Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 27, 2020

I Am Weary of Masks

Like so many others, I am longing for the day when the Coronavirus season is behind us and we are no longer required to wear masks and gloves. That day will come. In the meantime, I will continue to wear my PPE and err on the side of caution. I also believe that a little humor does the heart good, so I had to write a little poem about this season of wearing masks.

Zorro wore a mask
The Lone Ranger, too
Their real identities
Nobody knew

They battled and fought
With swashbuckling flair
With a Hi Ho Silver
Echoing through the air

They tirelessly fought
Against foes that were strong
They defeated them all
And righted their wrongs

But at the end of the day
When their work was complete
Did they take off their masks
When they sat down to eat?

Or did they wear them to sleep
All through the night
In case they had to wake up
To resume the fight

I don’t know the answers
I don’t have a clue
But my personal mask
Feels like it’s stuck on with glue

I am weary of wearing it
Day in and day out
I want to rip it off
With a joyful shout

But alas for today
And also tomorrow
I will wear my mask
And hide my frustration and sorrow

And long for the day
When all masks melt away
And I can sip through a straw
Without a mask in the way

Note: Humor aside, please exercise caution and be careful out there!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 30, 2020

Find New Ways to Grow

The Coronavirus has punched the planet in the gut. Initially a regional concern, it did not take long for the virus to make its way stealthily from the epicenter to our own neighborhoods. This tiny little virus has disrupted the rotation of the planet in ways we could never have imagined.

For the time being, we are down for the count and must shelter in place as part of a global strategy to flatten the curve. Shelter in place directives have impacted just about everyone in the world in one way or another.

Businesses, schools, families, and churches have had to find creative ways to do what they have always done in this season when the way in which they have always done things will no longer work. We have all had to find new ways to grow and to stay connected with customers, students, neighbors, and parishioners.

Last week I traveled to Muldoon, Texas to do a memorial service for a dear friend’s mother. Muldoon is so small that were it not for the city limit sign you would never know you had entered and passed through town. On my way to the cemetery I stopped to take a pic of a fallen tree in front of a church building.

The fallen tree in Muldoon reminded me of another fallen tree I had encountered on one of my treks into the Texas Hill Country in the 1980’s. When I returned home from Muldoon, I revisited what I had journaled after my Hill Country trek more than 30 years ago. I offer it here again in the hope that it will provide some encouragement to find new ways to grow during this unprecedented season that has knocked a lot of folks down.

This is what I recorded in my journal about perseverance and finding new ways to grow:

I first encountered the fallen tree on one of my treks into the Texas Hill Country in the early 1980’s. I had no way of knowing exactly when or how it had fallen. But there it was, lying on its side with its massive arms reaching up to heaven. I stood in silence before the fallen giant trying to imagine the great force that had weakened its grasp and brought it crashing to the rocky ground.

This imposing tree that had once stood upright was determined to live. This was a tree to be admired and respected. It had experienced a calamity that altered its posture but it did not stop growing. The evidence was there before me — branches that defiantly reached skyward with leaves gently shimmering in the breeze. This tree refused to give up. Instead, it found new ways to grow.

The Psalmist declared that all things are God’s servants (Psalm 119:91). And indeed, the fallen tree rendered a noble service to God as it silently taught me the meaning of perseverance. Over the ten years that I visited the tree my own life was struck by numerous storms.

There were times when I wondered about my future and whether it was worth staying in the fight. There were times when I felt too weak to raise my arms and periods when I labored to exhaustion without the refreshment of an encouraging word. There were even moments when I actually entertained thoughts of doing something else, anything else. And, more than once I was the only guest at my own pity party! On those occasions God would remind me of the tree — and the tree’s upraised branches would point me to God.

God used the fallen tree to remind me that giving up is not an option, regardless of how severe the blow. There are always new and creative ways to grow. The tree also reminded me that failure never has to be final and defeat never has to be devastating. Those who have experienced and survived failure can attest to the fact that some of life’s greatest lessons are learned when we are lying helplessly on our backs.

A change in posture often gives us a new and uncommon perspective. The great thing about getting knocked down is that we are forced to look up. So, I am grateful that a hike through the Texas Hill Country introduced me to a new friend — the fallen tree. Of the countless trees I have hiked past in the Texas Hill Country, none stand taller than this tree.

Disappointments, defeats, and disasters are no respecters of persons. When we least expect it our lives can be struck hard by disastrous reverses that leave us disoriented or send us crashing to the ground. When we are struck and stunned by life’s blows we can either stay down or find new ways to grow. I prefer the latter.

Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you get knocked to the ground.

• Uncertainties will come. Be prepared!

• Life is not fair. Accept it!

• You will get knocked down. Deal with it!

• If you can get back up — do it!

• If you can’t get back up — find a new way to grow!

• Above all, never give up. Dust yourself off and press on!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 25, 2020

The SignOut Co Podcast

Daniel Thornton had his earliest adventures in Katy — back in the days when Katy was much smaller and rice fields seemed to stretch to the horizon. His family’s home at the edge of town was the perfect base camp for boyhood exploration. This is the context in which Daniel cultivated a heart for adventure.

Daniel enjoyed athletics throughout his school years. Beyond school sports, Daniel continued to look for ways to engage with the great outdoors. As an adult, he refuses to allow busyness to crowd adventure out of his life. Instead, he continues to look for ways to get outdoors with family and friends.

Several years after graduating from college, Daniel reunited with Russ Johnston, an old school friend, who is a kindred spirit in regard to adventuring. Together, Daniel and Russ co-founded The SignOut Company. “Sign out,” Daniel explains, “is a term that usually signifies the end of something. The end of one thing is always the opportunity to start something else.”

SignOut Co. is the perfect company name for two guys who love adventure. Their brand “is about telling a new story, pursuing a new direction, chasing a passion.” Their website features cool outdoor clothing. One of the best things they do is donate a portion of their proceeds to Elijah Rising, an organization committed to battling human trafficking.

Daniel is the host of the SignOut Podcast, a platform designed to interview individuals who are pursuing their passion. I am a subscriber to Daniel’s podcast and enjoy listening to cool stories shared by folks who live adventurously. You can listen to the SignOut Podcast directly from their website or subscribe to it on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, or Google.

Daniel recently invited me to share my story on the SignOut Podcast. As someone who shares Daniel’s heart for adventure, it was a fun opportunity to answer questions about where my adventures have taken me. I hope that you will carve out some time to listen to this interview entitled Omar Garcia | A Life of Adventure.

Please take a moment to visit the SignOut Co online and look at their merchandise. And remember that anything you buy will also help in the fight against human trafficking in the greater Houston area.

The late naturalist John Muir said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” That’s good advice. I encourage you to SignOut, find a dirt path, and pursue adventure.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 22, 2020

Find the Upside of Downtime

We are living through an unprecedented period in the history of the human race. Who could have imagined that a virus would force the population of the entire planet into some measure of quarantine. The current Covid-19 social distancing measures have undoubtedly interrupted the rhythm of our respective lives.

Social distancing is more accurately physical distancing — something that is hard for most of us. Having to stay home is tough. Perhaps the worst part of it all is dealing with some degree of boredom. After all, there is only so much binge watching or game playing or other stuff that distracts us that we can do to pass the time.

Downtime can result in boredom and boredom scares a lot of people. That’s why we always keep our prescriptions of anti-boredom filled. These pills keep us in constant motion and engagement. Staying busy, we have found, is the most common antidote to boredom. As long as we can keep doing and going and engaging then we can keep boredom at bay.

For many, the current social distancing measures have resulted in financial strain and worry due to job loss or furloughing. For all of us, we must mark time, pass the time, and patiently wait until the planet returns to its normal rotation. So, what can we do to embrace the boredom and make the most of the forced downtime that we all must endure?

Here is my personal list of some of the intentional things I am doing to find the upside of downtime:

Read | I am reading. These days have given me the opportunity to read and to absorb new material and ideas while dealing with less distractions. Turning off the television and instead turning the page of a book is a great way to redeem the time.

Reflect | Reflection is one of the things that easily gets crowded out when I find myself as busy as a bird in a hurricane. However, the current slower-paced season has provided me with time to think deeply about things, especially Scripture, so that I can in turn live wisely.

Research | In addition to my blogs, I maintain my Bible Teaching Notes website. I try to do exegetical research on selected Scripture passages on a regular basis. I have more time to do that now.

Return | The current slower pace of life has given give me the opportunity to return to or to revisit back-burner ideas. Because the work of our missions ministry is so extensive, I like to map my thoughts to consider different scenarios for particular initiatives. These visual mind maps are helpful in considering how to move some of these initiatives to the front burner.

Record | I am very intentional about holding myself accountable for thinking deeply about something of importance every day and recording my thoughts. Some of these thoughts become blog material. Others remain in my personal journals. But regardless, the current season of downtime offers good opportunities for reflecting and recording personal thoughts.

Reach | I am in constant contact with our local ministry partners. I try to text or call many of them daily to stay abreast of what is happening and how we can help them to be more effective in assisting people in need. In some cases this means leaving the house to purchase food or to deliver necessary items.

Rejoice | It’s easy to complain about any and every thing during downtimes, but it does not do any good. I prefer to find something to rejoice about. This is a great time to send encouraging notes and texts to others or to check on neighbors. Doing this is helping me to stay focused on how God uses the kindness of others to bless and sustain me.

Rest | I have found this to be a good time for me to embrace silence and solitude and to use these quieter moments to remember all the ways in which God has blessed me. This kind of rest and reflection can revitalize and refresh us.

Release | Trusting God is the best antidote to the anxiety of the day. This season of downtime is giving me opportunities to release anxieties and commit my cares to the Lord. Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still” — literally “let your hands drop” in order to “know He is God.” Sadly, we often miss out on much that God wants us to know about Him when we complain because we are stuck in the mire of downtime. When things slow down, learn to let your hands drop so that you don’t miss out on what God wants to teach you about Himself.

Resharpen | Ecclesiastes 10:10 cautions us, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” When I was in Boy Scouts I learned the importance of taking the time to sharpen my axe. Life’s downtimes provide the best opportunities for us to “sharpen the edge” so that we can be even more effective when the pace of life picks up once again.

Responsibility | I remind myself daily that I am ultimately responsible for what I do with and in this season of downtime. Each of us can choose to do nothing, to cast blame on others, to lament that we have nothing to do, or take the initiative to redeem the time. As for me, I choose to make the most of the opportunity to grow in new ways by looking for the upside of downtime. I hope you will too.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 16, 2020

On Social Distancing

Social distancing is a term that is now a part of our vocabulary thanks to the Coronavirus. In an effort to “flatten the curve” (another new phrase that has made it into our speech) or slow the spread of the newest virus to plague the planet, public health officials have called on us to practice social distancing.

Social distancing measures address when and where people can gather in order to stop or slow the spread of the highly contagious Coronavirus. Practicing social distancing has resulted in the cancelation of events and gatherings and closing or limiting access to buildings, businesses, and restaurants.

Quarantine is the most extreme expression of social distancing. Those infected with the Coronavirus have to undergo quarantine for a specified period. Others who fear they might have the virus can opt to self-quarantine for at least the incubation period of the virus.

The Coronavirus scare has created lots of fear, and understandably so — thus the call to practice social distancing.

Fear always creates distance — that’s what fear does best. Most folks generally try to keep a safe distance away from the things that frighten them. Distancing ourselves from things that frighten or can harm us is not all bad. Parents teach their kids to not play with fire and to stay away from strangers. That’s good advice!

Although we can’t see it now, the day is coming when things will get back to normal and social distancing will become a thing of the past. Or will it? I read one meme that said, “I don’t like to brag but I’ve been avoiding people since way before the coronavirus.” Some truths are said in jest.

The kingdom of God is all about closing the distance rather than creating distance. When we were at our point of greatest need, Jesus closed the distance between heaven and earth by moving in our direction. He set the ultimate example of what closing the distance looks like.

After the Coronavirus chapter is behind us, and it will be, let’s make sure that we do not allow fear to continue distancing us from people. In order to fulfill the purposes of God we must move in the direction of our fears and then push past them.

Every advance that has been made for the kingdom of God has been made by those who had the courage to press on in spite of their fears. Rather than allowing their fears to paralyze them, these intrepid souls closed the distance that separated them from people in need. And that changed everything for the people in need.

One thing is certain, the most amazing adventures await those who close the distance between themselves and their fears. Peter understood that when he left the safety of a perfectly good boat to take a walk on a stormy sea. Paul experienced that when he left the shores of Troas at the urging of a Macedonian man in need who had appeared to him in a dream.

For the time being, keep on practicing the social distancing that will help to flatten the Coronavirus curve. If you have to stay home, then factor in time to close any distance between you and God. Deepen your relationship with Him by spending time in His Word and in prayer while you have more discretionary time to do so.

And when the days of the Coronavirus pandemic are finally in the rearview mirror, look ahead and determine to close the distance between yourself and others. Draw near to others and offer them the healing and hope that can only be found when we draw near to God.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 2, 2020

Caring for Katy 2020 Video

Caring for Katy 2020 was a great day of loving and serving our community. For the thirteenth year in a row, we closed the doors to the church on a Sunday morning to go out into our community to be the church — to be the hands and feet of Jesus. And what an amazing day it was as we served so many people in need throughout Katy and beyond.

Mother Teresa once referred to herself as a little pencil in the hands of a writing God. I like that. God used each of those who participated in Caring for Katy to write a beautiful narrative and to scribe His signature of love throughout our community.

Our presence did more than meet practical needs in a tangible way. Because we moved in the direction of people in need we brought smiles, refreshed tired hearts, lifted heavy burdens, and restored hope. God showed up through His people and made a difference.

This year’s Caring for Katy video highlights a few of the 59 initiatives that we did around Katy. I hope you will take a moment to watch it and to rejoice. I especially like the fact that Caring for Katy always gives families opportunities to make memories of serving together. You will see that in the video.


Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 25, 2020

Coolest Things About CFK

This past Sunday, we closed the doors to the church for the thirteenth year in a row and went out into our community to be the church. Caring for Katy is always an amazing day as we corporately move in the direction of people in need to demonstrate God’s love in practical ways. Here are the ten coolest things about Caring for Katy.

10. We worked together.
| We engaged in and completed 59 service initiatives on Sunday. That’s more work than one person can possibly do in a single day. However, by working together, we addressed multiple needs and touched many lives throughout our community.

9. We got our hands dirty. | In order to meet needs throughout our community, we had to leave the church building. We became the hands and feet of Jesus throughout Katy and beyond. Adults and children used their hands to plant flowers, pick up garbage, spread mulch, work on homes, and do a multitude of other tasks — including hugging lots of grateful recipients of our acts of kindness.

8. We lived our purpose. | Kingsland’s purpose is to invite all people to experience true fulfillment in Jesus Christ, one home at a time. That’s exactly what we did this past Sunday. We showed and shared the gospel throughout our community. Every act of kindness paved the way for the truth of the gospel to be shared.

7. We built community. | We encourage every member of Kingsland to be a part of a small group and we work really hard to build community. This past Sunday we strengthened our small groups while serving the people of our community. Those who normally sit together in Bible study and worship worked shoulder to shoulder to care for those in need. Caring for Katy strengthened the bonds between those who are members of our small groups.

6. We encouraged our kids.
| One of the best things about Caring for Katy is that it allows parents and kids to serve others together. This past Sunday our families made special memories as they served others. Our kids learned that loving and serving others is important and must be a part of who we are as followers of Christ. Serving others is a great way to raise kids that care about the welfare of other people.

5. We met practical needs.
| Many people in our community are suffering because they have lost their jobs, are battling illness, or have suffered other unexpected setbacks. Our practical acts of kindness reminded many people that they matter to God and are not forgotten. Our small groups did a great job of talking to people in need and arranging to meet those needs. Those we served expressed their gratitude through smiles, hugs, and tears — the very best Hallmark cards we could ever hope to receive.

4. We inspired people.
| At our Caring for Katy planning meeting, I challenged our leaders to add “a little balm and a little honey” (Gen. 43:11) to their materials list. We served many people in desperate need, others who have suffered painful setbacks, and some who feel alone and forgotten. Our presence was like healing balm and refreshing honey to those we served. Our acts of kindness inspired many to persevere and to not lose hope.

3. We caused others to think about God. | One of the coolest things that happened at many of our work sites was the curiosity of neighbors. Many neighbors approached our folks to ask what they were doing and why. This gave us an opportunity to talk about what it means to love God and love people. Many who never attend any church on Sunday saw a living sermon in their own neighborhoods. That’s a really good thing!

2. We will continue to help people. | Our folks made meaningful connections with others in our community. Many of our small groups will continue to serve the people they assisted on Sunday throughout the coming year. They will continue to care for widows and single moms and others who have ongoing needs. They will continue to be Jesus with skin on and to do for others what Jesus would do.

1. God was glorified.
| The very best thing about Caring for Katy is that God was glorified. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The common response from those who saw as well as those who benefited from our many good works was the same — “Thank God” or “God is good” or “Praise the Lord.” Our desire is to continue to glorify His name as we care for the people of our community through unconditional acts of love and kindness.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 19, 2020

A Restless Heart

Movement is an essential component of searching for God.

The movement of our lives is a reflection of our choices. Christian writer Erwin McManus 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” (from “Seizing Your Divine Moment”).

Saint Augustine (354-430), the early Christian theologian, would agree. He wrote what many theologians consider to be one of the greatest sentences ever written: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

These words are recorded in Confessions, one of Augustine’s most well known writings in which he discussed his long journey towards Christ and his conversion to Christianity. This restlessness, whether we recognize it or not, is a desire to know God and to have a relationship with Him.

Written in Latin, Augustine’s sentence reads: “Fecisti nos ad te, Domine, et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.”

The Latin words “ad te” are usually translated into English as “for yourself.” However, the preposition “ad” actually expresses dynamic movement towards an object. In other words, God has made us “toward” Himself. We exist “toward” or “in movement to” Him. The preposition “in” as in the Latin “in te” signifies rest in an object — in this case, rest in Him.

Apart from God, Augustine’s heart was restless and homeless. The story of his life is the story of a homeless person’s journey toward his new home. It was not until Augustine came to Christ that his heart found its true home.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecc. 3:11). These words anticipate Augustine’s words: “You stir man to take pleasure in praising You, because You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

The writer of Ecclesiastes affirmed that God created us with a longing for eternity. Augustine called attention to the restlessness we experience apart from knowing God in Christ. May we be sensitive to those whose wandering hearts are homeless and longing for rest. And may we encourage them to move toward God and to find much-needed rest in Him.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 27, 2020

Kobe Bryant’s Death

The report of NBA Star Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday sent shockwaves around the globe. As the news continued to unfold, we learned that Kobe’s 13 year-old daughter Gianna was among those killed when the helicopter they were in crashed en route to a sporting event. The report that there were no survivors just added grievous weight to the already surreal news.

Kobe Bryant’s accomplishments both on and off the court are off the charts. He was incredibly gifted. The 41 year-old sports mega-star had won the hearts of his teammates, the respect of his opponents, and the admiration of his fans. Even more important than all of this, he loved and was loved by his wife and daughters.

The response to the news of Kobe’s death was instantaneous. Social media was on fire with tweets and posts expressing shock and disbelief and “this can’t possibly be true” kind of reactions. And rightly so! The grief that has followed Kobe’s death is in direct proportion to how much he had endeared himself to others. You will find grief only where there was once love and admiration.

Kobe’s death has put the thought of death on a lot of people’s mental radars. We tend to not think much about death until death happens. And then, we are forced to deal with its reality, to contemplate again what our respective worldviews teach about what happens after death, and to consider our own mortality.

One thing is certain, no one will be exempt from death or having to deal with its aftershock when it happens to someone we love, admire, or even hate. In thinking about Kobe’s death, I offer the following considerations.

First, Kobe was extremely talented but he was not perfect — no one is. He did however, try to live wisely. He loved his family and he cared about making a positive difference in the lives of others. Each of us have only one life in which to do the same.

Second, Kobe endeared himself to others. That’s why the outpouring of grief has been so great. In contrast to Kobe, the Bible records the story of King Jehoram of Judah (2 Kings 8). He was such a wicked ruler that when he finally died no one cried at his funeral. In fact, the writer of Chronicles records, “he departed with no one’s regret” (2 Chronicles 21:20). How sad! At the very least we should live in such a way that someone will grieve our loss.

Third, we do not know the hour or the day of our death — but that hour and that day will come. Most of us are guilty of making two mathematical mistakes: failing to understand the brevity of life and the length of eternity. We must be prepared to meet God today, for we may meet God today.

My heart is sad for Kobe, his beloved daughter Gianna, and the others who perished in the helicopter crash. May Kobe’s life inspire us to invest in those who will cry at our funeral and may his death remind us of our own mortality and the need to be prepared to meet God.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 25, 2020

Mother Teresa Understood

Eleven years ago this month, I took a trip that, in many ways, significantly changed my life.

After a season of prayer and seeking God about how to close the distance between myself and suffering humanity in late 2008, He reconnected me with a woman I had long admired — Mother Teresa. In January 2009, I was on a flight to Kolkata to serve at her homes for the destitute and dying. Kolkata is home to more than a million homeless individuals.

I was amazed that so many years after Mother Teresa’s death, volunteers from around the world continued to pour into Kolkata to serve at her homes. They too, were drawn there because of how Mother Teresa had lived her life in service to the least of these.

I was assigned to serve in the mornings at Prem Dan, her home for the destitute. I spent afternoons serving at Kalighat, her home for the dying. The experience changed the geography of my spiritual life. The borders that had defined the farthest I had ever been and the most I had ever done for God and His purposes were redrawn.

One of the most memorable experiences was watching how Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity served. Every morning, these selfless servants begin their day with prayer and worship. Amazing experience to worship with them. But then, a key component of their service is pausing to pray at predetermined times of the day.

To be honest, I was so into serving that I did not want to take time to pause. There was so much to do in caring for the destitute and dying. But I learned that it was precisely because there was so much to do that the Missionaries of Charity paused to pray for a few minutes several times a day — just enough to be reminded that the divine work that God has called them to do can only be done in dependence upon divine strength.

Mother Teresa understood the power of pausing.

I returned home with a renewed determination to close the distance between myself and hurting humanity by compassionately moving in the direction of people in need. And I returned home convicted that I had crowded pausing out of my life — justifying it because I am always so busy. As with the Missionaries of Charity, the busyness was precisely why I needed to pause.

Tomorrow I will end an extended period of prayer and fasting. As with previous seasons of prayer and fasting I scheduled daily times to pause to connect with God in prayer and to develop greater intimacy with Him. This time I used an app that my friend Gil Harris had told me about and that I had already started using.

The app was developed by Christian writer, adventurer, and New York Times best-selling author John Eldridge and is simply called One Minute Pause. The app is based on the One Minute Pause chapter is his latest book “Get Your Life Back.”

The app offers one, three, five, and ten minute pauses in which Eldridge guides you through the practice of releasing everything to God, restoring your union with Him, and inviting Him to fill you. When I first started using the app the one minute pause seemed like it was ten minutes long. Now, the ten minute pause seems like it is only a minute long.

I am grateful for how God used this app to help me to better focus on Him through my fast. Loved every minute. Now, I have to pause. I have been reminded once again about how important a simple discipline like pausing is in the process of spiritual formation. I have scheduled my pauses in my app and get a reminder so that I don’t forget.

Mother Teresa indeed understood the power and value of pausing. I believe it is one of the things that made her so effective and helped her in the never-ending work of caring for the least of these — something that can easily lead a person to experience compassion fatigue or to burn out. By taking time to pause, she reconnected with the strength she needed to fulfill God’s great purpose for her life. May we do the same.

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