mexico on a Back2Back Ministries mission trip

Caroline serving in Mexico on a Back2Back Ministries mission trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VBS at Casa Hogar Douglas, by Jim Betscher

September 2, 2009

The last week of July we had our first Vacation Bible School for the kids that attend the church at Casa Hogar Douglas (Douglas Children’s Home). Each morning, the children had a time of worship, teaching by age group, and crafts.  All of the kids had a great time, as they learned more about God and grew in their spiritual understanding.

In addition to the attendees from the children’s home, eight kids from the local community joined us for the VBS. Can you imagine how the kids from the children’s home felt when the neighborhood kids WANTED to come to their home to visit? Those in the community don’t typically WANT to come to a children’s home.

One of our goals is that the children would feel like the children’s home that they live in is more like a home and less like an institution. I know that this is difficult, but we want them to think as a family. We want them to know what it is like to have siblings, parents, aunts and uncles who really love them as Christ loves them. We tell them often in the church, that we are not perfect, but we are a family.

VBS was not only a time of learning Bible stories and worship songs. For the kids of Casa Hogar Douglas, it was a time to be proud. Please keep praying for this church. I believe God is moving mightily in the lives of these kids right now. Wonderful things are soon to come as we witness the fruit from this work!

Marilin leads the younger children at the children's home to a group Bible lesson

Marilin leads children to their first VBS activity

Children working on an art project during craft time

Children working on an art project during craft time

Sharing a Bible story with the younger children during VBS

Using puppets to share a Bible story with the younger children

Betty Betscher sharing a lesson with the older children during VBS

Betty Betscher teaching a Bible lesson with the older children

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.

Well Worth the Investment, by Matt Cooper

August 17, 2009

An Afternoon with Edgar

I know what people are thinking.  Starbucks? What a waste of money.  Ok, not everyone.  Those who love cold coffee drinks would argue that it’s worth it.  The truth is a trip to Starbucks is not something that I make a habit of.  An opportunity to connect with one of our Hope Program students, however, is something that’s worth the investment.

A couple of weeks ago Edgar moved into our home.  He is seventeen and just two weeks into his college career.  He’s new to our program and is filled with questions.  The thing about most seventeen-year-old boys though is that it can be like pulling teeth to get them to verbalize their questions, and much more so their thoughts.

We’ve just come out of a very busy season here in Monterrey, and Edgar unfortunately moved in during the last couple weeks of that season.  The great news is that today Edgar and I had the chance to hang out together one-on-one.  I needed to drop off a student at school so that they could turn-in a summer project.  As I was about to run out the door, I shouted to Edgar, “Come on, I’m taking you out!”  He quickly grabbed his shoes and we were off.

After we dropped the other student at school, my only intention was to find some place for Edgar and I to sit and chat.  It had crossed my mind to find a café to grab a coke, or an ice cream shop, but we just happened across a quaint little Starbucks.  It was Edgar’s first visit and of course his first Venti Caramel Frappucino.  More importantly it was ninety minutes to connect on a personal level.  It was a chance to have a great conversation.  We talked about school and personal growth; we talked about my expectations for Edgar and about his aspirations; we talked about his adjustment to someplace new; and in the end we talked about God’s provision, God’s plan, and Edgar’s understanding of who God is.  I could not have been more pleased with the time.

The money spent at Starbucks was well worth the investment.  The fruit from that hour and a half invested in Edgar may not be fully realized this side of eternity, but I have a feeling that our conversation was a start to a great relationship.  I have a feeling it was a conversation and investment that is going to bring many great returns.

Edgar, the newest addition to the Hope Program's James House

Edgar, the newest addition to the Hope Program's James House

Wait for the Story, by Beth Guckenberger

August 10, 2009

Last Saturday, when the final week of summer short-term groups arrived, someone handed me a bank envelope of $800 and said it was a gift to the ministry to be used however it was needed.

I immediately pressed, “Would you like this spent on a teen in our program? At one of the Rio squatters’ villages?  For a children’s home?  A medical need?”

The donor responded, “I know it was to be this amount and there are no strings attached.”

When I hear that, I know there is a story coming.  There are instantly a dozen ways I could spend $800 well.  Needs abound in our organization; it’s the nature of what we do and who we serve.  But, I decided to wait on the Lord on this one, so I put the money in our safe, and just prayed for wisdom on how to use it.  Days passed and on Wednesday, I prayed, “God, I know you don’t work this way, but how cool if the donor could see this week where their money was spent.  Just tell me what need you raised this money for.”

Silence.

Later that evening, I was talking to Meme, who serves here with us in one of the squatter’s villages.  She was an orphan as a child and last year became a widow.  She ministers to the families of her community with a grace and resolve that is widely admired.  I finish our conversation and walk away.

“Beth! Come quick!” she yelled.  I turned around to her and gasped.  Her front two teeth had fallen out completely.  She sat there, devastated.

I learn that evening that she hasn’t ever received regular dental care and it had been years since she had her teeth professionally cleaned.  The next morning, I took her to a local dentist office and told them to temporarily fix the problem and then to call me with the estimate of how much it would cost to fix them permanently.  I knew that we would have to raise those funds for her.  An hour later I got a call from the dentist, who reviews with me the lengthy process and multiple other outstanding dental needs.

I responded, “She is a giver of good news to highly unreceptive people.  She needs to be able to open her mouth and speak the truth to them.  Tell me the damages… how much will all of that cost?”

The dentist paused, knowing I would have sticker shock.  “Eight-hundred dollars,” he said.

“No problem. Get started,” I answered with a smile. “Our Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He sold some for her benefit last week…”

I knew the dentist didn’t understand my reference, but Meme sure did, as did the donor when we shared the story with him later that night. Respond to the prompting; pray when unsure; and then wait for the story.

Meme with her new teeth

Meme, after receiving dental care

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

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