Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 8, 2018

On the Death of John Chau

The recent death of John Chau sparked a media debate over extreme missionary work. Twenty-six year-old Chau was killed on November 16 while trying to contact one of the world’s last unengaged tribes — the Sentinelese.

The Sentinelese people inhabit the North Sentinel Island of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. They subsist on what they gather and hunt. These islanders remain completely isolated from the rest of the world. We know very little about them.

The first documented contact with the Sentinelese dates back to the late nineteenth-century. A British admiral (some believe a probable pedophile) visited the island and kidnapped, then later returned, some of the children of the island.

After that first traumatic encounter, the islanders became suspicious of and aggressive toward outsiders. Almost every person who has attempted to set foot on the island since then has been killed. The Indian government has therefore made it illegal for anyone to visit the Sentinelese.

The Indian government also restricts outside contact with the Sentinelese because they have no immunity to the diseases that could decimate their small population. Contact with outsiders would expose the Sentinelese to germs that could result in deaths.

Little is known about the language of the Sentinelese. According to the Joshua Project, their language is different from other languages of the Andaman Islands. And, of course, the Sentinelese language is unwritten.

Enter John Chau, a twenty-six year old Christ-follower with a passion for the nations. His Instagram feed tells the story of a young man with an insatiable thirst for life and adventure. His photos document his short-term mission work as well as other adventures.

A graduate of Oral Roberts University, Chau later became a member of All Nations, a missionary sending organization. He received some cross-cultural training and coaching from this organization. Chau also pursued linguistics and wilderness training to better prepare for engagement among the nations.

From the time he was a teenager, Chau had studied about and dreamed of taking the gospel to people like the Sentinelese. That tells me a lot about his heart. He wanted to move in the direction of those who have yet to hear about Jesus. I respect that.

So, what went wrong? Why did Chau end up dead at 26 on the shore of a remote island?

I offer these observations as one who has found himself more than once in a context turned dangerous. I have visited several islands in the Bay of Bengal, albeit closer to Bangladesh. I know what it is like to be afraid when suddenly something happens that signals things are about to get ugly.

My observations are in no way intended to disparage John Chau or his earnest desire to reach out to the Sentinelese. I wish I had known him. In a day when too many are self-absorbed, people like Chau remind us to look beyond ourselves.

If I could have spoken to Chau, I would have offered these observations.

First, learn from history. Everything we know about the Sentinelese tells us that they desire to remain isolated and are willing to kill to prevent outsiders from visiting their island home. A brief visit from some Indian anthropologists seems to be the lone exception. All other attempts to engage with the islanders have been unsuccessful. That is not likely to change any time soon.

Second, do not go alone. Alone is dangerous. When Jesus appointed seventy-two and sent them out, He sent them two by two (Luke 10:1-12). There is much wisdom in that! Chau paid some Indian fishermen to break the law by transporting him to North Sentinel Island — and he went alone. That was not wise given the history of the Sentinelese.

Third, language matters. At this point in history, only the Sentinelese speak Sentinelese. That in itself presents a challenge but, given time, not an insurmountable one. Many Wycliffe Bible Translators through the years have ventured to difficult places to learn a language, develop an alphabet, and then begin the process of translating the Scriptures.

On his first attempt to reach the island by kayak, two armed Sentinelese moved toward Chau in an apparent attempt to keep him from coming ashore. Chau later wrote in his journal, “I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you.’” Of course, Chau’s words were incomprehensible to the Sentinelese.

Fourth, know when to walk away. Jesus instructed the seventy-two that if they were not welcomed at a place, they were to wipe the dust off their feet and go away. It is important to note that the Sentinelese were not rejecting the gospel because they have yet to hear the gospel. They were instead rejecting an intruder to their island.

Nevertheless, there is wisdom in walking away when the situation warrants it. Walking away does not mean giving up. It means that the time may just not be right. To persist can lead to deeper problems, including violence. Sometimes the best way forward is by taking a step backwards and waiting patiently for the right opportunity.

Fifth, do not let your passion overshadow wisdom. After being rebuffed the first time, Chau wrote in his journal, “I turned and padded like I never have in my life.” Chau returned to the island a second time only to be greeted by a volley of arrows, one of which pierced his Bible.

Finally, Chau returned a third time and was killed. Doing the same thing in the same way again and again generally does not yield different results. Many mountain climbers have died because of summit fever — allowing their passion to reach the summit, when it was inadvisable, to overrule the wisdom of temporarily retreating and living to climb another day.

Sixth, seek the wisdom of many counselors. To his credit, Chau sought counsel and training from a sending organization. Learning from those with wisdom honed by years of experience is important. Proverbs 11:14 says, “in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Although Chau’s sending organization did not try to discourage him, they did caution him clearly that he was putting his life on the line. After that, they had no direct contact with him.

Seventh, be patient. A mentor of mine who heads a sending organization told me of a friend of his who had a passionate desire to see the Raute people come to faith in Christ. He prayed fervently for this people group and led others to do the same for twenty years. Only recently did he make contact and begin to see the answers to his prayers.

Finally, live to adventure another day. In a beautiful passage in Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote that to live is Christ and to die is gain. And while he preferred to be with Christ (Philippians 1:21-23), Paul believed the Philippians needed his continued help and encouragement (Philippians 1:24). So, he wanted to remain alive for the sake of the Philippians.

I wish Chau had walked away after the first volley of arrows and instead remained alive for the sake of the Sentinelese. He could have championed prayer initiatives for the Sentinelese, developed a wiser strategy to reach them, sought out those on adjacent islands who might be able to open doors, and more.

Chau’s story will no doubt be told and debated again and again in missions circles. It is a cautionary tale for those who seek to obey the last command of Christ. One writer observed that although Chau was killed while serving as a missionary, he was killed because of his unpreparedness. However uncomfortable it may be to admit it, there is truth in that.

However, in spite of any clumsiness on the part of Chau, I believe that God will bring good out of it all. A trusted friend pointed out to me that Chau’s clumsiness trumps our doing nothing. Ouch! There is indeed truth in that.

Perhaps, my friend pointed out, the Sentinelese will one day hail Chau as a hero in spite of his clumsiness because he had the passion to go while others had crossed them off their lists or were not even aware they existed.

Chau’s death has unwittingly put unreached peoples like the Sentinelese on the prayer radars of Christians around the globe. And, as in the cases of others who have died while trying to take the gospel to hard places, God will raise up others who will go. Many will be inspired to a greater boldness because of Chau’s story.

My intent has not been to either disparage or to dishonor Chau’s death but instead to try to understand it. I am deeply saddened by the death of this young man. As someone whose own heart has been oriented to hard places, I understand Chau’s heart and his desire to move toward the Sentinelese.

My prayer is that God will indeed redeem Chau’s death and that one day the Sentinelese will hear, in their own language, the story of the God who loves them. May we learn good lessons from the human frailty and divine calling of John Chau. And like him, may we consistently move in the direction of those who have yet to hear the gospel.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 28, 2018

Into the 4/14 Window

For years missiologists have challenged the church to reach into the 10/40 Window — a rectangular shaped area located between 10 degrees and 40 degrees latitude north of the equator. This geographical region stretches from North Africa all the way to East Asia and is home to the world’s least reached people groups.

In addition to venturing into the 10/40 Window, our missions ministry is actively engaged in the 4/14 Window. This window is not defined by latitude or longitude. Instead it defines the ages during which most people come to faith in Christ. Children are most likely to embrace the gospel between the ages of 4 and 14.

Children represent the largest unreached people group in the world as well as the most receptive people group to every form of spiritual and developmental input. That’s why we have made caring for children a priority in our work among the nations. We care deeply about the physical and spiritual welfare of children around the globe.

Many children live in dangerous contexts that threaten to rob them of their innocence and, in some cases, their lives. Whether that context is the womb of an abortion-minded woman or a geographic location where children are at risk of disease, disasters, and deprivation — we are committed to championing the rights and meeting the needs of children at risk.

Many children live in cultures that are hostile to the gospel and keep people in darkness. Unless someone moves in the direction of these children, they may never have an opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are committed to pushing past fear and moving in the direction of these cultures in order to show and to share the love of God with children.

We also believe that children should have access to a good education that includes exposure to a biblical worldview. That’s why we are also committed to funding education initiatives in some of the most unlikely places — from the beaches of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to remote Himalayan villages in Nepal, from the hills of the Indian subcontinent to the jungles Cambodia and beyond.

If you are a Kingsland member, check your mailbox this week for your copy of our 2019 missions publication — “Into the 4/14 Window.” 
As you read through the pages of this publication, you will learn about some of the ways in which we are impacting the lives of children around the world.

Ask God to open your eyes and your heart to the plight and needs of children among the nations where we are engaged. And ask God to guide you in your giving to our missions ministry so that we can continue to change the world for children in the 4/14 Window and beyond.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 14, 2018

She Deserves To Be Alive

In what is perhaps the most bizarre and creepy advertisement in favor of abortion, The Agenda Project Action Fund managed to reach a new low. Their forty-second video ad, titled “The Chosen,” draws you in with the disarming image of an absolutely beautiful baby girl — and then hits your sensibilities right in the gut.

As the video starts, the baby girl is gently cooing and reaching toward the screen as Brahm’s “Lullaby” plays in the background. A few seconds in, a message is displayed on the screen: She deserves to be (pause added for dramatic effect) loved.

A few seconds later another message appears on the screen: She deserves to be (pause) wanted.

Finally, a third message appears on the screen: She deserves to be (pause) a choice. This followed by the hashtag #StandWithPP.

A wise man once said that what lies in the well of the heart will, sooner or later, come up in the bucket of speech. This ad, although not new, certainly dredged up a bucketful of depravity from the depths of an organization that has no problem with ending life in the womb, and perhaps out of the womb. The ad can be interpreted as promoting both abortion and infanticide.

According to this ad, being a choice ranks right up there with being loved and wanted. They are all equal as far as the Agenda Project is concerned. This ad lays out the criteria they believe a child needs to meet in order to avoid being aborted. And since a child in the womb of an abortion-minded woman is neither loved nor wanted, then the choice to terminate that life is acceptable.

Why is it that a baby is a baby only when it is convenient and only when it is loved and wanted by the mother? Why is it that when it is not convenient then the baby is reclassified as tissue or clumps of cells?

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason observes, “If the unborn is not human, then no justification for abortion is necessary. It would be no different from having a mole removed or a tooth pulled. But if the unborn is human, then no justification for abortion is adequate.”

Choices do indeed have consequences — and the preborn are always on the losing end of choices made by those who deem they are neither loved nor wanted or have come at an inconvenient time (as if the child had anything to do with that). Mother Teresa observed, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

The Agenda Project Action Fund website claims that they don’t spend big bucks to buy media so that they can impose their ideas on America. “Instead,” they claim, “we create remarkable expressions of our values which spread because truth cannot be ignored.”

The Agenda Project has indeed communicated more than their values, they have also imposed their ideas. They certainly have a right to do that, even if their ideas are based on a worldview that favors the strong and puts the weak and vulnerable at risk. Even though I do not like their ad, it is at least an honest reflection of their values. No question about where they stand.

Yes, every child deserves to be loved and wanted. But every child also deserves to be alive. If we are not careful, by denying the right to life to the preborn, we will unwittingly contribute to building the gallows that may one day put our own lives in danger if we are ever classified as unloved and unwanted.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 6, 2018

After the Mid-Terms

Today, record numbers of Americans are casting their votes in the mid-term elections. In a few hours, we will know the new makeup of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Early forecasts indicate that both Democrats and Republicans may each have something to be happy about.

After the mid-terms we will enter into the next news cycle in which pundits will do their thing. Personalities on both sides will point to the sky and declare that while it may not be falling just yet, from where they stand it certainly appears to be sagging a bit more than usual.

After the mid-terms, we can be assured that the political dialogue, such as it is, will continue. I use the words “such as it is” to describe our dialogue because we have seemingly lost the capacity to treat those with whom we disagree with kindness and respect.

When we replace the exchange of ideas with the exchange of insults we create the kind of static that makes it hard to listen to one another — or to want to listen to one another. If you cut off another person’s nose then it really will make it hard for them to smell your rose.

I am praying that, after the mid-terms, the winds of respect and civility will return and blow away the toxic clouds of vitriol that have us all gasping for air. We must not allow our political views to obscure our view of people and their inherent worth as those created in God’s image. We must not disparage others or wish them harm just because they hold a different view.

As a Christ-follower, I believe that God is ultimately in control. And if God is in control then nothing under His control can ever be out of control. He is moving history in a meaningful and purposeful direction. Our frustrations stem from not knowing what God knows and failing to recognize His ways.

After their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were guilty of complaining much about Moses, their leader. On those occasions when they either ran out of water or bread, they complained that Moses had led them into the wilderness to die. The people based their happiness on having to see God act on their behalf in a certain way. If God failed to act in the way they wanted, then they complained.

Moses, on the other hand, looked beyond the acts of God to consider the ways of God. He did not have to see God perform certain acts in order to be assured that God was acting. He understood the ways of God — that God had a greater purpose for His people that transcended their fears and the signs they wanted in order to feel better about their journey through the wilderness.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews used a particular Greek word to describe Moses’ servanthood — the word “therapon” from which we get our word therapy and therapist. Because Moses understood the deeper ways of God he did not panic when the water or the food ran low. He knew that God was up to something bigger, that He was in control, and that He would work out His purposes.

I believe that God is up to something bigger and that He uses the most unlikely people to accomplish His purposes. I am therefore committed to trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the mid-term elections. If candidates for whom I did not vote are elected, then that is my cue to pray for them and to ask God to give them the wisdom to lead us well.

I love America. Having traveled to almost fifty countries, I can say with all certainty that there is no better place on earth — and no other place I want to live. I am grateful to live in a country where I can exercise my right to vote even though that right does not guarantee the results I may want.

Here is what I will not do after the mid-terms. I will not speak ill of those who are elected or who hold a different political view. I will not allow politics to become the determining factor to friendship or fellowship. I will not panic and declare that the sky is falling. I will not lose hope or give in to despair. And I will not trust my limited understanding.

Instead, I will love people regardless of the political banner they fly. I will treat others with respect and not allow unwholesome speech to come out of my mouth. I will continue to believe that God’s ways are good, that nothing catches Him by surprise, that His thoughts are higher than mine, and that His ways and purposes are beyond my understanding.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 30, 2018

Nepal’s True Treasure

Nepal is a land of unparalleled natural beauty. I’m talking about hard to put into words kind of beauty — the kind that takes your breath away, mesmerizes you, and leaves you slack-jawed and speechless. When in the presence of such beauty it really is best to just remain silent and let your head and your heart do their work of turning it all into something you’ll never forget.

Beyond the natural beauty of Nepal lies its true treasure — the various people groups that call this magnificent slice of geography their home. For everybody in America, cross-training is an exercise routine. For the Nepali people it is a way of life. From the time they are young, the folks around here become conditioned to walking up and down precarious mountain trails, often toting heavy loads.

For the past week, my team and I have served with our partners, trekking to villages in the Himalayas that redefine remote and rugged. Getting to these villages was nothing short of the kind of pain that makes your lungs scream as your legs question your sanity. And in this place, every step seems to lead you toward the clouds on trails that would make a mountain goat think twice. But, persistence pays off.

Bobby and Breck, a couple of the guys on our team, set off with our partners-turned-guides on a backpacking trek high into the mountains. They visited village churches where people gathered with friends and neighbors to watch the Jesus Film. Packed into small stone structures with low ceilings, men, women, and children sat on the floor and watched the story of Jesus unfold before their eyes.

For these church members, this was their first opportunity to see a story that they had only heard previously. It gave them a deeper understanding of the gospel narrative and how the pieces fit together. It was the kind of experience that works itself into dreams and will continue to play in their minds as they do their daily work.

For our guys, this challenging trek was an opportunity to hike slowly among the people, to have conversations along the way, to observe life as it is, to share meals in humble homes — essentially to build bridges of love that lead to meaningful interaction between people of different cultures. No wonder folks asked them to stay longer.

My friend Terry and I set off to do the same, to visit churches in remote areas. Our strategy involved driving on sketchy mountain roads and then hiking the rest of the way in. Our partner had asked us to teach on selected spiritual development topics in the churches. Some of those in attendance walked from as far as three-hours away in order to take part in this training. Humbling to say the least. That is what a spiritual appetite looks like.

A highlight for me was getting to meet a young man who pastors a church of about fifty people — amazing when you consider many of the villages are not much larger than that. This young pastor lit up the room with his smile. He radiated a contagious joy. I instantly liked him even before we were formally introduced.

And then I learned that his days are likely nearing an end. A little more than ten years ago a large tumor began to grow on his head. The prognosis was that he only had a short time to live. He found a doctor that agreed to help him but who was later killed in a plane crash. With no one to turn to, this young man turned to God and humbly asked for ten more years to serve Him.

That was eight years ago. He told us that he knows his days on this earth will soon end and has no complaints. He is grateful to God for giving him every single day. He determined a long time ago to not waste those days bemoaning his horrible condition but instead to embrace and to make the most of every day.

The young pastor invited me to take a photo of his tumor to serve as a reminder that we all deal with our respective thorns in the flesh. We can allow these things to either embitter or encourage us. He has chosen the latter and it has made all the difference for him and those to whom he ministers. Every day, that ugly tumor reminds him to do something beautiful for God. Totally inspiring.

We are now headed back to the States. As I write this post at thirty-five thousand feet with the impressive Himalayan range slowly fading out of sight, my heart is full. Our friends in Nepal blessed us with their hospitality, their smiles, and their words of gratitude because we had traveled so far to spend time with them.

When we parted we did so with the understanding that our next reunion may likely be when those from every nation and from all tribes and languages are standing before the throne and the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in our hands, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10). I look forward to that day.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 13, 2018

The Making of Cooper Potts

Last week almost 1,600 people gathered in two venues at Kingsland to celebrate the life and to honor the memory of Cooper Potts. Although Cooper was only sixteen years-old when he died, he had packed more living into those years than some do into a hundred. Having known Cooper since he was just a toddler, I watched him grow up to become a remarkable young man.

It’s important to emphasize that Cooper did not become the young man that we all knew and admired in a vacuum. He became that young man in the context of a loving family — surrounded by parents, siblings, and grandparents that loved him and whom he loved as well.

Cooper was fortunate to have Dave and Kara as his parents, not because they are perfect, but because they understand their role as parents.

When Cooper was born, Dave and Kara realized that they had brought into this world a living soul who will live forever. And from that moment on, they embraced their responsibility to be Cooper’s primary faith trainers and to prepare him for eternity.

Dave and Kara did not abandon Cooper in a spiritual wasteland of worldviews hoping he might find his way into a meaningful life. Instead, they intentionally guided their son to embrace a biblical worldview.

From the day Cooper was born, Dave and Kara began to prepare him for the day he would die. And that meant intentionally guiding him to receive the free gift of eternal life that God offers us in Christ Jesus.

In addition to that, Dave and Kara gave Cooper and his siblings another gift — the gift of a stable and secure home. One of the greatest gifts that parents can give their children is to love one other.

Something powerful happens when husbands love their wives and wives love their husbands. That love becomes a barrier to the things that can destroy a home — to the things that can fill it with fear. Consequently, Cooper never went to bed afraid, he never woke up afraid, and he never returned home from school afraid.

Cooper was also the beneficiary of the good things that can happen when families eat meals together. Perhaps in this case the Potts may be something of an anomaly but they really enjoy family meals. They understand the power of the table to bring family members together where they can look at one another and have meaningful conversations. Cooper loved the family table.

If there is one word that characterizes the home in which Cooper was raised it is love, not perfection. The Potts bunch is just a normal family that learned the value of harnessing the power of love — the kind of love that forgives, that keeps no record of wrongs, that does not allow the sun to go down on any anger, that looks out for the interests of others, that shows kindness, that covers a multitude of sins, and that binds hearts together.

The Potts family also understands the importance of doing life in community. The threads of their lives are woven into the fabric of their local church. They have invested much in building relationships over the years.

They also know that it is dangerous to sail alone because Satan is a pirate looking for a ship without a fleet. So, on that awful day when the world seemed to go wrong for them, they found that they were not alone. The ongoing outpouring of love and support they have received are the dividends of what they have invested.

This is the context in which Cooper’s character was shaped — home, family, church, and community. These are the ingredients that went into the making of Cooper Potts.

After Cooper’s memorial service I heard from several families. Some lamented that they never sit together at the table for family meals. Others said they wish they had a more close-knit family or had done some things differently through the years. Some regretted not taking responsibility to be the primary faith trainers in their home.

That said, it is not too late to do something to change the trajectory of your family life. While going back to make a new start is never possible, it is possible to start now to make a new ending.

Dave and Kara remind us that loving our kids means so much more than giving them stuff. It means preparing them to live a life pleasing to God, to think of others and not just themselves, and to embrace the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

If we fail to prepare our children for eternity, then what will it matter if we showered them with every toy and convenience and upgrade. All we will have done is to make our homes a more comfortable launching pad into a godless eternity.

Worldview matters. Take ownership. Parent responsibly. Hug your kids and tell them you love them every day — as many times as possible.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 1, 2018

My Heart Takes Me Places

A defining moment — these are the words that describe what happened to my heart as I traveled by train across the Gobi Desert in 1998. As the train made its way from Ulanbator, the capital of Mongolia, to Beijing, I read the book of Acts and reflected on the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

The last command of Jesus was simple and strategic — tell the story at home and then move toward those who have yet to hear the good news.

Although it took the stoning of Stephen to get the ball rolling, it did not take long for the church to embrace the last command of Jesus and for the movement to pick up steam. The church scattered and the gospel started to make its way across Asia Minor and beyond.

As my train rhythmically swayed its way toward Beijing, I sensed a new resolve in my heart — to move in the direction of those who had yet to hear the good news and to use my influence to motivate others to do the same. My heart was being drawn toward people with limited or no access to the gospel.

This past week I ventured to Rwanda to work with David Leatherwood, a Kingsland member who moved there to do kingdom work and who shares my heart for hard places. My friends James Meredith and Jay Jackson joined me on this kingdom adventure to strategize on how to reach those who subsist in villages along the Congo-Nile Trail in Rwanda’s Western Province on the eastern side of Lake Kivu.

Our plan — to use mountain bikes to venture into the mountains in order to connect with the people who live there. Simple. And when these bikes are not being used for this purpose, to set up a business to rent the bikes to adventurers interested in biking the Congo-Nile Trail. This will generate money to help this new ministry to become self-sustaining.

My friends and I assembled fifteen mountain bikes and outfitted them with panniers. Then we ventured out to personally see what it will take, logistically, to pull this off in this beautiful country known as the land of a thousand hills.

We began with a trip to a point on Lake Kivu where we met the boat that would take us to the starting point of our trek. A thunder storm showed up ten minutes after we did and turned our one-hour boat trip into a two-hour-plus excursion on a lake caught in the teeth of a storm. We arrived shivering and soaking wet and lost our first opportunity to visit the villages.

The next morning we had an early breakfast, packed our wet gear, and started our trek. It became immediately apparent that we had dived into the deep end of the pool as we mostly peddled and pushed our bikes up steep trails. Starting at mile-high elevation, we gained more than 1,700-hundred feet in elevation in the first mile and a half. Painful. Before the end of the day we peaked at an elevation gain of 3,900-feet. Also painful.

The people in the villages along the trail live in one of the most magnificent places I have ever visited — and one of the hardest. The sad reality is that it takes longer for the gospel to make it to people who live in hard places. And unless we are willing to be inconvenienced and do hard things, then people who live in inconvenient and hard places will likely not hear about Jesus. Very sad.

We met lots of beautiful people along a forty-mile stretch of the trail. This involved a lot of technical riding in what can only be described as an epic trail in mountain biking lingo. This was the hardest ride any of us had done to date. But, painful as it was, every mile gave us greater insight into the possibilities of reaching people.

I have learned over the years that the best insight comes when we are onsite. This scouting mission confirmed as much.

At the end of the day we sat around the table, exhausted and dirty and without much appetite but hungry to converse about how to reach the villages along the trail. We now had a better and totally realistic idea. But it all hinges on connecting with people who want to do something hard for the kingdom — whose heart is leading them to venture to inconvenient places.

Our partner has already submitted his business plan to the government. This next week a government official will visit him to look at his stable of bikes and to ask a few more questions before approving the business. Once that is done then he will set things in motion — hosting kingdom-minded adventurers who will saddle up to take the good news to hard places.

The story of Acts is still unfolding as the gospel continues to make its way to the ends of the earth. We have the incredible opportunity to be a part of that story as we join countless Christ-followers through the centuries whose heart took them to hard places. Because they were willing to do so the gospel reached us. May we allow God to use us to do the same for those still waiting to hear along the Congo-Nile Trail and beyond.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 27, 2018

Remarkable Rwanda

I am visiting Rwanda for the first time and I am beyond impressed. Of all the countries I have visited on the African continent, Rwanda is by far the cleanest and, I must add, beautiful. From the manicured streets of Kigali to the dirt roads leading to countless villages, I was hard-pressed to see a single piece of litter.

Rwanda’s cleanliness is not something that happened by accident. Rather it is a testimony to the visionary and intentional leadership of President Paul Kagame. My friend and host David Leatherwood explained that there are mandatory days on which all Rwandans participate in cleaning the streets and beautifying their surroundings.

This among other initiatives has resulted in a pristine environment as well as social and economic reconstruction that has set Rwanda on a successful course into the future. Rwandan’s are consciously committed to building a better Rwanda — by eliminating one piece of litter at a time and more.

What makes all this even more remarkable is that only twenty-four years ago, Rwanda descended into the tragedy of genocide. Hollywood movies like “Hotel Rwanda” tell the story of how Rwanda became hell on earth as the majority Hutu people engaged in the slaughter of the Tutsi. Earlier today we had lunch at Hôtel des Mille Collines, the real Hotel Rwanda.

The saddest part of this slice of Rwanda’s long history is that upwards of half a million people lost their lives. So, for Rwanda to have made such strides from the hell of genocide to the Rwanda of today is indeed remarkable. I am still trying to process it all. I can name no other city that I have visited on this continent that even comes close to what I have seen in Kigali.

Our primary focus this week is to help our friends the Leatherwoods to prepare for the launch of their new mountain biking expeditions business — a platform they will harness to bring the beauty of Jesus to the hearts of Rwandans along the Congo-Nile Trail. Located along Lake Kivu in Rwanda’s wildest corner, this trail is a bucket list destination for mountain bikers from around the world.

We have spent the past two days assembling mountain bikes and getting things ready for the launch of their business. Papers have been filed with the government. Things are in motion. We will also spend a couple of days bike-packing to villages along a portion of this epic 141-mile off the beaten path trail. This will help David to plan the various riding options he will offer as a part of his business.

My friends Jay and James and I still have a lot to do in our remaining time here. We trust that God will use this new initiative to reach into the hearts of people who still remember what it was like to see the ugliness of hell unleashed on their country.

We want for all the people groups in Rwanda to know that Jesus always offers something better — better then death, better than violence, better then hatred, better than genocide. He alone can transform hearts and lives into something remarkably beautiful. Along with our friends the Leatherwoods, we long for the day when His beauty will be reflected in the hearts of all Rwandans.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 17, 2018

To My First Grandchild

My Dearest Little One,

It’s me — your grandfather. Although we have not formally met, I wanted to write to tell you how excited I was to receive the wonderful news about you from your mom and dad. They were a little bit sneaky about it all but managed to do a pretty good job of surprising us with the news about you.

To say that your grandmother and I are excited would be an understatement. We are excited times infinity. We are counting the days and hours and minutes until we welcome you into the world. And honestly, those days will simply not go by fast enough for us.

For now, we are wearing the generic labels of grandfather and grandmother. That, however, will change when you get here. As our first grandchild, you get the special privilege of giving us new names. The other grandkids (we hope there will be many) will just have to follow your lead on the name thing.

Exciting things are happening in your life right now. Hour by hour, God is involved in the process of making you and helping you grow. He is personally marking every single cell in your little body with the unmistakeable signature of His image. And although it doesn’t show up in your sonogram pics, God has already placed a crown of dignity and glory and honor on your precious little head. He loves you.

Even though you are not here yet, you have already changed our lives. We are already in love with you — crazy, madly, head over heels in love with you. Your grandmother and I pray for you (and for your mom and dad) every night without fail. So, when you arrive, just know that you don’t have to do a single thing to earn our love. You already have it.

You will be excited to meet your mom and dad. They are two really special people whose love for you is beyond measure and who are ready to welcome you home. Your dad is adventurous and caring and has never met a stranger. He will always have your back, stand at your side, and lead you with wisdom. Your mom is amazing and fun and sweet and creative and will always be there to protect you, comfort you, and embrace you. You will have lots of fun with your mom and dad — guaranteed.

I could write so much more about your great-grandfather and your aunts and uncles but just know that they all feel the same way about you. They love you and are so excited that you will join our family. You will also get to meet Panda and Tux, your mom and dad’s kinda hyper little dogs. They are lots of fun.

I have had to stop several times as I write this just to wipe the tears from my eyes. They are good and happy tears — each one filled with gratitude to God for sending you our way. All of us in your family are committed to giving you the best childhood ever. We want to bless you with good memories that you can enjoy for a lifetime.

So for now, we must wait. You will be here soon. We will continue to pray for you every day as we wait for your arrival. Your mom will have lots of visits to her doctor. Your dad will call to give us updates. We look forward to seeing more sonogram pics so be sure to smile. We love you, precious little one.

Your Grandfather (aka, whatever name you will give me)

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 31, 2018

The Next Generation

Each of us are stewards of our own generation — essentially a narrow slice of time in which to serve God’s purpose. After that, we die and return to dust. However, what we do in our generation does not have to die with us if we will own and responsibly serve God’s purpose while we have opportunity.

In a sermon that Paul preached on his first missionary journey, he said, ”Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.” (Acts 13:36). But, what David did in his generation impacted the course of redemptive history because he served the purpose of God.

One way in which we can impact the course of redemptive history is by investing in the next generation. By so doing we help to ensure “that the generation to come might know” (Ps. 78:6) God and understand His purpose in the world. We must therefore teach the successive generation to “put their confidence in God” and “not forget the works of God” and “keep His commandments” (Ps. 78:7).

One of the best things we do at Kingsland is to invest in ministry interns — young people who have expressed an interest in serving and learning about all-things ministry. Mentoring and encouraging those who will take the reins of ministry long after we are gone is strategic in the work of the kingdom.

I had the special privilege of having eight missions ministry interns this summer. We spent the first week and a half meeting with many of our local ministry partners throughout the greater Houston area. The purpose of these meetings was to gain greater insight into the value of strategic partnerships and understanding the importance of cooperating with others in order to reach our community for Christ.

Our interns also assembled more than fifteen-hundred of our Go Beyond Explorers Kids Club packets for our Vacation Bible School. We also did some team-building Crossfit training together - in the heat. I especially loved the upbeat and always positive attitude of each member of the team. They brought smiles to faces and blessed others wherever they served.

Five of my interns spent the month of June in Alaska. They served with GraceWorks Alaska, our partner in Anchorage. Our interns led volunteer groups from around the nation that served neighborhood kids in city parks throughout Anchorage. Many kids came to faith in Christ through this initiative.

The interns who stayed home helped with a million details of trip preparation for our student ministry mission trips that sent over four-hundred volunteers around the globe. Each of our interns was assigned leadership responsibilities on a student trip and helped shepherd our students as they served others.

All of my interns spent the balance of their time in July serving with our partners at The Hangar in Brookshire. Our missions ministry has invested much in developing this strategic ministry location that is reaching kids and families. They engaged in a variety of tasks — from cleaning bathrooms to working outdoors to serving neighborhood kids.

Today is the last day of our summer missions ministry internship. I am going to miss all of the energy, excitement, and joy that our interns generated on a daily basis. But I am so encouraged by what I have seen God do in their lives. I have received so many encouraging text messages and emails from those touched by our team.

I am proud of each of our interns and wish them the very best as they return to their respective schools in the coming days. They served well and will no doubt continue to do so as they return to their college campuses. I am confident that God will use them to reach their own generation and, long after I am gone, to invest as well in the next generation.

Older Posts »