Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

David’s Journey, by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Cancun

January 27, 2012

David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Bringing Light to Darkness, by Jim Betscher

August 19, 2009

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

Children outside their home at Rio III

Children outside their home at Rio III - © DSL Images

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

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

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