An interview with Beth Guckenberger, Author of Tales of the Defended Ones
What do adopted children from Ethiopia, a child in slavery in Cambodia, a special-needs orphan from Mexico, and a foster child in the U.S. have in common? They are all real children whose lives of heartbreak and abandon became stories of hope skillfully and lovingly told in Beth Guckenberger’s latest book, Tales of the Defended Ones (Standard Publishing / January 28, 2013 / ISBN: 978-0784736975 / $ 8.99).
Q: Tales of the Defended Ones is the second release in the Storyweaver series. Can you share more about your vision for the series and what you hope readers will gain from reading your books?
I hope it spurs between children and the adults in their lives conversations of substance about real issues. I want children to learn with God’s worldview how to pray and go and understand slavery, adoption and orphan care. I pray it takes the cause and makes it personal through these true and real stories.
Q: Who are the defended ones you refer to in the books title? How can we help be defenders?
There is a child slave girl from Cambodia, two boys adopted from Ethiopia, a sibling set fostered in the United States and a special-needs orphan boy from Mexico. We can help be defenders by listening, understanding, praying, going, acting on their behalf, understanding God will defend them and if we raise our hand, He will involve us.
Q: How do you try to explain to kids that sometimes bad things do happen, even though God is watching?
We talk about that tension right off the bat. It’s so black and white with children, as we grow we wrestle with sovereignty and free will, but as kids, it seems it should be simpler. I do my best to explain it in chapter one, but again, I hope it spurs on conversation at the dinner table, in the classroom and in a youth group so other adults can share honestly how they handle those questions.
Q: What are some of the ways we can teach our children to see God working in situations?
Look for his movements, where He provides wisdom, rest, guidance, a helping hand, encouragement, etc. I think we have the opportunity to teach children to look for Him moving and then jump in the story! He has something for each of us!
Q: How were you able to gather these stories from children around the world?
The Mexico story happened here, where I live. The foster family is from my hometown in the U.S. The Ethiopian boys are dear friends of my brother’s family, who has also adopted from Ethiopia, and the Cambodian story is from Destiny’s Rescue, a ministry to slave children with whom we have formed a strong friendship.
Q: Unlike Tales of the Not Forgotten, this time one of the stories comes from the United States. Why was it important to you to include a story from within the U.S.?
I know there are children with needs all over the world, and that includes the U.S. There are thousands of children in foster care right in our hometowns! I wanted to spur conversations about how our families and churches can reach out to them.
Q: What is a good age to start introducing children the idea of mission work and helping others who may not be as fortunate as they are?
I don’t think a child can be too young. They will hear about these realities from school or the media. They will learn about child slavery and unclean water, orphan care and famine. It’s our privilege to shape their understanding of how God sees the children impacted by these crises. It’s our opportunity to teach and engage children in the issues so they grow up not intimated by the cause, but educated about it. This is our next generation; let’s listen as God whispers to them and deposits his heart into theirs.
Q: What is the target age for the Storyweaver series?
It was written for children between the ages of 8-12, but like Tales of the Not Forgotten, I have heard of families and teachers reading the stories out loud to children younger than 8. I also get a tremendous amount of mail from adults who don’t realize until the end it was for children! I think all ages can appreciate the stories.
Q: What other resources are available to go along with Tales of the Defended Ones? How can churches and families use the book and leader’s guide?
There is a leader’s guide CD that has supplemental material on the countries and the issues each story raises, as well as great activities to use for devotionals at home or as a classroom curriculum.
Q: How does Standard’s summer 2013 VBS curriculum (God’s Backyard Bible Camp) and the mission kit to be released this fall fit in?
We realized with the release of Tales of the Not Forgotten how hungry families and churches are to address these issues with children. The VBS highlights one of the stories from Tales of the Not Forgotten, a story about a four-year-old orphan who prays and asks God for steak (and He delivers!). This story is a launching pad to talk about prayer, about hunger, about orphans, about faith. It is our hope that VBS’ all over the country will stir in the hearts of the children a bold kind of faith that trusts God for answers to their questions. We hope it, along with the user-friendly mission kit, will facilitate for the teacher or parent these substantive conversations that encourage children to listen to God’s heart for the nations.
Q: Your own family isn’t what most people would consider “traditional.” Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
Todd and I have three biological children, have three adopted children and have raised three foster daughters.
Q: How can families join your work at the Back2Back Ministries campus in Mexico?
If they check out the website, back2back.org, we have lots of tools and FAQs about taking a family on a missions trip! Check us out!
Learn more about Beth Guckenberger and Back2Back Ministries at www.bethguckenberger.com, http://back2back.org, the Back2Back Ministries Facebook page (back2backministries) or Twitter (@bguckenberger).