Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 20, 2018

Exploring Bethlehem

O Little Town of Bethlehem is one of the most beloved and well-known Christmas carols. The carol was written by Phillips Brooks, an Episcopalian priest from Philadelphia. Brooks visited Bethlehem in 1865 and wrote the words to the carol three years later for the children of his church to sing at their annual Christmas program. Today, Brooks’ carol is enjoyed by people all over the world.

Bethlehem was known as “the city of David” (Luke 2:4). The name Bethlehem means “house of bread” and is located only a few miles from Jerusalem. Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Micah prophesied that the Messiah, a descendant of David, would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Because of its significance in the biblical narrative, our students spent a day exploring Bethlehem on our recent trip to the Holy Land.

The Church of the Nativity | The Church of the Nativity was built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus. Guests must enter the church through a very low door called the Door of Humility. This door was created in Ottoman times to force even the most important visitor to bow low as he entered this holy place.

We reviewed the story of Jesus’ birth at the Church of the Nativity. The traditional site of His birthplace is enshrined in the grotto beneath the choir area of the church. Jesus was not born in this building but in the cave it enshrines, a place where animals were once kept. “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son…” (Gal. 4:4) who “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7) and was born in the most unlikely of places and laid “in a manger,” a feeding trough for animals (Luke 2:7)

The Shepherds’ Field | The good news of Jesus’ birth was first announced to poor Jewish shepherds (Luke 2:8-10). This is significant because shepherds in Jesus’ day were regarded as social outcasts and were among the most scorned individuals. Their work made them ceremonially unclean and kept them from participating in the religious life of the community.

While visiting the site of the Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem, our guide reminded us that God chose ordinary shepherds, not priests or kings, to be the first to hear the news of His Son’s birth. And, common shepherds would be the first to welcome Jesus — the Lamb of God. These ordinary men could not keep silent about what they had seen and heard and unwittingly became the world’s first evangelists. Their first priority after seeing Jesus was to spread the news about Him. We should do the same.

The Herodium | The Herodium is a fortress-palace built by Herod on top of the highest real estate in the area. We hiked to the top of the hill to look at the ruins of this once-great palace. The Herodium is an active archaeological site where workers are painstakingly working to peel back the layers of history.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Herodium was one of the largest and most luxurious palaces in the world. Herod spared no expense to build the biggest and the best on the highest mountain so that the world would know there is a Herod. Today, the Herodium and all of Herod’s palaces and fortresses lie in ruins. Herod is remembered as the megalomaniac who became paranoid and killed many people, including babies (Matt. 2:16-18), in an effort to maintain his power.

Herod had wealth and lavish palaces in which to dine and sleep, but Jesus had “no place to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). Jesus did not leave a legacy of palaces or architectural accomplishments. Instead, He left something much more lasting. And, what Herod the Great feared (Matt. 2:3) came to pass. The baby born in Bethlehem beneath the shadow of his palace became a greater king than him and changed the world forever.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 17, 2018

Exploring Desert Places

Masada is one of the signature must-see sites while visiting the Holy Land. Our students visited this imposing mountain fortress that rises 1500 feet above the level of the Dead Sea. This place has an interesting but sad history, one that has led the Jews to resolve that Masada will never fall again.

When Jerusalem fell to the Romans in AD 70, 960 people followed a Jewish patriot named Eliezer Ben Yair to this rock plateau. Herod the Great had earlier recognized the strategic significance and built an impressive “bug-out” palace at the top — just in case. It was a seemingly impregnable site.

The Roman army besieged Masada for two years and reached the top only after building an impressive earthen ramp. When the end was near, the patriots atop Masada chose to take their own lives. And, to make a statement, they left all of their food stores and water in place to show the Romans that they could have continued to survive. They chose instead to die as free people rather than face slavery at the hands of their enemies.

From Masada we made our way to the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on the planet. This super-salty lake lies 1,300 feet below sea level in the Jordan Rift Valley between the Wilderness of Judah to the West and the mountains of Moab to the East. Absolutely nothing lives in the Dead Sea – no fish or seaweed or plants of any kind. That’s why it’s called the Dead Sea. Water flows in but it does not flow out.

Our students had an opportunity to float in the mineral-rich but slimyish water of the Dead Sea. Later in the evening we considered how the Dead Sea can serve as a metaphor for those who take in Bible nutrition but never burn off the calories. Taking in truth but never applying it leads to a dead spiritual life that benefits no one.

From the Dead Sea we made our way to the oasis of En Gedi. This is the place where David hid when he was fleeing from Saul (1 Samuel 23:29). We hiked through the Crags of the Wild Goats where Saul took three thousand men to look for David and his men (1 Samuel 24:1-2).

At the end of our hike we stopped at a beautiful waterfall tumbling down the canyon wall. Unlike the water in the Dead Sea, this was living water – cold and refreshing. This water does not disappoint. On our hike out of the canyon, we stopped to watch Ibex drinking from the streams of En Gedi — and reflected on David’s words, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

One of our students remarked that prior to coming to the Holy Land, she had always read the Bible in black and white, “For the first time,” she said, “I am seeing the Bible in color.” That is one of the benefits of making a pilgrimage to the place where our biblical worldview unfolded. My prayer is that our students will always long for God even as “the deer pants for the water brooks.”

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 12, 2018

Exploring Jerusalem

Jerusalem is one of the most important places in the world. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all regard this ancient city as a sacred site. Our students spent two days exploring Jerusalem — from the narrow and crowded streets of the Via Dolorosa to the tunnels that lead to ongoing archeological work beneath the city.

The Temple Mount | The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. The Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles identifies this location as Mount Moriah (3:1), the place where Abraham had been willing to offer Isaac (Gen. 22:1-14).

Solomon built the first Temple at this site (2 Chron. 2–6). Centuries later Herod enlarged the Temple platform and made the Jerusalem Temple bigger and better than ever. Herod’s project was finally completed in 60 AD but was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The Dome of the Rock was erected near the site of the Jewish Temple in the 7th century AD. This mosque, with its golden dome, is perhaps the most prominent feature of Jerusalem’s low skyline.

It was at this place that God said to Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac…” (Genesis 22:2). This is the first time in Scripture that the word “love” is used — not in the context of a man’s love for a woman but a father’s love for a son.

Garden of Gethsemane | The olive trees at the Garden of Gethsemane are old — so old, in fact, that they may actually date back to the time of Jesus. The Garden of Gethsemane is the place where Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss and where Peter cut off the right ear of Malchus, the slave of the high priest.

The name Gethsemane is derived from the Hebrew words “gat” (a place for pressing) and “shemanim” (oils). The Greek word “thilipsis” means great pressure and describes the point when olives were crushed by a heavy millstone, squeezing the olive oil out of the pulp.

Jesus was under such intense pressure at Gethsemane that “His sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). Soon after the hour of His betrayal, Jesus would feel the full weight of the sins of the world as He hung on a cross.

The Place of Crucifixion and Burial | We visited both the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb Site with its skull–looking hill nearby. It was interesting to learn about both sites. And regardless of whether you regard one as the more likely place where Jesus was crucified and buried, the fact remains “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

One of the best parts of our time in Jerusalem was observing the Lord’s Supper at the Garden Tomb. We sang, read the account of the Last Supper, and took time to reflect on our personal lives and walk with Christ.

Hezekiah’sTunnel | Seven-hundred years before Jesus, King Hezekiah prepared Judah to face the threat of Sennacherib’s Assyrian army. Hezekiah took practical measures to safeguard Jerusalem’s water supply (2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chron. 32:30) because without water they would not survive the seige.

Hezekiah’s workmen created a tunnel by chiseling through solid rock, at points more than 140 feet underground. One team started at the Spring of Gihon in the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem. The other team started on the Western ridge of Jerusalem. The two groups met in the middle — an amazing feat of engineering. 

Armed with flashlights, our students waded through the entire distance of Hezekiah’s tunnel. Every chisel mark etched in to the walls of the tunnel is a reminder of a people who did something hard in order to survive what seemed like an insurmountable threat.

Via Dolorosa | Via Dolorosa is a Latin term that means the “way of suffering.” This street in the old city of Jerusalem is believed to be the path Jesus walked in the way to the crucifixion. Today, this path is lined with vendors and choked with people — both locals and pilgrims. It was a humbling experience to follow this path to the place where Jesus was crucified. Every painful step He took on the Via Dolorosa led him closer to facing an excruciating death for the sins of the world.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 8, 2018

Gaining Insite Onsite

For the past year, Kingsland’s high school seniors have studied apologetics in their respective Sunday night Life Groups. This is part of our strategy to raise biblically literate students capable of intelligently articulating their biblical world view. These students are culminating their year of study on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

We arrived in Israel on Friday evening and have been on the move ever since. We’ve only got a few days so we are not wasting any time. Our students have already enjoyed two full days of touring and study. What I had hoped would happen in the lives of our students is indeed happening — they are gaining new insights into the biblical narrative as a result of being onsite.

Capernaum | We started our tour in the place Jesus chose as His base of operations when He began His ministry. The ruins here tell a story. Homes were built around a common courtyard known as an insula. When a male child married, he added a room to the family insula. When the room was ready, his father gave him permission to bring his bride home.

Jesus used the image of the insula in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you.” And then one day, when the Father says all is ready (see Matt. 24:36), Jesus “will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

The Jordan River | The Jordan River figures prominently in the biblical narrative. Our students learned about the Jordan by rafting down the river. This gave them new insight into various biblical stories that happened around this renowned river. On our second day, many of our students and sponsors chose to reaffirm their commitment to Jesus by being baptized in the Jordan.

Sea of Galilee | We enjoyed two nights at kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus performed the vast majority of His ministry in and around this well-known lake. We took a boat ride on the lake where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the places where Jesus taught and performed so many miracles. This geographical context gave our students insight into the movement of Jesus from place to place.

Caesarea Philippi | Caesarea Philippi was a pagan city built by Herod Phillip, a son of Herod the Great. This city was a religious center where people worshiped the Canaanite god Baal. Later, a shrine there was dedicated to the Greek half-man and half-goat god Pan. Worshipers expressed their devotion to Baal and later to Pan without moral restraint.

One of the most interesting things about Caesarea Philippi is the cave that is located there. At the time of Jesus, pagans believed that caves were a door to the underworld — or the gates of Hades. Jesus took His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, a place that represented the worst evils of the day. It was there that Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (Mat. 16:13-16). In this context Jesus said to His disciples, “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18).

Beth Sh’ean | We visited the only city of the Decapolis located west of the Jordan River. The ruins of Beth She’an are a compelling advertisement for Hellenism — a people-centered worldview that glorified human knowledge, accomplishment, and experience. The heroes in Beth She’an were athletes, entertainers, and thinkers. So, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine what life must have been like in this impressive place. Sadly, God got edged out by all of the personalities and stuff that made life very comfortable in this ancient city.

Mount of Temptation | The temptation of Jesus is one of the best know stories in the gospels. Actually seeing the arid and unbearably hard place where Jesus fasted and prayed put this story into eye-opening perspective. Temptation often comes when we are in a weakened or vulnerable state. Like Jesus, we can resist the evil one by properly understanding and applying the Scriptures.

Jericho | Jericho is the oldest continuously inhabited city on the planet. For 10,000 years, people have called Jericho home. Zaccheus, a citizen of Jericho, had a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Jesus did what no self-respecting religious leader of his day would ever do — He entered into the home of this tax-collector. As a result of this compelling act of grace, Zaccheus opened his heart to the truth and his life was changed. We too should be people filled with the grace that enables us to love people in need and ready to share the truth that transforms lives.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death | Not far from Jericho is a hard place known as the valley of the shadow of death. In that valley is the St. George Monastery. The monks who live there are deeply devoted to God but personally disconnected from a hurting world. This site provided us the opportunity to consider how to best engage the world as Christ-followers. Like the monks in the monastery, we must develop our inner spiritual life. But, we must go beyond that by being the hands and feet of Jesus in a messy world.

A Big Mitzvah | One final thing. As we were leaving the baptismal site at the Jordan River, a woman approached our guide and tearfully asked if he knew of a pastor who could baptize her and her children. She was from Colombia and had been planning her pilgrimage for six years only to face the prospect of not having anyone to baptize her and her two kids. Even though we were about to depart, I agreed to take the time to perform the baptism. She was beyond grateful.

Afterwards, another guide turned to me and said, “You have performed a big mitzvah” — referring to the charitable act I had performed. Although, the Hebrew word mitzvah does not mean “a good deed” in that sense, I understood what she was trying to say. This became a teachable moment to talk with our students about the people God puts in our path and to not see those people as interruptions but rather as divine appointments.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 28, 2018

The Pursuit of Adventures

Our lives, it seems, are increasingly oriented toward the pursuit of convenience and ease. And while these may be rewards of hard work, if we are not careful they can actually keep us from doing hard things.

Doing hard things requires a commitment to do more than watching Bear Grylls scramble down a mountain. There is, after all, absolutely nothing adventurous about watching others have adventures. We have to engage in the pursuit of our own adventures.

Doing hard things requires movement away from ease and toward a context where we will get dirty and our muscles will ache and we risk failure and we have to push past the pain or else we will fall short.

This past weekend, a group of men and boys from Kingsland met at Guadalupe Mountains National Park to do something hard. We drove six-hundred and fifty miles for the opportunity to stand at the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.

Summiting Guadalupe Peak is hard. The hike along the steep and winding trail to the top is rated as strenuous. Having summited this peak three previous times, I knew for a fact that it would not be any less strenuous on my fourth bid.

We met at the trailhead at 6:30 in the morning while temperatures were still tolerable. Huge amounts of excitement swirled in the morning breeze and mixed with bits of anxiety as we waited like race cars with engines revved high.

We took a moment to share final thoughts about our adventure, we prayed, and then we hit the trail. Every guy knew that the first mile and a half would be the hardest because of the steep elevation gain.

Like a brick wall, the first mile and a half stops those who are either unprepared or don’t want to summit badly enough. This is where hikers have to decide whether they are willing to push past the pain.

The heat only added to the difficulty. As the morning wore on the temperatures continued to creep higher until they inched past the hundred degree mark. Our bodies craved hydration and electrolytes and power bars.

Every man and boy quickly settled into his respective rhythm as they trudged up the trail, slowly eating away at the elevation. My hiking mantra on this particular trail is pace and place — maintain a steady pace and watch where I place my feet.

Every one of the guys hiked his own hike and just past mid-morning, we began to populate the summit and feast on the amazing views. I felt just as excited as the day on which I first solo hiked to the top of Texas.

Standing at the summit of Guadalupe Peak with an amazing band of brothers was worth every hard step along the way. This is something we did together — a shared adventure, a reminder that we must do life in community with other men because alone is dangerous.

One thing is certain, the guys on this adventure will always share a special bond. We made it to the top of Texas on one of the hottest days of the year. We watched out for and encouraged one another. We enjoyed great fellowship. And we did it as a band of brothers.

I am grateful for my friend Gil Harris who leads our Men of Kingsland and challenges us to engage in shared study, shared mission, and shared adventure. Our shared study will resume in September. And, Gil and I will continue to work together to challenge our men to engage in shared mission and shared adventures.

Stay tuned for the next opportunity to do something hard.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 17, 2018

Forty Years Later

Today, I officially observe forty years in full-time ministry. I began this journey as a young man with a head full of hair, a heart steeped in passion, and a yearning to devote my only lifetime to pursue the purposes of God. For the past forty years I have been on an adventure far greater than I could have ever imagined.

When I answered the call to ministry, the popular terminology was to say that one had “surrendered” to ministry, as though one had lost some sort of battle with God. I never liked that metaphor. Instead, I freely yielded everything — and gladly so because I felt that serving the God who had shown me such kindness in Christ Jesus was the highest privilege I could possibly know.

Forty years later I have no regrets about my decision to follow and serve the God I love. I have tried to live my years with the awareness that God did not call me because I am good but rather because He is good. Every kindness He has shown me through the years testifies to His goodness.

Forty years later I can say with all confidence that God has never been unkind to me. Even though there were times when I did not understand His timing or why He had allowed me to experience setbacks, God has never been mean nor malicious to me. I continue to believe that He has a purpose for everything that touches my life and that He works all things for my good.

Forty years later I have a better understanding of God’s commitment to me in the worst of times. God’s call did not exempt me from life’s difficulties or the attacks of the enemy. I did not receive a divine “get out of jail free” card when He called me. I have experienced difficulties that made me wish I had received a hall pass to leave the room — but that’s not the way God works.

During one particularly tough season when I did not think I would survive, I went to a lonely place to seek God. I prayed and I wept. I sat in silence. I listened to a gentle breeze as it rustled the leaves of the trees in the woods. And then God’s reassuring voice came to me in a gentle and quiet whisper.

“I inhabit eternity,” He said. “I saw these dark days years ago when I called you to serve Me. Knowing you would go through this difficult season did not deter me from calling you. I still called you. I have been here — at this moment in time — waiting for you to get here.” At that moment, His peace flooded my heart and washed my anxieties away.

Forty years later His grace still amazes me. As a young man I almost lost my life in an automobile accident on my way home from college. As I lay bleeding by the side of the road, a highway patrolman and a nurse immediately came to my rescue. They had been in the vehicles behind me and had witnessed the terrible scene.

Years later when traveling home I decided to revisit the scene of the accident. When I pulled off onto the shoulder of the road at the exact spot where I had almost lost my life, I saw something unexpected — a sign announcing that the adjacent property was the future home of Abundant Grace Community Church. I wept because God had indeed shown me abundant grace at that very spot.

Forty years later I am grateful for the people I have met on my journey. From my earliest days in ministry, I have been blessed to meet and to know the finest of people. I have been the beneficiary of the love, encouragement, and kindness of so many with whom I have served. Today, my network of friends extends back forty years and to more than forty countries around the world.

Forty years later I am still in love with the wife of my youth. In the words of the writer of Proverbs, I found a good thing when I found Cheryl. She has been by my side for 38 of my 40 years in ministry. When Cheryl joined me on my journey in ministry, she too felt called to be a pastor’s wife and has blessed me with her love and support.

It’s not easy being the wife of a pastor, but Cheryl has made it easier for me to be a pastor. She is a bigger-picture person who understands that ministry is messy and does not always fit neatly into a nine to five schedule. Whether I leave home to lead a weekend initiative or to travel to some far-off place, she always sends me out with her blessing and the assurance of her full support.

On the occasion of my forty years in ministry, Cheryl and I received the most unexpected surprise from the wonderful church we serve, Kingsland Baptist. On the first Sunday in June, Pastor Ryan surprised us with the announcement that the Kingsland Community Center building, which houses three of our non-profit partners, will now bear our name. Neither of us could have ever imagined receiving such a beautiful honor when we began our journey together.

We have expressed our thanks to Pastor Ryan Rush and the church council and also want to thank the people of Kingsland. You are the most amazing and generous and thoughtful church family. Thank you for loving me and my family.

Forty years later, I am blessed beyond measure to call Kingsland home.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 7, 2018

Imagine and Wonder

I believe in kids — and am convinced that God can use kids to do a whole lot more than we might think.

At Kingsland, we are committed to helping our kids understand the needs of others at home and among the nations. We want for our kids to embrace the challenge of moving in the direction of people in need, just as Jesus did, and making a difference.

One thing is certain, kids do not have to wait until they are all grown up to help change the world. Over the years, our Kingsland kids have raised funds to help kids in need around the planet. They have invested in schools, orphanages, clinics, housing for refugees, and more — all in some of the most difficult places in the world.

Next week, the kids who attend our Vacation Bible School will learn about the water crisis and how it impacts the lives of kids their age around the world. This is serious stuff, because many kids die every minute of the day as a result of water-related concerns. This summer’s initiative is about saving lives and changing lives.

I am excited about this summer’s edition of our Go Beyond Kid’s Explorers Club kit — designed to help our kids understand all about water. I have written a little book entitled “Imagine and Wonder: A Story About Water” to help our kids get a sense of the challenges faced by kids who live in places without access to clean water. My friend Lesley Steinweg has beautifully illustrated the book.

Each of the kids who attends our Vacation Bible School will receive a Go Beyond Explorers Club kit filled with all kinds of interactive resources to help them learn all about water. We will challenge our kids to raise funds to sponsor three water wells to be drilled in partnership with Living Water International. Our missions ministry will sponsor an additional three wells on behalf of our Kingsland kids.

As I write these words while waiting for my flight home from Guatemala, I am filled with excitement at the thought of what our gift will mean to the people of six villages around the world — and the opportunity they will also have to learn about Jesus who alone can satisfy our deepest thirst. Imagine and wonder about how so many lives will be changed because we are teaching our kids to move in the direction of those who are thirsty.

I am looking forward to another great VBS at Kingsland as our kids learn about the water crisis and, once again, rise to the challenge of making a difference in the lives of others.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 28, 2018

Freedom Is Their Legacy

Today is Memorial Day — a day set aside to honor the memory of those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy. All around the country, special ceremonies will be observed to remember our nation’s fallen heroes. As part of Memorial Day commemorations, the President will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

While visiting my Dad in South Texas a couple of days ago, I stopped by the cemetery where we have a beautiful family plot. Three generations of our family are buried there, including my Mom. Every year at this time, a group of men and women place American flags at the graves of all who served in the military — including those in my own family.

As I watched those individuals reverently walking from grave to grave and respectfully placing flags where veterans lie at rest, I was reminded of the importance of remembering. These flags were, in essence, symbols of gratitude — star spangled thank you cards gently waving in the breeze.

Memorial Day is important. Very important! We need this day in which to intentionally slow down enough to reflect on why we remain the land of the free. The simple answer is that we are the land of the free because of the brave — because of those who answered the call to duty and courageously moved in the direction of threats to our freedom.

At the risk of sounding cliché-ish, we must never forget that freedom is not free. The problem with forgetting those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy is that we will begin to drift toward the reefs of ingratitude. Forgetting or thinking too little of our fallen heroes can lead us to think too much of ourselves.

A young minister from a local church stopped by to chat recently. He asked lots of really good questions. In the course of our conversation he said, “I know I will experience lots of failures in ministry and in life. But, I want to know how to handle the successes. How can a person remain humble when things are going great?” My reply — “Write lots of thank you notes!”

Expressing gratitude to others is one of the best ways to stay grounded in life. There is probably no better reminder that our successes are linked to others who assisted, prayed, encouraged, counseled, cooperated with us, and had our back.

The same holds true for Memorial Day. There is no better reminder that all of the freedoms we enjoy, and sometimes take for granted, are linked to those who moved toward danger on our behalf. Freedom is their gift to us. Freedom is their legacy. And for that, we should remain ever grateful.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 10, 2018

An Alaskan Adventure

I have a raging thirst for service and adventure.

There are few things, in my estimation, that are as satisfying to the soul as helping those in need — without expecting anything in return. I believe that the world would be a better place if more of the members of our human race would regard others as more important than themselves. The Bible certainly affirms as much, calling us to not merely look out for our own personal interests but for the interests of others as well.

As for adventure, it is the ultimate antidote to boredom and all of the dull blahs that come with living life in the safe zone. I am determined to seek adventure for as long as I am able — to embracing new challenges that stretch me. I want for my feet to take me to places that make my muscles hurt and that lead to vistas that take my breath away. Why settle for anything less?

I believe that God has placed within us the capacity to serve others and also some measure of curiosity about what lies beyond our comforts. We will, however, experience neither unless we are intentional — unless we are willing to move in the direction of people in need and toward distant horizons.

Our men’s ministry at Kingsland is about so much more than just spending time in shared study. We also challenge men to participate in shared mission (or service initiatives) and shared adventure. I was privileged to help lead a team of men to Alaska this past week to serve our ministry partner in Anchorage and to share an adventure.

For the second year, our men’s team traveled to Anchorage to service the ministry vehicles for GraceWorks Alaska. This ministry will host over one-thousand volunteers this summer, including a team of eighty tenth-grade students and sponsors from Kingsland. GraceWorks depends on their fleet of vehicles to transport these volunteers to ministry points in and around Anchorage.

In addition to our team of mechanics, we also took a team of men to take on the challenge of completely gutting and remodeling a bathroom in the parsonage of Calvary Baptist Church, in just four days. The 1950’s-era bathroom required a lot of work, a lot of runs to the building supply store, and some long hours. On our longest day we worked from morning to midnight.

We completed all of our assigned tasks and still had time for adventure. We hiked in the snow to Byron Glacier, took pics of wildlife near Portage Glacier, and took three bush planes to visit an Indian village along the shores of Cook Inlet where our hosts treated us to some delicious moose stew. Really good stuff.

In addition to all this, Gil Harris, our men’s ministry director, led us in a time of Bible study and discussion every morning. As men, we are committed to doing life in community because alone is dangerous. We all enjoyed a good week, made new friends, strengthened old friendships, helped our ministry partner, and blessed a faithful older pastor and his wife with a new bathroom.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 11, 2018

The Weight of Water

Among the things that are not on our list of things to worry about is the weight of water. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have never given a single or even a second thought to how much water actually weighs. And in case you are wondering, a gallon of water weighs approximately 8.35 pounds.

Eight-plus pounds is no big deal for those of us who never have to lift much more than a glass or perhaps a bottle of water that weighs in at a few mere manageable ounces. Because water flows into our homes in copious amounts, the weight of water is of no consequence. So, we use pounds and pounds of water every day to hydrate, bathe, wash our clothes, and water our lawns.

Not so for many in our world who concern themselves daily with both the potability and portability of the water they use. Those who live without the luxury of indoor plumbing must consider the quality of the water they consume and then how to transport it from the source to their homes. They often lose on both counts — poor water quality plus the burden of transporting sketchy water for daily use.

Our team is in El Salvador this week where we are drilling yet one more water well in cooperation with our friends at Living Water International. The sight of children and women spending hours a day fetching water for daily use still bothers me. Transporting water twenty to forty pounds at a time — sometimes several times a day — is beyond burdensome.

This week our team successfully drilled a water well for the 15 families that call Wisnay (pronounced W-is-nigh), a remote village in El Salvador, their home. Of the nineteen water wells we have drilled to date, this was by far the easiest. We drilled in the perfect spot and managed to avoid those layers of volcanic rock that have so often slowed us down in the past. We hit beautiful water at a depth of 106-feet.

So, what will this mean for the people here who understand all too well the weight of water?

First, having a source of water that is centrally located should buy back time for moms and kids. By not having to walk as far to get water, these saved hours can be reinvested in the home. Although families will still have to make several trips a day, they will not have to travel as far. The villagers will also have the option of later adding a pump and tubing to actually pump water to their homes.

Second, for the first time ever these families now have a source of water that is safe to drink. Because the well we drilled is several times deeper than hand-dug wells or streams that are polluted by agricultural chemical run-off, the families of Wisnay should enjoy better health. Bad water accounts for lots of sickness around the world and claims the lives of too many children every single minute of the day.

There is no better reward after a week of drilling than the smiles on the faces of the children and families whose prayers for clean water have been answered. To present others a cup of water in Jesus’ name is one of the best and most fulfilling experiences in the world for a Christ-follower. We are grateful to have had this opportunity to lighten the load for the beautiful people of Wisnay.

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