There are specific dates in a person’s life they won’t forget.

Maybe it was the day you began a relationship with God, the day you were baptized, the day you were married, or the day that you conquered cancer. Maybe that date is marred with the pain of losing someone close to you. There are other days that are etched in your mind, not because you were there in person, but because it was an event so catastrophic that it still affected you in some way, shape, or form… but happened in your lifetime. For those of you who are in my parent’s generation maybe it was the assassination of JFK or MLK Jr. Most of us who read this, remember exactly where we were on September 11, 2001 when two planes flew into the World Trade Center. October 1, 2017 is another day to add to the list of specific dates, a day where a gunman sprayed bullets into a crowd of people attending the Route 91 Harvest concert. The Las Vegas attack is reported to be the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history killing 58 innocent bystanders and injuring more than 500 others.

Las Vegas, the city I called home for 8 years, suffered a horrific act of violence on October 1, 2017. Even though I no longer live there, when I heard the news, I couldn’t help but think about all my friends who still live there. I have a personal connection to Las Vegas and this affected me. Over this past week I have been glued to social media reading about all the heroes who gave their lives for others, who stood in front of complete strangers and took a bullet for them. I read about first responders who were off duty, left their families and drove to the crime scene to lend a hand to their colleagues and others. They came to serve the very city they swore to protect. I read other stories about shooting victims who are enduring many surgeries and are going through so much pain as they continue to heal from their gunshot wounds. I also read about the victims who succumbed to their wounds and what kind of legacy they left behind. Each and every one of them had a story.

As I continued to read the countless stories of heroism, pain, loss, and grief a verse kept popping into my head. Genesis 50:20, and it reads “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” I’ve spent the past week reflecting on this verse and I wanted to read the whole story, to get the context behind why this particular verse stood out. This is the story of Joseph and it begins in Genesis chapter 37. To summarize, Joseph was the youngest of his brothers at the time and he was his father’s favorite. Joseph received dreams that foretold the future and he explained his dreams to his brothers. Those dreams put Joseph in a position of authority over them. Jealousy came to a head when Joseph’s father Jacob create an ornate robe of many colors for him. Genesis 37:4 says “when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” One day Jacob told his son Joseph to meet his brothers as they were tending their flock of sheep and see that they were okay. Joseph proceeded to go and check on his brothers. Verse 18 says that his brothers saw Joseph “in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.” His brother Reuben was able to convince the others not to kill Joseph and instead threw him into a cistern and later sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt. Joseph was sold in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of the guard to Pharaoh. The next few chapters chronicle Joseph’s time in Egypt where, through some major events, Joseph became one of Pharaoh’s trusted officials. A famine spread throughout the land and Joseph’s brother’s were forced to travel to Egypt for food. The dreams that Joseph had when he was younger came true. Joseph sees his brothers arrive and tells them to “Come close to me. When they had done so, he said, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8)” This amazing story leads to Genesis 50:20, the verse that continues to run through my mind. It is at this point, Jacob died and had asked Joseph’s brothers to beg for forgiveness for what they had done to Joseph. When they threw themselves at the foot of their little brother Joseph replies, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Harm was done to many people, far more than those who were killed or injured. Each of them have families and friends and the number of people affected by this goes far beyond comprehension. However, I firmly believe that what was intended to harm people and destroy lives, God intended it for good, and many lives have been saved through this event. I am by no means minimizing what happened on October 1, 2017, but I do know that the Las Vegas community is coming together in a way that hasn’t been seen in a place labeled “Sin City”. Billboards of half naked women and marijuana have been replaced with “Pray for Las Vegas”
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A local Radio Station posted on their Facebook page asking “If your church is serving the Las Vegas community today in anyway… Please share in a comment below and we will update this post with your info.” I read a story of a man from Illinois travelling across the country to put crosses with every victims name on them. His inspiration came from a personal tragedy where his Father in Law was brutally murdered.
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As a follower of Christ, I need to take God’s Word to heart and know that some good will come out of this tragedy. How many lives were saved because of the heroic actions of many? How many people have decided to begin a personal relationship with God through this horrific event? My hope and prayer for this city that I called home is that God will continue to make his presence known and comfort those who grieve and give strength to those who mourn.

October 1, 2017 will be another date in my memory that I will not forget.

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Week of Hope just finished it’s third and final summer here in Las Vegas. What an amazing journey it’s been, one full of great stories, events, and testimonies. Thank you to the many volunteers, staff, churches, family and friends who have shown so much support for a great program put on through Group Mission Trips. The feedback has been terrific from both volunteers and the organizations that we have served over the past few summers and a special thank you to all the youth who came to Vegas to invest in God’s Kingdom.

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2013 is the beginning of the third year Group Mission Trips has decided to come to Las Vegas to serve our wonderful community. This year we are proud to announce that we have partnered with thee new organizations this summer in addition to the all the others that we have been working with the past two summers. Allow me to introduce them to you: Blind Center of Nevada: “The Blind Center of Nevada is here to help that person put their life back together, to learn the beauty of individual worth, to gain some of the independence that was lost, and to build a new circle of friends. And, most of all to rebuild hope and feel loved.” (website) They have graciously allowed our volunteers to serve through interacting with those who are blind and need assistance shopping and integrating independently into society and we are excited to partner with them this summer. Prestige Care: This wonderful organization provides a various amount of services for seniors. They have areas of rehabilitation, Alzheimer care, assisted living, and independent living programs. We are excited to partner with them this summer as we share the love of Christ through service and relationship building with the residents there. Salvation Army: We are excited to team up with the family services department of the Salvation Army in Southern Nevada. Working with those who rely on this service to provide food is key to the mission that we come here to serve this summer. We will be packaging and handing out food to those who need it, including homeless and those who are less fortunate in our community. These three organizations will be a great addition to our long list of wonderful partners who we have had the honor of serving alongside here in Las Vegas and we are excited for this summer to begin as we are only one month away!

The longer I live here and the more I network with non-profit organizations, the more I really what a cool town Las Vegas is to live in. Take for example the Neon Museum. Ever wondered where the old casino signs in Las Vegas have gone? They need to go somewhere as this city has so many lights!

The “Neon Boneyard” has over 150 signs on their lot and is a great place to see the rich history of signage that Las Vegas has. This museum is only available to the public through guided tours. Check it out and see all the different signs Las Vegas has had in the past.

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In a previous post I listed a variety of different activities to do in Las Vegas. In relation to Week of Hope, these are fun-filled, family-friendly activities that are perfect for adults, teenagers, or children. Well today I have another awesome opportunity for this summer and it happens to be just down the road from the lodging facility.

Cowabunga Bay is slated to open Memorial Day weekend 2013. This will be just in time for the start of camp for the upcoming summer. Some of you may have heard of this water park before. In fact, there is one in Draper, Utah. Add this to my previous list of activities to participate in this summer and you will not be disappointed.

St. Jude’s Ranch, in Boulder City, is another organization Week of Hope partners with each summer in Las Vegas. We have been enjoying volunteering for a few weeks each year cleaning up the campus, updating databases, and so on. It has truly been a blessing helping out this organization.

This Christmas, St. Jude’s has organized their 6th Annual Night of Lights celebration at their campus. Admission is FREE, however, if you would like to purchase a wrist band that includes dinner and festivities the cost is $25, with children under 3 free. Come support an amazing organization this Christmas.

A few times each year, Women’s Resource Medical Center of Southern Nevada kicks off a Baby Bottle Campaign to help fund their center. They are in the Las Vegas Valley to share the love of Jesus Christ by educating people about abortion and help those in need. They provide free ultrasounds, counseling, and support to those who are looking for someone to embrace them.

Baby Bottle Campaign

Volunteers from Week of Hope Las Vegas have come out the past two summers to help the center with their efforts. Painting, sorting and cleaning the bottles, among other things. It’s time to get ready for 2013. Continue to support this ministry in prayer and please consider hosting a Baby Bottle Campaign at your church or business.

Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am. Send me!