Every child matters, not just those in Sandy Hook

Blame guns.

It was God’s punishment on a sinful nation.

Mental illness is to blame.

Let’s eliminate public access to guns.

Let’s purge sinners from our nation!

We need more beds for the mentally ill.

Hogwash.

A gun is an inanimate object. Does a spoon lift itself to your mouth? No. A gun is a tool. If someone wants to hurt others they will just find another tool.

God’s punishment? Hardly. We live in sin in a broken world where we are free to exercise our will. Our punishment is that we spend eternity apart from God if we don’t accept the Gift he gave us, the Sacrifice he made for us. Not the deaths of innocent children. Those deaths are merely the result of the broken and sinful nature of our world.

Whether you view mental illness as strictly spiritual or strictly chemical, or a little of both, the illness alone is not to blame. I have dysthemic disorder, a chronic type of depression. Sometimes my mood dips and I skirt around the issue of hurting myself. I have a pretty hearty grasp on the sanctity of life, though, so I don’t.

Would stricter gun laws have made the events of last Friday impossible? Maybe, but not likely. When someone wants to hurt people, they’ll find a way. As a matter of fact, recent history is full of instances where people legally carrying a firearm stopped behavior like that of Adam Lanza’s, so it’s possible that stricter gun laws would actually result in more people being harmed.

Would it help if we institutionalized more of the mentally ill? Maybe. Would that have helped prevent what happened in Sandy Hook? The answer is unclear, but probably not. The truth is that our nation is focused on locking away convicts, not treating people with illnesses — whether you see that illness as spiritual or physical is immaterial.

But we must do something to save the children, some of you cry out. Yes, we do, but criminalizing everything won’t do it. Institutionalizing everyone won’t do it, either. Further, fixating on a group of kids who died senselessly won’t help, either. If the children of Sandy Hook matter, so should all children, everywhere.

The answer doe not lie in changing the system. The answer lies in changing hearts. The answer isn’t just about saving American children. The answer is about saving all children.

I read a statement from someone earlier today that Sandy Hook is what happens when we shut God out of the public square. Nope.

Sandy Hook is the result of hearts that are closed to God.

Our society clings to laws and institutions to make them safe. The reality is that laws do very little to control peoples’ actions. Where they work it is because someone has been raised to see the sense of the laws. There is a fear of consequences, at the least, and at best there is an understanding of how obeying a just law has a long-term benefit.

Laws and institutions do not encourage you to help others. At some point someone taught you that other people matter. This encouraged you to reach out to others when they are in need.

Our institutions rely on funds and when they don’t exist they don’t provide help. You and I, however, have hearts that want to reach out and help. We will find a way to do it, too.

The short version is that relationships are what heal and what makes the world a better place. The ultimate relationship, of course, is one with Jesus Christ. It is that relationship that helps me see that relying on man to make this right is a fallacy. It is that relationship that helps me to see that each life is valuable, and because each life is valuable, I cannot get any more upset over the children of Sandy Hook than I can over the 25,000 children who died worldwide that same day because they couldn’t get a cup of water. Each loss is tragic and heart-breaking.

I can’t keep a mad man from getting his hands on a weapon and killing someone, but maybe I can prevent a man from reaching that point by reaching out to him in his pain and helping him. Maybe I can help another child reach adulthood and become a doctor, a teacher, a pastor, by supporting a group like World Vision or Blood Water Mission.

Bickering with each other over gun laws and mental health institutions is just delaying the help someone needs. Get out and help someone. If you find yourself unable to get away from the mouse and keyboard, head to World Vision, Compassion International, Inca Link, or Blood Water Mission and help a child you can help.

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Ecuador: On the ground

Day five of being in Ecuador is drawing to a close as I type this. Or day six, if you count Saturday, when we arrived here sometime between 7 and 8 p.m.

We spent Sunday in Quito at Inca Link‘s Casablanca. Well, we were there when we weren’t at church or visiting some of the tourist sites in Quito — the President’s Palace, the Basilica, the Virgen del Panecillo, and more.

Casablanca

The church service was incredible. I couldn’t understand most of the songs they played, but the lyrics were projected on a screen and I hoped I was pronouncing the words right as I sang. Then we went into a few other items and the kids broke away for Sunday School while the grownups settled in for the message. The kids from First Alliance were invited to join the local kids. My son and a few others joined in. Rich Brown, the regional director here, interpreted the sermon for those of us seated near him.

La Luz

We attended church in Quito at “La Luz.”

After that we had lunch. Believe it or not, we had McDonald’s and it was the nicest McDonald’s I’ve ever set foot in. It’s also the only McDonald’s I’ve ever been to that had a private, armed, security guard. The guard was fairly effective, I guess, though it was obvious he had a thing for the barista at the McCafe counter.

Then we turned tourist for several hours. Words cannot begin to describe the majesty and splendor of the works we saw. I’ve never seen, in person, something so incredible as the Basilica here. The statue of the Virgen del Panicello was also amazing. Both, however, were like dust when compared to the beauty of God’s creation encircling the city. Ecuador is a truly gorgeous country.

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Monday we traveled to Huaticocha where we spent three days based out of the Ninawachi Missions School, a project that is still under construction. We helped with building and maintenance at the site each morning and then performed some ministry work later.

We arrived in Ninawachi, just outside Huaticocha, and began to paint kids’ faces. The kids decided to paint ours, instead.

Tuesday we hopped on the bus and started the trip to Nueva Esperaza. As we bumped along a stone road, the bus turned a curve and then stopped. Gustavo, from Inca Link, told us to grab our stuff. We would have a five minute walk to a tourist area where we could leave some gear. We would return there later for lunch. We grounded gear at the site after about 10 minutes.

From there we crossed a hanging bridge and began the rather steep ascent to the village of Nueva Esperanza. It took at least 30 minutes to get to the top. The kids pretty much bolted up the hill. The rest of us paced ourselves. I know I heard angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus when the school finally came in sight.

The kids here ranged from nearly newborn (I think they lived in the village and came with their parents to the see the Americans) to about 12 years old. One of us gave the Gospel presentation in a really neat format while another of us translated. Then we asked the kids about their relationship with Christ. One boy said he needed Jesus in his life and the tag-team prayed with him for a bit. We then gave out some gifts and led the kids in some songs. Soccer came next.

We took a beating. These kids can play some soccer!

We got spanked.

Then we headed back downhill. Remember that bridge I mentioned? It runs over a perfectly wonderful river. We ate lunch and headed for the water. I stopped short when my feet hit it, though. It was really chilly. Some of the Inca Link interns, however, didn’t mind it that much and were bathing in the river. A few of the braver kids began to swim and some of the adults washed off as well. I eventually decided that since I talked the kids into swimming, I should, too. And I did. I was one of the last ones out. Noah and I swam across the current a few times near the rapids and Missionary Jungle Jim talked Noah into jumping from some rocks a few times.

Then we headed back up the hill. Gustavo reminded us it was only a five minute walk. Something was beginning to sound fishy about him and the words “five minute walk.”

Back to Ninawachi (which, by the way, means “House of Fire”) for supper and some fellowship and prayer.

Wednesday dawned and we had breakfast, did some more work and had lunch. We wouldn’t be doing any ministry until late afternoon. This afforded us the chance to visit a property near the missions school that had a cavern, small swimming area in a river, and some near archaeological and fossil finds. I was in the second group to visit the cave. It was really neat. It had been a few years since I’d been in a cave, but I handled myself quite well. When we came out though, we found out the first group had bathed but we would have to forego that pleasure to get to the kids we were to minister to.

These kids live in Huaticocha and are pretty familiar with the folks at Ninawachi. We shared a Bible story with them, did some crafts, and — of course — played soccer. Then we made the short trip to Ninawachi to clean up for dinner. Dinner that night was at the home of Pastor Ivan and his wife Nancy. They lead the local Alliance Church. Following dinner we sang and shared testimonies. Then we brought in some cake and sang happy birthday for the daughter of my friend Manny, who turned 16 today (Thursday). After a lot of fun we headed to our beds so we could be rested for Thursday.

We weren’t sure what the status of the bridge was, but we started the day packing and handling our chores. Halfway through breakfast a truck arrived with lumber. We offered food and then finished our meals and got to work. Then we did some more packing and cleaning before a truckload of block arrived. We unloaded that and then I headed to the stream to bathe. It was primitive but wonderful. I got dressed in some clean clothes and got ready to go. Our hosts fed us an early lunch and I helped do dishes. Just as we finished the dishes the order came to mount up and move out.

The trip back was long, but not nearly as laborious as the trip out. Our hearts were heavy at leaving our new friends behind, but at least we had less stuff to cart across the nearly-completed bridge to the other bus. It was at this point that our bus driver in the Huaticocha area asked us to pray with him as he asked Jesus into his heart. It was an awesome moment. I was one of those who was with him when this happened. He was inspired to do this by seeing the love and care we exhibited to everyone we met, including him, during our time there.

We’re back in Quito now. Nearly everyone has taken a shower. The lone exception would be me. I’m not even sure where to get a towel at the moment or which shower to use. Also, my clean clothes are in Noah’s pack and I don’t know where he put it. I should have thought of that earlier, before everyone else went to sleep. Oh well, I’m feeling every bit of the 54* F that we currently have here and figuring it is time to get to sleep.

10 Days til Ecuador

Wow. Time is flying. This Saturday my church is hosting the Run4aReason and then Freedom Fest. A week later and I’ll be off to Ecuador.

My son, Noah, and I will be helping Inca Link by building a school in the Amazon and working with orphans in Quito. We’re still looking for help — prayers and finances.

Christmas is coming up before you know it and we are selling bracelets that would make great presents for many people on your list, especially teachers and others who teach, inspire and imagine a better world for tomorrow. If you’re not interested in a bracelet, but still want to help, you can still donate via PayPal using the information below.

Thank you!

I Am Second’s “Real Stories” reviewed

I Am Second” is an anthology of sorts, the collected stories of people who found their lives falling apart in some way before realizing they were putting the wrong person on the pedestal in their lives. Sometimes they may not have been putting themselves first, but they were certainly not putting the right One first. These people are famous, infamous, and ordinary. Whether the guy next door or a world famous name, each has something in common with you – we are made and loved by the God who made the Universe and all that is in it. When these people woke up to this, life may not have become easier, they might not have become rich and healthy, but they found joy. Maybe you’ve made this decision yourself, already. If so, these tales will remind you of God’s renewing love. If not, the true stories of these real people will introduce you to a new way of looking at things, a way that recognizes you aren’t in charge. These well-told stories are often accompanied by videos at I Am Second’s website, where you can hear them told, more briefly, in their own voices and words. The goal of I Am Second is to bring glory to God by sharing his redeeming love with the world. This books does a fine job of showing how that impacts people. We all have a story to tell and hopefully each will make an impact. These certainly, for the most part, do. My honesty clause: I received this book free from the publisher in return for writing a review, positive or negative. I hope you have found it helpful.

Redefining 9/11: Don’t let hate triumph

There is a lot going on in the world lately. So much that it makes my head spin.

  • Commemoration of 11 years since the events of September 11, 2001
  • Ambassador Christopher Stevens killed in a terrorist attack in Libya
  • VA cost-saving measures resulted in one of my appointments being cancelled
  • A thousand children have died of malnutrition since I started typing this

And it’s all connected.

No, I’m not some conspiracy theory kook. I mean that these things are all tied together by how we, as Americans, view the world.

September 11 of every year since 2001 has been an opportunity for Americans to renew the call to battle, to call out for the blood of the Muslim, and renew the vigor with which we pursue security in the name of liberty. Somewhere in this mess a number of Americans put on the “Christian nation” mask and talk of religious war, as if the Bible is the book that calls for jihad.

Let’s be clear on this. The message of the Bible, in its entirety, is not one of hate or war, but of peace and love. If America is a Christian nation, why are we trying to solve our problems with guns and bombs? The Gospel of Jesus Christ should be such Good News to us, and so true to us, that living it out — and possibly dying as a result — should not be a fear of ours.

Yes, we are at war, America. Let’s not forget that. It may not disrupt the majority of our lives, but it is there. We should be supporting those who are sacrificing so much in this endeavor. At the same time, though, we need to be honest with ourselves: how much longer does this need to go on? Have we accomplished our stated objectives? Are we pursuing those not accomplished in an appropriate manner? The answers to these questions are very important because the lives of young American men and women hang in the balance of how we answer it.

Some “Christians” in America would rather offend, belittle, and agitate Muslims. People like Ambassador Stevens die as a result of such behavior. Behavior such as that attributed to Terry Jones, who seems to have made a film that Muslims feel belittles Mohammad, is not Christ-like. It doesn’t further understanding or foster relationships that reflect the character of Christ. The Enemy comes to maim, kill, and destroy. Jesus came so that all might be saved.

In our misplaced zeal we continue to put troops in danger, but to do so we are gutting the systems that care for them when they return. Many veterans are receiving mental health treatment via video conference instead of face to face meetings. Mental health is about building healthy relationships, not just with ourselves, but with others. It is difficult to do this when your doctor is on a computer monitor because the VA cannot afford to put a live person in the facility near you.

We are told that young men and women today want to be a part of something larger. They are finding many different ways to do so. Sadly, the mission field is being overlooked. Long-term opportunities to bring food, clean water, and the Gospel to those in need are being missed. One reason, I believe, is because the “Christianity” that many Americans see is self-serving, hateful, and hypocritical. The news often contains accounts of Christians, supposedly loving people, protesting military funerals to spread a message of hate about homosexuality. Other stories are about Christians belittling young women as they try to enter Planned Parenthood or abortion facilities. Then we hear about people like Jones who speak and act in hateful ways about other religions. This is NOT how Jesus asked us to live. We are people and we make mistakes, but we need to be honest about them. Most importantly, we need to stop living so comfortably and start speaking up with loving actions.

When September 11 rolls around again, I’d love to look back and see a year when love defined Christianity, as it should.

Mission To Ecuador

When I was about 12 or 13 I dreamed of being a missionary somewhere. Sadly I didn’t have the support that allowed the dream to grow and bear fruit. Instead I ended up pursuing a crazy, mixed-up pattern of mistakes that threatened to overwhelm and probably even kill me.

As Winston Churchill and some country singer said, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” I’m coming out the other side now, if I’m not out entirely. My relationship with God is much like it was when I was young, but with some more mature elements.

Several weeks ago one of the pastors at my church told me about a parent-child missions trip being planned to Ecuador in November. My youngest, Noah, has a heart for God and has said he wants to be a teacher-pastor-missionary when he grows up. Well, he’s seen teachers and pastors at work. Now it is time to see missionaries at work, and join them in their work.

Noah will be 13 when we go on this trip and he’s pretty excited about it. It’s impossible for a 13-year-old boy in this day and age to be single-mindedly fixed on something, especially if they are as ADHD as he is. The truth is, however, that he does have a surprising amount of focus on this, which is exciting.

When our team, roughly 20 strong, gets to Ecuador we will be working with IncaLink, a mission started by CMA missionaries Rich and Lisa Brown. We don’t know yet what kind of work we will be doing, but some possibilities are working with orphans, working with the elderly, working with homeless populations, or helping to build churches.

Gustavo Cadena, president of IncaLink Ecuador, has even suggested we might work with indigenous peoples in the jungles, too.

If you visit the IncaLink website you will see how much need exists there. How can you help?

There are two ways you can help us. Noah and I ask that you consider both, but we’ll one or the other, gladly. First, please pray for us. Specifically, pray that we follow God’s lead in this endeavor and that He prepares our hearts for this work. Next, please pray for God’s provision. It’s not cheap to do something like this. I’ll have more about this in a bit. Pray for the people we will come in contact with, that God will work in a mighty way in their lives. Also, pray for our team, that we come together and work together and grow from this experience. Also, please pray that this trip brings Noah and I closer to each other and closer to God.

As you may have guessed, this trip requires money. God put this trip on our hearts from the start and we need to rely on Him and His people to provide for it. Please, as you pray, ask God whether you can support us. I have a PayPal account that you can send to. My email address is jlamborn3@gmail.com and you can contact me that way. Another way to send support is to mail a check to my church. If you do that, please make it out to First Alliance Church and make a note in the memo that it is for the Ecuador trip. Then contact me to let me know you did this and the treasurer can note that it is for my trip costs. Why would you do this and not put that it is for me in the memo? Tax purposes. It’s complicated, but if the check is for a ministry and not a person, you can make it tax deductible. The address is 20444 Midway Blvd., Port Charlotte, FL 33952.

When we arrive in Ecuador I will be filming and photographing our adventures in ministry with the hopes of posting daily updates to keep our family, friends, church, and supporters informed of our activities.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this. Your support means a lot to Noah and I. We are really looking forward to pursuing this dream of serving God together. Even if you are not able to support us financially, please pray and leave a comment below to let us know you’re praying for us.