Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Saturday, September 15, 2018
|Meeting freshmen at a board game night in a res hall! These were the bread and butter of our outreach before school started, and we were blessed to meet so many new people!|
"Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking
in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'"
God has blessed FOCUS students and staff in their mission immensely so far this year. There have been so many students who didn't at all seem receptive to Christian community come around and end up wanting to find real friendships with us and learn more about Jesus. I can see students who are approaching ministry and fellowship with much more zeal than I had at their age, and I'm grateful for it.
While many new students have reacted to us with open hearts and grateful words, this is- of course- not always the case. It's been interesting to note, however, that hostility isn't a problem with students, so much as avoidance is. We've been going through a sermon series called Why are we her? about the broader Biblical narrative that's established in Genesis of who God is, who we are, and how everything got so broken. As we've been doing this, I've been taking a step back and thinking about these same things, and what keeps coming to mind is the strange propensity we have as humans to avoid the God who is reaching out towards us. Possibly the biggest indication that Adam and Eve knew they were doing something wrong when they took the fruit from the serpent is that they never approached God about the whole ordeal. I mean, if I was losing in an argument to a serpent about what God said to me, I'd wait until God's next morning stroll to clear the whole issue up...right?
But it seems like we all are implicated in this avoidance of God. I've read (somewhere) that some of the saddest words in the entire Bible are God's words to Adam after the fruit is taken: "Where are you?" I'm realizing more and more that the job of a minister is to push people to face God. To the freshman who grew up in the Church, but doesn't really want to go deeper in their faith, God says: "where are you?" To the student leader who is so concerned about how God might be appraising their work that they're afraid to know, God says: "where are you?" And to me, the campus minister who busies himself with a thousand tasks to use as a thousand excuses for not slowing down and listening to God's voice, He says: "where are you?"
The most beautiful parts of my ministry experience have been watching people come out of their hiding places to face God and realize that He wants what's best for them. The most beautiful parts of my life have been the times I've realized I've been hiding and have turned to face Him.
|Our first Friday Night Fellowship this year. We've had an incredible turnout every week, and I've gotten to meet so many people and have so many good conversations.|
Monday, August 6, 2018
|Our new apprentices this year! From left to right (*deep breath*): Alex, Brittany, Abbi, Emily 1, Emily 2, Sam, a laptop, Reagann, Drew, Amber, Ryan, an empty chair, Darby, and Jesse.|
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they
were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"
One thing I've noticed in my brief time in campus ministry is that many of life's forces seem to draw us away from reaching out to new people. It's a constant temptation to get complacent, to cloister oneself away, and to rest on the fact that you worked hard last week, last month, or last semester. What God has been pointing out to me lately is that this attitude creeps up most when I am selfish. Have I gotten burnt out? Have I chosen comfort over faithfulness? Have I lost a heart for others? These all happen when somewhere along the way, I took my eyes off of the person of Jesus and the needs of others.
This summer has largely been a journey of reorienting myself towards the mission of ministry rather than focusing on transitioning staff teams and cities or doing my tasks well. This verse keeps coming to mind. "The harvests are plentiful, but the workers are few." Jesse Wang, a new FOCUS staff member (who has been doing campus ministry much, much longer than I have) frequently emphasizes to me in our conversations how few of the students on campus at UTD are ever invited to study the Bible, to be a part of a small group, or to come to a campus ministry or church meeting. I'm realizing that the people who are closest to the heart for God are by necessity inundated with a heart for bringing people into His Kingdom.
Getting Geared Up
|A bunch of the staff getting snowcones during staff retreat. The blonde boy with sunglasses on is Drew Cleveland- we led a core (small group) together my second year as a student leader, and he's apprenticing with FOCUS this year!|
We just had our annual summer staff retreat this week, in which we spent a few days hanging out, worshipping God, getting to know one another better, welcoming the new apprentices, and preparing for the explosion of life that is the first few weeks of school! I was struck by how much more at home I felt among the staff this time around.
I want to say a special thank you to all of my supporters again. It means so much to me that you would follow a call to give to support the ministry we do. I hope to keep getting to know you better as the year goes on!
Also, welcome to the new supporters!
Friday, July 6, 2018
|Students from all of our campuses at one of our Thursday Night Fellowships. God has been moving at these nights every week in some really cool ways!|
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct,
rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction."
2 Timothy 4:2
I hated the summertime as a kid.
Well, hate may be a strong word, but I do remember sitting on the floor of my room, yearning for the excitement of the school year to return. I felt like I lost the ability to learn, to be creative, to grow as a person in the summer. Of course, by the time April and May rolled around, I was stressed out, barely able to wait long enough for summer to begin. The grass was always greener on the other side.
I also felt this way about my own spiritual growth in my first few years as a disciple (and my first couple of summers as a college student). I could grow a lot during the year, but the hours and hours of free time the summer gave me felt more like miles and miles of desert than anything else. The same applied to ministry. During the year, there were Bible studies to lead, mentors to learn from, and students to study the Bible with. Then all of a sudden, just me, a Bible, and way too much unused energy pushing me away from it.
What God's been teaching me is that since He is a God who loves to spiritually feed His children, He can direct me toward pastures that are green with opportunities to learn, to love, and to grow. At any season of life, God can provide me (and you) with spiritual growth and with people to minister to.
God has given me so many new ways to grow and people to learn from and minister to over the past month!
- I've begun meeting up with potential corefas for this year at UTD! (Just as a friendly reminder, "corefas" = core facilitators, cores = small groups) These interactions have been so encouraging- these guys are all so grateful for what God has done in their lives through their cores this past year, and they can't wait to point people to Jesus. Getting to lay foundations with them months in advance is a huge blessing.
- I've gotten to reconnect with old friends, be blessed by them, and (hopefully) bless them. Friends like Drew Cleveland (who's going to be apprenticing at UTD this year!), Joseph Hackenbracht (who I led core with my last semester at UTD!), and Joey Thurston (who was in my core as a freshman, but even at that point challenged me with how thoughtful, mature, and in love with Jesus he was).
- I've gotten to dip my toes into children's ministry some! I helped out at JaM Camp- which is a camp the DFW Metro Family of Churches does for children K-5. God has been widening my horizons and teaching me to be a disciple of Jesus in my interactions with people of all ages.
- I've gotten to have great conversations with past and potential future financial supporters. Getting to pray for and be prayed for by people who have so purposefully helped me out in the ministry God has called me to is very, very meaningful.
- I've gotten to build deeper relationships with family members. As a socialite who likes to be busy, I've been criminally bad at growing in my relationships with family over the past. God has been pointing out the selfishness and ickiness (that's a Biblical term) of this attitude and giving me opportunities to have conversations of depth with family members.
As I go through the process of fundraising again, I'm struck by how generous and thoughtful people really are. Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed for and given to FOCUS and to me specifically!
Friday, June 8, 2018
|A photo of all of the students at SICM this year. It's so crazy thinking of how many people God will impact through these students!|
"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
...a time to plant and a time to uproot...
...a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them...
...a time to be silent and a time to speak."
-Ecclesiastes 3 (excerpts)
In our crazy world of frequent moving, hectic schedules, and noise, the rhythms of the seasons are one of the few things that become predictable and constant (although only somewhat so in places like Texas). For those of you who aren't students, you may have experienced the harsh wakeup call of realizing that at some point in your life, summers are no longer a time of rest, fun, and eventually, boredom. I've definitely experienced that before. However, more than in most careers, ministers of students continue to work around the seasonality that school is defined by. The question is: what is this season defined by for campus ministers?
The summer is a perfect time for laying foundations. We lay foundations financially and relationally by fundraising and getting to know our donors better. We lay foundations of friendships with students who we weren't around during the school year. We lay foundations for the upcoming year of ministry by praying for the year- for the students we are going to meet, the students we will be working with, and for our own hearts and minds to be ready for it all. As we are doing all of this, we lay foundations in our hearts by spending time with God and in Scripture.
|At the end of SICM, we pray for the students from each campus FOCUS is on. It was beautiful to see the hearts these students have for one another, and for the people they will be reaching out to.|
SICM- the Student Institute of Campus Ministry- is an annual conference that seeks to train students from around the nation (but mostly from Texas) up to be disciple-makers and missionaries on their college campuses. It's where a lot of the students in our ministry go from simply being shown Jesus to showing Jesus to other, and it's where they learn wise and practical ways of doing that on a college campus. This conference is in a beautiful town in Washington called Bellingham and is hosted by a ministry called Campus Christian Fellowship. It primarily comprises a week of classes on everything from how to plan a Bible study, to how to reach out to strangers, to how to read Scripture well. The experience of SICM has been compared to that of drinking water from a fire hose (something I know we've allllllll done....right?), and this is a pretty apt description. I first went to SICM as a student in 2014, and it was awesome to get to be there as a staff person 4 years later!
|One of our students named Charlie was baptized at SICM!|
Friday, May 4, 2018
|Our students worshipping and celebrating at our Spring Formal. There's something really beautiful about getting to praises God while outside in His Creation.|
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you,
I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day
until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it
on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)
As I quickly come to the end of UNT and TWU's school year and the end of my time with the FOCUS staff in Denton (don't forget- I'll be on staff at UTD next year!), I'm struck by something that hits me pretty much every year- this did not go as I had planned it.
When I think about the things that defined this year of my life- this things I'm grateful for, none of them are things that I had really planned. Sure, I had planned to apprentice with FOCUS for a full year before applying, but I could not possibly have planned to be impacted by unforeseeable relationships and situations. I had no idea that I would spend my first semester fighting anxiety, but few things have deepened my faith in God's love for me like the experience of knowing He is with me despite my inability to be at peace in the moment. I had no idea I would meet people like David Nathan, or Collin, but God taught me a lot about loving Him, loving people, and discipling others through these guys. I had no way of knowing which freshmen I met during the first week of school would fall off the map, and which of them would stick around and potentially become a student leader next year. I certainly didn't know I would go back to Richardson after only a year in Denton. However, these are some of the most defining points of growth and blessing from the apprenticeship. God shows Himself to be faithful and wise beyond my perception and understanding, and I've grown a lot because of it. I believe a lot of the students I know would say the same.
Every April or so, each campus celebrates the year they've had by coming together, socializing, dancing, and honoring the people in the community who have given their time and energy for others. We spent time worshipping God through singing and through prayers of praise, and it was incredible to see the joy, comfort, and boldness with which students prayed out loud to God in front of a hundred of their peers. I love these students, and I'll miss them a lot when I move back to UTD.
|My peer team and I, and a whole lotta sky. Matt Clark (second from the left) is standing in for Bekwele Wodi, who had another engagement (he was planning a worship event, so we'll let him slide). Go to the student testimony to see a picture of Bekwele smiling super big (and, more importantly, to learn what God has done in his life).|
This week, I've been talking with my peer team guys about what they believe God has taught them this year, and what He's putting on their hearts to grow in and pursue in the summer. The things they've been sharing are proving to me that God has been the One in control of their growth this whole year, and because of that, they're going to be just fine when I move away (not that there was ever any doubt in that respect). Love you guys!
Many of our potential leaders (from all FOCUS campuses) are going to be headed to the Seattle area starting next week to learn how to be missionaries and disciple-makers on their college campuses at the Student Institute of Campus Ministry, and I'll be there with them!
As I approach the end of the FOCUS Apprenticeship and look towards my next year on staff with FOCUS, I'm struck again how amazing my job is, and how blessed I am to be supported through prayers and donations in doing it. I don't always see you all, but thank you to everyone who has been pouring into FOCUS- we don't do this ministry alone, and having you as colaborers is a big blessing.
Also, shameless plug- if you know me at all, if you have a heart for college students, or if any of my blogs have blessed you at all, I would love to have you as a prayer and / or financial supporter and share more of what God is doing with you. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.:)
- Pray for our students who are going to Washington for SICM. Pray that God would give them the alertness and openness to take everything they learn in both with their minds and their hearts.
- Pray for our students as they enter the summer. Pray for intentionality in finding community and pursuing God despite a change in the structures around them.
- Pray for our students to be able to grasp God's faithfulness to them as they process the year. Pray that this would translate into a long-term growth in their faith as individuals and members of the Church.