Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 19, 2016

An Atheist Christmas

The group known as American Atheists have once again launched their annual anti-Christmas billboard campaign. Two years ago, their signature piece featured a little girl with a mischievous look writing her letter to Santa. “Dear Santa,” she writes, “All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”

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This year, the group is once again urging folks to skip church. “It is important for people to know,” they write, “that religion has nothing to do with being a good person…” I agree. But it is also important for atheists to know that religion has nothing to do with being a good Christian. Christianity is, instead, about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Of course, atheists believe that Jesus Christ is a myth. At least that’s the message American Atheists promoted in their 2011 anti-Christmas campaign. That year they featured billboards with images of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa, and a devil-like figure with the words “37 million Americans know Myths when they see them.”

Scholars Burridge and Gould, authors of “Jesus Then and Now,” comment in their book that respectable scholars do not deny Jesus’ existence (p. 34). James Hannam, a scholar who came to Christianity from a scientific background, said that to claim that Jesus never existed “requires selective skepticism about which sources are reliable and how others are interpreted.” He continues, “In the end, if Jesus did not exist, it makes Christianity a much more incredible phenomena than if he did.”

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Another of this year’s billboard ads is a parody of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. The message calls on atheists to “Make Christmas Great Again” by skipping church. This particular campaign is specifically targeted at those who no longer believe but still occasionally attend religious services. This is kinda goofy since atheists have never regarded Christmas as great!

I have stated in previous years that I am neither offended nor threatened by these atheists attacks on Christmas. Instead, I have come to regard them as opportunities for non-believers and believers alike to think deeply and to dialogue openly about the meaning of Christmas and the Person of Christ. And that’s not a bad thing. We should think and talk more about Christ at Christmas.

This Christmas season, as in previous years, the people of our church have invested lots of money and time in caring for those in need throughout our community and around the world — even places like Aleppo. We are feeding the hungry, providing water for the thirsty by drilling water wells in villages without a clean source of drinking water, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, caring for the hurting, bringing hope to refugees, and more.

We are keeping the spirit of Christmas alive by doing for others what Jesus would do — by being His hands and feet throughout our community and in the most desperate places around the planet. We are about much more than going to church, we are about being the church. Ultimately, that is what will make Christmas great this season and throughout the coming year!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 9, 2016

Why Burn the Flag?

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” — words I learned as a child and own as an adult. I love our country and I have great respect for our flag and what it represents. My respect for our country and our flag has only deepened over the years as I have traveled extensively to more than forty countries around the globe, including many places where freedom and opportunity is suppressed.

In recent months, displays of disrespect for our national anthem and our flag have increased. Most notably, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has repeatedly refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African-Americans and other minorities.

flag-burning
Following the presidential election, some who were unhappy about the election results expressed their personal frustration and anger by, among other things, burning the American flag. While both Kaepernick’s actions and those of angry protesters who have burned our flag fall under the umbrella of freedom of speech, I personally believe they are the wrong actions.

Our flag is a powerful symbol both at home and around the world.

The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have the right to vote for whatever candidate we choose. We have the right to campaign on behalf of our chosen candidates, to dialogue and debate about issues, and ultimately to cast a single vote. But while the flag guarantees that we have the right to do so, it does not guarantee the results. So, why burn the flag?

The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have the right to express our views before and after an election. We have the freedom to peacefully protest, express our respective views, hold candlelight vigils, and shout as loud as we’d like. But, the flag does not give us the freedom to wantonly destroy the property of those in the paths of our demonstrations. So, why burn the flag?

The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have opportunity to right wrongs. We have the right and the freedom to work as hard as we want and to invest as much as we want in the causes that resonate in the deepest chambers of our heart. But the flag does not guarantee us the results. The results are up to us and our determination to put our money where our mouth is and our time and efforts toward the change we desire. So, why burn the flag?

Dad with crew chiefs at Spangdahlem Air Force Base. | 2010 | Germany

Dad with crew chiefs at Spangdahlem Air Force Base. | 2010 | Germany

The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, every citizen has the right and the freedom to pursue the American Dream. As a kid, my father told me that I must work hard to achieve what I want and that I was not entitled to anything just because I happen to be a minority. So, I worked hard. I kept my hand to the plow. I have always earned an honest wage. The flag reminds me that I must work hard to pursue the American Dream but that the American Dream is not something that will just be handed to me. So, why burn the flag?

The American flag represents freedoms and opportunities that are available in this country and not necessarily other countries. If Kaepernick showed a similar disdain for the Cuban national anthem and flag he would certainly be transferred to a smaller playing field sans multimillion dollar contract. The same would hold true in other nations around the planet both for Kaepernick and flag burners.

The American flag is a reminder of a depth of courage and sacrifice far greater than Colin Kaepernick has ever made or that anyone who burns the flag may ever understand. Our flag is still flying because of the sacrifices made by countless men and women in uniform who courageously moved in the direction of harm’s way on our behalf. These individuals respected our symbols of freedom. They understood that the American flag speaks to rights and not results. We would do well to remember that.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 3, 2016

Behold the Nations

Our missions ministry is engaged in moving in the direction of people in need both here and abroad. Every year, more than 3,000 Kingsland volunteers serve among the people of our community and among the nations.

The journey toward better understanding and effective communication begins when we take our first steps in the direction of others. The greatest insight often comes when we are onsite — when we join others in the context of their lives.

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In a few days, those of you who are Kingsland members will receive our new Behold the Nations publication. Ryley Rush, one of my interns, conducted interviews with several of our members who are engaged in our work around the world. Ryley did a great job of helping us to tell the story of how God is using us to serve His purposes.

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Look for our full-color publication in your mailbox or pick up a copy in the foyer of our worship center. And then, Behold the Nations through the eyes of our own members who have traveled the world with a purpose — to make Christ known.

We are committed to seeing people clearly, moving in their direction, and building bridges of love over which the gospel can travel. Thanks for investing in our missions initiatives around the globe. And thanks for praying as we seek to invite all people to experience true fulfillment in Jesus Christ, one home at a time.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 19, 2016

Intentional Adventures

When it comes to adventure, it’s important to be intentional. That means planning ahead and having something hard or challenging to look forward to. Several months ago I set my sights on a new adventure, one that I know may take a while to accomplish — to make it to the summit of the seven named peaks in Texas that are 8,000 feet and higher in elevation.

Hiking or scrambling up anything higher than Enchanted Rock is a big deal for a flat-lander like me. That’s because I grew up in a place so flat that a fellow could see his dog running away for three days and maybe four if he stood atop a tuna fish can. That’s pretty flat! I have no doubt that God designed me to enjoy the oxygen-rich atmosphere of low places.

Omar on Guadalupe Peak Trail
But I also know that God designed me for much more — for higher places. And venturing to higher places requires leaving the kind of geography where breathing is easy and our legs don’t burn or cramp up when we walk. One thing is certain, going up is hard. Elevation gain does not come easy. At some point it all starts to hurt. But if you keep at it, the payoff is definitely worth every painful step.

Two years ago I set my sights on making it to the top of Guadalupe Peak — the highest point in the Lone Star State. The hike is rated as strenuous and the elevation gain on the narrow and rocky trail is brutal. But, hiking at my own pace, I reached the highest point in Texas on December 2, 2014. I will never forget that day or the feeling of accomplishment.

Since then, I have learned that there are seven named peaks in the Lone Star State that rise more than 8,000-feet into the Texas sky. These seven peaks are a bucket list unto themselves, even for a flat-lander like me. In order of height, they are:

• Guadalupe Peak | 8,749 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• Bush Mountain | 8,631 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• Shumard Peak | 8,615 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• Bartlett Peak | 8,508 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• Mount Livermore | 8,378 feet | Davis Mountains
• Hunter Peak | 8,368 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• El Capitan | 8,085 feet | Guadalupe Mountain

Doyle on GP Trail
So, a few months ago I started planning my latest adventure to the highest points in Texas. My friend Doyle Lowry agreed to join me on this first phase of the adventure to summit Guadalupe Peak, Bush Mountain, and Hunter Peak. This past Monday, we crammed all of our gear into Doyle’s pick-up truck and headed to Guadalupe Mountains National Park at 4:30 in the morning.

Over the course of three days we made it to the top of Texas and signed the register atop Guadalupe Peak. We also made it to the top of Bush Mountain. We hiked somewhere in the neighborhood of six miles up steadily rising switchbacks just to get to the trailhead to Bush Mountain. Bush Mountain was the least spectacular of our three summits but we were happy to check it off the list.

Omar-Doyle on Hunter Peak
After Bush Mountain, we set our sights on Hunter Peak. Reaching the summit was the absolute highlight of our trip. The views were even more spectacular than we imagined. In our estimation, Hunter Peak is the hidden gem of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, boasting the most spectacular views of Texas.

We ended the week’s adventure by hiking McKittrick Canyon. Other than Lost Maples State Natural Area, this is the best spot in Texas to see and enjoy the Fall colors. McKittrick Canyon is definitely a Texas treasure.

As you look to the year ahead, be as intentional as possible in planning affordable adventures. Get outdoors and see beautiful places near you. Plan something hard that will stretch you and require that you do a lot of preparation ahead of time. God did not design us to stay indoors or to watch other people do hard stuff. He blessed us with the capacity for more than that.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 6, 2016

Affordable Adventures

I love adventure. It really doesn’t matter to me whether the adventure is big or small. I have learned to embrace and enjoy even the briefest adventure — like a bike ride along the bayou trails near my home. If we lead ourselves to believe that only big and costly adventures are adventures, then we will miss out on a lot of really cool stuff.

When it comes to my adventure metrics, everything counts — not just the epic-sized stuff. To think otherwise would be like saying that the only meals that can nourish me are the ones I eat at a fancy restaurant. While I love eating at a great steak house, I can’t afford to eat at a place like that every day. So, I eat at a lot of places where you have to look up to see the menu.

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This past Friday and Saturday I had the opportunity to enjoy a couple of fun — and affordable — adventures. On Friday, I packed up my fishing gear and made my way to Cat Spring to join my old friend Steve Peace for a day of fellowship and fishing. Some mutual friends were very kind to give us access to their 300-acre spread complete with a multi-acre pond.

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Fishing a pond on private land is like catching fish out of a bucket — only better. The aim of an adventure like this was to do more than fish. It was to wet a line with an old friend and to get caught up on life. There is no better place to have a conversation than around a campfire or next to someone holding a fishing pole. And converse we did. Hours of conversation while we caught and released too many fish to count.

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Of course, we had to take a break for lunch so we hopped in my pickup and drove to nearby New Ulm for a big tasty burger at Texas Star Cafe. More conversation. And then, back to the pond. Conversation. Catch. Release. And repeat. There is no better way for me to clear my head and hit the reset button than to get outdoors. Loved this adventure.

On Saturday, after a morning of leading one of our small groups to serve our partners at Manna House in Brookshire, I set off on another great adventure. I put on my biking toggs, tossed my mountain bike in the back of my pickup, and drove off to meet some of the guys in my Band of Fathers men’s group.

bike-gang-gbpark
The guys and I do a lot of mountain biking adventures. Absolutely love riding with these guys. What made our adventure even more enjoyable was deciding to get off the familiar trails at George Bush Park and ride through the woods — making our own trail. Whoa! This was intensely fun and more than a bit challenging.

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Sharing our off-trail adventure made it even more enjoyable. We rode. We laughed. We stopped to get our bearings. We dodged tree limbs on the ground and on the trees. And when we finally emerged from the woods, we all agreed that we had just shared one of the best riding experiences we have had. The only thing it cost us was a few scratches here and there. Well worth it.

As you think about your next adventure, remember that it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to be an adventure. There is an entire menu of affordable adventures waiting to be enjoyed. Take your pick. Order up something fun, something hard, something old or something new. Fit something cool into whatever time you have available. God gave us a heart for adventure. So, go have an adventure!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 19, 2016

Reflections on 100 Trips

This month, I had the privilege of leading my one-hundredth international short-term mission team. Over the years I have seen God do amazing things in and through the lives of those willing to go beyond. Traveling to so many places around the globe has also caused me to reflect deeply about the things I have seen and experienced. The following are my top ten reflections — the things that have come into sharper focus as a result of going beyond.

10. We must embrace inconvenience. | Every major discovery in the history of the world has been made by those who were willing to take risks and embrace inconveniences. Over the centuries, the map of the world was slowly redefined by those who lost sight of familiar shores in order to move toward uncharted lands. Their commitment to the bigger picture enabled them to press on in spite of inconveniences. We must remember that the kingdom of God always advances at our inconvenience.

Lee & Omar
9. We must move in the direction of people in need.
| Even a cursory study of the life of Jesus will reveal that He moved toward people in need, something that the religious leaders of His day were reluctant to do. If we want to become more like Jesus, then we must intentionally close the distance between ourselves and those who, like the lepers of Jesus’ day, are longing for the kind of touch that will build a bridge from our heart to theirs.

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8. The geography of our birthplace matters.
| The geography of my birthplace made it possible for me to have access to the gospel and to resources that enable me to live with a relatively high measure of comfort and security. Not so for many in our world. For some, the geography of their birthplace means that life will be difficult and dangerous. I have a responsibility to be a good steward of the blessings I enjoy because of where I was born and must not neglect the welfare of those born in difficult places.

Omar at Mother Teresa's
7. Worldview impacts everything.
| Among all of the worldview issues that impact whether people live in fear or with hope is the matter of the sanctity of human life. I have seen what can happen to people who live in cultures that devalue human life. From the displacement camps of Darfur to the narrow alleys of Kolkata where Mother Teresa rescued the destitute and dying, worldview impacts whether people live or die. I have a responsibility to live out my worldview regarding the sanctity of human life both at home and abroad.

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6. Injustice is a reality.
| Knowing that there are approximately 27 million people in the world today who live under some form of slavery is mind-boggling. A statistic like this can easily anesthetize us to the painful realities experienced by the individual people who make up those statistics. It’s one thing to hear that there are 27 million people held as slaves, but it’s another thing to personally meet someone who has been rescued from such a hell. Charts and graphs can give us insight into the magnitude of a problem, but meeting a victim can compel us to become a part of the solution. I have a responsibility to fight against injustices like human trafficking.

Omar and Jay in Amazon
5. There is no place where God is not at work.
| While there are fields around the globe that are unquestionably white unto harvest, there are also places where God is quietly at work. God loves the nations and wants them to have knowledge of Him. I have met many people in closed or restricted countries who have lived a lifetime without access to the gospel but whom God prepared to receive His message by speaking to them in a dream. Amazing stories like this and others I have heard have convinced me that there is no place in the world where God is not at work.

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4. There are kind people everywhere.
| The evening news can easily lead us to believe that many nations beyond our borders are filled with nothing but angry and violent people. I have in fact met more than a few people on my travels who fall into that category. However, I have also met the kindest people in some of the most dangerous places I have visited — people of all faiths who have extended their hospitality and protection to me. These persons of peace have embraced me with the same spirit with which the Gentile centurion named Cornelius embraced Peter in the book of Acts.

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3. National partners make all the difference.
| Over the years I have met and worked with numerous national partners who are passionate about the spiritual and physical welfare of their own people. Many of these serve at great risk to their own lives. A handful have lost their lives for the sake of the gospel. The sacrifice of these individuals who have counted the cost or paid the ultimate price for following Christ keeps me sober-minded. I count it a privilege to pray for them, encourage them, and assist them with their efforts to reach their own people.

Ukraine 1995
2. Many in our world are still waiting to hear the good news.
| Years ago while in Ukraine, a friend shared the gospel with an elderly woman who had grown up under Communism. The woman embraced the gospel and then asked, “How long have you known about this good news?” Our team member replied, “All of my life.” The old woman then asked, “Then why didn’t you come sooner?” I feel the weight of my responsibility to the nations. Like Paul, I am a debtor — I understand that those of us who know Christ owe Christ to all who do not know Him.

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1. We must attempt great things for God.
| William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement, said, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.” We can neither attempt great things nor expect great things unless we have the courage to go beyond the line that defines the farthest we’ve ever been and the most we’ve ever done for God and His purposes. Unless we are willing to put ourselves in a context where we must depend on God, we will never reach our highest potential in Christ nor will we make our greatest contributions to His work. I remain committed to going beyond in order to become and to accomplish all that God has for me.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 13, 2016

A Dream Come True

El Maderal, El Salvador

When we arrived in the tiny village of El Maderal on Monday, the people told us that they dream about water — clean water. The older folks remember when the streams that run near the village were more than a source of water, but a source of food as well.

dirty-stream-in-el-maderal
All of that changed fourteen years ago when the district started dumping garbage just up the road from the village. It was not long before the fish disappeared, an indication that the water was contaminated. The people not only lost their source of water. They lost a valuable food source as well.

barry-treas-at-control
And so the people complained to local and regional authorities. But nobody took action on behalf of the poor people of El Maderal. The problems continued and worsened. And so the people began to dream about water. And they began to pray. Daily. Hard. In earnest.

team-at-mud-pit

Some, by their own confession, had little faith that their prayers would be answered, that the dream would come true. But others held on to their faith. And this week, the hopes and prayers of the people of El Maderal were finally answered. Their dream for clean water came true.

david-istre-at-controls
This was not the easiest week in terms of drilling. We spent an entire afternoon and evening trying to break through a layer of rock. We measured progress by the inch. Painfully slow. But we thought of the people of El Maderal. And we thought of God’s faithfulness. We persevered. And we broke through and continued drilling to one-hundred feet.

water-joy-in-el-maderal
mark-w-kids-el-maderal
As we developed the well, abundant and clear water gushed up from the depths to the cheers of the people. The kids, and even a few adults, seized the opportunity to run and play under the spray. Laughing. Jumping up and down. Soaking themselves in the showers of blessings — a dream come true.

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el-maderal-folks
On our final afternoon we gathered around the well with the people of El Maderal. We enjoyed skits, a puppet show, a gospel presentation, lots of words of thanks from the folks here, and a special unexpected presentation. The people not only thanked us, they made paper crowns and presented them to us as they sang the words to “Thank you for giving to the Lord.” This was one of the best moments of any trip I have led — absolutely heartwarming.

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I remain deeply grateful for Living Water International for making dreams come true for people all over the world longing for a source of clean water. And I am grateful for the people of Kingsland for loving the nations and investing so much so that we can share and show the love of Jesus in places like El Maderal. That is indeed a dream come true.

el-maderal-plaque

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 11, 2016

We Dream of Water

El Maderal, El Salvador

El Maderal is a tiny village that you are not likely to find on Google maps or any other maps for that matter. Tucked away in the hills of El Salvador not far from the Pacific Ocean, El Maderal is home to twenty-one families. Their humble little homes flank a short stretch of road that leads to the regional garbage dump.

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Dozens of times a day, big trucks overflowing with garbage rumble their way to the dump past the people of El Maderal. They have grown accustomed to the traffic in their remote little slice of El Salvadoran geography. What they are not happy about is how the garage dump has impacted their lives.

el-maderal-stream
Located at a slightly higher elevation than the village, all of the stuff that ends up in the dump has contaminated every steam that runs down and through the village. The water is unfit for drinking and even bad for doing the laundry. Although they have complained to anyone in authority who cares to listen, the problem remains unresolved.

barbara-and-kids

When we arrived in El Maderal on Monday morning, we were warmly greeted by kids and adults holding handmade Welcome posters and colorful bouquets of balloons. A woman spoke for the village and told us that we were an answer to their prayers. “We dream of water,” she said, “clean water.” They saw our team as the answer to their prayers and the fulfillment of their dream.

team-at-airport
We came to El Salvador to drill one more water well in cooperation with our friends at Living Water International. And, we had the good fortune to be the team to drill the water well that the people of El Maderal have been dreaming of. A blessing for us — and an unimaginably huge blessing for the people of El Maderal!

muddy-omar-in-el-maderal
Today we completed our second day of drilling. It was a tough day. We drilled through rock all day and made progress only to eighty feet. We need to reach one-hundred feet to ensure that the people here will have a clean and reliable source of water. This matters to every person in this village. And it matters to us.

mark-in-mud-clothes

Because this is so important, we don’t mind getting covered in mud and doing whatever it takes to make sure that when we leave the people here have a water well. So, a part of our team is drilling, another group is teaching hygiene lessons, and another group is repairing wells in the area.

omar-and-mike
We know that without clean water kids will continue to get sick, women will continue to spend a large part of their day fetching water from unsanitary sources, and life in general will continue to be tough. We want to change that for the people of El Maderal. We want to turn what has become a nightmare into a beautiful dream fulfilled.

james

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 8, 2016

Fishing the Amazon River

Amazonas, Brazil

Fishing figures big in the gospels. Several of Jesus’ disciples fished for a living. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John — two sets of brothers — to follow Him, He used their old profession to tell them what their new profession would be. “Follow Me,” He invited, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

And so, these brothers left behind their nets and their boats and followed Jesus on a grand new adventure. Jesus knew that these guys had the potential to do more than catch fish out of the Sea of Galilee. These brothers had the potential to catch men out of the troubled sea of sin and begin a movement to transform the world — something that would only happen by following Jesus.

I am not a big fisher of fish but I do like to fish. After visiting the Amazon earlier this year, I figured I would bring along my fishing gear on this trip to fish on the mighty river. I knew that we would have a few discretionary hours over the course of our time in Brazil to wet a line and possibly catch a fish — perhaps some really interesting creature from the murky depths of the mysterious Amazon.

So, I consulted a couple of friends whose fishing expertise is beyond anything I will ever attain to in my lifetime. I watched YouTube videos of fishing on the Amazon. I asked lots of questions and then made sure I brought a few things along to coax something in the water onto my hook.

Pastor Eli w Peacock Bass
Friends talked to me about the famous peacock bass. If nothing else, I had to catch one of these beautiful fish. Every fishing guy I talked to told me that catching a peacock bass on the Amazon was on their bucket list. Yikes! I quickly penciled it on to my list as well.

Gary in Canoe in Amazon
The crew on our boat were all fishermen and were excited that we had brought along some fishing gear. I packed my Zebco 33 Max with 20-pound Cajun line and my telescoping rod. Not exactly the best gear for going after peacock bass. More like bringing a knife to a gunfight, something affirmed by a Brazilian guy who sat next to me on the flight south.

Omar's Piranha
My Brazilian seat mate was very nice. He tried not to giggle too much at my gear as he showed me pics on his phone of monster peacock bass he had caught with expensive gear and nothing less than 80-pound braided line. I had visions of snagging a peacock bass — or more like a peacock bass taking my line and dragging me off the boat into the murky waters never to be seen again.

Piranha Teeth
But, it is what it is. I was headed to the Amazon with the gear I had packed. After a long day in a village, the guys on the boat invited us to join them on the back deck to bait fish. And then it happened. A strike. A hard tug. My line spinning out of my reel. Adrenaline. And then finally reeling in my first Amazon fish — of all things, a piranha. Holy smoke. This thing had some teeth.

Into the Amazon
Later in the week, we headed to a hidden lake two hours before breakfast to fish for peacock bass. After a quick trip by boat followed by a hike through the jungle, the lake came into view. Magnificent. We fished from the shore and two at a time in a tiny wooden tippy canoe. I was prepared to enjoy myself regardless of whether I caught anything. This was just too beautiful to do otherwise.

Omar's Aruana Fish
I am happy to report that I caught a peacock bass — not a monster, just a modest ten incher. And then I snagged another piranha in the back and reeled it in. Poor thing. But, the best catch of the morning was snagging a two-foot fighter called an aruana (or arowana in English). The aruana is also called a monkey fish because of its ability to jump out of the water and snag monkeys sitting on low branches! Whoa!

julia-fish-kiss
What was even more enjoyable was watching the team have fun in the evenings and very early mornings as we tossed our lines into the water and laughed and talked. Even Julia, one of the physician assistants on our team, caught her very first fish ever in the mighty Amazon. She was thrilled beyond words. So was the fish as soon as she released it. Way to go, Julia!

Black Piranha Teeth
Fishing on the Amazon was fun. And, our cooks prepared our fish as part of our daily meals. Nothing wasted here. Very cool. Our team led more than sixty folks to faith in Christ on this trip and even caught a few fish. All of this made for a grand adventure, indeed! But, as much fun as I had fishing for fish, I will definitely keep my day job of fishing for men.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 6, 2016

Where There Is No Doctor

Amazonas, Brazil

Those of us who have unlimited and unrestricted access to medical care are indeed fortunate — more so than most people on the planet. Living in places where there is no doctor adds layers of difficulty to life. People in remote areas have little choice but to deal with their aches and pains and the uncertainty of what may happen to them without treatment.

julia-and-costa-in-amazon
On our recent trek to the Amazon, our team provided medical, dental, and optical clinics for the people of the villages we visited. The presence of doctors in these remote villages is huge. And whenever a doctor is available, word travels fast both in the village and along the river to neighboring villages. People will drop what they’re doing to see a doctor.

Allen in Amazon
Our medical team provided compassionate help to many. What I loved most was watching our team take an interest in every patient, ask about their families, console crying kids, address every need, explain every medication, share about Jesus, and pray with every individual. No hurry. Our clinics were not about herding people through. They were all about taking the time to make meaningful connections.

julia-med-clinic
Our medical clinics also provided opportunities for us to share with folks about why we had come. While ministering to Syrian refugees in Jordan, my friend Jamal said something to me that made a lot of sense. “If we will allow people the opportunity to listen to the music of our lives,” he said, “then sooner or later they will want to know the words.” We had lots of opportunities to share the words to the music of our lives with folks in the Amazon.

amazon-kids-crafts
Helping people in need through compassionate acts of service is a hallmark of the Christian worldview. Jesus Himself set the ultimate example of service and sacrifice for His followers. That’s why you can count on His followers selflessly serving others around the globe every day of the year, not just in times of disasters or humanitarian crises.

amazon-kids-study
I am grateful for our medical team and also for our children’s ministry team. I absolutely loved hearing the laughter of the kids we met in each village. Our team shared Bible stories, used creative craft projects to reinforce what they taught, and had a blast doing recreational stuff with the kids.

eye-clinic
I could not help but think how different our presence in these villages was to the stories I had heard earlier in the year from Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqi Christians who had made their way to Jordan. When ISIS came to their villages, the people fled in fear. How sad! But a reminder of how different and how beautiful Jesus is. He brings joy, dispels fear, and affirms the value and worth of every man, woman, and child.

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