Monday, August 11, 2014

49 and 3

49! That's the number of of corefas (student small group facilitators) we have committed for UTD this school year. Each one of them will be a missionary to UTD--a missionary in the class rooms, in student housing, in the dining and common areas. We don't assign them a small group; they go out in the first weeks of the school year and meet as many as possible and invite them to be a part of the community they are building (think Jesus' parable about inviting people to the banquet in Luke 14). They will involve people, mentor them, teach them the Bible, and ultimately raise some of them up as leaders to replace themselves. And there are 49 of them! That's up from 36 last year. This is the fruit of your prayers and support from last year!

Our UTD staff will spend a huge chunk of our time this year mentoring and supporting these 49 young leaders. We'll help them plan their core meetings, equip them to mentor their peers, and plan all the events and services that support their mission so they can focus their limited time on reaching students.

That's the strategy we learned from Jesus--to give them lot's of real ministry experience before sending them out into the world. We hope they leave UTD with a clear vision for Christian community, with the skills to think pastorally and minister purposefully, with a heart for the people around them (not just their family and friends), and the experiential knowledge that, with Jesus, they can change someone's life.

It's exciting stuff, and it's snowballing!
There are a few missing because they are out of town, but this is the bulk of the UTD Corefa Team.
I remember when our whole ministry wasn't this big!
And 3. That's the number of email letters I got from recent FOCUS alumni over the weekend. You would be so encouraged to read about the impact your partnership has had over the past few years in these guys' lives, so I want to share some excerpts with you from each. Warning: These are kind of long, even after I cut them down.

1. The first is from an international student from India who recently took a job in another city after graduation. I was so encouraged by the way he sees his faith intersecting with every area of his life:
Initially when I left there was a lot of uncertainty about where I would go and who would be in my social circle and most importantly who would become my spiritual family. What I experienced through FOCUS was life changing and to call it one of the best spiritual experiences would be an understatement. So I did my research and with an open mind tried Lakeland Community Church... I felt welcomed into the community and immediately joined a small group led by one of the pastors. I got myself into an informal young adult's ministry and I am happy to say that I am part of a spiritual community...

Work had a rocky start but is challenging and I love it. I am indeed working hard and I am trying to learn more about the industry and contribute to make healthcare better. I find that even if this job is not as high paying I find it comforting to know that this is something I could do to help people and society as a whole... When I first got into the training program most of my friends told me that this company was tough and was not worth the effort, but I found out that God had a plan for me like He had one for Joseph in Egypt. He stood by me through my trials and helped me reach a place I could not get to by myself. I am happy and grateful for my job and I wish to excel in it.

I started training for triathlons and I find that the challenge that comes with it helps me to grow strong physically, mentally and spiritually. I enjoy the beauty of God's creation when go out on my bike and run. When I am in a lake I am overwhelmed by the resources that God has given us to protect and preserve.

2. The second is from an international student from China who gave his life to Jesus this Spring. After graduation, his company changed directions and he was laid off. That started a new phase in his walk with God:
Last two weeks was quite interesting for me. First lost my job, I am kind of freak out inside, calling everyone to see if they have any job information. It was a bad bad news to me. But now I do not think it’s bad, actually I feel happy about it. Without job, I do not have distractions, I have so much free time to read bible, to talk with more experienced Christians, and to seek god. It was wonderful to me that I feel god is finally revealing himself to me, or in another phrase, god is always with me, it was me who was obsessed with other things. I feel so strongly that god is calling me to evangelism, to make disciples. So here is me, honest and open to propose to be a corefa.

I will serve others without condition. I know I am not qualified to be a corefa, and probably never will be. I am only baptized two month ago, did not read bible from cover to cover, did not even finish FOJ, nearly no experience in doing evangelism. I’m probably the last person to be a corefa. But I cannot hold the feeling to be one. Be a Corefa is an honor with great responsibility. I was arrogant but I didn’t know (from Joe), but god made me humble. And I will humbly serve people. Without a servant heart, without the strong faith, it just won not work when things get hard, when I get tired, when everything goes south.

...[I'm cutting a lot here to be brief]...
I understand that it is tradition corefa are being selected, and it is kind of late to ask now. But I can not ignore the voice in my head, so I wrote this to you to show you that this decision has been thought through and I will stick to it. I know it is a risky move to let me be a corefa. But without risk there is no faith. So here I sincerely ask for the consideration. Make decision based on what’s best for the team.

"Without risk there is no faith." Whoa. Needless to say, this young man who is returning for grad school this year is our 49th student missionary!

3. The last is from a recent grad doing the FOCUS internship. The interns are in the process of reading the entire Old Testament in 7 days! He wrote:
The Old Testament reading had been extremely insightful. I've never read these books. It's great to get a understanding of what the Israelites went through. I also start to understand something Brad used to always say about reading scripture when he would say, "ask 'what does this teach me about the heart of God?'"... In terms of character growth, reading the OT and the other books has changed my attitude towards reading in a way I always hoped for but never achieved... I bought 3 books yesterday at the Plano book sale and already put a dent in those. Soon I'll need something I never thought I would: a book shelf... Discussion with the other interns is full of excitement. I can compare those conversations to those which I had with people the first time I studied FOJ [that's Focus On Jesus, our one on one Bible study]. It's certainly rejuvenated my first love. I feel like an Israelite with how much anticipation I have for the Messiah and New Testament to enter the picture.

Are you excited now?! I sure am! Thank you--your prayers and your missionaries are changing lives and changing these campuses for Jesus.

Developing Our Pastoral Team

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