Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Hot and Cold, by Back2Back India

March 11, 2010

In February, when we left Cincinnati for our trip to India it was cold and snowy. We arrived in Hyderabad where it was hot and sunny. A pretty dramatic difference!

We spent the night at one of the orphanages served by Back2Back India. They do not have a water heater or geyser. Since the water is stored in a tank on the roof, it varies with the outside temperature. The water can be pretty cold on winter mornings and extremely hot on summer afternoons.

Although the daytime temperature was above 90 degrees during our visit, my morning shower was a quite chilly.

The children living at the hostel have adapted to this and during the winter, they bathe in the afternoon after school when the water is warmer.

But typical American, I longed for my warm morning shower. That’s where I’m comfortable – lazily, mindlessly soaking in the warmth. In the cold shower, I was breathing rapidly and loudly, my heart was racing and I was focused on the reason I was there. True Christianity is not about being comfortable.

Revelation 3:15-17 (New International Version)

15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Serving with Back2Back in India is definitely out of my comfort zone – and not just the water temperature! The comforts of home that make me “warm” (lukewarm?) can keep me from giving God my wholehearted love and obedience. When I am warm and comfortable, I don’t realize how much I need Him. I miss out on the grace and riches He has to offer.

Serving in India provides me the opportunity to really experience God in the heat of it! To not just pray for the abused, abandoned and needy children of India, but to pray with them. To see God’s promise to provide for orphans and widows as they depend on Him for their everyday needs, things that I often take for granted.

There’s nothing like a cold shower to wake you up to the truth! Are you hot or cold?

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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

Crazy Love, by Claire Rogers

July 15, 2009

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

Crazy Love

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

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

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

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

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

–   1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 ESV

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Change, by Caroline Burns

July 8, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vessel, by Beth Guckenberger

June 22, 2009

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

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

The Gift of Hope, by Angela Ramos

June 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children in the Village

Children in the Village

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

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

Chris spending time with a child from the village

Chris spending time with a child from the village

Welcome from Todd & Beth Guckenberger!

June 1, 2009

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