Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 2, 2019

10 Parenting Lessons

I keep a prayer list on my desk, a handwritten list of people for whom I pray daily. My list includes quite a few names of individuals who have chosen to wander down prodigal paths — and the names of their parents who live daily with the fear of where these paths may ultimately lead their kids.

Having lived through some very dark years when one of my own kids became disoriented, I take seriously the responsibility to pray. I also offer hurting parents practical wisdom gleaned through those years of wondering if our own story would have a happy ending.

I thank God often that our story, that very painful and frightening part of our story, had a happy ending. We are now past those dark years of parenting a prodigal. Looking back, those long years now look like a short chapter in our continuing story — a beautiful story. And, although I wish that we had not experienced what we did, I am grateful for what we learned.

As a dad, the turning point for me came when I finally stopped struggling. I reached a point of exhaustion. I was tired of fighting, arguing, raising my voice, trying to talk sense, and all of the other things we tend to do as parents when we see our kids making bad choices.

I remember the moment as if it was yesterday. I closed the door to my office, sat alone, and wept. I cried out to God from the depths of my frustration and despair and He answered me. “Your son is battling fierce and terrible giants. He cannot fight this battle alone. Stop fighting him and start fighting for him. Become Jonathan’s champion.”

That was the beginning of the end of that awful chapter. I talked with Cheryl, my wife, and told her about what the Lord had clearly spoken to me. I told her that I was going to take the battle to the enemy by praying and fasting.


I fasted a total of forty-two days for my son. Cheryl and I understood that while the answer might not come during that period of prayer and fasting, we believed that those days would set the answer in motion. We braced ourselves for a full head-on collision with the enemy who was determined to destroy our son.

I did not sleep much during those days. Our battle was not against flesh and blood but against an enemy bent on the complete destruction of our child. I talked to God constantly — and I also talked to the enemy. I reminded the Devil several times a day that he would not have our son. If it meant I had to pray and fast for a hundred days I would do it. We would not give up our son.

Over a period of time our son made his way back. Today, he is married to an amazing young lady. So many times I feared I would officiate his funeral. Instead I officiated their wedding. Earlier this year God blessed them with a beautiful daughter and us with our first granddaughter. Looking at my son and his family fills me with deep gratitude to God for this new chapter of Jonathan’s life — a chapter that might never have happened.

Through those years, God taught me these ten lessons about parenting a prodigal.

10. Choices Matter
Erwin McManus, one of my favorite pastors and writers, observed, “The most spiritual activity you will engage in today is making choices. Our choices either move us toward God and all the pleasure that comes in Him or steer us away from Him to a life of shame and fear.” My son clearly made some bad choices, but so did I. Many of my choices caused me to miss the signals that my son was in danger. I try to be more attentive now.

9. Turn Fear Into Motivation
The realization that our story might not have a happy ending was the most frightening thing we dealt with during the dark years. We feared the knock at the door at 3:00 AM to inform us that something awful had happened to our son. This fear motivated us to pray and to fight hard for our son.

8. Fight Strategically
I learned that it was much easier to fight with my son and turn him into the enemy than it was to fight the enemy who was trying to destroy my son. My son was not the enemy. The enemy is the enemy. I learned to fight the right enemy and to do so strategically.

7. Watch and Pray Expectantly
Praying without ceasing took on a whole new meaning during those painful years. Fasting helped me to intensify my prayers with laser precision. I was inspired by the story of the lame beggar in the book of Acts. He looked at Peter and John “expecting to receive something from them” (Acts 3:5) — and received more than he expected. I prayed with the same expectant attitude. Like David, I prayed and eagerly watched for the answer to my prayers (Psalm 3:5).

6. Choose Your Battles
I learned to resist the urge to gripe and complain about every little thing that bothered me lest these skirmishes distract me from the greater war. Don’t complicate things by fighting about things that are symptoms but not causes of the greater concerns.

5. Love Unconditionally
In most cases a prodigal child will know that you do not approve of their choices and behavior. However, never let them doubt your love. Keep your heart open and find ways to affirm your love.

4. Let Them Return at Their Own Pace
Be patient. The first step back is taken only after hitting bottom. Be grateful for every step in the right direction. Celebrate small steps. And, don’t despair when they backslide or lose traction on the way back.

3. Find Ways to Stay Motivated

I created a playlist of songs (on my iPod in those years) that encouraged me to pray for Jonathan and that gave me hope. I listened to those songs every day. In many ways, the lyrics of those songs expressed my hopes.

2. Run In Their Direction
Luke 15:20 says it all about the prodigal son and his dad — “And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.”

1. Continue To Be Available
Our choices often have lingering consequences that may take years to resolve. Be available to help your child put the pieces back together. Continue to help them move toward healing and wholeness.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 29, 2019

Baghdadi is Dead

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi-born leader of ISIS, is dead at 48.

In keeping with a life steeped in violence, Baghdadi did not die alone. As US forces closed in on him in Idlib Province in northwestern Syria, Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children.

Using women and children as human shields (and suicide bombers) is a tactic commonly used by Islamic terrorists. In the end, Baghdadi hid himself behind his own children and made them the final victims in his long resumé of killing.

Baghdadi earned a reputation as one of the world’s most brutal terrorists. He effectively led ISIS to use acts of brutality to fuel the organization’s propaganda machine. Using social media, he showed the world what terror looks like in graphic, bloody, and unedited detail.

Baghdadi was unquestionably evil and guilty of a host of atrocities and human rights violations. He ordered and documented the beheading of prisoners, crucifixions, rape, and efforts to wipe out the Yazidis to name a few.


Baghdadi was also responsible for the torture, repeated rape, and death of Kayla Mueller. Kayla was a gifted young lady who had devoted her life to helping people in need. She was taken prisoner by ISIS while serving Syrian refugees at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo. The US military operation that led to Baghdadi’s death was dedicated to Kayla.

Given Baghdadi’s etched-in-stone reputation as one of the most violent men in the history of the world, I was shocked and puzzled by the Washington Post’s headline after his death: Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.

Seriously?

Political partisanship aside, we are all in danger when we fail to recognize evil for what it is and to call it out. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah (5:20) cautioned: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

Words matter. The Washington Post should know that and, I believe, does know that. Their original headline referred to Baghdadi as the Islamic State’s terrorist-in-chief. They should have kept that headline but instead changed it to refer to Baghdadi as an “austere religious leader.” Yet one more edit in the headline referred to Baghdadi as “extremist leader of Islamic State.”

Baghdadi chose a path that resulted in an untold number of deaths. As an “austere religious leader” his decisions were governed by a religious worldview with an impoverished understanding of the sanctity of human life. Out of respect for those he murdered, like Kayla Mueller, Baghdadi does not deserve the right to be called anything but what he chose to define his life.

In the end, no matter who a person is or what he does, we will all die. And, those who live violently, like Baghdadi, often die in the same manner. Sadly, others will rise to take his place and to devote themselves to acts of death and destruction.

After the death of Bin Laden, I wrote these words:

As a Christ-follower I may be called upon to lay down my life for what I believe but I will never take a life in order to spread what I believe. Bin Laden chose a path that ultimately led to his own destruction. I have chosen a path that will lead to life and to spreading the message of life to others.

The path I have chosen starts at the foot of a cross, a divine plus sign raised on a hill more than two-thousand years ago. The world needs the message of the life-giver who hung on that cross so that fewer will choose paths of death and destruction, like Bin Laden and those he influenced. Bin Laden is dead, a reminder that while the wheels of God’s justice may move slowly, when they come they do grind finely.

And now, Baghdadi is dead. Like Bin Laden, he wrote the script that is now entered into the pages of history — in spite of the Washington Post’s headline.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 19, 2019

The 106-Year Wait


Ecolástico Arrevalo Enriquez is the oldest living member of the remote mountain village of Caserio El Salitre, El Salvador. Although he was born in the months preceding the start of the first World War, Don (a title of respect) Ecolástico has seen very few advancements in the place he has called home for the past 106 years.


The twenty-one families that make up the village of El Salitre live pretty much off the grid. A few homes have electricity but everyone depends on the rivers and a couple of muddy shallow wells for water. In regard to electricity, don’t let that fool you. One family showed me their current electric bill. It came in at a whopping $1.02 for the month. For many families that subsist on only a few dollars a month, even a dollar for electricity takes a bite out of monthly earnings.


Life in El Salitre is hard. Every home in the village is constructed of either adobe or scraps of tin, complete with dirt floors. You can’t escape the dirt or the mud that comes with seasonal rains. Living with dirt and mud is simply one of the harsh realities of everyday life.

Perhaps the hardest thing about it all is that when the rivers dry up in the summer, the people have no water for bathing. Several parents told me that the only option for bathing is a river located several kilometers away — hardly worth the walk to get clean.


Water for daily use, though a kilometer or two away, still robs families of lots of time. Every day, women and children must walk to one of the shallow wells for water and to the river to do laundry. Hauling a few gallons at a time takes lots of time and even more effort. We hardly ever give any consideration to the weight of a gallon of water. Not so for the people of El Salitre who must carry several pounds of water every day in order to cook and hydrate — it’s just a way of life.

This week all of that changed for Don Ecolástico and the people of his village. Our Kingsland team arrived in El Salvador last Sunday morning to drill a water well at El Salitre in partnership with our friends at Living Water International. We have now surpassed underwriting and drilling twenty wells in the country of El Salvador alone. Knowing what these water wells mean to folks in remote villages, we were eager to start.


After meeting the villagers on Monday, we wasted no time in firing up the drill rig only to hit a lot of rock. Slow going on day one, to say the least. And then an unexpected setback on Monday afternoon — rain and more rain. More than twenty-four hours of non-stop rain caused severe flooding and mud slides in the area. The government declared an emergency and closed the schools. Because of swollen rivers, we could not get to El Salitre the following day. So, we waited for the rains to stop and for the waters to recede.


Finally on Wednesday morning, we were able to make the hour-long drive and cross the three rivers between us and the village. Although the drill site was a muddy mess, we were able to drill past the underlying rock and, over the next couple of days, to find water at a depth of 223-feet — all to the cheers of the folks.


One man could not contain his gratitude. “Every bucket of water we fill,” he said, “will remind us of the goodness of God and His kindness in sending you here.” Some of the children made it a point to tell us that they looked forward to bathing (let that thought sink in for a minute). And because the well is centrally located, every family will benefit from time saved by not having to walk so far to fetch water.


We ended the week with a beautiful celebration in which we dedicated and presented the well to the village. A local pastor shared a great message about Jesus, the living water. Perhaps the best thing of all is that every member of the village stood in a long line to hug and personally express their gratitude to our team. We left with hearts filled with joy for the opportunity to be the answer to years of prayers for a source of clean water. And as for Don Ecolástico, his tears and his smile said it all.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 9, 2019

Apostle of the Bleeding Feet

Sundar Singh was a remarkable man — someone whom I have added to my list of historical mentors. Historical mentors are individuals who, although dead, continue to influence the living because of the way in which they lived their lives. Barring some unforeseen discovery, their story is not likely to change. Their flags are still waving atop the summits of their respective achievements.

Singh was born in 1889 to a prominent Sikh family in Northern India. Unlike Hindus who have a pantheon consisting of millions of gods, Sikhs believe there is only one God. They also reject Hindu’s caste system. They are often confused with Muslims because the men traditionally wear turbans.

As a child, Singh’s mother took him weekly to sit at the feet of a Sadhu, an ascetic Sikh holy man. She also wanted him to learn English and sent him to a Christian mission school. After the death of his mother, fourteen year-old Singh became angry and turned on his missionary teachers and burned a copy of the Bible. Despondent, he decided to commit suicide.

Before he could follow through on taking his life, Jesus appeared to Singh in a vision in the middle of the night. He heard Christ asking, “Why do you oppose me? I am your Savior. I died on the cross for you.” That vision changed the course of his life.

That morning he told his father that he had seen Jesus in a vision and heard His voice. He further told his father that he would follow Christ forever. His father demanded that he give up the notion of following Jesus. When Singh refused, his father denounced him and put him out of their home.

Singh was baptized on his sixteenth birthday and then set off in the direction of those who had not heard the gospel. He was given refuge at a home for lepers operated by Christians. There he began to serve people in desperate need. Over the years that home became a base of operations for Singh.


In 1906, Singh made a controversial decision. In order to identify with those who needed Christ, he adopted the traditional garb of a Sadhu, a Sikh holy man. He wore a turban and a yellow saffron robe, renounced all material possessions, and began to travel as a religious teacher. Although he looked like a Sadhu, he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Singh wrote, “I am not worthy of following the steps of my Lord, but, like Him, I want no home, no possessions. Like Him I will belong to the road, sharing the suffering of my people, eating with those who will give me shelter, and telling all men of the love of God.”

Like a Sadhu, Singh did not wear shoes. Because he walked barefoot his feet were covered in blisters and often bloodied from travel. People began to refer to Singh as the “Apostle of the Bleeding Feet.”


In 1908, Singh started traveling to Nepal and Tibet. Some believe that he was the first evangelist to take the gospel into these two Himalayan countries. He faithfully preached the gospel throughout this mountainous region.

Finally on April 18, 1929, at the age of 36, Singh made what would be his final trek into Tibet. He was never heard from again. Rumors circulated that a group of men killed him and disposed of his remains in a river. Others speculated that he died of natural causes. We will never know for sure what happened to Singh.

What we do know for certain is that he was a man completely devoted to Christ. He did not allow any worldly thing to distract him from his mission to make Christ known in hard places. He suffered much persecution over the years but remained steadfastly loyal to Jesus and played a strategic role in the spread of the gospel in India, Nepal, and Tibet.

In his diary, Singh wrote these words: “It is easy to die for Christ. It is hard to live for Him. Dying takes only a few minutes or at worst an hour or two — but to live for Christ means to die daily to myself.” The Apostle of the Bleeding Feet was right.

In the words of the Apostle Paul, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15). Singh indeed had beautiful feet.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 2, 2019

Calling Men to Rise Up

20/20 vision is a term used to express the ability to see things clearly, especially at a distance. I wish that I had 20/20 vision. But alas, I have had poor eyesight for most of my life. My annual visit to my optometrist always results in adding just a little more strength to my bi-focal prescription.

While my physical vision continues to deteriorate bit by bit every year, I do pray for 20/20 vision in regard to spiritual discernment. We live in days when our culture is progressively drifting farther and farther away from life as God intended for it to be. We must, therefore, have clarity of vision as never before in order to understand what is happening and what we must do.

I have long admired the sons of Issachar in the Old Testament. While we don’t know a lot about these guys, the Bible describes them as “men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32). We can safely conjecture that the sons of Issachar were not passive but instead were men who thought deeply in order to live wisely.


Dr. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, has observed and commented on the shift in culture which has brought about the redefinition of what it means to be a man. This redefining of manhood, Evans writes, “has brought about men abandoning their roles, dumbing down their roles, and rejecting their roles.” Men are indeed in the midst of a cultural battle that continues to take a heavy toll on manhood as defined by God.


Our missions ministry’s emphasis for 2020 will be to call men around the world to embrace God’s vision and design for biblical manhood. We are working directly with our partners in Cambodia, India, Brazil, and Nepal to host Men of Courage Summits in 2020 — special gatherings of men and leaders in which we will call men to rise up and to embrace God’s vision and design for biblical manhood.

We held our first Men of Courage Summit last month in Uganda. Our team invested in 300 men and met with key leaders who made a commitment to be the men God has called them to be. In the words of the old hymn, these men said they will rise up, put away the lesser things, and give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings.


This past week my friend Todd Pendergrass and I traveled to Cuiabá, Brazil to meet with more than 40 pastors and leaders who will host our Men of Courage Summit next year. We spent time sharing the vision and talking logistics about the summit. Our Brazilian friends are all in. They too want to call men to embrace God’s vision and design for biblical manhood and to challenge men to lead their families well.


I am especially excited about the opportunity to hold one of our 2020 summits in Cuiabá — the geographic center of South America. My prayer is that what happens in Cuiabá will spread like a wildfire to all corners of South America. My heart longs to see men who will rise up to become the kind of men God has called them to be.

May God use our summits to raise up men of courage — men who submit to God not culture, men who take responsibility and do not remain passive, and men who live sacrificially and not selfishly. The time has come to rise up, O men of God.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 19, 2019

Men of Courage Summit

Our missions ministry has a broad reach. We are engaged with more than a dozen unreached people groups in some of the most challenging geographical locations on the planet. We also address such transcultural concerns as the sanctity of human life, human trafficking, the water crisis, caring for the poor, educating children, and much more.

Every year, I seek God’s guidance about how our missions ministry can strategically address a specific critical issue in the world. This year’s special emphasis is on the 4/14 Window — the mission field defined by the ages of 4 and 14. These are the ages when most children come to faith in Christ. We have invested human and considerable financial resources this year to address issues that directly impact the lives of children around the world.


Our special emphasis for 2020 will be to call men around the globe to embrace God’s vision and design for biblical manhood. We will work directly with our partners in Cambodia, India, Brazil, and Nepal to host Men of Courage Summits in 2020 — special gatherings of men and leaders in which we will call men to rise up and be done with lesser things.


This week Gil Harris, Kingsland men’s ministry director, and I led a team of men to conduct the first Men of Courage Summit in Kampala, Uganda. Brian Stone (senior pastor of Valley View Church in Louisville), Bobby Cooley (Adult Discipleship Pastor at Kingsland), and Austin Lanier (Hip Hop Artist) joined us. Austin spoke to more than 3,000 students in school assemblies and also was a guest on a local television program this week.


Pastor Robert Nabulere, one of our Ugandan partners, agreed to host our first summit at Miracle Center Church in Kawempe. I have known and worked with Pastor Robert for more than a dozen years. He is a visionary and gifted leader whose church and schools are reaching many in Kawempe and beyond.


We started the week at a retreat at Murchison Falls National Park with Pastor Robert and four of his men’s ministry leaders. We spent hours discussing the issues that keep men in Uganda from reaching their highest potential in Christ. This time was important because each of our summits will be crafted to address specific cultural considerations that distract, discourage, and ultimately destroy men.

Our time at Murchison Falls allowed us to fine tune our challenge to call Ugandan men to understand and embrace God’s vision and design for biblical manhood. Our discussion at times was difficult as we listened to the challenges men in Uganda face and how those challenges are squeezing men into a pattern that is not consistent with God’s design for men.

All of the specific partners that will host our summits next year have expressed this common concern to me — the issue of biblical manhood is not being addressed. As a result, homes are in danger. Too many men are getting caught in dangerous cultural currents that are sweeping them away from God’s vision and design for manhood.


The reality is that men around the planet are in danger. Men are at war with an enemy that is determined to distract, discourage, and ultimately destroy them. Make no mistake about it, our enemy is committed to using everything in his power to bring about the destruction of men — making men impotent and ineffective in leading their homes and in advancing God’s purposes in the world today.


The Apostle Paul wrote that God desires to conform His people into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Conformity is an inner change with an outward expression, a part of the sanctifying work of God in the life of every believer. Paul warned that the world is also committed to trying to conform us into something far different from what God wants for us (Romans 12:2).


Therein lies the tension and the danger. The world wants to conform or press men into its pattern. Men who are ignorant of the enemy’s schemes are vulnerable to being conformed into something that God never intended. The best way to destroy the home is to keep men from understanding and fulfilling their roles as God has defined them. When that happens, then the home, the church, and ultimately society is in danger.


This past week was amazing. Our two-day summit was the first of its kind in Kampala. We invested in three-hundred men who made a commitment to do three things. First, they made a commitment to have quarterly meetings to encourage one another.


Second, they committed to doing life in community with other men because alone is dangerous. The men in attendance pledged to start weekly core groups that will potentially reach hundreds more men than were able to attend the summit.


Finally, the men in attendance recommitted themselves to leading their homes according to God’s design as recorded in the pages of Scripture. They have a better understanding of their roles as husbands and fathers. The feedback from the men in attendance encouraged us. This summit, they said, is the start of something new in Uganda.


Our team learned much from our Ugandan brothers and how we can sharpen our message even more. We remain determined to challenging men around the world to rise up. In the words of the old hymn:

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.

As men of God we will indeed rise up and let go of the lesser things that keep us from reaching our highest potential in Christ. We will rise up to end the night of wrong, to strengthen the family, to make the church great, and to lift high the cross of Christ. We are determined to be men of courage.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 14, 2019

To My New Granddaughter

My Dearest Little Bethany,

Welcome to our family — your family. Your arrival yesterday afternoon was much anticipated. As much as I like and use words, there really are none to describe what I felt when I saw you for the first time. Tears of joy was the only language I could resort to. And that’s ok because you don’t need words to speak or understand the language of joy.


I want you to know that you have an amazing mom and dad who loved you from the moment you were conceived. And when they shared the news that you were growing inside your mom, the circle of those who love you grew even wider. We prayed for you daily and tracked your progress, longing for the day of your arrival.


You are so blessed to have a mom and dad who love each other deeply. I was present when your mom was born. Things got a little tense in labor and delivery and the doctor decided that your mom needed to get here quicker — so he performed an emergency C-section. Those same tears of joy filled my eyes the moment I saw your mom for the first time.

Your dad is one of the bravest men I know. He is a twin. You will meet your Uncle Christopher soon. He and Christopher were born under some stressful circumstances as well. In fact, they were both so small at birth that your birth weight was more than theirs combined. Since then, your dad has endured a lot of surgeries. He has faced every one with great courage.


When your mom and dad met, Gigi (that’s your grandmother) and I knew that they belonged together. We were thrilled when they fell in love and then got married. We knew that one day they would have children. On their first attempt they suffered a miscarriage. And although we never had the opportunity to meet that child, we believe that one day we will. We now have one more compelling reason why we long for heaven.


And then God gave us you. We actually got our first look at you while you were still in your mother’s womb. Those sonogram pics were the best. They gave us a peek into what God was doing. And, like your beautiful cousin Mila who was born six-months ago today, those sonogram pics affirmed that God had already crowned you with dignity and beauty. You not only bear resemblances to your mom and dad — you are made in God’s image.

Mila and Bethany on Day 1 | Six months apart

You have so many family members who can’t wait to meet you and to hold you and to kiss you. You will meet them all in due time, including Mila. I know that you and Mila will become good friends and share a lifetime together. In the meantime, Gigi and I look forward to every moment we will spend with you. You are and will always be loved.


By the way, it was fun helping your mom and dad prepare your nursery over the past few months. Your mom and dad placed a beautiful blessing from the Old Testament book of Numbers (6:24-26) on your wall. It pretty much sums up how we all feel about you — “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; may He show you His favor and give you peace.”

I love you always, Bethany.

Your Pops

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 12, 2019

Kids Need Dads

As we continue trying to make sense of the senseless shootings of recent weeks, we must not overlook the truth that strong families are the first line of defense in preventing children from becoming the kind of adults who spiral out of control and end up harming others. Further, we must not overlook the fact that the presence of a father in the home is of far more importance than our society is willing to admit.


As our political leaders continue fixing blame (mostly on one another) very little is being said about the fact that of the 27 deadliest mass shooters of recent years, the majority are men who came from broken homes — mostly homes without the presence of a good, stable father. Boys who do not grow up with a father who models self-control and empathy toward others are especially vulnerable to ideas that can sweep them in the direction of anger and violence.

That said, most boys who grow up in fatherless homes pick up the right cues from other adult males in their lives — a teacher, coach, uncle, or grandfather. But, many do not.

On Father’s Day in 2008, then Senator Barak Obama gave a speech in which he said, “Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives … family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation.” I agree with that. The best environment for a child is a home with a dad who is present and involved in the lives of his children. I remember the days when liberals and conservatives both agreed on this one thing — kids need dads!

Sadly, political winds (even under Obama’s administration) shifted and now bluster for a new definition of the family, a new category that either excludes the presence of a mom or a dad. Growing up with two dads means that a child grows up without a mom. Growing up with two moms means that a child grows up without a dad. In the current political climate, those who disagree with this paradigm are quickly labeled as intolerant and haters.

The truth is that we cannot yet fathom where the social and moral consequences of this new parenting category will ultimately lead us. Deliberately trying to create homes that are either fatherless or motherless is not a good idea. I believe in traditional marriage and want to see strong homes where moms and dads are the primary faith trainers of their children. As a Christ-follower, I unashamedly embrace the biblical model for the family.

As we debate gun violence, laws that govern the purchase of guns, and the role of mental health in mass shootings, we must not overlook the connection between violence and broken homes, especially homes with absentee dads. Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson observed, “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.”

If we fail to fix broken homes, then no legislation will do enough to keep us safe. If fathers fail to take responsibility for their homes and to model good behavior, then boys may likely be more susceptible to ideas that will lead them down harmful paths. On Father’s Day of this year, my friend Brad Flurry said in his sermon, “It’s much easier to prepare a boy than to repair a man!” Well said.

Dads, understand how important you are to your family. Take responsibility. Teach, correct, and love your children. Be present when you are present. Do this because kids need dads!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 6, 2019

The El Paso Challenge

It has happened again. This time two mass shootings in two days. Incidences of violence like these now occur with enough frequency that while they evoke anger and outrage they no longer surprise us. That, in itself, is sad. And, because of our connected world, as soon as the bullets stop flying then politicians and pundits start firing blame.

Assigning blame does nothing to assuage the grief of those who have suffered unimaginable loss. And it has done nothing to stop the violence. According to USA Today, the El Paso and Dayton shootings make for 251 mass shootings since the first of the year. These shootings have claimed more than 520 lives and injured close to 2000 people.

The reality is that today there are families that are hurting in a way far deeper than the rest of us. Their lives have been turned upside down. While they grieve, collectively we are all asking why. We all want answers. We demand solutions. When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tried to offer comfort at a vigil following the deadly shooting in Dayton, the crowd repeatedly shouted, “Do something!”

Do something, indeed! But what? Democratic US Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said that our “thoughts and prayers are not enough.” He may have a point. Unless we are willing to do more than pray but to also consider how God might use us as the answer to our own prayers then nothing much will change. And thoughts that do not lead to some type of intentional and compassionate actions also do little to help.


In the midst of all this, one eleven year old boy from El Paso wanted to do something to help his grieving community move toward healing. After giving the matter some thought, Ruben Martinez approached his mother Rose with a practical idea — challenging the people of his community to do one random act of kindness for every life lost in the shooting that rocked his community and our nation.


Rose posted her son’s challenge on social media and the rest is history. Ruben’s challenge has now reached much farther than the city limits of the West Texas town of El Paso. National news outlets picked up the story. Ruben’s idea quickly resonated with so many around the nation who care and who want to do something. This is a practical “do something” that any of us can and should do. A simple but powerful idea — random acts of kindness to counter random acts of violence.

Imagine what could happen if each of us expressed kindness to those whom God puts in our path — regardless of the color of their skin or their religious or political leanings. While the El Paso Challenge will not stop future mass shootings, it may just be the thing that gets someone inclined toward hurting others to think again. People who hurt, it seems, tend to hurt others. We should never minimize how God might use a random act of kindness to impact a confused and hurting individual.

Thank you, Ruben, for reminding us all to do good in the wake of great evil. I accept your challenge.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 17, 2019

Determined To Do Their Duty

John R. Mott is one of my historical mentors. A historical mentor is someone who, although dead, continues to influence succeeding generations through writings and a life well-lived. Born in 1865, Mott became a believer at a young age. While a sophomore at Cornell University, J.K. Studd, one of Mott’s professors, said to him, “Young man, seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not! Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”


Studd’s words pierced Mott’s heart and kept him up that night. His conversation with Studd changed the course of his life. Mott later became the leader of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, an organization that sought to mobilize college students to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Mott led this movement for thirty years and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his work in international church and missionary movements.

In April 1901, Mott spoke on the responsibility of young people for the evangelization of the world. In this speech, Mott said, “The last command of Christ is operative until it is repealed. It is not optional, as some would assume, but obligatory. It awaits its fulfillment by a generation which shall have the requisite faith and courage, and audacity and the purpose of heart to do their duty to the whole world.”

The reality is that 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 purposes 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 purposes in the world. In the words of Mott, we must teach and encourage the successive generation “to do their duty to the whole world.”


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 have been privileged to have nine summer missions interns, including one from India and another from El Salvador. Our interns began their summer by visiting with several of our local ministry partners in order to gain greater insight into the value of strategic partnerships in order to reach our community for Christ. They have learned a lot about what it takes to make each ministry work and how they utilize volunteers.


Six of my interns spent the month of June in Alaska working with our partner, Grace Works Alaska. The other interns served in a variety of capacities with our local partners. We have enjoyed debriefing sessions, lots of questions and answers, and talking about various aspects of ministry. Each of our interns served and learned well and made meaningful discoveries about what it means to serve God.


Our summer internship ends on July 31. I will miss our interns but am excited about how God will continue to use them as they return to their respective college campuses and places of employment. I appreciate their passion and willingness to serve and their determination “to do their duty to the whole world.”

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