It all started on a prayer walk…

Nov 6, 2018

Beth Guckenberger

We were on a prayer walk, visiting families in their homes who receive services at the Tres Reyes Community Center. At each stop, we’d be introduced to the members of the family and hear what they wanted us to lift in prayer. It was usually for provision, health needs, or broken relationships. The mother would share vulnerably as she presented her requests, and a fragile connection would form.

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As we entered Maria’s house, she proudly introduced us to her two elementary aged children, quick to share their academic successes and credit the classes in the community center. Following her lead, they stood straight as she spoke, looking at each of us with a mixture of confidence and gratitude. When she was finished sharing, someone asked how she found Back2Back’s Community Center.

She laughed, “That is a funny story.”

Sheepishly, she came to the community center, but insisted on sitting outside of the classroom (in case the Americans would try and take her children away.) This meant long hours, standing in the hot sun, but she could not be convinced of their safety.

Sandy Petul, a Back2Back teacher, could sense Maria listening to what she was teaching through a window. One day she left a chair for Maria outside the door, a kind gesture so she could sit down while the children were in class. Instead of resting during this time, Maria sat on the edge of her seat. She was attentive enough, Sandy recognized, she was learning the material for the first time. The next morning, on her way into the classroom, Sandy quietly dropped a notebook on Maria’s seat.

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Maria tells the story, recounting how the lessons began to make sense as she strung sentences together. She was reading! In order for her children to receive classes at the community center, she was required to attend “mom classes” where among the variety of topics, was faith. She made it clear she didn’t want anyone to tell her what God said any longer, now that she could, she wanted to read it for herself.

“That was three years ago,” she shared, “And now, I have been baptized, and I share all the time with my extended family and neighbors what I am learning in my Bible.”

Maria’s life looks different than it did just a few years ago. She makes items she sells in the market and competently supports her family. She worships alongside of her children and admitted she is not only working towards a future, she’s trying to rebuild a broken past.

“I was so scared and God had so much waiting for me. Sometimes all we need to turn things around is an invitation.”

Beth is an author, speaker and mom. She and her husband, Todd, serve as Co-Executive Directors of Back2Back Ministries. Beth frequently travels and speaks at conferences drawing on her vast experiences with adoption, foster care, spiritual care, and non-profit leadership, serving and living internationally for over 15 years. Between biological, foster, and adopted children, Beth and Todd have raised ten children.

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