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!

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, 

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,

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!


Monday, July 2, 2018

Sweet Summer---Danielle's July Update

I want to apologize that it's been a bit since my last post. June was a bit of a whirlwind for me! At the beginning of the month Matt and I were slowly packing and making the move from Denton to Plano. Immediately after, we made a last minute trip to South Dakota to visit some of his family there, including his grandmother who is recovering from a stroke. Once we got back we were able to settle into our new place...and then all of our friends on FOCUS staff got married every weekend in June! I was heavily involved in two of the weddings and Matt was also involved in one. We have one more wedding to attend this week and then we get a break for a bit! Here are some photos of our sweet friends and co-ministers getting married: 
Image may contain: 2 people, including Tate Hollingsworth, people smiling, people standing
Aaron Hollingsworth with his bride Tate. Aaron is one of my dearest friends and was a fellow staff member in Denton for the past two years. Tate is one of our UNT students and was in my peer team in the Spring. So happy for them!

Image may contain: 3 people, including Sloan Cannedy, people smiling, people standing and wedding
Sirak and Sloan getting married. Sirak works on the UTD team and Sloan and I will be working together on the Collin College team this year! They are sweet friends of mine and I'm excited to be closer to them in Plano now!
Image may contain: 2 people, including Sarah King, people smiling, people standing
My best friend, Sarah King, getting married to my other dear friend Brandon Worsham. Sarah is on the Arlington team and Brandon is our FOCUS Director and does ministry at UTD. I'm so excited that they are FINALLY married! They will also be living in Plano nearby!
In other FOCUS news, we are packing out the church every Thursday night as we gather for Summer FOCUS in Richardson. All eleven---that's right, I said eleven---of our campus ministries are meeting together over the summer and it has been a blast! Our sermon series is about getting behind Jesus, our rightful place as disciples. I get to preach next week, so be praying that the Spirit gives me the words he wants his students to hear, and that I would be able to deliver it clearly. I love that so many of our students still make it a priority to spend time in fellowship and the Word even though it's summer. 

Thursday nights at Summer FOCUS. We have a large crowd! 

Finally, I am still in a season of fundraising and am always on the lookout for new partners that are passionate about college students and/or spreading the gospel. Please let me know if you have any friends or family members that would be excited to join in the mission with me! Thanks to all of you who have continued to give your money, time and prayers to this ministry. We couldn't do this without you!! 

Much love!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

End of Year---Danielle's May Update

This year is finally coming to a close and it is bittersweet for me. I am sad to be transitioning away from the Denton team and all the students that I have developed relationships with here over the years. However, I am ready for a fresh start back on the Collin College team and am excited to see what God has in store there!

Sunday night we had our Spring Formal, a celebration of the end of the year where we honor our seniors and grads. Here are some photos of the night:

Some UNT ladies: Angel, Sierra, Erin, Jacy, and Kassi. I have had the pleasure of mentoring Erin and Kassi this year and they are two of my favorite gals. 

We had beautiful weather at the park pavilion as we gathered to reminisce about the year

A beautiful setting for my last Spring Formal in Denton

My husband Matt, center, with two of the guys he mentored this year: Justin and Alex

Some of my lovely TWU women that I spent time with this year!

My sweet pal and fellow staff member, Miriam. She is transitioning off our staff this year and is looking for a new job. I am going to miss her so much!
A group that I have had the great pleasure to work alongside this year is our student leader team. My favorite part of doing campus ministry is doing God's work with these people. They have encouraged me, challenged me, and loved me so well.

We had our last leader team meeting last night. We gathered around and told funny and encouraging stories from the year. God is so good to let me be part of this. 
I want to thank you all for your support and your prayer! We simply would not have had such a successful year of ministry if it wasn't for you. Thank you so much!

Here is our latest student testimony. I have known Bekwele for four years, since he was a student at Collin College before transferring to TWU. I am so proud of him!

"I first became involved with FOCUS when I was just starting out at Collin College. I had been living in Nigeria for a few years, so I was walking into a college experience where I didn’t know anyone. I worried a lot about not being able to find any meaningful friendships while I was there. So it came as a surprise when some old friends of mine, LorĂ© and Gibby Yessuff, invited me to a
Thursday Night Fellowship. From that first night of fellowship, I made more friends than I could have prayed for. People asked me to sit with them, scheduled time to hang out with me, got to know me, and challenged me as a disciple. It became clear to me that this was not only an example of authentic Christian community; this was the way Jesus called us to do friendships—intentional, genuine and loving.

Through the many friendships I’ve been blessed with in FOCUS, God has changed my fear and worry of not having any friends into a desire to grow and develop friendships at TWU. I am beyond thankful when I see what he is doing in the lives of students here and for the example of Christian friendship that I’m now able to extend to others."

Bekwele Wodi
Texas Woman’s University

With love, 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

SSI--Danielle's April Update

This past week we had 10 students and staff join us from Bellingham, Washington for their Spring Break. It's called SSI (Student Spring Impact) and it's a week devoted to doing outreach on our campuses. Our students host the Washingtonians who come to all of our events on campus to spread the light of Christ. We experimented with different approaches to reach as many people as possible. We had a few statements on display for people to respond to, like "If you love enough people, enough people will love you back. Thoughts?" and "Your emotions are real but may not be connected to reality. Thoughts?" Here are some photos from the week:

SSI Crew 2018 from Bellingham, WA

Statements on Display at TWU

Nick and Kelsey from WWU at our display board

We also had a "Free Listening" poster and sat on campus welcoming people to chat with us. I met a girl who is interested in faith but has had some negative experiences with organized religion. We are going to meet up next week to talk about spiritual things and maybe study the Bible! I am so excited!

 I wanted to remind you all about our Spring Showcase THIS SATURDAY! Hope to see you there!

Spring Showcase 2018
3pm and 7pm shows
5:30pm Art Show
Bent Tree Bible Fellowship Church
4141 International Pkwy, Carrollton

I want to leave you with our latest student testimony from my alma mater, UTD:

"When I first came to college, I was worried about finding a good, Christian community on campus. Luckily, I had a friend from home invite me to FOCUS at the beginning of the year, introducing me to a community that radiated acceptance and spread God’s light throughout campus.

Right away, I felt immediately included and got involved in a small group, which provided me a great community of believers and friends. Establishing this strong base at the beginning of the year eventually helped me through the tough times I faced later on; I was confronted with many things I had never been tempted with before during my first semester. That semester, while in a musical, I was around many older people who frequently drank. I drank a couple of times and justified my underage drinking while judging others for falling short in the same way. In my family and high school, I had been labeled the “good kid”. I had never built up the self-control against these inclinations and felt ashamed when I gave in to temptation. However, with the help of my Corefas and friends in FOCUS, I was able to stop these bad habits before they became too serious and find forgiveness through Christ. Now, rather than judging others who struggle with that temptation, I can empathize with them and share how God used FOCUS to help me overcome my own obstacles!"

Sienna Walter
UT Dallas
Business Administration

Thanks for reading and for your continual support!

With love,

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Spring is Here---Danielle's March Update

Every year we send a group of our most promising leaders to the Student Institute of Campus Ministry in Bellingham, Washington. This is an opportunity for our students to learn the tools to be disciple-makers on their campuses and for the rest of their lives. This May we are sending over 100 students across all of our ministries, 18 of which are from Denton! To help our students afford this trip we host a fundraiser concert in the spring and you are all invited!

Saturday, April 7, 2018
Matinee Show: Doors open at 2:30 pm; Show begins at 3:00 pm
Art Show: 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Evening Show: Show begins at 7:00 pm
Bent Tree Bible Fellowship Church, Bent Tree Family Theater
4141 International Pkwy, Carrollton, TX 75007

We will have TWO shows this year so you can attend the one that works best for your schedule! Don't forget about the art sale in between, showcasing our most talented student artists. Tickets are $20 and you can purchase them here: anyfocus.org/showcase

This month's student testimony is very special to me, as my husband Matt has been discipling this student for years. We love him and are so thankful that God has done some amazing work in his life! 

"When I was growing up, I was too afraid, timid and shy to make many friends. My parents encouraged me to join the swim team in high school, and I finally found a group of consistent friends there. That time brought a lot of confusion about my own sexuality. My attempts to figure out my own sexuality caused me to have a selfish outlook on those friendships. I had a group of friends that I was grateful for, but I still never experienced deep and true relationships. My main goal as I began college was to make new friends. During my first week at UNT, Pedro Paz befriended me and started to build a relationship with me while introducing me to the FOCUS community. My desire to find friends kept me coming back to different FOCUS events, and I began to see God work in my life. Even though I didn’t know Him at the time, God was chasing after me. I saw myself start to change as I obtained a new understanding of friendship and sexuality. I saw God use people like Matt Clark, who was shy like me, to impact hundreds of people. God taught me how to be expressive while still using my quiet nature as a tool for discipleship. I have friends that have sacrificed so much to help me through my struggles. God’s love shone through these people and I was able to see that my own desires, deriving from my sexuality, would not bring the joy I searched for. I realized that I was searching for love, but God was always with me. He offers the most intimate and greatest love."

Devin Rardin
University of North Texas

Thank you for reading and for your generous support of our ministry. We get to be a part of neat stories like this because of your kindness! Thank you again. 
With love, 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Season of Love--Danielle's February Update

February has begun and many of our students are beginning new dating relationships, which usually happens in waves around here. It's fun to be a part of! Another one of the great expressions of love I get to see every Spring is when parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and friends of our students attend our FOCUS Family Night. Parents are often uncertain about why their students are so excited and committed to this thing called "FOCUS," so we like to host an open house to let them see what we're all about! My favorite part is getting to see how much these students that I love dearly, and know super well, resemble their parents. What a treat! We had so many families show up this year that we literally had no room for them.

We had two students share about the impact that God has had on them through FOCUS, as well as an opportunity for parents to share how God has changed their student through this community. Here is what Ernesto Torres, a junior in our ministry, said last night:

"I first became a part of this community about 10 years ago, whenever I used to tag along with my sister to FOCUS as a 6th grader. I had no idea then what kind of impact that would have on my life. Thanks to that, I got to grow up in the Northeast church and I got to be a part of a godly community. However, I never took it super seriously and only did the minimum of what was expected of me. As a result, my relationship with Jesus was pretty shallow. Despite my lack of effort, I was poured into and loved by many through my time in Northeast. For example, there was a family, The Barbers, that welcomed me into their family with open arms. Through the Barber family I learned what it looked like for a family to put Jesus first. Whenever I was 12 I got to study the Bible with Kale Worsham and learned the importance of one on one ministry.

Now fast forward to my transition into college: I came here already knowing about FOCUS, but I also came here as an impulsive, curious, and selfish person. Thankfully, this community has fostered my growth into becoming a better representation of what Christ looks like. I went from making impulsive decisions that would only benefit me, to thinking more like Jesus. I went from keeping what was going on in my life to myself, to letting people know me and guide me through the process. I went from being in a constant state of comfort, to putting myself out of my comfort zone to serve the Lord. This looked like me going on a mission trip to New Orleans to serve the children there. I also did an internship with the Wylie Northeast church's teen ministry. I went from being someone who was constantly being invested in, to being someone who finally invests back. That is why I decided to become a leader, to give back like I was given to through this community. All of that only scratches the surfaces of what God has been doing through me and this community!"

Jacy (L) and Ernesto (R) sharing at Family Night

Three of my ministry partners also shared last night about the impact God has had on their children who are both still in college. I'm so thankful to them for coming and sharing in this vision with us!

Mr. and Mrs. Thornton sharing about their daughter Kennedy

Tony Campbell sharing about his daughter Erin

I wish I had a picture of the whole room of families but trust me, there were many! We are so grateful to all of you who continue to support this ministry so that generations of lives can be changed by our Father. The crazy thing is that the number of people in that room (which was over 375) is just a snapshot of all the people that have been impacted, because there were countless others who couldn't be there! Thank you again for your generosity, because it makes a real difference. I hope you will also enjoy this month's student testimony from our newest campus, SMU! 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Happy New Year!---Danielle's January Update

Classes in Denton started this week and we are back in the swing of things here! I wanted to wait to send this post until after our biggest event of the year, Winter Camp! We spent the holiday weekend at Sky Ranch with all 600 of our students across the metroplex to gear up for the coming semester. Two campus pastors from Bellingham, Washington, Geoff and Jessica Mumley, came to speak to our group about being sent into the world as disciples. Their stories of being sent to their community were so inspiring. Something that Jessica said that stood out to me most is, "Jesus' mission field was where his feet were, no matter what his plan was. Your mission field is where your feet are!" This has been a great reminder to me, and I think it can be encouraging to you as well. Even if you aren't doing campus ministry, God has still given you a mission field and it includes all the people you encounter on a daily basis. "As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" (Romans 10:15).

TWU Core at Camp

Look how many students came!

Some more good news and thanks to share with you: our Keep FOCUS Growing Fundraiser raised over $60,000! Thanks to all of you who donated and helped us reach our goal! We are blown away by the generosity of our greater community. We have already started renovating our staff meeting space at the church building in Garland, and FOCUS is now able to offer health insurance to all employees! What an amazing blessing!

Finally, here is our latest student testimony from a student at Collin College:

"FOCUS showed me what a real relationship with God is. Coming from a Christian private school, I thought I understood God pretty well but I didn't have a relationship with him at all. Through the example of my Corefas, staff members, and just so many other students, I saw what it means to earnestly seek God. One of my favorite moments from freshman year was a talk with my friend, Pedro. We were good friends at this point in the year, and I had become pretty vulnerable with him. We got into a serious conversation about our current walks with God, what that looks like, and why. After poorly answering how my relationship with God was "pretty good", Pedro really pushed my ideas of why I was Christian. I ended up realizing most of my faith was blindly following the laws God had given us, and not really seeking him out. Pedro then opened up to me that he had struggled with the same problem early on in his faith. I'm beyond thankful for Pedro and so many other friends like him who have spurred me on in love. Before FOCUS, this community, I was living half the life I am now. Now, I am living life with God, not just for him."

Graham Spencer
Collin College, Spring Creek