Posts Tagged ‘education’

Children of God, by Theresa Reed, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

February 3, 2012

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The other day one of my students, Jeremiah, asked if I would give him a red pen. I knew he needed it for school, so I gave him one of the many pens that have been donated to the Education Center. He smiled really big and said, “Auntie, thank you!! You always give me the things that I ask for”. I don’t really know what I asked this, but immediately I asked him, “Why do you think I give you those things?”. Without flinching he answered, “Because you are my Auntie.”

His response got me thinking. He claimed his relationship to me to be the reason why I give him things. I started to think about how much more a father desires to provide for his children and give them good things when they ask. A father longs to provide for the needs of his children. If we believe in God and have proclaimed him to be Lord of our lives, we are His sons (and daughters). Romans 8:15 says, “But you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.””

I just finished reading a book called, “The Birthright” by John Sheasby. The book discusses the concept of being a child of God and what that allows us access to in Him. In the book, John Sheasby discusses the story of the prodigal son, but talks about it from the viewpoint of the older brother. He quotes Luke 15:29, which says, “But he answered his father, “All these years I’ve worked like a slave for you. I’ve never disobeyed one of your commands. Yet, you’ve never given me so much as a little goat for a celebration with my friends.”” The author goes on to explain how sad it is that the older son never knew the power of what he had access to through his father. All he had to do over all the years was ask his father- and whatever he wanted would have been his. He had total access to his father’s riches, but never thought to ask for it- he just did his work and went on with this daily life.

Think about this for a second- we are children of God. We have access to everything that is His. All that we have to do is ask. Just as I gave Jeremiah a red pen because I am his Auntie, God wants to give us good things because we are His children. My point in all of this is that I desire for us as Christians to see the power that we have as children of God. We have total access God’s abundance. He desires to provide for us because we are His children. The best part of all of this is that He knows what we need. It is a good thing that I do not have to figure out what I need and don’t need because I don’t know the whole picture – but God does and He gives what He knows that we need. Praise the Lord for our closeness in relationship with Him!

Back2Back Nigeria provides academic assistance and tutoring to children in the Kisayhip Village outside Jos. Last fall, we opened our doors to the Oasis Education Center to expand educational opportunities for the local orphans and impoverished children.  By improving education and providing sponsorship, the children of Jos will have a brighter future.

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Backpacks from America, by Theresa Reed, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

September 30, 2011

Children in Jos, Nigeria are overjoyed to receive new backpacks!

Generous supporters of Back2Back donated backpacks a few months ago. Because the students will be starting school next week, we passed out the bags to them on Thursday. I wish we could have captured their excitement in a bottle! Their grins were ear-to-ear as they received the backpacks. Most of these children have never owned a backpack. Most of them have spent the past few years walking over an hour to school and carrying all of their books in a plastic bag along with them. The fact that they were receiving not only a backpack, but a new one from America made them ecstatic! It is so neat to see how many people God uses to bless these beautiful children from a village in Africa. I have no idea who all was involved in sending these bags, but the students felt loved and blessed because of it. Please continue to pray for the children, as they start their new school year at the Oasis Education Center.

Back2Back Nigeria provides academic assistance and tutoring to children in the Kisayhip Village outside Jos. Last fall, we opened our doors to the Oasis Education Center to expand educational opportunities for the local orphans and impoverished children.  By improving education and providing sponsorship, the children of Jos will have a brighter future.

A Fresh Start: New Students Enter the Hope Education Program

September 1, 2011

This fall, we welcome six new students into the Hope Education Program.

L to R, Top to Bottom: Jonathan, Eliud, Paloma, Kareli, María Luisa, Paty

Through the Hope Education Program, we offer students from children’s homes a way to continue their education when free public school ends at ninth grade. The students stay on the Back­2Back campus in homes with staff families (house parents), experiencing a healthy family life. Students are mentored, provided with an education, and encouraged to pursue their dreams so that they can become self-sustaining individuals.

Already, they are being faced with the challenge of learning how to navigate the public transportation system to and from their new schools. They are attending schools with some of Monterrey’s wealthiest families and are being challenged to compete academically and blend in socially with this new crowd. Additionally, they are learning to manage new jobs on and off campus to help pay for their transportation. We are excited to say that the seasoned veteran students in the Hope Program have extended a warm welcome to the new kids on campus and are showing them the ropes. We are full of anticipation, eager to see how the Lord will use us and the teens who we have already invested in to shape and mold the new students. We are hopeful that with the start of an education, the love of a family environment, and the encouragement of other believers, that these seeds have landed on fertile soil ready to grow.

The Privilege of an Education, by Matt & Julie Cooper

May 16, 2011

Chave (Isabel), Mari and Sofia sitting in their classroom at school

The privilege of going to school seems like a given, especially to attend kindergarten. But what if you can’t afford to send your child to kindergarten? For the kindergarten age children who live at Casa Hogar San Jose, they have to pay $10 USD a week to attend school. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you multiply it by four children, and all of the weeks they attend school, it starts to add up!

Mari, Chave, Sofia and Alexa are four little girls from Casa Hogar San Jose who are all in kindergarten. Thanks to some individuals who gave money at Christmastime through the Back2Back Christmas Catalog, and through families who are sponsoring children through Back2Back’s Shelter Program we were able to cover the majority of this bill for these four girls this year.

Last week, I accompanied the director of the home to the school to make a payment because they had gotten behind a few weeks. When I suggested we just go ahead and pay what they would owe for the rest of this school year the director was speechless. She was both overjoyed, and overwhelmed. Thank you to those of you who have given! Thank you for making it possible to bless this children’s home in this way, and thank you for blessing four little girls, whose education is one of the most important things we can give them.

An Empty Stomach, by Theresa Reed, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

March 11, 2011


Theresa Reed, Back2Back's education center teacher, reads with the students

A little over a year ago, students from the Vineyard  Community Church decided to “Sacrifice Christmas” by giving up gifts for themselves, and encouraging their parents and others to donate money to the development of Back2Back’s new education center for children in Jos, Nigeria.  Their sacrificial gift provided the new students at the Igmin Kibe Education Center with the incredible gift of an education. Back2Back worked with SSE and the community leaders from the Kisayhip Village to decide which children should be first to attend the tutoring that we will offer at the center.  The decision was made that they should focus on those in the most need, those children whose fathers have died and their mothers are now widows.  These ten students will receive after school tutoring and the focus will be on learning English.  In Nigeria, most of the public schools offer poor education and often times the schools are closed due to teacher strikes or the government not being able to afford to pay their   teachers.  Consequently, less than 50% of children are able to read a simple sentence at the age of eleven.

Theresa Reed, our Back2Back teacher, and Esther who just graduated as a teacher in Jos, have had great success.  For these initial students, they are taking the first steps towards breaking the cycle of poverty that have plagued their family for generations.  It is the hope of Back2Back, SSE and the village of Kisayhip that these students will become self sufficient and be able to provide for their future families.

Hannatu, one of the children benefiting from the new Education Center in Jos, Nigeria

Hannatu could not concentrate. It was only the second day of class, but I could tell that she was not acting like her usual self.  Her eyes seemed glazed over and she was un-responsive when we asked her a question. Finally, Esther, the Nigerian teacher who works with me at the Education Center, asked Hannatu in Rakuba, “What is the matter today?”Hannatu responded by saying that her stomach was paining her because she was so hungry.

It is basic psychology that humans cannot learn to their fullest potential if their basic needs are not being met. Hannatu was hungry and therefore, could not concentrate. I have no idea when the last time that she had eaten something substantial was or the last time that she actually had protein, but all I knew was that she was hungry. If she was hungry, the other students (who are from her same village) were most likely hungry as well.

Because of Hannatu’s honesty with us on the second day of class, we have now started providing a healthy snack for the students every day at the beginning of class. I cannot explain how much Hannatu’s (and the other students’)  face light up the first time we gave them a snack during class. They were so excited and are now even more motivated to come to class. They love snack time and are more responsive for class once it is over.

Hannatu is now a totally different student. Once shy and timid, she is now all smiles and quick to laugh. She brought an important need to our attention and I believe that by meeting that basic need, we have built trust and confidence in a once reserved student.


Hunger in India, by Back2Back India Staff

January 10, 2011

In 2010, Back2Back has explored the theme of hunger. A Back2Back created study guide led mission group members through a series of readings and discussion questions to deepen their hunger for God. During our time in India, we have seen other forms of hunger.

The most obvious hunger we saw was physical hunger. The extreme poverty makes food, a basic commodity, not readily available to everyone. Although the children eat large plates of rice, the nutritional content is minimal. Through a generous ongoing donation, Back2Back India is able to improve the quality and variety of foods for children at the ministry sites where we serve. This helps meet their physical hunger.

Our mission team immediately noticed the emotional hunger of the children in India. At one of our homes, the children are very affectionate and just cannot get enough hugs, piggy-back rides or Kabbadi (a very physical game). At the larger home, the children are less physically engaged but vie for your attention to look at the craft they made, watch them skip rope, take their picture or just say hello. Spending time with them and pouring into their lives helps fill them emotionally.

India is a country hungering for the fruits of the spirit –love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. We are thankful that our partners there have a heart for children and are teaching them spiritual truths. The children memorize scripture verses, learn worship songs and perform dances that tell of God’s love. They are filling their hearts and minds with spiritual fruit.

The children in India have a hunger to learn. They are very disciplined in their class schedule and study time. This summer’s mission team spent several days teaching the children about numbers, shapes, colors, and body parts in a fun and interactive manner – and all in English! It was a great opportunity for the children and they were eager to learn. Back2Back wants to nourish their hunger for education.

This summer the mission team, interns, and Back2Back staff spent a fun-filled and energetic week heaping spoonfuls of physical, emotional, spiritual and educational blessings on the children in India to help fill their hunger. I pray that our hunger to meet their hunger continues to grow.

If you are interested in opportunities to serve in India on a mission trip or as full-time staff, please contact Chris Ramos (ramos@back2backministries.org).

A warm greeting from some of the children who Back2Back India serves

All This Because Someone Gave and Someone Came, by Daniel Asama Ago, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

September 30, 2010

I am not just posting a blog, but giving you a testimony of my Back2Back (B2B) experience. It has been three years since I first met Jason and Emilee Munafo, the Directors of B2B Nigeria.  I was already working two jobs here in Jos, trying to make a living.  My field is Information Technology (IT).  When I first met Back2Back Nigeria Staff, Jason & Emilee Munafo, they recognized my deep desire to succeed and learn so, they introduced us to an American businessman who came alongside us, assisting us in launching a small IT business.

Current Bits System Office

With the help of a Back2Back donor who wanted to assist entrepreneurs, we were given a set of laptops and contemporary training in web-design and development by Griffith Holdings, Inc., a company in the United States.  As a result of the Munafo’s support and the generosity of Back2Back partners, we were recently named one of the top web-design companies in Nigeria.

Our Latest Group of Web Design Trainees

I wouldn’t say we have already achieved all that we hope for but we are continuing to move forward and we can see the prospect of a better market with time because of the blessings we have been given. We have started training others in the community, so as to pass on what we know and what was shared with us.  We have trained eleven people so far . . . all because someone gave and someone came.

Because of the positive experience that I have had with Back2Back, I recently joined the Back2Back Nigerian staff as the co-captain of community development, along with Will Reed, who also recently came on staff in Nigeria. He and his wife, Theresa, are going to be a huge blessing to the ministry. We have introduced our monthly ministry program at the Viewing Center in the Kisayhip Village. We call it “Forums”, where we will be discussing life morals and biblical principles to young men from the village.

I was once that child who knew education was not a quest for KNOWLEDGE but a means for SURVIVAL and I had no means whatsoever to achieve that, even though I had the zeal and understanding.  I just couldn’t pay for it. Growing up, we had only corn meal and sometimes warm water for dinner.  So,  schooling  would have been a luxury we couldn’t think about.  This makes the Education Center, which will be starting up in the village very shortly, a “hope-raiser” for many of the children in the village.

Groundbreaking of the Education Center in the Kisayhip Village

So here I am, through the special grace of God, writing this blog for B2B, and communicating in English through my computer . . . all because someone gave and someone came.

I would love to someday hear a similar testimony from the children that we serve in the Kisayhip Village.

Ending the Cycle, by Jason Munafo, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

August 27, 2010

Jason (left) and Emanuel (right)

The other day I was talking with Emanuel who is from the village and is helping us run the Oasis Community Center. He is twenty-three years old and is well-educated. I asked him what he feels is the one thing that would most help this community.

He replied, “Education”.

So, I asked him how he became educated. He told me it was not easy. His parents, who both are still living, divorced when he was very young. His father is an alcoholic who happens to be a doctor and his mom, as he says, is a very difficult person. His parents would not continue to pay for his education.  So at the age of fifteen he left home to live on his own. He started working at the local carwash and made enough money to build a small one-room house (shack), buy food, and pay for his schooling. He said every day was hard.

Emanuel still works at the carwash and says many of his friends who work there with him were in the same situation as he was. The only difference between Emanuel and the other boys is that Emanuel knew the importance of education. He said most of those boys can not read or write and that as a result, the carwash is a dead-end for them. The money they make does not go toward things that last. Alcoholism is a big problem in this community.  When young boys have an education, but lack education, they often end up heading down that path. Emanuel is sad because this is an endless cycle. If education is not a priority for one generation then it is not going to be for the generation to follow.

“We need to break this cycle,” he said.

I agreed.

Every Christmas Emanuel buys all the children in the community a small pad of paper and a pen.

“It’s not much,” he said, “But I want to do all I can to encourage the children to push for an education.”

In January, we are opening the Oasis Education Center to help the children by brining a tutoring program to the village. We will start off small by teaching the basics. But in the end, our hope is to make a life long investment in every child in this community to end this generational cycle.

Infrastructure and Ministry, by John Guckenberger, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

August 20, 2010

In mission work, all the things that have to be done in order to actually minister or care for someone can be overwhelming.  Within Back2Back, we often talk of our personal bullseye, or our unique focus within the ministry.  Obviously Back2Back’s bullseye is to impact and care for the orphan, but that does not mean that everyone involved with Back2Back is “directly” involved with the orphan.   Many people are “indirectly” involved in impacting the orphan, serving in critical ways.

When developing a site in construction, the first thing we often start with is the infrastructure (ie: roads, underground, utilities, sanitary lines, property walls, etc.).  Although all these things are crucial in supporting the finished product of the building, many times they are not readily apparent once the building is completed and occupied.

Recently, I have been thinking of all the people and things that support the ultimate goal of impacting the orphan. I’m grateful that God’s plan is for us to be a body of believers, each person utilizing their unique gifts and talents for His kingdom, whether this is the people in the mission field or the people sending the missionaries.

In Nigeria, I am constructing the Oasis Education Center, where new Back2Back staff member, Theresa Reed, will spend time tutoring underprivileged children in the Kisayhip Village.  She will be “directly” impacting the orphan, but to make this possible, there is a great deal of upfront development of an infrastructure required.

I want to break it down to show all the people who are involved in making an impact on the orphan – the many parts affecting the orphan child as a whole.

-Back2Back US staff member, Brian Bertke, shares the vision of the Education Center to the youth at the Vineyard Church and the Daniels family in Cincinnati.

-This church and family caught the vision and they were able to raise the funds for us to begin building the Education Center.

-People in the US are supporting the Back2Back staff members, enabling them to live and minister in Nigeria.

-Back2Back staff serve in Nigeria and begin to build the Education Center.

-Back2Back US staff communicates the ongoing need, keeping supporters and advocates updated, and helps with continued fundraising efforts in the US.

-Back2Back support staff, such as drivers, assist in getting materials to the site for the building.

-Supporters donate money to buy a block machine to help make quality blocks for the project.

-Back2Back employs local block makers, masons, and carpenters from the village to construct the Education Center, providing the people in the village with an opportunity to earn an income.

-The building is completed and Theresa Reed will directly impact the orphan by helping supplement their education as a teacher.

-The orphan child in the Kisayhip Village will have a brighter future by receiving “care for today, hope for tomorrow.”

Inspired, by Corrie Guckenberger, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

August 4, 2010

Have you ever caught a vision of something? Something bigger than yourself? Maybe you even got a panicked feeling and at the same time a moment of exhilaration? Last week, I experienced all of those emotions after Esther (a girl from OLA, an orphanage we serve) graduated from secondary school.

Esther with her classmates (Ester is in red and black in the center)

I was full of emotion not just for Esther, but for the other children, Hope, Daniel and Joe, who were there watching Esther’s graduation ceremony.

I was so excited for her and for them to be able to see the fruit of what hard work and diligence and perseverance can produce. At the same time I became a bit panicky, as I thought about the statistics stacked against them: being poor and fatherless, being behind in their schooling due to lack of supervision with their studies, the struggling Nigerian education system.

Esther's classroom, as many in Nigeria, lacks basic supplies

I was quickly reminded that for more success stories to take place, God will have to step in and intervene for them through funding, mentoring, and tutoring. I also realized that me alone, or even Back2Back alone could not tackle this gigantic task. It is for the body.  A body of believers who are committed to the orphan child. Believers who are willing to lay down their life for someone else. People who are interested in considering others better than themselves and worthy of all that can be offered.

Sitting through the ceremony yesterday I felt choked up because these Nigerians truly celebrated the moving forward of each individual and child. They are proud of where they are coming from and even more proud of where they could be headed and where God might lead them.

Esther can make a difference, not just because she is educated.  Even more, her education will give her a platform to be able to reach more people and she will be able to use her God given mind to discern what is God’s perfect and pleasing will for her.

Daniel, Joe and Hope saw Esther celebrate a new season and stage of life. A new beginning and my prayer is that as we were all sitting there, they were becoming inspired to take another step forward, no matter how daunting the task is for them. We are all a part of the body, the body of Christ that can together raise another generation of believers who are willing to move forward.

Esther during the graduation ceremony (second from left)

Esther with those of us who came to watch her graduation

The Reeds’ Journey to Nigeria

May 27, 2010

In the spring of 2009, Will and Theresa began to ask God what He had in store for them when Theresa graduated college in 2010. As they prayed, they were continually led to Back2Back, the same ministry they were serving with in Mexico when they met for the first time. After conversations with staff and a visit to Jos, they know it is where God wants them. In the midst of big needs, they are excited to work with Back2Back to offer H.O.P.E. to people in Jos and the Kisayhip Village.

Both Will and Theresa will be working to build relationships, host groups, and meet needs. However, of all the things they will be doing in Jos, they are most excited for what Theresa will be doing. She will be working to provide an education to the children in the Kisayhip Village, the fulfillment of a life-long dream for her and also the fulfillment of a big need. Will and Theresa will be leaving for Jos in September 2010. They are excited to continue the adventure God has called them to in Nigeria, as they pursue the passions He has instilled in them.

Rukmini, by Back2Back India Staff

May 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

Children studying in the evening at the Feeding Center

Children enjoy a nutritious meal at the Feeding Center

A young girl works on her homework at the Feeding Center

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

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.

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

Rajeshekar, by Todd Guckenberger

August 14, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashok & Karunakav

Ashok & Karunakav

Mounika & Maheshwari

Mounika & Maheshwari

Rajasekhar & Bhasker

Rajasekhar & Bhasker

Swethia & Madhuri

Swethia & Madhuri

Swapna & Lavanya

Swapna & Lavanya

Back to School, by Back2Back India Staff

July 24, 2009

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

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

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

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

During English class at their new school

During English class at their new school

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

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

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

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

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

Shelter in Unexpected Forms, by Mandy Lail

July 22, 2009

This week I have been thinking about shelter in unexpected forms.  Take one of my boys, Homero, for example.  When Homero was twelve years old, he came to live at Manantial de Amor, one of the children’s homes in Monterrey.  He had gotten into a lot of trouble at various schools and even with the police.  His mother was at a loss at how to handle him.  A family member lived near Manantial de Amor, so his mother decided to take him there even though she lives two hours south by bus.  After three years at Manantial de Amor, Homero moved in with us to participate in the Hope Program with Back2Back.

Most of us find it difficult to understand how a mother can take her child to a children’s home.  And even more, we find it difficult to understand how God can shelter a child there.  How a life without their family, a life in a group home can be a form of shelter.  The reality is that for many of these kids a children’s home is a safer place than they came from.  It’s not perfect, sometimes not even pretty, but for many much safer. This can be a hard concept for us to understand.

But for me when I look at Homero . . . it is so clear how God has not only sheltered him but continues to pursue him.  Living at Manantial de Amor removed him from a dangerous path he was on.  He was making bad decision after bad decision and thankfully his mother intervened.  If she hadn’t, I think he would likely be in jail. God provided not only physical shelter, not only removed him from a dangerous path but provided Homero spiritual shelter.  Through the spiritual influence of the director Edgar, Homero started a relationship with Jesus while living at Manantial.  And now he lives with us where he has the opportunity to receive a solid education and spiritual influence, while experiencing family life.

Recently we had to tell Homero “no” when he asked to visit his hometown over the weekend.  He had been back several times in the previous months and we were becoming more and more concerned with his trips there.  From what information we could gather after the fact, he was making questionable decisions again, hanging out with his old crowd and spending little time with his mother while there.  At his last request we both felt super uneasy about the prospect and decided to not let him go.  He handled it well and even seemed relieved.  Later he told us that he had thought God didn’t want him to go.

About two weeks later, his mother showed up unexpectedly.   When she asked to speak privately with us, we were concerned she was angry we had not let Homero visit.  Instead, through tears, she asked us to not let him visit his hometown any more.  She too was concerned about his visits and decisions.  She knew it meant she would see him less, but she was willing to sacrifice her time with him to ensure he stayed on his current path.  She knows what opportunities he has here at Back2Back and she wants him to compromise them.

To me it’s so clear.  God has sheltered Homero over and over again; through a children’s home, through Back2Back and especially through his mother.  Many would look at her and judge her inability to parent.  I look at her and see a woman who is fighting for her son the only way she knows how. It’s unexpected, it’s not what I would have picked but it is so clearly God’s shelter for my foster son.  And I am thankful.

Homero with his mom at graduation

Homero with his mom at graduation

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

July 10, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Construction Workers in India

Construction Project in India

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections on a Weekend with Back2Back India, by Todd Kutzke

June 29, 2009

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

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

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

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