For weeks, the streets of Monterrey have shimmered red, white, and green as vendors have displayed their flags, t-shirts, streamers, and noisemakers on the sides of the roads. Monterrey has been a bustle of activity with concerts, plays, and movies about the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence from Spain and the centennial celebration of the Mexican revolution. September 15th, 2010 was quite a day in Mexico!
For Back2Back, our festivities started at Casa Hogar Douglas. Staff, children, caretakers, and two American mission groups gathered in the Douglas courtyard dressed in red, white, and green, ready for the ceremony and celebration! Several of the older children, dressed in uniform, marched the Mexican flag into the center of the courtyard for the anthem to be sung. Then Daniela, from Douglas, led the children in the student promise to the flag. Together as a community we sang the state of Nuevo Leon anthem and waited for the climax of it all, “El Grito”.
Traditionally, the 15th of September is referred to as “El Grito” (the cry). Two hundred years ago in the village of Dolores (near Mexico City) on September 15th at 11:00pm a priest named Miguel Hidalgo gave the shout to the people to take up arms and fight for Mexico’s independence. This started the 11 years of war with Spain for what is now the country of Mexico.
In Independence Day celebrations, traditionally the mayor or governor of the town will give the cry to the people just as Hidalgo did many years ago. At Casa Hogar Douglas, one of our teens and a member of the Hope Education Program, Leo, who were dressed in traditional “charro” costume, gave the historic cry to the children, Back2Back staff, and group members participating with us. All around echoed the response to each phrase Leo spoke, “Viva Mexico, viva Mexico, viva Mexico!”
With excitement high, Casa Hogar Douglas director, Pastor Javiar, stood up and spoke about how as believers we are called “the city of God” and how the greatest independence we have is that of freedom and liberty that is found in Christ. Together as a community, we thanked God for the freedom and grace he has showered on us.
The rest of the evening was celebrated with a Mexican buffet and a carnival for the children! Little red, white, and green bodies were everywhere as they waited for their turn to play games, eat tacos, and win prizes!
Later that night, we put on a special event for our teenagers in the Hope Education Program. We celebrated their country’s heritage with them with a decorated palapa, virgin pina coladas, and the events in downtown Mexico City projected on the big screen. Together at 11:00pm, we watched President Calderon give the grito shout from the Zocalo and the amazing festivities happening in Mexico City. We also had the fun of shooting off our own fireworks on campus! The teens loved it, as did the staff! We finished with salsa dancing into the night.
It was amazing to experience Mexico’s bicentennial here in the country and even more exciting to celebrate with the children and teens such an important part of their heritage. Viva Mexico!
Yesterday, a mom brought three sisters, to Casa Hogar Douglas (Douglas Children’s Home), an orphanage that Back2Back serves. She wants to drop them off at the children’s home because she thinks she cannot take care of them. I’m not sure that the girls even realize yet what is about to happen to them.
My wife, Betty, talked to their mom and took down all of their information, as she helps the home handle the intake of new children. She sent them back home and told them that we would be in contact with them. The truth is that they will likely be the newest residents of this children’s home in a few days. I have witnessed scenes like this one numerous times in the last few years. Betty has been the person who has “interviewed” the moms and “admitted” the unwanted children into Casa Hogar Douglas, for two years now.
These young girls’ story is all too familiar. Mom has lived with their father for several years, but not been married. Now that he has left them, she has no education, job or money. The only relative that is willing to help her is her sister and she doesn’t have room for all of them. So, the children are dropped off at the children’s home, while mom “rebuilds” her life.
It’s times like this that my heart is heavy. So many thoughts and questions fill my mind sometimes. I really never dreamed that this period of my life would be spent in a battlefield. I think I always envisioned a more peaceful way that I would be spending these years. But really, I couldn’t be happier doing anything else! God knows exactly what I need and always provides. And, I know that God will provide for not only these young girls, but for all the other children in all the other parts of the world that Back2Back serves in. He has promised to do so in His Word! (Matt. 19:14)
I really want to take a moment to thank all of you that lift us up in prayer, support us financially or have come to personally serve alongside of us. As difficult as some of these situations are, I believe their is joy in knowing we are the ones God is using to demonstrate His Love for these children! All of you who support us in so many ways are being used by God also. (James 1:27)
Every quarter, we translate letters written from child sponsors and deliver them to the children at the homes we serve. Often, sponsors include a family photo or stickers, but what is most impactful to the children is the realization that their sponsor is thinking of them. The children are so touched by the encouraging words of their sponsors and treasure the letters, sweet reminders that they are loved. Thank you to all the child sponsors who through your correspondence brighten the day of the children we serve! Sponsors can expect to receive return letters from the children in their mailboxes in June!
Interested in signing up to sponsor a child at one of the children’s homes that Back2Back serves? Call our US office at 513-754-0300 and ask to speak with Claire.
We have a name for the renovated chapel at Casa Hogar Douglas. It is now called The Juniper Tree Chapel. Back2Back has been assisting in the weekly worship services for over 1 year now. Last May we finished remodeling the chapel building with the help of the Juniper Tree Foundation. But at the beginning of 2010, we officially named the building The Juniper Tree Chapel.
The name comes from the verse in 1 Kings 19. The prophet Elijah, was scared and fleeing for his life from Jezebel. The scripture says that he went a days journey into the desert and took refuge under a juniper tree. It says that he actually prayed that he would die there. Can you imagine being so scared and feeling so helpless? But under that juniper tree, in the middle of a desert, an angel of the Lord began to speak to Elijah. First, God provided food and water and rest. Then, He told him where He wanted him to go from there.
Like Elijah, most of the kids that live at Casa Hogar Douglas, are scared and perhaps running from their past. Some may even think death could be better. But just as the great prophet of old did thousands of years ago, we want the children of Casa Hogar Douglas to find refuge under the juniper tree.
Sometimes, we are intimidated, by the impressive lives and experiences of people like Elijah. But, James 5:17 reminds us that “Elijah was a man just like us.” We desire that all that come to worship God at the Juniper Tree Chapel, would find hope that they also can accomplish great things for God. All that is required is that they submit everything to Him.
While it’s been a few days since I left Monterrey, there’s still a lot to say about my time there. I stayed at Back2Back, an organization that helps resource and facilitate orphanages in Mexico (and in Nigeria too!). It’s a beautiful area, nestled in a valley of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The people there have amazing hearts for kids, and it was really a joy to be around people that give so much of themselves.
Pulling into the gates of Casa Hogar Douglas was a huge relief. The cold, wet, confusing, and stressful ride into Monterrey left me exhausted, but I was immediately thrust into the middle of some more chaos-except this was the kind of fantastic chaos… A pizza party for sixty orphans. It would be difficult to describe the noise, excitement and general din associated with that many kids in a small room eating Domino’s. (Yes, there’s Domino’s in Mexico. Subways too…kind of disappointing, really…but I digress.)
The next day was spent at Rio III, the nickname for an area on the outskirts of Monterrey. Apparently the land bordering rivers is owned by the government, and the poor have claimed it as their own, setting up shanty towns. Trash literally fills the streets, and at times the smell is overwhelming. You can see where those few that are fortunate enough to have electricity have stolen it via makeshift cables off of the main electrical poles. Homes are built of unpainted cinderblock and whatever else happens to be laying around.
But as ugly and awful a place as it was, the people were incredible. The kids were some of the most sweet, and energetic little people you could ever hope to meet. Even living in a place that to me looked like hell, they wore smiles that were bigger than the tears in their jeans or the stains on their shirts.
We spent the day handing out food, groceries, and clothes. It was really an incredible opportunity to spend time one on one with some amazing kids.
All in all, it was a pretty incredible opportunity to meet people who live in a world that is so completely different from mine in most every way. Even as I was experiencing it, I wasn’t sure it was real. It felt like I was living out someone else’s memory or watching someone else’s home movie. So much so that I asked a friend to take this picture. So I could remember that I was there, and that this experience belonged to me, and no one else.
More photos from the trip can be viewed at here.
A group of eighteen adults from LifePoint Vineyard came to serve with Back2Back in February. On Wednesday of that week, we headed to Casa Hogar Douglas, a children’s home we partner with, to work for the day. I had a list of projects planned for the group to work on ahead of time. But, when we arrived, the workers at the home told me that the septic line was clogged and sewage was backing up. When I was dividing up the job assignments for the day, I asked if a couple of the men could check out the problem and let me know what they thought we needed to do. Within the first hour, they discovered we had a big problem. About 200 feet of an 8″ sewer pipe was clogged and in some places crushed. I really thought this was a problem that might take weeks to fix. But these guys were determined to fix it that day.
They quickly came up with a plan that involved jack hammering concrete, cutting out old damaged PVC piping and replacing it with new. They gave me a list of parts that they would need, and we abandoned some of our initial projects to concentrate on this more important one. I sent Mauricio to purchase the new parts and we got busy jack hammering. As the afternoon went on, we could see that we might end up working into the night. These determined guys were unanimous in wanting to finish this project before they left.
As the sun was setting, and we were working by flashlight, many of the kids were beginning to go to sleep in their dorms. But just outside their window, they could hear eleven men fighting for their cause. These men weren’t angry or even upset. Instead they were laughing and joking about working in the dark.
The part that impressed me the most, was how safe these young kids felt as they went to sleep that night. Most nights, children in a casa hogar go to sleep feeling insecure. Sometimes, they may even have fear about something that is going on in their life. And for many kids in a children’s home, men have let them down the most. But on this night, the young kids at Casa Hogar Douglas, went to sleep knowing that eleven men were working with the joy of the Lord, in very unpleasant conditions, for their benefit. For at least one night, the men of Lifepoint Vineyard brought peace and security to the frightening world these kids live in. And they did it in a very simple way.
For the month of February, our staff and many ministry partners worldwide have committed to covering this children’s home in prayer. Casa Hogar Douglas is a larger children’s home and Back2Back has partnered with them for a long time. Many of the students in the Back2Back Hope Education Program come from this home. All the homes we serve have struggles: financial needs, finding and keeping good workers, immense needs of children that are sometimes hard to meet and more. This home in particular is struggling and has been for awhile. Our ministry and staff are committed to this home and the kids there and therefore we are committed to fighting for them…on our knees as well. Would you please join us this month in prayer for this home? We have seen God do mighty things in the last year at this home and we know He is just getting started. Join us as we fight for His justice and His reign in this home and over these dear children!
Here is a list of some specific ways in which they need prayer. (For clarification, Wyman is the director of the home, and Jim and Betty are of staff with Back2Back and serve as captains of Douglas.)
1. Caregivers would be full of the love of Christ.
2. Children of all ages would experience God’s Love in this home.
3. Financial needs of the home would be met.
4. Fear and pain would be minimized in the kids’ lives.
5. The Holy Spirit would come and fill every dormitory.
6. God would protect this place with a “band of angels” guarding against all evil.
7. That this home would be a “Shelter” and a “Refuge” for these children.
8. Wyman, the director, would be open and supportive of changes we suggest.
9. We would find tutoring help for kids that need help in school.
10. God would remove anything or anyone that hinders the spread of His Revolution in this place.
11. God would raise up positive role-model leaders within the older boys’ dorm.
12. The younger kids would look up to and follow these positive leaders.
13. Every caregiver and child would know that they are part of the family of God.
14. Light would cause darkness to flee.
15. All care givers and staff would seek truth in their own lives.
16. All care givers and staff would demonstrate compassion in disciplining children.
17. Betty & Jim would be filled with Godly wisdom and courage as they minister.
18. All outside influences (other groups) would be edifying to the Spirit.
19. Godly people would not grow weary of doing what is right.
20. The leadership would be sanctified for God’s service.
21. Tired workers would have time to rest.
22. God would use the church to minister to staff and kids weekly.
23. All staff not filled with the Holy Spirit would leave.
24. Staff and kids would recognize and give testimony to God’s provision in their lives.
25. God would complete His promises in the lives of these children.
On December 22, the kids of Casa Hogar Douglas had an opportunity to serve kids that had very little materially. One of the caregivers in the children’s home, is from a small mountain town about four hours from here, called Galeana. The people from this town are very poor when it comes to material possessions. When the kids of Casa Hogar Douglas, a children’s home that Back2Back serves, found out about these kids from the hometown of their caregiver, they wanted to share their blessings with them. They got a list of seventy-four kids from a church in Galeana and each one of them chose a toy of their own to wrap and give to the kids of this town.
Not all of the kids were able to make the four-hour trip to Galeana with us on December 22nd. We took with us about fifteen kids and prepared a meal, worshiped together, had a pinata to open and passed out all of the gifts to the children.
I witnessed something that day in the faces of the kids from Casa Hogar Douglas. I’ve seen their faces on the receiving end many times, but it was a blessing to watch them as they had an opportunity to serve others in the same way that they have been served by American mission trip groups.
Back2Back recently received a donation to purchase new books for Casa Hogar Douglas, a children’s home in Mexico that we serve. I’d like to share with you a little of the story behind the donation.
Emily Taylor is a 14 year-old student at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. After participating in a mission trip here, earlier this year, she wanted to stay involved in the lives of the children she met in Monterrey. One of the needs that Emily noticed when she read with the kids in the children’s home, was the need they had to read better. As she thought about this, she had the desire to purchase books for their library. Once she knew what she wanted to do to stay involved with the children in Monterrey, she thought about how she could make this possible.
Emily decided that instead of asking for gifts for her birthday, she would ask people to give her money, that she could use to buy books for orphans. She collected $700! We used the money to purchase Christian books for all ages at a local Christian bookstore, here in Monterrey. The store gave us a 25% discount on our purchase so we were able to purchase $1,000 worth of Christian books with the money that Emily collected.
Before we put the books on the shelves, we prayed for them. We gave thanks for the 14 year-old girl who had a God sized dream to stay involved, from over 1,500 miles away. And we prayed that these books would help bring “hope for tomorrow” that these kids did not have before.
Last week, I was working at Casa Hogar Douglas, along with Mauricio, another Back2Back Mexico staff member. We were working on a list of “honey do” projects for the caregivers there in the children’s home. I always like getting things accomplished on this list because it helps make life a little easier for these ladies who live with and care for these children 24/7. I usually do things like fix lights or plumbing problems or repair doors or broken furniture. This day, Mauricio was hooking up a clothes washer in the older girls’ dorm for their caregiver, LuLu. The water hookup was not right on the washer. Each time she used it she had to carry water up from the first floor in buckets to fill it. In addition, there was no electric outlet near the washer so she had to use a very long extension cord to make it run. He hooked a direct water line to the washer and installed a new electrical outlet near it for a direct connection.
As we finished up that day, Mauricio told me that LuLu shared with him how she had been praying for some time, that this work would be done. He said to me, “I love knowing that God is using me to answer someone’s prayer!” I had never thought about it that way before, but he was right. When we submit to God’s calling for our lives, many times God uses us as an answer to someone else’s prayer. I know that many of you have been used by God to be an answer to my prayers. As I have prayed for God to provide for our financial support, many of you have been the one that God has used to answer my prayers. That is why it is important to be obedient in the calling that God has for our lives. We may just be God’s answer to someone else’s prayer.