Sunday, July 8, 2018

I Got Married! (Among other things)

So the biggest news of the past month is that I married Sarah on June 30, 2018. It was a wonderful day with so many of our friends and family in attendance. We spent the next few days in San Diego and Anaheim, CA, enjoying the much cooler weather. We've spent the last couple of days working hard at getting our new home put together. I'm looking forward to settling into some sort of routine.
Neil, my best friend growing up, came with his sweet family.
We spent a day at Disneyland and had a blast

Luke, one of the students I mentored this year, is from San Diego. He and his family hosted us for a wonderful dinner one night. It was one of our favorite parts of the trip!

Plans for July


This month, I'll be hard at work getting things prepared for the year. We're finishing up building our largest student leader team ever at UTD, which will be led by our largest staff team ever at UTD. We are planning to try out some creative things this fall--starting a second weekly service on Tuesday nights and having some cores meet at a variety of non-traditional times and places. Be praying for these experiments, that we'll learn a lot and that they'll help us connect with an even more diverse group of students. I'll have more to say about all of this in the next couple months.

Student Testimony


Harrison Wijaya, Collin College - Spring Creek, Finance Major, Freshman
"When I came to the United States from Indonesia, I was pretty concerned about what life would be like. I immediately assumed I’d have a pretty lonely time at Collin. I heard about FOCUS but wasn’t really interested since I didn’t have a connection point. Interacting with strangers had never been my strong suit. Little did I know that God was listening and was ready to meet my needs. My first day on campus I met Graham, who told me about his involvement with FOCUS and introduced me to his friends. He followed up with me, and that was a huge way God started giving me a vision for what my life could look like.

"Through one-on-ones and pastoral messages, this community has taught me the impact of
reflecting Christ in every word I speak and action I take. Through my friendships, I’ve been shown how we can best love one another by putting all our efforts into blessing strangers like me. I've also had the opportunity to honor God at home by getting to live with five other guys from our community. Being in FOCUS, I’ve learned that God wants to open my eyes and heart to truly be shaped into someone who loves Him and those around me in all areas of my life."

I want to thank you once again for sharing this vision and strengthening it with your prayers and your financial generosity!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Back from SICM

Javi's experience speaks to the experience of many who have grown up in the church--what will college hold for me in terms of my faith?

Javiera Pinochet, Richland College, Sophomore, Social Work
"I was very hopeful for what God was going to do during my first semester in college. I did, however, have a lot of anxiety about my professors, whether or not I would build Godly friendships, and how I would find a good Christian community. In the past, I’ve struggled with making friends--I think because I feared rejection. My fears made it hard for me to actually open up and connect with others, either in a spiritual or non-spiritual way. When the Club Fair came around at Richland, I went up to the FOCUS booth and talked to Sandra, one of the campus ministers at Richland. I found what I was looking for! I have built spiritual relationships that have become a second family to me. I have made unexpected friendships through serving on the worship team at UTD and doing a one-on-one Bible study. That’s the beauty of FOCUS--they love on you and challenge you to be more like Jesus. This year, the theme was ‘'Send Me'. This has become a theme for my life because I feel the need to share the love of Christ. Thankfully, I was able to attend SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) where I was trained to do just that! Top-notch teachers taught us all sorts of things about what it looks like to be a missionary to our campuses. I want to thank FOCUS for believing in me and equipping me to be a “sent-one!”

SICM


As Javi mentioned, we recently took an amazing group of young students to the Student Institute of Campus Ministry for a week of training. It was a GREAT group from FOCUS and has filled me with excitement for our leadership team this coming school year. Please be in prayer for our staff and these students as we have conversations about whether leading a core this coming school year is a good fit for them. That's one of the most important things that happens during the summer.

Peter, Laurence, and I got to stay in a really nice house and be "dads" to this great group of guys during SICM this year. I think every one of them will be a great leader to impact others for the kingdom!
At the end of SICM, I had the honor of baptizing Charlie in Lake Whatcom. Someone caught this epic hair toss on camera afterward.

Summer FOCUS


During the summer, we have one meeting for the students who are still in town. I missed the first one, but a friend sent these encouraging pictures. You can always check out the sermons to hear what we're teaching on the website under resources and media.


Thanks for your prayers and financial support--you guys make this all possible! Another big prayer request: we're making plans to start a second weekly service on a different night of the week at UTD this fall. We hope this will help us reach a wider group of students, especially commuters who aren't on campus on Fridays when we meet. Please be praying for wisdom and discernment as we plan the details and for all the complicated room reservations that will have to fall into place!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Bittersweet End of Another School Year

We've spent the last few days saying "thank you" and "goodbye" and celebrating all the cool things the Lord Jesus has been doing in our midst through his Spirit this year. Friday night we had a time of open sharing where the students told story after story of how lives were impacted through this community. You would have been so encouraged to hear all of them!

Meeting weekly with Luke, Austin, Casey, and Jesse has been a highlight of my year!
All of our cores have been having their last meetings as finals get underway. The four student guys I had the pleasure of mentoring in their leadership have done such an amazing job! Both cores are sending potential leaders to SICM next week, and all four of these leaders are planning to serve in leadership again next year--two at UTD, one at UTA, and one on our staff at Richland. I don't think I've ever had such an actively sweet group of young men in my peer team. They have each purposefully and consistently encouraged me this year. My heart is full just thinking about what a blessing they've been to me and what a blessing they've been to the other students they reached out to and loved in the name of Christ this year.

Thank you!


So many of you invested in our next generation of student leaders through the Spring Showcase or otherwise giving scholarships for SICM. The Showcase raised $17,759.20 in one day! We should be in great shape paying for everyone who needed help.

We leave for SICM in Washington next Thursday, May 10, with a group of 135. So please say a prayer for safety and that God will work mightily as He always has!

Student Testimony

Bekwele Wodi, Texas Woman’s University, Psychology, Sophomore
"I first became involved with FOCUS when I was just starting out at Collin College. I had been living in Nigeria for a few years, so I was walking into a college experience where I didn’t know anyone. I worried a lot about not being able to find any meaningful friendships while I was there. So it came as a surprise when some old friends of mine, LorĂ© and Gibby Yessuff, invited me to a Thursday Night Fellowship. From that first night of fellowship, I made more friends than I could have prayed for. People asked me to sit with them, scheduled time to hang out with me, got to know me, and challenged me as a disciple. It became clear to me that this was not only an example of authentic Christian community; this was the way Jesus called us to do friendships—intentional, genuine and loving.

Through the many friendships I’ve been blessed with in FOCUS, God has changed my fear and worry of not having any friends into a desire to grow and develop friendships at TWU. I am beyond thankful when I see what he is doing in the lives of students here and for the example of Christian friendship that I’m now able to extend to others."

One More Cool Story

One of our alumni works on a missions team in Thailand, and she sent us this picture of some of her team listening to our fall Pizza Theology on the Sermon on the Mount together and taking notes. So your investment is making an impact overseas as a piece of FOCUS goes to Thailand!


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Three Cool Things From March

Just a quick reminder that Spring Showcase, our annual fundraiser concert and art show to raise money to send students to SICM, is this weekend! If you are in town, it's well worth your time. There will be both an afternoon and an evening show this Saturday (the 7th of April). Go to anyfocus.org/showcase for more information.


Student Testimony

I had the privilege of being at Sienna's baptism a couple of weeks ago. She has a neat story!

Sienna Walter, UT Dallas, Business Administration, Freshman
"When I first came to college, I was worried about finding a good, Christian community on campus. Luckily, I had a friend from home invite me to FOCUS at the beginning of the year, introducing me to a community that radiated acceptance and spread God’s light throughout campus. Right away, I felt immediately included and got involved in a small group, which provided me a great community of believers and friends. Establishing this strong base at the beginning of the year eventually helped me through the tough times I faced later on; I was confronted with many things I had never been tempted with before during my first semester. That semester, while in a musical, I was around many older people who frequently drank. I drank a couple of times and justified my underage drinking while judging others for falling short in the same way. In my family and high school, I had been labeled the “good kid”. I had never built up the self-control against these inclinations and felt ashamed when I gave in to temptation. However, with the help of my Corefas and friends in FOCUS, I was able to stop these bad habits before they became too serious and find forgiveness through Christ. Now, rather than judging others who struggle with that temptation, I can empathize with them and share how God used FOCUS to help me overcome my own obstacles!"


The FOCUS Podcast


Have you listened to an episode of our podcast yet? Sirak and Sarah are doing a great job of bringing content that will minister to you far beyond college. Recently they interviewed Dr. Jeremy Bergstrom, the Episcopal priest who is our main contact for starting the ministry at SMU. Their conversation about church tradition and liturgy really ministered to me, especially as someone who is generally unfamiliar with so much of that. Jeremy didn't grow up in a liturgical tradition--in fact, he has attended Baptist, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican seminaries after growing up Methodist, so he has a broad and grace-filled perspective on much of the Church today. 

You can find it at anyfocus.org/podcast or under "The FOCUS Podcast" on iTunes or Stitcher, among others.


Spring Break Service

A bunch of UTD students made time over spring break to serve others. These projects were totally student planned! They:
  • baked for sick kids at the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas 
  • sorted enough food for 4,000 meals at North Texas Food Bank
  • created and distributed 100 care packages and over 100 sandwiches to the homeless in Dallas and Plano
  • sang to and chatted with some sweet elderly people
  • helped organize warehouses for two different organizations
  • ministered to over 100 inner city kids with Dallas Metro









Thanks for your support to keep me on campus developing young leaders. It's a joy. It's important. And I couldn't do it without all my financial and prayer partners!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

You're Invited to Spring Showcase!

The 2018 Spring Showcase is coming up in just a couple weeks, and it's shaping up to be an amazing show! If you're going to be in the Dallas area, we would love for you to join us as we showcase some incredibly talented young people in a concert and art sale. This year, we've moved the event to Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, and we'll be having 2 shows instead of just one on April 7, at 3pm and 7pm.

All of this supports students who will be going to SICM in May but can't afford the entire $715 price tag on their own. We use this event to supplement and make the trip possible for all of them. We have around 115 prospective student leaders going to SICM this year. Our biggest group yet!

You can buy tickets online here or at the door. I hope to connect with you there!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Teaching about Christ's Return

We had 475 students show up for 4 hours of teaching past Sunday!

Pizza Theology - Ready or Not... Here He Comes!

We had a great night of teaching this past Sunday looking at what the scriptures teach about Christ's return and what it means to live in light of that. Sarah King took us through the entire story of the Bible, showing how it all anticipates an ending where God shows up to make things right again. Then I had the privilege of talking through Matthew 24 & 25, Jesus' last great sermon in Matthew's gospel and his most sustained teaching on his coming back. Miriam Freeman from our Denton team then spent an hour helping us understand how to approach and think about the book of Revelation. And, of course, we had lots of pizza and fellowship in the middle!

If you'd like to listen to it, you can find it here.

The students were eager and engaged the entire time; they took lots of notes! They also had lots of questions afterward, and we are looking forward to addressing some of them in a future episode of our podcast. I'm consistently amazed that so many students consistently attend these 4-hour lectures. It shows that they have a deep desire to understand the Bible and the implications of their faith! Please pray for us as we are already thinking through what to cover in the two Pizza Theology events next school year.

Student Testimony

Devin Rardin, Junior, Journalism, UNT
"When I was growing up, I was too afraid, timid and shy to make many friends. My parents encouraged me to join the swim team in high school, and I finally found a group of consistent friends there. That time brought a lot of confusion about my own sexuality. My attempts to figure out my own sexuality caused me to have a selfish outlook on those friendships. I had a group of friends that I was grateful for, but I still never experienced deep and true relationships. My main goal as I began college was to make new friends. During my first week at UNT, Pedro Paz befriended me and started to build a relationship with me while introducing me to the FOCUS community. My desire to find friends kept me coming back to different FOCUS events, and I began to see God work in my life. Even though I didn’t know Him at the time, God was chasing after me. I saw myself start to change as I obtained a new understanding of friendship and sexuality. I saw God use people like Matt Clark, who was shy like me, to impact hundreds of people. God taught me how to be expressive while still using my quiet nature as a tool for discipleship. I have friends that have sacrificed so much to help me through my struggles. God’s love shone through these people and I was able to see that my own desires, deriving from my sexuality, would not bring the joy I searched for. I realized that I was searching for love, but God was always with me. He offers the most intimate and greatest love."

Final Note

We are also putting together what might be our biggest group yet for SICM, certainly our biggest yet from UTD. I'll have more on that in future months. Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement and support. It means so much to me and this ministry!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Some Big News!

Winter Camp Updates

The UTD Students at camp Whooshing. We had an amazing group from UTD this year and our biggest overall group ever!
Me with the 4 corefas I get to mentor this year (Austin, Jesse, Casey & Luke). I have fallen in love with these gifted young ministers. 
I got engaged in front of 600 screaming students! You can probably find the video on facebook if you haven't seen it yet. Sarah and I are planning to get married this summer.
A couple of my wonderful donors came to camp this year. Eileen has been a friend of my family since I was a very little boy, and she has been a big encouragement to me as a minister. Eric Anderson also came out, but I failed to get a picture with him!
I don't think Winter Camp could have gone any better. Geoff and Jessica Mumley came down from Washington State to share with our community about what it means to be "Sent." All the talks are online, but so many were especially touched by Jessica's first talk. I highly recommend you take the time to listen to it here.
Geoff and Jessica in front of the main building at Sky Ranch.

A Winter Camp Success Story - UNT Dallas

One of our students from Richland recently transferred to UNT Dallas (a newer campus in south Dallas). After hearing the messages at camp about living as a "sent one," she started reaching out to other people in her dorm. She realized that there is not a single Christian ministry on that campus, so she found a faculty advisor and some students and signed us up for an organization fair on campus. So I guess FOCUS is on 12 campuses now! Please be in prayer with us as we pray about which staff person can reallocate some time to support this excited young lady. I love when the Lord does our strategic planning for us.

An Update on Our Friday Night Teaching Times at UTD

Last semester we gave the students a pretty extensive survey about theological beliefs. As we looked through and prayed over the results, a few key areas of confusion and uncertainty stood out. So we have designed our sermons this semester to address these. Here's what we have planned:
  • We're almost done with a 4-week series from Laurence on God's heart for Justice. We've been studying how justice in the scripture is most often about God's expectation for his people to defend the rights of vulnerable people--in the Old Testament, these are most often orphans, widows, foreigners, and the poor. We've been focusing on certain vulnerable groups in our own society and reflecting on how God would have us treat them--the mentally ill, the poor, the incarcerated, and the elderly.
  • Next, Sirak will be talking about how to think about the relationship between faith and science. At the end of the series, he'll be interviewing some Christian professors from the natural sciences about how they have navigated that cultural schism.
  • Later in the semester, Sarah will be teaching a series on the Holy Spirit, perhaps the least understood member of the Trinity.
  • And for our Pizza Theology this semester, we'll be diving into the topic of the second coming of Christ. I'll have more about that next month!
Please be praying for those preparing to teach and for the students preparing to hear, that we would listen carefully to what God wants to say to us on these topics. Thank you for your prayers and support. Lives are being changed, and hearts are being turned toward God!

Student Testimony (from SMU!)

Candice Fudzie, Southern Methodist University, Freshman
Math, Environmental Engineering, and Sociology 
"This past semester, I was a 17-year-old girl who felt very overwhelmed with all that college had to offer. I deal with depression and anxiety. Throughout high school, these disorders tore me apart and made it extremely easy to block out my friends, my family, and God. I was going down a destructive path and, frankly, it’s by the grace and love of God that I am even alive. FOCUS has given me a community where I’m allowed to be vulnerable and transparent. FOCUS has helped me emphasize my personal relationship with God; now I’m sure to let him know how I’m feeling (something I couldn’t accomplish in high school). Due to my growing relationship with God, I’ve been able to see a clear and healthy path towards dealing with my depression and anxiety where He is a part of my journey. PRAISE God! Whether it's lying on the floor listening to “Build My Life” by Housefires, writing out my negative thoughts and turning them into positive ones, or calling my mom to tell her how I’m feeling, I remember the Spirit is with me to give me strength."

I Got Married! (Among other things)

So the biggest news of the past month is that I married Sarah on June 30, 2018. It was a wonderful day with so many of our friends and famil...