De-Licing Day

 

Phew, what a crazy amazing day that was. It has been a long time coming and it all started back in the Summer of 2016.

The summer of 2016 was my first as a staff member. I remember one specific week with Montgomery Community Church. This group worked so hard and was just amazing. This week the team had a few members trying to solve a lice problem within the home. They worked so hard cutting hair, lathering mayonnaise on the kids heads, and providing new sheets. But when the left at the end of the week, there were still kids with lice.

Then Summer of 2017 hit and well…the same thing happened. New methods and efforts were made to de-licing the kids, but we did not fully eradicate the darn things.

After that summer I felt a desire to help. We created a budget to rid the kids of those pesky things once and for all. The plan was to purchase new mattresses, new bed covers that are resistant many things (bed bugs, water, lice), new sheets, new pillows, and de-licing materials for each child and staff member. Also, the plan was to fumigate the home. We started raising money and quickly, the project was fully funded. The plan was to do the full de-licing in the spring of 2018 but we were having some overwhelming changes onsite and so we moved it to summer. As I thought about which group could best help, it almost seemed like it was meant to be Montgomery Community Church. Yes! I knew they would love doing this. The next day I looked at my budget numbers again and found out that we was about $1,000 short of our goal. It was a large miscalculation on my part.

I walked out of that budget meeting and I called Candace, who has been the one for past 5 years leading this de-licing effort. I updated her as to what we would be doing during her group week and she was ecstatic. She then asked me if we needed anything else, I said jokingly, “Well, if you have an extra $1,000 lying around we could use that.”

She gasped and then shared a story with me, “So, Patrick our group leader felt led to give each of us $20 and he just told us to make it grow. And, well, I am a hard stylist, and I pinned that $20 on my mirror at work  with a little description of why it was up there. People started to pin their own $20 bills up there one after the other. I just counted the cash two days ago and the total came to be exactly $1,000.”

I was literally in awe. She and I started laughing and crying at the same time. We immediately prayed and thanked God for his provision. What a great Daddy God we have that He knew what would happen and already prepared the answer for the lack.

Candace went on to raise an extra $2,000 and we were able to do so much more than we ever thought possible.

MCC arrived and we prepared all the items. The day came and we had all the stations setup for each child. Here is another crazy part: Jessie, a local volunteer that we have here in MTY, had donated over 40 de-licing kits for this project. To tell you the truth, the kits got lost on our B2B campus somehow. After weeks of searching for them I finally heard what happened to them. Someone had already given them to the children’s home and they used them. Thank God Candace bought 30 extra kits with the donated funds.

As we arrived at Bethany Children’s Home and started working, Candace was thoroughly surprised how few lice she had found in children’s heads. Little did we realize but with the home using the kits 1 month before we arrived it had killed the majority of the lice. So, this now allowed us to kill them off completely.

70% of the team started packing up all materials and clothes in every apartment. We deep cleaned the whole home, toilets included. MCC did an incredible job, going above and beyond by cleaning inside refrigerators and behind stoves. We threw out all the mattresses, as most were completely infested. We took an extended break to eat pizza and swim in the river with the kids. Then we came back and put the beautiful new mattresses and bed covers in each dorm and covered each bed with new, soft sheets.

As we were closing up shop for the day I saw several caregivers crying out of relief and gratitude. They said that in the last fifteen years the home has never been cleaned even close to this much. They felt so loved. And they felt freedom.  Freedom from the wasps hiding in the spaces they stored things, freedom from the lice and bed bugs that have plagued their home for years and years, and freedom from the back pain they had due to old mattresses.

 

Candace walked on the bus with a spirit of victory on her. She told the MCC group, “This is the first time in 6 years that I can say we are leaving this children’s home free of lice this week!”

Thank you to everyone who helped give, raise money, and put in effort toward this endeavor. It was definitely one of the coolest things I have been able to do while living here.

 

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Family Can Change Everything

I get the incredible privilege to mentor & disciple young men here in MTY. There has been one specific set of brothers who have become close to my heart. I have mentored each of the boys. They all come from a hard place and are beating the high odds of failure. They have all graduated from high school and live completely different lives than what they could have imagined.

The oldest, Adrian, is one of the first young men I met when I moved here three years ago. Adrian is below and then the next brother is Jonathan, both are pictured below.

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Jonathan after one of our Los Dos games

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Of all the kids I have mentored/discipled these are the only two who have taken the time and used their talents to make me something as a way to say thank you. I will cherish these two gifts forever. They are hard workers, respectful, loyal, and smart.

The last brother is Jose. He had a hard start in our Hope Program as he was unsure if high school was for him. Through many different avenues and the influence of his brothers he has stuck it out and will be graduating high school soon. He has come a long way on our soccer team. He started out only thinking of himself and playing very selfish soccer. But, season after season, we would chip away at that pride. Finally, he started seeing how God has directed his footsteps and how much He loves and pursues him. His life started changing rapidly and he quickly rose to become an important member to our soccer team. He started focusing harder and harder on school. Unfortunately, recently, he tore his ACL.

This was a great time for our soccer team and B2B community to show him love and figure out how we would get this surgery. Luis, a house parent within our B2B community and also a doctor, made calls and asked favors to setup an incredible surgeon to do the surgery. Now, we just needed the money. Jose’s house parent was calling people to try and find discounted prices on things and driving Jose everywhere – to school, the doctor, his biological family’s house, etc… This was a great opportunity for our soccer team to come alongside him as well. We reached out to friends of our team who lived in the US and they wanted to help. Quickly Jose started seeing what a true family looks like. In times of need is often when we do our best work.

Jose received his surgery and now is in therapy. He still has about four months left until full recovery, but it is incredible to see the joy and love within this young man. God has big plans for him and he is trying to enter aviation school. He will slowly come back into the team, which the players are so looking forward to. But when asked how he feels about the surgery and the recovery he responded with, “I just feel so loved that people would do so much for me.”

I now get the privilege to mentor and disciple the last of the brothers. And it is an honor.

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Jose with his B2B House Parent, Yanko, after his ACL surgery.

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It starts with a thought, then God runs with it

I recently went on a mission trip with Back2Back in January to Monterrey Mexico.  I expected our team to make an impact on the children’s lives but it was so much more.  If you’ve ever been on a trip with them, you know what I mean.  Not only does Back2Back care so deeply for each and every orphan but they also pour that same love into each missionary who steps foot on their campuses.  So many of our lives were changed by our trip.  God was certainly present.  I know because he spoke to me and changed my life.

On the second morning of our trip I was lying on my bed, reading the scriptures, and preparing for our devotional time when I heard God say to me “It’s time.”  My twenty year struggle was over.  I knew exactly what he meant.  God reinforced this with two more messages as I stood in the choir loft the Sunday we returned home.  The time with Back2Back and the love they poured into us gave me the opportunity to deepen my relationship with God and answer his call to become a Methodist Pastor.  I am very excited about where God will lead me.

God was also working to put a very special blessing in our lives.  His name is Milton.  My wife, Annemarie, and I felt so blessed to be able to sponsor him.  He is such a wonderful little boy with a huge smile and dimples as deep as the Grand Canyon.  We were able to spend a lot of time with him before we ever thought of sponsoring a child.   He is smart, funny, caring, and has such a glow about him.  We miss him terribly and look forward to seeing him next year.  Sending letters is great but there is nothing better than losing to him in checkers!

I am so impressed with the Back2Back staff and the house parents.  Even though they see these children every day, the raw emotions we saw, the love they have for each child, was so real no words could describe it.  I felt blessed to be there with them even for such a short period of time.

God works in wonderful ways.  He is truly blessing all those connected with Back2Back’s mission.  As for me, what can I say…. answering His call and adding Milton to our family?  Priceless!!!!!

In Christian Love,

Chad Irons

Westford UMC

Harrisburg, NC

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Keep it up Bro

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I saw him at Casa Hogar Douglas (One of the Children’s Homes we serve) every time I went. And every time I was there he wanted to play soccer. He would always play with crocs on and still  be the best one out on the soccer court. It honestly looked like he was not even trying, it looked like he did not care that much. I knew we had been trying to get Mario into the Hope Program for some years, but due to an unknown reason he would not come.  Finally in August of 2016 Mario entered our Hope Program and enrolled in high school.

Things have not been all peachy for him being in the program, but he is trying. He is pushing to finishing his High School degree. Along with his house parents, I have been trying to pour into Mario through our soccer team and during the week. About two months ago I felt this push to start discipling and mentoring him. Mario wants to be a leader and especially wants to be a captain on our Hope Program soccer team, Los Dos. He asks me a lot if he is ready and I always tell him, “Leaders do not ask to lead, they are made leaders.”

Recently I asked him if he wanted to be a leader of about five to six 12-15 year old boys at our annual One21 retreat. He was ecstatic and this time he asked me if he was ready. I told him I believed in him and that it is time. I think he just needed a little push, because he far exceeded expectations.

 

After the retreat we recognized him in front of his peers to continue to encourage him onward. He has a great heart and he truly cares about others. Our children love being around him and in general he is friends with everyone. Today I am going to meet for lunch with him. We normally chat about life, what hard things are going on his life, and what kinds of things God wants him to focus on in becoming a man of integrity and character. I am excited to see how this will play out.

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Nigeria 2017

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In October of 2017 I  was able to take a trip to Back2Back’s Jos, Nigeria site. The trip was meant to love on staff, train them on how to host a mission team, build staff culture, and to help where needed.

We arrived to Nigeria after almost 3 days of travel. It was very obvious from the start what kind of people our Nigerian staff are: kind, loving, thoughtful, servant minded, honorable, and lovers of Jesus. Immediately, they genuinely made our small group of 3 people feel like the most distinguished guests they have ever had (I am sure this is done with everyone).

The first day I led a half- day retreat with the Back2Back staff. This retreat encompassed the dynamics of hosting international guests, the cultural differences/comparisons between Americans/Nigerians, and building staff unity & culture. We had so much fun playing games, talking and eating together.

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Our brothers & sisters fed us well and oh how we loved all the food we ate. We went on two really cool staff hikes where we were able to connect and have some fun with the staff. We then took a walk through one of the villages B2B helps support. Through B2B, there are many residents in this village who are able to send their children to B2B’s community center. At this community center the children are fed two wholesome meals a day and tutored in their school work. It was an eye opening experience to see the drastic poverty compared to even the places we serve in Mexico. These two girls, pictured below, walked with us probably for three hours. After a little while Pablo and I finally picked them up and brought them along with us, feeding them granola bars along the way.

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The girl I was carrying held her granola bar for an hour (if you look closely you can see it in her hand behind my back) while I held her until we came to a specific hut. Here she got down and walked over to two little children. She then broke the bar in pieces and shared it with them. I was in awe. Here this 6 year old girl is having to look after other children/relatives because of not only the poverty, but loss of family members. I knew she was so hungry and they told us those two little girls will walk for miles to go to the community center for food at 4 & 6 years old. Because of war, drugs, and poverty 50% of the Nigerian population are under 18 years of age. They have generations of children without parents, especially without fathers. Our hearts just broke for these kiddos and we are so proud of what B2B are doing in Jos, Nigeria. We left knowing that these sweet children are in great hands.

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Our next endeavor was playing against the Hope Program boys soccer team. Man, these boys can run for days. We lost 2-1 and we were wrecked after the game. But, in the aftermath and lack of oxygen, we came together. I was able to share a little of my testimony and to encourage them that no matter what they win or strive for,  none of it matters without Jesus. I told them what truly matters are the people standing behind them when they stand in front of the Son of God one day. We all came together and prayed. It was such a great experience to play, share, and pray together. Also, it was great to be able to share our Monterrey “Los Dos” green soccer jerseys with the staff men.

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The next day we spent time at one of the Hope Program houses and two of the Children’s Homes B2B partners with there. It was honestly crazy when the kids came home, because there were around 50 kids and they all came running to us. They wanted help on their homework and as I sat there and spent a couple hours helping with different kids’ homework at once I was able to empathize with all the caregivers and tutors we see on a daily basis. it was hard work, but I loved it. One of the boys cuddled right up next to me as he called me “Uncle” asking me questions. I felt so blessed to pour some of my Papa God’s love into this boy. Being a kid without a dad I can empathize with what these young boys need. And for the time I had with him I wanted to make sure he knew he is one of the most important boys in the whole world.

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As I close out this blog post on my unforgettable trip to Nigeria I wanted to share two final things. I loved that we were able to cook, as best we could, a Mexican style dinner for the tutors and caregivers B2B employs at one of the children’s homes. This was our way of saying thank you and loving on them. We loved this experience as we were able to go deeper in relationship with some amazing people. Lastly, at this dinner we wore our handmade and tailored Nigerian suits. At the beginning of the week we went and a man took our measurements and on the last day we received such beautiful garments.

One of the Nigerians (Plangkaat) left named me in his native tribal tongue, “Nan Fwang”. This means, “The Lord is our Savior.” Amen to that brother.

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Just Wow

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“Practice did not go so well,” Jacob tells me. I was not able to go to practice because of mission group obligations. I had heard that Mario, one of our best players had a very bad attitude and did not treat people well. This then rubbed off on other people and people were complaining and blaming each other.

Jacob and I talked about speaking with him before the next game. This soccer team for the young men we serve is built to build men of valor and integrity. Yes the team wants to win our games, but we reinforce that it is more about using soccer and its experiences as a vehicle to drive home life/biblical lessons. This was a perfect opportunity for Mario to show a contrite heart, humility, and a dependence on his brothers/team to help him.

As we were warming up I ran next to Mario and asked him how training went and he said, “Just fine.”

I laughed and said, “That is not what I heard.”

Mario said, “Well, I was upset.”

I said, “That is fine bro, we have hard days. But, you know what we do when we act poorly and make mistakes. We ask for forgiveness and give our apologies.”

Mario became a little flustered and started giving excuses for his attitude as well as blaming others who may have been involved. I stopped him and said, “But, did you have a bad attitude and treat your team poorly? Lets not talk about anyone else. We need to talk.”

Mario gasped, “Yes…okay how about next week?”

“Tonight” I said

“Tomorrow” he said

I said, “Tonight Mario, before we play.”

He signed again and said, “Okay.”

As we spoke before the game and I finished giving our pre-game talk I stopped and invited Mario to speak. Mario said he was good and he did not want to say anything. Just then Camilo spoke up. Camilo has been in this situation with our team many times so he knew the drill, “You gonna say sorry?”

The guys laughed because it came from Camilo. I let it be and we started playing. Right before we started the game I walked up to Mario, put my hand on his shoulders and asked him, “Can I trust your word when you give it to me?”

Mario said, “Jed can I do it next week?”

I said, “Tonight after the game, bro. I need to know when you tell me you’re going to do something you go and do it.”

Mario said, “Yes you can trust me. Okay I will.”

We played, had fun, scored goals and after the game we gathered again. We spoke and as we came to the end I introduced Mario to speak. He made a joke but then he went on, “No but seriously guys, how I acted at practice was not good, I was frustrated and I acted out, and for that I am saying sorry.”

Just then the guys started clapping. I was astonished as everyone celebrated his humility in apologizing. Rewind 2 years ago, guys would get in fights with each other, blame each other, play for themselves, and now they feel safe to apologize without anyone laughing at them. But even more, they feel celebrated when they do the right thing and show characteristics of a man of integrity. I reiterated after the moment that this is what our team stands for. I told them how proud we are of them, especially in that we have a team culture that celebrates true manhood, humbleness, honesty, and forgiveness.

The other coaches and I were so amazed and thankful that God would show us this fruit from our labors. That these young men chose, without direction from the coaches, and are still choosing to be a different kind of team and to be a different kind of man. A man that changes their family legacies and fights for true integrity and character.

And with this family and God driven culture in the last 2 years we have multiplied around 2 fold. Check out the difference of the quantity of people in this picture from February of 2016 to December 2017 at the same taco place. Went from 16 to 28 people. Glory to God.

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That Was Amazing & Overwhelming

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This past year in 2017 I was tasked to lead the effort of coordinating our youth retreat in collaboration with a ministry branch of Back2Back called One21.

This retreat is meant for our Hope Program students (young men & women Back2Back puts through high school & college), staff children, and kids 12+ who live in the Children’s Homes we partner with.

We go up into the mountains, spend the weekend in cabins, have a theme that directs the conversations and games, and experience life and fun things together. Well, we needed to save money this year in a big way so we changed locations. This location change made for a way more rustic living situation, but it also provided us one extra night in the cabins and it was closer to our campus.

The lead up to the retreat was packed with days and days of preparation. But, after it all we felt prepared and ready for the retreat to start. This years theme was The Elephant In the Room. Basically, we focused on those things that we know are all there and that we all struggle with, but no one wants to bring them up or go deal with them. We wanted to talk about all those hard things this year. We knew we would be going into the enemy’s territory in a big way and we experienced some pretty heavy things before the retreat that showed us the enemy did not want us to put on this retreat.

We made it though to the retreat and everyone started pouring in. This year we wanted to focus on our leaders having tribes and them being vulnerable with the kids in their tribe. Each leader was over 18 and had been in our Hope Program or are currently still with us. They led a tribe of 4-6 kids, 12+, with an adult accompanying, through games, creating a tribal name, flag, war cry, and ultimately through 3-4 debriefing sessions. The debriefs we thought would be a great opportunity for our leaders to show vulnerability, but yet give each of these children hope for a future as the leaders had been in their shoes for a time in their lives.

This retreat would ultimately bring help each kid realize that we all have an elephant in our lives and God wants to get this elephant out so that He can fill our rooms with more of Himself. The most impactful moments of the weekend were when kids interacted with the giant elephant our staff member, Dustin, made. They wrote their own “elephants” on it, “Porn, shame, hating oneself, pride, not being good enough, etc…” Seeing these kids calling out these elephants was so powerful. We worshiped hard that night, jumping around, crying, and praying with one another.

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The next morning we brought them up on top of the mountain and got to shoot the elephant with a paintball gun. The final product of every person shooting this elephant with all the lies that the enemy entangles them in was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. A black elephant now covered with what would seem to Jesus’ blood. We just felt the sense of relief, reckless abandon, and ultimately weights being lifted off of already weighed down shoulders.

We then ended this great time with 3 extraordinary baptisms next to this paint covered elephant. To say I was happy was not doing it justice. I was thankful for how God used all of us to pour some sweet love into the hearts of all of these children and leaders. God reminded me that no matter what things I forgot, missed, lacked delegation skills, and how tired I was would never get in the way of what He wanted to do.

During this same weekend we had a couple fights, caught kids with drugs, broke up arguments, and sustained minor injuries. But no matter what the enemy wanted to do, God broke through in a big way.

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Listen Carefully

Man, it was hot outside. Daniel the Director of Casa Hogar (Children’s Home) Bethany walks over. I love Daniel so much. He is a visionary, loves the Lord, and is a great story teller. As we start talking, he thinks of a story he wants to tell us as we are digging in the dirt. I stop and realize I am the only one able to translate, so I stop and listen.

Daniel goes on to tell such a sweet story,

” Listen carefully, (everyone stops), the other day I was driving. My car sounded so awful and I was in downtown Monterrey. I decided to find a mechanic on the side of the road. These men waved me into the shop. All I wanted was for them to figure out what was wrong and how much it would cost. I mean, I am a Children’s Home director, I definitely do not make that much money at all. As I pull up and get out of the car and start to explain to one of the men about my vehicle, some other men come rushing in and just start looking at my car and checking it. I tell him that all I want done is for them to see what was wrong. That I wanted to know the price beforehand. This man kept on saying it is all good and we will talk about it after it is fixed.

I was becoming more agitated as they were taking apart my motor and messing around. I told this man again in a louder voice that I want them to stop and I want to know how much it will cost. He continued to try and tell me everything was alright and we will take care of it after. The men were working so fast and before I  knew it they were done. They said it is all fixed and ready to go. I was so aggravated that they violated my privacy and would not listen to me, they messed with my car, and would not listen to me. I said, ‘ okay, how much will that be.’ They came back to me and said, ‘$40,000 pesos’ ($2,300 USD). I almost passed out as that is an absurd amount of money. I knew that what they did was not that expensive.

Three other men walked up behind this man as they pressed me for the money. I told them I do not have that kind of money. They said they would drive with me in my vehicle to the ATM right now. I said, I could not pull that much money out of the ATM. As they were getting more agitated with me, I realized I was in a bad spot. They were stealing from me and trying to intimidate me. I had no choice to drive with them back to the Children’s Home where we had some money to pay them. The one man got into my car and three other men drove behind us. It was a solid 1.5 hour drive. As I was driving in my car I was so mad I wanted to punch this man next to me, but I knew what happened after the punch would not have gone to well.

All I could think about was that these men are criminals….and then the man next to me starts to talk to me. He said, ‘So, you’re a Children’s Home Director?’….The nerve this man had to talk to me. I was not going to speak to him, I said, ‘I am’ with a lot of frustration. This man then says, ‘So you’re a Christian?’ and oh how this question hit me to the core. I felt like I was justified in having this righteous anger, but yet still felt convicted with this question. “Why do you ask?”

This man then tells me about how the woman he is with is about to have another baby and he just got out of jail. That his life is a mess and needs direction and answers. He then asks me, as I am still fuming inside, “Do you have anything to say?”

DO I HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY? Oh do I, oh I do….then the Lord hit me with a thought. ‘Listen Carefully’… Is what you’re about to pay really a big price?

“Ummmm yes, Lord, it is a huge price.” I think.

“But, is it really? Do you have cancer? Are you in jail? Do you still have your wife and kids?

Is it a big price?”

Then it hit me what He was encouraging me to see. God sends out his children and uses those who have cancer, or who are in jail, or who have lost their whole family in order to show others how much He loves them. He asks us, allows us, or uses our decisions to place us in very very hard places in order to be with hard people, so that we may share of His great Papa God love to them.

I then realized that $40,000 pesos was not that big of price. God was using an awful situation to set up a divine moment so I could share the love of Christ with this man. This may be his one last chance. That I was placed there to speak with this man, to share Christ’s love to him, and ultimately to show that God is in control.

I went on to tell this man about Jesus and Who He is. I definitely was not as loving as I hoped it would have been, but God taught me a big lesson that day.

To “Listen carefully,” our circumstances and time with people are special no matter if it feels awful, God wants to use it for good. Rather than look at my problem, I look at what perspective God wants me to have in that moment. Because in reality, no matter how hard my life is and where He leads me, the Gospel does not change, and I am there to share Christ’s love with them.”

As I am translating this story, I am trying to hold back tears, because it was such a powerful story he was telling. I saw as these young men were being impacted by these deep words of wisdom and I felt so thankful. I felt blessed to be able to be a part of that moment and most importantly to learn that sweet piece of wisdom.

So…”Listen Carefully”.

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Feeling Thankful (How our US staff are so important)

Fridays. These days are often very heavy for me as I welcome and orient groups to our site in Monterrey, Mexico. It is a day that starts at 8am and will go at least until 8pm or later. As we gather at our morning meeting to prepare and pray for the day, I sit and just feel overwhelmed with thankfulness.

My thankfulness is for the people who work for Back2Back who live in the US. Although it may seem we have a very hard job  in the mission field outside the US, their job is just as hard or harder at times. Here are some things that others do not know about our amazing staff in the US:

  1. It is hard to raise support (bring in people to give tax deductible donations to B2B for the salary you will receive) in the US. They are not in the “mission field” some would say. The stories that they may provide sometimes are not stories they were directly connected with on a day to day basis. These are  stories people love to hear about when you’re raising support or gathering ministry partners.
  2. They do a lot of necessary, vital, administrative work that goes unnoticed to most people.
  3. They constantly see friends and family members getting high paying jobs all around them and yet they continue to live out the “call” God has given them. They walk out this “call” on their life all the while receiving a fair, but meager salary.
  4. B2B loves to go deep and with our missionaries on the ground serving it can be very hard to plan for the future, create large budgets, push the ball forward, and continue to go deeper in every country we are in. B2B believes that God can change  childcare in a whole country and we are not only going deep with each child, but with the governments as well. All this planning starts, is followed up on, and supported through our US staff and Board.

Here is how we are supported by  our US office staff:

  1. All the details, flights, preparation for the missions trips, and communication is all done through our US staff. So there is no need for our site missionaries to be burdened by administrative work.
  2. Groups are prepped for what to expect and any necessities that are needed go through the US site filter first. This mentally prepares missions guests before they arrive.
  3. Any donations coming from groups or donors go through our great US based staff to help guide these people to the actual “needs” of our sites/B2B. This allows us to move forward, to be more methodical, and to go deep rather than always doing sporadic projects that donors are excited about.
  4. In raising money for a specific project in Monterrey, we have staff in the US speaking with people to get this done and they spend countless hours raising money for a specific need.
  5. All marketing, devotionals, new approaches, and new skills all come from our US site. We do not have to concern ourselves that much with all this as they are continuing to fill us up and prepare us in better ways.
  6. They handle staff care, we have our US staff checking in on us. They provide counseling and friendship for us. They make sure we are not falling apart and burning out, and speak truth, love, and peace into our lives.
  7. They provide much needed follow up for missions guests. When missions guests and churches leave, our staff help them to continue talking about the things they learned as well as creating deeper partnerships so our children can benefit from continuity through relationships and resources.
  8. Our US staff feel like extended family and will bring down gifts, little treats, mail, and things we are just missing from the US.
  9. Our US staff come down fairly often to live and serve alongside us. When they do, they lift so many burdens and loads.
  10. From the top down our staff approaches everything we do from the mindset that we need to do it excellently because we represent the Gospel.
  11. Lastly, from the top down the continual theme is: we will never dumb down that Jesus is everything, and without Jesus in everything, and being everything, we would not be able to do anything. The Gospel is central to who we are and what we do. I love knowing that we will never be scolded or told to silence the Gospel for whatever reason or whoever the donor/person is, but yet are encouraged to share it through truth and love to the fullest.

As you can see, I was thankful for a lot that day and wanted to be sure you all knew about it. I am blessed to be able to be with a ministry that cares so deeply about staff support, going deeper, being great stewards of God’s resources, sharing the Gospel, and being excellent in everything. Although it can be exhausting and lonely in the “mission field”, my brothers and sisters in Christ are a huge blessing in the US in their “mission field.”

Hats off to our fellow missionaries living in the States. You do not need to be living in a third world country to be a missionary. We are so thankful for you.

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Huh, they are listening

You know as a parent, youth pastor, boss, teacher, etc… you always wonder if the kids you are speaking to are listening. We can put so much hard work into pouring into these kids, but it can be hard to see if the effort is paying off in the moment.

A big part of what I do down here in MTY is pour into our 15-23 year old Hope Program students. The Hope Program students are the children we put through High School and College. The biggest activity I have with them is with our soccer team. With the team, Los Dos, we have weekly practices on Sunday nights followed by a bible study, team events (meals, movies, missions trips, etc…), games, and then I mentor & disciple 3-4 of the leaders on the team/in the program.

With the Bible study on Sundays with the whole team it can sometimes be great and sometimes the guys can just be uninvolved and tired. But, every week we have a bible verse we read, discuss, and pray over. I laminate these verses to be business card size and give them each one. I have seen certain kids chew on them, throw them away, or just leave them where we were sitting after bible study.

But, God has shown me recently how those seeds are not lost on everyone. 2-3 of the guys recently showed me how they have kept every single card in their wallet, and we are probably up to around 30. Also, another of the older players just recently sent an encouraging word to the rest of the team with the photo below.

It is of him chilling with the Bible Verse in his sock during a bike workout. This verse specifically is, Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We were teaching them to be more like a family, to not: put down each other, fight against each other, to control their tongue. But rather to support, encourage, and how to constructively speak to some one.

It is a good reminder that: they are listening and that God has us down here for a reason.

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