Sunday, September 30, 2018

Reflection from Brady: All Quiet on the Western Front


A Quick Update

We had a great Fall Retreat a week ago with a record number of students, both of our weekly services at UTD (Tuesdays and Fridays) are off to a great start, and 27 cores have kicked off at UTD alone! We are working with the core leaders this month to help them assess the spiritual needs in their groups and plan things that will bless the students in those groups and lead them to Jesus. It's exciting stuff! Please be praying for the hundreds of one-on-one Bible studies that are starting up--for receptive hearts, eagerness to learn, and diligence on the part of the students and pastors who are leading those.

More broadly, our SMU and Richland ministries are operating as independent ministries this year, our UTA team is helping plant cores at DBU (Dallas Baptist University, where there is a surprising lack of campus-based ministry), Collin's expansion to the McKinney campus continues to expand, and the Denton team has had an incredibly smooth leadership transition. The Lord is doing great things. Thank you for your part in making it happen!

A Reflection from Brady

Many of you are familiar with Brady Bobbink, a long-time campus pastor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. He's had (and continues to have!) a tremendous impact on the ministry of FOCUS over the years. I read these words that he wrote and want to share them with you because I think they capture the current opportunities and challenges of campus ministry so well.
When Erich Maria Remarque wrote “All Quiet on the Western Front”  –– the book cover (see to the right) for one edition carried the phrase, “On the threshold of life, they faced an abyss of death…” 
The warfare image is used repeatedly in the Scripture to describe the nature of the clash between powers of alienation and spiritual death and the powers of the good news of Jesus the Messiah. The image is helpful and needful for those of us who live in the midst of the seductive influences of personal prosperity and general security. 
If you walk on any of our campuses right now, you would be greeted with a sense of quiet peacefulness. You or I might think it a bit melodramatic to think that a profound battle is being prepared for as we enjoy the vistas and vibrancy of the college campus setting. The sense of peace on our campuses is a deceptive picture and feeling.
The image of warfare reminds us to see deeper than the presenting picture of kindly professors teaching curious hearted and learning hungry minds in the quiet idyllic setting of grand buildings and carefully tendered landscapes. It is enough to put one into a stupor of contentment, forgetting that lives are at stake in the here and now and in the age to come.  Few think in terms of the phrase on Remarque’s book as applying to present day college student, but in fact they are on the threshold of adult life, while at the same time facing life and death choices.
One of our recently graduated interns wrote a lengthy and thoughtful note to the staff before departing to his new campus as a campus missionary. Below are excerpts from his reflections that touch on what is at stake and what is divinely possible as our student leaders, interns, and staff teams engage the minds and hearts of students.
“When I came to Western in 2014 as a scared 18 year old, I never imagined what was about to happen to my life. It genuinely had never occurred to me that my life could change; I was certainly wrong. I was proud, small-minded, and lacking courage. I was deeply hungry for a real God, that is, a God who was knowable the way you know an old friend. I was scared and lonely. 
As I arrived in Bellingham, I found myself afraid of what I’d left behind but ill-equipped to handle what the future held. I couldn’t go back, and it was unsafe to move forward. It was in that very spot that Jesus used CCF to turn my world upside down. 
I clearly remember a moment where I was sitting in my dorm room, Nash 112, trying to decide if I wanted to go to a CCF event or hang out with the friend group my roommate had acquired. I found myself appreciating the “freedom” I felt to be whoever I wanted with them, even to experiment with sin and not receive judgment. It was exciting. But for some beautiful reason, I decided to hang out with CCF people that night instead. I don’t remember what we did that night, but I know that the decision I made is what determined who permanently entered my sphere of influence. 
Throughout the year, I watched as my roommate’s friends became alcoholics, traded off sleeping with each other, got put on academic probation, and ultimately created so much interpersonal drama that the group imploded. Meanwhile, I was discovering through experience what it meant to be loved. 
I had learned to be afraid of my sin, afraid of my temptations, afraid of my questions, and afraid of my doubts. I had learned to be afraid of the struggles I had, because they might just separate me from God. But in CCF I learned to stare my sin square in the face and tell it NO. I learned that I could ask any question, because if I can think of a question God can’t answer, then God isn’t really God. I learned that I wasn’t the only person who was broken, so it was safe to ask my brothers for help. I was doomed for destruction, and because each of you answered the unique call on your life to love students, I’m still here. And I LOVE Jesus. In a very real way, the  WWU campus has become holy ground in my life. It is the place where heaven met earth.” 
This is my prayer for UTD and all the other campuses in the DFW area--that they would become holy ground for students to encounter Jesus--and I hope you'll continue to press forward with me in that hope.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Welcome Week 2018!

You may not have realized it, but you were a part of being the hands and feet of Jesus on college campuses the past couple of weeks. Your prayers and encouragements and financial investments made it possible for us to send out hundreds of missionaries onto these campuses for Welcome Week.

At UTD, we hosted 12 events in 12 days (and attended a bunch of others!) to welcome new freshmen and transfer students to campus. Our student leaders and staff met SO MANY PEOPLE at events like Field Day, board games, Zombie Tag, a pool party, United Worship, our FNF Kickoff, and many more. They're busy getting all these new people connected to cores and one-on-one Bible studies. Please pray for lots of "yes" answers to their invitations--this will determine how fruitful our year will be as it continues.

This story illustrates why we do what we do during Welcome Week. UTA had their first meeting outdoors, which allowed students just passing by to join in!


A few more stories:

  1. I met a new freshman at one event who was telling me how sad and lonely he'd been since moving in 3 days before. I introduced him to just one student leader, and now he's involved in a core, hanging out with a bunch of Christian guys consistently, and playing intramural football with some guys from the ministry. 
  2. One of our women leaders, a UTD senior, went back to a new freshman's dorm with her after our first Friday night meeting. There were pictures hanging everywhere of friends and family back home. When asked if looking at them made her sad, she said it probably would have if it wasn't for the new friends she'd made through FOCUS.
  3. Another girl who isn't a Christian visited our first FNF because she was invited. She came bounding up to the girl who invited her afterward saying "This wasn't what I expected!" She was blown away by how vulnerable and transparent the community is. Coming from a generation that hungers for authenticity, this was a powerful statement. She's intrigued and wants to learn more.

I could tell story after story after story like these. There are literally hundreds of them, and even I only get to see a small slice of all that goes on. Thank you for helping make it happen!

A couple of other exciting photos from UTD:

The UTD FOCUS staff hosted about 34 ministers from nearly all the different campus ministries at UTD for a reception in August. The unity among these ministers is so encouraging, and it's only growing! We estimate that about 85% of the ministries were represented. 
The night before classes began at UTD, we hosted a United Worship night with the other campus ministries. It was a great chance to showcase spiritual life on campus to new students and communicate that we are partners not competitors.

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