Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Camp and New Beginnings

The biggest, funnest, most mind-blowingly awesome event of the year in FOCUS has occurred:  Winter Camp!

250 students from all of our campuses gathered at a campground in Bridgeport to have fellowship, worship, and to hear from God together.  It was pretty much the highlight of my life (or at least the highlight of January).  Here's a rundown of some of the cool things we did:
-Powerful sermons by Eddie Howard
-Eating lots of food
-Playing games together, especially the FOCUS favorite: Koob
-Warm ups (think elementary school P.E.) led by the interns
-Communion with our specific campus
-Special session on how to talk to people about Jesus

And if that doesn't sound like a spectacular weekend, there's more:  Everyone got to hear me talk about the internship.  The senior staff picked me and Matt to share about our intern experience so far.  Why they chose me?  I think they just like to see me cry.  (Just kidding!)  No, really, I did cry for most of my talk, but I wanted to share with you all what I had to say.  Here's what I wrote down:

FOCUS and the awesome people I've met here have given me so much.  In my college years, I was constantly challenged, held accountable, and encouraged to grow in my faith.  Through FOCUS, I've found lifelong friends, mentors for whom I have sooo much respect, and a totally awesome husband.  FOCUS has taught me the importance of community and discipleship and really, truly seeking God.

I decided to do the internship because I wanted to give something back to this community that has given me so much, as if I had anything of value to give.  But I realize now God wasn't (and still isn't) finished teaching me about himself through all of you.  So even though I thought I would be giving back, I feel like I have received so much more than I've been given.

What has been the most difficult part of the internship for me?  The toughest challenge I've faced this year has been connecting to all of you up at UNT.  I started in August knowing only a handful of students, and I feel like there have been a lot of barriers - I'm not a student anymore, I went to a different school, I'm married, I don't live in Denton.  It's really been a struggle to feel like I belong, but all of you have been so welcoming, and you've really helped ease me through that transition.

Finally, I get to talk about what's really been the best part of the internship for me.  Far and away, my favorite part has been all of you.  I am so grateful for the chance to learn about God with and through the girls in my Core, the student leaders at UNT, the other interns, and all of the staff.  I am so tremendously blessed to get to work with the best people in the world.  You are God's people, and he uses you to bless my life every day.

And I really mean all of that.  I am so blessed by this awesome community that I get to serve.

Monday, January 9, 2012


"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

Last weekend the staff and interns of FOCUS had our Staff Retreat.  It was a time of relaxation, fellowship, and planning.   One of the major topics of discussion over the weekend was our long-term vision.  By reviewing our goals and methods, I think all of us experienced the renewing of our minds, a re-orientation of our focus.

Here are some of the goals and strategies of FOCUS that I particularly value:

Leadership is from the ground up.  Many churches and ministries hire professional ministers with seminary degrees who have vast knowledge of the Bible but little knowledge of the ministry they are joining.  In FOCUS, our leaders are students who spend a year or two as members before being asked to lead their peers.  No formal religious education is required, only a willingness to learn and a desire to serve God.  In this way, we can equip anyone to be a leader in God's kingdom.  Sure, that means we take a risk - a student leader might not agree with staff about everything - but Jesus took risks when he chose leaders, too.  Instead of picking priests and experts in Scripture, he chose fishermen and laborers and taught them just what they needed to know.

Community matters.  The American mindset is fundamentally individualistic: "I can be anything I want to be," "Look out for number one," "Me against the world."  I think that way of thinking can be really harmful to Christians, who are exhorted to "be devoted to one another" and "honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10).  FOCUS has always put a strong emphasis on the importance of healthy community.  We grow stronger and live better when we're together.  Healthy community means we teach each other and learn from each other.  We're honest with each other and don't let bitterness or grudges linger.  We can rely on each other for our needs, and we're always happy to share in the joys and successes of others.  In FOCUS, Core is our strongest tool for building community.  We come together in small, same-gender groups to talk about the things we're really struggling with, to pray for and with each other, and to support each other as we grow in Christ.

Focus on the campus by being on campus.  College campuses are a vital mission field.  College is a time when young people face a lot of tough decisions and new experiences, and many of those students are far from parents for the first time.  FOCUS reaches out to these students with a message of hope and the offer of a welcome community.  College campuses are also extremely diverse; students come from other regions of the US and even from other countries.  FOCUS is active and present on the college campus, where these students spend most of their time.  We go directly to people who need to hear the Gospel, whether for the first time or as a reminder of something they already know.

I love working with FOCUS.  I believe that God has prepared a harvest of young people who are ready to start following him and leading others to him.  By living as disciples of Christ and sharing a common vision, we can reap that harvest to the glory of God.