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

Reflections on 100 Trips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dream Come True

El Maderal, El Salvador

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

We Dream of Water

El Maderal, El Salvador

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

Fishing the Amazon River

Amazonas, Brazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where There Is No Doctor

Amazonas, Brazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 4, 2016

The Girls of Pindobal

Amazonas, Brazil

We arrived at the village of Pindobal sometime in the night while we slept soundly — like babies in a gently swaying bassinet. Traveling on a big boat on a wide river will do that to you. The river will lull you to sleep to the hum of the boat’s engine, a sort of lullaby that assures you all is well.

When we woke up we were no longer moving but anchored on the deep banks beneath the muddy bluffs of Pindobal — a larger-than-most village. After breakfast, we carried our gear up the steep bank like Himalayan Sherpas. The village leader gave us permission to meet in the school, a nice building provided by the government of Brazil.

In places where there is no doctor, offering medical, dental and optical care is a big deal. Everybody comes with their accumulated aches and pains — and fears about what this cramp or that sore might mean. Answers are as important as treatment. Just finally knowing alleviates a lot of anxiety.

While our clinics were in full swing and the kids sang and laughed and played, a young lady approached me and simply said, “I want to know how to go to heaven.” The look on her face told me she had been thinking about this for some time. She wanted answers to a throbbing ache in her heart that caused her to contemplate eternity.

We sat on the sidewalk in front of the school and I told her the story of Jesus. This was it, what she had longed to know. It made perfect sense to her. So, she bowed her head and, in a beautiful moment, placed her faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

And then, she looked up and excused herself for a moment. I waited. She returned, with a friend. “Tell the story to my friend,” she said. And so I did. Within an hour my friend Rick and I had shared with several more of her friends.

Bible Study in Pindobal
And now it was my turn to ask a question. “Would you like to know more about how to grow in your new faith in Jesus Christ?” She and all of her friends said yes. And so we spent several hours that afternoon and the next seated in a classroom, teaching them how to navigate the pages of the Bibles we had given them.

By the second afternoon, these girls were turning to passages on their own. Finding a verse on their own was a huge accomplishment. Their smiles said it all. We taught them some study basics and encouraged them to start with the gospel of Luke to better understand the flow of Jesus’ life. They promised to continue meeting together to study, pray, and encourage one another.

On the evening we were scheduled to leave, these girls came to the river to be baptized as a testimony to their new faith in Christ. And so, Rick and I had the privilege of baptizing them in the murky brown waters of the river to the rejoicing of those watching the scene unfold. It was beautiful. Afterward, they thanked us for coming and telling them about Jesus.

As we made our way to the next village, I thought about what Jesus said about the kingdom of God. He likened it to a little bit of leaven that a woman worked into a large amount of flour — something small that eventually transformed something larger.

Like leaven, the kingdom of God quietly spreads from one life to another — transforming individuals one by one. My prayer is that as the girls of Pindobal share what has happened to them, the kingdom will indeed spread and transform lives in their little corner of the Amazon.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 1, 2016

Along the Amazon River

Every time I think about the Amazon River my imagination is stirred. Winding its way through the vast and dense rainforest that comprises the earth’s lungs, the Amazon and its tributaries are home to tens of thousands of small villages — rugged enclaves perched on steep and muddy banks.

Life in these villages is hard. Believe me. Really hard. The indigenous peoples who have learned to subsist in this jungle-on-steroids are also pretty rugged. They have to be in order to survive where there is no doctor, where too many things can harm or kill you, and where you will not find the least bit of anything resembling what we might consider a comfort.

Amazon Sept 2016 Team
I was happy to return to the Amazon last week with an amazing team of volunteers. We made the journey to this rugged place to visit villages along the river to offer medical, dental, and optical clinics, to work with kids, and to share the greatest love story ever told — essentially, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a place that could be the poster child for ”the ends of the earth.”

Along the Amazon
Like Jesus, we ventured out “full of grace and truth” — prepared to show kindness to people who seldom receive visitors like us and to allow our acts of kindness to open hearts to the truth about Jesus. When Christ-followers fall deeply in love with Jesus — Christian radicalization, perhaps — the result is always a determination to love and serve others without condition.

We are living in days when acts of violence and hatred make the daily news. Every week, groups like ISIS rush to proudly claim responsibility for some act of terror around the globe. In reality the best that thugs like ISIS can offer the world is to turn the clock of civilization back to the days of barbarism.

The news will never be dominated by stories of those who selflessly serve others, who never resort to violence to make the world a better place, and whose presence actually makes hearts glad. That’s ok. The truth of the matter is that while some prefer to agitate the surface of the waters, there is a deep undercurrent of love that can’t be stopped. And love will ultimately win the day.

Boats of Pindobal
Make no mistake about it. God is on the move. Like the waters of the mighty Amazon, there is a redemptive current today that is reaching every corner of the globe — and it is sweeping men, women, and children into the kingdom of God. This current is strong and unstoppable. The dams of terrorism, hatred, and violence will not be able to hold back these waters but will, instead, buckle and ultimately break under the pressure.

This past week, I once again marveled at the power of the Amazon. There are no words to describe this mighty river that pushes fresh water a hundred miles out into a salty sea. Wow! But I have marveled even more at the things I saw God do along the Amazon. Our work here has indeed moved us a little closer to that day when the whole world will be filled with the knowledge of God even as the waters cover the seas.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 15, 2016

Do You Fear the Wind?

A highlight of my week is meeting with my Band of Fathers core group. We are a group of dads who desire to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father and our sons through shared study, shared mission, and shared adventure. While we have great study time together, we want to go beyond merely studying.

Band of Fathers Logo 2In a day when too many people spend too much time indoors, protected from the wind and the rain, we believe it’s important to get outdoors — and to take our boys along. Whether that means serving others in need by spreading mulch, swinging a hammer, or hiking or biking down a trail, it’s all good.

We also believe that if we work our muscles, then God will build our hearts and strengthen our bonds with one another. He has been doing just that. We work our muscles by participating in shared missions initiatives and shared outdoor adventures.

A couple of years ago I wrote about Nature Deficit Disorder, a condition that afflicts those who spend too much time indoors. It’s much easier to watch Bear Grylls have adventures than to have adventures of our own. For us, however, any outdoor adventure we can have, no matter how modest, trumps watching Bear Grylls.

Speaking of staying indoors — the Tuareg people of Niger are a nomadic group who traverse the sands of the Sahara. These nomads value their freedom of movement so much that they fear houses. Why? Because they believe houses are the graves of the living. They have a point!

McKittrick Grotto Group
In our current study of “The Book of Man” by William J. Bennett, my guys and I came across an excellent poem entitled “Do You Fear the Wind?” by American poet and writer Hamlin Garland (1860-1940). This little poem speaks for itself.

Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane.
The palm of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your forehead tan —
You’ll be rugged and swarthy and weary
But — you’ll walk like a man.

John Eldridge captured the essence of this message in his excellent book, “Wild at Heart.” There is indeed something in us that longs for adventure. And the context for adventure is outside in “the force of the wind” and “the slash of the rain.”

So, if you have one foot in the grave — break free! Get outdoors. Connect with God in His magnificent creation. Serve others. Play hard. Feel the force of the wind. It will do you a world of good.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 31, 2016

Like Mother Teresa

I first served the least of these at Mother Teresa’s homes in Kolkata in 2009 — an experience that changed my life. Although I had visited many of the world’s worst humanitarian crises before then, nothing prepared me for what God would do in my heart in Kolkata. Serving at Mother Teresa’s homes forced me to close the distance between myself and suffering humanity in a way I had never experienced before.

Over the years since then, I have served in Mother Teresa’s homes several times, read numerous books about her life, and talked with several who knew her personally. Without question, she was one incredible little woman with a huge heart overflowing with compassion for the least of these. Mother Teresa lived simply — a decision that enabled her to serve others without hesitation or reservation.

Distressing Disguise
Three things, in particular, about Mother Teresa’s life continue to inspire and motivate me.

First, Mother Teresa was madly, wildly, crazy in love with Jesus. From the moment she sensed Jesus’ call to leave her cloistered life to venture into the streets of Kolkata, she lived to quench His thirst. Her obedience grew out of her love for Jesus. She once said that she would never touch a leper for any amount of money, but would willingly do so for Jesus. And, so she did.

Mother Teresa Tomb
Second, because she was so in love with Jesus, Mother Teresa did what Jesus would do. Her mission was clear — go out into the lonely, narrow, and dark places and look for Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. And then, do for that individual what Jesus would do. Feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner. This is what she and her Missionaries of Charity dedicated their lives to do every day.

Finally, Mother Teresa said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” She understood the value of allowing God to write a beautiful narrative through her life. And, so He did. Through Mother Teresa, God left His divine signature in the lives of untold thousands of people who had never before experienced such compassion, care, and love.

Mother Teresa
There is so much that we can and should learn from the diminutive nun who showed the world what it means to love and live like Jesus.

Imagine what God might do through each of us if, like Mother Teresa, we fell wildly and madly in love with Jesus, served our fellow-man as Jesus would, and allowed God to write a love letter through our lives. These simple acts would transform the troubled world we live in — a world writhing in pain and racked daily by unspeakable acts of extreme violence.

 I am thankful for Mother Teresa’s life and legacy and for leaving the world an example truly worthy of imitation.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 22, 2016

The Sanctity of Childhood

ISIS is the prime suspect in the recent deadly suicide attack that claimed the lives of more than fifty people at a Kurdish wedding in Turkey. No big surprise. Leave it to these radical jihadists to show up at one of life’s most joyous events to introduce chaos, mayhem, and murder. This is what they do best.

We have become accustomed, almost desensitized, to the steady stream of reports about senseless acts of violence. Shootings, stabbings, bombings, and beheadings are all part of the new normal. And after the smoke clears, the only thing that remains is debris and carnage — the hallmark of ISIS and their ilk.

What is, perhaps, most disturbing about the recent suicide attack in Turkey is that authorities believe the perpetrator may have been as young as twelve years old. Think about that for a minute — twelve years old. A twelve year old kid may be at the center of the deadliest terror attack in Turkey so far this year.

Isis Child Soldier
This is not the first time that groups like ISIS have recruited kids to do their dirty, make that deadly, work. Sending kids into harm’s way is normal operating procedure for jihadist groups. According to a study by the Combating Terrorism Center, “Child soldiers are seemingly treated no differently than adult soldiers.” Kids are as expendable as adults.

What is even sadder is that many of these kids who are recruited and indoctrinated to hate will go to their deaths with their parents blessing. As a parent, it is absolutely counterintuitive to me for any parent to knowingly send their kid into a situation where they will be killed and or take the lives of the unsuspecting, like the guests at the wedding in Turkey.

And yet, that is the world of the jihadists — a world with an impoverished view of the sanctity of human life and a world in which even childhood is not sacred. Nelson Mandela wisely observed,“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.” The events of the past days have given the world yet one more glimpse into the dark and rotten soul of ISIS.

The child who strapped on the suicide vest in Turkey will never know the full extent of his heinous act. That child took the lives of more than fifty others, including twenty-two children, and injured almost seventy more. But what is sadder still is that all of the children involved are now forever robbed of their childhood — all because of a theology of hate.

As for me, I will continue to give children opportunities to love and serve their fellow human beings. I am proud of our kids at Kingsland. This summer they raised funds to build two clinics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — an initiative that will result in many lives saved.

I often remind our kids that they don’t have to wait until they grow up to change the world. God can use our kids to make our world a better place today. How sad, though, that so many children in other parts of the world have fallen victim to an ideology of hate that uses kids to steal, kill, and destroy. And how sad that there are parents and militants who have no regard for the sanctity of childhood and knowingly send children to their deaths.

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