Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Danielle's December Update

Campus ministry is honestly the most exciting thing I've ever been involved in. It's constantly changing and there is always something new to be thankful for. Even though our ministry experiences "seasons" where things get really crazy, or slow down significantly, there is never a shortage of things to rejoice in.

One thing in particular that I'm very excited about right now is Winter Camp. Winter Camp is an annual event in January where all of the FOCUS ministries (from all 8 campuses) come together to worship, fellowship, learn, and have fun. Our attendance is usually around 400-500 students. It's our biggest event of the year, without a doubt. In fact, many students in our ministry have expressed that Winter Camp had the biggest impact on their decision to "go all in" with FOCUS.
The bigger our ministry gets, the more costly it becomes for us to have an event like this. We have had to raise the price of camp to $150 per person this year. The neat thing about this though is that the students would tell you it's absolutely worth it. Some students save up for many months to attend, and others are generous enough to offer scholarship money for those that can't afford it. Collin College has been extremely generous to our students and staff over the years and consistently gives us thousands of dollars to allow our students to go to Winter Camp. They even provide buses for us to get there and back!
This year we were a little nervous about putting in our request for funds since the administration at Collin has changed a bit. However, we were blown away when the Student Activity Fee Advisory Committee informed us that we would be awarded $15,000 to send our students to camp! Praise God! Now our Collin students only have to pay $50 to go to camp and they don't have to worry about providing their own transportation. This is such a neat blessing, especially considering all the other FOCUS students will still have to pay the full price. We are so thankful for our relationship with Collin College and the fact that they support our ministry so much. This is quite different than what some campus ministries in other parts of the country are dealing with. God is so, so good to provide.

Collin College students and alumni at Winter Camp 2015
Next week are finals and the students at Collin will be wrapping up their semester, which is so hard to believe right now! It still feels to me that the semester has just started. I've been learning recently how much I need to cherish every moment that I get to be here, working with students and watching God change people's lives. It's the most rewarding work that I can think to be a part of. I sincerely want to thank every one of you that makes this possible. Your prayers and financial support are an incredible blessing, and just another way that I see God working through His people. Thank you for your generosity and for caring about college students!

This Thursday is our last large group fellowship of the semester, and this weekend we are having our Christmas Party for the students to celebrate together. I'm praying that the students have a safe and purposeful break, and that they will continue to spread Christ's love to their families and friends while they're away. Please be praying for this too!

Thanks for reading & Much Love!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Danielle's November Update

Hello friends! I'm always a little shocked at how quickly the semester flies. We have about 5 weeks left before the students have Winter Break (!) and we are about to start planning our Christmas party. October was a very busy month for our student leaders and I have quite a few updates to share.

At the beginning of October we had a Women's Retreat held by Wylie Northeast Church (the church that sponsors FOCUS). I was very encouraged by the number of college students that came for the entire weekend to connect with the women of the church. This was certainly a blessing to the older women as much as it was to the students. I'm always excited to see relationships being built among generations of Christ followers.

Wylie NE Women's Retreat
The weekend after Women's Retreat we had Fall Park Day for the Collin FOCUS students. Park Day is exactly what it sounds like: a day spent at a local park eating, playing, worshiping, and building friendships. This event is just another way that we heat up the value of getting students plugged into our ministry, beyond just showing up to a large group service on campus. My favorite part of Park Day is the relay race, mostly because that's when people get silly and have the most fun. We like to make them do some pretty funny things!

Relay Races

Collin FOCUS at Park Day
Another value we have tried to heat up this semester with our students is outreach. Every week we provide opportunities for students to ask spiritual questions to anyone and everyone on campus. Some questions include: What is your purpose in life? Who has had the most significant impact in history? Some of our goals behind outreach are (1) preparing students to be "fishers of men" (2) creating an open atmosphere on campus where spiritual things are regularly talked about and (3) actively spreading the name of Jesus to every corner of the campus. Even though some of our students are pretty nervous about this, we have had great participation where students are pushing past their comfort zones. Please be praying for these efforts!

Our last big event in October was the Leadership Conference. Every year our family of churches invites current and prospective leaders from all of our ministries to come together and be reminded of our mission and vision as a body. This year's topic was the reformation of friendship: we can't be like Jesus unless we have real and diverse spiritual friendships. Two questions that I've been pondering are "How would I treat my friends differently if I was planning on a lifetime of being friends?" and "What does it mean to be really committed to someone as a friend?" This is an event that we require our student leaders to attend, and we ask them to invite people in our community with leadership potential as well. A large majority of the people in attendance were college students. It's so encouraging to see how God uses these students to minister to our entire community.

Leadership Conference
I want to thank you all for your faithful support and prayers for this ministry. Your generosity is inspiring and it has built a foundation for what we do on the campus. I am so grateful! For those of you who are interested in another way to support our ministry, we're about to launch the 2nd Annual Keep FOCUS Growing Initiative. If you have a Facebook account (we will be using other social media as well), please "Like" our page at www.facebook.com/anyfocusministries to follow our videos and testimonies for this initiative. More details in December!

Much love! <3

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Danielle's October Update

September was a bit of a challenging month for our ministry. The staff was busy putting out "fires," especially in these past few weeks. Garrett and I had been fervently praying since the beginning of the semester that our student leaders (corefas) would grow in depth, spiritual maturity, and discernment; God has definitely provided our leaders with opportunity! Our corefas are discovering what Jesus meant when he told his disciples to be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves. I am learning that FOCUS is a magnet for people who are lost and hurting. Our community is probably the safest place for them, where people will not only accept them, but do what's best for them. Often this "tough" love is harder to give than the easy, nice way that we are accustomed to. But Jesus was bold. He had harsh words for those that resisted truth and grace for those full of repentance. 

Our sermon series these past two months was centered around the first five chapters of the book of Acts. Our main topics of discussion have been prayer, repentance, community, and the kingdom of God. We have made a big push for our community to grow in prayer, as this is one area where many of them lack discipline and consistency. We have been using the Lord's Prayer as a starting point to teach our students how to pray as Jesus did. We've also planned to have our corefas teach a lesson in prayer in their small groups next week. This has been a big blessing for me because it's caused me to increase my prayer life as well. The staff started a new tradition after our large group fellowship on Thursday nights: we are taking turns standing in the back after the service to be available for any student who needs prayer, confession, or advice. One night in particular we had at least ten students come for prayer and confession. 

Needless to say, God has been answering our prayers and deliberately strengthening our community. So even though this past month had its challenges, overall it has been a huge blessing. God always makes things work together for the good of those who love him. October is going to be a busy month for FOCUS: next weekend we have Fall Park Day and the weekend after that we have a Church Leadership Conference. I'm excited that we'll get a chance to have some fun with our students at the park next weekend, to hang out and enjoy this wonderful cool weather! 

Thank you all so much for your continued prayers and support. We have seen the effect that your prayers are having! Please continue to pray for discipline and discernment for all of our students. Thank you for caring about the details of our ministry and the lives of our students. I'm so grateful for your support that allows me to minister to college students that are seeking after Jesus! 

One last thing I'd like to mention for those of you who were on my support team last year: here is an excerpt from Brandon's blog with the breakdown of the money donated to the #FOCUS140 Campaign. 

So almost a year ago we launched our 1st Annual Keep FOCUS Growing Initiative (#FOCUS140) and raised $31,000 to keep FOCUS going and growing!

In the 10 months since then, so much has happened. Together with your help, we:

  • Established a major new ministry at UT Arlington and started groups at both NCTC and TWU Dallas as well. This means we are reaching students on 9 campuses now!
  • Finished establishing FOCUS as a separate church legally, which protects our assets and ensures they will be used for campus missions in the years to come. It also gives us increased flexibility to meet the specific needs of our mission field. 
  • Launched a new website to meet administrative needs and better communicate with incoming students.  
  • Welcomed 14 new full-time interns, our largest class to date.
  • Trained more than 150 student small group leaders to be missionaries to their campuses!
We are poised and ready for future opportunities because of those generous gifts. I've outlined below (in rounded numbers) how we spent that money. I tried to keep it general, but I'm happy to answer more specific questions as needed.

UTA launch expenses (leader retreat, moving expenses, sound equipment, etc)$5,200.00
Outreach and advertising to new students (for 9 campuses)$4,500.00
Printing FOJ books for the new year (enough for 675 one-on-one studies!)$900.00
Staff development (seminary coursework and staff prep days)$4,300.00
Paying for counseling for students (who need it but can't afford it)$1,400.00
New website (design, launch, and first year)$1,400.00
Internship expenses to help fund 14 interns (books, event costs, etc)$9,000.00
Legal expenses and fees as we finalized our new corporation$2,800.00
Prepping 150+ student leaders for the year (materials and meals)$1,500.00

A special "Thank You!" to all of you who gave. Our 2nd Annual Keep FOCUS Growing Initiative will launch in November!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Danielle's September Update

So many neat things have been happening at Collin College lately that I'm excited to share! School officially started on August 24th and our student leaders (we call them "corefas") were ready and pumped to reach out to as many new students as possible. About a week before school started, our leader team spent an entire day preparing for the coming year, what we call "Corefa Prep." We devoted that day to building a strong and united leader team that could catch a vision for campus ministry, as well as be fired up for the mission of making and maturing disciples. We also heavily prepared them for the first two weeks of school, which is when new students on campus are especially open to making friends and trying new things. For dinner we went to some shops nearby where there was live music and entertainment. To give you an idea of how energetic our students are, you can see the picture below of them dancing to the music! At the end of the day, each of the corefas shared their vision for the ministry and for Collin College as a whole. It was really encouraging to hear what God is envisioning for the campus through these students.

Our leaders enjoying the live music at Corefa Prep Day
We have a crazy bunch that loves to dance!
The Thursday after Corefa Prep was our first FOCUS of the semester, which is mainly aimed at getting our returning students excited about reaching out. Our staff was incredibly surprised to see that around 90 people showed up! We certainly didn't expect this, considering that school hadn't even started yet. A few days later, school did start and a ton of new people arrived on campus. You always know when school is starting at Collin College because the empty parking spaces are few and far between! Something unexpected happened that week when Collin College told us that we could no longer have events on campus the first week of classes. We were all slightly discouraged but saw it as an opportunity to step out of our comfort zones to reach out without having events to invite people to. However, the campus had planned some events of their own so we just invaded those!  FOCUS planned a few events that we were able to do the second week of classes, or off campus, including volleyball and everyone's favorite, the 2nd annual "Bad face-painting and tattoos."
Volleyball on campus
We had board games and chess games too!
This photo needs no caption

My specialty: painting cats on faces
Through these events and the intense efforts of our student leaders reaching out, we had around 130 students at our large group FOCUS kickoff meeting! We had to do some rearranging to fit all those people in the back of the cafeteria, and we may or may not have broken some fire codes in the process. Just kidding :)

Thursday Night Fellowship Kickoff
TNF Kickoff
One last group of people that I want to mention is my peer team. These are the female student leaders that I will be mentoring all year. As I may have shared before, mentoring leaders is one of my favorite things about campus ministry! I get to form some deep relationships with these ladies while teaching them how to minister to their peers. I am already so proud of the work they've done these past few weeks and am excited to see their personal and spiritual growth this year! Here is a picture so that you can be praying for them:
From left to right: Ashley, Erin, Leeann, Kerri, Tayte, and Lorena
I want to thank each one of you for your prayers and support this past month. I can't tell you how much it means to me and to our staff that we have so many prayer warriors behind us. Satan is not happy about what we're doing on campus but your prayers have power. The Spirit's presence on campus is distinguishable! Thank you for pouring into this ministry; we couldn't do what we do without you! 

One last bit of good news: one of our leaders told me a story of God's Spirit at work on campus that I want to share. 
"I was feeling discouraged last week because we didn't have our welcome week events and I was relying on only myself to reach out to people. I felt a little panicked. I went to my American Sign Language class, pumped up to talk to people, but we couldn't use our voices! We were only allowed to use sign language and I'm really rusty. I was annoyed and didn't want to pursue people in conversation at that point. I decided I would just talk to people after class in the cafeteria. When class ended, as I was walking out, there was a group of girls from the class that stopped me to talk. Somehow we started having a cool spiritual conversation about missions. I really connected with one girl in particular and I felt that the conversation was Spirit-led. Before I could ask her to lunch, she asked me! During lunch we shared our testimonies and talked about our involvement in church. I think at that time God reminded me that his kingdom work will happen regardless of how I feel or what I'm doing. I am excited to start a new friendship with her!"

Thanks for reading! Much love <3

Friday, August 7, 2015

Danielle's August Update

The FOCUS Staff just returned from a four day retreat in Port Aransas in order to build relationships as a team and prepare for the coming school year. We took time to reflect on our theme for this year: Living the Future. The permanent FOCUS staff just finished reading a book called Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God which was the inspiration for this idea. We are going to focus on teaching our students how to live in the "already/not yet," in which God has demonstrated his presence in us through the Spirit now, who is a guarantee for our inheritance of the kingdom in the future. Author Gordon Fee explains it better than I can: "Through Christ and the Spirit, God is already calling out a people for his name, who will live the life of the future in their present existence together as they await the consummation." Thinking through these truths has me really fired up for the year. I can't wait to see what the Spirit will do in and through our community!

2015-2016 FOCUS Staff at the beach
The Collin FOCUS staff has finally nailed down our leader (aka Corefa) team. We will have 10 women and 16 men leading small groups (cores) and reaching out to the campus this year. Our staff will divide up the leaders so that each of them can receive one-on-one mentoring from a staff member throughout the year. Leading corefas is probably one of my favorite things about doing campus ministry, so I'm incredibly excited about our team! Later this month we will have two opportunities to train our leaders in how to facilitate small groups and how to reach out to all the new students that will be flooding the campus in the next few weeks. Please be praying for our staff, our leaders, and our students that we can give 100% to reaching out to the lost and lonely that will be coming to our campus this semester. Also pray for the new and returning students that their hearts would be open to us and to the love of Jesus. School will officially start on August 24th which is only a few weeks away!

Lastly I wanted to mention our internship that started last Saturday. We have 14 new interns joining our staff  for the next ten months, 4 of which are interning at Collin College. I have the privilege of supervising one of these interns, Katelyn. This transition is a little bittersweet because half of the Collin staff from last year has either transitioned to another campus or a different ministry within the church. However, I'm super excited to get to work with a new team that is passionate about college ministry! If you're interested in hearing about their experience, check out their blogs to the right of this post!

I would like to thank you so much for your support and your prayers. I know that God has some amazing things planned for this school year and I'm excited that you will get to share in that with us. Please let me know if there's any way that I can serve you this year. I look forward to developing deeper relationships with all of you!

Much love!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Danielle's Summer Update

I'm currently sitting in my new apartment trying to wrap my head around how quickly the summer is passing. Just this past weekend I moved two miles down the road from my previous residence (thanks to a bunch of college students that helped me out). The week before that, I was on vacation with my family in Alaska. Getting to see some of God's beautiful creation so far from home was refreshing and just what I needed. The pictures certainly don't do it justice, but here's a peek:
Skagway, Alaska
Now that I'm back home and settled, Garrett and I have been working hard at gathering student leaders for the upcoming school year. This is probably the most exciting part of the summer for me because I can begin to get a vision of how God's Spirit will work in and through our community through future leaders. Please pray for our decision making process and that the Spirit would guide us to students that he wants to lead.

Summer FOCUS is another highlight because all 8 of our campuses meet together every Thursday night for worship and fellowship. It has been really great to reconnect with students at UNT that I mentored last year, as well as meet new students in our community. The sermons this summer have been challenging and extremely relevant to our community's needs including: emotional regulation, battling depression, controlling your thoughts, and body stewardship. If you're interested in hearing those, you can access all our of media here. I think these topics are not only relevant for college students but for any person who is trying to look more like Jesus.

Summer FOCUS
Finally I want to thank all of you that I have spoken to this summer while I've been raising support for my next few years in ministry. Summer is a great time for me to catch up with people and let you know how our ministry is doing. Thank you for being so supportive of the work that God is doing through FOCUS and for allowing me to be involved in it. Your financial support and prayers have been incredible! I know God is planning some great things for the coming school year and I'm excited that you get to partner with us in that!

Next time you hear from me I'll be gearing up for the beginning of school! August 1st is when our first year internship starts for the new interns (there are 14 of them!) and shortly after that we will be retreating as a staff to bond with each other and plan for the year. I'm so pumped! I hope you all have a fun--and safe--4th of July!

Much love <3

Monday, June 1, 2015

June Update

A little over a week ago I got back from SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) in Bellingham, Washington, and it was such a fruitful trip! Our staff successfully brought around 80 students to Washington for a week, which was quite a feat in itself. Thanks to those of you who prayed for safe travel and for good weather: God blessed us with both! Our students got to spend the week staying with host families while learning about how to lead small groups, how to reach out to students on campus, how to develop spiritual friendships, and much more.

This is the group of students from Collin that went to SICM

Students praying for each other and their campuses at SICM
This summer our staff will spend time praying and trying to put together our leader teams for the coming year. We are excited about the group of students that went to SICM to learn about ministry who will use their new skills and knowledge on the campuses here!

On a different note, and a bit more bittersweet, was the end of the school year for Collin FOCUS. We celebrated the year with a classy banquet where we sang worship songs, honored our student leaders, and reminisced about the things God has done in our community. The most difficult thing about doing ministry at a community college is that the students are usually around for about two years and then it's time to send them off to a university. I have built such close relationships with many of the students who are moving on and it will be sad to see them go! However, I'm so thankful that many of them have chosen to transfer to universities where FOCUS is working so that they will still be a part of our larger community. 

My "Peer Team": the student leaders I mentored this year
2014-2015 Collin FOCUS Staff
God was certainly faithful this year to provide for us in terms of personal and collective spiritual growth in our community. This past school year was challenging, fun, busy, and memorable. I want to thank each of you for caring about me and about these students. Your prayers, kind words, gifts, and financial support have been overwhelming. Each year I am blown away by the blessings that I receive from God through YOU. Thank you for believing in the work that God is doing on campus and for choosing to partner with Him in it. Thank you also for being faithful stewards of God's gifts. Sometimes I still can't believe that this is my job! I'm so excited to continue in campus ministry and to see lives continually changed for the Lord! 

Even though the school year is officially over we are still busy with Summer FOCUS. Beginning last week, every Thursday night all 8 of our campus ministries will be meeting together for the summer. If you are free and in the area, you should come check it out! We're meeting at LifePoint Church in Plano (at Hedgcoxe and Coit) at 7:30pm. More details to come about Summer FOCUS in my next post! 

Much love! <3

Friday, May 1, 2015

May News

Here we are in May! There are two big events that happened in April that I'd like to share with you, and then let you know what we're anticipating this month.

At the beginning of last month we had our annual Parent Night where we invite families of students in our ministry to come and see what FOCUS is all about. We had the opportunity to hear students and their parents share about how our community has impacted them, which was so encouraging! We gave the parents a little sample of what their students are involved in during the week and all the FOCUS events they attend. Turns out, there are quite a lot of things that our students are invested in! We love getting to meet parents and to thank them for laying a spiritual foundation for their students that we are able to build on.

So many families came for Parent Night!
Students and parents worshiping on Parent Night
Our next big event in April was Pizza Theology, where the FOCUS staff teaches an in-depth study of a spiritual topic. This semester's topic was Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between. I was personally really excited for this event because I have such limited knowledge of what the Bible says about the afterlife. Needless to say, a lot of my perceived knowledge was heavily influenced by cultural cliches and not exactly rooted in scripture. We received lots of positive feedback from students who were in the same boat as I was. If you're interested in learning about this topic, you can listen to the entire seminar (it's about 4 hours of teaching) here: Pizza Theology.

Students listening intently at Pizza Theology
In just a few days we will have our end of the year FOCUS Banquet to celebrate all that God has done in our community this year and to honor our student leaders. After that, students will have their last week of school and then come final exams! The year is wrapping up so quickly. Next month I'll have updates on all of these events for you. Once exams are over, the FOCUS staff is taking a large number of our students up to Washington for a week for Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM). I'm so thankful to get to attend this conference for another year with our students. The skills that they learn at SICM will not only impact our ministry this coming year, but will impact their personal ministry for the rest of their lives. I can't wait!

As many of you know, I have been working hard at raising funds and gathering ministry partners for my next few years on staff. Many of you have already confirmed your desire to remain on my support team and I am so very thankful for that! I simply can't say it enough. Thank you for your willingness to pour prayers and funds into this ministry and these students. I am so grateful to each and every one of you. I want to ask that if you know of anyone else that is passionate about ministry and interested in partnering with me for financial support, please let me know! Also, please be in prayer for me as I meet potential partners this summer.

Much love!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

March Update

Last month I shared that we would have some students come down from Washington to spend their Spring Break doing outreach on our campuses. Twelve students and 2 ministry interns from Western Washington University arrived last week for a busy week of reaching out to Texas students and beginning spiritual conversations. During SSI (Student Spring Impact) Week, we set up displays in the main centers of campus everyday to talk to as many students as we could.

We took the SSI students to Downtown Dallas for a fun day
We had some great conversation starters and questions including: Does God care about suffering? Pornography? Family? What is your story and how does it end? What role do you play in God's story? At Collin we had many Non-Christian students engaged in conversation about God and his character. One of the things that I learned through this process, which was slightly discouraging to me, was that many of the Christian students we encountered on campus weren't able to go very deep with their responses to these questions. The Non-Christians, however, had very well thought out answers and had pondered these things more in depth. It just opened my eyes to how "easy" we try to make Christianity to a non-believer. When someone asks "How is God good?" or "How do you know God is loving?" we need to be quick to respond with a well-thought answer. We need to have numerous examples to share. We need to be ready to share this with anyone and everyone, under every circumstance.

Washington students engage Collin students in spiritual conversation
That's a lot of what we try to equip students in FOCUS to do, with things like one-on-one Bible studies and our Discipleship Class. We want to get students to look deep into scripture and discover who God is. That is why we are so thankful that you have chosen to partner with us in reaching students on campus, and developing them into mature disciples. We can't do any of these things without you. Your prayers and support make this ministry what it is. Thank You! Here are some pictures from the week!

One of the more popular and controversial displays

No big deal, but I met Collin the Cougar. He's a celebrity.
One more thing I wanted to mention: last weekend we also held a fundraiser for SICM called Spring Showcase. Many of you came to support our students and I want to thank you so much for that! It was such a fantastic show! We have many talented students in our ministry and I was floored by many of their performances and art pieces. We were able to raise over $8,500 to send students to SICM! WOW!! That will cut the cost significantly for students who have been working so hard to raise funds for their trip. Thank you again! 

Thank you for reading and for your continued prayers. As always, please let me know how I can be praying for you!

Much love! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February Update

This last week has been pretty crazy with all the ice and snow in North Texas. It's very unusual as we move into March to have snow! It has been nice having some days at home to refresh and reflect on things. I was very fortunate to get a lot of quality time with my roommates as well. The students were pretty excited to get some days off and to play around in the snow.

I have some very important and exciting news to share with you! I will finish my second-year internship at the end of July, and in August I will be transitioning to a permanent staff position with FOCUS! I will continue to pastor students at Collin College along with my friend and co-worker Garrett Davis (and hopefully we'll have some interns too). I'm so excited for this next step and am hoping that you will prayerfully consider staying on my support team for the coming years! For the next few months and into the summer I will be fundraising, so if you know of anyone else that would be interested in joining my support team, please let me know!

In other news, this past month the staff was busy selecting students to invite to SICM in May. SICM, Student Institute of Campus Ministry, is a week-long intensive training for students who want to be leaders in ministry on their campus. We send a large group of prospective leaders to Washington state every year for this conference where they learn how to lead small groups, engage students in evangelism, and other ministry skills. We are so excited about the students we are sending! The trip can get pretty expensive, mostly because of airfare, and so the students are working hard at raising funds before May. I would like to invite you to a concert that we are hosting to help fund their trip called SICM Showcase. It will be on March 28th, 8pm at Legacy Church in Plano. There will be music and an art show, showcasing our talented students. I'll have more details for you as the event gets closer, but mark it on your calendars!

Another big event we are looking forward to this month is SSI Week: when students from Campus Christian Fellowship at Western Washington University come to Texas for their Spring Break to do evangelism at our campuses. This is one of my favorite times of the year and I can't wait to share it with you next month!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support! I am so thankful that I get to be a part of God's kingdom work on college campuses and that you have chosen to partner with me.

Much love!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January Update

Students, staff and alumni that attended camp
Just a couple of weeks ago, FOCUS held our biggest event of the year: Winter Camp 2015! We took almost 500 students to camp for four days to build relationships, learn about God, and to catch our vision for college campuses. We were fortunate enough to have Dr. Iain Provan, from Regent College in Vancouver, come and speak to us the whole weekend. In keeping with our theme Words of Life, he spoke on topics such as Words about Creation, Words about God, Words about Evil and Suffering, and Words about Hope. This was such a treat for me and the rest of the FOCUS staff because we have all taken Iain's "Old Testament Foundations" class that we purchased online through Regent's website. His knowledge and insight into God's story has changed the way I read the Bible. I'm so glad our students were able to hear him speak! 

Dr. Iain Provan
The best part about camp though is the friendships that are made and strengthened, not only from individual campuses but across campuses as well. Many of our Collin College students are in the middle of filling out applications and plan to transfer to universities next fall. Winter Camp is a great opportunity for them to connect with the university students and catch the vision for ministry involvement wherever they transfer. There is one story I want to share about a girl who was somewhat involved in a Core last semester who came to Winter Camp. After the weekend was over, she sent this message to the girls in her Core: 

"Words cannot begin to explain how amazing of an experience I had with all of you at Winter Camp, but I will try. I was completely skeptical about going to camp at first because I just started going to FOCUS and Core and I just began to rebuild my relationship with God. I thought I should wait until I got back to the place I once was with Him. These past couple of years have been extremely hard for me. I've lost a lot of friends and family and I've had a ton of personal issues to work out, but you all have been by my side since I first met you. I haven't ever had a close relationship with my family members and you girls have become my close family. You all have helped me realize how far away from God I had fallen and how much I can improve. I can never thank you enough! I felt a huge transformation at Winter Camp. I really started to understand Christ's sacrifice and God's unending and unconditional love for me this weekend, but none of that would have been possible without you all in my life. So thank you again. I look forward to another semester of growth and love with all of you! You mean so much to me and I love you guys."

Isn't God so awesome? Isn't it wonderful that we get to be a part of what He's doing here? Most of this would not be possible without your support, encouragement, and prayers. I really want to thank each one of you that has invested in this vision of making and maturing disciples on campuses for God's glory. God is doing amazing things through your investment in FOCUS. Thank you so much for your partnership with us!

Much love!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

As I was reflecting on the past year and making goals for 2015, I was hit by how incredibly blessed I am. This is nothing new, and I think about it often. It's especially evident though when I look back on my year and all the things that have happened. I moved to a different city, started a new job, began ministry at a new campus, experienced the death of my cousin. 2014 was an excellent year but also a very challenging one. Above all, God was merciful, loving, and always there, even when I drifted.

Renee Walters, Collin student
God was also doing great things among the students at our campuses. I was able to read some neat stories of changed lives last semester among our ministry. I would like to share one short story with you about a girl in our Collin College ministry named Renee. Renee is a sophomore at Collin and joined our leader team in August. Renee is a very skilled dancer and has danced with a company in Chicago for the past two summers. This year she was offered an opportunity to be part of a program to train and dance with this company, a huge step in her dance career. Over the summer she decided to come back to Texas to be a small group leader at Collin instead. She now co-leads a small group and is studying the Bible with too many girls to count. I think that God has planted in a seed in her mind to possibly pursue ministry as a career. Over Christmas break she participated in a mission trip to New Orleans to work with underprivileged children. When I asked about her decision to give up her dance career to go back to school and do ministry, this is her response: "I don't think I gave it up though, because I felt so much peace and guidance to come back to Texas. It doesn't feel like I gave anything up."  Her attitude about it blew me away. She feels so incredibly blessed to be doing God's work here in Texas at her community college. I think God has rewarded her service by helping her to develop a deeper trust relationship with Him. I can't wait to see what God does in her life and through her life next semester. She is such a great example to our students, and to me, of how to be thankful in every circumstance.

I also wanted to update you on our FOCUS 140 Campaign: so far we have received $22,500! Thank you so much for giving to it, sharing it, and praying for it! This will be a wonderful way for us to plant new ministries at UTA and NCTC in the fall of this year. We are so excited and so grateful for God's provision through his people.

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends! Thank you for being so generous and deciding to partner with FOCUS in changing lives on campus. I pray that this new year would give you opportunity to experience God in deeper ways and to practice thankfulness for his many blessings. In a few weeks we will be taking about 400 students to Winter Camp, our biggest event of the year. I'll be updating you about it next month, but in the meantime, please be praying about it! We need prayer for safe travels, new and deeper friendships, and changed hearts.

Much love!