Sunday, June 4, 2017

Danielle's June Update

I'm so excited about summer! I, unlike most, enjoy some hot weather. Our FOCUS ministry is still going strong over summer: our entire ministry, all 9 campuses, meet together on Thursday nights for fellowship and worship. This is always a highlight for me because I have been involved with a number of different campuses and I love to see all of the students that I no longer get to work with on a regular basis. It's also a great time for our students to connect with their friends from other campuses that they have built relationships with at SICM.

Speaking of SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry), we had one of our best trips yet! From May 11-21 our students and staff went up to Bellingham, Washington for a week-long training on how to be a minister on your campus. Our students learned about how to lead a small group, how to connect with God and the Spirit, how to discern calling and vocation, and how to evangelize on campus. Here are some fun pictures from the week:

SICM students getting off the plane

Eating lunch on the "Stairs to Nowhere" at Western Washington University

UNT and TWU girls at SICM: Kasey, Sierrah, Nicole, Morgan, & Claudia

More Denton students being silly

This is the group from TWU. We brought 8 students this year!!

My TWU girls :)

I asked a few of my TWU students to share about the impact that SICM had on them:

"I went into SICM mostly because of a checklist. Many people had told me how great it was and when I was asked to go I just thought of it as another activity that people in FOCUS do. Just like every other student going I had so much on my plate prior to the trip and did not really get the time to think about why I was going or who I was doing it for. Thank God that He can work through my life even when I do not give him the time. Although I did not prepare myself for going and I had selfish reasons for attending, God worked through all of it to make this trip honor and reflect his works. The number one biggest takeaway from SICM was the relationships that I formed on the trip. I had made so many good friends in the ministry my freshman year, but for those ten days I was able to really bond with the girls from TWU. I got to know each one of them on a deeper level and that alone was worth going. Girls that I thought were so different from me ended up being who I spent most of my time with on the trip. I feel like my role in the community has shifted, from being someone that is constantly poured into to now showing that same love and dedication to future students. Going to SICM really put into perspective why I was involved in the ministry and showed my purpose in being a disciple beyond my college days." --Claudia Salas

"SICM to me was like hitting the "refresh" button on your computer. Things that I learned growing up in the church were given in such a different perspective that it finally clicked. While in Washington, I realized just how small I am, and yet how big my role is in sharing the gospel. I think that being given the opportunity to go to SICM really gave me a higher sense of maturity in my faith. It's not that I know everything there is to know, because we all know that's a lie. It's about learning that I am human, I make mistakes, I'm selfish, and often lazy. Still, in the midst of this, God sees me and He gives me a purpose. The way God worked through me and others at SICM were like jumper cables starting a car. Christ taught me how to be bolder and how to not expect perfection when seeking to make disciples. It was absolutely amazing to see how God had touched all these college students' hearts. I honestly think it is a miracle that 100 or so college students would choose time with God over worldly temptations. SICM to me meant re-evaluating myself and gaining perspective from those around me." --Brittany Parsons 

"I am a junior at Texas Woman’s University, and have been in Focus for roughly a year and a half. Weeks before I was asked if I wanted to attend, I prayed for a chance to really dive into my faith, get deep into the heart of God, and learn more about his plans for me. When I eventually got the call, I knew that God was answering my prayers. As the time came closer and closer to board the plane to Washington, I prayed for God to open my heart, and allow me to soak up every piece of knowledge and wisdom given to me. Looking back, I whole-heartedly believe that God came through for me. Though I did not experience any earth shattering revelations or see any beams of white light streaming through the ceiling, God broke through my heart and allowed me to really listen to what people were saying. As I sat listening to each speaker, I found that I able to connect puzzle pieces together in my mind. I saw what God was doing in me through the power of the Holy Spirit, and how I am to use that to “go and make disciples of every nation” (Matt. 28:19). I felt the true weight of this command for the first time. During one session, a speaker said. “If nobody went out on our campuses to evangelize, our campus ministry would be dead within four years”. This emphasized that being a disciple is not about my own personal walk with God—though that is certainly an important part of it; it is about the future disciples. Those who will continue to spread the Word of God long after we are all gone. God allowed me to see past myself, and see the plans he had for all of us as the body of Christ. In a way, I supposed God did not reveal to me His plans for me. What he showed me was even better. He revealed to me how I am to work as a part of His plan, and be a vessel for Him to reach those who so desperately need him. All of this was revealed to me while surrounded by believers from all different walks of life. I was able to see God's creation in nature, stay with a host family who encouraged me every day in my walk, and make new friends to further embark on this journey with. Everything I experienced in Bellingham, Washington came together, and revealed God’s plan for all of us, not just myself. Now I feel a new passion in my walk. I feel equipped to go out and talk to people about God’s goodness, and lastly, I feel certain that God is with me through all of it." --Morgan Chappell

Praise God for how good He is! I hope those stories were as encouraging to you as they were to me. Thank you so much for investing in students and stories like these! God is working powerfully through college campuses and we get to be right in the middle of it. Your support make this all possible, so thank you a million times! 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Danielle's May Update

Last night Denton FOCUS had our Spring Formal to celebrate the end of the school year. We had a great time! We sang, we danced, we ate, we recognized our leaders and graduates, and we thanked God for all the things he did this year in our community and on our campuses.

Matt and I with the TWU student leaders that I mentored this year

Some sweet seniors

Matt with Alex and Mitchell, two students he mentored this year

TWU women's Core (small group)

Looking snazzy

UNT men's core
It has been fun reflecting on what God has done this past year. I moved back to Denton almost a year ago and so much has happened since then. I've been adjusting to married life, working with a new team, leading a different campus, and living in a new city. I wouldn't trade it for anything, though. God has taught me a lot this year about how to be more selfless. I've also learned patience, specifically in leading the TWU ministry. We have had some trouble with students being inconsistent and lacking some commitment to God. However, I have seen our student leaders be faithful with what God has given and they have done an excellent job of serving selflessly. Our last meeting of the semester was full of students that are devoted to God and to each other! 

This Friday is our last large group meeting of the semester before finals begin and our students take a break for the summer. Thankfully, we will still be meeting as a large group over the summer with all 9 of our FOCUS ministries combined! If you are interested in checking out what God is doing in campuses all over the metroplex, then please stop by this summer! We will be meeting every Thursday night at 7:30 at Watermark Community Church in Plano, beginning May 25. 

I want to thank each one of you for continuing to pray and support our growing community. Your partnership with us is the thing that keeps us going! Our joys and successes are also yours, because of what you have poured into this ministry. We are so grateful for you! 

Much love <3

Monday, April 3, 2017

Danielle's April Update

Our biggest event in March was SSI (Student Spring Impact) where students from Western Washington University came down to North Texas for their Spring Break to reach out to students on our campuses and tell them about Jesus. We had a group of 12 students come to Denton for the week and they were such a fun group!

Matt sitting with the SSI ladies by the pool

The SSI Team with the Denton Staff
Our campus outreach consisted of display boards and conversations with challenging questions for Christians and non-Christians to ponder. We were out on each of the campuses, UNT, TWU, and NCTC every day of the week to reach as many as possible. We allowed students to write their answers to our questions in order to facilitate open conversation about the hurt that non-Christians have experienced, as well as an opportunity for Christians to apologize. 

FOCUS students engaging in conversation at TWU

"Christians: How are you sorry for the way the church has misrepresented Christ? Non-Christians: What is your biggest complaint about Christians?"

Me talking to a student at UNT

"Christians: How can we best represent Jesus to our world? Non-Christians: What would you like to see Christians do differently?"

I had conversations with some non-Christians who had issue with the way people in the church have been hypocritical. We talked through some of the hurt and pain they experienced, and allowed them a positive interaction with a Christian who would listen. My husband Matt actually ran into one of his friends from the rock climbing gym on campus and found out that he was a Christian because of our display boards. Matt is now trying to build a deeper friendship with him and talk about faith. What a neat God deal!

TWU FOCUS during SSI Week. It was packed!

We had some relaxing hammock time at the park while the SSI students debriefed the day

We took the Washington students to Fort Worth for their "fun day" so they could get a good ole Texas experience :)

It wasn't long after SSI week was over that we had another big event: the Spring Showcase! Many of you were in attendance, and I'm sure you would agree, it was a fantastic show!

The panoramic view of all those who came to Showcase!

Thanks to all of you who came to support our SICM students! We are so excited about the trip coming in May and Spring Showcase is the number one way we can help our students get there!

April is our last full month of classes which means that our ministry is winding down and preparing students for the end of the year. We have scheduled a Spring Formal for the Denton students on April 30 to celebrate the year and what God has done. We are looking forward to it! Stay tuned for next month's blog where I promise to have pictures of the event.

Lastly, here is our student testimony of the month, one of our very own from Denton!

Thank you so much for reading and for your support for this ministry! 

Much love, 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Danielle's March Update

Happy Spring! February basically flew by and March will be full of events for our ministry. I want to share what the FOCUS community has been up to with a series of photos that I hope will encourage you!

Our first SMU Prayer Meeting happened at the Canterbury House! This was before all the people showed up, of course!

Family Night at UNT was such a success! It was honestly the best Family Night I have ever been to. Parents shared stories about the impact that God and community have had on their student's lives. There wasn't a dry eye in the room!

Eating delicious food with students ;)
From L to R: Israel, Matt, me, and Hannah
Another baptism this month! Brooke is baptizing Becca (both TWU students!)
Picnic on the lawn at TWU! Once a month we reach out to students on campus by playing games, eating lunch, and enjoying the beautiful weather

I cooked dinner for my Peer Team ladies on Valentine's Day! 

They requested Albondigas (Mexican meatball soup). I used my momma's recipe and it turned out great!

You can tell by their faces that they enjoyed the home-cooked meal :)

Pizza Theology: Let's talk about Race
So many students showed up to hear from their peers about how race has impacted their lives and experiences. Sirak and Peter, fellow FOCUS staff members, also taught Biblical principles and sociological foundations for this topic. This was especially relevant with our current political environment. 

This month's student testimony: a UTA international student named Hallie
Our biggest event in March is SSI (Student Spring Impact) where students from Western Washington University come down to North Texas for their Spring Break to reach out to students on our campuses and tell them about Jesus. This will happen the week after our Spring Break. We are really looking forward to it! I'll have plenty of pictures, and hopefully neat stories, to share with you next month.

Thank you so much for reading and for being invested in the work God is doing on college campuses in Denton. This work is unreal!

With love,
Danielle <3

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Danielle's February Update

Our Father is so, so good! His Spirit has been working and changing people's hearts already as the students have settled back into school and community. In the last week alone, two TWU students decided to give their life to Jesus and be baptized!

Adriana baptizing Cristina


Brooke baptized Divine
A huge catalyst for changed hearts and minds was FOCUS Winter Camp a few weeks ago. Different members of our staff spoke about the church being the people of God. This year we had about 600 students attend! We increased by about 100 attendees since last year, which is absolutely incredible.

All 600 at Winter Camp

TWU students represent! 
Worship at camp
Each of the speakers at camp spoke about different roles that we as the church have including exiles, remnant, temple and family. A few ideas really stood out and ministered to me: You can't love Jesus without loving the church (his people). There is great cost to being part of God's family, but also great joy. We are bound by the Holy Spirt of God and he intends to bless the nations through us. We have sent our students back out on their campuses to do exactly that. 

God continues to amaze me with the way that he works through this ministry, and especially through your partnership with us! Thank you so much for being generous servants of our Lord! 

With love, 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Danielle's January Update

It is actually snowing in Denton right now! I wasn't prepared for this cold weather but I am very ready for our students to come back for classes. Unfortunately I'll have to wait another week before I see them, but next weekend we have our annual Winter Camp, which we're so excited about! Not much has happened since my last blog update since the students have been on break, but I do have a few prayer requests for you!

  • Winter Camp (January 13-16) at Sky Ranch: Please pray that our students build meaningful friendships, grow in their relationships with God, and catch the vision of our ministry. Also, that those students who are on the fence about attending decide that it's worth the investment (the cost is $150 per student). 
  • Keep FOCUS Growing Fundraiser: We are so close to our goal ($41,000 out of $55,000)! Please continue to pray that God provides through this fundraiser to help us plant a ministry at SMU this year! If you haven't considered giving to this yet, remember that any gift will help us reach the goal!
  • School starting (January 17): We will have lots of transfer students starting at our campuses this semester. Please pray that our students can be mission-minded and focus on reaching out to many new students who are searching for community. 
Here is our most recent student testimony from a girl named Chiazo that I was lucky enough to get to work with at UNT! I love her sincerely and pray that she is successful in her student teaching this coming year as she transitions away from Denton. 

"Before college, I spent a vast majority of my time at church, from volunteering to mission trips. After graduating, I was nervous about what Christian community would look like now that I had to find it for myself. I prayed for a group of friends who cared about me. I was at the gym six weeks into my freshman year and while I was working out on the treadmill, something made me turn around (while running 80% speed) and I saw a banner for FOCUS. I visited that Friday night and stayed because people sought out His Word, ways to practice His teachings and made Christ-likeness a lifestyle- specifically, Autumn Priestley, a senior at the time I joined FOCUS. I constantly asked myself “Why would someone who is about to leave college want to spend time with me”? She spent time with me because of the lessons she learned through FOCUS. As I make my transition into the “real world” and becoming a teacher, I will remember to seek to understand then be understood when working with students, parents, and other teachers. I will look at my students and love them. I will consider their needs and provide for them, whether that means that I attend their sporting events or support them through tough times. I will show them who Jesus is through my teaching, patience, and discipline on and off the podium. It’s because of my involvement in FOCUS that I am able to know what it looks like to be a disciple in the 'real world'."
Chiazo Akagha (Senior, University of North Texas, Choral Music Education)

Thank you so much for reading! Much love <3

Friday, December 2, 2016

Danielle's December Update

Happy Holidays everyone! The radio stations have begun playing Christmas tunes non-stop and our students are definitely ready for their break to begin. Tonight is our last large group fellowship meeting of the semester and on Sunday afternoon we'll have our Christmas Party. This time of year gives our students a chance to reflect on their growth this past semester and the things that God has taught them. I have enjoyed having more one on one time with each of my students as the semester winds down.
Candy cane coffee with Hannah, one of the girls I mentor :)
The biggest thing happening for our ministry this month is the annual Keep FOCUS Growing fund. We believe that God has called us to make and mature disciples on college campuses in the DFW Metroplex, and we need your help to make it happen! Watch this video, featuring our FOCUS Director Brandon Worsham, to see what our plans are for the Next 20 years of FOCUS!

Here is a recap of the things we were able to do with the donations from last year's Keep FOCUS Growing Fund:

Your gift matters!
Click here to invest!
Please take some time to pray and consider giving to this fund this Christmas season! 

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas with family and friends as you remember our precious Savior. Thank you so much for your generosity and partnership with FOCUS as we work with God to change students' lives! Much love to you and your families!

Merry Christmas!