by Beth Guckenberger
How do you get involved in missions? According to Beth Guckenberger, author of the new book Tales of the Defended Ones and co-founder of Back2Back Ministries, you start by offering what you have. She tells more about her own experiences below.
Guckenberger is available for interviews on her latest book, as well as the SuperSimple™ Mission Kit (available this fall) she developed with Standard Publishing. The goal of Guckenberger’s books, as well the mission kit, is to instill a heart of service in children.
We were out of projects, out of supplies, and out of motivation. And now, we were almost out of time.
My husband Todd and I were sponsors for our church’s youth mission trip to Querétaro, Mexico. We’d visited there a few years in a row, and we knew in general what to expect. A little paint and polish, some late-night tacos, a little talking to others about Jesus.
The truth was, no one really seemed to care we were there. As I was unpacking the painting materials, I remember thinking, haven’t we painted this wall before? We were frustrated, the students on the trip were uninspired, and worst of all, the people we had traveled all this way to serve seemed, well . . . uninterested.
“Do you remember the orphanage we visited in Tirana?” he asked. He had his back to me, bending over as he cleaned some paintbrushes.
My mind flew to another country and another time—another mission trip, one to Eastern Europe. I remembered talking to college students about Jesus—it was the first time those young Albanians had ever heard about him! Then one afternoon, someone took us to visit an orphanage. “Do I remember? Yes, of course I remember. Why?”
“Do you think there are any orphanages in this town?”
Within ten minutes of his question, we left the students with the other adult sponsors and jumped into a taxi, feeling like God was leading us to find an orphanage.
Looking back now, it seems so foolish. Silly, even. Right? We didn’t really speak Spanish, we didn’t have that much money with us if we came into trouble, and we were in a city we could have easily gotten lost in. We should have just stayed with our group, stayed safe.
But an hour later, we landed in front of a children’s home on a dusty road and knocked at the door, waving good-bye to our taxi driver. When we engaged with the children, I was instantly enchanted. The adults had a few questions for us. What were we doing there?
“We have $200, twenty-five students, and one day left on our trip. What could you do with those resources?” Todd asked. (I have since learned all missions’ opportunities, all outreaches start this way. You offer what you have in your hands to those you want to reach and then give all the credit to Jesus.)
The man shifted his eyes back and forth and then said softly, “The children haven’t had meat in a year, and that window up there is broken.” He waved in the direction of a window above us.
And as simple as that, our first mission began.
That was 1996 and today we are the Executive Directors of Back2Back Ministries, which has sites ministering to orphans in India, Nigeria, and three cities in Mexico, where I have lived ever since. It started with some hamburgers (which we later found kids hiding under their mattresses) and has grown now to education, outreach, general care, foster care, pre-emptive care, etc. But I will never forget how we started, just two people whose hands were in the air.
Beth Guckenberger and her husband, Todd, are the founders of Back2Back Ministries (based in Cincinnati, Ohio), which communicates a lifestyle of service by sharing the love of Christ and serving God through service to others. Back2Back Ministries connects willing workers to open hearts through international and local ministry opportunities. Their ministry is currently caring and providing for orphan children and needy people in Mexico, Nigeria, India and, most recently, Haiti.
Guckenberger travels and speaks regularly at women’s and missions conferences, as well as youth gatherings and church services. She is also the author of four books and co-hosts a weekly radio program with Dr. Rob Hall. Real Life with Beth and Rob airs on Saturdays on Family Talk (channel 131) on Sirius/XM Radio (reallifewithbethandrob.com).
The Guckenberger family lives and serves in Monterrey, Mexico, where they have hosted more than 12,000 guests on their ministry campus. Between biological, foster and adopted additions to their family, Beth and Todd are raising nine children.