Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Middle of Summer

Between various travels, I and my team have been hard at work selecting and preparing the student leaders for this next school year. It's going great! I'm so excited to minister alongside these amazing young men and women on campus. This month, please ask God to give us wisdom in selecting and training student leaders and also discernment in planning for the first weeks of the school year.

This Month's Student Testimony!

Ismael Garza (Senior, University of North Texas, Music Education)
"Growing up, I knew there was a God, but I viewed church as a place for people who were “good,” and 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 for 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."

Some Quick Thoughts on What You Do

When I was up at SICM a couple months back, the sermon on Sunday morning hit me, and I wanted to share the main points with you. The preacher is a missionary to international students and he gave the congregation these encouragements:

1. Praying for missionaries matters more than you think. I know we ask for your prayers regularly and you rarely get to see how that plays out, but I do get to see what God does in response, and that's why I keep asking you to pray! Just yesterday the guy I had lunch with shared that when he told his undergraduate advisor that he was going to SMU next, she shared that she was a Christian and had done her degree at SMU. She said it was the "darkest" place she'd ever been and that those were the darkest years of her life. And that's where the Lord is sending us this year. 

Your prayers to face down the spiritual powers of darkness matter. Your prayers for God to set up divine encounters with students and staff who are seeking Him matter. Your prayers over hurting students matter. Your prayers matter more than you think. 

2. Hospitality matters more than you think. I think especially of international students, but also of the thousands of students who move to a new city and don't have moms or dads or brothers or sisters near. We have the opportunity to be a family to them. As Hebrews 13 puts it, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers." Ron and Paula Hayes recently shared with me a story from some friends of theirs who had befriended and invited into their home an international student from the Middle East. He came over a number of times during his years in America and they built a meaningful friendship. When he moved home, he left them a large box with instructions not to open it until he was gone. Inside were lots of small wrapped gifts that he had brought from his home country to give to everyone who hosted him in their home during his years in the USA. When they asked him why he was giving them so many, he replied, "because you are the only ones who ever invited me over."

It doesn't take much to stand out in a culture that has lost the value of hospitality. You may not have access to international students or even college students. But we all have neighbors and people who visit our churches. Inviting people into your home matters more than you think.

3. You're sending more missionaries than you think. I started praying many years ago what Jesus told His disciples to pray for: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Luke 10:2). God has been answering that prayer in a big way! You may pray for or be a financial partner with one or more FOCUS missionaries, but everything we do is designed to train students to be missionaries to their campus--in their classes and residence halls and workplaces and gyms and student unions. Last year we had at least 300 students who were studying the Bible one-on-one with someone. When you walk the campus, you see these little discussions happening all over all the time. 

Our theme for this next year is "Send Me." We're going to be heating up this value for our entire community, and I can't wait to see what God does in and through us. You are an encouragement and a support to me for sure, but you're sending more missionaries than you think.

A great big THANKS to each one of you who have helped us reach, win, train, and send members of this visionary generation into the world with the good news of Jesus. It matters more than you think.

Developing Our Pastoral Team

We are back in August and ramping up for the school year! We have an amazing pastoral staff, and an outstanding group of student leaders. At...