Posts Tagged ‘shelter’

It Can Be Bitter Cold in God’s Shelter, by Greg Huffer, Back2Back Mexico Staff

January 13, 2010

I just posted on my Facebook page (yeah, I do FB!) that it is “cold- not so much outside as inside.”  I just returned from visiting family and friends in Cincinnati where the temperature was in the teens with wind chills at who knows what, but at least in Cincinnati there was good heat inside.  A few minutes by the fireplace with a warm blanket wrapped around my legs and I was snug as a bug in a rug!  Not so here.  We have cinder block buildings and space heaters here and there.  And for someone like me, who always argues with his wife about wanting things cooler inside, I am always a bit surprised that it gets too cold inside our home even for me.

In seasons like this, my thoughts more often than not are about the people in Meme’s Rio or in the Cadereyta (two of the impoverished shanytowns that Back2Back works with).  My mind drifts to the 70% of the population of Mexico that live in poverty.  It considers that the majority of the world lives more like someone at Cadereyta than say someone living in the suburbs of Chicago or Cincinnati (where I grew up).   What do they do on nights like tonight when the temperature is supposed to get down around freezing?  How many blankets can they throw on to keep themselves warm throughout the night?  Do they ever feel snug as a bug in a rug?  Somehow, I doubt it.

The past two winters, I’ve been able to work at Cadereyta with a group of men from Columbus.  Each time we’ve gone, not only has it been cold but it has also been rainy, leaving the dirt roads nothing more than a sloppy mess.  Several times, just walking through the six-inch deep slop, my shoe has almost been pulled from my feet.  As we get on the bus and head to the Back2Back campus and relative warmth, the hour-long bus ride home is often more quiet as we think of the people I am leaving behind in the elements: the little kid with a runny nose and hacking cough or the grandmother who is nothing but skin and bones.  How will they fare over the night as the temperature drops even more?

I think in America we tend to think that because we have warm homes and comfy beds that we are experiencing the shelter of God.  So, if that is true, then what does that say about the people at Meme’s Rio?  Do they experience the shelter of God any less because they have a tin roof over their heads?  Or let’s turn it around.  If the person at Meme’s Rio that is fortunate enough to have a space heater (that runs off pirated electricity) is experiencing God’s shelter, does that mean that we experience it more because we have a thermostat we can set to a comfortable temperature?

I am coming to believe more and more that God’s shelter has little or nothing at all to do with this kind of thing.  I’m not so sure He cares how comfortable I am – He just promises to give me comfort through the Comforter.  I don’t think that God is pulling for me to have lots of money, but He is desperate that I would be rich in faith.

God does bless people materially.  We see that in the Scriptures, but not as much as some people may think or want.  What we see more is the promise that we will struggle and have trouble in this world.  God’s shelter comes to us regardless of where we live, or how we live (economically, comfortably, etc).  God’s shelter is ours because we believe in Him and follow Him and trust HIM- not what He may have given us.

Are we prepared to accept that God’s shelter may not keep us warm?  It may not help me purchase those extra Christmas presents for the kiddos.  It doesn’t mean that I can finally sell that heap of metal I’ve been driving and nursing along for three years and get a new car like the guy across the street.

But it does mean that as I stand on the side of the road because that bucket of bolts has finally died, I have the assurance of knowing that Someone is standing next to me.  It does mean that there may be fewer presents under the tree, but a deeper understanding of Christmas than ever before.  It does mean that there is peace in my heart as my bones shiver when the sun goes down, because the truth of the matter is that sometimes, it can be bitter cold in God’s Shelter.

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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!

I Will Not Leave You as Orphans, by Benjamin Riggs, Back2Back Mission Trip Guest

August 3, 2009

The last night that I was in Monterrey, before communion Matt Massey shared some awesome insight to Jesus’ words at the Lord’s supper.  He spoke about how a bridegroom builds a house in order to have His bride to be in marriage.

“He is finishing a house to come get His bride,” Matt said.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about that and the scripture that was the backbone for discussion and theme for the week, the idea of Shelter, based on Psalm 91:1.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow the Almighty.”

What I took as a “typical” psalm at first has slowly been turning into part of the definition of my walk with the Lord. During the week, I was captivated by the fact that dwelling in the shelter of the Most High was a reality for the psalmist, as opposed to an idea. Secretly, while I gave my answers at our small group, I longed to understand that more.

Before arriving in Monterrey, I had been neck deep in college books and a society that sells me the lie that everything is about me. I hadn’t really seen how I had let it work its way into my walk with the Lord until then. In Monterrey, Jesus began a serious revival of heart from checking out Psalm 91:1 and being in the company of the staff, interns, volunteers, and children we served.

Part of the change in my heart was from seeing how He continues to sanctify and Father His children, just as He has promised. As much as He continues to change my heart to look more like His, I was made aware of the fact that this change involves more than just me. Since the experience of serving and loving in Monterrey, I have been more aware of how passionate Jesus is about the Body of Christ; He has given us the Spirit and He is indeed building a house (Ephesians 2:22). The more I saw what Jesus was doing in Monterrey, the more I saw the involvement of the Holy Spirit and it’s presence in the Body of Christ to serve and love those that He has and promises to continue to love.

During a ropes course exercise, we came face to face with the task of trying to put our entire group on a platform that was just big enough for me. One plan that we tried was putting the smaller people in the middle, while others linked arms around them.

Ben and his team during a ropes course exercise

Ben and his team during a ropes course exercise

With all this discussion of shelter, the image of the Body came to my heart. In the past when I’ve thought about the Body, the phrase being His hands and feet always came to mind. I’ve seen this past week that along with His hands and feet, Jesus is also changing us to have His heart (1 Corinthians 12:24-25) for the poor, sick, orphaned, imprisoned, and lost.

While on earth Jesus’ body was obviously the embodiment of the Most High that we seek shelter in.  Now we are being pieced together part-by-part into His body, to continue His presence, as He is the cornerstone of this structure (Ephesians 2:20) and the Head of this Body (Ephesians 4:15, Colossians 2:19). We are to provide shelter for others to dwell in as we dwell in Him. I experienced that reality being welcomed and loved by the staff, interns and others that I served alongside and now love. The last day I was there I fell in love with a little boy from Del Norte: Jose Daniel. There wasn’t a part of me that wanted to leave him, but I know that God has a plan for that little guy. As I was leaving him, I was reminded of Jesus’ promise in the book of John.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”(John14:18).

Since returning home from Monterrey, I know that I can continue to be an extension of His Body by reminding others that He has not left any of us as orphans. He is coming back for His children. He is coming back for His bride.

Benjamin and Jose

Benjamin and Jose

Shelter, by Angela Ramos

July 29, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelter in Unexpected Forms, by Mandy Lail

July 22, 2009

This week I have been thinking about shelter in unexpected forms.  Take one of my boys, Homero, for example.  When Homero was twelve years old, he came to live at Manantial de Amor, one of the children’s homes in Monterrey.  He had gotten into a lot of trouble at various schools and even with the police.  His mother was at a loss at how to handle him.  A family member lived near Manantial de Amor, so his mother decided to take him there even though she lives two hours south by bus.  After three years at Manantial de Amor, Homero moved in with us to participate in the Hope Program with Back2Back.

Most of us find it difficult to understand how a mother can take her child to a children’s home.  And even more, we find it difficult to understand how God can shelter a child there.  How a life without their family, a life in a group home can be a form of shelter.  The reality is that for many of these kids a children’s home is a safer place than they came from.  It’s not perfect, sometimes not even pretty, but for many much safer. This can be a hard concept for us to understand.

But for me when I look at Homero . . . it is so clear how God has not only sheltered him but continues to pursue him.  Living at Manantial de Amor removed him from a dangerous path he was on.  He was making bad decision after bad decision and thankfully his mother intervened.  If she hadn’t, I think he would likely be in jail. God provided not only physical shelter, not only removed him from a dangerous path but provided Homero spiritual shelter.  Through the spiritual influence of the director Edgar, Homero started a relationship with Jesus while living at Manantial.  And now he lives with us where he has the opportunity to receive a solid education and spiritual influence, while experiencing family life.

Recently we had to tell Homero “no” when he asked to visit his hometown over the weekend.  He had been back several times in the previous months and we were becoming more and more concerned with his trips there.  From what information we could gather after the fact, he was making questionable decisions again, hanging out with his old crowd and spending little time with his mother while there.  At his last request we both felt super uneasy about the prospect and decided to not let him go.  He handled it well and even seemed relieved.  Later he told us that he had thought God didn’t want him to go.

About two weeks later, his mother showed up unexpectedly.   When she asked to speak privately with us, we were concerned she was angry we had not let Homero visit.  Instead, through tears, she asked us to not let him visit his hometown any more.  She too was concerned about his visits and decisions.  She knew it meant she would see him less, but she was willing to sacrifice her time with him to ensure he stayed on his current path.  She knows what opportunities he has here at Back2Back and she wants him to compromise them.

To me it’s so clear.  God has sheltered Homero over and over again; through a children’s home, through Back2Back and especially through his mother.  Many would look at her and judge her inability to parent.  I look at her and see a woman who is fighting for her son the only way she knows how. It’s unexpected, it’s not what I would have picked but it is so clearly God’s shelter for my foster son.  And I am thankful.

Homero with his mom at graduation

Homero with his mom at graduation

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

Makeshift Shelter, by Mandy Lail

June 17, 2009

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

 

Leo on the fishing trip with the Lails

Leo on the fishing trip

 

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

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

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

 

 

Rio III, by Cathy Huffer

June 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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