Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stories to Start the Year

Over the last month, I've heard some stories that I know you'll find so encouraging.

The first was in an email from Amy Knoles, a FOCUS alumna. She has played many roles in our ministry, but one of the most important was that she took the challenge a decade ago to help start our ministry outreach at Collin College. She was the first women's leader for FOCUS on that campus, and she felt very unqualified. But she stepped out on faith and did it anyway. One other key thing to know is that Amy has always had a soft spot in her heart for her much younger cousin Crysta. She has made major life decisions around being able to be near and invest in Crysta.  Crysta recently started college:

The other day Crysta was talking to me about going to Collin FOCUS for the first time and meeting people. A lot of people asked her how she learned about FOCUS and .... she proceeded to drop my name and tell them I was her cousin. Haha! Not that any of those students would have a clue who I am, but she liked getting to tell them I helped things get started at Collin. When I got off the phone it really hit me how amazing it all was. She has a ministry to go to on that campus because of something FOCUS did all those years ago...something I got to be a part of. For the first time it was really personal. It wasn't just amazing to look at the ministry...Crysta is actually in it! My family gets to experience God and family on that campus. It's because of people ... who have visions for people and hearts that follow God. God has rocked my world lately. This really encouraged me! So excited for what God has planned for Madison and Evan when they get to college ;-)
Thanks for everything, 

Amy's twins Evan & Madison--future FOCUS student leaders!
The second story is a little more sensitive, so I'll leave out some details and names. We recently got this message from an outstanding young lady we were planning on having as a new student leader this fall, explaining why should wouldn't be able to come back to school: 

After graduating in 2006 I focused on helping my family and began working ... until I got the opportunity to be the first person in my family to pursue a degree and go to the University of North Texas. My family has always struggled financially, and with me no longer working the strain has become even harder on my mother. Last year she got a title loan to help pay her rent, and recently her car, which is the only car my family had, was repossessed. Unable to pay my housing balance from last semester of $4,502.55, I thought I would be able to use my financial aid for the Fall 2014 semester to go towards that. I recently found out from the school that this isn’t possible and that the balance would have to be paid before my financial aid could be released. This past summer my family was basically homeless as they couldn’t afford to live in the apartment I had been renting before I left my job. We moved from hotels to inns and finally my sister’s house, so this amount isn’t something my mother can pay. My brother (who is also unable to attend college because of our financial situation), my mother and I were blessed to be able to move into a one bedroom apartment where I share a room and bed with my mom while my brother sleeps in the living room. The biggest loss for me isn’t just the opportunity to finish school but that I was able to make such great relationships with people and really start walking on the mission I feel God had set forth for me. One of my best memories was getting the chance to organize a conversation evangelism walk with one of my good friends. Five years ago when I was working for a company that made me feel trapped I never thought I would have the faith to go out and talk to people about God and the grace he gives us. I feel no matter what, that God has shown me so much in the small amount of time I spent in college, I’m just hoping and praying for the opportunity to continue that. I do feel that delayed doesn’t mean denied.

We started praying, and before we could come up with a response, another STUDENT who heard about the situation anonymously paid the $4500 bill. When we said we'd try to find others to help pay part of it, she told us "no," that God asked her to pay it all and that's what she wanted to do. So that young lady is back at school this fall and is leading a group of young women to know Jesus better!

I know many of you give financially to this mission, and I want you to know these students don't just take--they're becoming extravagant givers. They see your example and have taken up the challenge. And if you want to be a person who we contact when a worthy student is struggling financially, I'd be happy to put you on that list!

I could tell so many more stories from these first few weeks. I met with one of our incoming student leaders for UTD near the end of the summer, and he shared with me about how he's been praying for months for a past girlfriend, that she would have godly women reach out to her. That girl goes to TWU, and guess who our TWU minister met while she was out "randomly" approaching students? 

And at our first UTD Friday Night Fellowship, I met a young lady who came to UTD because God called her to. She applied and moved from Florida this summer in obedience to that call. I asked if she had any idea why He wanted her here, and she said "not yet." Pretty impressive faith! One of the principles I live by is "look to see where God's working and join Him." Well, it's obvious He's working in this young woman's life, so I'm getting involved.  We started studying the scripture together last week, and I hope you'll join me in praying for that study.

Our first FNF.  That's me preaching down at the front. Look how tiny I am!
God is always at work, and He's doing powerful things through your financial gifts, your prayers, and the ways you minister to the students and staff who are taking the gospel to these campuses. Thank you!

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