Monday, March 18, 2019

Spring is Here--Danielle's Ministry Updates

A few weeks ago we had an Open House for parents, family, and friends of FOCUS students at Collin. This is always a favorite of mine because I love getting to meet the families that have shaped the students I work with and love. We had a big turnout this year, and I got to meet so many families that were excited about how God has changed their students' lives through our ministry. Here are some photos and a testimony that one of my student leaders, Clarissa, shared that night: 

We added Spanish lyrics to the worship set to be more inclusive of families that don't speak English

Parents and families praising God together

It was a packed house!

One of the girls I mentor, Clarissa (pictured above singing), shared this story:
 
"I’m a sophomore here at Collin and this is my second year involved in this ministry. I really have a hard time with speaking about God and not making it all about me. I love to steal the show and I was really worried about doing that tonight so instead I’m going to tell you about a time where I really stunk it up and God was super faithful. Now before getting involved with FOCUS, I was every parent’s nightmare teenager. I knew about FOCUS from the time I started at Collin, and had met a good number of people who tried to befriend and include me. But I was not open. From my perspective, there was nothing wrong with the things I was doing and the way I was living. I was drinking, partying, doing drugs when a lot of y’all met me and I was just, in general, making a mess in my life. But God wasn’t done with me and didn’t want me to stay where I was. Over time, when that became clear to me, it was a long and painful process of confronting the choices I had been making. Through that, God kept putting these lovable nerds in my life and showed me the kind of work He had for me. The friends I’ve made while in this ministry are the best I’ve ever known and they are just as broken as I am, and God has and is still changing their hearts and lives 180°. One of the friends that comes to mind when I think of the work God has been doing in the lives of other people is a close friend I met about a year ago. The first time we hung out, she told me about her life and just the rough spot she was in. She’s experienced a lot of hurt and abuse, and was telling me how trapped she felt in her current relationship with someone who treated her terribly. She told me she wanted to take the leap and pursue a life with Christ but she was scared, and was worried about the repercussions of leaving her old life behind. But God is so good, and never stopped coming through. Her life since then has not been easy, but the reason I speak about her tonight is because she teaches me a lot about what it means to be a disciple. She is someone who loves people so well, and through what can only be the Holy Spirit, makes a real difference in other people’s lives. Definitely mine included. Through her and many others, God shows me that the life of a disciple is hard sometimes, there are unique struggles that come with thinking and acting differently than the world, and the temptation to make those old decisions creeps back up again at times, but it’s so rewarding to know God includes me in His plans for the world. So while I still have a long way to go, God has brought me so far from where I used to be."
God is changing lives and hearts here at Collin and this is just a small sample! Thank you so much for being part of this change and supporting what God is up to on campus. This wouldn't happen without you!

Much love,

Danielle


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Winter Camp 2019--Danielle's January Update

We just got back from Winter Camp yesterday and it was so much fun! We had about 600 students from all of our FOCUS campuses in attendance. Dr. John Stackhouse, our camp speaker, is a current Theology professor at Crandall University and former professor at Regent College in Vancouver. His theme was "Confronting the Zeitgeist: How Christians Should Respond to Culture Change."

Dr. Stackhouse's Facebook post about our Winter Camp!

I have listened to some of Dr. Stackhouse's lectures prior to camp and they have been very intellectually challenging. He spoke to our students about many different topics: Why did God create humans and what are the implications? What does it look like to have faith and deeds? Why didn't God make you more beautiful than you are? Dr. Stackhouse is such a gifted speaker and was able to explain complex theological ideas in simple terms for us to understand. It was such a blessing to hear him.

Some Collin gals at Camp

Praise and Worship at camp was really special

These are some ladies that meet at my house on Tuesday nights


Winter Camp 2019

Winter Camp 2009...See the difference? God is good!
Thanks so much for your prayers and support of our students! Many of them were brought closer to God this past weekend. Here is our latest student testimony:




Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Merry Christmas!--Danielle's December Update

Our students are taking their finals and the year is quickly coming to a close. This has been one of the fastest semesters that I can remember. I have been reflecting on what God has taught me these past 6 months, and while there has been a lot, the most important thing has been GRACE.

I mess up a lot, I can be harsh, critical and unloving. I can be quick to judge. The Lord has taught me that 'mercy triumphs over judgment' (James 2:13), and that 'out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given' (Jn 1:16). Many people in my life have shown such grace to me this past year, and the Lord is definitely wanting me to take notice! Even though I still struggle with this, in his kindness God is showing me how. Our Father is so very good and I am undeserving!

Our students wrapped up the year with a Christmas party on Saturday, where the main event was a fort-building contest. The students went all out and brought supplies to build forts in our church so we could watch Home Alone and eat popcorn. Here are some fun photos from the night:

Guys fort

Two cores combined to make one giant fort

These lovely ladies were the champions! Their fort is in the back, modeled after a Christmas tree. These ladies meet at my house every Tuesday so this fancy trophy will be stationed at my home. 

Singing Christmas songs 

Me and my peer team--the girls I meet with weekly and mentor

Our Collin Staff team (L to R): Pedro, Garrett, Cody, me, Alex, Sam and Sloan
Thanks to all of you who donated to the Keep FOCUS Growing fundraiser! We raised over $75K!! Isn't our God incredible? He is surely preparing us to reach even more students across the metroplex with this gift. Thank you again for your generosity and how you have helped make this happen!

Here is our student testimony for the month: 


"I grew up in a church where community was surface level and nobody really cared to know who I was. I was also a very timid child and didn't have anyone to show me what it meant to be vulnerable with people and do life with them. That changed in the summer of 2014 before my junior year of high school, where people who had been in FOCUS began investing in me through the teen ministry at Northeast Church in Garland. A wonderful woman named Jamiann spent one-on-one time with me, and during this time God taught me the value of reading scripture with other people, how to apply what I was learning, and to have a vision for what life with Christ looks like. Jamiann went on to baptize me in March of 2015.

Having been invested in this way, I knew I wanted to go to a college that had a FOCUS ministry on its campus, so I decided to go to UNT. Transitioning from high school to college was difficult. I continued to struggle with fully being myself; but my Corefa during my freshman year, Sam, spent one-on-one time with me and I slowly began to open myself up in ways I never knew I could. God used her to show me that I was valuable by having fun or serious conversations with me, giving me rides, and always letting me know she was just a phone call away. Through my friendships in FOCUS, God set me free from worrying about my self-worth, from feeling like I was defined by worldly standards, and from feeling alone. Now I’m a Corefa, and I am able to further invest in girls in my Core and disciple them in the ways I was discipled."

Crystal Machuca
Junior, UNT
English, Spanish major

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Reasons to Praise God in November--Danielle's Update

God has been doing some wonderful things at Collin and throughout our ministry, so I want to highlight for you the things I'm thankful for lately!

Thursday Nights
We have been in a sermon series these past two months called "Reclaiming the Narrative" where we talk about current hot topics in light of the Biblical story. We contrast the world's narrative on friendship, identity, romance, masculinity, and sexuality with God's narrative. I recently got to preach on Reclaiming the Narrative of Femininity. Our students have responded so well to the series. We have also been pushing for Biblical literacy among our students, and last Thursday one of our students stood up and recited a difficult passage of scripture from memory. It blew us all away, and definitely convicted me in my lack of knowledge of the Scripture.

My FOJ Study
I have been studying the Bible with a student who grew up in church but strayed away because of the church's response to her sexuality. She is openly gay and has been wary to be part of a Christian community. She is also a victim of domestic abuse and a host of other difficult life circumstances. She has been faithfully meeting with me once a week to talk about Jesus and look at the Scripture. Last week when Pedro preached on sexuality, I was surprised and encouraged to see that she actually stayed to listen. She told me later that she thought about walking out but figured she should hear him out. After the sermon, she was afraid that people would no longer want to talk to her or be her friend; instead, so many people came up to her and asked how she was doing and feeling about it all. She said she was so surprised to see how much love people showed her, instead of condemnation. Because of this, she is interested in learning more about Jesus and sticking around for a bit. Praise God!

Our Corefa Team
I am so proud of our leaders this year. They have had some tough ministry challenges and their generation is heavily influenced by relativism. It can be hard to stand for the Gospel on campus these days. Our leaders have faithfully ministered to their peers while enduring their own personal hardships, and have done it well. I am so thankful to be part of their journey as disciples and leaders for Christ.

Finally, I'm thankful for all of you! You have consistently supported our ministry on the campus and have selflessly poured out your financial resources. Students lives are being changed because of you.

Here is our November student testimony from a FOCUS alum:

"I studied Music Ed at UNT with the dream of becoming a percussion instructor. I had been a Christian for as long as I could remember, but upon entering college I was closed-off to anything that would cost me time or energy apart from my career. I believed that putting up blinders and pursuing my degree was more important than serving a community.

I joined a Core and began studying the Bible with a close mentor. Through these friendships my idols of success, control, and pride were laid bare. I was heartbroken to see that although I professed Jesus as LORD, my life as a Christian hardly reflected that same self-sacrificial love. I became a corefa in my 2nd year and learned that serving others isn’t something tacked onto our calling; it IS our calling.
This was revelatory for me.

Fast forward to 2016 as God led me into a career teaching elementary school. Every day I’m given the opportunity to die to myself and serve the emotional, relational, and academic needs of my students. God used my time spent in FOCUS to prepare me for a season I would have never seen coming. I’m so thankful for God bringing me closer to his heart through the ministry at UNT. I now volunteer as a
bivocational minister at SMU. God is so good!"

Kurt Doty
FOCUS Alumnus
Music Education

Much love and thanks for reading!
Danielle

Monday, October 8, 2018

Danielle's October Update

Last weekend we took the Collin students to Fall Camp for a 24-hour retreat outside of town. We spent time in fellowship, connecting with God, and listening to messages about the Biblical narrative and why we are here. We had around 130 students come to camp! Here are some photos from the weekend:
We had a large group this year! Here we are awaiting instructions in the chapel.

One of our Collin students, Sterling, sharing his story

Beginning of our worship night before we had time to individually connect with the Lord

One girl that I met during Welcome Week, Amellia, had told me that she was an "open agnostic." She grew up in church but had some bad experiences that eventually fueled her decision to walk away. She has been consistently attending small group and came to camp! During our open sharing time, she came up to the microphone and said that she can see God calling her back to him, and that she is going to respond to that call! PRAISE GOD!!! I'm so excited. Thank you so much for your prayers and support! Because of you we are able to send these students to camp and have life changing experiences.

Here is our student testimony for October, from TWU Dallas student Veronica Rodriguez:


"When I take time to think about who I am now and who I was before Christ, I can honestly say I was a completely different person. I remember walking around school with a big, dark cloud over me all the time; filled with anger, bitterness, and just plain sadness. I found my fulfillment and happiness in relationships with men, which ultimately always led to lines being crossed, disappointment, and heartbreak. I distinctly remember last semester going to Core at TWU Dallas, and honestly, not wanting to be there. But there was something in me that was telling me to go. I knew I was desperate for love and saving but I didn’t know what I was looking for.

It wasn’t until the very last day of Core last spring semester that I realized how truly broken I was. I shared my testimony in front of girls in Core that I barely knew and immediately started crying. I felt a huge weight lifted off my chest right then and there and truly felt the freedom Christ promises to each and every one of us. That day, I was done living for myself and ready to surrender it all to Christ. I am thankful that God used FOCUS and the girls within my Core to open my eyes and direct me to my heavenly father, even when I didn’t want to hear it. It was because of FOCUS and the continual encouragement of the girls around me that I realized I didn’t have to try so hard to be loved. I already had a savior who paid for all of my sins on the cross and loves me abundantly in ways that no man will ever be able to."


Thanks for reading! 
Much love, 
Danielle

Thursday, September 6, 2018

School in Session - Danielle's September Update

School has begun and the students have flooded the campuses...which means parking is currently impossible ;) I am so glad to be back and meeting new students that are excited for a new year! Our Collin FOCUS team has been out on campus every single day since school started; we've been playing games, inviting people to events, and meeting all kinds of students and faculty alike. Here are some photos of our week:

One of our outreach activities was to Tie-Dye shirts!

Students answer the question, "What is something you wish people knew about you?"

Board games at the Central Park campus in McKinney

Volleyball and outdoor game night!

This was our first Fellowship meeting on Thursday night. It was packed!

Handing out free popsicles at the Preston Ridge campus in Frisco. 
Thank you so much for your prayers for us during these first few weeks of school. We are excited to see what God is going to do with these new students that don't yet know him. Please continue to pray for our student leaders as they begin their small groups and one-on-one Bible studies with their peers. 

Here is our latest testimony from a UTA student!


Thanks for reading and for your generous support!
Much love,
Danielle

Monday, August 6, 2018

Summer Ends, A New Year Begins!---Danielle's August Update

The FOCUS Staff just returned from our biannual staff retreat with our group of new apprentices; we have 12 new apprentices joining our staff for the 2018-2019 school year! Two of them, Samantha Pruitt and Alex Garcia, will be working on the Collin College team. I'm especially excited because these two are recent graduates from UNT, which is where I've been doing ministry for the past two years, so I know them well!

During our staff retreat we each shared stories about the 3 most impactful events in our lives. It was a great way for us to get to know the apprentices, as well as learn new things about the people we've been working with for many years. One thing that struck me is how many of our team members have dealt with death, illness, abuse, and other suffering. The majority of our staff is still very young but have experienced many hard things. They all have stories of how God has worked through their suffering to bring greater life than they could have imagined. I am so excited for our staff to start a new year of loving on college students while helping them deal with life's hard stuff. 

We got some shaved ice on our staff retreat!
Brandon is a sun-bathing beauty ;)
Not sure what story Pedro is sharing here but it must have been intense...

This past week I got to spend time with some of the Collin College leaders that I'll be mentoring this year, and I'm so excited! I can already tell that we are going to have so much fun on mission together. 

Driving these girls around is already crazy!
Please be in prayer for our team and our students as the school year approaches! Next weekend we are getting our Collin College student leaders together to prepare for the school year. After that, school will be right around the corner and we will be busy meeting new students every day. This can sometimes be an overwhelming experience for our students that aren't very extroverted. We are praying for boldness for our leaders and that God would already be preparing the hearts of new students he wants us to encounter this month. I can't wait! Thanks to all of you who are supporting the mission on campus and allowing me to do what I love. I'm so grateful to have you all as partners and friends!

Until next month, much love to you all!

Danielle