Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 6, 2015

To The Hard Places

Travel can be tough, but it’s necessary in order to reach people in need — especially those with little or no access to the gospel. Whether that means walking across the room or flying across the planet, connecting with others ultimately requires that we take a first and then more steps in their direction. History illustrates what can happen when we fail to do that.

When Marco Polo’s father and uncle met with Kublai Khan, this great Mongol leader asked them to bring one-hundred missionaries on their return trip so that his people could learn about God. Marco joined his father on the return journey, but the Pope sent only two priests instead of one-hundred.

Marco Polo Caravan
The journey to Mongolia was tough. Within a short-time, the two missionaries turned back because the journey became too difficult for them. These two men decided to use their remaining strength to return home instead of continuing toward those in need. This sad episode stands as the greatest missed missiological opportunity in the history of Christianity.

The two priests, however, were not the first to turn back when the going got tough. Luke recorded that a young man named John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the First Missionary Journey. For whatever reason, when these early missionaries arrived in Pamphylia, John Mark returned home (Acts 13:13). Some scholars suggest that he did so because Pamphylia was a hard place.

John Mark’s departure would eventually set Paul and Barnabas at odds when planning the Second Missionary Journey. Barnabas, the encourager, wanted to give John Mark a second chance. Paul, however, “thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to do the work” (Acts 15:38). Fortunately, many years later John Mark would again earn Paul’s respect (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11).

Terry and Omar
In the middle of the month, I am headed to a hard place with a small team. We are headed to two African nations to take the gospel to unreached tribes that live deep in the bush. I’ve been there before. This time, however, we are going even farther afield and will travel across a lake to reach tribal peoples who live along its shore. We will backpack, travel by boat, have no access to electricity or running water, will sleep in tents, and use the bathroom in the woods.

Africa Camping Items
For the past several weeks, our small team has been preparing for this adventure by hiking with full packs, exercising daily, and carefully preparing to travel light. We will each take a backpacking tent, lightweight sleeping bag, ultralight backpacking stove to heat water, water filtration supplies, hydration pack, and a few backpacking meals. Our goal is to use Bible storying to share the gospel with those who have not yet heard the good news about Jesus.

We all understand the risks and we all know that anything can happen to alter our plans. But we are all determined to stay the course, even if things become harder than we imagined. After all, if I lived at the other end of the Great Commission like the unreached folks we will visit, I would want for someone to take steps in my direction and to keep moving, no matter how hard. There is a lot at stake when we go to hard places. But there is even more at stake when we fail to do so.

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Paul | Romans 15:20)

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 27, 2015

The Yellow House

Everybody has a story. Our lives are, in fact, a collection of stories — the everyday chronicles of the happenings that shape and define us. The vast majority of our stories remain filed away and will never be heard by others. There are, however, those few stories that have so impacted our lives that they will always remain closer to the surface. These are the stories that regularly seep out through our tears or spill out through our laughter.

This past weekend I met a single mom named Susan at a Habitat for Humanity build. Susan is the lady who will live in the house that our volunteers and many others are helping to build. Like others selected to buy a Habitat home, Susan met some tough requirements and must put in 200 hours of sweat-equity into local Habitat projects, including the construction of her own home. Susan considers two-hundred hours of sweat-equity a small price for pay for the privilege of finally owning her own home.

Although the construction of Susan’s house is in the early stages, she looks forward to the February date when she will receive the keys. I told her that our team is scheduled to return to do the landscaping just before she moves in. She wants a palm tree in her front yard to remind her of growing up in California. When I asked Susan if she had selected the color for her home’s exterior she turned and pensively looked at her house and said yes.

“Yellow,” Susan said. “I want for my house to be painted yellow.” I replied that I thought yellow was a good color and then asked her why she had selected that particular color. That’s when I noticed her tears. “Because,” she said, “that was my daughter’s favorite color.” And then she went on to explain that her 23 year-old daughter had been killed in a car accident. My heart sank. I told her how sorry I was for her loss and then reaffirmed that yellow was indeed the right choice.

Knowing just a little of Susan’s story made my time at the Habitat build a lot more meaningful than when I had arrived earlier that morning. No longer was I just a part of a team taking part in a noble act of kindness to help someone in need. I was now a part of a team helping to build a house for a woman whose heart still aches for a daughter she desperately misses. Susan said that hers will be the only yellow house on the block. And she is comforted by that because it will not only remind her of what she has lost, but about the goodness of God in providing for her what she never thought she would have — a healing place.

I am grateful for the guys from Kingsland’s Cross Trainers Adult Bible Fellowship for their hard work at Susan’s house. These guys worked really hard along with our friends from the Fellowship at Cinco Ranch under the auspices of our partnership with Compassion Katy. I love to see the body of Christ serving and blessing the people of our community through practical expressions of God’s love. And I look forward to returning to Susan’s home to plant a palm tree in front of her yellow home.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 19, 2015

Just Run 2015

Twenty-seven million — that’s the number of people in the world today who live in some form of slavery. Statistics like this can easily anesthetize us to the painful realities experienced by the individual people who make up those statistics. It is one thing to hear that there are 27 million people in the world today who are held as slaves, but it’s another thing to know the story of one of those slaves.

While statistics touch our heads, individual stories touch our hearts. Charts and graphs can give us insight into the magnitude of a problem, but a personal story can compel us to become a part of the solution to that problem. Millions of those held as slaves are forced to work in brothels — from our own community to the red light districts of South Asia. Millions of others are forced to work as laborers and are treated as a disposable commodity by their oppressors.

Since leading Kingsland’s missions ministry to join the fight against human trafficking in January 2009, I have personally met many survivors of human trafficking around the world. Their stories are painful to hear but they must be heard. A common denominator among survivors is the feeling that they are lost forever, that no one is aware of their plight, and that their voices are not heard.

For too many years, the church lost sight of the importance of justice to God. A friend who has orchestrated the rescue of many girls from brothels in Kolkata referred to justice as one of the forgotten passions of God. Once you understand how important justice is to God you will never read the Bible in the same way again. Justice will jump off the pages and demand that you do your part to speak and act on behalf of the oppressed, of those who have no voice.

Just Run 2015 Start
That’s why we started our Just Run for a Just Cause. This race is just one of several ways that we raise awareness about the problem of human trafficking and also raise funds to combat the problem. Since 2009, our missions ministry has invested almost half a million dollars in various initiatives to fight oppression from our own community to the ends of the earth.

Granger Family
This morning, people from our community took part in our 6th Annual Just Run for a Just Cause. And what a great morning it was. I am deeply grateful to Amy Granger, my assistant, for serving as point person for this year’s Just Run. To say that Amy did an amazing job of mobilizing our leadership team and volunteers would be an understatement. Amy and her team managed hundreds of details to make this year’s run a reality. Kudos to Amy and her team for a job well-done.

Justice Wall
Every year, I enjoy watching the people standing in front of our justice wall — an exhibit that tells the story of how traffickers lure young girls away from their homes and their consequent descent into darkness. The panels also show how girls are rescued and then helped through aftercare services. We must not be ignorant of the schemes of the evil one. And we must be willing to do our part to come to the aid of victims of human trafficking through our prayers, our funds, and our presence.

Speak Up
I am grateful to be a part of a church that has embraced one of the most important passions of God. I pray that He will continue to guide, empower, and use us to champion the rights of the oppressed. Today was indeed a good day in the fight against human trafficking as together we spoke on behalf of those who have no voice.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 14, 2015

A Few Hours in Istanbul

Occasionally, I am able to escape an airport while en route to or from wherever I’ve been. After years of flying through Istanbul, my friend David Budke and I were able to make a quick exit from the airport in order to spend a few hours in Istanbul before our connecting flight. When you only have a few hours in Istanbul it is a no-brainer about what to see — the iconic Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia, or the Church of Holy Wisdom, is unquestionably one of the most magnificent religious structures in the world, with an equally fascinating history. The first church at the location of the current Hagia Sophia was built on the remains of the Artemis Temple and was called the Megale Ekklesia (The Great Church). It was indeed the mega-church of its day.

The Megale Ekklesia burned down in the riots following the exile of John Chrysostome, the Patriarch of Constantinople. A second church was built on the site early in the fifth century. This church also burned down during the week-long Nika riot in January 532. This riot started at a sporting event at the Hippodrome and is the most violent riot in the history of Constantinople.

The current Hagia Sophia was completed in AD 537 under the Roman Emperor Justinian. When Justinian set his mind to build a third church at the site, he did so with the intention of building a basilica that would surpass any other known church structure. He pushed the boundaries of scale and architectural complexity and the result is the Hagia Sophia. After the completion of the church, Justinian allegedly exclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone thee.”

Hagia Sophia Mosaic
The fate of the Hagia Sophia took an unexpected turn in 1453 after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). This beautiful Christian church was turned into a mosque at the orders of Sultan Mehmed II. Mehmed ordered the construction of arch buttresses to reinforce the walls, added four minarets, and had all of the mosaic depictions of biblical characters and scenes covered up — all except the mosaics of the Virgin Mary and the seraphim.

In 1934, under the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum. In the years that followed, archaeologists and scholars carefully removed the plaster covering many of the mosaics. Today, visitors to the Hagia Sophia can see both the Christian and Islamic elements of this magnificent structure.

The story of the Hagia Sophia continues to unfold as the government is under pressure to reopen the iconic site as a mosque. Turkey’s Culture and Tourism minister has said that it is his personal dream, goal, and ambition to see that happen. And perhaps it will. Time will tell.

Regardless of what happens next to the Hagia Sophia, it will always stand as a monument to the fact that God has set eternity in the heart of man and that people everywhere are longing to discover what will fill that God-shaped vacuum within. As for me, I personally found the answer in Jesus Christ long before I visited the Hagia Sophia. Unlike the great iconic structure in Turkey that has seen so many changes, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. I never have to worry that He will change.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 13, 2015

The Rape of a Child

New Delhi, India

Five years old — somehow I struggle to wrap my head around how anyone could brutally rape a five year old girl and then toss her maimed body in a garbage dump. And yet that’s what happened this week in India … again. Every single time I visit India and pick up a newspaper I read about multiple incidents of rape, including the rape of very young girls.

5 Year Old Raped
This particular incident occurred in the city of Sikar in the state of Rajasthan in northwestern India. A poor mother and her children were sleeping beside the road (not unusual in India) when two men abducted the little girl and then gang-raped her. When her mother found out that her daughter was missing, she went to more than one police station to report her concerns. No one took her seriously.

So, the mother took matters into her own hands. She searched for her missing daughter and eventually found her in a garbage dump. I can’t imagine the horror this mother must have felt when she found her little girl barely alive. The mother immediately took her daughter to the nearest hospital. Sadly, there was also alleged negligence on the part of the hospital in starting treatment of the girl. The entire matter is now under investigation.

The five-year old girl underwent three hours of surgery to repair severe vaginal and rectal damage. Unbelievable that any five-year old girl should have to have this kind of surgery. If she survives the next thirty-six hours, then doctors expect she will remain hospitalized for the next three weeks. And that’s just to heal from the physical trauma. This child will have to live with the emotional trauma for a lifetime.

Can India expect the tide of violence against girls to turn when the country is so steeped in gendercide, foeticide, a dowry system that puts women at risk, and its own version of machismo that blames women for the problem? Can the problem be remedied by enacting stronger laws against those who commit these kinds of crimes against women — and then actually enforcing those laws?

India needs more than laws to fix the problem of how women are treated, it needs to train her boys to value women and regard them with dignity. The problem is not with women. The problem is with boys. It’s time to stop blaming women and to start bringing up boys the right way — teaching them by word and example to respect the opposite sex. If this does not happen soon, then India will remain one of the most dangerous places on the planet to be a girl.

At its core, the problem in India is fueled by a worldview that lacks any regard for the sanctity of human life. A worldview that believes that people are not created equal and that some are better than others because of their caste creates the perfect storm for the abuse of human beings that are vulnerable because they are poorer, weaker, or just happen to be women. Unless people embrace a worldview that regards all people as created in the image of God and therefore worthy of respect, ultimately no one in India will be safe.

This evening I spoke with our partner who hosts the only radio program on the subcontinent that addresses all matters concerning women from a biblical worldview. She told me about the proliferation of pregnancy screenings to determine the sex of the baby. If tests reveal the baby is a girl, then most women opt for an immediate abortion.

However, she also said that because abortion is such a lucrative practice, investigations have revealed that doctors are lying to women who are actually carrying baby boys in their womb. So, to many doctors in India, every child in the womb is a girl and represents another opportunity to generate a buck by killing a baby. The bottom line: ultimately no one will be safe in any society that disregards the value of another human being.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 12, 2015

Challenged to Go Deeper

Khondhamal Hills of India

The geography of my life changed in late 1998 when I first ventured to the Khondhamal Hills of India. My trip to these remote hills redefined my spiritual life in large measure because of three men whose profound devotion to Christ stirred my heart. Their example challenged me to go deeper.

Calvin Fox was an agriculturalist whose unassuming presence was the perfect cover for profound spiritual depth. He and his wife Margaret had come to these hills to help poor farmers increase their crop yields in Orissa’s hill tracts — and to sow the hope of the gospel.

Calvin loved the Kui people of Orissa and wept every time he talked about them. I was moved by his tears — quiet tears that glistened against his tanned and weathered cheeks. Nearing the end of a lifetime on the mission field, Calvin still wept for those he served. The presence of his tears caused me to question the absence of my own.

Calvin introduced me to Brother Paul, whose father was one of the first converts of British missionaries to Orissa. From his death bed, this dying elder asked his son to take the gospel to every village in the Khondhamal Hills. Paul obeyed and became an apostle to the Kui people. He walked from village to village at a time when wild elephants and Bengal tigers roamed these hills.

Calvin also introduced me to Paul’s son-in-law, Sudhansu, a man with a vision for equipping the next generation of Christian leaders. Sudhansu and his wife opened their home as a safe haven for the sons of pastors and poor church members. He and his family ultimately assumed responsibility for almost 100 boys, some of whom had lost parents to persecution.

After the death of Kingsland member Diane Patterson, who had devoted two years of her life to serving in India, the idea for a home in her honor to house Sudhansu’s boys was born. The rest is history. Today, Bethany Home is home to ninety-four boys. The goal of Bethany Home is to raise a generation of godly leaders who will lead their homes well and reach every dark corner of their region for Christ.

When I arrived at Bethany Home earlier this week, the younger boys greeted me with a gift of flowers before heading off to school. I am so proud of these boys and their growth in the faith. God will indeed use them to advance the interests of His kingdom here for years to come.

Returning to the Khondhamal Hills stirred sweet memories of Calvin and Brother Paul, both now in heaven. I know that they would be proud of Sudhansu’s work and of the boys under his care. Returning to this place also reminded me of Calvin’s tears and the words of the Psalmist —Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him (Psalm 126:5-6).

I remain grateful for the friendship of the three men I met in the Khondhamal Hills in 1998. God continues to use their godly example to challenge me to go deeper with Him.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 6, 2015

A Child’s Grave

This past Friday, my friend Selim joined me on a backroads adventure to New Ulm, Industry, and Welcome — three small Texas towns located along a stretch of FM 109. I was interested in taking some pics and doing some research for my new Explore Texas Blog and was happy to have Selim join me.

New Ulm Cemetery Sign
We followed FM 1094 from Katy to New Ulm and then turned north on FM 109. On our way out of New Ulm we noticed the local cemetery. Even from the road we could see rows of weathered headstones in this burial-place established in 1853. So, we pulled into the old cemetery to check out the names and dates on the old headstones.

The first grave we came to belonged to a child who died at 5 years of age. Beneath the date of this child’s death were the words “Gone So Soon.” The next several graves all belonged to children who had died at the turn of the twentieth century. Several had lived a few months, some only a few days, and a few died on the day they were born. Two graves belonged to six-year-old twins who died within days of each other.

New Ulm Cemetery
As we walked among the graves of these children, Selim and I speculated about their deaths. Had these children been the victims of an epidemic? That seemed the most likely scenario. And how had the deaths of so many children impacted the small German community of New Ulm? What fear did the parents live with as they learned that a neighbor’s child had died? Whose child would die next?

The answer would come a few miles down the road in the tiny community called Welcome. When we arrived in this easy-to-miss spot in the road, we stopped by the Welcome Store, established in 1890 and now a Texas Historic Landmark. Inside we met and struck up a conversation with Leonard and Lynn, the current proprietors. Lynn told us that the children in New Ulm were victims of a typhoid epidemic, the same one that had claimed the lives of children in Welcome.

A typhoid epidemic — that made sense. This epidemic cast a terrible dark pall of grief over these communities. Add to that the children lost at birth and those first years of the new century must have been beyond terrible for so many grieving parents. “Gone So Soon” — indeed! The headstone of an infant who was born and died on August 16, 1900 had these words inscribed: “Happy infant, early blest, rest in peaceful slumber, rest.”

Our Baby & Teddy Bear
One grave that caught my attention belonged to a little boy named Hugo who was born on June 6, 1938 and died on the same day. At the top of the stone were the words “Our Baby.” And leaning against the stone was a small white bunny. Who, I wondered, had placed this gift at this child’s grave? Conceivably the child’s mother or father might still be alive. Whoever it was did more than leave a gift, they left a reminder that the life of this child, however brief, was important.

How different were the children buried in the New Ulm cemetery regarded than those in the news in recent days. The videos of Planned Parenthood workers speaking about the dismembered remains of aborted babies with complete callousness are disturbing. The deaths at sea of refugees, including children, fleeing civil conflict in Syria and the despised Rohingya dying while searching for a place to call home are painful to read about.

The late Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer cautioned that the erosion of the sanctity of human life puts us all in danger. Once abortion becomes commonplace, he warned, then the next battle front will be infanticide and then ultimately euthanasia. Our nation and world are indeed on a slippery slope.

Those who disregard the sanctity of human life here at home cannot point a finger at ISIS because they decapitate their victims. The methods of killing, however disturbing, are symptoms of something deeper — a disregard for the sanctity of human life, a refusal to believe that all people have value because they are created in the image of God.

Baby Hugo lived less than a day, but he was wanted. He was loved in life and treated with dignity at death. And he is loved still.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 3, 2015

The Language of Movement

Missions is about movement — about taking intentional steps in the direction of those who are separated from God. The Bible employs the language of movement when talking about the spread of the good news. For example, Jesus commanded His disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. To go is to move from one place or point to another. That is movement.

Amy GB Pic
Jesus told His disciples that He was sending them out as His own Father had sent him. Jesus left heaven and moved in our direction with the intent of seeking and saving that which was lost. And, before He ascended into heaven, Jesus again used the language of movement in His final instructions to His followers. He tasked them with carrying the good news from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth — from familiar toward unfamiliar places.

Movement eventually leads to discovery. There are some things that we simply cannot fully understand apart from moving in the direction of those who are distanced from God. Whenever we enter into someone else’s context we make discoveries about them — and also about ourselves. And what we learn is important because it can help us to understand how to share the good news with our new friends in culturally relevant ways.

Making discoveries about others should lead us to respond accordingly or as Jesus would. It is not enough to make discoveries about others only to pity them or to leave it to someone else to respond or to turn and walk away. In the words of abolitionist William Wilberforce, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” Knowledge always brings with it a corresponding responsibility.

Ragged Edge Pic
In a speech that he gave in April 1901, John R. Mott, one of my historical mentors, spoke about the responsibility of young people in taking the gospel to the nations. In that speech Mott said, “The last command of Christ is operative until it is repealed. It is not optional, as some would assume, but obligatory. It awaits its fulfillment by a generation which shall have the requisite faith and courage, and audacity and the purpose of heart to do their duty to the whole world.”

Mott challenged the people of his generation to move toward the nations — and they did! Luke recorded the account of a vision that the Apostle Paul had received while on his second missionary journey. Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man who was standing and appealing to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). The Macedonian man used the language of movement. Paul understood that language and consequently moved in the direction of the Macedonian man.

Today, more than ever before, we must understand the language of movement. Not only must we go to the nations in their respective geographical homelands, we must also go to the nations who are coming to our own homeland. Like the Apostle Paul, we must understand that we are debtors — that those of us who know Christ owe Christ to all people. That is what compelled Paul to move in the direction of people separated from God.

Ultimately, every Christ-follower must consider the movement of his or her life. John R. Mott once said that every Christian who is a Christian of reality ought to be a missionary Christian. And being a missionary Christian requires movement from where we are toward those on the other end of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

We will not finish the task of global evangelization nor will we hasten the day when the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the seas unless we first learn to understand, embrace, and respond to the language of movement.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 1, 2015

400 Pastors Resign

Life is short. Have an affair. That’s what Ashley Madison believes. Since its inception in 2001, this Canada-based online dating service has helped untold numbers of people to do just that — have an affair, whether physical or emotional.

Ashley Madison
Who would have thought that a service like Ashley Madison would attract 37-plus million subscribers from more than 50 countries. That’s a lot of people who are dissatisfied with their marriages or, at the very least, merely curious about an adulterous affair.

In July, a group of hackers who identified themselves as The Impact Team did what hackers do best — they breached the Ashley Madison site and stole the names of every Ashley Madison subscriber. And then they threatened to release the data unless the site was shut down. The site owners refused.

So, the morally outraged Impact Team made good on their threat. They released 9.7 gigabytes of confidential user info. And then a short time later, they released another 20 gigabytes of user names. The impact of this disclosure was felt from suburban bedrooms to corporate boardrooms. And, some suicides have been linked to the exposure.

Sadder still, last Sunday, an estimated 400 pastors and staff members resigned their positions in the wake of the Ashley Madison scandal. These resignations left a wake of grieving families and congregations and unwittingly gave the body of Christ a black eye. Although many have claimed they never actually had an affair, the damage is done.

Jesus warned that the devil is a murderer (John 8:44) who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The Apostle Peter warned that our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). What better way to harm the cause of Christ than by destroying and devouring its leaders.

The evil one knows that he can do great harm to God’s purposes by discrediting God’s people. Leaders, however, are not the only ones who are vulnerable to the attacks of the devil. Who knows how many names of church-goers on the Ashley Madison list will go unrecognized. So, we should not go pointing fingers. No one is exempt from the schemes of the devil. And, as a wise pastor once said, there is no sin we cannot commit. We are all vulnerable.

Our enemy indeed longs for our moral destruction. He is more interested in destroying the health of our relationship with God than hindering the work we do for God. The devil knows how to drive small wedges that can incrementally distance us from God. Our responsibility is to not be ignorant of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11) and to make the right choices.

We live in a climate made toxic by an unrelenting torrent of unhealthy media. And we live in a day of unprecedented access to filth. Accessibility must be governed and monitored by accountability. As a Marine friend cautioned: alone is dangerous. We must do life in community and we must pray for one another lest we be devoured by the enemy.

The Ashley Madison scandal reminds us that we are all prone to wander. And lest we think more highly of ourselves than we ought, let’s remind ourselves that “there but for the grace of God go I.” In the words of the old gospel hymn, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, / Prone to leave the God I love; / Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, / Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 27, 2015

Remembering Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating disasters in American History. Ten years ago this month, Katrina’s storm surge breached the levees around New Orleans, allowing an angry ocean to rush in and wreak absolute havoc. The storm killed more than 1,800 Americans and displaced tens of thousands more — many barely escaping the rapidly rising flood waters.

After the storm, New Orleans lay seriously wounded. Aerial photos revealed that Katrina’s angry claws had destroyed huge swaths of The Big Easy. As for those who remained behind, thousands found refuge in the overcrowded and undersupplied Superdome, the city’s iconic sports stadium.

Katrina 1
While an influx of volunteers worked tirelessly to aid those in need, the questions and the finger-pointing started among politicians. There was no shortage of speculation about why the levees and the city’s evacuation plan had failed and who was to blame. In the meantime, tens of thousands of residents were focused on only one thing — how to put their broken lives back together.

Katrina 2
In the days Katrina was gathering strength in the Gulf, I was on an adventure deep in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. When I finally had access to a phone, I learned about the devastation in New Orleans. Doyle, our Executive Pastor, encouraged me to get home as quickly as possible to lead our volunteers to care for evacuees from New Orleans.

Little did I realize as I made my way home that I would spend the next six weeks living with evacuees at the church. With the help of my new friends Cathy Thompson, Denise Fieglein, Susan Patrick and an army of volunteers, we were able to compassionately care for more than a hundred folks displaced from their homes by Katrina.

One of the biggest challenges was helping folks to get identification documents — not an easy thing to do when you have lost your birth certificate, drivers license, and every other form of personal documentation in flood waters. But, we managed to do this. We also helped folks find apartments and jobs. We gave several families cars with six months of insurance, connected them to medical care, and helped some to relocate to other cities.

Katrina 3
Over the years I have heard from some of the evacuees who spent more than a month of their lives here at Kingsland. Each of these have been quick to express their gratitude for the kindness of our volunteers and the generosity of our church.

Today, the City of New Orleans has come back stronger than before the storm hit. And, because we were willing to love people in their time of greatest need, many of the evacuees who called Kingsland home for a season have rebuilt their lives and are doing well. Thank you, Kingsland, for always going beyond by loving and serving others.

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