An Open Letter to Those Who Partner with Blackbox


We long for the dayDear Partners,

It happens in movie theaters, at ballgames, and even in churches. It can happen atthe DMV or on the first day of class. Whatever the circumstance, someone saved your place and when you arrived. There was space for you—a spot with your name on it.

Since the first home opened in the Dominican Republic, we knew that eventually the tenth boy would walk through the door. There has always been this space—this spot that was being held for the right time, and, I’m convinced, for just the right boy.

When word came that he had arrived, my first thought was, “We’ve been waiting for you!”

He doesn’t really know what the home holds for him: safety, love, acceptance, help. His whole world has changed, and he has no clue. All he knows is that there was a place for him!

Thank you for giving. Your gift creates a place for grace to come rushing in to meet boys when they come to take their place with the others.

The Story MUST change,

Wade Landers

Executive Director


P.S. Would you pray for the opening of the second home to provide space for 12 more boys at Blackbox? The work is hard, but it’s ALWAYS worth it!

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To Serve

It’s why He came, really.

It’s why Jesus left His throne in heaven and took on flesh and came to earth.

It’s why he taught people and healed them and endured the cross.

It’s all for one purpose: to serve.

“The Son of Man did not come to be served,” Jesus said of himself, “but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Ironically, Jesus said those words to a mother asking for a special reward for her sons. She wanted them to receive special honor, above everyone else.

But Jesus replied that his kingdom is an upside down one, where the greatest and first will be servants and slaves. He said that he—God in flesh—didn’t come to be honored by people. He came to serve them. Even to the point of death, Jesus served those who could not possibly pay Him back—“while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

At the Blackbox home in the Dominican Republic, everyone—from the school teacher and counselor to the house parents and country directors—came to serve. They didn’t join the Blackbox team because it was easy or to receive a special honor. They joined because they wanted to serve.

Our team overseas cares for boys in need—teaching and offering healing in His name—to honor the One who served us all.

Want to help change the story for our boys, and hundreds of thousands like them? Now’s your chance to serve.

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Open Eyes

Open eyesLast spring, Wade Landers and Chris DeWelt traveled with Blackbox to India. They visited a ministry there, in an area of Calcutta that’s home to one of the largest brothels in the world and has over 15,000 prostitutes.

As Wade and Chris talked with the ministry leader, the familiar question arose:

“Does this really happen to boys, too?”

Wade and Chris explained: Yes, sadly, it does. In fact, hundreds of thousands of boys are trafficked for sexual exploitation each year. On learning this, the minister was surprised and saddened. Later, though, he told Wade and Chris that their conversation had opened his eyes.

“I see it now! Now, nearly everywhere I go, I see boys tucked in different places. You’ve opened my eyes, so I have to ask myself, ‘What do I do about it?’”

At Blackbox International, sometimes we simply serve as eye openers. We make people aware of the realities around them, because, after all…when God’s people see, they act.

God, open our eyes. Give us eyes to see, that we might have mouths to speak and hands to act. When we see, we act. And when we act in Your Name…the story will change.

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“Look What I Did!”

Hearts softened

Every parent knows: kids love to share their successes.

“Daddy, watch me run fast!”

“Do you like my new shoes?”

“Look at the picture I drew!”

Children are like sponges, soaking up every ounce of affirmation and praise we can offer. That’s a good thing—a God-given need—and our words of encouragement build confidence and speak powerfully into their lives.

When boys first entered the Blackbox home, they had no such confidence—no esteem for themselves. Over time, though, little by little, they grew.. On a recent visit to the home, we were blown away at their progress.

“Tio, look what I did!” one boy exclaimed, showing off a good grade he’d made in school.

“Do you like my picture?” said another.

And best of all, “Watch me box!” grinned a boy, as he shadowboxed hooks and jabs.

Over the course of our visit, every single boy in the home came to us to share some sort of success. Each one of them has gained the confidence and trust to approach us for praise.

“Look what I did!” To most parents, it’s a common enough request. But to the Blackbox team, it’s a sign of health—an outward statement of inner growth.

And to you, our partners in ministry…look what you did! Your prayers and support make it possible for boys to move from shame to confidence and from hurt to health. We’re so grateful for your help in offering hope and change.

Because the story must change.

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It’s Your Day

Not stopped praying

“Since the day we heard about you,” the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae, “we have not stopped praying for you.”

Do we pray like that? When we hear someone’s story—their struggles or needs or even their successes—do we immediately and unceasingly pray? What a difference our continual prayers could make! What changes we could see…if we determined to not stop praying.

At a recent board meeting, our trustees determined to not stop praying for the ministry of Blackbox International. Each board member chose one day of the week to set aside for prayer. Several will fast on their day, too, and devote a few minutes a week to lift up the boys we serve.

What if we joined them? What if we, too, chose a day of the week to pray? Maybe we could pray with our kids every Sunday night as we tuck them into bed. We could set an alarm for noon each Tuesday, and pray for Blackbox as we eat.

“It’s your day!” we could put in our calendars. Your day to pray for the ministry of Blackbox International. It’s that simple—and profound. Here are a few specific ways to remember Blackbox each week:

  1. Pray for the boys—for those who are in our home now, and for those who need to be. We can’t show you their faces or tell you their names, but the Lord knows. Pray for their wholeness and healing.
  2. Pray for the team—for the leadership here in the States, and for our “troops on the ground” overseas. Pray for wisdom, discernment, encouragement, perseverance and grace.
  3. Pray for the future—for what the Lord has up His sleeves for Blackbox International. Pray for the boys who will come, the countries we’ll enter, the partnerships we’ll build and the homes we’ll establish. Pray that God will lead and provide every step of the way.

It’s your day to pray continually, because the story must change. “Since the day we heard about you,” we’ll say to the boys of Blackbox International, “we have not stopped praying for you.”

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The God Who Sings

Rejoice over you with singing copyWhen I was in high school, I worked at an indoor playground for kids. The place was filled with plastic slides and tunnels and ball pits, and one of my responsibilities was to host children’s birthday parties. Parents would rent a party room, where I’d lead their guests in cheesy games and serve them cheesy pizza. And, of course, the most important part—I’d light the giant candle on the cake, and lead everyone in singing, “Happy Birthday!”

Leading birthday parties taught me that kids react very differently to that song. Some kids pumped their fists in the air while people sang, smiling, and even singing along to themselves. It was as if they were thinking, “Yes! YES! All for me!” They soaked up the attention and loved every minute.

But other kids hated “Happy Birthday.” They stared nervously at the cake, or at their moms. Some even hid their faces in their hands until the song ended. Attention was the very last thing they wanted.

Regardless of the child’s reaction, every single party sang that song. It was the way we honored the birthday child. “We are celebrating you…you are precious to us!”

These days, when my kids have birthdays, I love to throw parties for them. My mind flashes back to their first birthdays, when they smeared cake all over their faces. I tell them stories of their births, and wonder at how big they’re getting. And always, I sing “Happy Birthday” to celebrate them.

Amazing, but true–God does the same thing. The prophet Zephaniah said that God will “rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). Just as I celebrate my children’s birthdays, the Lord celebrates His children–even with song. The very God who set the moon and stars in their place finds me precious. He rejoices over me with singing!

God sings over His children a world away, too—those whose moms can’t throw birthday parties for them. The children who aren’t even sure when their birthday is. Listen closely, and you’ll hear the tune. He sings in the hug of Blackbox house parent. He sings in the smile of our school teacher, as she encourages the boys in their studies. He sings a lullaby as boys fall asleep, too—over those boys safe and sound in the Blackbox bunkbeds, and over those who are not yet free.

At Blackbox, we teach our boys what God is like. “He’s a God who loves,” we say, “and the God who restores. He’s the God who helps and heals and makes all things new.”

And He’s also the God who sings…He celebrates you, because you are precious to Him.

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

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It All Started with a Box of Lego

It all started with a box of Lego.

Well, a box of Lego, and a mom who wanted to help. She had sons of her own, and couldn’t imagine what hundreds of thousands of boys around the globe face every day. She wanted to support Blackbox International, and to teach her kids to give and serve and help, too.

And so, together, they loaded up a box of their own Lego, along with other building toys donated by her friends. Blackbox Field Director Roger Twitchell delivered the gifts to the Dominican Republic home last Christmas. Today, those simple toys let boys a world away play and imagine, create and build.

When kids construct Lego towers, testing how high it can reach before toppling over, they find that the strongest buildings have the surest foundations. Likewise, at the Blackbox home, boys learn that the strongest lives are built on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ.

After all, God is in the construction business.

“Look,” He says of His Son, “I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable” (Isaiah 28:16).

And Peter—whose nickname meant “the rock”—elaborates: “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:4-5, 10).

At Blackbox, we pray that every boy who joins our family will know how chosen and precious he is. We point him to the sure foundation, Jesus Christ, so that he can lead an unshakable life. The Blackbox team of teachers, counselors, house parents, field directors, trustees and more are simply builders on a project begun long ago, teaching living stones to build on the Living Stone, because it all started with the sure foundation already laid by the Lord.

Well, His sure foundation…and a box of Lego.

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Welcome to Being Stoned

Impossible Ministries Possible copy

by Peter Buckland, Blackbox International Trustee

One night when I was 20, I prayed that God would give me a hard ministry—a ministry like the Apostle Paul’s.

“If my ministry is too easy,” I told God, “I’ll be dissatisfied and quit.”

Needless to say, my idealism was running rampant in that prayer. Over time, I forgot about that night. At age 28, my wifeVana and I moved to Cookson Hills Christian Ministries, and by age 32 I was seriously ready to quit. I was out running an errand for the ministry, and as I drove, I composed my resignation letter in my mind. I told the Lord that the ministry was just too hard and impossible to accomplish—that He’d picked the wrong man and I was done. I didn’t even ask Him for guidance. I was just finished.

After telling God my plans to quit, I turned on the radio. Chuck Swindoll was preaching about the Apostle Paul. Here is what he said:

“…and they stoned Paul and left him for dead. He revived and went back into the city.”

At that instant, God brought my prayer from 12 years earlier back to my mind. He had not forgotten. He had given me exactly what I’d asked for. I started to laugh, turned off the radio, and stayed at Cookson until it was time for me to leave six years later.

At times, the work of Blackbox International seems impossible. The numbers are staggering, the challenges are overwhelming and the process is messy. We feel, at times, a little like Paul, and we smile to ourselves, “Welcome to being stoned.” Yet, just as Paul revived and went back into the city, we persevere. We continue the work to which God has called us, because we know…He makes the impossible possible.

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Bold as a Lion

Several years ago, my husband and I spent the day at a zoo. As we walked through the park, we heard a low, rumbling sound. We couldn’t tell what it was at first, but when it grew louder, there was no question.

It was a lion.

All at once, everyone on the trail began to run toward the lion exhibit. We joined in, not wanting to miss the king of the jungle’s big moment. What had him so angry? Was he fighting another lion? We rounded one bend and then another before finally reaching the lion—we could hear him from that far away! And what we saw surprised us all.

The lion was simply resting on the ground, all stretched out in the sun like the big cat he was, looking half asleep. He wasn’t angry at all. And yet, even his sleepy roar had been loud enough to get our attention from a distance. Close up, it was so powerful it made my breath catch and my neck break out in chills.

“He isn’t even trying,” my husband said, “and he’s still that loud! How scary would he be if he really roared?”

Lions are awe-inspiring, magnificent creatures. They command respect. They’re kings for a reason. The Book of Proverbs compares a righteous man to a lion:

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

Bold as a lion! Righteous people are awe-inspiring. They leave a lasting impact on the world they touch. Righteous people fight boldly against the injustices and evils around them—against things like trafficking and exploitation and abuse. Righteous people stand courageously in defense of those who can’t defend themselves. Righteous people command respect—respect for the Lion of Judah Himself.

But. When it comes to the war against sin—the struggle against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”—how often are we caught napping? Even our smallest efforts make a difference, of course…but what if we, the people of God, rose to our feet against injustice? What if we determined to make a difference for the boys Blackbox reaches around the world? What if we prayed and served and gave?

How many lives could be rescued and redeemed? How many stories would change?

What if we did all we could on behalf of someone else, for God’s glory?

What if we roared?

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How Old Are You?

Boys stick around

by Executive Director Wade Landers

It’s a simple question.

How old are you? 

The answer? Not so simple.

When boys first arrive at one of our houses in the Dominican Republic, they almost always answer with an older age than they really are—always trying to convince us that they are as close to age 18 as can be believed. 18 is the “magic” age. At 18, boys can choose to leave care facilities like ours at any time because they’re considered adults. They aren’t sure yet if they’ll like being in our home. Many have lived fairly independent lives, and have often been on the streets from an early age. They want to keep their options open. It’s understandable.

The longer they stay in the home, the more accurate the answer emerges. Sometimes, in just a matter of months, a boy’s age drops 2-3 years! They begin to realize that this is a good place. They aren’t in as big a hurry to leave as they first thought.

But even more important than how long they have been with us is how healthy they are becoming. The healthier they are, the younger they answer. We now have boys who actually try to convince us they are younger than they really are. They want to stick around longer, because this is more than just a good place. It’s becoming home. Here, they are not only safe. They are also growing into healthy young men.

Will you help more boys who need a safe, healthy place like Blackbox? Your donations are such a blessing, and we’re grateful for your partnership…because the story must change.

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