Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 7, 2022

Caring for Katy 2022

Our 14th Annual Caring for Katy is now history — but for the recipients of the many practical acts of kindness we participated in, it is a day they will not soon forget.

This year more than 2,400 Kingsland volunteers left the church building on Sunday to be the sermon in our community. Special thanks to all of our small groups for once again doing an amazing job of identifying needs and then moving in the direction of those needs to make a difference.

One of my favorite things about Caring for Katy is seeing so many families make special memories of serving others together. Parents teaching their children to serve by example is an important component in the spiritual formation of children. We want for our kids to understand that they do not have to wait until they are all grown up to change the world. God can use them right now!

Our media department put together a video that offers a few highlights of the practical projects we engaged in. Please take a moment to watch this brief video that captures and celebrates the spirit of Caring for Katy.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 2, 2022

Praying for Ukraine

I first visited Ukraine in 1995. I accompanied my mentor, the late Dr. Rudy Hernandez, to assist with televised evangelistic meetings broadcast from the opera house in Donetsk. What I witnessed that week made a profound impression on me.

The people I met were gracious and received us with open arms. During the course of our two-week stay, we recorded thousands of decisions for Christ. We also gave away thousands of copies of the Bible to individuals who had never owned nor read any part of Scripture.

That was the first of three trips I made to Ukraine. Each of those trips resulted in many Ukrainians embracing Christ for salvation. On my final trip there, I was privileged to lodge with a family of nine who cared for me as one of their own. I have nothing but fond memories of my time with the Ukrainian people.

After 8 years of ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Russia launched a large-scale invasion of its neighbor on February 24. As the rockets began to fly, families began to flee for safety. Fathers bid tearful farewells to their loved ones as they stayed behind to defend their homeland.

And now, the world is watching the painful conflict escalate and unfold.The second psalm in the Old Testament speaks about the nations raging and the wars that result when kings of the earth take their stand against one another — and against the Lord. People, it seems, can’t seem to live without engaging in some kind of conflict.

One of the characters in War and Peace, the internationally praised classic by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, lamented:

“I don’t understand, I decidedly do not understand, why men can’t live without war. You would think that humanity has forgotten the laws of its divine Savior, who preached love and the forgiveness of transgressions, and that it finds its greatest merit in the art of mutual killing.”

And because we can’t live without war, and because of what is happening in Ukraine, untold numbers will die, families will be forever shattered, promising futures will be extinguished, and millions will breathe the suffocating dust of war until it chokes the life out of them. And then, perhaps, things will settle for a while, and then history will repeat itself.

By some estimates, the current conflict in Ukraine may result in as many as 5 million displaced people, creating a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. This week, our Kingsland family has responded by sending financial aid through our international network to address humanitarian needs among the people of Ukraine.

Addressing humanitarian needs is extremely important. Displaced families will need food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation and hygiene supplies. The need for these items will only increase exponentially in the coming days and weeks. We are monitoring the situation through our partners and will continue to respond accordingly.

In the meantime, we should remember to pray daily for the people of Ukraine. I formulated the following outline to guide my own prayers and hope it will help you as you pray.

U = Understanding | Take the time to look at a map of the world and note where Ukraine is located. Look at the surrounding nations that will also be impacted by what is happening. Remember that all of these nations are inhabited by people in need of the hope that no government can ever give.

K = Kingdom | Pray for the many Christians in Ukraine who are a part of the kingdom of God. Pray also that God would draw many to Himself through this conflict. Pray that Ukrainians and Russians would discover that Jesus is the only true source of peace, safety, comfort, truth and freedom.

R = Resources | Those presently helping displaced Ukrainians will need resources to meet the demands of providing comfort and care. Pray that those resources will reach aid workers and responding organizations. And then pray with your hands by sending a gift to an organization that is helping meet practical needs.

A = Administration | Please pray for Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, and his administration. Pray for their safety and for the wisdom that will guide them to make courageous decisions to protect their people. Pray also for those in Vladimir Putin’s administration and circle of influence who are not in agreement with the decision to invade Ukraine. Pray for them to have the courage to voice their concerns to him, even though at great risk.

I = Ideologies | War is driven by ideologies — by worldviews that either acknowledge or ignore the existence of a God who created us in His image. Ideologies have consequences. Bad ideologies have victims. Pray for a biblical understanding of the sanctity of human life to prevail and to drive away impoverished ideologies that do not value life.

N = Needs | Some in Ukraine have already experienced the pain of loss in the first few days of the conflict — both of possessions and loved ones. Pray for those who mourn. Ask God to comfort those who have suffered loss and to supply their needs. Pray for the elderly and the orphans who are among the most vulnerable.

E = Expect | Pray with a sense of expectancy. Pray the way David did in Psalm 5:3:
In the morning, O Lord,
Thou wilt hear my voice:
In the morning I will order
my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.
Expect God to do what we cannot do in places we cannot go in ways we cannot imagine. God is there, in the midst of it all, already at work.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 9, 2022

Marinella Beretti Died Alone

The body of Marinella Beretti has been found — approximately two years after her death.

The 70 year-old Italian woman was not a victim of a kidnapping or lost in the woods or on a list of missing persons. She lived and apparently died alone in her house in northern Italy.

What makes her story even more tragic is that Beretti’s decomposed body was found by members of the local fire brigade who responded to complaints that a tree had fallen in her overgrown and obviously neglected garden.

Beretti’s body was found sitting in a chair in the living room of her home. Based on the level of decay to her body, the medical examiner has determined that she died sometime toward the end of 2019 — alone and forgotten.

Did Beretti have any surviving family? If so, no relatives have come forward. Did she have any friends? If she had friends, not one of them reported her missing. None of her neighbors noticed or were puzzled by her prolonged absence. No one knocked on her door. No one called authorities to stop by her home to do a welfare check.

No one — not a single person!

The cause of her death remains unknown and police are investigating whether she had any surviving family.

Mario Landriscina, the mayor of Como, the city where Beretti lived, has arranged for the local government to take care of the funeral arrangements. The mayor has also invited the townsfolk to attend Beretti’s funeral.

Elena Bonetti, Italy’s minister for family and equal opportunities said, “What happened to Marinella Beretti in Como, the forgotten loneliness, hurts our consciences. Remembering her life is the duty of a community that wants to remain united. Taking care of each other is the experience of families, institutions, of our being citizens.”

Bonetti added, “No one should be alone.” And yet, Beretti was alone, to the very end.

Although the cause of Beretti’s death is uncertain, an autopsy may reveal clues about the cause of her death. That remains to be seen. However, regardless of how precise the autopsy by the medical examiner, the autopsy will not reveal the condition of Beretti’s soul. Nor will the autopsy reveal whatever bruises her heart might have sustained as a result of living alone and forgotten.

Life is extremely hard for many people. Reflecting on Beretti’s lonely life and death has reminded me that each of us have the opportunity to leave either the marks of hurt or healing in the lives of others, the kinds of things that an autopsy can never reveal.

May we always be aware of and sensitive to those who are struggling to survive from day to day and offer them the healing and refreshing balm of our friendship, love, and kindness. And if we notice their absence, may we move in their direction to check on their welfare and then do for them what Jesus would do.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 20, 2022

Austin’s Personal Mission

Last week we celebrated the life of my friend Austin Armstrong. He was only 25 years old when he died peacefully in his sleep after years of battling cancer. He was truly a remarkable young man. Here is why.

Malcolm Muggeridge was a British journalist, an atheist who would later come to faith in Christ. He was the man who introduced Mother Teresa to the world in 1967. When he finally met Mother Teresa, she told him, “I am only a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

There is something deeply profound about what Mother Teresa told Muggeridge. God indeed wants to write a legible message of love to the world through each of us. He can only do so, however, as we make ourselves available to Him.

My dear friend Austin understood the significance of making himself available to God, without regard for any recognition or attention or honor for himself. Like Jesus, he was willing to become a man of no reputation in order to advance the interests of the kingdom.

Austin simply found great joy in living out his faith — in allowing God to use him to write and send a love letter to the world. He faithfully pursued the passions of God and gave himself without reservation to the purposes of God.

From an early age Austin lived his life intentionally — so much so, in fact, that he wrote his own personal mission statement. Who does that? How many people do you know who have a personal mission statement to govern their life? Austin did!

This was Austin’s mission statement: Strive to love, encourage, and help every soul I come in contact with and purposefully seek to further the kingdom of God.

Austin did not just write out a mission statement for the sake of doing so. He lived out that mission statement. It informed his decisions, guided his actions, and advanced the work of the kingdom as he had hoped.

After Austin died, I heard about one individual who said that Austin saved his life. At a time when this individual was contemplating taking his own life God used a little pencil named Austin to write a reassuring message of hope that brought the beauty of life back into focus.

On another occasion, while en route to a memorial service for a friend, he saw a car stuck in the mud by the side of the road. Most if not all of us would have just kept going — but not Austin. He stopped and helped a stranger push their car out of the mud. He got so dirty that he had to hurry and change in order to attend the memorial service.

Once again, God used a little pencil named Austin to write a brief sentence in a stranger’s life about the difference selfless service can make. Austin once again lived out his personal mission statement by helping someone whom God had put in his path.

Austin traveled with me to Jordan to serve Syrian refugees who had fled to Jordan for safety. I watched as Austin loved and served people who had lost all of their possessions and, in many cases, also lost their family and friends. Once again, God used a little pencil named Austin to write the lyrics of unconditional love across hearts ravaged by the ugliness of a civil war.

Even in the hospital, Austin unwittingly fulfilled his purpose statement. He helped others because of his participation in several clinical trials for the treatment of cancer.

These are just a few examples of how Austin lived out his personal mission statement and, by doing so, allowed God to write a love story to the world through his life.

Austin placed his life in the hands of a writing God. And because he made himself available to God, God was able to write more beautiful stories through him in 25 years than through many who cling to selfishness, refuse to regard others as more important than themselves, and live to be a hundred.

There is so much more I could write about Austin, but suffice it to say that the world would be better served if each of us thought deeply about our lives, wrote out a personal mission statement, and then placed ourselves in the hands of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.

I will miss Austin but know that he is healed and is safely at home in the arms of Jesus whom he loved. I am a better person because God used a little pencil named Austin to write a part of His love story in my own heart.

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

The 5511 Initiative

A Christian teenager gave me a paperback copy of the New Testament on February 19, 1973. I was a junior in high school at the time and had never read the Bible. Little did I realize that my friend’s simple act of kindness would change my life.

I took that New Testament home and began to read it that night. As I read through the New Testament I was fascinated by the life and ministry of Jesus, by the commitment of those who courageously shared His message, and by the practical instruction contained throughout the New Testament.

The Psalmist (119:130) declared that the entrance of God’s Word give light. I found this to be true. The light of God’s Word enabled me to see what I otherwise had been unable to see. The more I read, the more convicted I became that something was missing in my life.

Within a matter of weeks I heard a presentation of the gospel message. For the first time in my life I understood my sinful condition and my need for Jesus Christ. The words I had read in my paperback New Testament suddenly became real.

I repented of my sins and placed my faith in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation. God had used the kindness of a Christian teenager to get my attention and eventually lead me to faith in Christ.

My story illustrates the truth of Isaiah 55:11 where God declared that His Word would not return to Him empty or without succeeding in the matter for which He sent it.

Over the next year we are challenging the people of Kingsland as well as our domestic and international partners to distribute more than 150,000 copies of God’s Word to those who have never owned or read a Bible. We trust that by doing so God will open doors for us to have spiritual conversations or to at least encourage others to read the story of Jesus.

Several of our international partners have already started their distribution of Bibles funded by our missions ministry. We are already hearing stories of people coming to faith in Christ as a result. Over the coming months our others partners will distribute copies of the Scripture in locations all over the globe.

Our Kingsland distribution starts this month. We have challenged every member of the Kingsland family to share “Hope for Your Home.” This is a special edition of Luke’s Gospel that we have produced. We are encouraging the recipients to read the story of Jesus throughout the month of December. And we are trusting that God’s Word will lead many to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 28, 2021

Why Hope Matters

Eric Hoffer was a San Francisco dockworker who rose to prominence in the American literary and philosophical scene in 1951 when he published his first book, The True Believer. I read Hoffer’s book in college and have never forgotten what he wrote about hope.

Hoffer observed that in a modern society, people can live without hope only when kept dazed and out of breath by incessant hustling. He was right. Incessant hustling distracts many people from coming face to face with despair.

The coronavirus pandemic interrupted the incessant hustling of billions. Around the globe, people were forced to look despair in the eye. Like the Israelites who had covered their doorposts and lintels with the blood of a lamb, people sheltered in place and prayed the coronavirus would pass over their homes.

The pandemic also exacerbated already difficult situations. For those who struggle daily to survive, food insecurities made life more difficult. Health concerns became more ominous. Job layoffs and school closures created unexpected challenges. These and other difficulties obscured the light of hope for many.

Our missions ministry pivoted to meet pandemic-related needs in our community and among the nations. Chief among those needs was restoring, rekindling, and reviving hope in the lives of desperate people.

We addressed food insecurity, health concerns, and more. Working through our many partners, we looked for ways to strategically meet needs, keep despair at bay, and allow the warm rays of hope to bathe troubled hearts.

Our missions ministry has published and mailed Kingsland families and guests a copy of “Hope for the Nations” - our 2021-2022 report and update. Watch for it in your mailbox.

Every initiative detailed in this report tells a story of why hope matters. We believe that apart from God there is no real hope for troubled souls or troubled nations. That is why we are committed to sharing His story and demonstrating His love around the globe. We remain committed to caring for people in their respective missional contexts.

I am grateful for the generosity of our Kingsland family that enables us to offer the only real hope for the nations — Jesus Christ and His generous offer of eternal life to all who place their faith in Him.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 25, 2021

Releasing the Oppressed

According to Ben Franklin, death and taxes are regarded as the two inescapable certainties in this life. And indeed they are. Debt, however, is a close third. Most people in the world know what it means to be in debt.

Debt is preventable but often unavoidable. Many enter into debt because they lack the discipline to delay gratification. However, others incur debt because they are out of options or find themselves backed into a corner by unexpected hardships.

On September 17, 1955, the late country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded a song entitled “Sixteen Tons” — a single that sold more than one million copies in the month after its release. The song lamented the misery of being in debt and instantly resonated with people all over the country.

My favorite lyric sums up the frustration of trying to get out of debt:

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’t you call me, ‘cause I can’t go.
I owe my soul to the company store.

A few weeks ago one of our missions partners asked me to pray for some Christian families in a South Asian country who are living as indentured servants. These families are now into a second generation of servitude, trying to pay off debt incurred by the previous generation because of unexpected emergencies.

Each of the families make a combined income of less than five dollars a day and have spent a lifetime working for the lender, trying to pay off their debt. The children of these families are unable to attend school because they must also work to help their respective families pay off their debt.

The reality is that there is little hope that any of these families will ever know what it means to be free of debt. In the words made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford, the result of their efforts is that they are “another day older and deeper in debt.”

I asked our partner to provide me with profiles of these families and the amount owed by each. To my surprise, the amounts were modest by our standards — anywhere from one to two thousand US dollars, but an insurmountable amount for these debtors.

After discussion and prayer, our missions ministry set aside funds to get these families out of debt — step one. The next step is to help these families to secure self-sustaining employment so that they do not have to go into debt again. One of the ways we are doing this is by buying farm animals that can help these families to support themselves by selling milk and meat.

This month we liberated the first family. The father is now 65 years-old. As a child he worked with his father to try to pay off their family’s debt. After his father died, the debt fell to him and he has spent his lifetime trying to pay it off. We paid the final thousand dollars plus that he owed and set him and his family on a new course to financial freedom.

This week we will provide him with farm animals. His son and daughter were able to find jobs paying a higher wage than they were getting by working for the lender. Together, this family will now make enough and set aside enough to live debt free.

When Jesus started His ministry, He went to the synagogue in the village of Nazareth, His boyhood home, and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. Isaiah’s prophetic words looked to the time when one would come in “the Spirit of the Lord … anointed to preach good news to the poor … freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

We are grateful for the opportunity to be the hands of Jesus by releasing the oppressed family in South Asia and those to follow. This is just one small way we are making a difference in the lives of families and empowering homes around the globe.

I am grateful for the people of Kingsland whose generosity makes it possible for us to move in the direction of people in need and make a difference.

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.

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