I’ve spent the last couple of days in Uvalde, Texas. After landing in San Antonio, my friend Mauricio and I met another pastor from El Paso, Ozzie. Both are great guys and both have genuine hearts for helping people. We grabbed a car and headed to Uvalde, about a 90-minute ride. I soon learned that there are 75 mph speed zones on two-lane roads in Texas – We made it in 70 minutes.
I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotions that hit me when we walked onto the hallowed grounds of Robb Elementary School. Just a quick refresher – 2 months ago, to the day that we arrived, Salvador Ramos crashed a truck into a culvert and ran into Robb Elementary School. There, he took the lives of twenty-one innocent people, including 2 teachers and 19 precious children.
Their names are:
- Makenna Lee Elrod
- Layla Salazar
- Maranda Mathis
- Nevaeh Bravo
- Jose Manuel Flores Jr.
- Xavier Lopez
- Tess Marie Mata
- Rojelio Torres
- Eliahna “Ellie” Amyah Garcia
- Eliahna A. Torres
- Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez
- Jackie Cazares
- Uziyah Garcia
- Jayce Carmelo Luevanos
- Maite Yuleana Rodriguez
- Jailah Nicole Silguero
- Irma Garcia
- Eva Mireles
- Amerie Jo Garza
- Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio
- Alithia Ramirez
My reason for being here?
I was asked to serve Border Patrol Families in the Uvalde and Del Rio sectors. These men and women are some of my favorite people on the planet. Having been at multiple Border Patrol Stations across the Southern Border, I’ve seen the men and women in green serve immigrants, communities, and difficult situations with humanity, grace, and decency. As a result, I was thrilled to answer the call and help create a way to serve these heroes and their families.
While here, I was deeply moved by the thousands of reminders and remembrances of these teachers and children murdered in such an evil, senseless manner. I found the city to be in a daze and the whole town seemed to be clouded in suspicion, anger, and fear. No, I’m not catastrophizing the challenges. The raw emotions are so tangible that I can feel them on my skin. From the schools to the parks and rec department. From the police to the churches. From Border Patrol to food servers, this city is a powder keg awaiting another eruption. Again – not any exaggeration is involved.
I spoke with a city worker who said, “Pastor, we are exhausted, tired and frustrated.” A pastor said, “we don’t really know what else to do.” A Border Patrol agent said, “Chuck, I spent two straight weeks at the school with angry, grieving families. I am coming apart at the seams.” That is just a sampling. To try and state the devastation thrown upon this little Bordertown is impossible to do with the written word.
So, where do we go from here? Here are the next five steps in trying to serve the people in Uvalde, and the Customs and Border Patrol families.
- Host an event for Uvalde school families on Friday, August 5. We will provide gift cards, school supplies, backpacks, food, an Amazon store filled with household needs, baby needs, food, and supplies, a water park for the kids, a bbq meal, pizzas for each family, live music, a lot of love, tons of prayer, and the love of Christ. All at zero expense to the people, churches, schools, etc.
- Host an event for the Uvalde and DelRio sectors of Customs and Border Patrol families with all of the same on Saturday, August 6. All without asking for handouts, taxing the locals, burdening the schools, or disturbing the already stressed law enforcement community.
- Set up a 5-year strategy to serve the families of Uvalde by helping serve the faith community, providing quarterly events like the ones in August, and helping bring hope to this hurting community with ministry, service, love, and resources. Not because they can’t, but because they are great people that will need help far beyond an event or two. One of the significant challenges in the American church is that we follow the same news cycle as the rest of the world. These folks in Uvalde deserve more than a news cycle and certainly more than one more photo opp or media opinion.
- Create a backpack ministry that mimics the 400-plus backpacks prepared at Sugar Hill Church and delivered to local schools for the four local schools in Uvalde…each Friday, every school week. This is a blue-collar town – my kind of people – and if a mom and dad can receive a little help and the local school counselors are the heroes, that’s a big win!
- Provide quarterly gatherings with live music, meaningful, encouraging messages, emotional support, and hopefully a way to provide additional mental health support. Finding a way to provide what we provide through ClearPath Counseling in Georgia, here in Uvalde would be a huge task and an equally huge win. Pastor Ozzie, who runs a first responder ministry and was on the scene the day of the shooting, stated that “every single family in Uvalde is part of a victim.”
It’s not free. It’s not sexy. It’s not simple. It’s the Gospel.
I’m headed back to Atlanta later today, and I’ll let you know more as our plans are finalized.
In the meantime, thank you for your prayers! For those of you that have already provided monetary support, thank you! For those of you that are interested, please send me an email HERE.
Have to go – I’m Exhausted, Chuck.