For this month's video update, we introduce you to a diagram that helps explain how we approach our work with families. We also introduce you to Kevin, who allowed us to have a front-row seat to what happens when a mom loves her son, someone listens to her struggle, and then walks with her and Kevin to address the root problems.
We will refer to this diagram in the video.
*I do apologize for my (Erick's) awkwardness in front of the camera. And never mind that the remote didn't work quite right at the end. I know I need to keep my day-job.
Julie still tested positive for a SIBO infection. The treatment of antibiotics has had a positive effect on how she's feeling.
Nick got a teaching assistantship at IU, and continues to thrive at the university.
Eliza is loving her job and the people on her team.
One of our Indian national staff (Santosh), after four trips to the government, was finally able to get them to start fogging regularly in the slum for mosquitos. Malaria and dengue are a constant threat there.
Someone we know well and love has sponsored one of the children of a Strong Family in India.
The English and Spanish translations of the training materials were delivered and they look great.
We've almost completed a version of the parent curriculum that is specifically written for non-literate individuals. (Most in India and some in Haiti will be non-literates.)
Please continue to pray for Julie's health as she has now started a more restricted diet that will bring some challenges in India and Haiti. Pray that this treatment plan will be the one that brings full health back to her gut.
Pray for the families in India, that they would find hope and be motivated to attend the parent classes.
Pray for 14 year old Anitha as her ability to receive an education is being threatened by the need to work and support her family. (India)
Pray for 15 year old Kajal who needs much more tutoring before she can enter 10th grade. She is feeling the pressure to quite school. (India)
Please continue to pray that the conditions in Haiti won't deteriorate so we can train there in October.
Pray for safe travel for us: Sept 9-28 in India, and Oct. 10-28 in Haiti.
Please continue to pray that our time in India in September is fruitful as we continue working with our staff and the Strong Families in the slum.
Please continue to pray for favor and wisdom as we begin working with our Back2Back Cincinnati staff to come alongside families in the the at-risk urban community of Price Hill. (All it took was meeting some of the families in the neighborhood, and our hearts are already hurting and hoping for them.)
It's been about 17 months since we moved from Mexico to Noblesville, IN. On March 29 we returned to the site where God gave us a vision to holistically care for at-risk families in the marginalized communities of Tres Reyes and Bonfil. (We now call this the Strong Families Program.) As we were driving to the team house from the airport, many familiar sites, smells, sounds, and people, flooded our memories and welcomed us back to the place where we served for six years. A place where we left parts of our hearts.
The week was full of hugs, (Mexican) kisses, laughter, and tears. God graciously showed us all that He has continued to do through the staff to empower and strengthen the families in Bonfil and Tres Reyes. We were reminded what can happen when God provides vision and resources to carry out His plan. He loves the people of Mexico (and Haiti, India, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Cincinnati) more than we do. We are grateful He called us to do this work. And we are also grateful for so many people like you, who partner with us in prayer and financial support. We couldn't do it without you. We hope you enjoy some of the pictures from Mexico.
Our staff and partners in India who are busy implementing the Strong Families Program and principles with 25 families. They also just hired another national staff to help with the program. (We trained in India in February.)
Our staff (and the children we serve) in Haiti are safe and back to work, after recent protests necessitated their evacuation.
Julie and I are almost finished with edits to the Strong Families Program training materials. We hope to take it to Haiti next.
We have been blessed to spend quality time with our kids and Julie's family over the last few months.
Please continue to pray for Julie's health. Although she's seen a lot doctors, not much has changed. The SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) infection is not gone. She also continues to try alternative treatments.
Please pray for continued safety for our Haiti staff and all the children we serve there.
Please pray for commitment and hope for the new Strong Families in India. Pray also for discernment, wisdom, and strength for the staff.
Please pray that we receive funding needed to take our training to each of the Back2Back sites.
Please pray for our personal support. We currently have a $700/month deficit.
I’ve been reflecting over this past year in order to discern what the Lord has been teaching me. It has been a year of transitions. For those of you who have experienced a transition this year I know you can relate. For Erick & me, our transition involved moving to a new location, trying to figure out where we “belong,” and taking on new responsibilities with Back2Back. A process of letting go and embracing new beginnings. Sometimes we have had mixed emotions. Moving and starting over (literally), the letting go of the old, has been difficult and felt raw, while embracing the new has been overwhelming, exciting, challenging, and sometimes discouraging. For me, it’s been a year of doctor visits and trying new treatments. A year of establishing new rhythms and engaging with family in new ways. A year of developing new roles and a new training program for Back2Back. I’ve written several Reflections from 2018 that I’d like to share with you.
Reflection: Shedding the old dead parts of ourselves allows new growth to start.
The first part of the year we were taking our sabbatical. During that time Erick & I walked a lot…..like over 100 miles together. Later I learned that walking helps regulate the brain, and boy do I need help with that! Going on walks has always been a way for me to connect with God. God has used what I see and experience in nature and art to communicate messages to me. On many occasions when I was walking I would get the impression that God wanted me to pay close attention. In those moments I felt like there was something I’m supposed to learn, to take notice of. Often that means I stop and take a picture or stop and pray. It happened to me when Erick & I were on one of our long walks this past spring. We were walking through a forest and I noticed the path was lined with tons of tree bark. All of the trees in this area had big pieces of bark that had been stripped away from their trunks. We kept walking and I was struck by the amount of bark that was stripped away. The trees had big patches of bare, raw wood that was exposed. It made me wonder…..what if the trees had to shed the old dry bark in order to see new growth? Which made me pray…..Lord, what is dead and old in me that you want to remove in order to see new growth?
Reflection: When transformation and progress are slow (and they usually are), we must keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.
Every year at the beginning of the year we have asked God to show us a word (or phrase) He wants us to focus on. In 2018 my word was WALK HUMBLY. And during our transition I wanted to focus on what it meant to WALK HUMBLY. Staying mindful of keeping a humble attitude in starting new roles. And staying humble in
finding out what was making me sick and seeking treatments from doctors. It was easy to get frustrated on the medical side of things because I wasn’t making the progress I thought I would. Now eleven months into 2018 and I still have a SIBO infection and the treatment has not “cured” me. Many times throughout the year people have asked to pray over me and I have longed for God to heal me, but that has not happened yet. Along the way I realized I stopped believing in a miracle and I think I lost a little hope. But then in August I read a book about prayer and I read the verse in Matthew 7:7 where it says to ask, seek, knock. A verse I’ve heard all my life. But this time I read it in the NLT which says:
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.
Keep on seeking, and you will find.
Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you
When I read the words…KEEP ON asking, seeking, knocking, it challenged me to persevere (even with chronic illness and pain), to continue to Hope, and trust in God.
Reflection: Hope, however small it may be, helps us to persevere in the hard stuff.
And as we visited Back2Back sites in Monterrey & Mazatlan, Mexico, and Haiti, I was reminded again about the need to KEEP ON to Persevere because the work we are doing is slow and long. Transformation and change takes so much time, perseverance, faith, and hope.
Hope for… broken marriages to be restored
Hope for…. answers to complex problems
Hope for…..strength and wisdom to love special needs foster teens
Hope for…..a teen who at 15 has already been through 3 drug rehab programs
Hope for……a family who’s 17 year old daughter chose to take her own life
Reflection: I’m not the same person I was. I’m different at my core. And this is good.
I recently read a blog from another missionary who was reflecting on her experience re-entering into America. She expressed that she felt like she had gone to Narnia. A place where so much happened that it was difficult to put into words. Beth Watkins said: “words can fail when it comes to describing our deep life-altering experiences.” I can relate, because I often feel like I don’t have the words to explain to people how much I’ve been changed. I feel like I’m a very different person than when I left for Mexico 7 years ago.
Reflection: In addition to shedding the old dead parts, we must remain deeply rooted in the Truth.
We had the opportunity to attend the national conference in early November. The theme was being deeply rooted. One of the keynote speakers said it well: Gregory Lan Ijiwola said “our roots must penetrate to a deeper strata in order for us to grow.” My overall takeaway from the conference was that I want to be more deeply rooted in the Bible.
Romans 15:13 May the God of HOPE fill you with joy & peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you live in or have visited Indiana, chances are you're going to see farm animals, whether by accident or on purpose. Julie and I are fully embracing our life in Indiana, so recently we went to the 4H Fair near us and while we didn't embrace the animals, we did see and appreciate them. We are grateful for farms and farmers. (Oh, and I lost the staring contest with the llama.)
In addition to learning more about farm animals, Julie and I also attended training about Trust Based Relational Intervention, specifically when working with children who have experienced trauma. We also attended coaching training that an be used to coach staff, parents, or whoever we may need to coach. Regarding the Strong Families curriculum, we are beginning the process of converting content into in-class training material. In official terms it's called instructional design. I'm including a link HEREto a Prezi presentation we created for our site directors to update them and describe some of the modules we're creating. (It's 4 minutes or less and has a video.... of us.) We head back to Monterrey and Mazatlan, Mexico for about 3 weeks in Sept/Oct to do more site reviews in preparation for future training.
Nick started his new job in Bloomington, IN last week and starts classes at IU next week. He's excited. Eliza also started a new job at a chiropractic office. She is very interested in holistic and alternative medicine. Nate did extremely well in his first round of pre-nursing classes. He starts his next 9-week cohort next week.
This month, we're asking you to pray with us for more people to join our support team. We have some ongoing new expenses and other expenses that are far more than we were paying in MX. We know God owns it all and are trusting Him. So we are also inviting you to pray about joining our team if you're not already on it.
Pray that God will raise up more partners to join our support team.
Please continue to pray for Julie's health. She sees another doctor this week.
Pray for Eliza and her new job, that it will be fun and fulfilling for her.
Pray for Nick not get too stressed out as he starts classes and works.
Continue to pray for Julie and I as we move down this path of identifying the best ways to help the children and families we serve and how to roll out global training.
One of the many classes and seminars at the CAFO conference in Dallas
It started in Dallas at the Christian Alliance for Orphans international conference, and ended at our Back2Back site in Monterrey, MX. After two full weeks of seminars, meetings, and interviews, we returned to Indiana with information-overload and ready to process all we'd learned. So now, we are spending time assimilating information, recalling what we learned on the field about family strengthening, and researching best practices about alternative forms of care for at-risk children. Research is one of Julie's sweet spots. She loves digging and learning what works and what doesn't. I am more of the process person. So I'm developing the processes for how we will roll out training, and how we will determine the readiness of each site for training. Specifically, we are digging deep into foster care programs, Back2Back's Hope Program, transition care for helping young people transition to independent living, and family strengthening (we call it Strong Families).
We are highly motivated to bring best practices and processes to each of the Back2Back sites, but before that happens, we need to do more listening, learning, and writing.
The big news with Eliza and Nate is that Nate started nursing school. He is in an accelerated program and believes he's found his passion. Nick's big news is that he got a 4.0 his first semester at IUPUI, and in the fall will transfer to Indiana University in Bloomington. He has a job and a house secured in Bloomington and is excited to start a new semester in September.
We just celebrated 31 years together!
Nick recently registered for classes at Indiana University Bloomington. He's excited!
Please continue to pray for Julie's health. While she's stronger, she continues to struggle with consistent good health.
Pray for Nate as he pursues nursing.
Pray for Nick's transition to IU Bloomington.
Pray for Julie and I as we move down this path of identifying the best ways to help the children and families we serve and how to roll out global training.
Pray for our newest site in the Dominican Republic, that God will direct Back2Back to the right partners and and clear vision for how best to make an impact in this country.
One week from today, April 23, Julie and I will begin our new assignments with Back2Back as trainers and coaches to all the Back2Back sites in Mexico, Haiti, India, Nigeria, and the Dominican Republic. As we anticipate this next transition, we are reflecting on our sabbatical. We are so grateful to God and Back2Back that we were able to take this extended time for rest, renewal, learning, and to get ready for the next chapter in the story that God is writing with our lives. We have considered it a great privilege to take this time and therefore have worked hard to be intentional with how we used it. We met with two pastors who had taken sabbaticals to ask what they learned, how they used the time, and what they would do differently if/when they receive another sabbatical. This information helped a lot as we planned and prepared.
More than ever, we've come to understand that we are pilgrims - in Spanish, peregrinos - who are on a pilgrimage. We are walking this journey we call life, but we have to remember that it's a long walk.
"When done intentionally, a pilgrimage offers unusual separation and solitude. In turn this gives you a chance to re-focus, re-orient, and take significant strides toward a healthier perspective of self, life, relationships, truth, and God." (Phileena Heuertz)
For the first three weeks of the sabbatical we went to a retreat center in Michigan called Alongside. We received intensive counseling and attended 28 seminars that covered many topics relevant to missionaries and people in ministry. It was very helpful and a good start toward renewal, and learning. We set priorities/goals for our sabbatical so that we didn't squander our time. Our top goal was to do whatever it took to get Julie to a healthier place. As of today, she's met with many different types of doctors (we're grateful for good, albeit expensive medical care) and been diagnosed and treated for a couple things. She is stronger now, but we can't say that she's healed. She's been on many antibiotics and tried many diets. She will continue to pursue natural treatments hoping to, as she says, make her body an unfriendly place for parasites and get her "gut" healthy. Please continue to pray for this process, for her strength, and for patience. A second goal was to love on our kids and family in a way that we haven't been able to for awhile. Suffice it to say we've had many dinners together, attended activities together, and just hung out a lot. This Wednesday we will celebrate Eliza's 25th birthday. We are so so grateful for some very sweet times with family. Another goal we had was to set up our home here in Noblesville. This felt a little foreign to us, having rented apartments in MX for six years. But Julie did an awesome job making a house into a very welcoming and warm home where we look forward to hosting many gatherings with friends and family. In many ways it felt we were newlyweds setting up our first home together. Finally, we both had reading lists. One book that we both read and loved was by Beth Guckenberger (Back2Back Co-Executive Director), called Start With Amen. I highlighted a LOT in this book, but I will only share a few sentences that impacted me. "A prayer that starts with amen lets go. It pivots and feels conviction and makes course corrections. It's an eager student and doesn't care who gets credit. Its highest goal is to put God on display" Wow! That's a challenge. But one I'm taking on. One other aspect of this time was walking. Julie and I walked a lot. We use this time to talk to each other, but also to listen to and talk with God.
Nick was accepted into the Informaticsprogram at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis) in January and has found his academic stride. In addition to a full load, he's been working at a hotel near campus. He bought a bike so he didn't need a car. His grades have been phenomenal. We're so proud of him and grateful that he is living within 30 minutes of us. But he may transfer to IU Bloomington next semester.
Last week Eliza and Nate moved from Upland, IN to Noblesville! They are only 7 minutes from us
and we LOVE it! Nate still works at Habitat for Humanity and Eliza is in between jobs, but has been selling paintings and is excited about the prospects of having her own business. They both have entrepreneurial hearts. (This is one of Eliza's paintings. It was auctioned for over $400.)
Please continue to pray for Julie's health. For wisdom for the doctors and us. And ultimately for healing.
Pray for our transition into our new roles, that we will be quick learners and add value to the development at all the sites. We will travel a lot in May in MX and the U.S.
Pray for the new directors and staff at the Cancun site. We continue to be grateful for their passion and vision for the site and their love for the families and children they serve.
Pray that God will be on display through our lives and the work that Back2Back is doing around the world. We're grateful to be part of such and amazing organization that God is using to serve orphans and marginalized families in significant ways.