On May 24, 2022, evil stepped into Robb Elementary School and took the lives of 19 children and two teachers. Pure evil is the best way to define the senseless massacre of these precious children. I’ve been to Uvalde five times since the shooting, and each time I return, I’m reminded that evil could show up at almost any school in America and do the same thing. In most of the United States, measures have been put in place to make a similar attack much more difficult. I say more difficult because Uvalde was, and is so unique.
After reading the Texas Department of Public Safety’s final report regarding the shooting, I was struck by the systemic failure at every level. The most glaring failure wasn’t the police, school, or city, or leaders. The most glaring failure was a society that left a dirt-poor little city to fend for itself. Uvalde is a border town in Texas, and as such, it has a blend of primarily Latino citizens and blue-collared men and women. These are some of the most gracious, loving people I have ever been around. But let’s face it, in the hustle of this world, a little town like Uvalde is left in the dust. Yes, there were failures, but at the end of the day, you can trace every failure back to the fact that Uvalde is a city that nobody cared about. That is until they were the headline of the week in May 2022.
Like most things in America, a crisis happens, and the news anchors show up in droves. The cameras seek the worst possible story with the most graphic and accommodating video. They stay for a few days, then chase the next crisis, like tornado chasers in Kansas. Then a few weeks go by, and they descend again on the crisis area with reports of who is at fault and videos of people leaving courthouses trying to cover their faces. Then poof! They’re off again. After the media and political circus leave, the poor people of the crisis are left to sort out life as the rest of the world moves on.
But how do you move on from children shot so many times with high-powered ammunition that were only recognized by DNA results? How do you move on from the finger-pointing and media onslaught when you are a small city with limited resources and an entire world looking for your faults?
I’m jaded, I guess. I fell in love with this little city and its people. I found friends who share the common ground of decency, honor, integrity, and love. I’ve built lasting, meaningful relationships with leaders who care deeply about Uvalde’s future. I’ve seen the hurt up close, and I’ve felt people’s skepticism when you say you’ll be back with more help. Each time I can feel their stare as you say, “see you next time.” That stare is the one that burns into your soul the feeling that they’ve been lied to, over-promised, and under-delivered for decades. That is a systemic failure. As political leaders are fond of saying these days – full stop!
Enter Crossroads Academy. A school for dropouts. Last week, a team from Sugar Hill Church brought Christmas for about 160 kids – and their kids – and their parents. You read that correctly. Many of these kids dropped out of school and have their own kids. Hence the dropping out. They get on a bus from where they are sofa-surfing with their little ones and drop the babies off at childcare, go to school, work, and then to their kiddos. If you think it must be hard, you cannot imagine their stories.
One little girl is back in school and attended our party. She opened a box of diapers and just started weeping. She said, “I haven’t had a Christmas present since I was eight years old.” Then she learned that the diapers were essential and that she had a new set of clothes, shoes, and a purse just for her. And her baby had plenty as well. One young man graduated while our team was on the ground, and he is ready to contribute to making Uvalde stronger. One teacher was trying to find a student to give a gift to and was instructed that the gift was for her. She said, “nobody ever does anything for us.” The overwhelming question was this, “why are you all doing this?” The answer? Jesus said, LOVE ONE ANOTHER. He said that if we serve the least of these, we are actually serving Him.
Uvalde matters because the political circus left town and couldn’t care less. The media circus left town and won’t return unless something horrific happens. Nobody cares about the repaired buildings, new grounds, courts, and facilities provided in the wake of the massacre, but we should care. The government has proven that they cannot or will not step in to make a big deal about Uvalde unless it fits their political narrative – either way.
That is why a church from Sugar Hill, Georgia, has been making good on promises to Uvalde, Texas. Because the people that claim to love Jesus must act on that love and make the world a more loving, grace-filled place. Uvalde matters because these kids matter. The educators, administrators, counselors, and coaches matter. Uvalde matters! I’ve invited more than a dozen churches to participate in the work in Uvalde. I haven’t asked them for a dime, just people and prayer. Not a single church has stepped into the fray as of yet. Please hear me. I know that every church isn’t equipped to go and do this work, and not every church should. But friends, whether it is Uvalde or Sugar Hill, we must care enough to serve hurting people! Uvalde matters because those folks need to know that America doesn’t see them as a newsreel but as people that God loves. Uvalde matters because they represent all of us. We are all potentially one day away from needing the rest of America to help.
I’m honored to be a small part of rebuilding Uvalde, and I thank God for the men and women that are serving in the schools of Uvalde, Texas. They are serving in some really difficult seasons and are champions. The champions that are the faculty of Crossroads Academy are some of my favorite people on the planet, and I pray for them each morning that God would infuse them with strength, wisdom and power.
Uvalde matters because people matter. God’s ultimate purpose is people. The redemption of mankind. If you are desirous to be a part of God’s plan for your life, you, too, will be about people. That’s why Uvalde matters.