Do We Need Bullet Proof Vests?

Do We Need Bullet Proof Vests?

Part 2: A Christian Response

I am going to be straightforward and honest here. I don’t want to post this blog. I know that there will be pushback, however, I made a promise and intend to keep it.

Bullet Proof Vest

In full disclosure, I am a gun owner. While growing up, we lived out in the country where we had a shotgun that stayed leaned on the counter in the corner, just in case we needed it. My father made sure I knew how to load it, and aim so as not to miss, and taught me how to use handguns as well. I married into a family that enjoys hunting, and they have fed their family on venison for generations. I am also a Christ-follower, so, I am having to dig deep here and ask myself some of the same questions that I will raise in this blog.

The recent shooting in Florida has many people questioning the need for individual citizens to own guns. As always, there is quite a bit of “tribalism” going on where one side is demonizing the other. One side feels as though gun owners have put their love of guns over the right of children to live. The other side believes that evil is what kills people and it has nothing to do with their guns. In Part 1 of this blog, I attempted to show practical things that we could do as a nation to lower our risk. One correlation that I did not point out in Part 1 is that all of the shooters were obviously criminals, had been struggling in life prior to the shootings, and had some deep wounds or issues that were never dealt with in a healthy way, which brings me to our role as Christ followers. Our role in this debate and as we live our lives is to be a peacemaker.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (ESV Matthew 5:9). Though Jesus doesn’t expound on what he means by peacemaker, this could apply to keeping peaceful relationships with others, quarrels, and even wars between nations. However, The Pillar New Testament Commentary points out, “Jesus is talking about more than that. He refers not to peace-keepers but peace-makers, people who end hostilities and bring the quarrelsome together” (Kruse 2000). Argyle in “The Gospel According to Matthew,” adds these “are not appeasers, but those who actively overcome evil with good” (Argyle 1963). These peacemakers will be called God’s sons. All Christ-followers belong to God, but those who make peace are living out their identity, as Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. In being a peacemaker, the disciple is imitating his Father in Heaven (Gushee 2003, 45). Glen Stassen takes this beatitude preached by Jesus and expounds upon it further in Just Peacemaking, to build a framework for peace building within war torn regions. He writes, “A positive theology of peace is not simply reactive, but proactive. It takes initiatives. It creates peace. It sees peace not as something to be achieved merely by refraining from war, but by taking peacemaking initiatives. Peace, like war, must be waged.” (Stassen 2008, 21). Peace does not happen by passively standing by. Nor does it occur when retaliatory strikes are encouraged. Peace will not happen with complacent or dismissive arguments.

Christian scholars have built a framework for peace building that has been used to bring warring nations together that is helpful and relevant in this issue we are dealing with today.

  1. Supporting non-direct action: One of the most effective ways to wage peace is using non-violent direct action. For example Gandhi taught non-violent action in India and in South Africa. And Martin Luther King Jr. waged peaceful action here in America through civil disobedience, protests, and boycotts. The children in Florida have made their voices heard through non-direct action in protesting, talking to representatives, and holding rallies. Though some people feel that they only have a “no-gun” message, I believe that they are being productive in demanding change in this country.
  2. Take Independent Initiatives to Reduce Threat: This refers to reducing the threat perception and building trust from the other side. An example would be for a country to deescalate a conflict by withdrawing their tanks and missiles from a particular area. This says to the opposing party that we are not going to strike you. Similarly, I believe that Americans could deescalate in two ways: for one side to admit that people use guns for non-life taking uses, such as hunting; and for the other side to evaluate their own gun policies and agree to some regulations. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when the religious rulers came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the soldier, and Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, deescalating the situation. He goes on to say, “Those who use the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:36-38; John 18:10-11) Its worth asking that with statistics ranging from 11,000 to 13,000 deaths a year from guns (not counting suicides), if this is being fulfilled in our society today (CDC).
  3. Use Cooperative Conflict Resolution: this emphasizes the co-working with both parties to find solutions that all can agree to, affirm, and support. In other words, its compromise. Key to this is understanding the others point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. Strategies for resolving the conflict do not “demonize” the other. Each side acknowledges their own role in creating the situation, and the goal is to never power over the other, but to find a mutually satisfying solution.
  4. Advancing democracy and human rights: Obviously, we are already a democratic society, however, it is worth noting that on a global scale, democracies rarely fight each other. This can be applied to this discussion because in America, we are more likely to respect the decisions of our legislative and court systems. Similarly, we put a high value on basic human rights and protecting them. Therefore, we must listen to what the Supreme Court has said about the 2nd  Amendment. The Supreme Court established in 2008 that the 2nd Amendment does not only refer to militias, but also to the right of individuals to own firearms. So as far as our sacred civil scripture is concerned, we have every right to own guns. However, this right was never without its limitations. As a young country without a well organized or well resourced military, states were expected to put together militias in order to defend the country. They would even have musters to examine guns, but there have always been limits on who could own weapons, certainly not slaves or criminals. In addition, I would argue that there is some hierarchy of rights. The right to life is more important than any other. Therefore, if your right to have or do something endangers another person life, their right to live trumps yours. For instance, if your speech causes chaos and endangers the life of another, it is not protected by the 1st Amendment. It is worth noting here, that as Christ-followers, those who own guns in order to protect their homes from invaders, fall on shaky scriptural grounds. Though going through the Biblical record will take up too much space, a shortened version is that Jesus’s own words and ministry and Paul’s own words and ministry was one of peace and non-conflict. Both men were arrested and beaten (Paul repeatedly) and killed, and yet did not retaliate. The best gun owners do is reach back in to the Mosaic law in Exodus 22:2-4 to point out that if a thief enters your house at night, and dies, there is no bloodguilt. However, if the sun rises, and you kill him, you are guilty. Even this scripture shows that there is a limitation on killing a criminal. God takes taking the life of another person very seriously, even a criminal’s life. There is some basis in applying Just War theory that for humanitarian intervention purposes, one would be doing justice in intervening. However, even this has limitations, such as using the minimal amount of force necessary. Therefore, if stopping a person from harming another can be accomplished by another means, rather than killing them, this should be a priority.
  5. Strengthen International Efforts for Cooperation and Human Rights: This refers to our obligation as a global state to work together with others to bring peace to the world. This is where I believe the church and its followers can have a powerful impact. We are called to work together, with both faith-based and secular organizations to wage peace. This includes monitoring and recognizing those we believe could be a threat. We attempt to reach out to those people, extend Christ’s love, either as a teacher, a friend, a parent mentor, a co-worker, or a counselor. There might also be times when the most loving thing a person can do is to report the person to the proper authorities. Almost all mass shooters end up killing themselves or being shot by police, so by reporting a person that you believe is exhibiting red flags, you could be saving their life.

Peacemaking should be a way of life for a Christ-follower, and it is not something that is taught often. In John 20, Jesus reappeared after his crucifixion and greeted his disciples twice with a blessing of peace. “Peace be with you” (ESV vs. 19-20). He then sent them out, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (ESV, vs 21). He sends them out, but not before He has blessed them with peace. Then, He breathed on them, asked them to receive the Holy Spirit, and said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (ESV vs 23). This is astonishing considering that he had just shown them the scars from his wounds that were inflicted by the Roman soldiers. And yet, He desires that they take His ministry, one of peace and reconciliation, one in which He Himself is living out, into the world.


Do We Need Bullet Proof Vests?

Do We Need Bullet Proof Vests?

Like yours, my heart was so heavy last week as the news unfolded of yet another shooting in our American schools. Because I have a 14-year-old freshman daughter, the shooting at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida hit closer to home than usual. Parkland, Florida was recently rated as one of the safest cities in Florida. I like to believe that we also live in a safe community; however, the realization that this could happen to our school and to your school settled in. Visions of buying my child a bulletproof vest rolled through my head. I began to ask myself the same questions that you are: What is going on? What do we do about it?

Bullet Proof Vest

Then there were the images coming in of the students from Stoneman Douglas on the news demanding action and change. They were talking about their friends and teachers who died and how they were not going to let their memories die without some meaning. They declared that they wouldn’t allow things to continue as they were and their bravery and courage has inspired me. Children are the ones who feel the full repercussions of our adult choices. They have the least amount of power in our society, and I applaud their efforts to regain it.


With the patience of the American people waning, it is clear that change is on the horizon, but what kind of change? I have heard many ideas from mental health reform to increased school security to improved background check processes, to elimination of “assault-type” weapons, to a ban on all guns. Being unsettled by the ongoing discussion surrounding rights, sometimes dismissive remarks by gun advocates, discussions of evil and heart conditions by Christians, I set out to do two things: informally investigate for myself what correlations exist between mass shootings and shooters in order to draw helpful conclusions and to give a theological argument for a Christian response.

Part 1: Correlations between Mass Shootings

I recorded as much data as I could find regarding the largest mass shootings within the last two years. The full spreadsheet can be found at the end of this article.

  • 2018 Stoneman Douglas Shooting
  • 2017 Sutherland Springs Church Shooting
  • 2017 Las Vegas Massacre
  • 2017 Orlando Disgruntled Workplace Shooting
  • 2016 Dallas Police Sniper Shooting
  • 2016 Pulse Nightclub Shooting


Only one of the shootings in the last two years took place at a school. The others occurred at a church, at a music festival, at a protest, at a workplace, and a nightclub. This causes me to think that instead of focusing solely on schools, if we really want a safer society, perhaps we need to broaden the discussion to include factors that will make everyone safer all the time. Anytime you are watching a movie, listening to a speaker, you are not paying attention to what is happening around you, and you are a more vulnerable target. The element of surprise is a mass shooters best weapon. This is why one of the first things you are taught in a self-defense class is to be aware of your surroundings. Because the feasibility of doing that is impossible 100 percent of the time, we should invest in ensuring that other trusted people are being aware for us. For instance, the schools could increase security measures to ensure that someone is always aware of the school’s safety status. Churches should have someone watching at all times that are trained in active shooter scenarios. Of course, there will always be situations that we cannot plan for, but the goal is to mitigate the damage and lower the risk.

Military Background:

Interestingly, 4 out of the 6 shooters had either a military background or a policing type of job. Two of them were veterans, one was an army reservist, and one was a security guard. Obviously, we love our veterans and we need our police, but the question must be raised, is this significant? Most military trained people will never become a mass shooter, but the fact that within our small sample, the mass shooters have been trained to kill people is relevant. A quick review of other mass shooters reveals that others have also been trained in military or policing tactics. This fact demands further investigation. We must be willing to dig deep and find answers in order to make meaningful reform.

Gun Laws

All six of the shootings occurred in the states of Florida, Texas and Nevada. These states have lenient gun laws, however, there are many other states that also have lenient gun laws and haven’t had any mass shootings. In addition, they aren’t even the states that have the most gun possession. So, it seems that either there are other factors that might explain this correlation, or it might be a host of factors working together to explain the geography.

One significant factor is that four of the shooters legally obtained their weapons, and one lied on their background check. Therefore, if the purpose of gun laws is to keep guns in the hands of responsible gun owners and out of the hands of criminals, then it seems they are ineffective. A review of the procedures to gain access to guns is necessary. The Pulse Nightclub shooter purchased his weapons legally only one week prior to the shooting, though the FBI had interviewed him twice. Perhaps having a waiting period would have deterred him or given others time to recognize red flags. However, many of the shooters had been stockpiling weapons for a year or more. Upon further investigations, police found ballistic vests, additional ammunition and clips, more guns, and even bomb-making materials. The Las Vegas shooter had 47 guns seized and used bump stocks to make the guns fire faster. Is there ever a reason for a person to have access to that much firepower? Collecting or stockpiling should be illegal. Perhaps even having a limit on how many guns a person can own would be a reasonable sacrifice to lower our risk of massacres.

Types of Firepower

There has been much discussion on the role of the AR-15 in recent days. Many gun enthusiasts proclaim that this gun is not to blame. They insist that it’s not even a high-powered rifle. However, in every shooting, except for the disgruntled worker, an AR-15 (Armalite Rifle) or a similar model gun was used. This seems to be the gun of choice for mass shooters. I have read descriptions of it being light–weight, an accurate shot without even a scope, having a low recoil, is easy to reload, and carries large capacity clips. This gun was developed by the military and has been controversial every since. It can be purchased by adults 18 years and older, unlike handguns where the law requires an adult to be 21 years of age. The main issue with the gun is that it can reload very fast, enabling one to inflict a vast amount of carnage in a very short amount of time. In fact, the Vegas shooter was able to shoot 1100 rounds in ten minutes using multiple guns outfitted with bump stocks. In Sutherland Springs, the shooter expended vast amounts of bullets, killing 27 people in a very short period of time, perhaps within 4 minutes. Similarly, the Stoneman Douglas shooter entered a high school, walked upstairs, and walked downstairs and out the door, all within 6 minutes. In that time, he shot hundreds, if not more, rounds, shooting 32 people. The amount of trauma that a mass shooter is able to inflict in just minutes is staggering when they have access to a gun that will allow them to shoot up to 30 rounds at a time. Experts say 45 rounds in one minute is typical. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding other instruments of murder, but to ignore the fact that mass carnage is inflicted upon human lives within minutes, is undeniable. There is simply no other way to kill that many people in that short of time. Sacrificing certain guns and/or the high capacity clips is a small price to pay to keep us safer.

Communication, Follow Up, and Background Checks

Three out of the six shooters were known by some sort of governmental agency. The Sutherland Springs shooter was charged with domestic violence and discharged by the Air Force. In fact, he gave a baby a skull fracture, but the Air Force never reported this to the Federal Background Check System, NICS. In addition, the FBI interviewed the Pulse Nightclub shooter, and they also received two tips about the Stoneman Douglas High School shooter. Mental hospitals and the Florida Department of Child and Family ignored the red flags found in the behavior of the Florida shooter. At least 5 of the shooters prepared for the shooting by researching online, many posting on social media sites. We need to push our governmental agencies to communicate better, to follow through on tips, and to be more vigilant. At the very least, as has been already stated, the background check system needs great improvement and expansion. At this time, there is not a universal background check. States have their own laws on whether they require unlicensed gun sellers to require them, and there is ample possibility of getting a gun if you want one. The NICS database is only as good as the information that is put into it. Governmental agencies and mental hospitals must report. If it makes us safer, lets consider having a thorough background check for every gun that is sold, whether in a store or at a gun show. Though a background check is not a failsafe, it can be a deterrent.

Mental Illness

Having a mental illness is not a crime. I am thankful that so many people are getting diagnosed and getting the medicines and therapies that they need. However, three out of the six shooters exhibited some sort of mental health issues. Most mentally unstable people do not turn into mass shooters, but mass shooters often have a mental illness. This issue is a complicated one. It is difficult to say that if you have struggled with depression, you are never allowed to own a gun. Add to this that our mental health records are private. So, I am not certain what the angle should be here. Perhaps in order to purchase a gun, you must have clearance from a doctor, just as our kids have to have clearance to play sports. There is a lot of vague discussion surrounding mental illness, but what the solution should be, I honestly do not know.


These are my thoughts based on my informal research regarding the latest mass shootings. I do not believe for a moment that I have the answers. This is a starting point for me. I believe in our Constitution, and I believe in basic human rights. However, the right to life trumps every other right. Once my right to own a gun takes away the life of a child, I am willing to lay down my sword (John 18:1), and work together to come up with solutions.


Spreadsheet Part 1:

Date Place Number of Victims Shooter Bio Guns Used Possible Motive Other Factors
5-Nov-17 Sutherland Springs, Texas 27 Killed, 20 Injured AirForce Veteran bad conduct discharge; was a domestic abuser, gave a baby a skull fracture 223 Rem, AR-15, Ruger AR-556; wore a ballistic vest; 15 magazines with 30 rounds were collected; Family Dispute lied to get a security guard permit; social media presence showed intrest in mass shootings
1-Oct-17 Las Vegas, Nevada 59 Killed, 441 Injured Loosing gambler, retired accountant 47 Guns seized, bump stocks used, Still uncertain Had child abuse on his computer; researched mass shootings at legnth, prepared well
5-Jun-17 Orlando, Florida 5 Killed Army Vetran fired from work place No Concealed Handgun Permit for his semi-automatic pistol Disgruntled Employee Singled out his victims
7-Jul-16 Dallas, Texas 5 Killed, 9 Injured Army Reserverist AK-74, 25 Auto, 9MM Wanted revenge on white cops Sniper shooting at protest gathering; found bomb-making materials, ballistic vests, rifles and ammunition and a personal journal of combat tactics
12-Jun Orlando, Florida 49 Killed, 53 Injured Armed Security Officer .223 SIG Sauer MCX rifle (AR-15) 9MM Allegiance to ISIS legally purchased the firearms in the week leading up to shooting; wife knowingly helped; bipolar
14-Feb-18 Parkland, Florida 17 Killed, 15 Injured 19 year old student AR-15 and a handgun; countless magazines; purchased 10 firearms legally within the last year unconfirmed Had been flagged by teachers as a threat; Mother recently passed away; pulled firealarm; hid his gun in an athletic duffel bag

Spreadsheet Part 2:

Place Time to Kill Known Mental Illness Governmental Agency Knowledge Other Criminal Behavior
Sutherland Springs, Texas Unclear, at least 4 minutes Air Force discharged him after being prosecuted for domestic abuse; did not report to FBI Domestic Abuse
Las Vegas, Nevada 1100 bullets in 10 minutes Bipolar None reported Possible child pornography
Orlando, Florida DUI and Marijuana possession
Dallas, Texas Unclear
Orlando, Florida 3 hours for whole hostage situation Bipolar Had been interviewed twice by FBI Domestic Abuser
Parkland, Florida 5-6 minutes, at least 100 shots Depression Mental Health Hospital chose not to admit him; Florida Dept of Child and Family Services; 2 Tips to the FBI Hotline number not persued

How Grace Reigns

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20-21

God’s grace is a powerful thing. It is not just some sweet idea we sing about in church. It reigns over death and it births new life. It transforms and it renews. It redeems the shameful, and it lifts heavy burdens. As we walked the sandy trash- filled paths of a squatter camp or slum called Kayasands, we prayed for God to show us whom He wanted us to talk with, and we came into the camp behind the Lord who had gone before us, bearing His light and bringing His grace.

We talked and prayed with 10 people, 4 of which prayed to receive Christ. Statistically, out of those 10, two of them had HIV, and at least one of them will be dead in the next few months. Knowing the reality of this difficult fact, our hearts are so thankful that we were given the opportunity to share Jesus with these 10.


One man, Paul was sitting in front of a shop that sold sodas and snacks. He had been sitting with his friend and they were drinking beer, a common pastime in the camps for the men who do not have jobs. We began to share with him about Jesus, and we discovered that he actually knew much about the Bible. In fact, he had read from Genesis to Revelation, and he had once thought that he would be a preacher. However, he shared that at some point he had done something that made him think he was no longer able to become a preacher, and when he spoke of this his whole countenance changed.


We could see the burden of shame upon him, and we told him that being perfect is not a requirement to serve God. We told him the story of the adulterous woman and he was actually very familiar with the story. However, when we got to the end and we asked him, “What did Jesus say to her?” He replied, “Go,” and then he stammered. He couldn’t remember the last part. We reminded him that Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” This man could recall so many details from this story, but yet, he was not able to recall the words, “go and sin no more.” When we explained that he had the ability to repent, to receive forgiveness, and to turn from his sins, he listened intently.


When we asked him if he wanted to do that, he said, “Tomorrow I will.” He was in the middle of drinking a beer, and he was ashamed. He had been taught that what he was doing was shameful and would not be proper, but we insisted that this could not wait. So we pressed in a bit further, all of us feeling an earnestness about him needing the freedom from sin that Jesus offers. We talked about how Jesus takes away our shame and how there is sweet and beautiful forgiveness to be found in Him. Then, he decided that he did indeed want to be free from those burdens that had been weighing him down. And together, we prayed.


He confessed his sins before the Lord, and he asked for forgiveness. He told God that he would flee and not return to them, and He asked the Holy Spirit to come. And when the prayer was finished, he looked up at us and smiled. Then he laughed. His whole demeanor had changed. When we asked him what he was going to do with the beer bottle, he poured it out and threw it on the ground. Then, we knew that he was a changed man. This is the power of God’s grace. It takes what was dead and it brings it to life. We know that Paul’s life is forever transformed, and that God can use this man to be a light to others.

God’s grace is no little thing. It holds the power of redemption. It takes a man’s heavy, sorrow-filled and shame-filled heart, and it cleanses, forgives, and frees.





Amazing Things

“Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves today for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5

This morning our team discussed the parting of the Jordan River, and how Joshua and the Israelites followed God straight into the rapidly flowing and high Jordan River. God had told Joshua to have the priests take the ark and go stand in it, but Joshua told the people to believe that at the very moment their feet touched the water, it would stop flowing. And sure enough, this is what happened, and the Israelites were able to walk straight into a new land. This is what He asks of us, to follow Him step by step, sometimes into flowing rivers, and to trust Him to do amazing things.


Today our team was able to walk in that truth as we ministered to so many people. We started our morning by laying hands on one of our own team members who had been very sick. God healed her and then he restored her strength throughout the day. We believed that this was just the beginning of His work through us for the day.

Later we went out with Impact Africa’s Baby Rescue Team. This group of women go out into the community clinics and they tell all the people sitting and waiting in the massive lines about their Baby Safes. These are safe places where moms can leave their babies to be cared for instead of abandoning them in the field, the trash, or the toilet. They also tell them about the dangers of getting abortions. Many traditional healers and witch doctors offer dangerous abortions for an expensive fee. These vulnerable women are left in desperate situations with no way to raise these children. Impact Africa tells them that they can give their child a better life, and they offer them a pathway to do it.


After the presentation, we handed out flyers to the almost 200 people that waited in line to see the doctors. Then, we gave out baby packs to expecting moms or moms with newborns. These packs have diapers and other goodies to assist them. Then we had an opportunity to talk to them individually and to pray for them.


They told us their worries and their concerns. Some were afraid of childbirth and some were worried about working afterward. Many of them were foreigners and they were sad at having to give birth to their children away from their homes. We were able to listen, share stories about Mary and Joseph, read them Psalm 139, share our own stories of difficult pregnancies, talk to them about Jesus and pray for them.


In the afternoon, we walked through the slum area of Deipsloot again. We walked, expecting God to show us who He wanted us to share with. One woman that we talked with was a churchgoer. When we asked her more about how she knows Jesus, it seemed that she really only knew that church was a good place to go, but she didn’t understand that Jesus really was Her Savior and the only way to God. She was eager to understand better and we taught her from the Bible. She decided she wanted to pray to become a Christ-follower, and so we prayed with her. Then, we asked God’s favor upon her and her household. We believe that a true disciple of Jesus was born today right there on her tin porch and that many others would come to understand this truth through her.


Many more people came to know Jesus today through the work of our team and through Impact Africa staff and interns. Many others were healed. Our eyes beheld miracles of death to life, and we believe even more that amazing things really do happen when you follow Jesus step by step.


The Power of Living Hope

“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Peter 1:3

Hope is a powerful thing, and so is hopelessness. Over 12 million people in South Africa live in squatter camps. They are surrounded by rich homes and beautiful landscapes, while they fight to survive in tin shanties and breathe despair. Rich Franzen, the founder of Impact Africa, is passionate about interceding and changing the trajectory of these people’s lives.DSC_0328

He shared with us a story this morning about a man who he met who was drinking and doing many things to put his life and health in danger. The man told him that it really didn’t matter because he would only live to be 30 years old anyway. So, the man figured that he should just have fun until he died. He was living in a hopeless situation, and he is not the only one. Sixty-eight percent of the world’s AIDS population lives in South Africa. Death is an early expectation.DSC_0320

Only thirty-percent of the students who begin first grade will ever graduate from high school. So, their futures are dim. However, Impact Africa is working to change that for many people. Today we visited the squatter camp called Diepsloot. It is a square mile parcel of land that the government has set aside for these low class people. Some of them are South Africans, but many have come here from countries more north in order to find work. Because Rich recognizes that formation for small children is the most effective, they have a preschool right in the squatter camp of Diepsloot. They give the children an education and meals, but more importantly, they break the cycle of hoplessness. They teach them that there is a better way, and that way is Jesus. He alone can redeem them and give them a better future. Impact Africa has three other schools like this and are working on an additional two.DSC_0266

Also, understanding that 9th grade is when most students began to drop out of school, Impact Africa works with the government-run, public schools. They are able to provide a Life Orientation class that teaches many things, such as the effect of drugs on their bodies, and they are also able to share about Jesus. Out of that ministry, they have also started a Bible study where real Christian transformation is taking place and Christian leaders are rising up.DSC_0292

Over the next week, our missions team will be visiting many of the other ministries that they have in these communities. Rich has seen so much fruit from his ministry here that breaks into the darkness and meets people right in their suffering. In fact, this is exactly what Jesus does for us. He walks right into our brokenness and offers us hope. Its what He did on the cross and its what He does every day. And God is using Impact Africa to lead the poor and the hopeless straight to Jesus. Rich believes that right here in Johannesburg, there is such an opportunity to share Christ that the harvest isn’t just ripe, rather its rotting away.DSC_0338

Pray for our team this week as we learn more about the work of Impact Africa and how we can support them well in the future.





We Are Their Answered Prayer

A great man once taught me that there is a line in everyone’s life that represents how far they are willing to go for the cause of Christ. Everything on one side is comfortable and convenient and familiar. The other side of the line is unknown, uncomfortable, and not convenient. But, it is when we chose to step over that line in faith to serve Christ that we see Him really work. I shared that with my team this morning, and many of them had already stepped out in faith just by coming on this Living Water trip. But, I encouraged them to not to be afraid of continuing to do uncomfortable things, because we know that when we get to the end of ourselves, that is where God begins.

And, I saw them do just that today, and the result was not just a completed water well with Bible lessons and hygiene lessons taught, but they did things and stepped out in faith in places and in ways that they would never have done otherwise. They loved people in new ways. They prayed together with the community with deep compassion. They laughed with children, played in the water, and they gave heart felt hugs. These people love Jesus with such passion that it cannot help but flow out from them.

As the day ended and we were singing with the children, Angel, our driller from Living Water came to get me. He told me that it was time, and I understood. I walked over to the well site and watched as the men from the community finished pouring the concrete pad over the well site. They took a plaque that had been made with the words “This well was donated by: Parkway Fellowship Church,” and laid it in the concrete. I watched as they finished carefully leveling out the concrete with such care. The men from the community had taken over the work of preparing the well. Our job was complete. But, this plaque will stay at their well so that they can always remember how God provided for them through their brothers and sisters from Parkway Fellowship Church in Texas.

As I stood there, I realized that for just a few days, we had the privilege of being a part of their story, but even after we are gone, they can remember us every time they go to pump water. These people had prayed and waited for years for Living Water to drill a well near them, and in the words of one of the teenage boys, “God sent you to answer our prayers.” Now they will have clean and safe water to drink.

Tomorrow we will celebrate together. I expect it to be a glorious occasion. We will celebrate God’s favor in drilling this well, His provision of clean water, and how He brought so many different people together. The water well has always been a gathering place, and it will be just that tomorrow.



Our First Water Well

God loves to come close to us. He is not a God that dictates commands from His lofty throne. He is like a loving parent who delights in knowing us. God came close today.


God has faithfully been showing me step by step how to build Parkway’s Missions Ministry, and He made it obvious to me that drilling water wells for Living Water would be one of those very first steps. So, only weeks into the Missions Ministry at Parkway, I committed our church to drilling two water wells for Living Water. But as He has faithfully been guiding me about what He wants us to do, I have been praying and asking Him for the “who.” Who is going to do be part of the Missions Ministry? Who is going to build it? Well, He has begun to bring together the Who. Today, God sent out the very first adult mission team from Parkway Fellowship.

This morning, this team made up of Michael Roberts, Floyd Spivey, Christy Murphy, Sue Hart, James Isenberger, and me gathered together to pray. We prayed for God to give us the vision to see the people that we were helping in the way that He does. We wanted to be sure to not just provide clean water for this community, but to truly see them as treasured by Jesus Christ.

None of us had ever drilled a water well before, but we were all willing! Thankfully, Living Water had sent us Ed Kriz, a veteran at drilling wells, and he has given us great guidance and is a great addition to our team. As we arrived at the site this morning, we recognized the eagerness of those gathered around the place where this water well would be drilled. The men of the community were there to do their part. They had provided water and dug out pits. They stood by, at the ready to do anything asked of them. Mothers came to watch and the children giggled at our mud-covered faces. We started with mixing mud by hand and began to drill and add pipe. Christy and Sue taught the moms and children about hand washing, germ-transmission, and how Jesus walked on water.

And God came near. As I looked around me at the community so gratefully watching and waiting, and I looked at my team, the one that the Lord put together, and I looked at the drill pipe, and thought about all that Living Water had done to put this one water well in, I knew that God had been orchestrating all of this to bring this moment together. My eyes welled up with tears at the recognition of God’s handiwork and the greatness of this day. There will never be another first day of Parkway’s Missions Ministry Team on their first Living Water Well again. God chose this community for us to love. God chose this location for us to drill. God chose these people to drill it. And I feel like the most blessed person in the world to have been there for it.

What Happens When We Listen

Listening to people has become a lost art. Hearing people’s stories and understanding their experiences teaches us more about the world, and ultimately more about God. Empathy allows us to build bridges of understanding between people from drastically different backgrounds, and ultimately, when we take the time to listen, we realize that most of us really want the same things in life. So, when the women at Parkway Fellowship went to help and share tea with the women at Prestige Learning Institute, I was not surprised that despite their different cultures, they were able to find things in common. The refugee women, many who are Muslim, were open to sharing their stories of loss.


Jennifer Fields was one woman who went. She shares honestly that she had never been interested in other cultures, and since the beginning of terrorist attacks in America and the heightened awareness of immigration from Middle-Eastern countries, she has been quite closed-minded toward those who don’t speak English and dress differently. Jennifer, like many people, had a lot of fear in regards to Muslim people.


However, that changed for her when she sat at the table with women from Afghanistan, Guatemala and Bangladesh. She happened to sit next to a woman who began to cry because she was so homesick and knew very little English. Though communication wasn’t easy, they were able to understand each other’s pain. Jennifer lives here in Texas without her family, and so she felt her loneliness. She says, “That moment was the moment my mind changed and I began to see these women as real human beings and not just a statistical news report. “


Laura Townsend was another woman who went to just simply love on these women who have lost so much. She shared that at first it did seem quite awkward. It was hard to sit and have tea when we didn’t even speak the same language. However, towards the end of tea, one woman and Laura just happened to lock eyes, and the woman headed straight over to Laura. She wanted to share her story. The woman began to tell of how her husband had worked with the American Security Forces in Afghanistan, and it was no longer safe for them there. Her family had to leave, and she, her husband, and her young children were granted asylum in America. However, she has children that were older, and they were not immediately granted the same status here. They have to do their own paperwork. And so the woman began to tell Laura all about her family; how one daughter is about to get married and she will not be able to attend and how another is about to have her first grandchild. This was when those bridges of understanding began to be built. Having children of her own, Laura could sympathize with a woman who was cut off completely from the life of her grown children and soon to be grandchildren.


Jennifer, Laura and many of the other woman learned that though we seem to be so drastically different, we all long for similar things. A mother desires to see her daughter married. A grandmother longs to hold her grandchild, and being away from home is lonesome. Listening to other people’s stories and understanding their experiences helps us to see the faces behind the statistic or the new article, and instead to see the person that God created them to be.

Speaking Up for The Oppressed

I am proud to be part of a church that cares deeply for the oppressed. The people of Parkway Fellowship were working towards ending human trafficking before I even came along. They have been a tremendous financial supporter of the global organization, Love 146, and they have had a task force for several years that would support the work of Love 146 here in Houston. This shared passion for the trafficked victim has made transitioning into my role as Missions Pastor easier here. Last Saturday, I was honored to be part of our church as we received The Abolitionist Award from Love 146.


Having earlier handed Matthew Miller, Rob Morris, and Steve Martin of Love 146 a hefty check on behalf of Parkway, I saw the heartfelt appreciation in their faces. These men know where this money will go and what it can do. They have looked into the eyes of girls and boys who have sold their bodies in order to buy food for their families. They have provided hope and a future to children who otherwise would have none. On a week when our sermon series was called, Speak Up, they knew that this money would go to amplifying the voices of these who had previously gone unheard.


As they presented Mike McGown, our Senior Pastor, with the award, they spoke of Parkway’s value of elaborate generosity. I am so thankful to be amongst people who know how to give. However, we did not only receive the award for the giving of our money, but also for the giving of our time and energy. Just this past January, before the Super Bowl came to town, our hospitality teams visited 32 hotels along the I-10 Interstate. Our dedicated abolitionists understood that the Super Bowl was going to bring in an elevated risk for human trafficking, and so they went out to ask the staff at these hotels to be aware. They left packets of information with red flags to look for, and they left the human trafficking hotline number.


Bec Blakemore, Jamie Peterson, Michelle Taylor, Katie Braden, Karen Sanders, Troy Hobson and Chesley Combs reported an outstanding outcome! They brought back reports of hotels thanking us and appreciating our work! Katie Braden shared that one hotel manager was so passionate that he was giving her more ideas on how we could have a greater impact. Chesley Combs encountered one hotel manager who said that they had just been talking about needing to train their staff, and all of our teams had hotel staff that asked for more training. Troy Hobson has three daughters who attend Katy ISD schools, and the more he learns about what is happening in our community, the more concerned he becomes.


Reports of recent arrests during Super Bowl weekend have families in Katy, Richmond, Rosenberg and Fulshear concerned about their children. These hotels right in our area are being used in advertisements as a meeting place. Love 146 is assisting us in being able to provide training for the hotels and their staff. If our work is able to save even one person from becoming a victim of this horrific industry, then it will be well worth it.

Come to Parkway Fellowship this Sunday as we learn how to Speak Up on behalf of those who are trafficked!

A Page from My Journal…


I think a lot about the level of depravity in our world today. I hear about and sometimes see with my own eyes about children who are forced to sell their bodies, repeatedly through out the night hours.  I know sick people around the world tune into internet sites where they can get their depraved needs met by watching children be sexually abused. I know that the hotels around me are filled with people answering ads for underage victims.


I hear of babies being thrown in the trash. I know that there are 6000 children waiting in my state for a family to love them. Just waiting… but knowing that if they are 10 years old, they will wait forever – never really knowing what it feels like to belong.

I meet families who have been torn apart from ISIS Fighters whose sole goal is to dominate the world and bring on an apocalypse. I see the face of a little boy who was separated from his family and walked for five days in the snow and through the mountains to get to camp where he was reunited with his father. I hear the stories of desperation as they lived a normal life one day and then the next they are watching family and friends get blown to pieces.

I walk with people down dark paths as they fight for their children’s lives, and I know multiple stories of children and teens that feel so desperate and lost in this world that they would rather not be in it any longer.


And I ask myself, how did I become an expert on the pain and anguish in the world? How am I a messenger of depravity?


But then, out of all of that darkness, the phone rings….


Kelly, my family wants to adopt one of those 6,000…. And I smile, and I know that there is hope….

There is still hope for this world – in all its darkness. A small flame pierces the darkness and shines even more brightly in the dark than in the night.


Kelly, I want to go….

Kelly, I want to love…

Kelly, I want to give…


And we join our lights, carrying our candles out into the darkness, like warriors into the night….


Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”