Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 13, 2021

Welcoming Afghan Refugees

There is, perhaps, nothing more comforting than home — the geographical context that plays a key role in our growth and development as human beings. We all are shaped by the particular worldview considerations of the people and the place where we are raised. Our lives are also impacted by the respective challenges associated with those places.

For more than 40 years, the people who call Afghanistan home have suffered because of conflicts, natural disasters, chronic poverty, food insecurity, and the pandemic. In that relatively short period of time, approximately 6 million Afghans have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Nearly half of these have fled to other countries while the others remain internally displaced within their own borders.

Afghan refugees are the third-largest displaced people in the world behind Syrians and Venezuelans. Most recently, according to the UNHCR, an estimated 570,000 Afghans have been forced to relocate within the country since January 2021 because of insecurity and violence. The intimidating presence of the Taliban will only make things worse in the months to come.

The recent departure of American troops from Afghanistan precipitated a whole new wave of people fleeing their homes. The news images of desperate people clinging to a military plane departing Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul was heartbreaking. Few people will ever know that kind of desperation or appreciate a longing for a safer future that would cause you to risk it all.

The lives of those leaving Afghanistan will be forever changed as the waves of their diaspora wash them up on other shores, including ours. They will face many challenges as they settle into their new homes in places unfamiliar and strange. They will miss and long for family members they may never again see on this earth.

The greater Houston area will become home for many of the families who have fled Afghanistan. Over the next several months we expect several thousand refugees to arrive in Houston. Working with two of the local organizations that welcome refugees to our area, Kingsland is positioned to help.

At present, our Missions Ministry and our International People Groups Ministry are working together on two initiatives.

First, we are recruiting Welcome Teams who will be assigned to serve refugee families — starting with meeting them at the airport. Each team will walk with their assigned family for several months and assist them with everything from getting their kids enrolled in school to navigating the fourth largest and most ethnically diverse city in the country.

Second, we have asked our church family to assemble four distinctive welcome kits with essentials that each arriving family will need. These include a personal hygiene kit with bath towels, a tablewares kit, a cooking kit, and a household cleaning kit. Each kit will also contain a personal note of welcome and encouragement. We hope to provide several hundred of these kits over the next two weeks.

We are motivated to help because we love Jesus who consistently moved in the direction of people in need. The arrival of Afghan refugees offers yet one more opportunity for our compassion to intersect with desperate need. We look forward to loving and serving our new Afghan neighbors.

You can learn more about Kingsland’s Afghan Refugee Response on our website.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 18, 2021

Serve Brookshire 2021

Something beautiful happened last week in the small community of Brookshire, Texas.

For the past fifteen years in the month of July, Kingsland’s student ministry has mobilized and sent students to serve on mission from Houston’s inner city neighborhoods all the way to the ends of the earth. Every year, hundreds of students move in the direction of people in need to share and show God’s love.

The pandemic, however, changed all that and forced us to pivot and find new ways to engage our students with a hurting world. Our student ministry leaders made the decision to keep our students at home this summer while our world slowly inches its way back to some sense of normalcy.

That’s where Brookshire comes in. Kingsland’s missions ministry has a strategic partnership with The Hangar Unity Center in Brookshire. The Hangar is a ministry of Eyes On Me, an organization that exists to mentor, disciple, and serve at-risk kids and their families. Kingsland invests lots of financial and human resources at The Hangar.

At Kingsland, we value service as a key component of spiritual formation and provide year-round opportunities for our people to serve others. This past week our students served with our friends at The Hangar to love and bless the Brookshire community.

Our students led a Vacation Bible School, painted a dozen homes, delivered food to hundreds of impoverished families, completed several campus improvement projects at The Hangar, mowed and cleaned city lots, refurbished a city park, and completed several projects to beautify the nearby Manna House campus.

All of the activity prompted a local resident to post this on social media:

“I don’t know what’s going on in Brookshire, Texas but I love it! I see the youth on every block working at some of the elders’ homes. I’m not sure who put this together but it’s a great idea. Please let me know if I can be of any service.”

This is just one sample of the great feedback we received from the community. Our students had lots of opportunities to have spiritual conversations and to remind those they served of how much God loves them.

Please take a moment to watch this brief video that will give you a sense of the scope of our student ministry’s Serve Brookshire 2021 initiative. You will see that something beautiful not only happened in Brookshire, but in the hearts of our students as well.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 15, 2021

Men of Courage Devotional Guide

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 Chronicles 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 — in a manner consistent with the teachings of Scripture (Psalm 1:2).

This past year, our missions ministry was scheduled to hold Men of Courage Summits in Nepal, Cambodia, India, and Brazil. The purpose of these summits was to call men to understand the times and to challenge them to embrace God’s design for biblical manhood.

Our initial summit in Uganda was a huge success as three-hundred men assembled to worship, study, and pray together. We addressed how to avoid the dangers of getting caught in dangerous cultural currents that sweep men away from God’s design for manhood. We challenged these men to do life in community because alone is dangerous.

Unfortunately, the pandemic shut down our international travel. Like us, our international partners had to pivot to address the challenges and needs that grew out of the pandemic. We agreed to reschedule our summits when their respective countries once again allowed large gatherings.

One of the most important things about our Men of Courage Summit is calling men to do life in community and to meet with other men on a regular basis. To that end, our Men of Courage teaching team wrote a 26-week devotional guide for men. The guide is structured around five key topics:

The Culture War
A Battle to Fight
A Beauty to Rescue
The Characteristics of a Man of Courage
An Adventure to Live

This study guide has been written with the sons of Issachar in mind. The kingdom of God needs men who understand the times — men who have the requisite courage and audacity to push back on a culture that seeks to redefine manhood. More than ever before, we need men who will embrace God’s vision and design for biblical manhood and who will shine as lights “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:15).

Our Men of Courage Biblical Manhood Devotional Guide will be available this Sunday, Father’s Day, at Kingsland’s Central and North Katy campuses. We encourage every man in attendance to pick up a copy and then to find at least one other man or a group of men to meet with weekly to work through the topics and to pray together.

Let’s determine to be like the sons of Issachar and to live and lead in accordance with the teachings of Scripture in the midst of a hostile culture. In the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 16:13-14):

Be on your guard,
stand firm in faith,
be men of courage,
be strong;
do everything in love.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 4, 2021

Behind the Scenes in Alaska

Anchorage is a long way from Houston. However, like the Bayou City, Anchorage is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation. Beyond the diversity of the indigenous population, Alaska is home to peoples from all over the world. They are here along with their respective heart languages and world views.

Alaska is home to some great churches but is the least church-attending state in the Union. And sadly, this beautiful land of the midnight sun has the highest rate of suicide per capita in the country — nearly twice the national average. Suicide is the leading cause of death here for people ages 15 to 24. There is much need here.

To help ensure that both those who move to or already live in Alaska have an opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus, Kingsland’s missions ministry entered into a strategic partnership with GraceWorks Alaska in 2015. Founded by my friend Scott Kirby, this ministry hosts mission volunteers to work directly with non-churched children and their families.

Managing and moving so many volunteers from Point A to Point B is no easy task and one that requires a lot of vehicles. And GraceWorks has a lot of vehicles that get a pretty tough workout on Alaskan roads.

Every year, before the volunteers begin to arrive, GraceWorks must ensure that all of their vehicles are in good repair. That’s where we come in. Our missions ministry and men’s ministry work together to mobilize a team annually to service the GraceWorks fleet — doing tune-ups, oil changes, and some vehicle-specific maintenance.

Servicing vehicles is a behind-the-scenes but necessary part of what it takes to advance God’s purposes in the biggest state in America. What we do helps ensure that those who come to serve with GraceWorks have safe and reliable transportation to make it to and from their respective ministry sites.

With more than 30 vehicles in their fleet, ours is one of two teams who have committed to the important task of caring for the GraceWorks vehicles. We tag team to make sure that every service item is addressed over the span of two weeks. The work has its surprises and challenges but is always fulfilling.

We begin our day with team devotions and then head to the garage after breakfast. We spend long days crawling under vehicles, bent over under hoods, making supply runs to the local auto parts store, and addressing vehicle-specific repairs. It’s always cold in the garage but the thought of making it possible for volunteers to advance God’s purposes in Anchorage and beyond warms our hearts.

Sometimes being the hands of Jesus means grabbing a wrench and crawling under a vehicle on a cold garage floor. This is all about more than tune-ups and oil changes. Ultimately it’s about advancing God’s purposes and making Jesus known in a place blessed with breath-taking natural beauty. I am grateful for our team and our partnership with GraceWorks Alaska.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 26, 2021

Questions I Hope God Will Not Ask Me

I often think about heaven - perhaps because I am getting older. And while the Scriptures describe heaven as a remarkable place, I am in no particular hurry to get there. I did, however, make a list of the ten things I don’t want for God to ask me when I finally arrive in my heavenly home and stand before Him.

My list reminds me that if I want to hear God say to me “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21), then I have to live in such a way that will make it possible for Him to say these words to me. So, here is my list of ten tough questions I hope I don’t have to answer in heaven.

10. Why did you make so many excuses? | Making excuses is one thing most of us do best. It’s something we instinctively do to try to get ourselves off the hook when we feel someone is reeling us in on the line of accountability. Excuses release us from obligations, keep us from fulfilling our duty, and ultimately distance us from our potential. I don’t want to go through life making excuses about why I failed to do what I should have done. I need to own my failures, learn from them, and move on. No excuses!

9. Why did you blame others? | Blaming others started in the garden when Adam complained to God, “The woman You gave to be with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). The woman then blamed the serpent. And, human beings have been blaming others ever since. Blaming others may anesthetize us from the pain of our own foolish choices but blaming others can’t protect us from the consequences of those choices. Regardless of how others have treated me or what they may have done to hurt me, I am ultimately responsible for making wise choices. The buck stops with me!

8. Why didn’t you take more risks? | The dictionary defines “risk” as “exposure to the chance of injury or loss; the possibility of suffering harm.” That’s why most people don’t like to take risks. However, progress always involves risk. Someone noted that a ship in the harbor may be safe, but that’s not what ships were built for. Unless we are willing to lose sight of the shore we will not make any progress nor will we reach the distant shore. And, let’s not fool ourselves — failing to take risks is also risky. As for me, I opt for taking risks!

7. Why did you remain silent? | Silence is not golden when it comes to matters of eternal significance. Christ-followers are obligated to share the story of redemption with the world (Rom. 1:14). And, we are obligated to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves — the destitute, poor, needy, and oppressed (Prov. 31:8-9). Our silence is costly. I am committed to speaking up.

6. Why didn’t you recognize me? | Mother Teresa urged her Missionaries of Charity to go to the dark places to look for Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor, the naked, the hungry, and the sick. These are the people who live in the blurry world of our peripheral vision. How many times have I sped past Jesus in His distressing disguise? I am determined to slow down and to look more carefully at those around me. And, when I find Jesus in His distressing disguise, I want to do for that person what Jesus would do.

5. Why did you rob me? | Everything we have is a gift from God. Rather than seeing ourselves as owners of what we have, we must see ourselves as stewards. When we fail to support the work of God through our tithes and offerings, we are guilty of robbing God (Malachi 3:8). We can’t justify this crime by saying that we give to Him in other ways (like our time and talent). If we can’t trust God to care for us after we have given our tithes and offerings, then why trust Him with our salvation? I refuse to rob God.

4. Why didn’t you lay up more treasures in heaven? | It’s easy to say we believe in eternity and yet live as if there were nothing beyond this world. Jim Elliot, martyred in Ecuador in 1956, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” We must consider the eternal value of whatever we accomplish or invest in on earth. Since our hearts tend to be wrapped around our treasures, I am determined to treasure God and to give myself to the things that will outlast me and endure for eternity.

3. Why were you unkind to others? | In a world in which people commit hateful, cruel, and violent acts toward others, Christ-followers must set an example of kindness (Prov. 3:3-4). Every time I hear of another terrorist attack, I am reminded that Jesus never took a life but instead gave His life. Nor did He ever command His followers to harm or to use violence against those who reject Him or His claims. I am determined to look for opportunities to be kind to others and to respect them.

2. Why did you try to take so much of the credit? | There is something about us that likes to take the credit for good things. I heard about a woodpecker working hard to peck a hole in a tall pine tree. A bolt of lightning struck the tree, split it in two, and knocked the woodpecker to the ground. When the woodpecker regained consciousness, he surveyed the scene and remarked, “Wow! I didn’t know I had it in me.” May God help me to always remember that He is the One who makes good things happen and deserves the credit.

1. Why didn’t you spend more time with me? | Many of us are addicted to activity and to noise — constantly on the move from morning until night. Taking on too many activities can leave us too dazed and out of breath to spend quality time with God. Ultimately, it is the time we spend with Him that impacts every other thing on this list. When Peter and John were summoned before the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Luke recorded that when the religious leaders “saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). If I want for people to say that about me, then I need to spend more time with Jesus.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 15, 2021

The Church in the Chihuahuan Desert

In the early 1960s, racing car legend Carroll Shelby and Dallas Witts, an attorney from Dallas, purchased the ghost town of Terlingua. The name of the town is derived from the Spanish words “tres lenguas” meaning “three tongues.” Located in the Big Bend region of Texas, the little town had a population of seven at that time — not including a few goats and wild burros.

Shelby and Witts later hatched a land development scheme and named it Terlingua Ranch Land and Cattle Company. They parceled off the 350,000 acres surrounding the ghost town and marketed its as a relaxing place to get away from it all. Sales did not boom as they expected but eventually Terlingua began to attract a variety of hardy off-gridders.

Today, Terlingua Ranch is home to folks from all over, most of whom came to the area to live off the grid. They were drawn to this wide part of Texas by the solitude, the vast vistas, a night sky overcrowded with stars, and the opportunity to do things their way.

Terlingua Ranch Community Church is the only church on the ranch. The modest southwest styled church building is located at the foot of a rocky hill on Church Road about a mile from the Terlingua Ranch headquarters. The small parking lot can accommodate a few vehicles and the hitching posts a few horses.

Cheryl and I enjoy worshipping at this little church whenever we venture to our off-grid cabin in Big Bend. We have come to know and love the members who care deeply about the welfare of those in the area. The church houses a food pantry and keeps its doors unlocked 24/7 so that folks in need can have access to food.

The desert is a harsh environment and has taken its toll on the little church building. Although the structure is still solid, it was time to address a few things, including updating the bathroom, addressing the front doors that opened only partially, adding a small meeting room, and adding food pantry storage.

I pitched the idea of helping to my Band of Fathers group, part of our Kingsland’s Men’s Ministry. We have been meeting together since March 2015 and are committed to shared study, shared mission, and shared adventure. So, we worked out the details with our friends at the church, got a work plan together, purchased materials, gathered our tools, and headed to Big Bend to do an intensive two-day remodel.

We arrived at the church late Thursday afternoon last week and immediately started on the demo work. The next morning, we divided up into teams and got to work. Allen Griffin, one of our members and a master builder, gave us direction and guidance.

We remodeled the bathroom. This included moving a hot water on demand system, adding a new light, replacing the toilet and vanity, installing new siding, hanging a new door, and wiring a new light above the adjacent kitchen area.

The small meeting room also got a much-needed facelift. We replaced the old paneling, added a horizontal sliding window to provide visual access to the room, reframed the door, and provided a small room air conditioner.

We also added a new wall across the front of the worship area. The room behind this wall will become the new food pantry and provide storage for seasonal items. This wall gave a fresh look to the front interior of the church.

Allen paid special attention to the front doors. One church member commented that these doors had not opened properly for the past 30 years. This task was challenging because the front of the church has settled and the front wall was completely out of plumb. But, Allen made sure that the doors were good as new.

On Sunday we worshiped with the good people of the church. Dennis, one of our team members, even stepped up to play the organ. Afterward we enjoyed dinner on the grounds at the home of Mark and Michelle. Great food and fellowship!

Although we worked very long days, our time in Terlingua was refreshing. Our men developed a stronger bond as a result of this shared service initiative. And the people of the church were happy with the fresh new look of their modest little building.

We breathed new life into the little church building in the Chihuahuan Desert so that the church can continue to do good work for the kingdom for another generation.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 7, 2021

Don’t Let the Old Man In

I turned 65 today — a milestone that once seemed so far away. And now, it’s here!

To be honest, there are a lot of things about getting older that I hate. For example, I hate that so much of my hair has turned loose and that what remains has turned gray. And I hate that the wiring in my metabolism has also worked itself loose. With every passing year it becomes harder than ever to lose a pound.

But there are also things about getting older that I love. I find great comfort in the security of my marriage and that I continue to share life with the woman I fell in love with more than 40 years ago. And I love my kids who are no longer kids. And I am head over heels about being a grandfather to three of the most beautiful granddaughters on the planet.

I remain committed to the divine work that God called me to almost 50 years ago. Little did I realize at the time what yielding to his call would mean for me. I continue on an incredible kingdom adventure that still excites me and has taken me to 46 countries around the world. I look forward to getting up every morning and going to “work.”

A couple of years ago, I listened to a song entitled “Don’t Let the Old Man In” by country singer and songwriter Toby Keith. This is one of those songs that instantly spoke to me. In many ways it spoke for me.

Keith was inspired by Eastwood to write the song. Keith and Eastwood are friends. While golfing together, Eastwood told Keith that he was going to start filming “The Mule” on his 88th birthday. The movie is based on the true story of a WWII veteran in his 80s who takes a job as a courier for a Mexican drug cartel. 

Keith asked Eastwood how he found the energy to continue working so hard at his age. Eastwood replied, “I just get up every morning and go out. And I don’t let the old man in.” Keith knew he had to write a song about that — and he did. Eastwood was so pleased with the song that he incorporated it into his movie.

For me, the song has become something of a theme song — a message that inspires me to keep living life to the fullest and to keeping the old man at bay. Getting older does not mean that we have to wave the flag of surrender or to stop living life to the fullest. It just means that we adjust the way we adventure. I have learned to adventure my age — to hike my hike. But I keep adventuring, no matter what.

This past week I reflected on my older age adventures, many of which were inspired by my son who reawakened in me a desire to opt outside more and to do hard things outdoors. Here is what I came up with and why I remain committed to always having something hard to look forward to. It’s the best way to keep the old man out.

Age 55
The Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race
The Colorado River 100 Canoe Race
The Texas Winter 100k Canoe Race

Age 56
The Texas River Marathon Canoe Race
The Texas Water Safari | The World’s Toughest Canoe Race (260 miles)
The Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race
The Colorado River 100 Canoe Race

Age 57
The Texas River Marathon Canoe Race
The Texas Water Safari | The World’s Toughest Canoe Race (260 miles)
The Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race
Mountain Biking the Jungles of Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The Lone Star Hiking Trail | 100 mile thru-hike

Age 58
Guadalupe Peak Summit | The Highest Point in Texas | Solo
Mountain Biking the Jungles of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Age 59
The Texas River Marathon Canoe Race
Hiking in Alaska
McKittrick Canyon Hike | Guadalupe Mountains
Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Endurance Ride
Fishing on the Amazon River

Age 60
Paddled the Devils River | The Most Pristine River in Texas
Digging for Topaz in Mason County
The Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race
Guadalupe Peak Summit | The Highest Point in Texas
Hunter Peak Summit | Guadalupe Mountains
Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Endurance Ride

Age 61
Aztec Cave Hike | Franklin Mountains
Planked 7 minutes and 30 seconds
El Capitan Summit | Guadalupe Mountains
Guadalupe Peak Summit | The Highest Point in Texas
Mountain Biking the Jungles of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Age 62
Hiking in Alaska
Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Endurance Ride
Purchased Off-Grid Property in Big Bend | Start of a New Adventure
Guadalupe Peak Summit | The Highest Point in Texas
Mountain Biking the Congo-Nile Trail in Rwanda

Age 63
Hiking in Alaska
Mule Ears Trail Hike | Big Bend
Killed my First Hog
Developing our off-grid property

Age 64
Bartlett Peak Summit | Guadalupe Mountains
Bush Mountain Summit | Guadalupe Mountains
Killed My First Deer
Developing our off-grid property

Age 65
Excited to start year 65 by leading my Band of Fathers group to remodel Terlingua Ranch Community Church in the Chihuahuan Desert

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 31, 2021

A Vicious Attack

The video footage is disturbing.

On Monday, security cameras captured the brutal attack of a 65 year-old Asian woman on her way to church in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan — an area known as the Crossroads of the World. Her attacker was a big man, easily twice her size.

The footage shows the man approaching the woman and then, without warning and without provocation, he kicks her in the stomach. The woman then falls to the ground where her attacker stomps her head and continues to kick her. The attacker yelled, “You don’t belong here” — and then walked away.


However, just as disturbing is the presence of three other individuals who witnessed the attack from the lobby of a luxury apartment building. One of these, believed to be a security guard, walked to the glass entry doors of the apartment building and closed them.

Earlier today, an arrest was made. New York City police identified the suspect as Brandon Elliot, a 38 year-old black man released from prison in 2019. Elliot, it turns out, is on lifetime parole for having fatally stabbed his own mother.

Elliot was charged with two counts of felony assault as a hate crime and one count each of attempted assault as a hate crime plus assault and attempted assault. If convicted, Elliot could face years in prison.

The woman was hospitalized with serious injuries and released the following day. She was identified as Vilma Kari from the Philippines and a legal resident of the United States who has every right to be here.

This story has sparked more dialogue about hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. And so it should. Hate crimes are among the ugliest violations of the sanctity of human life — the failure to recognize the dignity and worth of others created in God’s image.

This story, however, should also spark debate about the ugliness of doing nothing in the face of evil. The bystanders failed to seize a moment that could have made a difference.

Our lives are, essentially, a series of moments that tell our respective stories. As we travel through time each of us leave history in our wake — one moment at a time. Each moment that we live is filled with the potential to do good, to do the right thing, to make a difference.

The potential of each moment, however, is unlocked by our choices. And once a moment has come and gone it forever carries with it the imprint of those choices.

The most important and significant moments of our lives seldom present themselves at a convenient time. We rarely receive any warning that our lives are headed toward a moment that will be unlike any other moment we have ever faced — a moment that will present us with an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference beyond the ordinary.

Sadly, three people stood by and watched an ugly thing unfold. Any one of them could have acted or they could have moved together to confront the threat. Instead, they chose the safer option for themselves. As a result, their moment has come and gone and because they did nothing, an old woman was injured and, even worse, could have lost her life.

There will always be haters who do evil things. May we choose to be champions who courageously confront those who, like Brandon Elliot, do evil. May we always stand ready to move in the direction of need when our lives intersect with the ugliness that one human being can unleash on another.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 30, 2021

In His Own Words

One of the best things about serving others is making new friends. In December of last year, I learned about Mr. Henderson, an elderly man in Brookshire whose home had fallen into horrible disrepair. I had to see things for myself — and that meant closing the distance between myself and Mr. Henderson.

When I moved in Mr. Henderson’s direction and met him, I learned just how challenging his situation was. There was no way I could look the other way. I knew that I had to act — to mobilize volunteers to answer Mr. Henderson’s prayers. Working with our friends at The Hangar Unity Center in Brookshire, a ministry of Eyes On Me, we hammered out a game plan to bless Mr. Henderson.

In the span of one week in January, an army of volunteers blessed Mr. Henderson with a home makeover. For the first time in eleven years, Mr. Henderson had running water, a stable roof over his head, and a secure place to live.

Chad Swiggart, videographer for Eyes On Me, prepared a great video about the week we spent blessing Mr. Henderson. I love what we were able to do for this kind gentleman - but the best part of it all for me was making a new friend in Mr. Henderson. I hope you will take a moment to watch the video and listen to Mr. Henderson tell the story in his own words.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 8, 2021

2021 International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Choose to Challenge” because a challenged world is an alert world — and from challenge comes change. This theme also acknowledges the reality that we are most in danger when we are not alert. Bad things can happen to us and to others when we are not alert and fail to understand the times — the historical, political, and spiritual context in which we live.

As the church we must choose to challenge — to call out the many ways in which women in their respective contexts around the world are abused, marginalized, neglected, disrespected, and treated with less than the dignity bestowed on them by God.

In order for us to engage we must first understand what is happening. And in order to understand what is happening we must see clearly. In the words of the American essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”

The parable of the Good Samaritan recorded in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) illustrates the difference between looking at something and actually seeing. In this story, a man on a journey was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road.

A priest and later a Levite walked down that road and “saw” the poor fellow who had been beaten and left for dead. Sadly, both of them continued on their way. Neither of them stopped to render aid.

However, later in the day a man from Samaria walked by. The Scripture records that he also “saw” the man. However, when he saw him he felt compassion (Lk. 10:33) and that made all the difference. What he saw prompted him to move in the direction of a man in desperate need.

The Samaritan was willing to stop, alter his schedule, and spend his personal resources in order to help another. He displayed what the great American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. called “a dangerous unselfishness.”

King suggested that the priest and the Levite likely thought, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

And, that’s the question before each of us!

The Gospel of Mark records an account of the only miracle that Jesus performed in two stages (Mark 8:22-26).

A blind man was brought to Jesus at Bethsaida. Jesus took the man aside, put spit on his eyes and laid hands on him, and then asked him if he could see anything. The man replied that he could see men, but they looked like trees walking about — an indication that his sight was blurry.

Jesus laid His hands on the man’s eyes a second time and, as a result, the man could finally see others clearly. Jesus could have healed the blind man with one touch but chose instead to touch the man’s eyes a second time. Perhaps He did so to remind us that insight often comes slowly.

If we are to understand the times and choose to challenge, then we must ask Jesus to touch our eyes a second time so that we too can see clearly.

Hurt and abuse most often happen out of our sight. That’s why we need that second touch that can give us greater vision and insight into the things that happen in the shadows. We must slow down enough to look to our left and to our right in order to develop peripheral compassion — the kind of benevolence that is born out of awareness of what is happening in the periphery of our vision.

Ten years ago I came across a heartbreaking story about a woman named Marie Joseph — a 36-year old mother of five children who went to the community swimming pool to get a little relief from the summer heat.

The swimming pool was packed with people. At some point, a 9 year-old boy saw Marie going down a slide and into the water — but he never saw her resurface. So, the little boy told one of the six life-guards on duty but the life-guards failed to act.

The following day the pool was once again packed with swimmers splashing about and enjoying the water. Then, late Tuesday night after the pool was closed, Marie Joseph’s body floated to the surface at the deep end of the pool.

It’s hard to imagine how a woman could drown in a public swimming pool packed with swimmers and go unnoticed for two days. Six trained life-guards on duty, two teams of pool inspectors, and hundreds of swimmers failed to see Marie Joseph’s lifeless body lying at the bottom of the pool.

Perhaps if the life-guard had acted on the word of the little boy who promptly reported his concern this story might have had a different ending. It appears that a combination of unfortunate factors and distractions converged to keep numerous people from noticing Marie Joseph. She died in plain sight and nobody noticed.

Marie Joseph’s story illustrates the plight of many women today. So many young girls and women are drowning in pools of abuse, in filthy brothels where human traffickers have enslaved them, in cultures where they are victims of violent gang rapes or honor killings, and in marriages where they suffer abuse at the hands of misogynistic husbands.

Girls and women are the most common victims of gendercide which is expressed in three forms: feticide, or sex-selective abortion, infanticide, and gender-based violence.

In countries like India, for example, the three most dangerous words are “It’s a girl.” In 2007, UNICEF estimated that as many as 7,000 girls are aborted in India every single day. Those numbers are likely higher today. And every single day any newspaper in India will include stories of infanticide and gender-based violence against women.

In 2008 while visiting our pregnancy help center in Uganda, I was introduced to the terrible truth about how very young girls are seduced and abused by sex traffickers. What I learned made me angry. How could one human being so abuse another and rob young girls of innocence they would never regain? This was yet another ugly expression of the violation of the sanctity of human life.

After my visit to the aftercare home that cared for young girls rescued from human trafficking in Uganda, I thought about the words of abolitionist William Wilberforce who said, “You may choose to look the other away but you can never say again that you did not know.” I could not look the other way. I knew I had to act.

A friend asked me what I intended to do. “I will challenge the women of my church,” I said. “This injustice against young girls will make them angry and they will become champions for these young girls and others like them.” And that is exactly what happened.

Over the past ten years, Kingsland has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in championing the rights of young girls trapped in the unspeakable hell of being raped daily for the profit of sex traffickers. We mobilize women’s teams to travel internationally to work with our partners in the fight against human trafficking.

Our engagement in this arena began with seeing something horrible that in turn triggered compassion that led to a challenge that resulted in a response that has changed the world for young girls and women in several countries. We are more alert than ever to this horrible reality.

As Christ-followers, our response to what we see reveals much about us and whether we truly embrace the teaching of a biblical worldview that affirms the worth and dignity of others and calls us to move in the direction of people in need in order to make difference.

What are you looking at — or more importantly, what have you seen that has broken your heart?

What will you do to offer the kind of life-saving aid that the Good Samaritan offered?

How is God stirring you to become a champion for those in need?

And when you look back on it all in years to come, what will you be able to say about how you responded when your life intersected with something that broke your heart?

Ask Jesus to touch your eyes a second time and to make you alert to what is happening around you. Determine to act on behalf of the weak. Support initiatives that acknowledge the worth of women and restore dignity to girls and women around the world. Choose to challenge and do your part to change the world.

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