Friday, December 18, 2009

I'll Be Home for Christmas!

Tomorrow I head back up north to the cold Michigan weather! In honor of my excitement to see family, friends and snow, I have added snow to my blog! :)

See you SOON!!

The Heart of Jesus

What a wonderful season Christmas is! I love that after thousands of years, the birth of Christ still brings healing, restoration and peace. People often talk about the "Spirit of Christmas", and in reality, the spirit of Christmas shows the heart of Christ and the things that he desires for us all year long.

The month of December has been a whirlwind of spreading Christmas cheer and showing Christ's love on the precious kids that we serve. The month started off with the women's group coming down with suitcases filled with presents, decorations, crafts and all things Christmas. Over the course of the week we have the privilage to visit each Casa Hogar that we work with and set up a tree and make ornaments and give each child their own Christmas gift! What a blessing it was to see the joy and excitement in the children's faces as they opened up their gifts and worked together to decorate their trees.

I will never forget one sweet little boy, Santiago, opening up his present of a huge dog stuffed animal and coloring books and markers, but the thing he was most excited about was the small tube of travel toothpaste. When he saw the toothpaste his eyes got wide and he gasped and he held it like it was a priceless treasure. The rest of the day he carried that tube with him where ever he went. This made me really sit back and think about how much I take things for granted, especially around Christmas, when there is an abundance of blessings everywhere I look.


Santa's Workshop! It requires alot of Christmas cookies to feed 500 kids!

The presents are wrapped and ready to go!


Decorating the tree!

Danny loved my candycane ears! When I bent down to give him a hug he pulled them right off my head and tried to eat them! He thought they were real candycanes! haha I love him!

The biggest blessing of all... MY MOM CAME TO VISIT!! She stayed with me and spent the weekend serving with the other women. How wonderful it was to be able to share this experience with her and show her what I do and where I live!

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The mission of Back2Back is to provide care for today and hope for tomrrow to the abandoned and neglected children of Monterrey, Mexico. One way we do that is through the care of orphans and supporting the children's homes that they live in. Another way that we carry out this mission is through serving the families who live in poverty in numerous squatter villages around the city. If we are able to provide support and education for these families, they will be able to provide for their children and our prayer is that this is preventing the creation of more orphans.
The Rio is one of the squatter villages that we work in, and last weekend I was blessed to be able to help out in throwing a Christmas party for the families that live there! I adore these kids!



Christmas is truely a time of joy, genorosity, peace and restoration. Priase the Lord for the hope that he provides for these children who have so little. I am honored to be able to love on them and help them understand the reason behind the gifts, crafts, cookies and parties.

I pray that you are resting in the hands of the One who came 2,000 years ago so that we could experience a love unlike any the world had ever known!

Merry Christmas!

Jessica

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"One Christmas Night"


SMCA Christmas Program 2009
I am proud to present a Christmas Program written entirely by my talented students! Over the past three weeks they have studied the birth of Christ and tried to imagine what it would have been like to be one of these characters that they read about. Next they wrote monologues from the prespectives of their chosen characters. This past Friday all of their hard work paid off in a wonderful performance!

The Cast of Characters:
Angel Speaking to Mary- Sofia Porto
Mary- Corinna Cooper
The Donkey- Luke Huffer
The Innkeeper- Jake Cooper
Angel Speaking to Shepherds- Sofia Porto
A Shepherd- Chloe Cooper
A Sheep in the Stable- Mark Huffer
King Herod- Ben Huffer
A Wise Woman- Cami Cooper
Joseph- Ben Huffer

We ended the show by rocking out to "Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)" by Chris Tomlin.

Welcome to the show!


I am so proud of my kiddos!

PS- I have a video of the show, but I have not been able to upload it this weekend. I will try again when I am home for Christmas!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

All in All

Days like today, when I have had a lot of time for reflection, I feel a pull in my spirit to do more. The need is so great and there are so many kids out there that need to be loved- showered with the love of their Heavenly Father! While I feel confident that I am where the Lord wants me to be right now, I also believe that he is using this time in mighty ways to prepare my heart for what is yet to come.

I sit here in the glow of my Christmas tree and sip a glass of punche (a delightfully warm and delicious Mexican holiday drink) and I am struck by how gentle God is with me! He knows my struggle of a love for creature comforts and he is ever so gently pruning me of the selfish desires of my heart. Even as I sit here in a time of prayer, I am being changed. Strengthened. Prepared. The things of this world are losing their shine and my heart feels like it could burst with joy as my vision becomes free of worldly distractions. As much as I love the soft flicker of a candle and my cozy down comforter and my colorful mixing bowls, I am no longer afraid to live without these kinds of things. How kind God is to give me this time to learn these lessons before I am living in a situation where creature comforts are not even an option. How kind God is to draw me to him and show me that without the things of this world I still have strength, courage, hope, joy and peace. But that without Him I would have nothing, I would be nothing. Without the things of this world I am still the woman that I was created to be, I still have a purpose, a passion and a calling. Without God I would have nothing. No passion. No purpose greater than myself. No joy. No hope. Praise God for teaching me this! This is one of those lessons that my mind has always known, but my heart has finally understood the depth of meaning behind these words. The song "All in All" has come to my mind...

You were my strength when I was weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all
When I am down you pick me up
When I am dry you fill my cup
You are my all in all
Seeking you as a precious jewel
Lord to give up I'd be a fool
You are my ALL IN ALL

I have sung those words hundreds of times and yet today I am struck anew by the meaning of them. These words define me because God defines me. People and things will come and go in my life but that will never chance who God is and who I am in Him!

I came here to try and change the world one orphan at a time and I am the one who is being changed.

Praise the Lord!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mexico City!

The week before Thanksgiving we took the SMCA kids and families on a 5 day trip to Mexico City! The trip was packed full of exploring the city and learning more about Mexican history and culture. What a joy it was for me to see the kids so excited about learning and experiencing some of the things that we had been learning about in the classroom.

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Day 1 was a day filled with travel. Since we were driving 8 hours, with 18 kids, we decided that it would be wise to break up the trip with some stops along the way. So we took a couple of hours to explore the city of San Luis Potosi.


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On Day 2 we headed out of the city to the Teotihuacan Pyramids.

The Pyramid of the Sun.
On top of the Pyramid of the Sun.



Juan Porto is one of the teen home parents on our campus and he grew up in Mexico City. He kindly offered to be our tour guide and teach us about all of the sites that we would be visiting. Above is a picture of Juan explaining to us the history of Teotihuacan.


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On Day 3 we toured the Palace of Chapulepec, explored the Museum of Anthropolgy and ended the day hanging out at the Children's Museum. Below is a picture of Hope, Ruby and I in the palace.

Above is all the kids with the palace in the background.

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On Day 4 we walked around downtown and visited the Federal Palace.


Inside of the Federal Palace.



Mexico City is built on top of the ancient city of Tenochtitlan. In the heart of downtown is el templo meyor. The is the site where the top of the largest pryamid is being excavated. It is incredible to think that while I was walking through the city, an entire ancient civilization was buried under my feet. Mexico City is also built on what used to be a large lake. Due to this, many old buildings have begun to sink. If you look closely at many of the buildings you will notice that they have a slight tilt to them.

Downtown we found many beautiful buildings! Above is a picture of the Theater and Architecture Museum.

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Throughout the trip we also ate some delicious... and unique... Mexican delicacies!

Ruby and I ate grasshoppers! The flavor was not too bad, they tasted mainly like salt and lime! However, the picture below will show you that the texture freaked me out a bit at first. I have to admit that the crunchiness came as a bit of a surprise to me. And finding a little leg between my teeth was a very new experience for me.


Below is the taco stand near Juan's mom's house. He insisted that we try some tacos made by his friends. They sure were delicious! Did I mention that they were cow eye tacos?


Yum yum! We love tacos!!
Here are all the flavors that you could order for the inside of your churro!!
The market where we did some shopping!


And just to prove that the trip had an educational focus, here is a picture of the kids writing in the travel journals that we kept throughout the trip. They used their journals for notes, sketches and reflections throughout the trip!
Thank you so much for reading my blog and your interest in the work I am doing with my kids. Many exciting things have been happening on our campus over the past few weeks and I believe that God is working in mighty ways in the Casa Hogars that we work with. I hope to make another video blog this week to try and help you see the bigger picture of the work Back2Back Mexico does. Until then, I pray that you have a wonderful week and are able to spend some time serving those around you as the Christmas season draws near!

With a heart filled with joy,

Jessica

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank You!

Earlier this month a staff group of 10 women and 2 brave men headed up to McAllen, Texas to serve the orphan child in a slightly different way...

We sorted and dehangered (I know that is not a real word) clothing, 20,000 pieces of clothing to be exact!

A women's clothing company donated 20,000 pieces of extra inventory from past seasons and had it shipped to a warehouse near the Mexican boarder. This clothing is a huge blessing for Back2Back because once we get it into Mexico we are able to put on fashion shows with the clothes and then ask for donations which apply towards tuition for our Hope Education Program. The donations from these clothes last year helped to pay for almost all of the highschool and college tuition expenses for the female teens, which is a very large sum of money! We are very thankful for the genorosity of this company!
20,000 pieces of clothing require alot of boxes!!
Betty, Kathy, Caroling, Christy, Cathy and Ruby hard at work!

Great teamwork Rosa and Betty!

All of the loads bagged and ready to go!

After 2 days, 20 hours of work, and 2 hours at Target, the weekend was a success!

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Last weekend we took the SMCA kids and families on a 5 day trip to Mexico City. I am in the process of sorting through the pictures and I will attempt to post another blog very soon!

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I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I have so much to be thankful for in this season of my life! One huge blessing is that we recieved the book grant that I spoke of last month! Praise the Lord! I will keep you updated as we begin moving forward on purchasing books.

Thank you for your continual prayers. I truely do thank God each time that I remember you! I look forward to the day when I can meet with you face to face and share about the work that God is doing through your partnership with this ministry! I could not be here with your your prayers, support and encouragement. I pray that you take time to pour out your thankfulness to God this Thanksgiving season. Even in times of trouble his faithfulness and goodness never ceases to astound me!

With a grateful heart,

Jessica

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fall Fun!

Every Fall the SMCA parents put on a Fall Festival for the staff kids and families! It is a fun night complete with costumes, games, apple cider (which is a rare treat in Mexico), a hayride and a bonfire!

My roommates and I decided to come dressed as condiments. We had BBQ Sauce, Mustard, Salt, Pepper, and Pickle Relish!
Here are all the SMCA kids and teachers!

I am so blessed by the community that I live in. I praise the Lord for all of the relationships that he has placed in this season of my life! Whether you are in Mexico, Michigan, or scatter across the US and the World, I value your friendship!
With Joy,
Jessica

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Welcome to My World!

I thought that it would be fun to show you a part of my world here in Mexico by welcoming you into my apartment and school! I am sorry for the poor video quality, good thing I am better at teaching than I am at filming! Also, at the end of the video I ran out of memory, so I get cut off. All you missed was me saying "Goodbye!"

Enjoy the tour!

video

Friday, October 30, 2009

Great is our God!

A couple weeks ago a Christian group called PureNRG came with Family Christian James Fund to serve! The highlight of my week was undoubtedly the concert that they put on. We got all of the Casa Hogares together at a church for the concert. It is rare that all of the Casa Hogares come together in one place, so you can imagine the excitement that filled the room! Before PureNRG performed, each of the Casa Hogares had the chance to perform! Watching all those precious kids sing praises to the Lord brought tears to my eyes. The joy in their faces as they watched PureNRG was such a blessing to witness. All in all the day was a blast for everyone involved and one that I will not soon forget!



Here are the kids from Imperio de Amor singing praises to Jesus!



The tambourine band from Casa Hogar Douglas!


PureNRG!!

Little Gabriella from Casa Hogar Del Norte has captured my heart and my dad's as well. She is new to the home and such a sweetheart. Please pray that she will grow into a woman of God who believes that she is loved and cherished by our Savior.



Here she is again! I adore her!

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Last Friday, SMCA took another field trip to a Puppet Museum downtown. We had so much fun! We learned about the history of puppets, watched a puppet show, and got to try out all the different types of puppets.
"The House of Puppets"

Some of the kids experimenting with the marionette puppets.



The SMCA kids outside of the museum!
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One of the many obstacles facing the kids that we work with in the Casa Hogares is their lack of reading skills. It is easy for them to fall behind in school and since they are unable to get the special attention that they need at home, many of them have never learn how to read. As I have been learning about this, my heart broke for the children even more, but I was unsure of what I could do to help due to my lack of Spanish skills. However, I quickly learned that God is so much bigger than my inability to speak Spanish. I recently learned that two of the children's homes are opening up libraries, and the moment I heard this, I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of!!
I learned that a woman in the States is applying from a grant from the Rotary Club and that if the grant goes through we will have money for the books to start the library at Del Norte. The problem was that she didn't have any idea what types of books would be good in a children's library. I quickly volunteered my services and last week I helped her finish off a few details on the grant application. We should find out soon if we will receive the grant. Please pray that we will! My heart fills with excitement as I think about using this library to instill a love for books and reading inside of children who had possibly given up on the opportunity to ever learn how to read!
How amazing is our God!?!? I can't even begin to answer that question!! He is continually blowing my mind! He planned that there would be a woman in the States with the funds, a head of a children's home with the desire to see her children read, and a teacher with knowledge of what books would be needed for the project!! I love how he gives separate people visions and then leads the to oneanother is his timeing! I have always had a love for children's books, and now God has allowed me to help with a project that will use this love to serve kids in a way that I had never dreamed of! Please pray that the grant will be approved.
Thankyou for your continual prayer and support! Please let me know if there is anything specific that I can be praying about for you.
Tonight is the Fall Festival put on by the SMCA families! Stay tuned for pictures of our costumes... it should be pretty funny!!
With Joy,
Jessica