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111541As I write this, we’re riding in the rental bus from the B2B campus to a children’s home on the east side of the Sierra Madre mountains, about an hour’s drive away. We’re taking the bus because we’ll be less likely to be stopped by the local policia. Today, we’ll spend much of the day doing heavy demolition, running jackhammers and busting up concrete. Not sure what the area will look like.

Since I’m typing this as we drive and we’ll soon be up in the mountains, I need to stop typing as I’m prone to car-sickness.

6:04pm  — we headed home, my what a day.

Here’s all that we did:

  • water-proofed a wall
  • Jumped rope with lots of kids
  • Dug a ditch
  • Cut down two medium-sized trees
  • Played soccer with the kids
  • Dug two holes
  • The women made rebar ties and tied together rebar frames for concrete work
  • Changed the tire on the trailer
  • Played with play-dough
  • Played a game of Sorry in English and Spanish
  • Colored
  • Grilled 148 hot dogs
  • Ate dinner with the kids

All I can say is that we worked very hard today and bonded much more as a team. Before we began our day of work, we walked to a new piece of property about a block away. The children’s home directors have the opportunity to purchase the land to consolidate their facilities from the three homes they manage. Steve Sibley offered to pray over the land and with the children to ask for God’s provision for the land. Greg Huffer, our working contact from B2B today, told us the cost of the land was very expensive, about $75k for what appeared to be about an acre of land.

Connie, the house director for this children’s home, is such a Godly woman. At the end of our time of prayer, she led the kids in singing a song that talked about the fact that regardless of our nationality or our skin color, we are all children of Christ. She has had numerous young mothers bring their children to her and she has offered for them to live with them, do some laundry and help care for the children, including her own. Several young ladies have taken her up on the offer and have actually come to know the Lord as a result.

All of us are still well, no sicknesses to report. Tomorrow will be an emotional day for us as we’re going to the Rio 3, perhaps one of the poorest and largest squatter’s village in all of Monterrey. We’ll bring the underwear, vitamins, toothbrushes and toothpaste tomorrow. The people B2B works with there are operating a church where all of the residents of this poor area come each Sunday for church services.

My idea of what constitutes a church or even a church planting movement is changing dramatically as I view each of the children’s home directors as essentially operating small house churches.

Here are some random photos from the day. Thank you again for your support.

Prayer requests for tomorrow:

  • Continued safety as the place we’re going is less confined than the children’s homes;
  • Continued good health for us all;
  • That God would show Himself to us in the circumstances of the lives of those we interact with.

 

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In year’s past when we’ve come down here over Spring Break, we’ve had the luxury of having the entire place to ourselves. Not so this year. There is a group of about 15-20 people from a Vineyard Church in Cincinatti that are also here this week. And last night Beth told us there was a group of about eight people from Family Christian Bookstores that were flying in from locations across the U.S. B2B has a strong relationship with FCB and their James Fund, which through it’s James Fund Bear project has enable B2B to build several of the teen homes on the B2B campus and do many other things at some of the children’s homes.

Today, we’ll be spending about eight hours doing heavy demolition at a children’s home on the other side of the mountain range (the Sierra Madre mountains). We’ll start off at 10am and won’t quit until about 6 and then will feed the children there at 6:30 and have the opportunity to play with them before heading back to B2B.

It will be a long day for us all. Yesterday’s excitement will begin to wear off as we get into the reality of the poverty and hopelessness that many of the people here experience. Everyone is still asleep and I’ve been up for about 45 minutes. Though the area in which B2B resides is relatively safe, the campus is encircled with a wall and probably about a 25-foot high security gate. Each night there is a night watchman who walks the campus to ensure everyone is safe. He just came in to the LDM to drop off something.

That makes me think of the complete insecurity that each of the children in these homes knows each and every night. Most of the chilren’s homes don’t have security like we have at B2B. We are fortunate in that regard. But we are also fortunate in a bigger sense as well, and that is a huge part of why we’re here.

Because we personally know the love of Jesus Christ, because each of us has given up and said we can’t do this on our own anymore. Because each of us has asked Jesus Christ to take control of our lives, we have the ultimate security that no night watchman can match.

There is no wall large enough to protect us from earthly risks. There is no hedge of protection of any kind for many of these children and many of the residents of Monterrey from a spiritual perspective. Each and every night, they go to sleep with no protection of any kind. For those of us who have given up trying on our own and have turned our lives over to Christ, we have the ultimate night watchman. But His shift never ends. He’s always there. Always watching. Always waiting for our call. He wants a relationship with us.

So, our prayer requests for this day is this:

  • That each of us would pour our physical bodies into the construction we’re doing as if we’re doing it for the Lord (which we are);
  • That we would allow the surroundings of the children’s home to impact us, to help us realize what each of us has (though I’ll write in a future post about whether our material belongings can be called a blessing or a curse)
  • That we would have, and take, the opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ with each of these kids
  • Safety, safety, safety.

I’ll do my best to post this evening but we’ll have a late night.

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A typical day at Back2Back Ministries looks like this:

8am – the main bunk house and kitchen called Lugar de Miseracordia (LDM) is open for coffee

8:30 – whichever family has signed up for breakfast (cereal, fruit, juice, toast) puts it out and everyone eats

9 – everyone across the campus, visitors and staff alike, have their daily quiet time

10 – we are briefed on our day’s activities, we pack up necessary supplies and begin going to where ever we’re working that day

4, 5 or 6 – depending on the day’s activities, we pack up our work and begin to play with the kids, though there is usually much playing going on throughout the day this is where every one has the chance to interact with the kids.

6:30 – dinner in the LDM

7 – time to take a shower

8 – daily de-briefing (this year by Beth Guckenberger)

9 – my bedtime

10 – everyone else’s bedtime

11 – lights out

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This post was written at about 11:15 (Sunday)

We’re just about an hour from the border but we’ll be diverting about 20 miles south of Laredo to a 110533different crossing where there is less traffic and we avoid Nuevo Laredo. We left the church at about 7:20, made a few stops on the way and just left our final gas fuel-up until we get to Monterrey. John expects that with no paperwork issues at the border, we’ll be arriving at B2B at about 4pm.

110819I took the opportunity to take a photo of our van from the front seat. Michael and Andrew look surprised, don’t they? Here’s our faithful driver, Jim, looking smooth with his shades :).

Will check back in soon.

Back, 2pm, and we still sitting on the Mexico side of the border. We all made it through without getting stopped or searched. We all got our personal paperwork completed and went out to the vans to eat our lunch while John, Carey and Jim completed the paperwork for the vans. Apparently, when CAPPS printed 140752out the paperwork on John’s van, the VIN didn’t print well enough so now here we sit waiting for someone in the CAPPS corporate office to fax the full VIN to this crossing. I just found a relatively weak wireless signal and will try to post this. If you’re reading this, please pray that the paperwork would be completed and that the remainder of our drive down to Monterrey would be uneventful.

Here’s a photo of us waiting with the kids across the street playing frisbee.

I’ve been updating many of you via Twitter or Facebook and some (Terry Melle) replied asking if we needed anything. I’m guessing there some prayers being said on our behalf, so thank you. We’re new enroute to Monterrey and barring any other circumstances should be arriving there about 5 or 6pm. If you’re reading this at that point, it’s because I could’t find a wireless signal between the border and B2B.

6pm – we’ve now arrived, have unpacked and are about to play with some kids that are already at the B2B campus.

Thank you for your support. We’ll talk soon!

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For some of you reading this, the post below will repeat what you got from us via e-mail earlier today. I’ve been designated as the blogger for the trip so there are others of you who are coming here for the first time. Welcome and I’ll do my best to keep your apprised of our activities, praises and prayer requests from Monterrey. I’ll do my best to include photos and/or videos along the way. You can see in the note below some of the thoughts Anita and I have been having as this week approaches. What does our caring for the fatherless look like? Is it all financial? Is it hands-on? Do we support others who do it or does God call us to do it ourselves? Does it have to be the locals or can it be an outsider who calls that country their home? As I said in an earlier post, can we just show up and work and love? Or do we have to bring supplies? Where does the gospel of Jesus Christ come in? Early? Later? Are these kids hearts fertile to hear the gospel? Or does my sharing it have any credibility at all? Our worlds are so different. Or are they?

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Well, not quite yet. We will be leaving tomorrow at 7a.m. heading to the border, then on to Monterrey, Mexico.

I have to admit, I just started packing today. But don’t think that haven’t been preparations going on before today. A few days ago, Joshua was helping Christina brush up on her soccer skills as they will play a lot of soccer with the children there. He was yelling at her in Spanish, “mano!, mano!” as the children will in Monterrey. It was really funny. She was a good sport.

I admit I am in the midst of a spiritual crisis of sorts. Bruce and I have been struggling with the question “If God calls the church to care for orphans, what does it look like for the wealthy American church to care for orphans?” Does it look different? Should it look different? If you have followed Bruce’s blog you will have already read his post, “What if We Brought Just Ourselves?” While we are busy collecting donations, purchasing 25,000 children’s vitamins, pre-natal vitamins, etc. (all of which I think are good) our children are brushing up on soccer skills. They just want to play with the children…with a ball. We prepare to leave with a bit of confusion, wonder and sense of adventure as we work through this question. I don’t know if there is an answer but I believe it is a question worth exploring.

Thank you for joining us. We are so glad to have you on our support team. Many of you committed to pray for us so we wanted to provide some specific things, for now, to pray for our family and for our team…

Safety. Many of you have read (and some expressed concern) about the danger in the border towns. Our Global Outreach pastor and our partnering organization in Monterrey are both confident that things in Monterrey are as usual and little reason to be concerned. That said, it is a cosmopolitan city – the second largest in all of Mexico (about 3.5 million people). There are really nice parts and there are some not-so-nice parts. Please pray for safety in our travels and during our time in the city.

Health. The flu is hitting the kids’ school hard. One day this week 13 students went home sick (that doesn’t even take into account the children who stayed home that day). While we are all feeling well today please pray that none of us gets the flu. And as always when traveling to Mexico, pray that we wouldn’t get stomach or intestinal “bugs,” though Back2Back Ministries in Monterrey has it’s own well that we’re actually able to drink from freely.

Again, we appreciate your being part of our team to provide care for today and a hope for tomorrow to the children of Monterrey. Bruce has arranged for someone else to drive this year so he’ll have more time to blog while there.

Thank you.

Bruce, Anita, Joshua and Christina
http://bruceeric.wordpress.com

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We thought we’d have all kinds of time today to have a leisurely day getting packed, running last minute errands etc. but that was not the case. We started out with Anita’s van have a flat tire…….

The first draft of this post had all kinds of details of what took place today but I’ll abbreviate it for you.

9:30am – removed Anita’s van tire and took it to get it repaired (for no cost, I might add)
(lots of filler stuff here…………………………………………………………………………………)
5:30pm – we arrived home

So now, here we sit. Kids are in bed. The house is quiet. Anita and I are able to relax for a bit before begin to think about what we might pack. After all, we don’t leave until 6:15am tomorrow morning – that’s nine hours or so from now!

As I pack, I think back to my post on the topic of “What if we didn’t bring anything at all?” Now that post was related to the amount of supplies we bring to give to Back2Back Ministries. As I now pack my personal items, I think, why do I have to bring that? Do I really need that? So my plan is simple. I have one pair of boots and a pair of shower flip-flops. I’ll have one pair of jeans and three t-shirts. I’ll wear the same clothes on tomorrow’s drive down that I’ll wear next Saturday on our drive back. I’m packing as light as I can.

I heard from Jim Dixon that he, John and Carey were able to pick up the vans today. Jim will swing by to pick us up and we’ll stop on the way to church to gas up. Our plan is to leave from the church by 7:30am.

Good night all. I’ll update you all as often as I can on behalf of the entire team.

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As most of you know, one week from today about 35 of us leave to head eight hours south to serve the children of Mexico (some of them fatherless, motherless, without a family of their own). As part of our preparation, last Sunday we participated in cultural training on what to expect as Americans going to a foreign country. The session was facilitated by the leaders of our Spanish ministry at HCBC, Tom and Ronit Ricoy.

The topic of ‘stuff’ came up and how we should handle it. Part of the blessing we bring to Back2Back Ministries is the supplies we’re able to transport because we drive into Mexico. We bring vitamins, tooth brushes and toothpaste, shampoo, clothing, underwear, diapers and many other things.

We spent a significant portion of our time discussing whether these material things would actually be a blessing or a curse that perpetuated the view that we simply bring our things, drop them off, work a little and feel a whole lot better about ourselves as a result.

This discussion made me wonder: what if we didn’t bring any material items with us? What if “all” we brought was our love, our kindness and the love of Jesus Christ. The fact is that Americans are some of the wealthiest people in the world (even if our 401k accounts have declined significantly recently) and as a result we have the opportunity to provide for the physical needs of the people there. But it is a question that weighs heavily on my mind.

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