Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

With God All Things are Possible, by Andrew Conrad, Back2Back Cancun, Mexico Staff

June 23, 2012

WOW! That’s how I need to start this post.  Please read on and you will understand why.

We are not posting pictures with this post, and while we realize that this certainly makes the posts harder to read and interact with, in some cases we do not have a choice as the children that we are writing about in this post come from dangerous situations and need to be protected.  As a result, we are not permitted to share their photos, nor is it in their best interest to do so. We ask for your understanding as we continue to try to share with you their lives and what the Lord is doing here in Cancún.

After a week of vacation, the first day back to work was a Wednesday. Wednesdays are very special because it is usually the day that we go visit the kids at CAT (a shelter for children in dangerous situations). CAT is a government program and for that reason they are not very open to the gospel.

This summer we started VBS in all our ministry sites and we had a hard time thinking about how we were going to do it at  CAT without being able to talk about God. The main idea for the VBS is that “Everything is Possible with God” (not easy to do without the word God). So Mau and Lizy, the captains from CAT, decided that it was time to have a conversation with director of the CAT about  this.

So Wednesday came and I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard that some changes had been made but I wasn’t sure what they were referring to.

I was in charge of the games and my heart jumped with excitement when I found out that the doors had been open for the name of God to be said with freedom! I had freedom to tell these kids about the wonderful plan that God had for their lives, freedom to tell them that no matter their circumstances they could trust in God!

And that wasn’t the best part. We finish the VBS singing the songs that we learned that day, after I tell you what happened you will understand why I had to start this post with the word WOW.

These precious kids went from not knowing who God is to singing to Him the song called “OUR GOD.” If you have never heard this song before please listen to it. So the next day we had a field trip with the kids and guess what one of them said in his conversation with someone else… “With God everything is possible!” They are getting to know their Heavenly Father! It is amazing what God can do in one week!

I remember that our first month in Cancun I posted a prayer request about CAT. That the doors would be open to the Gospel, and they have been opened wide!

Thank you for partnering with us and making this possible.

Pour Yourself Out, by Andy Rainey, Lifepoint Vineyard Pastor, Guest Blogger

March 23, 2012

 

We have been on the ground in Mazatlan for two days now and as always words can’t adequately express the work Back2Back is doing and the ways God is showing up. One of my greatest joys is watching God move on the team and I’m just thankful …I’m able to be a part of it.

Today, we worked at a children’s home at The Salvation Army and we witnessed a young girl get dropped off. She never came outside to enter act with us, but she was extremely emotional. I can’t imagine what was and is going on in her mind… Did she get kicked out? Did her parents split up? Did she have nowhere else to go? What will she be thinking tonight sleeping in a strange place where she doesn’t know anyone? How long will it take her to start to open up to someone? How will this affect the rest of her life? Is this something she get over? Then the I wonder how this will affect her relationship with God… Does she even know God? How will God redeem this? So many questions and so many thoughts run in through my mind and I can’t imagine the thoughts running through hers.

Now we are back at the house and all the way back I couldn’t help but think about my kids and my family. I’m so thankful and grateful for what God has given me. I pray I live my life as the best possible steward of what God has entrusted me with.

God come and pour Yourself out on the team during our remaining time here.

Hope Program Students Explore their Heritage, by Juan Porto, Back2Back Hope Program Director, Monterrey, Mexico

June 27, 2011

Our Hope Program students recently traveled on a five-day field trip to Mexico City.  This trip was intended to serve as an opportunity to expose the students to the historical and cultural background of Mexico. We visited the anthropology museum, the historical center, the National Palace, the ruins of the Templo Mayor, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Paseo de la Reforma, the Pyramids of Teotihuacan and the New Museum Soumaya, which has recently opened and is already considered one of the best art museums in the world, with over 16,000 works of art. The museum has works comparable to Dali, Degass, Van Gogh, Picasso, Tamayo, Diego Rivera and many others.

On our way back from Mexico City, we stopped in Galeana. This town is home to three of the boys from the Joseph House, a Hope Program home on the Back2Back campus. It was exciting to let them show off their town and some of their relatives in that town.

We were able to thank God for the opportunity to travel together and discover more about Mexico. I also enjoyed watching them try different foods and adapt to new experiences. They had great attitudes even when they were hot or tired and gained a tremendous amount of appreciation for their heritage.

I was very happy to share the history of our country with the boys and to collectively learn how to create a better society for our future.

Through the Hope Education Program, Back2Back offers 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. To learn more about contributing to Back2Back’s Hope Program, please contact our US office at 513-754-0300, ext 1707.

NASCAR Driver, Michael McDowell, and Back2Back Ministries Team Up to Promote Orphan Care on July 7

June 10, 2011

Join NASCAR driver, Michael McDowell and Back2Back director, Beth Guckenberger, Thursday, July 7 at 7pm at Crossroads Community Church in Cincinnati. McDowell will be sharing his passion for NASCAR and the orphan child at this special event. Beth Guckenberger will be sharing stories from her new book, Relentless Hope, which will be advertised on McDowell’s race car.

Pre-registration is required for this free, limited seating event.  To register, send an email to NASCAR@back2backministries.org with your name and phone number.  Those guests who register by June 27 have a chance to win two NASCAR Garage and Pit Passes for the Nationwide Series Feed the Children 300 on July 8th and the Sprint Cup Series debut with the Quaker State 400 on July 9th at the 107,000 seat  Kentucky Speedway.  You must be 18 years of age or older to be eligible to win.

Glendale, Arizona native Michael McDowell has emerged as one of NASCAR’s top young drivers, as he competes in his third full season of NASCAR. In December 2010, McDowell joined Trevor Bayne, Daytona 500 Champion, on a Back2Back Ministries mission trip in Monterrey, Mexico. On his trip, they visited orphanages and a squatter’s village. He saw people living in shacks and many of the children didn’t have shoes – some were completely naked – and he couldn’t help but wonder if he was supposed to be on the mission field. After serving orphans with Back2Back, Michael McDowell and his wife were inspired to pursue an international adoption.

“Seeing such hardship firsthand makes you want to be pro-active,” McDowell told the Christian Post. “How do you get involved? How do you save the world? You don’t, but you can make the difference in somebody’s life.”

By losing himself in the arms of orphans, McDowell found perspective in his own life. He’d seen real hardship and it broke his heart.

An Interview with Lonnie Clouse, Back2Back Mexico Staff

March 18, 2011

Lonnie, with a child served by Back2Back Mexico

How do you serve with Back2Back?

Lonnie: I am currently serving here in Monterrey with my wife Angela and my three children.   My children are Alonna (11), Brayden (9), Layton (6).  We are learning as much as we can about the Back2Back.  It is our goal to move to a new location in the near future and help start a new Back2Back campus.

Why did you decide to begin serving with Back2Back?

Lonnie: I asked a good friend of mine by the name of Steve Biondo what was the best orphan care ministry that he knew of.  Steve is the President of the James Fund (Family Christian Store’s non-profit foundation) and he has traveled the world seeing many children’s homes firsthand.  His response to me was, “The best orphan care ministry in the world hands down is Back2Back.  You really need to go and visit their campus in Monterrey”.  Well, my wife and I and our two oldest children visited the campus almost two years ago, and we fell in love with the staff and the whole ministry paradigm of Back2Back.

What part of your job are you most passionate about? Why?

Lonnie: I really enjoy spending time with the team members that come to our campus.  I realize that if we can get them “fired up” about serving the orphan that it will become contagious and impact all those around them when they return home.  There are 148 million orphans in the world, and it is going to take the church as a whole to share God’s love with the abused, abandoned and neglected children of our world.

What is something that God has shown you or taught you over the past year through your experiences with Back2Back?

Lonnie: God has shown me that He has a heart for the orphan and will go to any extreme to extend His hand of love and grace to them.  He will even do the miraculous!

i.e.Less than a year ago we felt that God was leading us to sell our house and move to Mexico, but no houses were selling and the market was horrible.  Well, God sold our house before we even put it on the market and we even got the price that we were asking.  This is just the tip of the iceberg and nothing short of a miracle.

One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 1:19-20, (NLT) “I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

We belong to the King of the universe and there is nothing that is too difficult for Him.

 

Building into the Future of a Student, by Kathy Couch

March 15, 2011

Boys are rough, tough and have endless energy.  How do you deal with that in a 17 year-old young man?  Tae-kwon-do.  One young man in our Hope Program, Antonio, has found a great outlet through tae-kwon-do.  He is now in his second year of lessons and just passed his red belt, level one examination.  One component of Back2Back’s Hope Education Program is that we encourage our students to participate in an extracurricular activity.  Many of these students have never had an opportunity to pursue a hobby before.

Antonio was introduced to tae-kwon-do through his college’s team.  After a short time, he grew eager to learn faster so we enrolled him in a tae-kwon-do school.   Apex Church from Ohio offered to partner with Back2Back by funding lessons for Antonio and also soccer lessons for another Hope student, Daniel.  This is a great way to build independence and confidence in a teenage.  After growing up in a children’s home where everything is shared, extracurricular activities teach the student’s independence and how to engage socially.   As we have watched Antonio grow in his craft, travel with his teammates to out of town competitions, and discover the satisfaction of succeeding at something, there is no way you can put a dollar amount on that.  It is indeed priceless.  This will follow him into his adult world where problem solving skills, teamwork, and interpersonal relationships will be crucial.   We are grateful for Apex’s vision to build into a student’s life through Back2Back’s Hope Education Program.

Antonio proudly displays his awards

Through the Hope Education Program, Back2Back offers 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. To learn more about contributing to Back2Back’s Hope Program, please contact our US office at 513-754-0300, ext 1707.

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

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

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

Hurricane Alex Update

June 30, 2010

In our efforts to keep families of Back2Back trip members updated, we wanted to provide the latest information on the storm that is working its way toward Monterrey, Mexico.

  • First, it is important to note that all of our families and teams are safe, and there is no reason to believe we will be in any danger. We may get a little wet, but between the weather forecast and our specific location in the mountains, we are not concerned.  Still, we are taking some precautions to prepare.
  • The blog and website are the best way to get the most current information. I will be communicating with the home office to update the Back2Back website and blog if there are any changes here in Monterrey.   We will update it when and if there are any changes. We are in constant communication with our US office team.
  • Each trip coordinator will be contacting their home church to also give an update on the situation.

The current situation, as we understand it:

1.  The storm crossed over Monterrey starting on Wednesday, June 30 at 11pm.

2.  The forecast predicts the high winds will only be 23 mph.

3.  The teams are very safe here at our facility.

4.  The Back2Back campus has three generators (in case the power goes out) to ensure the electric pump works, providing us access to water and electricity for our kitchen.

5.  We are checking the airline schedules regularly.  If there are any cancellations, we will work to assist with rescheduling the mission trip guests as quickly as possible.  It will be helpful for us, if you contact the airlines directly to check on any family member’s flight status.

6.  The ministry sites we work with are also preparing with extra water and resources.  In the squatters villages, specifically, we are providing resources to help with relief from water damage.  We are providing extra water, tarps, and flashlights.

Please pray for the details that may need to come together as a result of the rains and flight delays.

New Back2Back Site in Cancun, by Julie Cooper, Back2Back Mexico Staff

June 24, 2010

This fall, Back2Back will be expanding, by opening a second site in Mexico, specifically in Cancun.  Staff will help in the fight against human rights violations against children and provide “care for today, hope for tomorrow” to orphans in need.  Below, Julie Cooper, who will be heading up this site with her husband, Matt, explains how the idea began:

My husband, Matt, with two siblings from San Jose Children's Home in Cancun, during a visit to the area in March.

I want to share with you a little bit of the story behind us going to Cancun. This won’t cover every angle but mostly that which involves us personally. In the fall of 2008, one of our SMCA (the school on campus) teachers held a fundraiser to help an organization that works in areas where human rights are being violated. I was interested to learn more about this organization so I visited their web site to see what kind of work they were involved in. I was struck by an article about the great need in Cancun and how poor and street children are at incredible risk there. It just kind of became a burden to me. I thought a lot about the kids and their needs and began to wonder if Back2Back could maybe someday be “back to back” with the work that was going on in this city.

Later in the fall of 2009, Back2Back decided that it was time to branch out and begin work in another Mexican city. By this time, I had shared with pretty much everyone what I had read about Cancun.  However, back in the US office while researching options, our team was unable to find even a word about Cancun on this organization’s web site. Apparently, they don’t even work there! Whatever it was that I read over a year ago, was clearly God’s way of bringing this area of Mexico to our attention. Many associate Cancun with beaches and hotels – not with the thousands of children in need. Some are living in children’s home but many, many more are at home unsupervised while mom is gone twelve hours a day trying to earn a living working in one of the hotels. Older kids often turn to the streets.  Below is first-hand insight into the situation in Cancun, as reported by Chris Hawley,  of Republic Mexico City Bureau:

Cancun is a place of brilliant turquoise waters and cool white sand, tropical breezes and icy margaritas, glittering hotels and immaculate streets. That’s the Cancun seen by some 4.6 million visitors a year, making this tiny island one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations, a major source of cash for Mexico and the model for new resorts from Tunisia to Thailand.

But there’s another Cancun just beyond Kilometer Zero, the place on Kukulcan Avenue where the vaunted Hotel Zone ends. And things are not so idyllic there. It’s a city of 500,000 struggling with the social ills of a frontier boomtown: crime and poverty, drugs and gangs, political unrest . . . It’s a place of gritty “superblocks” where hotel workers live in cinder-block houses, and of even poorer areas where squatters build shanties out of scrap wood and old advertising banners.

“If the tourists knew where we live, they’d understand what Cancun is really like,” said María Eternidad Jiménez Orinano, standing in the door of her scrap-metal home in the Tekach neighborhood.

Back2Back will work to meet the needs of the children in the area and offer opportunities for short-term mission teams to partner with us as we serve.

God has worked in His own time and I am encouraged by that as I think about the obstacles that still stand in our way. I’m going to write about it in my journal right now, so that next year I can look back again at our faithful God who supplies all of our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus and see how He was again faithful!

His Unflagging Love, by Ally Horine, Back2Back Mexico Trip Participant from Northstar Vineyard Youth Group

June 21, 2010

Playing with a new friend

Our trip started out with the group arriving on campus to discover that Back2Back was bussing kids from the children’s home, Imperio de Amor, to their campus so that we could have a pool party and cookout with them. We were all tired from traveling, but excited to play with the children. We played with the girls then the boys got in the pool. Instantly, I bonded with a boy named Alejandro. We played and spent time together until it was time for them to leave. I was sad to see them go, but excited to know that we would be seeing them again soon.

On the last day, we took the same kids on a field trip to ride bikes. When they arrived at the park, they all chose “Americanos” to partner with for the bike-ride. Instantly, Alejandro chose me. We didn’t get the bikes until about an hour after we got to the park, so until then we played together. From running around, to throwing water on each other, we had a blast. At one point, this little trolley bus came around to give tours of the park. Alejandro saw the trolley and instantly ran ahead to catch it and grab a seat. I jogged behind him, due to the selfishness in me that would not run in the heat.

I was one of the last to get on the bus, but when I got on I looked around and spotted Alejandro with his hand on the seat next to him, saving it for me. At that moment, I knew why I was in Mexico. Not to do service projects, not to bond with my youth group, but to be a friend to Alejandro. God sent me all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio to Monterrey, Mexico just to spend time with this boy and be his friend. He loves the orphan child. His unflagging love continues to amaze me every minute I spend with Him. Experiencing and sharing His love was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

After our bike ride, our group stopped for a photo with the kids we'd paired with. I'm the second person in from the left, posing with Alejandro.

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”.

Spa Night for Girls in Hope Program, by Jessica Biondo, Back2Back Mexico Staff

April 21, 2010

Around Christmas time, some of my dear friends generously donated boxes full of delightfully girly products for the girls in the Back2Back Hope Education Program. The donation was originally for Christmas gifts, but the shipment was detained in Texas and did not arrive in Mexico until after Christmas had come and gone.

Random thought: Isn’t it funny how we originally intend for something to be used in a certain way and then it turns out that God has a totally different and immeasurably better purpose in mind?

Anyway, back to the story… In the beginning of February all of the gifts arrived and I was so excited to see everything! Lotion, body wash, deodorant, toothbrushes and make-up… lots and lots of make-up! All of these items are much needed necessities on our campus. I couldn’t wait to put together packages for the girls!

Each of the female teens that live on our campus (there are eleven) received a bag which contained something similar to the picture below.

Rather than just drop the bags off at the girls’ homes, my roommate and I had another idea in mind! A SPA NIGHT! We thought it would be fun to invite the girls over to our house for manicures, pedicures, facials, chocolate and a chick-flick! At the end of the night we would give each of the girls their gift!

Kayta (with her gift) getting ready for her pedicure!

I ran the pedicure station! Here is Carolina getting her toes painted...

Here is Becca giving Perla a manicure...

Some of the girls at the end of the night! We all had so much fun!

My favorite part of the night was hanging out with the girls and getting to know each of them better. A special thanks to my friends who made all of this possible! You are such a blessing and God has used your generosity to bring joy to these sweet girls! Thank you!

Praying for Casa Hogar Douglas, by Mandy Lail, Back2Back Mexico Staff

February 17, 2010

For the month of February, our staff and many ministry partners worldwide have committed to covering this children’s home in prayer. Casa Hogar Douglas is a larger children’s home and Back2Back has partnered with them for a long time. Many of the students in the Back2Back Hope Education Program come from this home. All the homes we serve have struggles: financial needs, finding and keeping good workers, immense needs of children that are sometimes hard to meet and more. This home in particular is struggling and has been for awhile. Our ministry and staff are committed to this home and the kids there and therefore we are committed to fighting for them…on our knees as well. Would you please join us this month in prayer for this home? We have seen God do mighty things in the last year at this home and we know He is just getting started. Join us as we fight for His justice and His reign in this home and over these dear children!

Here is a list of some specific ways in which they need prayer. (For clarification, Wyman is the director of the home, and Jim and Betty are of staff with Back2Back and serve as captains of Douglas.)
1. Caregivers would be full of the love of Christ.
2. Children of all ages would experience God’s Love in this home.
3. Financial needs of the home would be met.
4. Fear and pain would be minimized in the kids’ lives.
5. The Holy Spirit would come and fill every dormitory.
6. God would protect this place with a “band of angels” guarding against all evil.
7. That this home would be a “Shelter” and a “Refuge” for these children.
8. Wyman, the director, would be open and supportive of changes we suggest.
9. We would find tutoring help for kids that need help in school.
10. God would remove anything or anyone that hinders the spread of His Revolution in this place.
11. God would raise up positive role-model leaders within the older boys’ dorm.
12. The younger kids would look up to and follow these positive leaders.
13. Every caregiver and child would know that they are part of the family of God.
14. Light would cause darkness to flee.
15. All care givers and staff would seek truth in their own lives.
16. All care givers and staff would demonstrate compassion in disciplining children.
17. Betty & Jim would be filled with Godly wisdom and courage as they minister.
18. All outside influences (other groups) would be edifying to the Spirit.
19. Godly people would not grow weary of doing what is right.
20. The leadership would be sanctified for God’s service.
21. Tired workers would have time to rest.
22. God would use the church to minister to staff and kids weekly.
23. All staff not filled with the Holy Spirit would leave.
24. Staff and kids would recognize and give testimony to God’s provision in their lives.
25. God would complete His promises in the lives of these children.

Me and JJ with a few of the teens in the Hope Program, as well as our kids

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…

New Soles for Tender Souls

January 21, 2010

Several months ago we shared how the Christian teen band, PureNRG served alongside us in Monterrey, Mexico.  Since then, they have continued to bless the children we serve in practical ways, such as through a recent fundraiser, New Soles for Tender Souls.  With the money that was raised through pre-purchases of their new album, The Real Thing, over 2,000 shoes were purchased for impoverished children in the Dominican Republic as well as orphans that Back2Back serves in Monterrey, Mexico.  A big thank you to PureNRG, Family Christian Stores and the James Fund!

Christmas in Galeana, by Jim Betscher, Back2Back Mexico Staff

January 11, 2010

On December 22, the kids of Casa Hogar Douglas had an opportunity to serve kids that had very little materially. One of the caregivers in the children’s home, is from a small mountain town about four hours from here, called Galeana. The people from this town are very poor when it comes to material possessions. When the kids of Casa Hogar Douglas, a children’s home that Back2Back serves, found out about these kids from the hometown of their caregiver, they wanted to share their blessings with them. They got a list of seventy-four kids from a church in Galeana and each one of them chose a toy of their own to wrap and give to the kids of this town.

Not all of the kids were able to make the four-hour trip to Galeana with us on December 22nd.  We took with us about fifteen kids and prepared a meal, worshiped together, had a pinata to open and passed out all of the gifts to the children.

 

Some of the children on a stop during our drive to Galeana

 

 

Enjoying a meal together with the families of Galeana

 

 

Worshiping with the families of Galeana

 

 

The children had fun playing with the pinata

 

 

Passing out gifts to the children

 

 

The children of Galeana were so blessed by the generosity of the kids at Casa Hogar Douglas. For many this gift was their only Christmas present.

 

I witnessed something that day in the faces of the kids from Casa Hogar Douglas. I’ve seen their faces on the receiving end many times, but it was a blessing to watch them as they had an opportunity to serve others in the same way that they have been served by American mission trip groups.

A Rio Christmas, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico

December 21, 2009

Fifty rubber balls, eighteen yo-yos, twenty-six dolls, ten baby blankets, 400 tamales, and a partridge in a pear tree!!!  Last weekend, we hosted a Christmas party for the people in the Rio and I felt a little like the “true love” in the Twelve Days of Christmas! We were blessed with a generous donation to be able to bring Christmas to the children who live in the Rio community, an impoverished neighborhood that Back2Back serves.

Days before several of us staff when shopping to purchase gifts for the kids. Because new things are a rare treat for these kids, we really wanted to bless each and every person who came with something new for Christmas. I have never before bought three cart loads of rubber balls plus various other toys and games! Several of us staff spent days buying gifts, wrapping, organizing donations, prepping crafts, and cooking champorado (Mexican hot chocolate) for about 100 people in the Rio.

On Saturday we left bright and early loaded down with gifts, food, and extra hands to help out. We had our normal church service in the soup kitchen with worship and teaching. After the service we served the people hot tamales and champorado. Then the festivities began! On a typical Saturday we will have anywhere from eighteen to twenty-five kids. This day we had well over eighty kids and sixty adults!

We pulled the tables close together, called for attention, and shared the Christmas story. If any of you have ever worked with children, you know that lots of young kids together, excited for gifts and candy are not always the best listeners. As we began teaching, I prayed for focus. While gifts and piñatas are fun, the best part of Christmas is our Savior’s birth. We wanted this to be the focus of the celebration. I marveled at how quiet the soup kitchen became. All seventy pairs of eyes were focused on the speaker and the pictures she showed of the stable and the manger… these images not too far from the kids’ own dwellings. They were captivated by the story…. a little baby born into poverty, but with an eternal destiny. At the close of the lesson we shared with the kids the purpose of that baby born so long ago, and his love and purposes for each and every one of them… it was beautiful.

Then we decorated ornaments, ate candy canes, smashed two piñatas, and handed out gifts to each person. It was a great day, a great adventure, and a great time to show these people how much they are loved. While the fifty rubber balls, the eighteen yo-yos, and the 400 tamales brought many smiles, our prayer is that the real Gift of Jesus brought eternal joy to some hearts that day….that is what our True Love has truly given us.

Heaven Breaks Through, by Greg Huffer, Back2Back Mexico

December 11, 2009

One of the most powerful and exciting things to behold is the testimony of a changed life in the hands of Jesus Christ.  As Christians, we talk a great deal about how Jesus is in the business of changing people, but we all know it is one thing to say that we are changed and quite another to demonstrate change with the actions of our lives.

In all of the homes we serve, we trust that God is changing the lives of the children we work with, even when it is not easily visible.  But every once in a while, we are blessed with a glimpse of the divine work that is taking place and we see a clear manifestation of Jesus-induced change!  At the Manantial de Amor (MDA) girl’s home, I saw one of these changes that Jesus is making in the lives of one of the girls that live there.  (In the following story I’ve changed the names of the girls to protect their identity.)

Not too long ago, a girl named Laura came from a government-run children’s home to live at the MDA girl’s home.  She found herself sharing a bedroom with eight other teenage girls who already had developed sister-like bonds with one another- intimidating for sure!  Laura, as many troubled teens do when they are uncomfortable, lashed out and much of her aggression was directed to one girl in particular, a girl named Susie.  For several weeks, the two lived in tension with one another, with conflicts and arguments every day.  Then, one day it all came to a head on Susie’s birthday!

Susie had received some money from supporters in the United States for her birthday with which she had purchased some gifts.  Things had seemed to have improved between Laura and Susie for a couple weeks and the house was a much nicer place for all.

One day while Susie was away, Laura found where Susie had hidden the rest of her birthday money and stole it along with the gifts that Susie had already purchased.  Then she ran away from the children’s home.  She got into some minor trouble with a police officer and when he asked her where she lived so he could return her, she told him that she lived at the government run children’s home in the area, the very home from which she had come to MDA.

The caregivers were surprised to see her back there, but took her in and contacted Edgar, the director of MDA.  As the story unfolded, I can only imagine the fear and hard-heartedness that must have been welling up inside Laura.  The director for the government home sternly told Edgar that he needed to confront and discipline Laura with strong and severe consequences.  This was all that would get through to a child like Laura.

Edgar replied, “No we don’t do that here.  We have another approach.  We are going to love her.”

Edgar brought Laura back to the MDA girl’s home that day.  I wonder how slowly Laura walked from the car to the front door.  What was she thinking?  What was she feeling?  What reaction would Susie show her when their eyes met?  I guarantee that whatever she was expecting, it was nothing like what really happened.

Susie came to Laura and hugged her and told her that she was glad she was back.  Clearly, she could see the fear and confusion in Laura’s eyes, wondering where the expected retribution was.

Susie took Laura aside and told her, “Laura, I don’t care about the gifts.  I don’t care if I get those back or not.  YOU are what is important!  YOU are so much more important than all of those things combined!”

This is what excites me about Back2Back!  I love seeing the change that is taking place before our very eyes in the lives of children like Susie.  Sometimes it can be hard to see, but other times, heaven breaks through in glorious moments like these!  It is through the love of Jesus that Edgar and others have shown Susie over the years at MDA, that she has changed. And hopefully, prayerfully, it is through the love and mercy of girls like Susie, that Laura and others like her will be changed as well!

Edgar & Conny (the directors of Manantial de Amor) with some of the girls from MDA Children's Home

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.

Bringing Books to Casa Hogar Douglas, by Jim Betscher, Back2Back Mexico Staff

November 11, 2009

Back2Back recently received a donation to purchase new books for Casa Hogar Douglas, a children’s home in Mexico that we serve. I’d like to share with you a little of the story behind the donation.

Emily Taylor is a 14 year-old student at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. After participating in a mission trip here, earlier this year, she wanted to stay involved in the lives of the children she met in Monterrey. One of the needs that Emily noticed when she read with the kids in the children’s home, was the need they had to read better. As she thought about this, she had the desire to purchase books for their library. Once she knew what she wanted to do to stay involved with the children in Monterrey, she thought about how she could make this possible.

Emily decided that instead of asking for gifts for her birthday, she would ask people to give her money, that she could use to buy books for orphans. She collected $700! We used the money to purchase Christian books for all ages at a local Christian bookstore, here in Monterrey. The store gave us a 25% discount on our purchase so we were able to purchase $1,000 worth of Christian books with the money that Emily collected.

Before we put the books on the shelves, we prayed for them. We gave thanks for the 14 year-old girl who had a God sized dream to stay involved, from over 1,500 miles away. And we prayed that these books would help bring “hope for tomorrow” that these kids did not have before.

Bringing Books to Casa Hogar Douglas

Bringing Books to Casa Hogar Douglas 2

The library at Casa Hogar Douglas

The library at Casa Hogar Douglas

Answered Prayers, by Jim Betscher, Back2Back Mexico Staff

November 4, 2009

Last week, I was working at Casa Hogar Douglas, along with Mauricio, another Back2Back Mexico staff member. We were working on a list of “honey do” projects for the caregivers there in the children’s home. I always like getting things accomplished on this list because it helps make life a little easier for these ladies who live with and care for these children 24/7. I usually do things like fix lights or plumbing problems or repair doors or  broken furniture. This day, Mauricio was hooking up a clothes washer in the older girls’ dorm for their caregiver, LuLu. The water hookup was not right on the washer. Each time she used it she had to carry water up from the first floor in buckets to fill it. In addition, there was no electric outlet near the washer so she had to use a very long extension cord to make it run. He hooked a direct water line to the washer and installed a new electrical outlet near it for a direct connection.

As we finished up that day, Mauricio told me that LuLu shared with him how she had been praying for some time, that this work would be done. He said to me, “I love knowing that God is using me to answer someone’s prayer!” I had never thought about it that way before, but he was right. When we submit to God’s calling for our lives, many times God uses us as an answer to someone else’s prayer. I know that many of you have been used by God to be an answer to my prayers. As I have prayed for God to provide for our financial support, many of you have been the one that God has used to answer my prayers. That is why it is important to be obedient in the calling that God has for our lives. We may just be God’s answer to someone else’s prayer.

Lulu

Lulu (far right), a caregiver at Douglas Children's Home

Birthday Celebrations, by Mandy Lail, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 21, 2009

In the past month, we’ve celebrated birthdays for three boys that live with us through the Back2Back Hope Program.  Birthday celebrations have been a sweet way to celebrate each boy individually by fixing food he wants and/or doing something that is just about him.   Being a part of a loving family is part of our process for seeing God bring healing and wholeness to each boy.

There is a tradition in Mexico called the “mordida.”  The person whose birthday it is takes a bite of the cake with their mouth and then friends/family push their face into the cake.  You can imagine that with five teen boys this tradition becomes a bit of a full-contact sport. Even normally TOO COOL teenagers love this tradition (as you can tell from the photos).

Homero's birthday cake

Homero's birthday cake

The guys before eating cake for Homero's birthday

The guys before eating cake for Homero's birthday

Cake on the face, a Mexican birthday tradition

Cake on the face (mordida), a Mexican birthday tradition

Connections, by Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 16, 2009

Many of you know our car was broken into on a recent trip back home for a furlough this summer.  As we were retrieving a police report,  I found myself caught in a sea of people at the Shelby County Jail.  We were checked, had to walk through three metal detectors, and even had a temporary photo ID made. It was a very new experience to me.

It got me wondering about the families that come here regularly to visit loved ones.  It got me thinking of the way of life of those who for whatever reason find themselves in a life of crime.  Then God brought my thinking to him, or her, or they – whoever it was that stole our things.  I wondered what their life was like.  What was it like for their family?  I realized whether I liked it or not, I was connected to this person.  God had me “walking in their shoes” for a bit that morning.  I found my anger melting away.  I found myself with mercy and concern.

God connects us for all kinds of reasons.  God has created us to relate to one another and He allows things to happen that connect us.  Some connections are simple and strong, like the connection that is made between a baby and its mother or father.  Or connections that little kids make over a ball or game.  Maybe it’s a quick connection, like the ones that happen daily during normal interactions.  The kid that sells you your Starbucks coffee, or the guy who helps you know when a cantaloupe is ripe at the grocery store.  And even sometimes he connects us to those who we would never pick to connect.  I have found God bring to mind this person more than a few times to pray for them.  He has me thinking about the other connections He has for me and wondering if He wants more from me through these connections.

What about you?  Are you seeking what God would have for you through your connections in your life?

Connecting with students during a pool party celebration that Back2Back hosted for the children we serve

Connecting with children we serve during a pool party celebration that Back2Back hosted

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 One that Makes a Difference, by Cathy Huffer

October 8, 2009

Last week, I was talking with my neighbor, Norma, who lives near us  in Monterrey, Mexico.  She told me of the story of a teenage boy who stopped at her home to ask her where “the Americans” live.  Wanting to protect the privacy of the Back2Back American staff living nearby, she continued talking with him, attempting to find out his reason for wanting to find our campus.  She discovered that the boy was a classmate of one of the teens in the Back2Back Hope Program.  He was on his way to the Back2Back campus, so that they could work on homework together.

Our neighbor gave him directions.  After an hour, he returned.

“Did you find your friend?,” she asked him. “How did your study time go?”

This innocuous question led to a deeper conversation than Norma had anticipated.  He quickly divulged that when he first arrived at the Back2Back campus, he was carrying a lot of burdens.  But once he walked through our front gate, he said that he felt different, like something had been lifted from his shoulders.

Later, after Norma had relayed this story to me, she said, “You know, Cathy, I’ve felt something different there too.”

It was the perfect opportunity to share with her, that I thought that “something different” was the Holy Spirit.  It gave me a chance to talk with her about the abundant life that Jesus offers.

“We receive the Holy Spirit as a free gift when we ask Jesus to come into our lives,” I said.

She was intrigued but not quite ready to ask Jesus into her life.  Please pray with me that God would continue to draw her closer to Him and one day bring her to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, the one that makes a difference.

Norma (in the pink shirt) standing with her family

Norma (in the pink shirt) standing with her family

Mercy Living, by Antonio Garcia, Back2Back Mexico House Parent

October 5, 2009

Through the role of my wife and I as house parents to teens in Back2Back’s Hope Program, God is teaching us to see through His eyes and to understand how to accept those who are unacceptable to society. He is teaching us that his mercy and love is able to transform.

We have experienced God’s mercy in our lives when we receive God’s forgiveness when we do not deserve it. What he has given us is a desire to work with eight young girls who live in the Esther House. We have to be tolerant, firm, patient and extend mercy. We are enjoying God’s work and that he has given us the opportunity through the Back2Back Hope Program to be instruments for the process of sanctification in the girls’ lives. We are understanding that in some areas we are not going to achieve fruit immediately.

The girls leave with the concept that a life full of values is important. We have the mission to achieve in each girl the values of mercy that God has had for them.

Some of the Hope Program girls that live in the Esther House

Six of the eight Hope Program girls that live in the Esther House

2009 Hope Program students, including the girls that live in the Garcia's home through the program

2009 Hope Program students, including the girls that live in the Garcia's home through the program

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

Marathon, by Mandy Lail

September 4, 2009

This summer, I was often asked by mission trip guests, “What does a typical day look like in a Teen Home of the Hope Program?”

Wow, the best answer is actually…  “There is no typical day – each one is a new adventure!” As you can imagine, it’s semi-controlled chaos in a teen home on our Back2Back Mexico campus.  Days are full with households ranging in size from seven to sixteen! There are endless responsibilities and conversations for managing meals, chores, curfews, school enrollment, studying for exams, school supplies, friends, jobs and everything else that comes with raising teens (and staff kiddos, as well).

Cooking dinner with the boys

Cooking dinner with the boys

As a Teen Home parent, I often feel winded, like I just finished a sprint, but in reality it’s more of a marathon.  Many days will not hold a visible pivotal ministry moment.  Many days feel more like a chaotic dash of the never ending “stuff” to be done. But the precious reality of this ministry is the invested time – living life together.  Because we are here day in and day out, because we can be found in the kitchen or upstairs at all hours, because we sit and eat with them, because we are here…over time many of these students will allow us entrance into their tangle.

The lives of our teens are a tangle of old wounds, dysfunctional family connections, hopes and dreams for the future, and worries about the present.  It’s a mighty tangle.  But the beauty is that when we choose to entangle ourselves into their daily tangle, many begin to allow us more and more entrance into their lives.  And then, in those unplanned and unpredictable moments of living life together, God just might allow us to speak His truth to them and they just might listen.

This summer felt like a daily sprint with our summer schedule of visiting short-term mission groups and end-of-the-year activity at school for our boys.  I ended each day exhausted and often overwhelmed.  But now that it has passed, God has graciously reminded me that He was at work the whole time.  In the midst of that constant dash, I shared the gospel with Pablo late one night.  I spoke truth to Marcos about who he is and what God wants for him, after an issue at school.  I had a difficult but necessary conversation with Mario about his behavior and choices in life. I had multiple conversations with Homero about his decisions and who God has made him to be.  And I was able to answer Gabriel that yes, indeed, I would love to be the mother he never had.

None of these were planned moments. They happened in the car, at the kitchen table, and sitting at the lake, all because we have chosen to entangle ourselves in their tangles.  Up close, it feels like a sprint.  It’s tiring; it’s intense; and sometimes, even maddening.  But when we can step back and look at it like a marathon, it’s nothing short of miraculous.

Bringing Light to Darkness, by Jim Betscher

August 19, 2009

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

Children outside their home at Rio III

Children outside their home at Rio III - © DSL Images

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

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

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

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

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

August 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashok & Karunakav

Ashok & Karunakav

Mounika & Maheshwari

Mounika & Maheshwari

Rajasekhar & Bhasker

Rajasekhar & Bhasker

Swethia & Madhuri

Swethia & Madhuri

Swapna & Lavanya

Swapna & Lavanya

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

August 3, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben and his team during a ropes course exercise

Ben and his team during a ropes course exercise

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

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

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

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

Benjamin and Jose

Benjamin and Jose

Where in the world are we?

June 3, 2009

Back2Back Ministries serves in four areas:

Monterrey, Mexico

Jos, Nigeria

Hyderabad, India

Mason, Ohio (the Back2Back home offices)

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!