Wednesday, December 6, 2017

November Blog


I hope your Thanksgiving break was restful! I can't believe the semester is almost done. Our students are about to begin their finals, and the tension on campus is palpable. Please be in prayer for all our students!

Anywho there are a few things I'd like to share with you about November.

1. Pizza Theology: if you don't know what this is, we have one of these each semester. We take a topic that needs more time to think through, then we devote 4 hours on a Sunday to listen to a lecture, hear testimonies, and delve deeper into scripture. We have a pizza break in the middle for about an hour which is much needed after two hours of lecture. This year we had a professor of Greek and New Testament from Criswell College come to speak over the Sermon on the Mount. It was so enlightening, and I'm still really thinking through a lot of what he brought up. I think God laid on my heart through this Pizza Theology that I can do more and still have a long walk ahead of me. I still need to constantly be giving up my desires, my time, my money, my whole self to God. The life He calls us to is just incredibly difficult and complacency can be the biggest trap of the American Christian. This isn't exactly what Bill Watson talked about, but none the less, that is what I felt like God wanted me to hear.

If you'd like to listen, click here.

2. Keep Focus Growing (KFG): This is an annual fundraiser we have. We use this money to do a multitude of things. In past years this money helped us plant ministries at UTA and SMU and hire a full-time administrative person. This year some of our goals for this is to have more money for outreach for the 11 campuses our ministry is on, have a larger benevolence and counseling fund for our students, better worship equipment, etc. Our KFG goal this year is $50,000, and our current total is $33879.18 which is just incredible! If you've donated, I want to thank you! I am just blown away by how quickly we've gotten to our goal. We still have a ways to go, though, so please keep praying for this. If you haven't given, I would really encourage you to pray about whether you'd like to and how much God is calling you to give.

If you'd like to see more of our wishlist items, you can click here.
If you'd like to donate, you can click here.

Thanks so much for reading and supporting our ministry. I seriously don't think I'll ever be able to express fully how grateful I am! To wrap this months blog up, I'd like to share our student testimony. I hope it encourages you!

Student Testimony

"I always dreamed of being a missionary. My plan was to go to college to please my parents, graduate as quickly as possible, and then leave the country. As I got more involved in FOCUS, I began to see how purposefully the people around me shared their lives and faith. The Lord began to show me that ‘missions’ is not what happens in other countries but in our everyday lives. Through the example of dear friends, I learned how to love like Jesus even when it is not fun or easy.  After graduation, the Lord opened doors for me to move to Bolivia as a missionary. Looking back on my time in college, I believe that the Lord prepared me through the friendships, community, and study in FOCUS far more than through my degree program. I am so thankful that the Lord, in His mercy, did not let me rush through college to please my parents, but used the ministry of FOCUS to lay a foundation for years to come."

Danyelle Graves de MorĂ³n
University of North Texas, Social Work, Graduated 2013 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Hello friends,

I hope you've enjoyed the colder weather and the changing colors of the leaves. Some days it actually feels like we're moving towards winter!

This month I wanted to share a poem one of the girls I work with wrote. It's a little long, but I promise it's worth the read!

"One God
One God to worship
One God to please
One God I focus on
One who I need
When it calls, I respond
I don't think, I don't stop
Should I wait?
Shouldn't I think?
That God is a God of deception
That God is a God of lies
A fleeting feeling
A moment of satisfaction
The God I worship
The God I use
The God that never satisfies
Me, myself, and I.
This is not a God worthy of praise
This is not a God I desire
This is not a God that fills
The God I want is everything
The God I need is my all
He created and sustained
He creates and sustains
The I want isn't easy
The God I need isn't simple
God is complex and simple
God is close and far
God is good and fair
God is what I need
More than anything, more than me
One God I worship
One God I please
One God I focus on
One God I need
Not the God of pleasure or vanity
The God of truth and eternity
When He calls, I respond
Think and pause
This is a God worth my all
A forever love
A moment on earth
A forever with Him
The that always satisfies
Father, Son, Spirit"

When she sent me this, I was so encouraged. I've been praying for her to really choose God and let him invade every part of her. I've been praying for her to find her identity in God and not in people. It was so cool seeing how God has been working towards those prayers. I also felt like reading this was a challenge to myself. How often do I choose the God of pleasure and vanity? I get way more excited about playing a game or watching tv, than I do about sitting silently with God. I desire to be entertained and distracted, but I need to choose what is best. I need to choose to sit with God and let him satisfy. I hope this poem encourages you in your personal ministry. You never know how God is working to answer your prayers, and I hope it challenges you as well. I think every single one of us can get distracted by entertainment and forget to make time for the things that truly satisfy.

Student Testimony

Joshua Erdmann
Richland College
Mechanical Engineering
"In high school, I was the type of person that went out of my way to avoid people that I considered to be different than me. I was always looking for people that either talked the way I did or took part in the same things I liked. This led to superficial relationships and friendships. When I joined FOCUS, I really think God taught me that meeting people who were different than me - in every way - was a good thing. Through FOCUS, I have come to realize what it's like to have real relationships with people. In real relationships, you can talk to your friends about how you feel that day and not have to hide anything. When I first walked on campus at Richland, I was unsure about who I was or where I belonged. I thank God that I found a group that I feel like I actually belong to. Through FOCUS, God has been showing me that I belong wherever He has called me, and that it’s up to me to show others that they belong, too."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

September Blog


I hope you have had a great September! Mine has mostly been really great. We went to our Fall Camp this past weekend, and we had a record number of people come. We really don't like to focus on numbers, but I think that the amount of people we had there shows how hard our corefas have been working this year! We use Fall Camp as an opportunity to get people together early in the semester to build relationships and to help convey our values. This year we had several student speakers share on the prompts "how my concept on what it means to be a Christian has changed and is changing" and "how I got to send me." They were so good! It was so powerful to hear these students share about how they've been growing to be more like God. 

Candle Light Devotional

 Another cool thing was just watching our students interact with each other in free time. No one was sitting by themselves or lonely! People would help others in the crafts that we had or invite them into games they were playing.

Let's just be praying that these students continue seeing and experiencing Jesus, the one who made it possible and taught us how to love one another. I'm praying for many to call him "Lord" for the first time this year!

Student Testimony

"I grew up Catholic but never consistently went to church. I always admired the concept of community and was really saddened by the idea of not experiencing that within my faith because of my lack of involvement. When I came to UTA this desire to be involved in a Christian community only grew. After being greeted kindly at the FOCUS information table at orientation, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. God is really working here and I want to be a part of it.”  As classes started in the Fall, I was contacted by a girl named Kaylee who consistently invited me to events and had a deep-rooted desire to get to know me.  Through people like Kaylee, I was really able to see how those in FOCUS loved the Lord which directly translated into how they interacted with and loved people. As the semester began I was asked to go deeper in my faith and study scripture in a one-on-one study, Focus on Jesus (FOJ) with Alexis. Alexis really encouraged me and wanted to walk with me in my journey of building a relationship with God. Through this community, I was challenged to give love like I had received it. Although I didn’t know it, God had been working and was faithful to answer a prayer I hadn’t even thought to ask for. He blessed me with this community and an opportunity to share that with others. "

Jocelyn Payan
University of Texas at Arlington, Nursing, Sophomore

Saturday, September 16, 2017

We Came, We Saw, We Conquered

August is finally over, and Welcome Week has finished alongside it! Thank you for all of your prayers. I think this Welcome Week went so well. Last year we didn't have very many freshman join our organization; this year in order to try and change that, we decided to do board games and outdoor games in the residence hall areas 3 nights in a row. I think that helped tremendously!

First FNF
I have been so encouraged this school year to see how hard our corefas and returning students have worked. Meeting new people can be so scary, but every single one of our leaders have pushed themselves to reach out. I would walk around the Student Union, an area that has a lot of food options, and I'd see our students sitting with strangers, trying to meet them and start up friendships. It's so incredible to see our students have caught the vision. They have fully bought into Jesus, and they're working hard for him, trying to bring His Kingdom to UTD!

The last thing I'll say before the student testimony is that our first Friday Night FOCUS (FNF) went so well. We have over 250 people there. As you can imagine, there were a lot of new people, but looking around, I couldn't see anyone new not being talked to! I can't wait to see how God continues working this year!

Student Testimony

Michael Murphey
University of Texas at Dallas
Computer Science
When I cam to UTD, I felt really lost. I didn't have many friends, and it seemed as if my life had no direction at the time. I had known for years that I wanted to study computer science but in the fall of 2016, I was doing little else. It felt painfully meaningless at times. I decided to come to Friday Night Fellowship one night and met Mark Merola. Even though we were complete strangers, Mark took a particular interest in me. After sitting with me during the service, he invited me to come to more FOCUS events and to join his Core.  With Mark and the rest of my Core, I gained a group of supportive peers that I could live life with and learn from. I grew significantly in my faith and also as a person. Through studying the Bible and discussing it with members of my Core, I learned more about who Jesus is, and my relationship with him deepened. My relationship with Hesus also led me to examine who I was as a person and make changes to how I act. FOCUS added a lot of meaning into my life and helped me see who I want to be. I have become a Core facilitator for the 2017-2018 school year, and I now know that the path toward God is the path that I want to take my entire life.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Gearing Up For The Year

I just wanted to thank you all for your prayers this summer. I ended up fundraising more this summer than I ever have before, and I really could not have done that with out you guys!!!! Now August is in full swing, and we have our Welcome Week prep this weekend for our core facilitators (similar to small group leaders). For those of you who don't know what those things are, I'll explain. At the beginning of every school year, we get all of our core leaders together in order to prep them for the year and Welcome Week. Welcome Week is something the school puts on, and it's one of the busiest times of our year. Starting August 16th students will be moving in, and events will begin and go until September 1st.  We use this time as a huge outreach opportunity. New freshman, transfer, and international students will step onto campus and be looking to make friends! We want as many of our students and staff out on campus trying to cast their nets wide, inviting as many students as possible to hangout, go to their cores, and join Christian community. 

I'd like to ask for prayer. If you could be praying this period that our students are bold and persistent in meeting new people and inviting them to things. Pray that our students reach out to the students and professors in their classes. And pray that the hearts and minds of the students stepping onto campus would be receptive to Jesus!

Also I added a photo of our UTD staff this year, as well as a picture of our apprentices! We took these at our August staff retreat which was just so fun and rejuvenating. I hope you enjoy the photos and the student testimony below:)

Our 2017-2018 UTD staff
Left to right back row: Peter Ueng, Laurence Glenesk, Brandon Worsham, Eddie Perez, Sirak Asfaw
Left to right front row: Sandra Salvador, Mandy Lanciani, Sarah Glenesk, Dawn McElroy

Our 2017-2018 apprentices. Left to right: Eddie Perez, Kristen Stroud,
Caitlin Quiroz, Dawn McElroy Jalen Quintana, Rhett Hayes 

Student Testimony

 “I grew up in the Methodist church surrounded by various spiritual mentors. Though I had a good church upbringing, I don’t think I really knew how to truly seek God. My spiritual growth was consequently very slow, with many stops and dead ends. I knew God was there, but for too many years I believed that I could find Him by myself.
            It was not until I began dealing with crippling anxiety and depression that I began truly seeking God. The support from my church during my time in a psychiatric hospital gave me a new thirst for God and community.
            I found FOCUS late into my first semester of college in 2015. Since joining, the ministry continuously shows me the importance of community in growing our relationship with God. FOCUS has challenged my beliefs, encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, and even helped me to be more confident in my own skin. This year, I have been asked to be a student leader. Despite my fears of inadequacy, I know that I have been equipped with a community that will continue to guide and shape me into a better disciple, so I may go and make new disciples for God’s Kingdom.”

Morgan Chappell (Senior, Texas Woman’s University, Communication Sciences and Disorders)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017



I hope your summer is going well. I've been praying for safe travel for the ones of you who have been going out of town, as well as the trip is fun and relaxing! I wanted to ask for some prayer requests. Right now we are developing our leader team for this upcoming school year, and we still have a lot of woman who are maybes. I'd really appreciate for prayers that God would make clear to the ones who are unsure what He wants from them, as well as wisdom on our end on who should be leaders. My other prayer request has to do with fundraising. Right now myself and the rest of our staff are working on raising our living expenses for this upcoming school year. I still have $500 a month that needs to be raised. I have definitely seen God provide in some incredible ways over the last few years, so I'm not worried. I could just really use your prayers. It would also be very helpful if you could be thinking of people who you believe might want to support our mission!

Thanks so much! Here's our student testimony. I thought his story was so cool; I really hope you enjoy:)

Student Testimonial

"Growing up, I knew there was a God, but I viewed church as a place for people who were “good.” I did not fit the bill. As a result, I was guarded in my friendships and viewed vulnerability with people as a weakness. Entering college, I suffered from severe depression because of the college drinking culture and a very unhealthy 
relationship, which ultimately led me to taking a year off of school. During that year I decided to work at a penitentiary to make ends meet. In prison, you fight for respect daily and often look behind your back in case you’d stepped on someone's toes and forgot. This is true for both the inmates and the officers. As an officer, I learned a lot about the harsh reality of life, but I also learned about the consistent presence of God. Once I went into a dorm full of inmates and had to settle down an altercation. One of the inmates said to me, “This is our home, and you only leave at the end of the day because we let you.” At nineteen years old I had seen and felt pain that most people my age would not experience for a long time, if ever. Those experiences only brought me closer to God. During that year one of my peers and friends from FOCUS, Kurt Doty, never lost touch with me and checked up on me regularly. I find it funny that when I had real questions to ask about faith and religion, God provided me a friend who could help me. God has always met me where I was, and although I could not see it until I started 
searching, I think the patience in the people God has blessed me with has truly exhibited what the Church is meant to be."

Ismael Garza (Senior, University of North Texas, Music Education)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Hello friends,

As promised I'll talk about SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) in this post. We brought 11 woman from UTD to SICM, and those are the people that I mainly talked to during the week. SICM is 6 days of classes. The students are either there from 9am-5:30pm or 9am -9pm. As you can imagine a common response during the week was they were a little overwhelmed. You hear so many profound things, and you're trying to soak it all up. But every single one of those girls also said they loved the experience. Right now I'm in the process of having conversations with girls that I think could lead a small group next year. I met with one of the girls who went to SICM this week, and I asked her about her experience. I really wished that I had recorded what she said. It was very powerful how excited she was about talking through what God had done while she was there. She reminded me of an instance that happened Tuesday night while we were there. The students have long days both Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday night we have this worship activity to help prepare the students hearts and minds to go out on campus and do evangelism. We finished up the night with some songs, and I was personally ready to go. It's been a long two days, and I'm tired. But the students started chanting for an encore!!! This is the only time I've ever seen this happen, and I've been to SICM 4 times now. It didn't dawn on me how cool that was, though, until this girl brought it up and said "these students have been doing 12 hour days, yet they weren't ready to leave yet! They wanted to stay and continue to worship Jesus." The Spirit always really works on this trip, and it's so encouraging to go and watch how God impacts people. I'm not the best story teller, though, so I asked Alayna Thomas, one of the girls who went to SICM from UTD, to write about her experience there. I really hope that this story encourages you as well. P.S. I tried to find photos besides the one on the post card. I had no luck, though:(

A Reflection of What God Taught Me at SICM
June 3, 2017 | Alayna Thomas

God can and does meet us where we are at. I have learned that He sometimes needs to pull us away from the distractions to fully have our attention. SICM was my pull. I needed to leave familiar Texas to encounter my unchanging God in an unfamiliar place. In the Pacific Northwest, He shaped mountains (foothills actually, per my host mom) and He caught my attention with their beauty.

At SICM, I rediscovered God's divine goodness, faithfulness, and provision. Before the week of classes, I believed that discipleship and evangelism were occupational tasks for those called into ministry. But God taught me two very important things in Bellingham, WA:
  1. Sharing the GOOD NEWS is not a vocation; it is a lifestyle.
  2. God calls us daily to take up our crosses and follow Him. He calls us to go and make disciples of all nations.

As one of my youth pastors preached in middle school, God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called. If we choose to disqualify ourselves, less people will encounter God. His goodness, faithfulness, and provision are not truths to keep to ourselves, rather truths to bless others.

One afternoon amid classes, the SICM schedule included on-campus evangelism. I was terrified. My anxiety was so rampant that prayers for peace didn’t bring my pulse down. I was so convinced that my conversations with Whatcom Community College students were small tests. If I failed - whatever failure looks like - then I obviously didn't learn anything at SICM.

God is able and willing to meet us where we are at. He met me in the anxiety that I wouldn't surrender. He embraced me in the inadequacy that I conjured in my mind.

After about two hours of evangelism at WCC, our team of 12 students (six pairs) rejoined to debrief. It was evident that God worked through us. Yet I still convinced myself that I didn't do "well enough."

That feeling stuck with me until Sunday night, when my friend and I were on our way to the airport. (We stayed an additional 36 hours in Washington to see more of Seattle before coming back to hot Texas. The hotel we lodged at provided shuttle service to the airport.) All day Hollee and I shared stories of stresses that were waiting for us back home. God was not invited to the conversation. We also discussed how we were still uneasy about evangelism; we were disappointed that we weren't naturals at approaching strangers.

After an afternoon of sight-seeing, we arrived back at the hotel three hours before our flights. Might as well get there early, we thought. So, we picked up the luggage and waited for the shuttle. Hollee and I were the only two hotel guests headed to the airport. Our driver was very friendly and conversational, and we were still full from a week of God's great love.

Sem, the shuttle driver, asked what brought us to Washington.

"A Christian leadership conference," I said. Hollee saw his eyes light up through the mirror.

"Oh?" he asked. "So what did you learn at this conference?"

We told him all the basics, not knowing whether he was a believer. Discipleship, evangelism, leading small groups, developing spiritual friendships. Our feelings of evangelical inadequacy surfaced.

Sem eagerly began to tell stories of God's amazing life transformations. Sem is a strong Christian man who has devoted his life to say yes to God. He is involved in his church and faithfully keeps his job as the shuttle driver because of his ability to minister to hundreds of guests each month.
Hollee and I were in audibly visual awe. “Wow, God is good.”

I can't even attempt to write out the stories that Sem shared. God tells him to have conversations, and he has them. Homeless men, addicted women, tourists and Washingtonians alike have come to see Jesus because of Sem’s obedience. He humbly gave praise to our King, and not his own works.

His stories were so plentiful, that we rode the shuttle for two loops to the airport. We had the time. Once we made it back to the airport a second time, we sat in his shuttle for another 20 minutes or so. Before we left, God used Sem to very clearly give Hollee and I imparting advice.
"The Holy Spirit is living inside of you," Sem said. "Every encounter that people have with you is a physical encounter with God."

God can and does meet us where we are at. He calls us to not stay still, but to move as He moves. We are all His children, and He wants us to come home. He wants us to bring our friends over for playdates. He wants to adopt the lost and heal the sick. God calls us to invite people to the table, so that they too may taste and see that He is good.


I hope you enjoyed that. Thanks for making this experience possible for all the students who went! I'm so excited to see what they do with everything they learned when school starts.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Hi friends,

It's sad to say that our school year has officially ended. I've been blessed in so many different ways this year. It's been a stretching, uncomfortable, growing year, and I've learned so much because of it. Here are some of the blessings I've gotten to experience this year:

I got to work on the UTD FOCUS team. This group of people is just so fun! They are hard working, God fearing, and so funny. They provide an amazing support base. In particular, Mandy has really helped me think through so many important things this year and helped me be a better minister.
Laurence Glenesk, Brandon Worsham, Sirak Asfaw, Mandy Lanciani,
 Me, Kristin Ransom, Sandra Salvador, Peter Ueng

The picture below is our UTD/Richland/TWU Dallas leader team. These are the people that you've been praying for throughout this school year! They have put in so much hard work, and I can say confidently that they finished the year strongly. 

This is my quirky group of girls that I had the privilege of mentoring this year. It is so true when people say that the people they mentor teach them more! I think that these girls challenged me and called me to be a better, more purposeful minister in so many different ways. I'm already excited for next year. I've just been thinking through all the things that I could change and improve upon, and I'm itching to try those things out!

The picture below was taken at a Ranger's game. It is all woman from the TWU Dallas campus. You can't see me or Tirzah in the picture, but we were definitely there. I wanted to share this photo with you as an encouragement. I don't think I've shared very much with you guys about how that FOCUS plant has gone. TWU Dallas is mainly a nursing school, but they also have some graduate programs as well. It's a community school, and it has very little campus life. All the people who go to this school are incredibly busy! Every semester for the nursing students is so hard, and they are putting in tons of hours trying to pass and get everything done. Needless to say we've been having challenges with consistency and building strong community there. I can't even describe to you how cool and much of a God deal that it was that this many girls came to this game. Slowly God is bringing His kingdom to this campus and showing these students that He is still the Lord of their life, even in this chaotic, stressful, demanding time of their lives. I can't wait to see how God continues working on this campus, and I want to ask that you continue praying that community would keep growing and developing here. 

To end I'd like to share our student testimony of the April with you! I hope it encourages you, and next month I'll share with how SICM went!

"God has used the community in FOCUS to make me a better friend to those around me. Throughout high school I struggled with making genuine and lasting friendships. I had certain people I would spend time with, but there was no depth to our relationships. By the time I graduated, I sadly realized that I had no peer-friends who cared about what I was going through. In addition to this, I found it hard to empathize with those around me. It was a difficult experience that taught me the value of true, real friendship. During my first 
semester of college, I was involved in a car accident with my parents and three younger siblings. Those next two months were some of the darkest times of my life. I recall sitting in the emergency room and my small group leader, Nicki, calling to see if I was okay. I can’t remember what either one of us said, but I do remember in that moment feeling loved and cared for in a profound way. It was so precious to me. After some time in the ministry, my youngest sister, Emily, told me that she didn’t know what healthy friendships looked like until she saw how I 
interacted with my co-facilitator. God was shaping the kind of friend he wanted me to be, and through it, He was impacting the people around me! I am so excited to go on this journey that God has called me to: loving and serving those around me like Christ!"

Catherine Long (Sophmore, Richland College, Echocardiography)

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Hi friends,

I've been praying that you're all doing well. I can't believe that it's already April, and the school year is coming to an end. It's bitter sweet. I'm obviously excited for summer and a change of pace, but I'm sad to say goodbye to the year. So many of the people I've been working with are going to go back to their home towns for the summer. 

Anyway I'll jump in and tell you a few things that happened in March. 

SSI Week

This is the amazing team that volunteered to do evangelism for a week on a campus they don't attend!  These students came from Washington state to show our campus Jesus, and it is just so incredibly encouraging to have them. I think I can get really excited about outreach at the beginning of the semesters as we're welcoming students to the campus. After that I just kind of forget that outreach is important. I will push that aside to begin building relationships that I've made. SSI helps to remind me that outreach is something that I can and should be doing more often throughout the semester and not just isolating it to the beginning. 

This year we've been experimenting with our outreach some. Normally we have these display boards that will have a spiritual question on it. We'll ask people walking by whether they want to answer our question, and we hope that people will stay and keep up a conversation. This year we've tried to do some more relational things. We set up different games outside, and we invited people to hangout and join us. I've almost been shocked at how successful this has been. We had several people coming to hangout with us throughout the week; we had people start coming to core from this or start coming to FNF. I'm already excited for next year to start, so we can start outreach all over again!

Spring Showcase

I hope you were able to attend our annual Spring Showcase. It was such an incredible show! We do this every year to help raise funds for students going to the Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM). It was a huge success! We had about 1000 people attend, and we were able to raise $18,000 in one night. Thank you so much if you were able to donate in some way to this.

Student Testimony

"When I first moved to Denton, I wanted to find a church group that I could connect with like the one I had back home. I prayed fairly frequently for a church at first, but after a few months I gave up. I started to feel extremely lonely and somewhat depressed without my former church family nearby. A little over a year later, I was invited to FOCUS by my roommate, Brad. At that point I wasn’t a student so I felt strange going to FOCUS. But Brad was persistent, and he invited me to his Core as well. It was in that Core that I began to feel the sense of community I had lost. I had a group of guys opening up to me and giving me the opportunity to do the same. My Corefa asked me about my plans and goals for the future and I told him, at that time, I didn't really plan for the future. He asked me about school, and I told him I wasn't interested in school. I thought it was silly and a financial waste. He brought this conversation up multiple times, and I always shut him down by telling him I had no reason to go to school, but I could tell it was important to him. I finally asked him why he cared so much about something I could care less about, and he told me he cared about my future. I finally decided to hear him out and he started talking to me about North Central Texas College. We researched NCTC 
together and found it had programs I was interested in. We also knew that FOCUS was wanting to build a ministry there. I was afraid to become a student, still using finances as an excuse, but so many people were willing to walk me through the financial aid process. After making the decision to become an NCTC student, I committed to being a leader as well. God not only answered my prayer for community, but also radically changed my life as a student and a disciple."

Jon Smith (First Year, North Central Texas College, Web Design)

Prayers & Conclusion

Thanks so much for supporting me and this ministry. Our fundraising season is about to start up, and I'd like to ask you to be praying for that. It can be really scary to go out and ask people to partner financially with you. It took me a little while to get more comfortable with it, so I ask that you pray for boldness for our new apprentices as they're experiencing their first fundraising season.

This year I'm looking to increase my monthly support by $500, and I need a little help from you. Here are three ways that you can help me:

1. I really need prayers throughout this process
2. I'm trying to think of some new people to ask to join my ministry support team. I would really appreciate it if you could think and pray about whether you know of any people who would want to join.
3. You could increase your support. Even a little bit of an increase helps!

Anyone of these things is incredibly helpful, and again I really, really appreciate your heart for giving. I can't thank you enough for letting me do what I get to do and work with the people I work with!

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Hi friends,

I've been praying that you're all doing well. I feel like February and now half of March has flown by. We started off our semester trying to figure out who we were going to invite to the Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM). I'm sure most of you have heard of this. If you don't know what SICM is, it's a leadership conference in Bellingham, Washington that we send some of our potential leaders. It is an amazing experience; I went as a student, and I've gone every year that I've been on staff. I still take away so much from it. In February all the staff met with the potential leaders, then we made the invites and got all the people registered. It was a lot of work, but I'm so excited for those people and for this trip!

Another special thing that happened in February was our Pizza Theology over race. If you weren't able to attend, I'd highly recommend taking the time to listen to it. We had several people from our ministry share about their experiences with race, and it was so incredibly impactful to hear. All of the people who shared were so articulate and vulnerable. Click here if you'd like to listen. 

The last thing I'd like to share is probably my favorite thing to happen in February. I GOT MARRIED!!!!! Thank you for those of you who were able to make it, and we wish you could have made it for the ones who couldn't. Married life has been really great so far, and we can't believe that a month has already passed. This has probably been one of the smoothest roommate transitions I've ever had. Below are some photos of our wedding that aren't on Facebook. Hope you enjoy:)



This week we're about to have students from Bellingham, Washington fly here and spend a week doing outreach on several of our campuses. I'd like to ask that this is in your prayers throughout the week.

I'll leave you will this student testimony; I hope it encourages you:)

"I grew up in Vietnam with Buddhist parents. My aunt shared the gospel with me and my brother, and I became a Christian when I was around six. Looking back, I can see how God was pursuing me and leading me to grow in my relationship with Him by giving me a desire to go to church.
        When I came to America, my host families helped me grow in my faith. My parents came to visit me and my brother after a couple years. My parents thought that because we were thankful to God, we were not thankful to them, and they were really angry. They were in Vietnam working hard to provide for me and my brother to go to school in the States. They made us choose: we could stop following God and they would continue to support us financially, or we could follow God and He would support us. My brother and I chose God. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to transfer to UTA, but God provided a way. My parents, after my aunt spoke with them, decided to continue supporting me until I graduate. My relationship with my parents has changed a lot since that conversation. In some ways, I feel like they disowned me and my brother. My parents aren’t really my family anymore. But FOCUS has since filled that role, and the people in this community have become my family. FOCUS has challenged me to go outside of my comfort zone and invest in people. It has been a safe place for me to have hard conversations. Because of FOCUS I have deep friendships. I was accepted to a nursing school in Florida, and seriously considered going, but decided to stay at UTA because I saw what God was doing on this campus. I have so much to be thankful for and can see the great things that God is doing in my life and in those around me."
Hallie Tran (On the left, Junior, University of Texas at Arlington, Nursing)

Thanks so much for all your support! :)

Monday, February 6, 2017


Hello friends,

I hope you had a great January! I know I saw a lot of you guys at our Winter Camp at the beginning of the month. If you weren't able to go, you should check out our website. We recorded all the speakers, and they did such an amazing job! We talked about being the people of God. I asked a number of different students what they took away from Winter Camp, and there was just a wide variety of things that I was told. I heard that every speaker was someones favorite speaker which was just so cool to know that our students were impacted.

Also here is an unbelievably encouraging video that one of the UTA students made about Winter Camp.

I wanted to share some about a student I've gotten to work with some this year. I started doing FOJ with a girl last semester, and it started out as one of the hardest studies. She came from a very fundamentalist background, so I think in general we just had different view points on things. I would kind of ask her reasoning on things or push back on something she had said, and she would just shut down. It made for a pretty rough beginning. Honestly I thought this girl would just stop showing up to our meetings, but she remained so faithful. I switched how we talked about things and what we talked about. I figured out that she responds way better over text message than any other form of communication. It would be super awesome to share that my change has impacted her so much, but it really hasn't. I just tried to back way off and just be a friend to her. God on the other hand has just been rocking this girls world, and it has been so encouraging to watch. I saw him bring some different friends in her life that were the ones who helped her think through different things. I saw him slowly change her heart from being closed off to challenging conversations to her actively seeking out what he says about different subjects. We recently did an FOJ study on Rebirth. This study mainly explores baptism and the rebirth that happens when we choose Jesus as our Lord. I asked her at the beginning to just tell me her theology on baptism. She told me that she used to have very clear thoughts on it, but now she didn't really know what to think. I can't even express to you how cool that statement was to hear from her! Every now and then I just need a reminder from God that he's the one who's really doing the work. I'm there to participate and love people and am just so incredibly blessed to get to see him changing lives.

I also have two prayer requests:
1. There are a few different girls in our ministry right now struggling with making Jesus Lord. They've said they believe in Jesus, but they're actively choosing to still live in sin. Will you pray that they choose to not say they trust Jesus but to put that trust into action?
2. There is a girl in the ministry right now who just really needs friends. She has a few people in her life, but it's pretty hard for her to actually trust people. Long story short, another girl in the ministry hurt her, and that has just kind of seriously impacted her. Will you pray that God would heal some old wounds that have happened and that he would restore her trust in people? Will you also pray that God helps her leave this community with some life long friendships?

Student Testimony
Josh Carp (Senior, UTD, Electrical Engineer)

"Before coming to college, I was in a desperate search for friendships. I had been the unfortunate recipient of a drug-induced fight. One night, people who I thought were my friends got high on cocaine while we were hanging out. All it took was a dispute over a petty difference to send one of them over the edge, and it ended with me getting choked until I passed out. Thankfully, God brought me through that alive. However, this incident led to bitterness, rumors, and the loss of mutual friends. So, I ended high school not having many people that I considered friends. After all that, I was ready for college.

Going into my Freshman year at UTD, I made it a priority to seek out friendships and Christian community. I found out about an event that FOCUS was having during welcome week and went to check it out. There I met Sagar Gandhi who, after just one conversation, invited me over to his house to play FIFA (a soccer video game). I was taken aback by this generous invitation and willingness to invite me into his life when he knew very little about me. I decided to go to Sagar's core and get more involved in FOCUS, where I developed strong friendships. Praise God for Sagar Gandhi's invitation, the friendships I have made, and for how much leaders in FOCUS have taken time out of their busy schedules to pour into a broken and unimpressive sinner, like me, ever since!"

Thanks so much for all your prayers and support!

Sunday, January 1, 2017



I hope your December has gone well! I hope that you got to spend time with your family, and it was relaxing and restful. I hope you were able to reflect on the wonder and absurdity that God became flesh and dwelt among us, and I hope that the beginning of your new year is full of excitement and possibilities!

I explained in my last blog that December is a little slower for us, so I've had plenty of time to sit and think. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the year and my ministry:

This December I feel like I've just been rethinking what it means to do ministry. This year I've had the privilege to do a bookclub that Brandon leads with the first and second year staff. I've been able to read some very challenging and, at times, emotionally jarring material. Recently we just finished a book called Inside Out by Dr. Larry Crabb. The premise of the book is that real change happens when we look on the inside and really allow God to take control of the deepest parts of ourselves. Sounds simple, but it really isn't. I think I've begun to learn recently just how much I hold back from God. I keep my inner desires and ways of thinking about my peer team girls and how I minister as well as everything in between in some way or fashion from God. As I've noticed that tendency in myself, I've also begun to notice it in those around me, especially my peer team girls. The more I see, the more I criticize, and I'm once again shown how I try to take control from God. If God is in control, I think my response would be one more of grace and compassion, not cold calculation. So yes, these discoveries leave me with the question, what is real ministry? Is it constantly trying to better yourself? To become a good person? Is it trying to make others good people? To better them? Does ministry become a set of rules and regulations to teach? Writing it out like that it's easy to see that those things are absurd! From reading the gospel, I believe that Jesus came for much different reasons than those, and I think his ministry reflects that. He came for relationship. Ministry is not a bunch of axioms to teach or a self help book, a lesson on how to pick ourselves up from our boot straps. I'm not saying those things are bad; I'm saying those things are not central. This revelation, or conviction, then begs the question, then why do I try to reverse those things? Relationships are messy. and I find that I don't often see a clear, solid progression towards whatever goal I may have. If I don't see movement forward, then I feel as if my time, as well as the person I'm trying to 'minister' to, has been wasted. That ideology seems backwards when reading Luke 10: 38-42. In this passage we see a screenshot of two options I think we're faced with constantly. Martha has opened her home to Jesus, and she's busy bustling around trying to do things for him and his disciples. She get's lost in her preparations and begins to feel injustice at the fact that her sister, Mary, isn't helping her; instead she's sitting idly at the feet of Jesus and his disciples. Martha goes up to Jesus and asks him "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" Jesus' response is kind, yet piercing. He says "Martha, Martha you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Mary chose relationship, and Jesus would not let that be taken away from her. I don't think I'm anywhere near answering the question "what does it mean to do real ministry," but I think I'm beginning to start asking the right questions.

I wanted to wrap up now with a story from one of our students.

Student Testimony

I would be remiss to not share this with you guys. I think hearing from people on how God has and is changing their lives is what keeps us all going forward on this incredibly difficult walk towards Christ. 

"Before College, I spend a vast majority of my time at church, from volunteering to mission trips. After graduating, I was nervous about what Christian community would look like now that I had to find it for myself. I prayed for a group of friends who cared about me. I was at the gym six weeks into my freshman year and while I was working out on the treadmill, something made me turn around (while running 80% speed) and I saw a banner for FOCUS. I visited that Friday night and stayed because people sought out His Word, ways to practice His teachings and made Christ-likeness a lifestyle-specifically, Autumn Priestly, a senior at the time I joined FOCUS. I constantly asked myself "why would someone who's about to leave college want to spend time with me"? She spent time with me because of the lessons she learned through FOCUS. As I make my transition into the "real world" and become a teacher, I will remember to seek to understand then be understood when working with students, parents, and other teachers. I will look at my students and love them. I will consider their needs and provide for them, whether that means that I attend their sporting events or support them through tough times. I will show them who Jesus is through my teaching, patience, and discipline on and off the podium. It's because of my involvement in FOCUS that I am about to know what it looks like to be a disciple in the "real world."

Chiazo Akagha (Senior, University of North Texas, Choral Music Education)

Thanks for all you do! Your support and prayers really are life changing!