Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Love one another, for love is of God.

August has been a whirlwind of activity, and September shows no signs of slowing down.  Students are on campus, classes have started, and Cores will begin this week.  All our preparation has been leading up to this moment, when our interns and student leaders reach out to new people on campus and share the Gospel with them.

Our Focus table at the International Student Organization Fair
Jalen, a Focus Corefa, meeting some new international students
One of my favorite outreach projects each summer is assisting UTD's International Student Services Office by providing transportation to newly arrived international students.  I recruit student volunteers who drive to the airport to meet the new arrivals and take them to their new homes on campus or at the surrounding apartments.  Our students in Focus love having the opportunity to be the first American these new students meet face-to-face.  It gives us the chance to serve people who are in a daunting situation, and it allows us to reach out and make an initial connection with someone who might be open to talking about their spiritual beliefs.  

This year, some of the arriving flights had so many new students on board that all of their luggage could not even fit on the buses UTD sent for them.  That's when UTD called on Focus to provide volunteers to drive U-Haul trucks to transport the luggage.  I drove the truck for two flights, and Sirak, our worship pastor at UTD, drove the truck for another flight.  I know our contribution made a difference to those new students and the university staff who work to serve them.

Once the new international students are situated in their new homes, most of them are eager to get involved and make new friends on campus.  The pictures above are from an organization fair for international students.  Every summer, ICF (International Christian Fellowship) hosts this event and invites other Christian groups to participate.  It's a valuable opportunity to meet the new students and invite them to our events.  Please pray with me that each of these new international students would meet at least one sincere disciple during their time here in the USA.  Many of these students come from countries that are hostile to the Gospel, so their time here is a precious chance for us to reach them with Christ's love.

There are so many wonderful things going on at each of our campuses, but I also want to tell you about our interns.  They have had a challenging and rewarding first month of their internship.

From left to right: Kaitlyn, Miriam, Cody, and Sarah
The first major assignment that the interns must complete is reading the entire Old Testament.  They had nine days at the beginning of August to devote to their reading.  The interns spent eight hours each day at the church building reading through the Bible and some supplementary materials.  This assignment is challenging, but each of our interns has found it extremely valuable for their own thought and spiritual growth.  Cody, who will tell you himself he has never been much of a reader, expressed to Brandon how meaningful he found his reading.  He said that as he got a grasp of the broad sweep of Hebrew history, he found himself yearning for the Messiah along with our Israelite forebears.  I think there is tremendous value in reading the scripture in large portions.  God has used stories to communicate the truth about Himself since the beginning.  Reading the scripture to understand these stories is a first step to understanding God.

After their reading days, the interns celebrated with a pool party (pictured above).  This was a fun time to relax and mentally prepare for the hard work of Welcome Week.  Thank you Mr. and Mrs. West (Kaitlyn's parents) for graciously hosting this party for us!

Welcome Week is always a busy, stressful, exciting time for our interns and student leaders.  They did an amazing job of welcoming new and returning students to their campuses and meeting many new friends.

Between Welcome Week and the first meetings of Core, we took our student leaders on a 24-hour retreat in Denton.

These leaders are ready to build God's kingdom on our campuses!
The retreat was a time of training and preparation.  We ask our Corefas (Core Facilitators) to make a demanding commitment.  Not only do they lead their weekly group meetings, but they must meet and invite people to join their Cores, study the Bible one-on-one with many of those students, and plan their Cores in conjunction with a partner.  All of the students pictured above have risen to that challenge, and our retreat gave them the encouragement they needed to get started.  To be honest, I spent much of the retreat in the kitchen with Debbie, Mandy, and Glenn making sure our leaders were well fed.  Although it was exhausting for me, it was an honor to serve these outstanding young men and women of God.  They are taking full advantage of the special opportunity they have as college students, and I am so proud of their enthusiasm and boldness as they share Jesus with their classmates.  Pray with me that they would be faithful to the calling God has given them this year and that their love would touch many lives.

At the retreat, we sang a worship hymn called The Greatest Commandments.  It has a four part harmony that sounded so beautiful as we sang together, but the words had the most impact:  "Love one another, for love is of God.  He who does not love does not know God.  God is love, God is love, God is love."

My prayer is that our love for God and for each other would be faithful and strong.  Thank you for the love you show our Focus students by praying for them and financially supporting our ministry.