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Care for today. Hope for tomorrow.


by Todd Guckenberger, Executive Director of Back2Back Ministries

I keep a folder of what I call “life lessons.” I love to learn, especially when I can grasp a concept and integrate it into how I lead, live and walk with God. A few years back, I heard Andy Stanley say, “Do for one what you wish you could do for them all.” Back2Back adapted this concept into “Be the difference for one,” which has become a guiding principle for investing deeply in the child in front of us. Over the last few years, Back2Back has been listening to the direction God has been calling us. This shift toward a focus on depth has created difficult conversations with individuals who prefer to only focus on meeting immediate basic needs. Life lessons have sprung from this friction but, in valuing individuals and relationships, we hold firm to the conviction we must meet the holistic needs of the children. One of the greatest lessons learned to date comes from the challenges facing present day adults whom we served as children in the late 90s. I talked to one of them last week while I was in Mexico. He is currently the father of four children, but separated from their mother. His story makes me even more determined to develop tools to put in the hands of the children we serve today. We have since learned to better equip the children we serve to process the trauma inflicted on their lives. Continue with me in for praying for healing in children we have served in the past. Pray they find mentors or churches who are patient and trained to help them recover what has been emotionally stolen from them. Today, in an effort to stop this cycle of broken families, Back2Back has invested significantly in resources for emotional development. Over the last five years, our staff have become students of trauma and more informed experts in the areas of child development. We have hired

professional psychologists and social workers to help us in areas of emotional and social development. This past January, Back2Back launched a process to train and equip each staff member and caregiver to provide trauma competent care, understanding trauma as being the outcome of abuse, neglect and a marginalized lifestyle.

There is a lot for us to hold onto – people and processes and new skills to learn – and we invite you to join us. Thank you for learning in the trenches beside us.

Regardless of how the trauma occurred, we are committed to addressing more than just the symptoms. We commit to working deeper than mere behavior management will take us. When done right, this actually gets pretty messy before it gets better. But we are okay with messy because we know this is how children heal. Please continue to pray and come alongside Back2Back as we learn more life lessons. Pray we listen and obey. Pray for children who are hurting, both those we served in the past and those we serve presenly. Pray for caregivers and staff to have patience and wisdom. There is a lot for us to hold onto – people and processes and new skills to learn – and we invite you to join us. Thank you for learning in the trenches beside us.

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We desire for every orphan and vulnerable child to have the opportunity for success through “Care for today and Hope for tomorrow�. The goal is each child would experience restoration to a life of purpose in which they can become fulfilled and mature Christian adults.


Back2Back Ministries is an international Christian non-profit organization dedicated to being a voice for


orphans. We exist to love and care for orphans and vulnerable children, by meeting their spiritual, physical, educational, emotional and social needs so they may


overcome their life circumstances and break free from the cycle of generational poverty.


We would like to thank Quality Printing for partnering with Back2Back by offering us high-quality printing.This partnership has been a tremendous blessing to the ministry allowing us to expand our communications.Thank you to Quality Printing for this generous gift.


by Beth Guckenberger, Co-Executive Director of Back2Back Ministries

Each January, we begin to consider the spiritual theme for Back2Back which launches each May. If you’ve been with us for awhile, you may have joined us as we explored topics such as ‘One Another,’ ‘Glory Strength’ and ‘Offer’ and most recently, the biblical words starting with ‘Re.’ The spiritual theme is a year-long conversation about a particular biblical truth. We are always encouraged when you join us, as we debrief, read, have quiet times, small groups, conversations and worship around this topic. This year’s theme is influenced by a recent trip Todd and I took to Israel and Turkey with Bible teacher, Ray Vanderlaan. I went there expecting to learn truths about biblical characters and the context in which their stories took place. I came home understanding more about how my story is engaged in a mission thousands of years old. (And so is yours…) Throughout Scripture, God calls us to be His priest and together we make up a kingdom of priests. 1 Peter 2:9 says, ‘you are… a royal priesthood.’ What is a priest’s mission? - to show others what God is like. We meet human need to demonstrate to someone what God is like. It has been a challenge to consider this biblical truth of putting-God-on-display when I enter into conflict and I would rather show someone how I am right, rather than who God is. It’s hard when I am meeting someone’s need. To have a clear conscious, my only motivation must be their understanding of God, and not their opinion of me. Being a priest means I am more than the recipient of His goodness, mercy, forgiveness, gifts and grace. Being a priest means I am a conduit of His goodness, mercy, forgiveness, gifts and grace.

Being a priest means I am more than the recipient of God’s goodness, mercy, forgiveness, gifts and grace. Being a priest means I am a conduit of His goodness, mercy, forgiveness, gifts and grace.

Priests are to be set apart and holy. I am finding it difficult to work that out in a culture of independence that has crept its way into my thinking and my relationships. A priest is a servant and puts his own needs last. I am tested by this, as I naturally want to go first in line and make myself the most comfortable. I have to put that natural self to death, in order for someone to see the supernatural at work in me and wonder less about me and more about Jesus. It will be a year of learning and challenge for sure, because it is one thing to be a priest all alone, and quite another to do so in community with others. The body of Christ, working together is the chief avenue we have to demonstrate God’s way really works. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don’t you know that you (which is in the plural form, like ‘you all’) are the temple (singular) of the Holy Spirit?” Together, we make up His body, and communicate to a world watching that God is in the practice of making all things (relationships included) new. Join us as we learn to be in a kingdom of priests. It’s about having our hands open, and being engaged in His business.That will mean holding each other accountable and praying for one another. It will mean asking questions and engaging in conversations that leave the other challenged to sacrifice more, listen more, be set apart more. This is what community should look like, and we invite you into ours.Together, we will send this message to the most vulnerable of populations: God is there for them.

If you will not be traveling to one of the sites this year and would like a copy of this year’s Bible study, download a free copy at www.back2back.org/ kingdomofpriests





ENGAGING IN GLOBAL & U.S. PARTNERSHIPS by Todd Guckenberger, Executive Director of Back2Back Ministries

In 2001, we sensed God leading us to serve the orphan and vulnerable child in Guatemala. Even early in the Back2Back story, we were anxious to share resources and grow with others who were serving children internationally. We were met in Guatemala by some organizations with mixed feelings; they were apprehensive and skeptical of our interest in partnership. However, we found a few potential partners who were incredibly gracious, thoughtful and open to collaboration. Those early positive experiences have resulted in ongoing relationships we still value today. Even though Back2Back did not end up launching a new site in Guatemala in 2001, I believe God used that season to teach us lessons on collaboration and partnership. The trip started Back2Back on a journey seeking out other like-minded organizations with whom we could engage. There is no competition in orphan care - a win for one is a win for all! We have a life script in the Guckenberger house, “If you can’t share it, you can’t have it.” What started as a parenting strategy to stop an immediate argument over a toy has since grown into a core value. Back2Back shares this value, believing by sharing what God has taught us, organizations can spend more time with children and less time in committees or in front of computer screens. Back2Back’s global and U.S. partnerships department is a way for us to impact the orphan and vulnerable child in countries where we otherwise have no presence.The staff regularly engages with smaller organizations, sharing anything we have ever generated as a ministry, including board policies, Bible studies and trainings. Anything we have is free for anyone who serves the orphan.

WE STRUCTURE OUR ENGAGEMENT IN THREE DIFFERENT LEVELS: LEVEL 1 INFORMATION AND RESOURCE SHARING The map to the left shows where Back2Back is sharing information and resouces with other organization LEVEL 2 COACHING AND RESOURCING Back2Back stewards time to serve a few like-minded, but smaller or younger organizations. We hold conference calls to share best practices in areas such as administration, child sponsorship, child development and trauma resources. When we host staff trainings on child development or fundraising, for example, we simply invite other organizations to join us. LEVEL 3 PARTNERING It is reserved for those organizations in official partnership with Back2Back. We share back-end administrative resources and launch new sites with like-minded individuals already working to serve the orphan. Recently, a leadership podcast challenged me to literally sit open-handed in meetings, thinking through the question: What if what we have is on loan for us to steward? 6

CANCUN by Erick and Julie Mowery, Back2Back Cancun, Mexico

COMMUNITY MAPPING by Erick and Julie Mowery, Back2Back Cancun Directors

We want to be intentional when determining the types of programming the Community Center of Trés Reyes would offer. Our ultimate goal is to address the most significant issues in Trés Reyes.

Last year at this time, the Community Center of Trés Reyes was still just a dream. We were beginning to start raising funds for the building project, and to be honest, we had no idea how long it would take. The theme for the project was “more,” and we were believing God would do so much more than we asked or imagined. And He has! God has continued to provide what we need, when we need it. We still have more funds to raise, but the building is going up fast. We decided early on we wanted to be intentional when determining the types of programming the Community Center of Trés Reyes would offer. Our ultimate goal is to address the most significant issues in Trés Reyes. To that end, we needed to talk with the people of Trés Reyes to understand the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities in their community from their perspective. This approach is called community mapping. We used Nehemiah from the Bible as a model for community development when entering neglected areas and mobilizing a team of people to restore hope to a marginalized community. We began with prayer, asking God to guide us, give us favor, and help the people of Trés Reyes to trust us. Many people in Trés Reyes feel forgotten. But just like God saw Hagar in her distress (El Roi - Genesis 16), God sees the mothers in Trés Reyes in their distress. Several weeks ago, we held a meeting with a group of pastors from the Trés Reyes community. We believed asking a pastor we already knew and worked with in Trés Reyes could help us 137

make in-roads and gain credibly more quickly with the other pastors in the community. Pastor Victor helped connect us with the other pastors. Shortly after, we invited them to join us for a meeting at the community center property. Victor also helped us create a more accurate physical map of Trés Reyes, so we would know where the churches are located. We had 17 people from 10 different churches come to the pastor meeting in January. We gave them a tour of the building and property, discussed the strengths and needs of their community, and asked them to help us connect with more people in the community. This month, we held a similar meeting for the mothers whose children have been attending Bible classes on Saturdays. Thirty moms and their


STEP 1 Obtain or create a more accurate physical map of Trés Reyes. STEP 2 Meet with local pastors to understand their perspective on the strengths and needs of the community. STEP 3 Meet with local families (mothers) to understand their perspective on the strengths and needs of the community. STEP 4 Conduct a survey of the families who attend our medical outreach to gain more information about the community and the needs. STEP 5 Continue to build trust and conduct prayer walks within the community. STEP 6 Develop programming for the community center based on the data collected from the meetings and surveys.

64 children came that day.We wanted them to understand who Back2Back is. Many of them mistakenly thought we were a government organization; they were afraid that once the center was built it would only be open a short time and then close, a common scenario in the area. The women courageously shared their struggles and hopes with us. It was a privilege to be a part of this first gathering of mothers. We also took them on a tour of the building. When we showed them the oversized kitchen, we could see their excitement, as they anticipated cooking and nutrition classes. They are eager to learn skills which will help them support their families. We then showed them the dental clinic, the classrooms, computer room, art room and the library. The building is still in process,

but they were so excited, they spontaneously started clapping. It brought tears to my eyes. I can’t wait for the day when the community center will be fully functioning. We have been praying for more than a year that God would give us favor in Trés Reyes. Please continue to pray with us. 814


SMALL BEGINNINGS by Casey Foreman, Back2Back U.S. India Director

Just over a year ago, my wife, Rhonda, and I were working on the Back2Back India Suzuki Samuel Hope Campus, alongside a team from two churches in Canada. We lugged cumbersome granite stone and containers filled with sand to mix cement. The exhausting process was essential to building the foundation for the first two houses on the property, but we felt as if we were making little progress. As we labored under the scorching summer sun, two days of effort resulted in no perceivable evidence of our contribution except for our sore muscles. One year later, we have two houses that are now home to 26 children. Construction continues as we work to finish two additional houses nearing completion and a two-family home standing about 60% complete. Amidst the busyness of constant construction, laughter and shrieks of excitement can be heard outside, as the children enjoy a playground with slides, swings, a teeter-totter and a merry-go-round, along with sports equipment. The children play cricket nearly every day after school and invite bystanders to join in the game. Thanks to the generosity of two ministry partners here in the U.S., the two homes have been furnished with a dining table and comfortable living furniture for the children to sit and read – or occasionally watch a Disney movie or India cricket match. Filtered water will soon begin flowing through the pipes that lead to the kitchen sink and bathroom basins, from a reverse osmosis system. In three months’ time, House 3 will become home to the younger girls who are currently living with the older girls, while House 4 – for a time at least, will serve as our base for mission teams scheduled to serve with us beginning in May. By this time next year, we will have a mission team house ready for new groups with a floor plan similar to the children’s homes. We’d love for you to come and see for yourselves. Consider a trip this year to India. More important than the construction progress is the depth of care being provided to the orphaned and vulnerable children who call this campus their home. It is not a “hostel” which is the Indian word most often used for buildings that house children, but a home in the sense of where a family lives. Emotionally, it’s evident the children feel safe opening up, sharing their life with staff like Adam, who live on the campus. Socially, the older boys take part in a weekly pick-up game of cricket in a nearby town. Children from the village where our campus is located join in the fun, riding bikes with the children on campus. Recently, several of the older girls on the campus noticed a girl of similar age who wears the same clothes every day and doesn’t appear to go to school. They befriended her and gave her a dress from their small supply. We’ve been encouraged to hear from several of the children about the difference God has made in their lives. I’m thankful for the reminder of Zecharaiah 4:10 - “Do not despise these small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Thank you to all the co-laborers who have made this work possible: the children’s sponsors, mission teams and ministry partners in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.



by Kimm Hackworth, Back2Back U.S. Staff

Back2Back is continually learning and growing in how we care for and nurture children. Since the children we serve have been abandoned, neglected and abused, they have experienced trauma. Trauma impacts the normal development of a child, impacting how they feel, attach, communicate and behave. So, we must find and learn the best ways to understand and care for each child. In January, Back2Back Ministries hosted a training facilitated by Dr. David and Jayne Schooler for local children’s home caregivers and directors at the Back2Back Haiti ministry site. The training offered research-based information and strategies on best practices to use when caring for traumatized children. This information was new to the Haitian caregivers. With more than five ministries represented, the two separate 3-day trainings educated and equipped the participants with unique skills needed to provide “trauma-competent care.” So, what is trauma-competent care? Trauma-competent care is based on the fundamental truth that trauma (e.g. neglect, abandonment, abuse) impacts normal development.When trauma occurs, a child’s developmental age can be up to half the true chronological age of a child. Therefore, the child feels, attaches, communicates and behaves differently often using negative or immature behavior as a means to communicate a need or feeling. Likewise, those trained in trauma-competent care understand a child’s belief system (e.g. what they believe about themselves and the world around them) is formed through words and experiences. From this belief system stems a child’s feelings and from feelings stem behavior. If a caregiver wants to change a child’s behavior, he must first change a child’s belief system. How 11

do you change a child’s belief system? By using new words and providing new experiences. Trauma-competent caregiving does not focus first and foremost on behavior modification. It values connection – until connection with a child is made, correction will not be successful. “A trauma-competent caregiver is willing to journey with the child into their story,” shared Jayne Schooler, training facilitator. “For healing to occur, the child needs to be connected to a safe adult.”

Trauma-competent care has a framework based on seven essential skills: • Understanding the impact trauma has on a child’s behavior, development and relationships • Maximizing the child’s sense of safety • Assist the child in reducing overwhelming emotion (e.g. give voice, connecting strategies) • Help the child understand and modify overwhelming behaviors • Support and promote positive and stable relationships in the child’s life • Help the child develop an understanding of their life story and to make new meaning of his trauma history • Encourage caregivers to understand their need for self-care and to ask for help

“This training is like water to dry land. I was parched for information to help me in my work. This training has refreshed me.” Though the training provides valuable information and applicable strategies, it is more than a training – it is an experience. The content is delivered with compassion helping the participants feel validated and supported. Community is built within the training group ensuring each person feels safe to ask vulnerable questions. The participants’ responses to the training was overwhelming. “I have worked for 14 years, and grew up in an orphanage myself, and have not received training to help me work with the children as I have here at this training,” said a caregiver from a local orphanage. “This training is like water to dry land. I was parched for information to help me in my work. This training has refreshed me,” shared another caregiver, who works with 12 children. David and Jayne Schooler, who recently joined Back2Back staff, have traveled to four of the six Back2Back ministry sites to conduct similar training for Back2Back staff and local children’s home workers. Most recently, they traveled to India in March and Nigeria in April. As we grow in our understanding and capacity to invest deeply in the children’s lives, we are already witnessing positive changes in the homes, caregivers and children we serve.

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THE HOPE PROGRAM EXPANDS by Todd Guckenberger, Executive Director of Back2Back Ministries

The story of Back2Back’s Hope Program begins in the fall of 2000 with a conversation between Beth and me. “Beth, we need to figure out something for Tony, Juan Carlos, Jose and Junior. As the oldest at Casa Hogar Douglas, it seems they are stuck doing all the chores and running errands. What’s the point of helping them financially go to high school, if they can’t find time to study?” She said, “We could have them here at the Back2Back campus after school for tutoring? Or better yet, let’s have the boys move here onto the campus. If we are taking care of them, we can ensure they will focus on their schooling.” We arranged for a call with the Back2Back Board of Directors. The conversation started out like this, “Thanks for making time to talk. Beth and I have decided the four boys we have been helping with school should move onto the campus with us.” There was the slightest moment of silence then… “Probably not a good idea.” That is pretty much how the first Hope Program did not get started, and today Beth and I are grateful for the Back2Back board and their discernment in that season. In hindsight, we were not prepared. It would have possibly forced us off the field, as we didn’t yet understand how to manage the stress or understand the trauma orphaned students bring with them. Eventually the call ended with a board member reassuring us, “It isn’t never, just not now. Let’s pray and if it’s God’s will, it will work out.” Two years later, through the support of the board and many others, Back2Back rented a four-bedroom home and started the Back2Back residential Hope Education Program. It was just a few students, but as Beth often quotes out of Zechariah 4, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Today, a dozen years later, the Hope Program offers immeasurable opportunities to high school and college graduates. Academic scholarships ensure each child will have the resources to complete high school and college. A team of professional psychologists and social workers work daily with each student towards their independence and success. A unified pair of house parents is equipped to deal with “trauma and emotional baggage” vulnerable children inevitably absorb. Additionally, they provide students with the opportunity to experience healthy family life - the first time for many students. It is not perfect, but the Hope Program in Monterrey, Mexico has grown, by God’s grace, into a successful program that impacts lives. Ultimately, we believe God looks at our faithfulness and not our results, but we continually ask questions to ensure we are committed to growing and strengthening the program. Confident we have a strong working model, it’s evident it is time to expand the program to the other sites. It is my privilege to announce in 2014 we have expanded the reach of the Hope Program Monterrey from 48 students to 71 students. Additionally in India, Back2Back developed a similar Hope Program Campus (Suzuki Samuel Back2Back Hope Program Campus) providing depth of care to 26 Indian children. In 2015, we launch the Hope Program in Mazatlan, Mexico and Jos, Nigeria, and we find ourselves on the shy side of the learning curve again. But, it’s ok. We know how this goes. We will listen and learn. We will test and then trust. We will obey and then celebrate. Come watch these new stories unfold.


Juan Porto, Back2Back Hope

After twelve years of operating the Hope P have completed the program since its ince close to graduation: this summer, Rogelio w strive for all students in the program to ex strides. The journey can be challenging, but In total, seven families and one single adult crucial emotional support to the students. As we continue to gro welcoming twelve new students and two new house parents to the care, equipping students to work through trauma from their past. W share the impact with our supporters. To achieve this, we have inve connect with children who have experienced trauma. There is much to do, but there is also reason to celebrate whe Students like Jovani expanded his worldview and experienced Go complicated schedule to meet her commitments. Gaby graduated c to younger students. Junior has been thriving in his dream job since year, we will continue to go deeper to ensure the students experie


Chad Hubers, Back2Back Mazatlan Staff When Jorge and Gennie Castro’s daughter, Alejandra, asked if she could volunteer with Back2Back in Mazatlan, Mexico, they didn’t know how one little ‘yes’ would change the trajectory of their family’s journey for years to come. What began as a teenager helping children with their homework eventually evolved into an entire family committed to serve full-time. January 1, 2015 marks the date when Jorge and Gennie quit their jobs to become missionaries in their own hometown. Serving with Back2Back, they are dedicating their lives to the five girls who will become the first Hope Program students in Mazatlan. The family will move into a rented home where they will welcome the teenage girls one-by-one into their future.This home is in the same neighborhood as the rest of the Back2Back Mazatlan staff families, as well as the team house where visiting groups stay while they serve in Mazatlan. Our friends from New City Church in Cincinnati, Ohio started the year off by bringing eight suitcases full of housewarming gifts for the new home. Currently the Castros are investing individual time building relationships with each girl planning to join the program this year. So far, they have enjoyed watching movies in the Castros home, birthday shopping sprees and spending time on the beach with the whole family. Please join us in praying that 2015 marks the beginning of a new chapter, filled with hope and a future in the lives of each girl.

e Program Director

Program in Monterrey, Mexico, we have many exciting successes to share. 143 students eption, and currently 41 students reside on the Back2Back campus. Two students are will earn a degree in Physics and Eduardo will earn a degree in International Affairs. We xperience holistic growth, making spiritual, physical, educational, emotional and social we are committed to seeing each student benefit from opportunities for their future. t serve as house parents. Additionally, two psychologists and a social worker provide ow, we will expand the program to serve children at additional children’s homes – e program – and seek additional trained professionals to provide ongoing psychological We want to improve the quality of our programming and our capacity to measure and ested time and energy in specialized training, equipping our staff to better care for and

en we recognize the successes of students who have completed the Hope Program. od in a new way by serving in Haiti. Paty learned the value of holding a job, juggling a college with flying colors. David, a caring husband and father, has become a role model e he graduated college, and Shannen has found a place serving at her local church. This ence new opportunities and ultimately reasons to celebrate!


Leah Smart, Hope Program Director

The Hope Program is in its initial stages in Jos, Nigeria. A five-bedroom house has been rented, very close to the Mashiah Foundation School, the school most of the students already attend.  Interviews were conducted, and we have selected a Nigerian couple to serve as house parents. Nine boys, ranging in age from fourteen to seventeen, are being considered for the program. Five of the boys are from Destiny Home, two are from the Kisayhip Village, and two are from the Kids With A Vision Foundation Home.  For a variety of reasons, the boys are several years behind in school, so we anticipate having to work hard to catch them up. The plan is to be operational by late spring. The house parents will complete training and begin developing relationships with the students before moving in. There are still many projects to complete before moving into the house – painting, plumbing and furnishing the rooms. If all goes as planned, the boys will be in their new home shortly.

HYDERABAD, INDIA Casey Foreman, India Director

The progress at Back2Back Suzuki Samuel Hope Campus cannot go unnoticed. It is the intentionality of caregivers praying with children individually before bed, the joy and laughter witnessed on the newly installed playground, and the social development taking root when eating dinner out at a restaurant or enjoying cricket games on Sunday afternoon with school friends - the Hope Program is starting to take root. The growth we are seeing in each child extends over every area of our 5-Point Child Development Plan. Physically, the balanced and nutritional diet of vegetables, fruit, and protein is better than it ever has been. Spiritually, the children are fully engaged through Bible lessons two times a week. They enjoy using their personal Bibles and learning about the love Jesus freely gives them. In addition, some of the children have begun sharing with others about Jesus’ transforming love! Educationally, we are excited for the ESL (English as a Second Language) team who will be assisting us in further developing the children’s English abilities. Emotionally, smiles and laughter can be heard and seen, as caregivers and staff invest in them on a daily basis, reminding them of their self-worth and just how loved they are. Socially, the children are being given opportunities to experience social environments, which are new to them, such as enjoying dinner out at a restaurant. We are excited to see what God has planned for each child, as we watch these seeds begin to blossom and see the fruit of their development as the campus begins to feel like home. We know God will continue to cultivate an environment of hope, love and determination in the life of each child through all that Back2Back Suzuki Samuel Hope Campus is providing.




TWO LAWYERS WALK INTO A BARRIO IN MAZATLAN by Laurie Hiller, Back2Back Mazatlan Volunteer

A favorite quote from Fredrick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” In January 2013, we dropped out of a hectic life of litigating in Los Angeles to search for a place where we could be God’s hands and feet in Mazatlán, Mexico. We had practiced law for 23 years and felt our work draining life from us. For years, we had dreamed of doing something more meaningful with our days, something that would fill us with joy, as opposed to disquiet. While praying about it, we became overwhelmed with a desire to break out of the cycle of consumption and accumulation that defined our lives in Los Angeles, but had no idea how to proceed. While on a weekend away in Mazatlán, we started to explore what it would mean to move there. Before we had even really formulated a plan, God started swinging doors open with abandon. In a matter of six months, we were able to sell our home, get rid of all our possessions, find loving homes for our two cats and two dogs (by far the toughest part of the process), quit our jobs, break the news to friends, family and colleagues and make the move. God ushered us through the process more seamlessly than we would ever have dreamed possible. The biggest leap of faith in the process was that we had no plan for where to serve once we arrived in Mazatlán. We came trusting that God would lead us to something. In the first few months, we tried volunteering with several different organizations with no results. God had a specific plan for us, but it required patience and trust — both in short supply for two ex-attorneys. In God’s time, not ours, we connected with Back2Back. Now we spend every day we can at the three children’s homes Back2Back works with in Mazatlán. John, my husband, jumps in to do whatever physical project is available. I spend a lot of time with the children. The great advantage we have in being full-time volunteers is that the children see us week after week. We show up regularly and share life with the children. We do a lot of sitting and listening. We ask gentle questions and allow for silence. We link arms, tie shoes, hold hands and never forget we walk on holy ground in these places. We strive to make each child feel loved and chosen. Back2Back Mazatlán is unique in that one of the homes it supports, Rancho de los Niños, is for children with special needs. There we have encountered the most unassuming, noble, un-entitled children. We cheer them on as they strive to achieve new goals. We get to witness how those with seemingly insurmountable barriers find ways to reach out to help each other. There is an abundant grace at this home, from caregivers who demonstrate a Godly love for these special kids. We get to share in that. A second home, Floreser, is for girls who have been removed from their homes often because of sexual abuse. There, we hope we can provide a model for the girls of how spouses love and respect one another. We offer friendship without conditions. We work for the healing in each of the places the girls experience pain and brokenness. Father Greg Boyle teaches kinship is not about serving the other, but being one with the other. We don’t serve the children in the children’s homes. We stand alongside them in solidarity, as equals in God’s eyes. These are the good days — the days we come home dusty, bone tired, and sometimes a little achy —but with an abiding gladness — coming home from the place God called us to.


Even at this early level, the children are exercising their minds to approach and understand everyday ways math presents itself.



“I praise you because I am fearfully and

wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

by Leah Smart, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

I’m passionate about supporting the children we serve educationally. I often find myself gravitate toward helping the children with their homework and encouraging them in their reading skills. Math has emerged as a struggle for the children. In a perfect world, families help children learn to count by practicing counting their fingers, toys, people at the table, all kinds of things. Questions like “Who has more?” or “Are there enough?” are part of the daily lives of children as young as two or three years old. Number sense develops from these early interactions. In a children’s home with limited resources, there isn’t always someone to take time for these interactions. If a child enters school without this early foundation, math class is going to be a confusing and frustrating experience. With the help of one of our child sponsors, we brought Saxon Math teaching materials to Nigeria. I have been using the curriculum to teach seven of our youngest children. The impact has been wonderful and eye opening for the children. Juliet, Simi, Nanfur and Cynthia are working on the kindergarten material. We work with shapes, colors and toys and count everything. We are even learning new English words like greatest and fewest, bigger and smaller, more and less. Cynthia has been at Destiny Children’s Home less than a year. She is learning English at the same time that she is learning to count. As her understanding of the language improves, her understanding of math appears to take huge leaps. Rose, Shalom and Jessica are marching through the first grade curriculum with me. One wonderful characteristic of the program is its’ approach to word problems. Even at

this early level, the children are exercising their minds to approach and understand everyday ways math presents itself.When I ask a question, I am often met with a barrage of instant answers, most of which are wrong. In most Nigerian school settings, the children are drilled to “get the right answer” through memorization and dictation, and they are often disciplined when they don’t choose the right answer correctly. One day, I was trying to give Rose a chance to answer a question, but she simply kept shouting out numbers, trying to guess the right one. When she couldn’t land on the right one, she became sullen and withdrawn. This happens frequently in the classroom. In trying to bring her back, I started talking to the whole class about taking a moment to let your brain think about the problem, before letting your mouth say an answer. I insisted no one could answer my next questions until they had given their brain a second to think. I tried to start a little rhythm, where I ask a question, then we take a beat to think, and then they can raise their hands. Rose answered three questions in a row, correctly! Rose had an “Aha!” moment and the look on her face was priceless. This experience with Rose has reinforced my desire to set this time aside with them, and to trust that God will use it. I had an “aha!” moment, as well. I was reminded I’m not simply teaching them math, but I am also teaching them about the blessings of God’s gifts. I pray they will learn how to use and appreciate the mind God gave them, the provision of an education, and perseverance.


This year in Monterrey, we have started a team supporting Trauma Competent Care. The team exists to support caregivers through one-on-one mentoring. We are excited to see, not only behavior modification, but also healing brought on by God, and led by those who care daily for children.


SUPPORTING CAREGIVERS by Anna Valdez, Back2Back Monterrey Staff

As I visited children’s homes over the last year one of the most prevalent questions I heard from caregivers was “How can I stop this child’s problematic behavior?” The caregivers were voicing a great need often causing discouragement and deterioration in the lives of the people who were caring for the children daily. Although I wish there was a magic skill or method to encourage change, the truth is children need healing. Problematic behavior will not magically cease in their lives, but there is something we can do to help them manage the emotions that are voiced through their actions. This year in Monterrey, we have started a team supporting Trauma Competent Care. The team exists to support caregivers through one-on-one mentoring and coming alongside Back2Back captains. While we are still creating this process, we have already trained caregivers who will pioneer family-style living. We are excited to see, not only behavior modification, but also healing brought on by God, and led by those who care daily for children.


LIFE STORIES by Sarah Nace, Back2Back Cancun Staff

I will never forget the hope in Cindy’s eyes as she leaned towards me and told me about what life was like before she came to live at the children’s home.

Many children who have lived through difficult experiences, such as abuse or neglect have had their voice stolen. They have been told their stories don’t matter, that no one cares. Back2Back Cancun staff is working to restore their voices by helping each child and every family write their life story. Expressing hurt is the first step to resolving it. Writing down their life stories gives the children we work with a safe place to talk about those hard things. We also have the opportunity to connect them to psychologists, mentors and pastors who can help them overcome those hardships. I will always remember Sofia’s smile as she told me about the family picture she drew as the cover for her life story. I will never forget the hope in Cindy’s eyes as she leaned towards me and said “something she’d never told anybody before” - about what life was like before she came to live at the children’s home. Listening gives significance and a voice. It shows us we matter and are so much more than the hard things we have experienced. It helps us to trust and to heal, and writing life stories is just one way God is using Back2Back Cancun to restore His children and heal their hearts.


Hope Program students who are interested in dentistry gain practical hands-on experience, working at the clinic as dental assistants.

HOPE STUDENTS GIVE BACK In October 2008, the Juniper Tree Clinic was established on Back2Back’s campus in Monterrey, Mexico in order to meet the physical needs of the children served by Back2Back. The 4,000 square foot facility provides free medical and dental care to children and teens, meeting a range of needs including pediatrics, gynecological, dental and optometric care. The clinic has five exam tables, two dental chairs, two private consultation rooms and an eye exam station. Mexican nationals with medical backgrounds volunteer their services. For many children, their only access to medical and dental care is through the Juniper Tree Clinic. In an effort to provide holistic orphan care, Back2Back believes dental care is a crucial component in meeting each child’s physical needs. Back2Back is pleased to have Dr. Sofia Segura on staff, a dentist who works in the clinic full-time.


Now, Hope Program students have an opportunity to serve at the clinic and gain practical hands-on experience in the medical field. Two sisters Madison and Dalia are among the first students who accepted the opportunity to join the team as dental assistants.

“Madison is so full of joy – she loves serving children here at the clinic,” says Dr Segura. Madison was impacted while serving with Dr. Segura on a dental outreach to Cadereyta, an under-resourced community where the Juniper Tree Clinic is their only access to medical care. Madison witnessed the tremendous impact one can have by volunteering as a medical professional. Now, she is passionate about using dentistry to serve those in need and plans to pursue a dental career so she can continue to help people in her community. Dr Segura not only helps the dental assistants develop professionally, but she also meets with students like Madison for spiritual growth. “We pray together and share a weekly Bible study. I’ve learned so much about Madison and her life has impacted mine and others in so many different ways,” says Dr Segura. “Madison loves singing, so I encourage her to sing here at Back2Back when children come and they love it. Her joy is contagious. ”

ONE SATURDAY MORNING by Jenn Holden, Back2Back Monterrey Staff

It was Saturday morning, family visitation day. The biological families of the children at Del Norte Children’s Home gathered in the auditorium and took their seats in rows of chairs carefully set up by the older children who live there. This week, the teenagers at the children’s home had something to say - a message to speak to their parents in the form of a drama. Just the day before, Blanca, the bold director and creative mind behind the show, had asked me for two things: to show up Saturday morning and to bring a few props and costumes.  The group of students had been rehearsing all week.Their drama was the story of a teenager whose bad choices compromised his dream of becoming a businessman and the story of God ultimately fulfilling his dream. When it came time for the show, nerves were running high, there was no sound system and some children forgot their lines. But, at the end of the play, Blanca stood up, “This young man had a dream. When he surrendered his life to Jesus, God gave him the strength to achieve his dreams.” She looked directly at her audience and spoke with deep conviction, “Some of you have dreams, and I am here to tell you when you decide to put God first, anything is possible. Your dreams can come true.” She then nodded to her friend Jocelyn, who closed their performance with a heartfelt prayer over the lives and dreams of each family member. As Blanca declared truth and hope that Saturday morning, I saw a glimpse of the God who redeems broken belief systems with new words and new experiences. Over time, the God of the universe has been consistently showing up for Blanca, sending people from all over to replace lies with truth and desperation with hope. It is her mentor, a local volunteer who comes week after week and speaks life into her. It is the music teacher who volunteered to teach her guitar when he caught wind of her desire to play. It is her caregiver, Isabel, who reads through a devotional each night with the older girls in the children’s home. It is another caregiver, Melissa, who listens and prays when Blanca isn’t sure if God is real. It’s her sponsor, who consistently prays for her and communicates through letters. It is God Himself who answers her prayers and shows up in her dreams to remind her that He loves her. God is beautifully directing Blanca’s story and the story of many other children like her.

“Some of you have dreams, and I am here to tell you when you decide to put God first, anything is possible. Your dreams can come true.”


NAMES MATTER by Chris Cox, One21 Director

Names matter to Jesus.There are over 240 names that reference Jesus in Scripture. These names include Advocate, Savior of the World, Son of God, Redeemer, priest, Prince of Peace, Resurrection and Life. He is not only called by these names, but He claims them about Himself, fulfills them with perfection, and His promises are enveloped in them. Names matter so much that He would give new ones to those who needed them (Paul, Abraham, Israel {Jacob}) and redeem the ones no one cared to speak (Zacchaeus). It was this truth that would define the 2015 One21 retreat in Monterrey. Each year, teenagers from children’s homes journey to the mountains for a weekend retreat focused on understanding Jesus’ story of grace.This year’s theme, Messy Spirituality, claims Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 on behalf of our own lives:“ But he said to me, “My grace  is sufficient for you, for my power  is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. By the second night of the retreat, layers of pain were unfolding in


front of us. A young girl, maybe 12, walks into the main session with tears in her eyes, having just been made fun of by kids from another home because her clothes were worn and dirty. A young man, maybe 18, gazes out the window, wondering if the father he kept talking to on the phone would be proud of his son. A college student wonders why he kept making a mess of his life that was already full of heartbreak and trauma. A One21 volunteer sighs as the music starts, wondering if his past decisions would continue to ruin future relationships. A room filled with orphaned and vulnerable children, caregivers from children’s homes, Back2Back and One21 staff, and a group of Hope Program students were on the brink of a truth that would remind them of the power of Jesus name. The best way to combat the lies we believe about ourselves is to claim the truth Jesus speaks over us. On this night, the battle was waged with buttons. These were no ordinary buttons. Each one carried the power of the names God has given to his people.

HIJO (SON) HIJA (DAUGHTER) PERDONADO (FORGIVEN) AMADO (BELOVED) This is not an exhaustive list of names given by God to His children, but on this night they were the ones the Holy Spirit would use to show His power perfected in our weaknesses. The invitation was simple:Take the name you need to claim in your life and give someone the name you want them to claim over their lives. Sometimes, these moments are somber, and it takes one brave student to move before anyone else will. Not on this night. On this night, the lives in the room were desperate to claim truth and to give that truth to others. Some came forward and grabbed a

button to claim they were sons. Others, with tear-filled eyes grabbed buttons of forgiveness. There she was, the young girl who had been bullied earlier in the day, with a button being pinned on her shirt by a Hope Program student who had witnessed the bullying and stopped it earlier in the day. Super chido. There she was, the young girl who had been bullied earlier in the day, with a button being perdonado.The young man, who had been dreaming of his dad’s acceptance opened his eyes as a mentor slipped a button into his hand. Hijo (son). The college student was slipping away in the crowd, running from his weakness when his brother met him with a tear filled embrace. Amado (beloved). The One21 volunteer began to lift his hands in worship as he watched all that was happening, when a young boy who he had never met grabbed his hand and laid a button on his palm. “From God,” he said. Perdonado. (forgiven) That night, we remembered names matter to Jesus. They matter so much He would give us the name in the right moment to show his power perfected in our weakness.





I first heard about Back2Back a few months ago while reading an article about missions. My wife Holly and I have been foster parents the past couple years and were praying about where God might want to use us next. After learning more about Back2Back’s ministry, we decided to take a small step of faith and go on a week-long missions trip to Haiti. We didn’t know anyone else when we arrived, but by the end of the week it was hard to say goodbye to our teammates as well as the children One of the first days in Haiti our team met Michael, a very quiet young boy from the orphanage. Michael was extremely sick the first couple days, barely able to raise his head to participate in the activities, but as the week went on we saw an incredible transformation. Through the medical care provided by Back2Back and the orphanage staff, and the interaction with our team; we saw a healthy, happy and energetic Michael by the end of the week. We don’t know what the next step is for us yet, but we now have a heart for Haiti and a great appreciation for the ministry of Back2Back.

Last July, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Back2Back’s ministry site in Jos, Nigeria. The decision to go was difficult for me. I knew God was leading me but I was fearful. In every sense of the word, Nigeria is so foreign to my everyday life in rural western Pennsylvania. I have four sons; the oldest two sons traveled with me to Nigeria. One day, we served at the Igmin Kibe Education Center playing with the little ones before the older children came back from school. We played silly games, worked on puzzles together, colored, and read stories. While I was doing a puzzle with one boy, I happened to glance over at my son who was sitting on the floor reading to a little boy named Emmanuel. Emmanuel was snuggled up against my son Teddy, head on his shoulder, mesmerized by the story. They were reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, one of my youngest son Finn’s favorite books. Finn especially likes it when Teddy reads it to him. The lump in my throat welled up as I gazed on a scene so very familiar to me: brothers caring for one another. I realized at once the things that can separate - distance, culture and ethnicity - are all so faint in comparison to the universal truth of God’s love for us and His desire for us to show that love to our neighbors: the ones next door and the ones across the sea.

For years, I had heard about Back2Back Ministries. I personally know staff members, and I have served in churches who have taken trips with Back2Back, but it wasn’t until February 2015 when I finally had the opportunity to experience Back2Back firsthand. My wife and our nine-year old daughter, Meka, served as well. What I knew in theory became real as we visited each of the three children’s homes. As staff shared stories, we heard their hearts and dreams for the children and the homes. A special memory for my daughter was playing with Fernanda, a little girl from the Salvation Army Children’s Home who is sponsored by our church. Meka and her friends from church had prayed for Fernanda, so meeting her was especially meaningful. Before my trip, I saw Back2Back in part through pictures and descriptions, but now I have a personal understanding and appreciation for the ministry, after visiting the homes, looking the children in the eyes, and walking where the Back2Back staff walk every day. I thank God for the opportunity to know more fully the blessing Back2Back is to orphans and to the kingdom of God.Listening intently, the children fixed their eyes squarely on Adan, hanging on every word he said.  They knew Adan understood what they were living because he had lived it, too.  He was one of them, and he shined the hope of Jesus into their lives.  When he finished, one by one, the children slowly stood up and began to step forward to tell their stories and open up about their relationships with Christ.  On that warm, Mazatlan night, I was privileged to witness a series of powerful and moving moments. At that moment, I had a vision set in the not too distant future - a vision of Adan preaching in his own church.

Mark & Holly Ashton Mission Trip Participant


Rebecca Dunagan Mission Trip Participant

Brian Ferry Mission Trip Participant




Our mission trip to Cancun was amazing. We took four leaders from our company with us to serve children in Cancun and to help with building projects for a new community center in an underdeveloped community.  I was thrilled to see the primary vision of Back2Back is to serve individuals on a deep level – with a focus on empowering them to eventually reinvest in their own neighborhoods.  Ultimately, the ministry to impoverished families in Cancun will be by local residents for local residents. We worked harder than I have worked in a long time.  When you lift concrete in a 5 gallon bucket to pour a second floor on a community center, you can really appreciate the progress! The lodging for our team was unbelievably comfortable and safe. The staff was amazing engaging, smart and fun to be with. I really benefitted from the time spent serving. My faith was refreshed. My vision for the purpose of our company was sharpened, and my heart was filled.  

Our mission trip to Monterrey, Mexico in October 2014 was awesome! My favorite part of the trip was the morning we showered the Del Norte Children’s Home caregivers with love. We brought them breakfast tacos and juice and handled their chores to give them time to enjoy their meal and fellowship. Right before we left, we gave them gifts we had prepared for them before we left home. In addition to lipsticks, nail polish, jewelry, candy and some other treats, we brought hand knitted prayer shawls and nice Spanish Bibles. Each caregiver received four personalized notes of encouragement and thanks for their dedication. It was such a blessing to watch them open their gifts and read their notes. They were so encouraged. Smiles and tears all around…from them and us!

My highlight was not a single event, but rather the warm welcome we received from the children Back2Back serves. I have volunteered abroad before, serving children in similar ways, but you could really feel the joy amongst this special group of children. They seemed genuinely happy to see us, and their enthusiasm didn’t let up, even though ours did at times! We were all aware of God’s presence there, and His love for the children was obvious. We knew God had blessed them and the staff and He has lots more in store!

Dan Purvis Mission Trip Participant

Andrea Reed Mission Trip Participant

Dan O’Neill Mission Trip Participant




FOSTER CARE FAMILIES by Samantha Badillo, Familias Solidarias Program Psychologist

As a professional team, we work thoroughly with each family to not only equip them with the tools

In August 2013, Back2Back launched a faith-based foster care program in Monterrey, Mexico called Familias Solidarias. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a committed family to lead a child through the path of healing and renewal. If the foster family is there for a child, then we must be there to support the family. As a professional team, we work thoroughly with each family to not only equip them with the tools necessary to meet the needs of the child, but to also carve out moments for them to be heard and

necessary to meet

share their experiences in the foster care journey.We also seek to connect with each family’s biological

the needs of the child,

children and anyone else sharing their home. If the whole family is opening their hearts to a child, then

but to also carve out moments for them to be heard and share their experiences in the foster care journey.

the whole family needs our support. The hope is for each orphan and vulnerable child to connect with a family and ultimately heal through this connection.A family needs to be connected, as well – first of all with God, secondly, with a supportive community and finally with us, as a team. It’s a privilege to play a role in each foster family’s journey. Whether we are calling them to check-in, visiting their home, sharing helpful books, playing with their children, praying with them or teaming up when challenges arise, we know it is all for the Kingdom. God is with us in this journey, and it’s from Him we draw strength.


by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Mexico Director

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE by Matt Cooper, Back2Back Mexico Director

One-by-one God replaced their fears with hope – and He wanted to do the same for the girls at Floreser.

During my recent visit to Back2Back’s ministry site in Mazatlan, Mexico, I was greeted at the airport by Grant Keys, a staff member who serves at the site. Grant explained the day’s itinerary to me and to the visiting mission team. He shared we would be dropping our bags off at the team house and then heading directly to Floreser Children’s Home to spend the afternoon with the girls who live there.

Once again, they began to share their fears, this time a little more shyly. “I worry about what I’ll be when I grow up and where I’ll study,” shared one girl.

As the team gathered their luggage, Grant approached me and asked, “Would you be willing to share some of your story with the girls at Floreser while we are there today?”

I validated the girls for sharing their fears, and just how real fear can be when you don’t know the future. I began to tell them about my first trip with Back2Back when I was a member of a small team of 10 people from my church. It was through those experiences that week, I began to feel like God wanted me to move to Mexico. I explained that, for me, this scenario was filled with so many unknowns - it was frightening and even almost crippling at times. Yet in those times of the future feeling unclear and scary, the true hope we hold onto is that God goes before us, behind us and walks beside us – hemming us in from every side.

I quickly agreed, but immediately I began to ask God, What part of my story would you want me to share? After arriving at Floreser, we spent time doing icebreakers, exchanging names, interacting and playing purposeful games and laughing as we connected with the girls. It was a light-hearted afternoon of creating new memories. The girls appeared to genuinely enjoy themselves, and I was beginning to feel insecure that anything I could share with them would be received as boring, at best. Thirty minutes before dinner, Grant asked the girls to gather together so I could share with them. Once again, I felt like their fun was coming to a screeching halt. One last time I uttered a prayer under my breath. I felt God saying, “Just give them hope”. We gathered around two picnic tables, and as I first began to speak, all I could focus on was how fidgety and distracted the girls seemed to be. “Have you ever been afraid?,” I asked them. “What things in life are scary to you?” At least half of the girls began to timidly share their ideas. “I’m afraid of the dark,” shared one girl. “I’m afraid of bad things happening.” “Lightening, thunder and scary dogs,” said another girl. I followed up with a second question, “Are you ever scared of the future? The unknown?”

“Where I’ll live,” said another. Their growing interest was apparent – at least half of the girls were now identifying with the conversation.

It was silent. Their eyes were locked on mine. They appeared to be hanging on every word. In their stillness, I continued to share. I explained how Back2Back started the Hope Program in Monterrey, Mexico years ago. I shared that my wife and I were house parents to teenage boys there. I helped them understand that those boys had grown up with many of the same fears they have. I finished by helping them see that God had His eyes on those boys - God went before them. One-by-one God replaced their fears with hope – and He wanted to do the same for the girls at Floreser ,as well. Two days later, I saw Gennie, a Back2Back staff member. She had visited Floreser the day before and couldn’t wait to tell me about her interaction with the girls. They were excitedly telling her the story of a man who came and shared with them about God and an opportunity for their future. “Do you know him, Gennie?,” they asked. “Do you know Mr. Hope? He told us about having hope for our future!” 30

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Back2Back Spring 2015 Magazine  

Back2Back Spring 2015 Magazine  

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