Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Backpacks from America, by Theresa Reed, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

September 30, 2011

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

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

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

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Working with “the Beautiful”, by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Cancun Staff

July 29, 2011

With each visiting missions team over the summer we had the privledge of partnered with Pastor Victor in his ministry out in Tres Reyes. The name of Vicotor’s church is “La Hermosa”, which means Beautiful – and for us it has been the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the pastor, with his church, and with the neighborhood.

Over the course of the summer we were able to tear out the hold floor, to back-fill the necessary areas, to pour a new concrete floor, to assist with resources for a temporary roof, and to help begin a new bathroom at the church. Each week we were there we also had a chance to visit with neighbors and invite kids back for the church’s children’s program. When we invited kids back we had a chance to do songs, games, some skits, and provide them with an afternoon meal.
What I think I loved most about the summer was getting to see more of pastor Victor’s heart and passion for the Lord, and for the lost of Tres Reyes. I loved seeing that God encouraged him through the support, and through the relationship. And I love that God is smiling upon this little place called Beautiful!

Jamie: God Heals the Most Hurt Heart, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

February 3, 2011

This is the story of a blind boy I met in Cancun. For his protection he will be referred to as Jamie in this entry.

Jamie is 17 and has been blind since the day he was born. He is tall with a chubby face and black curly hair. I ran into Jaime on a tour of the orphanage during my first day in Cancun. He was alone in his dorm room talking with Mau a fellow B2B staff member when I first laid eyes on him.  The compassion that gripped my heart when I first saw him is hard to describe. All I know is that with one glimpse I felt like I saw into the depths of his pain and sorrow and knew that he was so hurt. I left the dorm room without saying a word to Jamie and began another conversation with two teenage girls right outside the door.

Virginia looked very mature for her age and at first I was unsure of whether she was a worker or a teen at the home.  When I asked her she said she was living at the home and then proceeded to tell me how much she hated being in the children’s home and how much she wanted to leave. Her friend next to her chimed in that she too didn’t like being there, but admitted that it was better than her home with her family. I was shocked at the openness of these girls in our first conversation and at the same time my heart was overwhelmed with the hurt gushing forth from them. The word, “lastimada” kept running through my head… “Hurt. So hurt. These girls are so hurt.”  I felt urged to bring something positive into the conversation. I looked at Virginia and told her that I wasn’t sure why God had her at that children’s home, but that that I knew that He had a purpose for her life and that we could praise God that she was in a safe place. In two days I would realize how prophetic those words actually were… (See post on Virginia)

Mau left Jaime’s dorm room just as I was finishing my conversation with Virginia and began to fill me in on the details of Jamie’s life. Jamie had arrived at the home about a week earlier. He had been battered and bruised by his father. His story revealed that he had grown up familiar with such abuse from his dad. His real mom died when he was little and his step mother stepped into the picture.  About a week earlier Jamie’s stepmother had too much of him and his needs. She loaded blind Jamie up on a bus, paid a ticket to who knows where, and said she never wanted to see him again. Jamie arrived in the middle of Cancun, hours from his home, knowing no one, and seeing nothing. Government officials picked him up and took him to the children’s home where we met him a few days later.

My heart broke as Mau told me Jamie’s story. Jamie said that he had heard about Mau from the other boys at the home and wondered if Mau would take him out to talk and hang out as he had with the others. He also asked Mau if he would find him some music.

“I’m bored,” Jamie commented, “music makes me relax.”

Jamie

At the end of the conversation Mau felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to give Jamie a hug. As he pulled away Jamie calmly told Mau that that was the first hug he can ever remember receiving. … As Mau told me this story, I cried.

Both Mau and I wept in the courtyard of the children’s home, as God let us feel the pain and hurt in these lives. God began speaking to me that while I cover up my heart and numb it from the pain in this world and the pain that I see in the Rio every week, His heart is never numb. His heart feels every hurt. His heart cries with every child. He feels every pain and it hurts his heart to the core. The compassion of the Lord is amazing. I went to bed that night with these things still on my heart and mind.

Two days later our team of ladies returned to this same children’s home to throw a Christmas party. Part of the festivities included a skit put on by our team. At this particular children’s home we are not able to openly share the gospel, so in a metaphorical way we portrayed Christ conquering evil in the world. At one point in the skit “the evil” was whispering lies in the ear of a child. Things like, “no one loves you,” “you are stupid,” “they are laughing at you.”  During this part of the skit Jamie leaned over to a fellow staff member and said, “I’ve heard those things before. I hear those lies every day.” When I heard this I knew that I wanted to pray for Jamie.

After the skit, I sat down next to Jamie with some other ladies from our team and began to talk with him. Another lady also felt the urge to pray so we asked Jamie if we could. He readily agreed. About halfway through our prayer Jamie started grabbing at his chest.

“My heart hurts. My heart hurts,” he repeated.

We clarified that it was a spiritual pain that he was feeling. We finished praying and I went to find Mau. I knew in my spirit that today was the day of salvation for Jamie. I have never been so sure of something in my life! I found Mau and told him that he needed to explain the gospel to Jamie. Jamie was so ready, but my Spanish couldn’t do it justice and Mau is the one who is going to be there long term with Jamie. After the activities of the Christmas party calmed down a bit, Mau went over and sat next to Jamie. I knew that he was sharing the gospel with Jamie, so I began to pray. The next thing I know Jamie is crying and hugging Mau. He prayed that day and met Jesus as his Savior and the Healer of his heart!

Later, I gave Jamie a hug to welcome him into the family.  He told me that when we had prayed earlier he had felt so much peace, but that now he felt so happy.

“This is the best day of my life!” said an excited Jamie, “I will never forget this day as long as I live.”

I know that I too will never forget this day. Praise Jesus who is able to heal the most hurt of hearts. Nothing is impossible for God! Please continue to keep Jamie in your prayers. Pray for this growth in Christ and for his physical sight to be restored! Amen!

 

Infrastructure and Ministry, by John Guckenberger, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

August 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redemption, by Corrie Guckenberger, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

February 5, 2010

One of the ministries that our ministry tries to support is Gidan Bege. It is basically a ministry that teaches and trains widows how to sew. They undergo a year of discipleship that teaches them the Word and trains them and gives them and their children a place to stay. After that year, they are given the gift of a sewing machine and encouraged to go back to their village to start their own shop. It is amazing what these women can do. Now, realize this is coming from a woman who can BARELY sew on a button. But, we all play our part in the bigger picture.

We take short-term mission groups to Gidan Bege when they arrive to buy skirts, aprons, purses and bags, journals, etc… And they also make whatever you want if you come in with an idea. These ladies have personally made all of our curtains in our home and our throw pillows and whatever Nigerian clothes we have, they have made. We are blessed by their friendship, as well as their giftings and talents.

The pictures are of their working area (you will notice nothing is done with power), the shop where they sell their items, and their “office” where they store extra material and items that are ready for pick up. One thing that I find interesting is that the location where they are currently living, in the past, was once a brothel. How cool is that this ministry bought it and has now redeemed what was once used as evil and is now being used for good. I love the idea that God can even redeem land. I look forward to when you come visit us, that you too, can buy something in this little shop.

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

the One, by Kathy Couch

August 12, 2009

I am sitting here waiting for midnight to roll around so that our boys come in.  On one hand I am tired and want to go to bed, on the other….. it is finally quiet.  After eight weeks at an aerobic pace, there are no visitors on our campus, only the 100 of us that live here year-round!  There are no screaming voices outside my window.  There are no more requests from our boys to stay out past curfew ‘just one more time’ so that they can spend time with the American mission trip guests.  Man, I already miss it!

We wrapped up summer with a worship service and baptized one of our very own youth in the swimming pool.  She was the 10th person to be baptized this summer.  It was one of those super sweet moments that you wish you could wrap up so that you could open it up and experience it again and again.  Something powerful happens when a group of people are all going the same way, with the same goals in mind.  You can feel the power, the passion, the presence of the One who is pushing everyone in the same direction.

We felt that moment powerfully one day when we were serving out in the Rio III, a squatters’ village that Back2Back serves.  It is about the driest, dustiest, smelliest place that I’ve encountered.  It is a neighborhood built on a trash dump.  The people there are poor in wealth, but rich in spirit.

View while walking through Rio III

View while mission trip guests walk through Rio III - © DSL Images

While serving the community, one of our group members that felt the One pushing, so at His prompting, she grabbed a bucket of water and rag and began washing women’s feet.  These women are poor.  Several have been abandoned themselves by men or family.  And here was this American, washing, massaging and drying their feet.  What a picture of what I want my heart to look like.  I want to be a washer.  I want to see the dry, dirty, lowly, and I want to wash them in the name of Jesus.  I want to crawl around on the concrete floor washing feet until my knees are bloody so that I don’t leave anyone out.  I want to forget me.

A woman from Rio III has her feet washed

A woman from Rio III has her feet washed - © DSL Images

The only way I know to do this is to stay connected.  Connected to the One, the only One that can move our hearts and souls to strive for holiness.  To want to be more than we are,  but in a way that makes us less.  Less of us.  Less of our wants and desires and more of the desires of the people that surround us.  Those who feel unlovely or hardened.  I want to wash them.  I want to massage their dirty feet because I finally understand how valuable they are.  More of them, less of me.  God only you can move me in that direction.

Shelter, by Angela Ramos

July 29, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lola, by Brian Hubers, B2B Mission Trip Guest

July 27, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spending time with Lola

Spending time with Lola

Mirrors, by Back2Back India Staff

July 17, 2009

How many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror? Catch a glimpse in the rear view mirror? Check that your tie is straight? Stand sideways to see if you look thinner?

For five months, we lived in an apartment that did not have a mirror. Other basic living needs always seemed to take priority over getting a mirror hung. Interestingly, several things happened without having a mirror – my husband stopped shaving and I didn’t see my increasing number of gray hairs! But why do we look in the mirror? Is it about vanity and self-absorption? If we are always looking at ourselves, what are we missing?

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror…

Mirror Reflection

Windex will shine up a mirror and make the reflection more clear. But I’m still looking at ME. By not looking at myself for those months, I had more time to look at others.

… then we shall see face to face. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

When we see face to face, it’s no longer just about us. When we look at someone instead of fixating on ourselves, we can see them – their hopes, their fears, their dreams. Looking at someone face to face means you have to get close. You have to interact.

Face to Face

Many of the children that we serve are the least and the last in Indian society. They don’t always look so good – their face may be dirty or their clothing torn. But when you spend time with them you realize that they are truly beautiful. Innocent, sweet children who greet you warmly and whose eyes light up when you remember their name.

When we get to heaven, we will see God face to face. But for now, when we look at these precious children, we can see a glimpse of God here on earth. Who are you looking at?

Crazy Love, by Claire Rogers

July 15, 2009

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

Crazy Love

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

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

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

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

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

–   1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 ESV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Construction Workers in India

Construction Project in India

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

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

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

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

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

A Change, by Caroline Burns

July 8, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pray for Rain, by Back2Back India staff

June 30, 2009

Before coming to serve in India, I had lots of questions. Many centered around monsoon season. When would it rain?  How much rain?  Does it rain all day?  Everyday?  No one was really able to answer those questions. “We’ll just see,” said my Indian friend.

Monsoon Rain Clouds

Monsoon Rain Clouds

I like warm sunny days. We had plenty of those. I don’t really like rain so I anxiously awaited the monsoon. It was predicted to arrive May 26. But as with most things in India, the monsoon was late. Then I was told that the rains would start around the first of June. It is now the end of June and the rains have yet to come. It might be an El Nino year. Who knew that El Nino would follow me to India! No rain – lucky me or so I thought.

With the lack of monsoon rain, India is on the verge of a drought. The water reservoirs are drying up. Power outages are becoming more frequent. Farmers are struggling to grow crops. The cost of vegetables has increased by 50%.  This has put a huge strain on the already meager budgets of the children’s homes trying to feed over 200 children daily.

The government programs are ill equipped to handle such crisis. A recent headline read: Chief Minister Calls for Prayers as Government Woos gods for Rain Desperate to protect its people and country from economic harm, the government is calling on all religions to offer special prayers for rain. Most Indians are Hindu, some are Muslim and a small percentage (2-3%) are Christian.

A verse from the Back2Back summer theme of Shelter comes to mind. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11).

We need to turn to our God for His shelter. In contrast to the idea of a physical shelter to protect us from the rain, in this case rain is the shelter we seek. Rain that will fill the reservoirs and water the crops. Rain that is vital to India and essential to the survival of so many poverty stricken people. Please pray with us for God’s shelter –  the monsoon rains to come to India.

Shelter in Telugu, the native language

Shelter in Telugu, the native language

Reflections on a Weekend with Back2Back India, by Todd Kutzke

June 29, 2009

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

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

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

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

Sisters, by Back2Back India Staff

June 24, 2009

Recently a new girl came to our hostel (children’s home). Naveena had come from another children’s home about five hours away. School was out for the summer and all the other children had been picked up by whatever family they had to go “home” for the summer.  But Naveena had no family to visit. So she came to our hostel where there were still other children.

Naveena’s mother was a well educated Indian woman who developed mental health problems. No longer able to hold a job, she wandered from town to town requesting money from anyone with whom she had been acquainted. When Naveena was only 4 or 5 years old, her mother took her to the children’s home and asked the director to care for her. Her mother was never seen or heard from since. Now Naveena is 10 years old.

It was her first day at the new hostel. She shyly introduced herself to me and clung to my side. Shortly after I met Naveena, Thirulma, one of the older girls at our hostel came to greet me. “This is my sister” she said and put her arm around Naveena. Naveena smiled – her dark eyes shining. In Indian culture, many people will address someone as sister or brother so I wasn’t sure whether this was really a blood relative or not. Then Thirulma explained that she was taking care of Naveena, just as she would do for a sister, helping her adjust to the new hostel and ease any fears.

That same day, the director of the hostel gathered all the girls together. It was the birthday of her late sister – an older sister who had cared for the younger siblings. The director loved her sister and cherished the way her sister had cared for her when they were young.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to care to for one another. I saw God’s love demonstrated by these women today. Is there someone who needs you as a “sister?”

Naveena with her "sister"

Naveena and Thirulma - sisters in Christ

Vessel, by Beth Guckenberger

June 22, 2009

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

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

No Better Place to Be, by Christy McMurry

June 19, 2009

I have learned that my definition of submitting to authority and God’s definition is oftentimes very different. God’s definition of submission is to voluntarily arrange yourself under authority. When we do that, we cooperate with a leader in order to ultimately accomplish a much larger work than we could ever do on our own.

In the past, I had always viewed submission as being weak or somehow being in bondage to people or situations I did not want to be enslaved by.  I was always an independent person, thinking I knew exactly what I wanted and that I not God was in control. Thank goodness He never gave up on me and put just the right people in my life at key times to speak the truth in love.

For example, I have the great privilege to work with followers of Christ everyday who are submitting to not just God’s authority over their lives but they are also submitting to one another to accomplish the goal of carrying out God’s orders regarding the poor, and children that have been abandoned.  I am in awe of the fine people that I work with every single day and the sacrifices that they make in order for our world to be a better place and to carry out God’s work.

I am learning how to submit to authority every single day and am actively seeking out situations to submit by simply being an active listener to those in need and responding by speaking God’s truth to them, by praying over those that need prayer at any given time, and by not rebelling when God is clearly trying to tell me something.

I have finally begun to realize that when I submit to God and live my life the way He intended, I get the best results and experience life in a way I couldn’t be more thankful for. As I continue to apply God’s truth of submission to the other areas of my life I know I will find peace, excitement, love, joy, and all the things I’ve been wanting for my life all along. When I submit to authority I am under God’s covering.  And there is no better place to be!

Hands Open

Makeshift Shelter, by Mandy Lail

June 17, 2009

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

 

Leo on the fishing trip with the Lails

Leo on the fishing trip

 

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

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

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

 

 

Rio III, by Cathy Huffer

June 15, 2009

Back2Back partners with a church in Monterrey that serves an extremely impoverished area called Rio III.  The community was built on top of an old garbage dump.   Families construct shelter by piecing together scraps and pieces of wood from the landfill.  Most families live on a few dollars a day; their sole source of income is from collecting the trash surrounding their homes and recycling it.  We work with these families, mostly single moms, because they are literally at the cusp of making the difficult decision of whether or not they will choose to place their child in one of the children’s homes.  Our goal is to help them to provide for their children’s basic needs, preventing them from reaching the point where they need to drop off their children at one of the homes.

This week a group from Back2Back Ministries visited Rio III.  We provided food and clothing for about 200 children and 100 women and allowed the woman to pick out a new outfit, thanks to a generous donation of clothing from CAbi.  Many of these women are single mothers who have multiple children and work long days.  The women who are married often have husbands that are gone all day working.  They are so focused on providing for their family that they have very little time or resources to devote to themselves.  It’s evident from the looks on the womens’ faces as they wear their new clothes that they have a renewed sense of confidence.

“Thank you CAbi for this big blessing,” one woman said smiling at the camera as she did a model-like runway turn.

Back2Back Ministries, along with the families of Monterrey, have been so blessed by this outreach.  The video below is a visual thank you from some of the recipients of CAbi’s generosity.

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!