Sunday, October 1, 2017

FOCUS in Fall--Danielle's October Update

Now that many of the new students that are involved in FOCUS have decided to stick around, we make it our task to help them integrate into the community and feel like they're part of our family. To do this, we take all of our Denton students to Fall Camp, a 24 hour retreat to play, worship, fellowship, and eat! Here are some photos that give you a sense of what that was like:

UNT women's bunkhouse

Our worship leaders lead our community in praise
Speedball, a Denton FOCUS favorite
TWU Core led by Adrianne (far left) and Brittany (far right)

Students listening intently to our speakers

Many of the new students I've spoken to said that camp was a great way for them to feel connected, meet new people, and catch the vision of God's work on campus. One of our new students, Chris Young, said this:

"I came to Denton without a single friend here. At my very first campus activity, which was a transfer meet up, I meet Nate Dolores who later invited me to FOCUS. I came to FOCUS and enjoyed it, so I joined Nate and Trent's core and have been attending it for the past few weeks... I saw fall camp as a really good opportunity to become more integrated into the community and it was even better than I could have hoped. The worship services were fantastic, but the real highlights of fall camp for me were any chance I got to meet and talk to other people. The welcome games were fun and immediately allowed me to meet new people. The meal times were great for going table to table and chatting or sitting down with people you met earlier to talk more about yourselves or camp. The free time allowed me to check out speedball and meet even more people as well as provide an easy conversation starter since I had never played before. Lastly, the bunkhouse was lit. A few of us went around telling hilarious stories and cracking jokes until lights out, which just furthered my friendship with my core members and started new friendships with members of a different core. What I am really trying to get at here is that this community is awesome, the people here are open and willing to form new friendships. So if you didn’t make it to Fall Camp don’t worry about it, but be looking for opportunities to connect more because it’s worth it!"

I'm so encouraged by our students reaching out and making our new members feel so welcome! Thanks for your continued prayers for them. Your prayers make a big difference in the attitudes of the students who attend! Many of them are excited to learn about Jesus and his design for the body of believers.

Thanks again for reading and for your support!
<3 Danielle

Friday, September 1, 2017

Good News--Danielle's September Update

For Welcome Week this year, I have been helping at all three of our Denton campuses: The University of North Texas, Texas Woman's University, and North Central Texas College. This week I had a few neat encounters at the student organization fairs at both TWU and NCTC that I want to share! On Thursday at NCTC my co-minister, Aaron Hollingsworth, was setting up the FOCUS booth for the fair and saw a female student on the phone. She was raising her voice and obviously upset by this phone call. After she hung up, she sat on a bench and started crying. Aaron was about to try and console her, but wasn't sure if she would feel uncomfortable being approached by him. As he was considering this, another woman who works for the college went and sat with the student. It seemed to help, and the student quickly stopped crying. As the woman was walking back to her booth, Aaron stopped her and thanked her for consoling this student. The woman noticed that Aaron was standing at the FOCUS booth and said that her daughter is a freshman at Collin College and just started attending FOCUS there! What a neat connection! That was so encouraging to us, knowing that God is working through generations of students and families through this ministry.

Aaron at the FOCUS booth at NCTC
We also had a student approach our booth at the TWU organization fair who specifically came looking for us because she has a friend that attends FOCUS at Collin College who recommended our ministry!

TWU student Claudia meeting new students
God's Spirit is working and moving across the campuses of DFW, that's for sure! Thank you so much for your many prayers for the campuses, the new students, our student leaders, and our staff. There were many days when we were tired and not sure we could keep going nonstop, but the thought of your prayers and support was motivating and encouraging! Thank you a million times.
Much love <3

Friday, August 4, 2017

It Begins--Danielle's August Update

I've been waiting all summer and August is finally here! I am so excited to get things started and meet all the new students that will be flooding the campuses in just 2 weeks. This past week our FOCUS staff retreated together to strengthen our team bond, reflect on what God has done, and prepare for what God is going to do this year. One of my biggest takeaways from the retreat is the idea that relationships matter more than content and/or skill when it comes to studying the Bible with people. Looking back on my experience of studying the Bible for the first time, about 10 years ago, I can hardly remember the things that I learned; however, I will never forget the relationship that I developed with the person who discipled me, my mentor Tana. She was patient, kind, loving, and above all, she showed me Jesus by allowing me into her life as a friend. We are still close friends today! I am encouraged by this because it gives me confidence in our student leaders. They may not have amazing pastoral skills yet, but they can be peoples' best friends. This is such great news! 

2017-2018 FOCUS Staff

Denton Staff Team
(L to R: Kristen, Rhett, Brittany, Aaron, me, Matt, Miriam)

Our 2017-2018 Apprentices
(L to R: Eddie, Kristen, Caitlin, Dawn, Jalen, Rhett)
Our latest student testimony is from one of my TWU student leaders! I am so excited to have Morgan on our corefa team this year. Here is her story: 

“I grew up in the Methodist church surrounded by various spiritual mentors. Though I had a good church upbringing, I don’t think I really knew how to truly seek God. My spiritual growth was consequently very slow, with many stops and dead ends. I knew God was there, but for too many years I believed that I could find Him by myself.
            It was not until I began dealing with crippling anxiety and depression that I began truly seeking God. The support from my church during my time in a psychiatric hospital gave me a new thirst for God and community.
            I found FOCUS late into my first semester of college in 2015. Since joining, the ministry continuously shows me the importance of community in growing our relationship with God. FOCUS has challenged my beliefs, encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, and even helped me to be more confident in my own skin. This year, I have been asked to be a student leader. Despite my fears of inadequacy, I know that I have been equipped with a community that will continue to guide and shape me into a better disciple, so I may go and make new disciples for God’s Kingdom.”

Morgan Chappell (Senior, Texas Woman’s University, Communication Sciences and Disorders)

Thank you for reading! Next month I will have lots of news about our first week of school, Welcome Week, and all of the excitement from the month of August. Thank you so much for your partnership in ministry and your love for students! 

<3 Danielle

Monday, July 3, 2017

Your Giving Matters --Danielle's July Update

As I was reflecting on what to share with you this month, I was reminded of a sermon I heard while visiting Hillcrest Church in Bellingham, Washington during our SICM trip.  Jonathan Lytle, a campus missionary at Western Washington University, spoke about the relationship between missionaries and their ministry partners.  It really impacted me and I thought it would be encouraging to you as well.  He had three main points:

1) Praying for missionaries matters more than you think.
2) Hospitality matters more than you think.
3) You're sending more missionaries than you think (or you're supporting more missionaries than you think).

I have seen all three of these to be true in my ministry to the Denton campuses.  Your prayers for our efforts on campus are incredibly important.  Sometimes we face opposition from students, parents, the university, and can even have disagreements as a staff.  As James reminds us, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16).

On the right is Divine, an international student from Kenya, right after her baptism. Pray for us to reach more students like her!  
For those of you who have so graciously offered to open your homes and lives to our students, we are incredibly grateful.  This simple gesture goes a long way.  Often we are ministering to international students who have never set foot in an American home.

Matt and I with an international student, Tony
This is how you are sending more missionaries than you think you are: if these students go back to their home countries, they will have the chance to spread the gospel to places most of us will never go!

Matt and I with the TWU leaders I mentored this past year
Thank you so much for choosing to partner with me, and for your part in spreading the gospel to the world! Your giving matters more than you think it does! 

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