Posts Tagged ‘orphan care’

Save for the Date for A Night of Hope on November 8th, 2012

June 26, 2012

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.

Bringing the Joy of Reading to Children in Cancun, by Julie Mowery, Back2Back Cancun, Mexico Staff

May 24, 2012

This month we rolled out MERC…our Mobile Education Resource Center.  We are so excited to see the kids participating in this program and are slowly building our library of books through contributions and gifts. We would also like to add other resources to the program, including educational games, manipulatives and laptops. Laptops would allow us to use educational software as another teaching tool, and to teach the kids computer skills.

Jorge (9) from Casa Hogar San Jose practices reading aloud.

Years and years of taking Eliza and Nick to the library and checking out tons of books is paying off in really neat ways.  Lending libraries are very rare in Mexico, and we do not have any in this area. We’ve been collecting books for the past few months and I really didn’t know how the kids would respond, but they love it!

Beti (9) was so excited about the new books that she couldn’t
decide which she wanted to check out.

In addition to allowing them to check out 2-3 books at a time, we also have read-aloud times, both one-on-one and in a large group. In addition to helping the kids learn to read and learn to enjoy good stories, it’s also a great time for teams to interact with the kids on a more personal level.

A mission trip participant reads to Beti

Sandy (14) is reading Loco Amor (Crazy Love) by Fancis Chan.

We are very excited about adding more resources to the MERC to expand the program. If you are interested in helping build our library, please contact the Back2Back home office.

 

Orphan Care Summit

February 17, 2012

The Christian Alliance for Orphans’ annual Summit has become the national hub for what Christianity Today recently called, “the burgeoning Christian orphan care movement.” Summit VIII on May 3-4, 2012 at Saddleback Church in Southern California is expected to draw 1,800 to 2,000 pastors, grassroots advocates, organizational and church ministry leaders. Alongside more than seventy workshops, the unforgettable plenary sessions will include Francis Chan, Rick and Kay Warren, Crawford Lorritts, Dennis Rainey, Steven Curtis Chapman, and other global leaders. Summit inspires, equips and connects for adoption, foster care and global orphan ministry.

Register here and join Back2Back staff at this important event.

David’s Journey, by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Cancun

January 27, 2012

David

Last December I wrote about a boy named David. Fifteen, no desire to work, or study, or follow rules…and you can guess where that got him. David had a lot of things going on – both inside and out. He has lived at the children’s home since before he could walk. The only family he has ever known is his older brother, and the directors of that home. For lots of reasons, it is no wonder that his life might look a little messy, yet even in the midst of all that, God was giving me just a glimpse of the potential that was inside this boy. I knew that God had a lot more up his sleeve for this young man.

What I didn’t know, but could have guessed is that life would get worse for David before it got better. I did have a few chances to hang out with David in the winter and spring. We invited him to join in with us a couple different days when we had visiting missions teams, and he came along as a volunteer for the day. He was pleasant, helpful, fairly quiet. One morning I grabbed him and sat down beside him while the visiting team was having their quiet time and I read Psalm 139 to him. I told him it was one of my favorite places to re-visit in the scriptures, and how I loved how full it was of truths about God…how He knit us together in our mothers wombs, how He knows us, how He is always with us…and the list goes on.
David was pretty quiet that morning. He grinned at me. Sort of chuckled to himself and said, “I don’t really believe all of that”. “You know what,” I told him, “It’s O.K. – God loves that you can even be honest and say that aloud. He (God) really is all of those things…all of those things are true of him, and He will show you. I know He will.”
About a month later David left the children’s home He lived the next six or seven months on his own, in a tiny cave-of-a-room with a mattress in it. He hit some real lows. And somewhere in the lowest of low places I think David started to believe that there just might be something to “this God” and what this God had for his life.

As the months went by we knew little of David. But thanks to the modern wonder that facebook is to all of us, from time to time I was able to shoot him a message, and let him know we were praying…but that was about it. But rarely would I hear anything back. And then, all of a sudden, in mid to late November David initiated chatting with me via Facebook one evening.

“I want out,” he said.
“Out of what,” I asked?
“Out of my life. I don’t want to live like this anymore, I want out,” he said.
“Let’s figure out when we can get together,” I replied. I suggested he meet us Sunday morning, come to church with us, and we can spend the afternoon together, but Sunday came and went. We didn’t hear anything from him, and then, well then we got busy with a visiting group of 20-some women here from Ohio bringing Christmas cheer to Cancun.
So, Wednesday, November 30th rolls around. It had been a long day. It was about 11:30 p.m. We had just begun to drift off to sleep when the security from our neighborhood called to say there was a teenage boy at the gate looking for me.
“It’s David,” I exclaimed to Julie.
“Well, have him come in and sleep on the couch and we can talk more tomorrow,” says my compassionate wife, Julie.
And so I walked to the gate, and escorted him to our house. I got the feeling he was already planning on staying as he immediately took off his shoes and socks.
“What do you need – what can I do for you?,” I asked him.
“I want to change. I want to be different. I want to go back to school. I don’t want my life to go on the way it is,” he replied.
“We can help you find a place to live, and we can help you get back in school, and we can help you get pointed in the right direction, but you have to understand that what you need more than anything right now is God. Do you understand that? Can you see that?,” I asked.
“Yes, I know. And I’m ready,” replied David.

In the morning I remember waking up and thinking. Yep, it’s true, it’s not a dream. David showed up at our house last night, and he’s sleeping on the couch. Why now God? We have 20-some women here for the rest of the week, don’t I have enough going on right now? How will I have the time necessary to devote to him today. Silly me, I should have known that God already had that all figured out.

As God’s schedule would have it, that morning had been carved out for the women to have their quiet times with the Lord, and their small groups at a local beach before we headed out to serve for the day.
So, arriving at the beach, David and I plopped down in the sand next to each other, and I began to talk. We talked more about where he’d just come from, and what he wanted to happen, and then I told him very clearly: “You already told me that you know you need God. It is time to decided where you stand with this. It is time to confront any doubts and any questions. Today is the day of salvation. It is time to make a decision. This is not about dipping your toes in the water, and dabbling into a little bit of who God is, and who Jesus is for you – this is about throwing your whole self into the ocean of God, David. Today is the day, are you ready?”
And David said, “Yes. Yes, I’m ready.”
Right there, and right then David and I prayed together, and he gave his life over to Jesus. It was one of those surreal moments, witnessing God do what He does, and yet being right there in the midst of the whole thing – what a gift. Our Cancun staff team, as well as the other visiting staff from Ohio and Monterrey then gathered around David, and spent the next moments bathing him in prayer, praying for his protection, praying for what is to follow – and entrusting the days that are to come into the hands of God.

Betty, by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Cancun Staff

October 14, 2011

This beautiful little girl is Betty. She is nine years old, and is one of the sweetest girls you’ll ever meet. She is the oldest of three sister who came to live at Casa Hogar San Jose almost a year ago now.

In December of last year, shortly after her arrival, we met a family from Michigan who happened to be in Cancun on vacation – and it just so happened that this family wanted to get to know Back2Back, and see what we were up to in this corner of the world. We picked them up from their hotel and spent a few hours together. Together we spent some time at Casa Hogar San Jose, and they met Betty. That morning God made a special connection between Betty and the family’s young daughter.

Their family decided to sponsor Betty through Back2Back’s Shelter Child Sponsorship Program and then in return we help facilitate on-going communication through letters between Betty and the family. During our trip to the midwest in August, we were able to get together with this family in Michigan who have not only become advocates for the ministry, but friends of our family as well. At the end of our visit their young daughter gave us a little tiny purse with a note attached and asked if we could take it to Betty when we got back to Cancun.

Below is Betty displaying what was inside the purse: a locket with a picture of her and her long-distance friend from Michigan. What a special gift for a very special girl. We love seeing Betty smile. We love the way God connects His people, the ways He cares for the orphan, and for the ways He lavishes His love upon children like Betty.

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.

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!

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.

 

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

December 27, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

 

Woven into the Tapestry of Our Hearts: Reflections on Child Sponsorship, by Carlene Murray, Back2Back Child Sponsor

December 20, 2010

To remember a journey is to retrace its steps. It’s hard to walk the path to Casa Hogar Douglas Children’s Home and not be joyful and sorrowful at the same time. The rising light of the morning sun glows off the mountain’s cascade. It’s a beautiful reminder that God, The Creator Artist of this majestic beauty sits on His throne. Joy.

Once at the Children’s Home, gaze into dark brown sleepy eyes, or tear swollen eyes, or the vacant eyes of a little child or teen abandoned, neglected or abused, sadness has a power that can take over. Where are you here God? The enemy forces the lie that the orphaned child does not matter, that no one cares, that there is no hope. Sorrow.

Yet, in Christ we have victory and through the love and truth of not just words but faith in action, the people of Back2Back are living hope to orphaned children.

In the midst of what can appear to be hopelessness, there is faithfulness and love in action. How? They show up. They hug, they provide, they teach, they remind, they comfort, they shelter, they feed, they pray, they touch, they scrub, they come alongside, they heal, they love.

They meet the need in the moment and give hope for the future. Through each Back2Back staff member, God pours out His love to His precious children in a tangible way. Hope is born and lives are changed and like the majesty of the mountain, God, the Father sits on the throne of each precious child’s life. Then, in a holy moment, something in the eyes of the children glimmers and changes. Sometimes it’s for just a moment, or a day. Sometimes it’s fleeting with the goal for it to be a constant truth. But it comes and eyes light up, eyes smile and eyes rest knowing care and hope.

Hopelessness can destroy the precious spirit of a child, but through Back2Back and their Shelter Child Sponsorship Program, hope is active, hope is alive and kids are learning that they matter, are remembered, are special, uniquely created and are loved.

For our family, it was a spirit-led journey to Casa Hogar Douglas and meeting 14 year old Roberto. Our 14 year old son, Connor first met Roberto on a school mission trip with Back2Back in February 2009. Although the boys are the same age, Connor looked to Roberto as a friend and little brother because of Roberto’s playfulness and size. Roberto would instigate play with Connor by stealing his cap.  Running away laughing, Connor would chase him. The boys became friends and were happy to be assigned as partners on a Back2Back field trip. They were buddies enjoying the moment of childlike antics and easy friendship.  They were two boys, the same and different in that special time and place.  Together they laughed, ran around, joked and smiled for a week.

 

 

Roberto (left) and Connor

 

On the last day there, Connor’s group departed at dawn for home, while my husband Brendan, walked the dark early morning path to Douglas Children’s Home to serve breakfast to the children.

Upon seeing Brendan, Roberto ran to him and asked right away, “Where’s Connor?”

Brendan gently explained that Connor was on a different flight and had left early to go back home. In an instant, eyes can tell a story. In that moment, Brendan saw the fall of Roberto’s once hopeful eyes, dash downward in disappointment. Brendan smiled, ruffled Roberto’s head and told him Connor said goodbye and that they were friends. He hugged Roberto goodbye later that day and told our family how special Roberto was to Connor and to him.

Of all the stories Brendan and Connor told on their return, Roberto’s sadness of Connor’s departure would stay with me.  As a mother, my heart ached for a boy so special to my husband and son that I had never met. A boy our son shared in a testimony that touched and changed his heart. Roberto was not just a boy at Douglas Childrens’ Home.  He was woven into the tapestry of my son’s and husband’s lives and became a child we would embrace in prayer and share his story and the story of the orphaned child. Once our eyes see and our hearts are changed, are we not compelled to respond?

Just five months later, three spots would open on a Back2Back family mission trip to Monterrey in June 2010. Changed by his own experiences serving alongside Back2Back, Brendan arranged for me to join the group, along with Connor and our daughter, Shannon. Connor would get to see Roberto again so soon and Shannon and I would now get to meet Roberto for the first time!

I laugh now thinking what Roberto must have though the moment I hugged him with tears running down my cheeks. To me, wrapping my arms around him was such a gift. I couldn’t help but think we were sent to let God love Roberto through our family.

After our introductions and hugs, Roberto turned to me and said, “Connor, mi hermano,” (Connor, my brother).

This was a holy moment I will always treasure as tears flowed and I watched our son give Roberto a hug.

 

Shannon, Connor, me and Roberto

 

Roberto is bright, social and handsome. His smile lights up a room and I am know many hearts have been touched by him.  It’s really a special gift to know him and be a small part of his big fan club! I remember asking about Roberto, his story and if he had a sponsor and was told he most likely had a sponsor. So we enjoyed our week hoping to pour out fun and hugs whenever we could with Roberto and all the children. As our week went on, each time we would reunite with Roberto, I would hug him and we’d talk through Connor translating. It was easy and fun and I could not help but see he was a stair-step between my two children and I could imagine him as ours. Maybe not ours in the sense that I would be inclined to think, but maybe “ours” in a way I did not even know.

On our last night on the Back2Back campus, as my daughter, Shannon and I walked past the Shelter Child Sponsorship booth.  I quickly glanced over the table as I walked past it. Suddenly, I stood still, eyes fixed and I quietly gasped out loud. Shannon looked down too and looked up to me with eyes of surprise!  We each went to grab the picture of the child on the table so fast we almost ripped it!  Through my tears,  I was looking at the beautiful face and smiling eyes of Roberto!  I knew instantly then as sponsors, Roberto would be ours! We excitedly found Connor to show him Roberto’s Child packet and then the three of us ran off to call Brendan at home and in a million miles an hour, tell the story of God leading us to sponsor Roberto and asking “Can we?”  Each of us in our family had met Roberto, hugged him and laughed with him. We all had our own treasured memories with him. God took care to provide each of us with a personal connection with Roberto and then asked us, “Will you let me use you for him?” How could we not? Once we have seen are we not responsible to act? Does faith demand a response?

It’s an honor and gift to be a sponsor and to be used to encourage, pray for and send support for Roberto. It is in him I see Jesus. In him I see selflessness, love and care of community and sharing. He lives in the moment of joy and makes others smile. He gives away what he has. Can’t we give away what we have been given? When I think of how Roberto has blessed each member of our family, I am awestruck at God’s special plan for his precious orphan children and how He allows us the gift to be a part of His plan for them and to be blessed. At first, we may think it’s the other way, that we the sponsor will be the blessing. Maybe. But we have experienced God placing His love in our hearts for a child that is not our own but we call “ours” and in that, we are the ones blessed to be a small part of Roberto’s life. We look back and clearly see God walking that path to Douglas Children’s Home with each of us to Roberto and converging that path of our lives and hearts. It’s so humbling to be used as part of God’s unique plan for Roberto’s life and to have the honor, the privilege and the gift to be a part of Roberto’s journey and love him. For us, nothing could better.  And so, we did not decide to become Roberto’s sponsors. God did.

Answered Prayers at Douglas Children’s Home, by Caroline Burns, Back2Back Mexico Staff

December 6, 2010

The children at Casa Hogar Douglas (Douglas Children's Home)

I just wanted to encourage all of you who have been praying for Douglas Children’s Home and especially since we as a staff team started asking for prayer warriors to cover the home in prayer last February. There have been many, many changes at Casa Hogar Douglas in the past ten months.  I believe that it is in direct connection to your prayers and all of you who committed to pray and fast for Douglas last February!

I spend almost every day of my time here in Monterrey at Douglas. Sometimes, it’s too easy to get caught up in my daily responsibilities of child care to reflect adequately on all God has done to drastically change Douglas for the better. God has sent a ton of new staff families – another one moved in last week. God has moved workers around so that there are awesome people in direct care of the children. He’s given us a ton of Shelter sponsors, through Back2Back’s Shelter Child Sponsorship Program.

As a result of the Shelter Program, we’ve been able to move a lot of the kids to new schools. Some of the kids are now able to attend a school for kids with special needs in the afternoons and evenings. Their food is a world better because of the Shelter Program funds. They have hot water for their showers now that it’s cold because of Shelter Program funds. The kids run and yell and practically push me out of my table when I start to distribute the Shelter letters (from their sponsors) because they are so excited that they might have received a letter from their sponsor. The church at Douglas now has a Tuesday night youth group for all older kids. The biological families of the kids (if they have them) are being asked to be more involved with their kids and are visiting more often, staying longer and some are even taking their kids home for the weekends now. The Mexican government is getting more involved with the home and helping to regulate forms and programs to help the kids. Not everything is perfect there but a many things are improving and it’s obvious to see how God has been moving at Douglas in these past ten months.

 

A Little Boy and a Multi-Colored Pen, by Hope Maglich

December 1, 2010

A couple weeks ago I was praying before I went out for the day with a team from the States. In my prayer time I poured out the the Lord my desire to connect that day. It is easy for me to get into the “management mode.”  I can direct a group of mission trip guests all day without really connecting with a single child that we are ministering to. It is easy for me to slip into a heart attitude of managing instead of a heart attitude of ministering. That morning I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to submit my day to Him and to live the day conscious of the people he had placed around me.

In the afternoon, we took the group to a children’s home called Del Norte. As the Americans began playing soccer and jump rope with the kids, I noticed a little boy sitting off to the side of the soccer field, head down. I walked over and tried to initiate conversation with him, but he wanted none of me. So I sat down, rubbed his back and watched the soccer match next to him. A few moments later a stray ball beamed the child right in the head. He started wailing! Trying to avoid any more stray balls, I scooped Ricardo up and walked with him around the corner of the children’s home.

If there is one thing I have learned from nannying and having younger siblings it is what my dad calls “the art of distraction”. I knew Ricardo was not seriously hurt, just having a bad day and needed to be distracted from it all. What could I do? I had my backpack with me so for the time being I tried to interest Ricardo in the backpack… What could be inside? Was there something special? Would he like to see? In the back of my mind I was thinking, “Dear Jesus, please let there be something cool in here. I didn’t put anything cool in there this morning… but you do miracles, right?” We opened up the backpack and by the grace of God found one of those multi-colored pens, the kind that has the little tabs at the top that you can push down to change the color. Ricardo was fascinated!

Ricardo with his pen

Soon Ricardo had colored up nearly ten pages in a notebook I had! I began to see how creative this little boy was. Ricardo is about four years old. He has some developmental problems that affect his speech and his attention; however his creativity is out of this world. I wish I could show you the pictures that he drew! There were houses, pools, and, my favorite, a shark. Soon Ricardo found a jump rope one of the others had discarded. In moments we were rock stars singing into the handle as a microphone. Bored with the pages he had colored, and the “microphone” Ricardo, and another boy who had joined us, began making different styles of paper planes… super creative and super fun!

In no time, I realized that we had been there playing together for well over an hour. Ricardo was happy, as were the other children who had gathered around us. I was thankful that we had enough staff working that day that I could sit down and love on this little boy who was having a bad day. How many bad days go by for Ricardo, in which there is no one to sit down with and pull pens out of backpacks, color pictures of sharks, or sing into jump ropes? I was privileged to be Christ’s hands and feet to this little four-year old that day, to show him that he mattered and that he was worth investing in. I was also thankful for the Holy Spirit’s prompting that morning to keep my eyes open for how He wanted to use me.  Never had I thought it would be through a little boy and a multi-colored pen.

With Ricardo

 

Thank you!

November 12, 2010

Thanks to all of you who joined us last night for Back2Back’s fall banquet! Over 650 friends of the ministry attended the event, sharing with us in a celebration of God’s relentless pursuit of the heart of the orphan child. Thank you for coming alongside us as we provide “care for today, hope for tomorrow” to orphans around the world. We are truly grateful for your ongoing support.

To those of you who were unable to attend, learn more about Back2Back’s orphan care efforts, by watching our new video, which premiered at last night’s event.

NASCAR Driver, Carl Edwards, and Copart Team Up to Auction Edwards’ Harley Davidson Motorcycle and Race Memorabilia to Benefit Back2Back Ministries’ Orphan Care Program

October 25, 2010

Carl Edwards with his XR1200TM Harley Davidson Sportster, which he is auctioning online to benefit Back2Back.

Copart, Inc., a leading online vehicle auction company, today announced it is teaming up with Roush Fenway Racing driver, Carl Edwards, for a promotion and online auction of his personal memorabilia.  Carl Edwards intends to donate all proceeds from the auction to benefit Back2Back Ministries’ orphan care program in Monterrey, Mexico. Back2Back Ministries is a non-profit organization that provides for orphans and impoverished families around the world with locations in Monterrey and Cancun, Mexico, Jos, Nigeria and Hyderabad, India.

“This partnership is an exciting way for Copart to support Back2Back,” said Todd Guckenberger, Executive Director of Back2Back Ministries.  “While they promote their auction via their social networking program, they are raising enormous amounts of visibility for our organization and helping to meet the practical needs of the orphaned children we serve.”

“We are incredibly proud to be the connecting piece of the puzzle in this campaign to support Back2Back Ministries,” said Copart CEO Jay Adair. “The opportunity to serve as the vehicle between Carl Edwards and Back2Back in raising money for this charity is tremendous and demonstrates a core value that we at Copart stand for.”

Both Copart and Back2Back Ministries will use social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging and other viral marketing tactics to help drive people to the charity auction and sweepstakes, where they can become Copart.com members for free.  Once a member, fans will be able to bid on items that include Edwards’ used fire suit, autographed pit crew uniform, a hood off the No. 60 Copart Ford that Edwards raced in Nashville this season, and a Harley Davidson that Edwards won at the Nationwide Road America race in June.

“Sitting at the drivers meeting in Road America, they showed all of the drivers this really cool looking motorcycle that the winner of the race would win,” said Carl Edwards.  “I knew that if I won the race, that motorcycle would be mine. So, I was talking to a friend of mine, Lonnie Clouse who serves orphans through Back2Back Ministries, about selling the bike if I won and giving the proceeds to his orphanage. After we talked about, I was thinking about how I was going to sell this motorcycle. Luckily, I have the perfect sponsor to sell a vehicle online and raise money. This is a perfect case of everything falling into place and I’m really proud of working with Copart in order to make this happen.”

The live online auction will occur on November 15, 2010 at Copart.com, but fans can start placing their maximum bids today. Bid at copart.com or by visiting the sweepstakes section of Copart’s Facebook fan page.

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.”

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!

Tune in to CNN, Sat at 8pm for Rescued, a story of orphan care in Haiti

May 7, 2010

Be sure to tune in to CNN this Saturday night (8pm EST) for Rescued, a documentary on how Christian missionaries are serving children in need in Haiti. The video was created by Discover the Journey, a non-profit that is a friend of Back2Back. View the trailer below.

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Join Back2Back at the annual Summit of the Orphan

February 15, 2010

Join Back2Back Ministries at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Eden Prarie, Minnesota April 29-30, 2010. The Summit is fast approaching! Like no other event nationwide, Summit has become the gathering point and training hub for Christians committed to adoption, foster care and global orphans.

Something for Everyone…Whether a newcomer to church orphan ministry or a veteran, Summit VI will help build vision, resources and practical know-how for effective ministries: Headline plenary speakers including John Piper, Tom Davis, Al Mohler, and other national leaders, as well as compelling voices from the global church. Music and personal sharing from Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman, and special performances by Peder Eide and the Desparation Band.

– More than 50 workshops delivering nuts-and-bolts for adoption, foster care and global orphan programs – designed for both laymen and leadership.

– Orphan care resources for church ministries, as well as personal orphan care and adoption journeys.

– 5 Hague-credit breakout sessions.

– Networking with respected adoption, global orphan and foster care organizations

REGISTER NOW!

For more information, visit Christian Alliance for Orphans, Summit VI

For questions please email info@christianalliancefororphans.org

We need your help sharing this opportunity with your church community and others that share a calling to care for orphans.

HERE ARE 5 WAYS YOU CAN SHARE SUMMIT VI:

1. Put up this free poster in your church or ministry

2. Write a blog post or article for your church (or personal) website

3. Offer this bulletin insert to your church leadership

4. Share this email with a friend from another church

5. Personally invite 3 people to join you at Summit

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Caregivers, by Back2Back India Staff

August 21, 2009

At all of the children’s homes where we serve, there are workers and caregivers. These are mostly women, some of whom are widowed and thus outcasted by Indian society. Some have their own children and maybe are working at the children’s home in order for their child to have a place to live and go to school. Others have their own families but dedicate most of their day or even stay overnight with the orphan children. They are paid the typical Indian minimal wage of 100 rupees (~ $2 USD) per day or less. They work long hours –  cooking and cleaning, watching over the children, getting them ready for school, supervising their chores, monitoring homework, providing first aid and counseling them when they have a problem. They provide the children with the physical and emotional “Shelter” that we’ve discussed as a part of our summer theme.

When foreign visitors are around, the caregivers often stay in the shadows, watching as the children interact with new people, who give them candy and play with them. Today, while a group of visitors was entertaining the children, I spent some time with Laxmala, a cook at one of the children’s home. She cooks three meals a day over a gas stove in a very hot, poorly ventilated little kitchen to feed the fifty children that live at this home. After the group members had painted all of the hostel girls’ fingernails, I noticed Laxmala scratching at her old Manicure for a Caregiverchipped nail polish.  So, I asked her if she’d like her nails painted. She bobbed her head and smiled widely! Her hands were work-worn and tired from all the time spent washing, chopping, stirring, and serving. I wish I could send her for a nice spa manicure, but she seemed to appreciate my efforts. She is a humble servant, caring for the least and lost children of Indian society. It was my honor to paint Laxmala’s nails.

I thank God for her and the many people that the Lord raises up and uses in this important role of caregiver. They have a major influence on the lives of the children. Although I doubt there is a “Caregiver’s Day” on the Hallmark calendar, we need to let them know how much we appreciate the care that they give. Let’s pray for the caregivers at all the children’s homes served by Back2Back Ministries.

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

Trust, by Beth Guckenberger

July 31, 2009

Last week I was at one of our squatter village sites, walking with an unbelievably gifted professional photographer (check out his pictures), helping him capture some images that could translate their world into ours.

During our outreach, a B2B staff member spends one-on-one time with a boy from the Rio - © DSL Images

During our outreach, a B2B staff member spends one-on-one time with a boy from Rio III - © DSL Images

A little girl plays outside her home in Rio III - Photo courtesy of DSL Images

A little girl plays outside her home in Rio III - © DSL Images

Outside their home at Rio III

Outside their home at Rio III

I was struck by the poverty, which I have walked among for a decade now, but some days it can still make the breath in me escape.  Another friend who was with me challenged me to always articulate a theology that reflects the reality of what I am seeing.  Since our theme this year is shelter the question begs How is He sheltering these forgotten people? How am I inserting my ideas of shelter into the Psalm 91 passage? How can shelter be metaphorical, even metaphysical?

We walked a little farther and I saw a little girl, around eight years old, kneeling outside of her shack, filling up an old Coke bottle with water. “Can we take your picture?” I kneel down and ask her. At that moment, I see her eyes for the first time.  Haunted. Hunted. Empty. Lonely.

“That’s the unmistakable look of a sexual abuse victim,” I whisper to my friend.  She was shaking her head quietly, signaling to us to move on.  We honor her and pass by.

A 100 yards later, I turn my head and see a man beside her, big, angry, with a stick in his hand, swinging it, looking at us. “God!” I just cry out in my spirit, wondering what I can or should do.

Shelter. What does it look like? For her? For me?

I come home and search for answers. I want the wisdom to handle myself well when confronted with those situations.  I read promises in Proverbs about searching out wisdom like a hidden treasure.  I am on the hunt.

My friend, Jenny sends me this quote from Brennan Manning’s book, Ruthless Trust.

“The theological arguments that support an interventionary God are many and varied. Frequently people report that they have experienced a physical cure or inner healing. And they have. “Yet” as John Shea writes, “one brutal historical fact remains-Jesus is mercilessly nailed to the cross and despite legions of angels, God did not save him from that hour… This side of the grave Jesus is left totally invalidated by the Lord of heaven and earth. Trust in God does not presume that God will intervene.”  Often trust begins on the far side of despair. When all human resources are exhausted, when the craving for reassurances is stifled, when we forgo control, when we cease trying to manipulate God and demystify Mystery, then, at our wits end, trust happens within us, and the untainted cry, “Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit,” surges from the heart.”

I am there. Even as I write this, I feel the trust swell within me, there are answers to my questions, there is hope for that little girl, there is a theology that understands the injustice in the world.  I don’t have to know all the answers to the when, the why or the where.  I just have to believe in the Who.

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)

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?

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?

Sarahi, by Cathy Huffer

July 1, 2009

There has been a faithful Back2Back supporter, who I’ll call Jill, who has regularly donated money for a little girl named Sarahi.  Sarahi lives in the Rio, which is one of the squatter’s villages that Back2Back serves. Sarahi is eight years old and just finishing 2nd grade.  Jill has helped to fund Sarahi’s education and provide staples for her family when they were without food and other basic necessities.

Sarahi

Sarahi

Recently, I told Meme, who helps with our Rio ministry, that I needed to talk to Sarahi’s mother, to see what they needed as I had just received another donation from Jill on their behalf. Meme informed me that Sarahi’s mother had kicked her out of the house and that her grandmother had taken her in. Sarahi’s mom is currently pregnant with twins and has another daughter who is a few years younger than Sahari who was allowed to stay in the home. I have had many people, Meme, Sarahi and her grandmother, try and explain this to me and yet it’s still difficult for me to understand how this can happen.

I could see the hurt on Sarahi’s face when she asked another woman and myself to pray for her. As I prayed, I told her that this was not a surprise to God and that He had already had placed someone in the states, Jill, to care for her. That was just one way God was showing her that He loves her. I don’t know what a girl that age can understand but her countenance changed drastically after our conversation.

I shared our theme verse of Psalm 91:1-2.  “He that dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will find 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.”

As Sarahi learns to trust the Lord, He is showing her how He can shelter her through her grandmother, through Jill and through others like you who are praying for her.  Will you take a moment to lift up Sarahi in prayer today?

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

Father’s Day with the Fatherless, by Matt Cooper

June 26, 2009

This past Sunday morning, I accompanied a visiting team from Cincinnati to Casa Hogar Douglas in the morning for church.  This is the seventh Father’s Day that I have lived here in Mexico, but for some reason it really began to dawn on me throughout the morning what a depressing day this must be for the children we serve.  How sad must it be to acknowledge a day separated out to celebrate fathers for a child who doesn’t live with their father, for a child who most likely can’t remember the last time they saw him, or for a child who quite possibly never had the chance to known him at all?

So we arrived at the Casa Hogar and I pointed the group in the direction of the chapel.  As I began walking up the hill towards the chapel I was almost holding my breath.  I could not help but wonder if Father’s Day would even be mentioned, if it would be the proverbial elephant in the room, or if we would just go about our business serving them as if it were any old day of the year?

We filled the seats in and around the children from Douglas and the worship leader began with his normal Sunday greetings.  Shortly after saying “Good morning” he popped the question that I had feared he might.  I literally felt myself hold my breath as he asked, “Who knows what today is?”  Of course they likely knew the answer to the question, but I couldn’t help but wonder what must be going through the minds of the seventy abandoned children that filled the chapel that morning.

Were they feeling sad?  Was some part of them angry? Did they feel like that got ripped off in the Dad Department?  How could they begin to wrap their minds around something that I as an adult barely understand myself?  What exactly is there to celebrate on Father’s Day when you don’t have a dad?

Then the unexpected happened as the worship leader instructed those seventy children to look around them, to locate a dad in the room, and to go and give them a big hug.  I couldn’t believe what I began to witness.  On tip toes and with wide eyes the children began to look around, and then they dispersed themselves throughout the crowd.  All of a sudden it wasn’t about them, or what they were missing out on so to speak, but it was about them wanting to bless someone else in the room.  And let me tell you – I was blessed that morning.  As more than half a dozen kids made their way to the corner where I was standing.  One by one they embraced me, and wished me a Happy Father’s Day – and the same thing was happening to other dads all across the congregation.

What an amazing Father’s Day it was.  I’m not sure why I should be surprised – it is just like God, really.  He used a room full of fatherless children to bless a handful of Fathers in a way that none of us will soon forget.

After the church service, we had a Father's Day cookout for the children.

After the church service, we had a Father's Day cookout for the children.

Two Boys at Casa Hogar Douglas

Two boys at Casa Hogar Douglas

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!