Posts Tagged ‘Rio’

Promoting Literacy, by Hope Maglich Garcia, Back2Back Mexico Staff

January 13, 2012

A few months ago, I was hanging out with a few girls in the Rio, an impoverished Mexican community that Back2Back serves. We serve 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.

 

At one point, my conversation with the girls turned to the topic of reading. I asked them if they ever get read to at home. They both said no.  I knew both the girls had several books in their home, because I had brought them out in a donation. I asked the girls where they books were and they said “on the shelf.” I praised them for this, because taking care of items in the Rio is not always a priority. We had a conversation when I first brought the books out about where to keep them and how to care for them. So I was pleased to see that they had done this. However, when I asked how many books the girls had read that week the answer was, zero. When I asked why, they reported that they weren’t allowed to take them down from the shelf because their grandmother knew I was going to come by and she didn’t want to take a chance that the books would be ruined before my next visit.

 

I sighed internally as I realized that this family didn’t understand the reason for the books. I remembered the library programs that I participated in as a child growing up in Oxford, Ohio. Almost every summer we would set reading goals and earn prizes for the books that we read… I wondered if Sara and Monse needed a little motivation like I did when I was little. I asked for a scrap of paper and scrawled out a one week reading chart for the girls. “Try to see if you can read one book a day or if your grandmother can read one book a day to you for the next week,” I said. For added motivation I let the girls borrow some of the children’s books I had with me in my car. “Next week when I come, show me what you have read and you can borrow some more books.” I then talked to their grandmother to make sure she understood that the books were for the girls to read, regardless of whether or not they got messed up.

 

The next week I drove up to Sara and Monse’s house and was greeted by the girls proudly standing outside holding up their reading charts. “We did it every day!” They shouted. Each girl got to pick a lollypop as a prize then we sat down to talk about the experience and to read a book out loud together. It was wonderful!

 

The next week even more kids showed up and the same thing happened the week after. I now have about six consistent students every week! I set up a very basic library system, where the kids can check out and return books. The best part is that the kids are reading or being read to and that there are books entering their homes. I’ve even noticed some of the teenage boys standing at a distance where they can hear the story I’m reading to the children yet still look cool! They were only given away when they too started laughing at the funny parts.

Children in the Rio are excited to be a part of Back2Back's new literacy program.

I have several Christian books and some children’s Bibles that I let the kids borrow. Sara told me one day that her grandmother loves the Children’s Bible best of all.She reads it everyday to her granddaughters. Yajiara borrowed a Max Lucado book one week that illustrated the story of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. She said that her mom started reading it and loved the story. Her mother read it over and over several times that week.

 

I’m excited to see where this literacy program goes! Two months later and the kids are still excited about reading.  I can already see that he kids are enjoying reading and that their parents are being influenced too. Compared to when we first started, the children are now very engaged in the stories I read aloud. They are making their own predictions and making connections to the text… two very important skills for readers to know. I also love to see them being responsible for the books they check out. We have only misplaced a few! They have read most of the books in my collection and I am in need of more!

The children select the books they want to borrow for the week.

Monse, Sarah and Alondra read together.

Yajaira reads to Daniel.

Please keep us in your prayers! Pray for the kids’ enthusiasm to continue to grow as they discover the joy of reading. Pray for the ones who struggle with reading to continue learning. Pray for parents to continue to be on my team with this. Pray for more children’s books in Spanish. Pray for me to have wisdom to know how to teach and encourage these kids.

Advertisements

A Day of Celebration for Milagros, by Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

November 22, 2011

Recently, Milagros, a young woman in an impoverished community we serve, graduated from beauty school with help from many friends of the ministry who answered a leading of God’s voice.

Celebrating with Milagros at her graduation

This journey began about three years ago when an audiologist came to visit the Rio community where Milagros lives. He met her and her mom and was moved by God to help Milagros, who is deaf and has learned to use her own version of sign language. During the course of the three years, God provided her with hearing aids to help her hear sounds for safety. She attended school to learn sign language. After about 1 1/2 years in beauty school, she has graduated and got her degree. She very well may be the only one in her community who has graduated from anything.

Milagros with her mother on Graduation Day

Milagros means miracle in Spanish. I know Milagro’s mom has seen her name come true in many times throughout her life, especially so several weeks ago at her graduation. Graduation day was full of presenting her work, judges results, dinner, along with mingling with teachers, friends and family. Milagros was quiet, humble and yet exuded confidence as she presented her model who had makeup, hair, nails, etc. all done by Milagros. Her teacher spoke for her to explain to the judges all Milagros had done. You could see communication had not been a problem between her friends and teachers.

When she went up to accept her diploma, there was not a dry eye at our table. God clearly has a plan for this girl. Now, we are trusting that God will lead her to a trusting employer. Because of her unique style of communication Milagros needs to have a secure place to work, a place where someone won’t take advantage of her. Pray that God will lead her to this place.

The Carrot Seed, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

March 29, 2011

The Carrot Seed

” A little boy planted a carrot seed… and the whole world said nothing would sprout.” – The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

For the majority of the children I work with in the Rio the whole world has said they won’t succeed, they won’t thrive, they won’t amount to anything,… they won’t sprout. That is sadly the story of two girls, Sarah and Monse. They come from rough situations and unsupportive environments where they have been told, they won’t “sprout.”

I went to the Rio about a week ago with my tutoring supplies in hand. I hadn’t ever tutored kids in Spanish before, but thought it couldn’t be that much different than the experiences I had tutoring in the States. The three of us girls sat down in the comedor and I pulled out a supply of books that I had with me. The girls looked through the stack and then we all decided on The Carrot Seed (La Semilla de Zanahoria). As an early childhood teacher, I am ashamed to say that I had never read this book before! We cracked open the book and began to read about the boy, the seed, and the disbelief of the world around him.

“His mom said, ‘I fear it won’t sprout.’

His dad said, ‘I fear it won’t sprout.’

His older brother said, ‘ I know it won’t sprout.’ ”

I asked the girls how the boy must have felt. They said he felt sad and discouraged. I asked them if they ever felt like that, or if anyone ever said those types of things to them. They both nodded and we kept reading.

“Every day the boy pulled up the weeds that were growing around the seed and sprayed the soil with water. But nothing sprouted… And nothing sprouted… The whole world said that nothing would sprout.”

“Have you ever felt like the whole world is saying you won’t grow and change and that you can’t do the things you want to when you grow up?” I asked. Again there were silent nods.

“But every day he continued to pull up the weeds and spray the soil with water. And then, one day,… a carrot sprouted…. Just as the boy knew it would.”

The girl’s faces were delighted as we got to the last page! “We knew it would sprout!” they said. “and the carrot is HUGE!”

The picture on this page is priceless. The boy in the story has a wheelbarrow and one huge carrot inside. Not only did the carrot sprout, it was much bigger and better than any normal carrot.

We closed the book and began to talk about how we are like carrot seeds. That sometimes people will say to us, “You won’t sprout… you will never be good at math, you will never amount to anything, you can’t be a doctor, you can never leave this place…” But what did the boy do? I asked.

“He kept working hard.” Was the answer. “He didn’t give up because he knew the carrot seed would sprout.”

“Hmm,” I said, “what do you think we can learn from this story?”

Sarita replied, “That if we work hard and don’t give up, one day the seed will sprout.”

“Good,” I replied. “But there is more than that.”  I went on to explain to the girls that God created them with a purpose. That He has a plan for their lives. That it wasn’t an accident that they were born onto this earth. “It may seem like the whole world is against you,” I said. ” Your mom, your dad, or your teacher may be against you, but God is always for you. He know the plans and the purpose and the future that He has for you. You are special. You are unique, you are dearly loved, and you will sprout.”

The truth is that God believes in these girls and supports them. He is pulling up the weeds in their lives and He is faithful to put water on the soil of their hearts. The whole world may say, “they won’t sprout.”  But God says otherwise….

“I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

And when God sprouts a seed….watch out! It is bigger and better than anything we can imagine!

Sarah and Monse drawing pictures of themselves planting a seed and then the seed sprouting.

Sarah and Monse with their finished stories.

Pursuit of Independence, by Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

December 9, 2010

What if there were few expectations placed on you? Do you think you’d rise up to something better?

Milagros has had hearing disabilities since around the time she was born. The plans from her parents were to take care of her until she was eighteen years old and then pray that some boy wanted to marry her to care for her.

But, God had other plans.

God put in Milagros’ heart a love for Him, a love for children, and a desire to want more out of life. Through connections ordained by God, Milagros has had the opportunity to study sign language and is planning on finishing beauty school this spring.

Will you join me in praying for her?

She needs independence training in order to live alone or with others for assistance. There aren’t many opportunities for her here. Pray that we are able to find a place where she can learn what she needs to become independent and be safe within her environment. The picture below is of her coloring my hair. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have never colored my hair. Only for Milagros would I do such a thing. She indeed is inspiring.

Thankfulness, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

November 23, 2010

I remember as a child sitting around the Thanksgiving table with my family and all of us taking a turn to say what we were thankful for. The common things mentioned were family, friends, warm house, clothes, and it never failed that someone was thankful for turkey! We always mentioned the things that we had and gave thanks for those things. In my mind I would compare myself with someone who didn’t have the possessions or positions I did, and sincerely thank God that He had chosen to give those things to me.

After working closely with the people in the Rio, an impoverished community that Back2Back serves, my thoughts on giving thanks have changed a bit. It is easy to look at poverty and feel sympathy, pity, and guilt about what we have and what they don’t.  However, have we ever thought that poverty could be a thing to give thanks for in and of itself?

Poverty is defined as “the state of one with insufficient resources” (Merriam-Webster). It is the knowledge that you can’t take care of yourself and your family on your own. With poverty come dependence and humility and the deep realization that you need help, that you can’t satisfy your own needs. Many times we look on poverty through our self-sufficient lenses and are disgusted by it. However isn’t humility and dependence on God to satisfy our needs exactly what our Father in Heaven desires of us?

Often, when we have all the material possessions we need the thing we lack is dependence on God. We are able in many ways to provide for our own needs. We don’t really need Him. When we have too much we are tempted to disown the Lord, forget about Him and say “Who is the Lord?” (Proverbs 30:9).

In Matthew 5,  Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ‘Blessed’ is a word that means so much more than happiness. It means a spiritual joy and well-being.  Oh how much eternal joy a person has whose spirit is dependent on God and humbled before Him!

Recently, I was talking to a Mexican friend who experienced a severe time of financial need before coming to serve with Back2Back. His told me stories of walking four miles to get to school because he couldn’t pay for a bus ticket and about how he and his sisters would go to bed early at night because it helped them forget about the pain in their gnawing stomachs.

“That time was hard,” he said, “But I wouldn’t trade what I learned for anything. During those years I saw the Lord’s provision for me in ways I never could have dreamed.”

He then went on to tell story after story of the miraculous ways his Father in heaven provided him with food, clothing, school supplies, etc. Stories of people calling and inviting him and his sisters to eat the day they ran out of food, others dropping by with bags of groceries right when they weren’t sure what they would have for dinner, stories of finding the materials he needed for school laying on the side of the road. As a result of his poverty, the man’s faith in God is unlike any I have seen.

The Kingdom of God is about the least being the greatest, the last being first, and the weak being strong so that ultimately the Lord is glorified. We can praise God for weakness, humility, and poverty when it causes us to be dependent on Him and when it builds in us a testimony of His faithfulness.

Are there ways in which you can thank God for poverty this Thanksgiving?

A New Family in the Rio, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 13, 2010

A few weeks ago a new family of seven entered the doors of the soup kitchen in the Rio, an impoverished community that Back2Back serves. One glance told us that this family was in need of help. Mom, Virginia, is younger than myself and has five little kids. The oldest is nine and the youngest (a set of twins) are two. Virgina, her husband, and children had moved into a shack with her mom after being unable to pay rent for their own place. Their house is smaller than most kitchens and houses nine people.

After seeing the children arrive at the soup kitchen on Saturday dressed in school uniforms (because they didn’t have other clothes) and smelling as though they had worn the same uniform the whole week, I realized that we needed to help. A few days later I dropped off several bags of clothing and toiletries and loaded kids, mom, and grandma into my car to go school shopping. Thanks to a donor we had money to buy the oldest kids new uniforms, school shoes, and notebooks.

I think the best part for the kids was just riding in my car! They laughed the whole time.

The family and Back2Back ministry partner, Meme, outside their home.

The twins in the cart while their brothers and sister try on shoes.

Three beautiful children with three beautiful new pairs of shoes!

Francisco, Joanna, and Brian with their newly purchased school supplies.

I didn’t really realize how much in need this family was until one day when the grandma asked me if we had any dishes they could have. I went to their home later that week and saw that the kids were drinking out of pieces of plastic coke bottles! The Back2Back staff pulled together as well as some donors and we were able to supply them with cups, plates, silverware, etc.

By God’s grace I have had many interactions with the family, including prayer and a sharing of the gospel with them! Please keep them in your prayers! Currently we are trying to get them connected to the government resources that are available to them as well as trying to satisfy some of their basic needs. Please pray for me to have wisdom and discernment to know what to do and what not to do and how to help, but not enable. It is for families like this one that we, as Back2Back, have a Rio ministry. Virginia is a prime candidate to take her children to a children’s home because of difficulties in providing for them. Our hope is that by coming alongside them and helping them to provide for their children’s basic needs, we will prevent them from reaching the point where they need to drop off their children at one of the children’s homes.

Pray for this family! Pray for me and the other Back2Back staff, as we seek the Lord on what to do! He is faithful!

 

Reflections from My Time in Mexico, by Nate Gangwer, Back2Back Mission Trip Participant

September 13, 2010

It remains extremely difficult to articulate my time in Monterrey, Mexico.  Most of what affected me and changed me and challenged my faith and broke my heart cannot be expressed with words and what can be expressed with words is still too much for a brief paragraph that someone might read.  I could write pages and talk for hours and show dozens of pictures and tell dozens of stories and read Bible verses and share songs and still what I feel in my heart and know down in my soul would be inexpressible.  And if I were asked to comment on my time cutting up tree stumps and loving orphans and serving the kingdom of Christ in Mexico five years from now I would still have great difficulty in sharing my convictions.  So I will limit my writing to one story.

Photo by Nate Gangwer

Throughout the week I had the privilege of removing stumps and trees, serving in a few different orphanages and a Rio.  This task was completed with a tremendous amount of labor and my shirts were often caked with dirt and soaked through with sweat so that mud developed along the front of my clothes.  I spent time fixing a chainsaw which repeatedly broke leaving me and my friends no other choice but to use machetes, pick-axes, and a regular ax which unfortunately broke after only an hour of use.  I tell you this background not for your sympathy or gratitude or approval, but to simply let you know that by the afternoon of our last day serving the beautiful children of Monterrey I was very tired.  I felt like someone had taken metal rods and glued them to my joints so that normal movement was nearly impossible and the word stiffness was a great understatement.

Photo by Nate Gangwer

On the last day, our group took orphans from a children’s home on a field trip.  We went to a local play place with a bouncy house and video games and hot dogs that could be washed down with soda and chips. The kids were eating and I finally had time to stop moving and rest.  So, I crawled up to this little stage at the front and flopped down next to some friends.  Then I looked up and saw for the first time in my life the pinnacle of God’s creation: humanity.

Looking back on the Creation story, God’s glory becomes manifested more and more with each day and the intricacy and mastery of His workmanship becomes more evident.  Creation crescendos and God’s uses all of His glory and might and love and power to create humanity after His image.  On that stage as I watched little boys and girls shove their mouths full with hotdogs and quench their thirsts with soda something inside of me shifted. Something inside me broke.  I have a passion for photography and I find myself standing in awe of God’s created sunsets and mountains and raindrops and beautiful colors and shapes.  But at that moment as my tired body lay on that stage I realized that I had been focusing on the wrong beauty.  Like always my heart missed being aligned with Christ’s.  I was focusing on the beginning of creation and neglecting the masterpiece: us.  The power of the Holy Spirit broke my heart in that realization and my perspective altered. People are the purpose of creation.  They are the reason that God’s justice is fulfilled by His grace.  People are God’s top priority, His primary concern.  Jesus Christ died for no other reason than to satisfy the will of God and bring about a supernatural and divinely controlled communion for the most beautiful thing in all creation.

Image by Nate Gangwer

The word compassion comes from the verb ‘pati’ which means ‘to suffer’ and the word ‘cum’ which means ‘with’ giving a literal translation ‘to suffer with.’  So when Jesus has compassion on the multitude in Matthew 9 He shares in their suffering.  In Colossians, we are challenged to be clothed with compassion.  When Jesus is greeted by the grieving soldier whose daughter had died, Jesus in all His glory and humanity and divinity, knowing the Old Testament claim in Jeremiah 29 that God has a plan for prosperity and comfort of His children, Jesus goes and weeps and mourns with the family even though he knows God is sovereign and even has the power to raise her from the dead, which he does.  In that story Jesus’ humanity and divinity are so intertwined that he has compassion and suffers with His creation.

I hope that we as a society will have brokenness like Jesus and be moved as He was moved.  I hope that we pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to come and grant us the ability to give everything we have to the Kingdom of God and the glory of Christ and have eyes that view the beauty of humanity as God sees it and are then moved to compassion.  May we give as the church in Acts gave and live with such a passion and love for God’s people that miraculous revitalization would sweep through our hearts and turn society to the foot of the cross on which Christ died.  I could write pages on what God taught me in Mexico and the weeks that followed, but instead I encourage you whoever you are to join me and so many of the martyrs and followers of Christ into a place that says ‘Yes Lord, I will follow you and love your people no matter the cost.’  The beautiful children of the world in all their innocence and purity in joy can pull a heart closer to Jesus like few things. The world desperately needs compassion and love; it needs the Gospel.

Photo by Nate Gangwer

Javier: Hungering for God’s Word, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

August 10, 2010

This is Javier.

Javier is ten years old.  He lives in the neighborhood that borders the Rio, an impoverished community that Back2Back serves. One day not to long ago, Javier was out playing in the street next to his house when someone came by and mentioned something to him about God’s Word. He went running inside and told his mom that he wanted to learn about God’s Word. From that day on, Javier has had an unquenchable hunger to know what God’s Word is.

Not long after, I and a group of Back2Back staff members were walking through the Rio community inviting families to come to the weekly soup kitchen meeting. I was talking to a woman named Tere who lives in nearly the last house in the community. Tere asked if we could walk a little further and invite a friend of hers to come to the soup kitchen.

“By all means!,” we responded.

Tere’s directions to her friend’s house were pretty vague.

She instructed us to, “Go up the hill into the community and find the house that is also a store and tell the people that Tere sent you.”

We followed her directions and by the grace of God found ourselves at the house she had described. We knocked on what appeared to be a store window.  A woman quickly answered.  We invited her and her family to join us at the soup kitchen for food and teaching. The woman looked a little surprised and with a smile asked if we would talk to her son. She called her son from the back room.  Javier emerged from the back room and we explained to him that every week at the soup kitchen, we host a children’s Sunday school class, where we teach about God’s word. With a grin a mile wide, Javier excitedly agreed to come that very day. About a half hour later Javier showed up at the soup kitchen with his mom. He had combed his hair, put on clean pants, tucked in his shirt, and was ready for his first day of Sunday School. This family has been coming to the soup kitchen nearly every week since and Javier’s hunger for God’s Word continues to grow!

We Want Him, by Cathy Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

June 1, 2010

“No! You can’t take him. WE WANT HIM,” were the words that came from the back of the bus.

Three of the guys from the short-term mission group that we had taken to the Rio, had their arms around him and weren’t letting him go. Antonio, one of our Back2Back staff guys, had jumped on our bus to see if Oscar, one of the students in our Hope Education Program, had wanted to ride with him in another vehicle. The guys in the group were not letting him go. They wanted him and it was more than obvious. The smile on Oscar’s face told it all.

This is what our ministry is all about- advocating for these kids and teens in Monterrey, Mexico; in Jos, Nigeria; and in Hyderbad, India. We as a staff feel called to give these kids and teens the message that we want them, Jesus wants them. When groups, supporters and advocates join us in saying WE WANT YOU, its God’s way of screaming their value from the mountaintops! I hear the echos of Isaiah 41 :9-10 “I took you from the ends of the earth from its farthest corners I called you, I said, ‘You are my servant’ I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you;do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Have you heard God saying this to you? He is yelling, ” I want you.” ” I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” Sometimes in life it doesn’t seem this way. Its difficult to understand why things happen to us. But we need to know that like those three guys, God embraces us and says ” I want you and will not let you go.” Have you heard Him?

Meet Milagros, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

April 30, 2010

Through the generous support of a family in the US, Milagros is able to go to school. Milagros is a compassionate, intelligent, and confident teenager who lives in the Rio community, an impoverished community that Back2Back serves.

Her name means “Miracle” and often she is nothing shy of that! She was born deaf and grew up communicating with her self-made sign language. One of the things I love most about Milagros is her fearless ability to try. She will attempt over and over to communicate with me despite my sometimes baffled looks. Milagros is very determined. She knows what she wants and what she is capable of and sets out to do it. I like that in a person who would have an easy excuse to do nothing at all.

About a year or so ago a family came down on a Back2Back mission trip, met Milagros, and had a heart to help her. With their support, she was able to attend a school for the deaf where she learned sign language and some trade crafts. Not satisfied with just this education, Milagros approached us a few months ago with a flyer from a cosmetology school over in the next neighborhood. We met with the director of the school, who was eager to take on Milagros with her challenges. Milagros has now been enrolled in cosmetology school for several months. Just a few days ago, I had the privilege to go with a co-worker to Milagros’ school to see her in action. There, Back2Back staff member, Cathy Huffer, got a trim and Milagros gave her mom some new layers in her hair. It is nothing less than a miracle to see someone like Milagros, born with limitations and into an impoverished community, grow, thrive, and pursue what some would say is impossible.

Milagros in her class

Milagros putting layers in her mom's hair

Cathy Huffer getting her hair washed

Two Year Anniversary of the Rio Soup Kitchen, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

April 26, 2010

Recently, we celebrated the two year anniversary of our soup kitchen in the Rio, a shantytown community that Back2Back serves! It was a fantastic day filled with good food, fun, and fellowship. The comedor was packed out with people! We had worship, preaching, prayer time, children’s church, slide show, and a meal of yummy arrachera!

The comedor filled with faces as we worshiped the Lord and thanked Him for the ministry in that place over the past two years.  I mainly help out with the children’s ministry during soup kitchen Saturdays. Sticking with our theme of the fruit of the Spirit the children are doing an activity with a story that illustrates faith. We had over fifty kids come to the class. Usually we plan for about thirty.

The children did an activity involving a story about faith

Working on a craft about faith

Enjoying a meal together

After the preaching and children’s classes, we all gathered together for an arrachera meal. It was delicious! Arrachera is a special meat that has been marinated and then grilled. It is sooo good. It was so fun to provide this meal for these people as it is typically expensive and not affordable by many of the families we serve. We also gave out elotes! Elotes are corn on the cob that have been boiled and coated with chili and mayonnaise. It is a Mexican favorite and often is preferred as a dessert of sorts.

Our great grillers who worked for hours to prepare the meat for us to eat

Thanks to everyone who has helped support the soup kitchen financially and prayerfully over the past two years. God is moving and doing great things in that community. We are privileged to celebrate two years of ministry and thank all who have played a part. Blessings to you!

Blessings on a Page, by Mandy Lail, Back2Back Mexico Staff

April 19, 2010

This week we had a group of college age students visit the Back2Back campus in Monterrey.  Besides having a great week serving in the children’s homes and Rio areas, this group took a particular interest in our students living here on campus, the students of the Hope Education Program.  Just today I was handed envelopes for all five boys living in my home through this program.  These envelopes were filled with journal entries/letters written by group members for my boys.  They are blessings on a page.

The transition from living in a children’s home to life on the Back2Back campus is a big one for most of our students.  One of the things many of them miss is all the fun they had with our American groups who visit!  They miss the cookouts, field trips and all the attention and love given by mission trip team members.  Some still interact with groups, but many are busy with school and work while groups are here.  Sometimes they feel a little left out.  But not this week.  This week this group went out of its way to love on our students. And while the students aren’t little any more, the attention, love, and relationship still brings a big impact.  It helps them to remember that they are loved and loveable.

For me, the best part was an hour on the couch translating the letters for one of my boys; great letters, letters in English, simple letters full of love and truth.  These letters opened the door for a great conversation with my foster son about some important spiritual truths, about who he is in Jesus and how God ‘s love for him is so deep that He will use anything and everything to get to him. Even letters from a college student he’s never met, written in a language he doesn’t really understand.  That’s how far our God will go to pursue us…with blessings on a page.

A few of the letters

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.

Following God’s Whispers: A Week in Mexico with Back2Back, by Mariel Beausejour, Back2Back Mission Trip Guest

February 2, 2010

A bus of American high schoolers pulls up to a church in one the darkest most impoverished neighborhoods of Monterrey, Mexico. Boys playing fútbol pause, well-worked women drop their conversation to observe, and little girls holding hands skip to find new friends. But beyond the many people standing all around us-some with shy smiles, others with hard stares- are shacks built from boxes. Packaging material for various foods I eat on a regular basis is the shelter that these people call home. We huddle into the sunlight, our knees shaking beneath our many layers of clothes, and see children dressed in well-used jackets and pants filled with holes. They are the very people behind the statistics I have heard for so many years. The poorest of the poor. Here was my chance to answer the call I had felt God so firmly press on my heart- a chance to spread his love to those society does not love, to bring freedom to those in bondage, and to feed the hungry and clothe the needy.

With some of my new friends in Mexico

After handing out hamburgers in a church packed with babies, children, older sisters, mothers, and grandmothers, and trying to use my limited Spanish to create an instant relationship with several of them, I was feeling a little awkward and extremely inadequate. Just then, a little girl, who I hadn’t seen yet, came and grabbed my hand. She said a few things really fast and then led me outside. She took me down, into an unfinished/barely started cinderblock building. I asked her what the building was and she said “una casa.” I asked whose house it was and she replied “No se.” For anyone reading this who doesn’t speak Spanish, this means “I don’t know.” Although this was a little unsettling, she seemed sure of herself, so I continued to follow her up onto the roof, which was lined with re-bar, and completely empty, other than an old wooden bench. She led me to it, and I took out a pack of UNO cards- which ended up being the most valuable thing I packed. Kids kept coming as I taught her how to play it, circles of kids around us, just watching, and hoping to get in on the game.

Later, I found out that this building was the new addition the church was building, with the help of organizations like Back2Back. The vision of the pastor and the dozens of women who volunteer at the church is amazing. They truly understand how God intended that the church should function- as a light in a dark world. Our decision to follow Christ is not a selfish one. It has great implications for us and our lives, but it takes a great deal of sacrifice. We must count the cost of being His disciple before we follow Him, because we can’t have an amazing relationship with Him if we continue to live our life as we wish. We have to surrender our own agenda, and pick up the lifestyle of the kingdom. We are the church. We should be living for God and others- feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick- bringing the riches of our compassionate God to the ones He longs to hold, talk to, and provide for. The pastor who planted this church in the Rio could have easily planted a church in a nice neighborhood, with an economically stable congregation, and a nice thick tithe. But he didn’t, he laid down all worldly desires in order to follow His whispers, and meet God where He has always been, and come along side Him in the workings and desires of His heart.