Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Humbled, by Will Reed, Back2Back Nigeria

April 3, 2012

In the past couple weeks some of the youth have made comments that have left me completely humbled by their perspective on life. These have reminded me of others said long ago. I want to share a few with you.

At the end of Bible study each week we take “prayer points” as they’re called here. Each week one youth will inevitably ask for prayer to pay school fees. Never in my life have I had to worry about paying school fee’s, especially in middle school or high school. In fact, I’m sure I would have thought it was great if I didn’t have to go to school in middle school, but here there are 18 year olds asking for prayer so they can pay school fee’s to attend our equivalent of 8th grade.

I would have given up.

Another comment I often hear from youth is that they only want to have what they need, which is something I’m sure I’ve said but they prove it. If they get something they almost always share it only taking enough for themselves. There is no doubt great selfishness is in the village, however, these youth seem to have not caught the bug as greatly as I have. One youth was willing to go as far as sell his mattress to help pay a medical bill for another youth they knew. Read that line again and realize he would have been left sleeping on a mud/concrete floor. He wouldn’t have just gone out and bought another, he would have gone without.

I would have thought I had nothing to give.

Just last week I could tell Emmanuel Asiko, Back2Back Staff Member, was having a bad day. He lives in the Kisayhip Village, the same village he is working to develop. I asked him what had happened and he informed me a four-year-old boy had passed away early that morning. I asked more questions about it and inquired on how he was really doing. He assured me he was fine. I then asked if he was able to visit a person he was supposed to visit that morning for work. He answered, “No, I was digging the grave.”

I wouldn’t have known what to do.

I’m humbled by these youth. I’m humbled by not only their thoughts towards life but also how they are seeking to live. I’m humbled by youth who would sell their mattress to pay a medical bill for another while I have two beds in my house. I’m humbled by youth who know how to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

I’m learning to never give up, I always have something to give and there is always something I can do.

Advertisements

Lola, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Monterrey, Mexico Staff

August 5, 2011

Lola had lived at the government children’s home for close to a year before I met her. She had been removed from her home as a teenager due to abuse from her mother. Now Lola is 17. Despite her background, she smiles and laughs and engages with others.

While I was at Back2Back’s site in Cancun, we took Lola and others from her children’s home to the beach for a fieldtrip! These kids are not able to get out much, so for them a trip to the beach was quite the adventure.  While we were smearing sun block on one another at the beach I fell into an amazing conversation with Lola and don’t know if I will ever be quite the same…

A beach field trip is a rare treat for this children's home in Cancun

While we slathered on the SPF 30, Lola began to tell me that the director of the children’s home was thinking of placing her once again with her mom. When I asked how she felt about that she told me that she was nervous. After suffering abuse at the hands of her mother, she didn’t have much confidence that it wouldn’t happen again.
“However,” she told me, “I know that wherever I am God will never leave me. He is always with me.” I looked at Lola a bit surprised. She was not living in a Christian facility, how did she know this?
“Wow!” I said, “You are absolutely right. The Lord will never leave you nor forsake you, but how do you know that? Have you been to church before?”
“No,” she answered, slathering the sun block on her shoulders, “I’ve never been to church.” Lola glanced around as though making sure no one would overhear.  “You see,” she said, “I have dreams.”
I stopped rubbing in the sun block on my nose. My curiosity was immediately peaked. What did she mean by ‘dreams’?
“When I go to sleep at night I dream about God,” she told me. “I know that He is my Father, that He loves me. I know that He created me and that He loves me more than anything else He created.”
“You are so right on,” I said, so surprised by all she was saying that a large glob of sun block dropped from my hand to the sand. “Has anyone ever told you about the Lord?”
“No, nobody ever has.”
Shocked, I put the sun block bottle down altogether. I asked if Lola she had ever dreamt about a man named Jesus Christ.
“Oh yes,” she said, filled with joy. “I know that He died for me and because He died I am alive. He lives in me.”
Really shocked this time at how Sunday-school-perfect her answers sounded, I asked again, “Are you sure no one has ever told you this?”
“No,” she said. “I have dreams.”
“Okay Lord,” I prayed. “I’m going to stop doubting now. Why couldn’t you speak to Lola with dreams?”
For some reason, my limited brain only allowed space for this sort of thing to happen with unreached tribes in Africa, but here He was showing Himself in a very personal way to His beloved in a children’s home in Cancun. We talked all through the salvation story. Lola tracked with me the whole time, agreeing with what I was saying like she had known it all her life.
“The story doesn’t stop here,” I said, “There is someone called the Holy Spirit who had come to help us. Have you ever had dreams about the Holy Spirit?”
“Oh yes!” replied Lola with joy in her voice, “not long ago I was laying down in my bed in the dorm at the children’s home. It was night and we had a fan blowing in our room. I felt the breeze blow around me and it felt like huge arms that were embracing me. Then I saw a white dove and I heard a voice that said, ‘I am the Holy Spirit. I want you to invite me to live in you and be your guide. You need to listen to my voice and follow me. Don’t follow any other voice. I am your guide.’”
I stood there dumbfounded on the beach, in awe of Jesus! He had spoken every part of who He was to Lola. He had revealed Himself to her without anyone else in the middle. This abused teenage girl had an authentic relationship with Jesus and was being led by the Holy Spirit because Jesus cared that much about her. He cares for the orphan and loves them so much more than we do. He revealed everything to this girl and I was there simply to confirm that it was God. I felt my Spirit struck with the revelation that He does not need me at all… but that He has graciously invited me in be a part of His story.
Lola and I spent some time praying together on the beach. I prayed for her continued growth in the Lord and boldness to share Him with the other girls in her dorm. I asked if she had a Bible and she said no I explained that the Bible was an additional way for her to learn about God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and offered to get one for her. I don’t think I have ever seen someone so excited! She was literally jumping up in down in the sand and hugging me.
“You would do that?” she said. “I would love a Bible!” Arrangements were made the next day to purchase one for her.
This was my highlight of the two weeks I spent serving at the Back2Back site in Cancun! God is so big! He is so good! He is fully capable. He takes care of His own.
UPDATE:
Below is a photo of Lola with her new Bible from Back2Back.  She is eager to begin to learn more about her Heavenly Father through study of his Word.

Lola is eager to begin learning more about God through her new Bible

Root Issues, by Will Reed, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

June 3, 2011

I have been spending a lot more time in the Kisayhip Village, near our home in Nigeria. I’m slowly becoming more and more accepted in the community as I become a more regular visitor. The other day I walked in to find several children playing Red Rover and not one of them stopped to come over, they just continued to play and acknowledged my presence by smiling and waving. I enjoyed knowing that as I’ve become more familiar, they don’t feel the need to drop what they are doing to come greet me.

As I’ve spent more time in the village, I’ve begun to see more and more issues that I think need to be addressed…everything from marriages and childcare to medicine and personal hygiene. Each time I’m made aware of an issue I think, “If we could just help that, it will help everything.”

For example, of the approximate ten young men who come to bible study, five of them can’t read or write. I’m not talking about reading and writing in English, they can’t read or write at all, in any language. So, I start thinking…if they can’t read, they can’t study the bible on their own. If they can’t study the bible on their own and don’t go to church on Sunday because of work, when do they ever get any sort of teaching? If they don’t get any teaching, how do they apply it to their lives and take it back into their village? The cycle continues to spiral down.

What the Lord brought to my attention recently is that all of the issues the village is facing are “fruit” issues. They are what we see, taste and smell as we walk through the village. They need to be addressed, but addressing only the fruit is an endless task. If you don’t treat the root of a tree the fruit will always remain the same or simply be absent.

What is the root issue? How do we “treat” the roots?

Luke 13:6-9 is a parable Jesus tells in which the owner of a vineyard demands a tree to be cut down because it has not produced any fruit in 3 years. In verse 8 the vinedresser (man in charge of taking care of the tree) says, “…leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.”

I believe the root issue of the village, as with every community, is spiritual. The people need Jesus. They need to know who He is and what He did for them. They need to know what it means to be sons and daughters of God.

How do I figuratively dig around a village and fertilize it? All I know to do is pray and love. Please join me in praying for direction in this.

Partner with us through Prayer

May 13, 2011

Children at El Limon Children's Home spend time in prayer

We invite you to partner with us by joining us in prayer for our ministry.  Find a list of current prayer needs by ministry location below.

CANCUN, MEXICO

-God’s grace and great things to happen here for our first summer of ministry ever!

-For revival in the city of Cancun.

-For changed hearts in us, in those we serve, and in those who come alongside us over the next few months.

-For continued guidance as we move into some partnerships with local pastors in their areas of outreach.

-For God’s provision for the right volunteers, the right staff, the right facilities, and the financial resources to make it all happen!

 MONTERREY, MEXICO

-Pray for God’s continued protection and provision for Back2Back staff and ministry sites as we draw on His wisdom, continuing to exercise safety precautions that reflect the conditions around us. Pray for God’s wisdom to fill government leaders in Mexico who are working to end drug trafficking and further improve the safety of its guests and citizenry.

-Pray for God to meet the groups that are coming this summer in every aspect of their trip, from fund raising to their time in Monterrey. Pray for every moment to be fruitful in their lives and in the lives of those they will serve.

-Pray for all the focus areas of our ministry, specifically as we work for the development of each child holistically and for our local partnerships that are key in what we do.

-Pray for the staff in Monterrey. Pray for the families moving back to the States, and for the staff that will be reporting soon.

– Pray for all the house parents in the Hope Education Program to have wisdom and new ways to connect with their teens in order to lead them to freedom in Christ.

 HYDERABAD, INDIA

-For more staff in India!

– We are currently in the process of enrolling many of the children we serve in private schools. Pray that they will be granted admission.  Please also pray that we can provide tuition fees, text books, and uniforms and find tutors to help them particularly with their English skills.

-Pray for the directors of the childrens’ homes.

 JOS, NIGERIA

– Pray for the children attending our English Program. They are one parent orphans living in a rural village. Pray they would improve their grammar skills and be ready for learning how to read this summer.

-Pray as we build infrastructure and relationships inside the community center with the youth. We currently have one male Bible study and we are starting a female one this summer. Pray a female leader in the community would be raised up to lead the other women.

-Pray the Lord would provide more staff to join our team! We have big vision and need the manpower to sustain it!

Poorest of the Poor, by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Cancun Staff

April 8, 2011

A few weeks ago we were introduced to a family. The social worker from the DIF (Child & Family Services) here in Cancun said she wanted us to meet a family, and wondered if there was anything we could do for them, as they were in a very rough situation.

Fifteen year-old Noehmi, is lower functioning, perhaps mildly mentally challenged. A few months back Noehmi had a baby, and has been receiving some services through the teenage mom program that we’ve been serving back to back with here. Noehmi lives with her younger sister, who is in sixth grade, and her 17 year-old brother, who is no longer in school. These three teenagers live with their elderly grandparents.

The grandfather is not in good health. Their mother has passed away. And their father, who had always supported the entire family has recently been sentenced to prison. The father’s old employer leant a room to the family to stay in.

When the social worker took us out to see the family, we met them in this tiny back room of a house with a tin roof that was caving in over their heads.

“Every time it rains all of our things get drenched,” they explained.

They family had been making payments on a plot of land, but the income from her grandma selling tamales, and the 17 year-old washing car windows at intersections had been barely enough to feed the family, let alone have anything left to make payments on their land, or to build a home.

“So, do you think there is something Back2Back can do for this family?,” asked the social worker.

For a moment, we sat in silence, and I felt overwhelmed, helpless, wondering what I could do to really make any difference. It all seemed so urgent. Yet, I felt like I had no resources at my fingertips, no solutions to offer. And then God brought something to my mind.

Several weeks earlier, a friend of ours on Back2Back staff in Monterrey shared that someone had given her some money and asked her to use it when she came across a situation of the “Poorest of the Poor”. Our friend had shared with us that she praying about where to use the money in Monterrey, but felt that God might equally want to use the money in Cancun, and that we to should be praying and should let her know if we came up with a need.

I was convinced that this was it, this money was given for Noehmi’s family. I contacted our friend and learned that the money was still available. The social worker contacted the land owner of a plot of land the family had making payments on, and permission was given to begin working on construction of a new home for the family – somewhere they could call their own.

I could not have been more excited for the way God put the pieces together and for the way we’re going to have a chance to bless this family in a very, very real way.

Noehmi with her daughter, Miriam

Noehmi's sister, Blanca, making tamales with their grandmother

Partner with us through Prayer

March 23, 2011

Children at El Limon Children's Home in Mexico spend time in prayer

We invite you to partner with us by joining us in prayer for our ministry.  Find a list of current prayer needs by country below.

India:

– Pray for the Lord to bring us more Godly staff to serve in India.

– Pray for the continued growth and development of the ministry in India

Monterrey:

– Pray for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance as we seek to grow, develop, and go deeper in the ministry in Monterrey.

-Pray for the new students who are being considered for the Hope Education program in the fall.

Cancun:

-For wisdom as we continue building relationships with local children’s homes/ministry partners.

– For God’s continued leading as we desire to zero in on a specific area of outreach.

Nigeria:

– Pray for the village we work with as we seek to use community development as the avenue of reaching the orphan child.

– Pray for the education/tutoring center that was opened in January. Currently ten students are coming to class four days a week to learn the basics of English. The hope is that this will enable them to do better in their English speaking school.

– Pray for more staff to join our ministry here.

US:

-Pray for our US staff as they provide support to the various missions bases and raise awareness and funds for the ministry.

 

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!

 

Virginia – God Heals the Hardest Heart, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

January 31, 2011

This is a post about a teen whose story impacted my life while I was in Cancun. For her security she will be referred to as Virginia in this entry.

Virginia looks to be about twice her actual age. I met her on the first day that I met Jamie. I have never really understood what a face of stone looked like until I met Virginia. Her face was beautiful, but ice cold, her jaw set in a clench like I have never seen before, her eyes icy.  It was clear that she took out her pain in sarcasm and in disgust of those around her. Even with the hard shell it was apparent that this was a very hurt young lady.

Virginia with her friends

In the first conversation I had with Virginia she made it very clear that she hated her life and hated the children’s home she was temporarily staying at. All I could think was how hurt she must be.

Two days after I first met Virginia our team of ladies returned to the children’s home to host a Christmas party. When we entered the home, my good friend and fellow staff member, Priscila, was encouraged to go up and talk with Virginia.

“You have got to be kidding,” was Priscila’s reply. “Look at her, she wants nothing to do with us, let alone me! ”

However, the Holy Spirit kept prompting Priscila until she went over to introduce herself to Virginia. Priscila found out that Virginia was fifteen years old.

“My fifteenth year was very impacting,” Pris shared. “That year God placed many Christians in my life who spoke to me about Jesus. It was when I was fifteen that I had an experience with God and I have never been the same.”

Virginia stared at Priscila in surprise.

“That is weird that you say that,” she said. “Just last night someone told me that I needed to have an experience with God.”

Virginia then went on to share about how the night before her mom had come to get her and bring her home. When Virginia arrived home she began arguing with her mom, started uncontrollably freaking out, and tried to commit suicide. At this point her mom got scared and called the police to come and take Virginia back to the children’s home.

As Virginia and the police officer were sitting in the squad car outside the children’s home, the officer turned to Virginia and said, “Virginia, have you not had an encounter with God? You need to have an experience with God.”

Virginia was startled that now Priscila was also talking with her about having an encounter with God.

Priscila came up to me after this conversation with Virginia and told me what happened. As Pris was talking, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God wanted Virginia to experience Himself that day. I told Priscila that she needed to go back and share the truth of the Gospel with Virginia. Today was the day of her salvation, I was sure of it.

A little later Pris found Virginia and asked if they could finish their conversation. I saw them sit down on a stone wall and begin to talk. I knew that Priscila was sharing the gospel with Virginia, so I began to pray. Virginia was sitting very straight with a face of stone as Pris began to share.  I kept praying that the Lord would break through. That he would soften her heart so she could hear and receive what Pris was sharing. Suddenly as I was watching, and it was as if the stone mask on Virginia’s face began to crack and slide off. I have never physically seen such a change happen in a person. One moment she was sitting erect hard as stone, the next second she had tears streaming down her cheeks and a wide smile spreading across her face. That day Virginia’s name was written in the Lamb’s book of Life.  With tears streaming down her face, Virginia was laughing and smiling. Her countenance was completely changed! I went up to her and gave her a huge hug. I told her I knew that God had a plan and purpose for her life and for her being at that home.

She hugged me back and through her tears said, “I feel so happy!”

It was apparent the moment Christ entered Virginia that she was completely changed. She had an experience with God that had been prophesied to her the night before. She was a new creation! Virginia was supposed to leave the children’s home that night to go back with her mom. God was so purposeful and strategic in his timing of things! There is not a doubt in my mind that He divinely ordained the events of that day to bring Virginia into his kingdom. Through this I saw that God can heal and soften the hardest of hearts.  Please keep Virginia in your prayers.  Her family has been involved with drugs in Cancun which can get pretty serious. Pray for her protection and for her continued growth in Christ. Praise Jesus for this salvation!

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.

 

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.

 

When God Shows Up, by Greg Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

August 2, 2010

As the staff of Back2Back headed into the summer of 2010, Matt Cooper (a staff member) said, “This is going to be the greatest summer of our lives,” expressing the sentiment of many other staff members, myself included.

Just prior to the summer, a period when we enter into eight solid weeks of crazy, hectic schedules, we had had a staff retreat to fuel our spirits in preparation.  We invited a pastor from the States to come down and lead us in a time of spiritual formation and something tremendous happened amongst and within many of us during that time.

For me, a longtime pastor, in some ways I might say that I found the Lord.  I had known Him for 29 years but during this retreat, the Lord met me in a profoundly new way that has transformed who I am and the way that I will forever do ministry.  Many other staff had equally profound experiences.  For me, the Lord delivered me from a deep depression that I had fallen into for a couple years.  Battling this depression, during that time, my marriage and family suffered, my friendships and ministry relationships suffered and life was just hard and no fun. But God completely and totally healed me and set me free from this debilitating sickness and in the process, showed me new ways that I could expect Him to show up in my life.

As summer began, we as a staff decided that we wanted our mission trip guests that would visit us this summer to have the same opportunity to experience some healing prayer as so many of us had, in hopes that they would have the same kinds of life-changing, faith-changing experiences that we had had. So the decision was made that every Wednesday night we would forgo the normal debrief time (a time when groups gather with a staff member to process what they had experienced that day) to have a time of extended worship and healing prayer. I was asked to share my testimony of what had happened to me to begin each of these nights.

And God has shown up and done some tremendous things.

We have seen people confessing and being set free from many areas of their lives where they had previously been in bondage.  Jesus told us that he came to set us free.  God’s intention is that we do not muddle through life trying to figure out ways to get by and cope with the various areas of bondage and captivity that produce so much suffering in our lives.  God intends for His children to be set free and as He has shown up each Wednesday night, we have seen this beautiful miracle of divine love every time.

Some people have found salvation through Jesus Christ.  Others have identified with my depression and have sought freedom from it as well.  Others have just wanted, like I experienced, a newness in their faith.  And God has shown up.  Let me tell you a little of what I mean when I say that “God showed up”.

I remember one night praying with Tim, a summer staff member.  We had prayed for a few people when we had a bit of a lull.  As worship continues during the prayer time, we each just proceeded to join in the worship.  As we were singing, I felt what I can only describe as a change in the atmosphere around the palapa (the thatched roof structure in which we were worshiping).  It literally took my breath away and I became fully aware that I was feeling the Holy Spirit as he descended upon us.

Within a split second, before I could say anything, Tim turned to me and said, “Ahhh, do you feel that?!”  He was feeling the exact same thing that I was feeling at the exact same moment, in the exact same place.  Why?  Because I believe that God showed up.  And when God shows up, people’s lives are changed.  Each Wednesday night this summer God showed up and each Wednesday night, people’s lives were changed as they met Him and were set free.

Now at the end of summer, I echo the words of Matt Cooper and say that because God showed up, because people’s lives were changed by being set free, and yes, this has been the best summer of our lives.

Showing God’s Love at the Rio – Valentine’s Day Outreach, by Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Staff

February 18, 2010

Valentine’s Day was a perfect time for one of our short-term mission groups to share God’s love to the kids and families at Meme’s Rio. Our group had fifteen kids in it ranging from seven to nineteen. They were great as we asked them to help us teach the 1 Corinthians 13 passage on love to about thirty-six kids at the soup kitchen. After we shared the verse, the kids teamed up to give six different dramas of what love is and what love is not. The kids were fascinated and really paid attention well.

Afterwards, they made valentines with homework to give away to someone special.

We served a delicious tostada meal and a group prayed against the spiritual warfare that is apparent there. The men helped put doors on the soup kitchen, while the kids played and played.

At the end,  we were getting ready to pray for Meme, one of our ministry partners, when Meme pointed out a girl who was sick and needed prayer. These kids laid hands on this girl and strong, passionate, sweet prayers went up around her. Prayers for healing, for increasing her faith, for protection and against fear.

What a full day to see God’s love in sharing His word, feeding the hungry, loving the people, working on the soup kitchen and blanketing the place in prayer. Now that is Biblical Love.

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

February 17, 2010

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

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

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

Take Flight, by Jessica Biondo, Back2Back Mexico Staff

February 8, 2010

As you may know, the mission of Back2Back is to provide “Care for Today and Hope for Tomorrow” to the abandoned and neglected children of Monterrey, Mexico. When I write for this blog, I hope to give you tastes of what that looks like in our day-to-day activities. Every day is different depending on the needs of the various homes that we work with. However, one thing that remains constant is that we have about forty teens that live on our campus.

These teens grew up in the children’s homes that we work with, but at age fifteen they can no longer live in the homes. Due to this, many of the teens are back out on the streets and end up in the black market or prostitution because they believe that they have no other options. In order to put a stop to this cycle and provide hope for these young students, Back2Back started the Hope Program. When the students turn fifteen they are invited to come and live on our campus in one of the teen homes with house parents.

While they are here, Back2Back pays for them to complete high school and go to college to pursue the degree of their choice. They are given hope through education and opportunities for success, but more importantly, our constant prayer is that we are able to show them a greater hope. A hope that does not depend on circumstance, education or opportunity. A hope that is only found in Christ. It breaks my heart to think of the lives that many of these students have lived. They have suffered through constant abandonment, abuse, neglect, loneliness… and many more things that I cannot even imagine. Yet we know that we serve a God who can bring healing, redemption, identity and hope.

A few weekends ago, we took the teens to a youth conference of 400 students from all over Monterrey at one of the churches in the area. The theme of the event was “Alza el Vuelo”, which means “Take Flight”. It was a powerful weekend of worship and speaking. It also opened a lot of doors for great conversations with some of our teens who are really seeking right now. But the thing I am most excited to share is that one of the teens accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior!! Praise the Lord!!! My heart fills with such excitement as I see the things that God is doing on our campus. He is pursing the young people who most of the world had written off and cast aside. Yet he is pursing them, capturing their hearts and preparing them for mighty things in the future! What a loving God he is! He will not give up on them, and we must not either. Please pray for each precious teen on our campus. That each one will come to know Christ and experience joy, peace and hope!

Read more about the event from Back2Back staff member Hope Maglich here.

A few Back2Back staff members with some of the girls at the conference

During worship at the conference

Answered Prayers, by Jim Betscher, Back2Back Mexico Staff

November 4, 2009

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

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

Lulu

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

The Prayer of Louis, by Jim Betscher, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 28, 2009

The lives of the kids who live in the children’s homes that we serve are often filled with pain. Many times, their lives are filled with bad memories of their families and a void of real love. In all of the work that we do, we want the kids to experience love and to know that God loves them perfectly. I love it when a child has an opportunity to exercise his faith in God and realize that God always loves them. Recently, Luis, a nine-year old from Casa Hogar Douglas (one of the children’s homes we serve) had this opportunity.

Luis

Javier, the head care giver at this children’s home, has been going to each dormitory at bedtime and praying with the kids. A few weeks ago, he was in the young boys’ dorm, and he asked if they had any prayer requests. Luis, the oldest of four kids in his family that live at this children’s home, said that he wanted to pray that a relative would come and visit them on Sunday.  It had been weeks since anyone had come to visit them on visitation day.

Some of the other kids laughed and said, “No one is coming!”

But then, Javier calmly asked Luis, “Do you believe if we pray that someone will come, that it will happen?”

Luis answered “YES I DO!”

They prayed together that night for his mom to come and visit. That next Sunday, their mom came to visit them.

I remember the day that Luis, his two younger brothers and his sister were dropped off by their mom at the children’s home. It was about a year ago. I remember because I had tears in my eyes as she left them. But, none of the kids were crying. I know that their lives have probably always been full of sadness, heartache and pain. One of the hardest parts of our work, is witnessing the heartache and pain that so many of these kids carry. But I am also lifted up, each time I can witness God’s faithfulness in their lives as well.

Connections, by Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 16, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words from Home, by Mandy Lail

September 24, 2009

Recently I received a sweet message from home.  My good friend Angel sent me a picture of herself at Casa Hogar Douglas from 1987.  When JJ (my husband) and I decided to come on staff with Back2Back in Monterrey as house parents in the Hope Program, we had been friends with Angel & Shawn for six years. We had served together at Northstar Community Church in Loveland, Ohio and enjoyed their friendship. We were so blessed when they jumped on our support team right away.  Not long after, Angel told me about how she and Shawn had taken several summer mission trips to Monterrey during their high school years.  God had stirred their hearts for this city and they still felt the connection.  Several summers ago, they returned with their son on a mission trip when a group from Northstar traveled to Monterrey to serve with Back2Back.

Last September, when we arrived in Monterrey and began spending time at Casa Hogar Douglas, God broke my heart over that home and the children there.  Three of the boys in my home (Marcos, Mario & Gabriel) are from Casa Hogar Douglas and there are several more boys there that we have formed strong bonds with.  It is a special place for us. As I began to write about it on my blog and post pictures, Angel sent me a message explaining that on their mission trips from high school they would come to Casa Hogar Douglas, climb the hill and pray in the chapel.  They would pray over the children’s home and the whole city. I was so encouraged by the connection God had given us and how He has used Angel to remind me that He is at work in that home…and always has been.

I was feeling particularly discouraged recently but when I received this photo from Angel, God once again used her and her words to encourage me. The needs here feel overwhelming at times and often we can feel too small to make a difference.  But then we are reminded that we are not alone.  God has collected an army of folks here and at home to pray, to advocate and to fight for the orphan.  We are so thankful and so encouraged by all those who choose to invest with us in these casa hogars, these teens, these children.

Read these sweet words of encouragement from Angel to me: “I just re-read the scripture I sent to you in the other email and the last verse says faithfulness through all generations…in 1987 the kids that you minister to were not created yet. Yet the same power, the same love and faithfulness that God had for the kids that I met in 1987 carries through to this generation right now. And so the same power, the same love and faithfulness will carry on to the next generation. This is so much bigger than you or me…I prayed over the Douglas home at lunch and I do feel the war. Please be strong in the power of his might. He hears our prayers…He will answer them.

Thank you Angel for your encouragement.  Thank you to all those Back2Back supporters for all you do for the least of these. We are so thankful for each of you.

Psalm 100:5 For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Angel & Shawn at Casa Hogar Douglas in 1987

Angel & Shawn at Casa Hogar Douglas in 1987

Mandy's husband, JJ, playing soccer at Douglas in the same spot where Angel & Shawn took a photo in 1987

Mandy's husband, JJ, (far left) playing soccer at Douglas in the same spot where Angel & Shawn took a photo in 1987

Pleading for Prayer, by Cathy Huffer

September 14, 2009

Meet baby Melissa.

Baby Melissa

She is two months old and yet her due date has not yet passed.  She was born prematurely at six months.  Janet, her mom, was experiencing a normal pregnancy until at a routine doctor’s visit she learned she was losing fluid.  The doctor advised her to admit herself into the hospital so they could monitor her.  She chose to stay home because of the cost.  Four days later, Janet woke up with blood on her sheets and a puddle on the floor.  Scared and worried, she and her mom went to the emergency room.  She was taken away to a room and her mom was told to wait.  After nearly three hours, the hospital staff returned with a bag of Janet’s clothes and told her mother to speak to someone about how they were to pay for Janet’s hospital stay.

That morning word got out and Meme, a Back2Back partner, came to me and asked if I wanted to go with her to the hospital to visit Janet and pray for her.  When we arrived, she had been waiting three and a half hours with still no word.  Soon after we arrived, they called Janet’s mom inside a tiny office.  It was apparent that the news wasn’t good, as she began to cry.  They had told her that Janet had given birth to a baby girl who couldn’t breathe on her own and she should prepare for the worst.  Then she was escorted out to wait for futher news.

When Meme and I surrounded her, she told us the news about baby Melissa.  We hugged and cried.

Then Meme turned to me and said, “Cathy would you lead us in prayer?”

In that little hallway, we huddled together and prayed for the health of the baby, for the strength of her lungs, for Janet and her mom and other family.  We prayed for who knows how long.  When we finished we convinced Janet’s mom that she had to eat something.  We stayed with her part of the afternoon before finally returning home.  Later when her mom got to see Janet, they shared experiences.

Janet recalled her initial reaction to the news. “When they told me about my baby, I thought God please let Meme and Cathy be praying for my little girl.”

What Janet didn’t know then was that at the exact same time that she was pleading to God for us to pray, we were gathered in the hallway of the hospital interceding on behalf of her little girl.  When I visited Janet later she shared this with me and I was able to tell her how she can have a personal relationship with God.  She too can have a direct line to the Almighty Physician.  She was intrigued and I prayerfully anticipate more conversations about what Jesus offers us all.  It is obvious to me that God is using this little girl already and I’m convinced that He has great things in store for her life.  Would you continue to pray for Melissa’s health?  The doctor’s gave Janet oxygen for Melissa however she has yet to need it, praise God.  Also pray for the faith of Janet and the rest of her family.

Janet with baby Melissa

Janet with baby Melissa

Wait for the Story, by Beth Guckenberger

August 10, 2009

Last Saturday, when the final week of summer short-term groups arrived, someone handed me a bank envelope of $800 and said it was a gift to the ministry to be used however it was needed.

I immediately pressed, “Would you like this spent on a teen in our program? At one of the Rio squatters’ villages?  For a children’s home?  A medical need?”

The donor responded, “I know it was to be this amount and there are no strings attached.”

When I hear that, I know there is a story coming.  There are instantly a dozen ways I could spend $800 well.  Needs abound in our organization; it’s the nature of what we do and who we serve.  But, I decided to wait on the Lord on this one, so I put the money in our safe, and just prayed for wisdom on how to use it.  Days passed and on Wednesday, I prayed, “God, I know you don’t work this way, but how cool if the donor could see this week where their money was spent.  Just tell me what need you raised this money for.”

Silence.

Later that evening, I was talking to Meme, who serves here with us in one of the squatter’s villages.  She was an orphan as a child and last year became a widow.  She ministers to the families of her community with a grace and resolve that is widely admired.  I finish our conversation and walk away.

“Beth! Come quick!” she yelled.  I turned around to her and gasped.  Her front two teeth had fallen out completely.  She sat there, devastated.

I learn that evening that she hasn’t ever received regular dental care and it had been years since she had her teeth professionally cleaned.  The next morning, I took her to a local dentist office and told them to temporarily fix the problem and then to call me with the estimate of how much it would cost to fix them permanently.  I knew that we would have to raise those funds for her.  An hour later I got a call from the dentist, who reviews with me the lengthy process and multiple other outstanding dental needs.

I responded, “She is a giver of good news to highly unreceptive people.  She needs to be able to open her mouth and speak the truth to them.  Tell me the damages… how much will all of that cost?”

The dentist paused, knowing I would have sticker shock.  “Eight-hundred dollars,” he said.

“No problem. Get started,” I answered with a smile. “Our Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He sold some for her benefit last week…”

I knew the dentist didn’t understand my reference, but Meme sure did, as did the donor when we shared the story with him later that night. Respond to the prompting; pray when unsure; and then wait for the story.

Meme with her new teeth

Meme, after receiving dental care

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.

Back to School, by Back2Back India Staff

July 24, 2009

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

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

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

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

During English class at their new school

During English class at their new school

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Making a Difference, by Angela Ramos

July 6, 2009

Being in Nigeria for almost four weeks I have often wondered if we are making a difference here.  Will we ever fully know the answer to that question?  Before coming here our desire was to come to help out where needed and to serve the people here – whatever that looks like.  Now that we are here it seems that what we do is so little because the need here is so great.

A few Fridays ago we handed out a bag of corn and rice along with oil to each family in the Kisayhip Village.  We split up into teams and along with a translator we went into everyone’s homes and gave them the elements.  We also prayed with them.  We told them we were there because we wanted them to know that God loves them.  We also wanted to let them know that Back2Back is building a compound close to their village and that our goal is to help them and the community.  We will use this future Back2Back compound to host our missionaries and groups that come for a mission trip.  We felt it was important to make an impact on the village so they know we are here to serve them.

Chris Ramos praying with a family in the Kisayhip Village

Chris Ramos praying with a family in the Kisayhip Village

We know that we made an impact, but will we ever really understand how much?  As we left the village to return to our house where we have electricity (sometimes), running water and food, I don’t think we can completely understand without being in their shoes.

I was struggling with questions about what it means to make a difference here until God began to show me that this is not about me.  I may never know the extent of our impact but I am to be obedient to the calling on my life.  I may never get the warm fuzzies.  I may never see the benefits of our labor here.  But, that is okay.  God has given me peace and God is right, of course, this isn’t about me.

In Isaiah 58 God talks about true fasting.  From that scripture, I am learning that God sees our hearts and true intentions.  He doesn’t just want one day of fasting, a fasting that is like “Okay, I fasted for a day, I did my duty, and now I’m done.”  Our lives are to be lived day in and day out by feeding the hungry, setting free the oppressed, providing shelter for the homeless and clothing the naked.  I love the part of the scripture where it talks about what God will do when we fast in such a way.  I love it that He goes before me and His glory will be my rear guard. He will answer me when I call and when I do cry out to Him He will say “Here I am”.

We are called to resist the urge to live our lives for ourselves.  Yes, God has a plan for my life here and He will grow us personally and as a family. We may never know how much we’re helping, but what I do know is that God is our protector, our healer and he answers us when we call.  That is so much better than a warm fuzzy.

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

Intercession, by Beth Guckenberger

June 10, 2009

This week I have been reminded of the power of prayer… something that I can overlook as I am busy “making things happen”.

There is a guest here from North Cincinnati Community Church, whose mother, Barbara Shaw passed away this last year. In the final few years of her life, she had a painting hanging in her home of two girls from Mexico. It was purchased at a Back2Back banquet, from a young artist who painted it from a photograph. Barbara didn’t know these girls, had never traveled to Mexico, but saw a role she might play in intercession for them.

The painting was acquired three years ago. Within six months of her intercession, these two girls’ lives drastically changed.

Todd and I have known them our entire stint here in Mexico. When I first met Lupita, she was not even walking. Carolina was a spitfire toddler that caught my attention and heart right away. That was in 1997. Ten years later, in 2007, the girls were in a difficult position (due to the behavior of the oldest) and needed to leave the children’s home. They were without any other family or resources, so Todd and I took them in. They began to live for the first time in a family.

These last couple of years, as they have become our foster daughters, we have all grown in our understanding of family. There have been steps forward of growth and grace, and steps backwards. I am trying to understand what ‘shelter’ really means – God’s shelter over our family, our extension of that shelter over the girls, the rest He promises for us there.

This week, Mark, Barbara’s son, showed me a picture of his mom, opening up the painting for Christmas. I couldn’t stop the tears. Carolina and Lupita love Jesus. They love our family. They love each other. They love the community here. Their lives today are radically different than the day she opened up that painting.

What role do I think her prayers played in that? I honestly don’t know exactly, but the evidence stares me in the face every night across the dinner table.
I displayed the picture Mark gave me on our fridge and last night I told the girls this story. Carolina immediately had tears in her eyes, still stunned by a God who has left the 99 to go after her in such a relentless way. Lupita’s eyes got really big, and she spoke first, “God has always loved us, hasn’t he? Even before we loved Him back.”

Barbara with the Painting of Carolina & Lupita

Barbara with the Painting of Carolina & Lupita