Erick Mowery (’86) and Julie Mowery (’87) serve as lifetime partners as well as co-directors at their mission site in Cancun, Mexico. The couple works with Back2Back Ministries, serving the Lord through building families and preventing children from becoming orphans.
Out of the ministry’s six sites, the Mowery’s location is a little bit different. Most Back2Back sites work with orphanages and orphan care. In Cancun, however, they see a higher need to work with the families before the children are sent to the orphanages.
There are many broken homes, so they serve more in orphan prevention than orphan care. This system is called the Strong Families Program, and it is focused on building the family up so they can be self-sustainable and independent in Christ.
In action, this means they provide parents with parenting classes, assist children in education, and offer counseling to whoever may need it. Through building those families, Erick and Julie’s team desires to bring the families to Christ.
“Often times they are not open to hearing the Gospel when they are hungry or abused. And they can’t understand that God has a plan for their lives. We realized we needed to address the other things in a person’s life so that they can flourish and see transformation in their education, spiritual life, and physical life,” Julie said. They take a holistic care approach by also focusing on the individuals’ social and mental lives.
Erick’s favorite part of working with Back2Back is seeing true life change and transformation – “It’s neat to be able to reflect back and see that they weren’t reading, and now they are; they didn’t know Christ, and now they do… I’m thinking about one specific little girl who did not know Christ and now she does. Not only does she know Christ, but she is going out… And telling other people about Christ; and this is a girl who comes from a lot of abuse,” he said.
Both Erick and Julie look to particular verses for their inspiration. Julie looks at Micah 6:8 where Christians are instructed to “do justice.” “I’m passionate about finding the places and people who have fallen through the fabric – the forgotten people – and be their voice of what is wrong in hopes to lead them to Christ. I want o to help them realize that in this life, Christ came to give them life – abundant life. Right now, many of the people we work with don’t have hope… I get to share that with them and come up with programs and expose them to things and [remind them] that they have a purpose too,” Julie said.
Erick looks to Isaiah 58. In this chapter, the author discusses the connection between caring for the oppressed and shining God’s light. “It’s not optional,” Erick said. “We have to care for those that are oppressed, the marginalized, the widow, the fatherless… And then our light will shine. We have to care for them first before we share that light. If we show God’s character through our actions, then it will make others hungry for Him.”
The Mowery’s shared a story that exemplified the work God does through there ministry. There was a widow with eight children, and before Erick and Julie approached the mom, the government was about to remove all of the children from her care. Their ministry sat down with her and asked her what she needed help with and her response was, “I just want to be a mom.”
At that point, none of her children (ages 2-14) had been in school. Back2back ministries got seven of the children into the school system, but it was still difficult. The eleven-year-old daughter did not know how to read or write, so she was placed in the kindergarten class. They hired a tutor, and over the course of four years, that child can now read and write.
One requirement that Back2Back Ministries set for the mother was that she take her children to a church around the area because they wanted the family to experience support outside the ministry.
All of the kids in that family were baptized last May, and they keep growing and developing. Thanks to Erick, Julie, and their team, the mother now knows how to cook nutritious meals, and her children are excelling in school. The mother’s own well being as improved too as she has begun to connect socially with her neighbors and church community.
Their stories do not always work out exactly like that one. “Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back,” Erick said. Though he and Julie agreed that this is the most difficult thing they’ve ever done, they also agree it is the most rewarding.
The Mowery’s are thankful for their IWU experience because it taught them the value of community. They realize the importance of building strong relationships within their team. Erick said that he tells all of his staff members, “We are on the front lines. The enemy will do anything to prevent us from succeeding, so we have to be strong in our relationship with Christ, but we also have to be dependent on one another with prayer and community.” They also appreciated the experience of serving in the community that they lived in while at IWU, because it prepared them for what they do now.
Julie advises everyone to always remain teachable. One of the worst things you can do to yourself is think you’ve reached a point where you can no longer learn. It’s through that desire that you will find your purpose.
Written by Kelly Reed. Kelly is a senior Strategic Communications major with a focus in Public Relations. She is the President of IWU PRSSA and hopes to work as a communications director of a nonprofit organization after graduation. She loves to tell people’s stories through written word, artwork, speech and strategy. Visit Kelly’s personal website and blog at www.kellyreed.weebly.com.