Monday, July 13, 2020

Blessings in the Midst of Chaos

Hello,

I hope you're all doing well and are staying safe! I don't know if you feel this way, but this year just keeps getting crazier and crazier. Despite all the turmoil and chaos, this has been one of the most encouraging summers. 

I'm not going to lie, finishing the school year was so challenging. Switching to working at home/cancelling all of our events and figuring out a new way to do meaningful ministry virtually was overwhelming. Getting to the summer was both a relief and a stress. It was the former because it allowed for a break and the latter because the summer is when we begin planning for the Fall and building our new leader team. In this chaotic, constantly changing time, how do we plan for the Fall? That question is still a difficult one to answer, but, like I alluded to in the beginning, I have a few encouraging things I'd like to share while I've been in the process of trying to plan. 

1. God has blessed us with abundance


I'm not even sure how to say that the best way. I know lots of people have been really affected by world events lately, so the sentence feels wrong. So excuse me if that comes off inappropriately! 

Like I said previously we use our summers to build our leader team for the upcoming school year. In previous years this has been some discouraging work. Mandy and myself (the two main female pastors at UTD) would go and begin talking to woman about serving on our leader team, and we would consistently get told no. Mostly I believe that stems from fear, but there were definitely people who just couldn't do it. Being a Core Facilitator is a big responsibility. It takes up a lot of time, but more than that, leading people can be messy and challenging. When you step up into a leadership position, you have the capacity to influence people towards God and have a team of people there to help support you in the process of doing it. In so many ways that is good news and can be such encouraging work, but it can also be terrifying news! Students were worried that they wouldn't lead people well and wouldn't know how to help people. Mandy and I would talk through students fears with them, and let them know that they wouldn't be leading alone next year. Not only would they have another facilitator with them, but again, they have a team of people there to help support and train. Some people would change their minds and decide to commit to leading, and some people wouldn't. 

I explain all this because it's hard to see how this year is different without knowing how some other years have been. The past two years, building a leader team has progressively gotten more and more encouraging. We started having more and more people who were excited to bless the community the same way their Core Facilitators had blessed them the previous school year.  This year I was worried that the craziness of how the school year ended and the uncertainty of the next school year would put us back to the years where people wouldn't want to lead...

However we've experienced quite the opposite! I don't think I've had an easier summer trying to build a leader team. Almost every girl I've met with has been excited about the prospect of leading on campus this next year. In fact, this year we'll have the highest number of female corefas than we've ever had before!!! 

I could honestly continue with explaining how God has been abundant with us, but for the sake of brevity I'll just finish with the thought. This year has been riddled with fear and disaster, but I've continually been blown away at seeing God still moving. Maybe that's my unbelief popping out, but there were definitely times where I feared how things would turn out and maybe that's why seeing God has felt even more special. A reminder that in the darkest moments, God has not left:)

2. While some doors are closing, new doors are opening


Part of my job for the last 6 years on staff has been leading outreach on campus, and for the past two years, I've also been teaching the apprentice class on Evangelism. The past few years we've used a lot of events to reach out to people, so I'm sure you can image all the fears that have popped up when trying to plan for the school year. How are we going to meet people on campus? I'm not sure that I have an amazing answer to that question yet. We still don't even really know if people will be coming back to campus yet! And if they do, how will we be able to meet them when there will probably be no events? 

But with all this change of pace and increased ability to just sit and reflect, I think God has been closing a door in order to open a new one. For the past few years I've constantly felt like our outreach approach has been lacking, and every year I attempt to adjust. With more time to reflect, I realized what exactly has been the missing link. Our approach to outreach was event based, but we're not an event based ministry. One of our values is "one-on-one is how it's done." We know lives are changed through real, one-on-one relationships. Events help us meet new people in order to begin building these spiritual friendships, but the goal should always be one on one friendships.  And we don't need events in order to meet people! While we still have work to do in figuring out the details, I feel like God wants to do something awesome on campus this year!

Student Testimony

Hopefully that encouraged you as well! I entered the summer being very apprehensive, and I'm leaving it excited for what God wants to do on campus this year. It will definitely be a challenging year, but it will also be a year with unique opportunities. Thank you for all your support and prayers! I'll leave you with this student testimony.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Reflections and Updates

Hello,

I hope you're all doing well; I've been keeping you all in my prayers and hoping that this pandemic isn't having too big of an impact on you and your families.

A quick update: we officially ended this school year, and we've started up our summer activities, like Summer FOCUS and support raising. I'm honestly surprised by how well we've been able to keep going despite the craziness. But I would like to ask for some prayers. We're also beginning to plan what next school year looks like and build our leader teams, and I'd really like to ask you be in prayer for that. Especially since next school year is going to require a lot of adjustments. We always start out the school year with a big Welcome Week, which essentially is just us attending or putting on events in order to meet people and invite them to join core. Obviously events are most likely not going to be happening, so we're really trying to think through how to still caste our nets wide and meet people. Just be praying that God gives us wisdom on how to move forward and still be faithful to these people God has stepping onto campus in the Fall!

Ecclesiastes

I'm not really sure exactly how to talk about what God has been stirring in my heart, but this pandemic has really made me realize how little control we have. Over the years I've read the passage in James that says:

 "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it it is sin for them." 

I always thought that I understood that passage, but it wasn't until my whole life being turned upside down, slowed down, and reordered, that God really showed me how much I do boast in my plans. This passage reminds me of Ecclesiastes where the author is trying to get the reader to understand that life is fleeting; it's a vapor, here today, and gone tomorrow. The author ends with: 

"Now all has been heard; 
here is the conclusion of the matter: 
Fear God and keep his commandments, 
for this is the duty of all mankind. 
For God will bring every deed into judgement, 
including every hidden thing, 
whether it is good or evil."

This past semester I've just been thinking a lot about the question 'what is it I rely on? What does my life show is the most important thing?' Over the course of this pandemic, I've realized that I've begun finding... I'm not sure what the right word is, maybe peace or satisfaction or security... in busyness and what I can accomplish. I run around doing all these things for the Lord, but I haven't spent enough time slowing down and enjoying the little things, enjoying my time with the Lord. This life is fleeting. Our worries and troubles right now will seem so small as the years pass. If we're not careful, we'll be consumed by those worries or how fast life can fly by, and we'll miss the truly important things. 

Again, I don't know how this pandemic has affected you, but I would encourage you to take this time to slow down and spend sometime with God reflecting. It could be on the questions I've been pondering, but God may have some other things he wants to do in your time with him. 

If you want to reflect more on these ideas, there is a great youtube video that speaks more on this: Vapor Meditation.



Student Testimony

I just want to end by saying thank you for all your prayers and your support. I'm continuing to pray for you and your families. If you have anything specific you'd like me to be praying for, just let me know. Here is our student testimony for this month, and I hope you find it encouraging!

Monday, March 23, 2020

The World Turned Upside Down

Hello,

I hope you're all doing well and keeping safe. I've been spending a lot of time in prayer for you all and just what is going on right now.

I mainly just wanted to update you with how FOCUS is moving forward. We're still working and meeting with students; we've just moved everything to online until further notice. We're trying to figure out a way to do our weekly large group meetings on a virtual platform, but the rest of our events for the semester have been cancelled or we're trying to think of adequate replacement options. If you have any questions or want more information, just let me know.

Prayer

One of our alumnus wrote a prayer, and his sister, who is one of our UTD corefas this year, posted it to our corefa group chat for people who want to pray about what is going on, but don't know what to say or how to say it. I think it was really helpful, and I wanted to share it with you all. 
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Father, in this country we enjoy an abnormal degree of prosperity and stability. We confess we often idolize it. Mandy of us are unsettled to see the systems that afford us this comfort bend under the wight of the present situation. Many of us have not seen them bear this much strain in our short lives. We are used to hearing about tsunamis abroad and seeing mere ripples at our shores. But now we are seeing somewhat more than mere ripples, and this is a new learning experience for many of us. 

In some ways it is disillusioning, but it is good to be relieved of an illusion. Behind the illusion, the truth is that any day could be the day that our worlds are upended by a disaster, be it private or public. Teach us to live each day with an honest awareness of that reality, and peace from your Spirit in the face of it. Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

This is not new to you. Teach us to put our hope in you rather than stbility and comfort. To you the nations are like a drop in the bucket; they are like dust on the scales. Everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain we rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do we look for? Our hope is in you. You are our light and our salvation. What shall we fear?

In some of us this reveals idolatry, in some if reveals apathy towards other nations, in some it reveals a lack of trust in you, in some it reveals impatience and condescension towards others. Whatever it reveals in us, let us accept the revelation humbly and ask your forgiveness and cleansing.

Cultivate in our inner beings a new depth of quietness and peace. Help us not to get frazzles. Help us not to check our phones obsessively. Help us to distinguish meaningful developments from mere noise. Help us to think about it an appropriate amount and no more. Help us to determine the right precautions and take them not out of worry but out of love for our neighbors. May our peace be a true sign of your presence and care to the world around us. 

We remain confident of this: we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Amen

Further reading: Isaiah 40, Psalms 27, 39, 90

Student Testimony


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Updates!

Hello,

I hope you're having a great February! February is usually a pretty fun, eventful month for me because my wedding anniversary is on the 11th, we have Pizza Theology, and we are starting to find out who will say yes to going to SICM. This year, though, we moved Pizza Theology to April, and we're doing our Annual Spring Showcase in February which is even better. That is definitely one of my favorite events we do. If you've never been you should seriously consider going!
If you don't know what the showcase is, it is a fundraiser we put on every year to help send students to SICM. 100% of the proceeds goes to SICM! There is a live show where talented artists from our community sing, dance, and even some improve. And we'll also have an art sale in between the two shows. People sell candles, home decor, coffee, artisan treats, and so much more! This is definitely an event, you don't want to miss! You can buy your ticket at anyfocus.org/showcase

Also please keep this in your prayers. SICM costs a lot of money, and we really try to make sure that money is not an issue for our students. Pray that we raise what we need, and this event blesses everyone who has been so incredibly supportive of what we're doing.



Spring Welcome Week Update


In my last blog I asked you guys to pray for our Spring Welcome week events, and I just wanted to tell you guys they went so well (praise God). I've heard lots of stories of students we met from those events getting plugged in, and I'd have to say this has been the most "successful" spring welcome week in terms of just meeting people. I have some pictures of two of our events:

Coffee House

We had live music and free coffee and snacks, and we had a lot of people come out. 
We had corn hole
Some of our students started a game of signs

and invited new people to play














Bad Tattoos & Lawn Games

So we just invited people to play lawn games with us like corn hole or Montana golf. And we also offered to give them some fake tattoos with face paint crayons (the bad part was because none of us giving the tattoos could draw very well). It was pretty funny watching people play games and seeing what fake tattoos people chose.  



Winter Camp


My last update before ended is just that Winter Camp went so well. This year we talked about the Psalms, and I have to say it was really neat. I don't think I've spent much time thinking about the Psalms or how to use them in my relationship with God. Taking the time to talk about them gave me a new appreciation for them. If you'd like to give any of the talks a listen, you can go to the resource page on our website. 

Our UTD students

Our whole ministry as well as alumni and some of their children


And lastly I just want to give you a huge thank you! Your prayers and support are so instrumental in what we're doing on campus. We seriously couldn't do any of these neat things without you.

Student Testimony



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Spring Semester Welcome Week!

Hello friends!

I just wanted to give you all an update on how KFG did! We raised $92,269!!!!! Thank you so much for all your prayers and for your overwhelming generosity! We are definitely so blessed, and I'm so excited to see how God continues to use FOCUS for His mission.

Spring Welcome Week

Monday was UTD'S first day back for the Spring Semester. I seriously can't believe the break went by that fast! We are ready and excited to be back, though. There are alway transfer students, new international students, and a lot of students who may have needed a semester to become ready to hear the gospel and encounter community, so we're putting on 5 events this week to try and meet new people! 

  • 1/14 : Game Night @ 7p
  • 1/15 : Coffee House @ 7p
  • 1/23: Bad Tattoos & Lawn Games @11a
  • 1/24: FNF Kickoff @ 7p
  • 1/24: Zombie Tag @ 9:30
I just wanted to ask for your prayers! We hope that God really works in the students hearts on campus who are far from Him, so they're ready to receive him. And we hope that our students are ready and excited to meet those people!!!

Student Testimony