Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Keep FOCUS Growing

I hope you are keeping warm on this blustery December day!  The students are anxiously studying for finals, the FOCUS staff are putting the finishing touches on our Christmas party preparations, and I am here to tell you about one of the most important things we ask you to participate in each year: the annual Keep FOCUS Growing Fund!

Each year around this time, we ask our students, alumni, donors, and friends of the community to make a special gift to the Keep FOCUS Growing fund.  The money we raised last year as part of Keep FOCUS Growing helped us bring on more staff to minister to students, purchase useful equipment to keep our office functioning efficiently, and pay for events like Pizza Theology to help students engage with their faith on a deeper level.  We couldn't do those things without your generous gifts.  THANK YOU!

This year, we hope to expand to another campus in the DFW area.  Check out this video to see more:

Would you consider making an investment to Keep FOCUS Growing? Please go to anyfocus.org/next20 to donate. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fall Fellowship

October is here, which means the students in FOCUS at UTA are making new friends, learning and growing together in Core, and getting ready for our annual Fall Camp!  Here are just a few of the exciting things God has been doing on our campus:


Renee and I are co-leading a Core group this semester.  The beautiful ladies in the picture below (and a few more who have joined after we took that picture) gather together each Wednesday evening to share lives, pray and worship together, and learn about God through the Bible.

Our Core!
We believe in doing ministry through Core because it reflects the example set for us by Jesus.  He gathered around himself twelve men who were willing to spend time with him and learn from him.  When his time with them came to an end, he sent them out to go and make more disciples.  In FOCUS, we hope that the structure of a Core helps us to do the same thing.  The women in our Core are not just people I see once a week for an hour of Bible study.  They are my friends.  As I share my life with them this school year, I hope that we can grow together as disciples of Jesus.

Questions on Display

After the excitement of the first few weeks of school wears off, it can be hard to meet new people on campus.  In order to continue meeting people and building new relationships, FOCUS at UTA does outreach events called Questions on Display.  We set up a display in a heavily trafficked part of campus and ask people walking by to answer a question.  For those who seem interested, we initiate deeper conversations based on those questions.

This time around, we asked people, "What makes you afraid?"  Some of the answers people gave were silly (spiders, bees, dry skin), but some were deeper or more thoughtful (failure, losing a loved one, rejection).  I and the FOCUS students who came to help got to have encouraging conversations with many of the people who stopped and gave an answer.  I believe that God was honored through those conversations and that people got to hear the good news about Jesus!

Arlington Church

Arlington is an exciting city with a diverse, multicultural population, many famous sports and entertainment destinations, and a university that is growing rapidly and may soon become the largest in Texas.  As part of a larger community of churches around DFW, FOCUS has received tremendous support and help from those churches.  One of our goals, however, is that FOCUS at UTA would have a church in Arlington to support our students and welcome them into its ministries after graduation.  This past weekend we took the first step in that direction by meeting on a Sunday morning.  Check out who came in the photo below:

First meeting of Arlington Church
Please pray for the following needs:
- Fall Camp - Pray that students attending our upcoming Fall Camp would deepen their relationship with God during that time.
- Leaders - Pray that God would help us find and develop young men and women at UTA who are ready and willing to go and make disciples for Jesus.
- Arlington Church - Pray that we would be sensitive to the Spirit as we move forward with plans to establish a church in Arlington.

And please don't forget this upcoming event!  You are all invited:

Monday, September 5, 2016


WOW!  It's Labor Day, and that means I and the rest of the UTA team are finally catching our breath.  We just finished the Maverick Stampede (two weeks jam-packed with welcome events, including the first day of classes and our first FOCUS meeting of the semester) and God has shown that He is working at this campus.  I wish I could tell you about all the amazing things I've seen and heard in the past couple of weeks, but I would have to write a novel!  I'll just give you a few highlights:

UTA Student Leaders ready to help with move in

Our UTA students have shown a tremendous enthusiasm and dedication for campus ministry this past month. They helped new students move into the dorms, invited them to play games and eat together, and some have already had the opportunity to share about their faith in Jesus!  FOCUS wouldn't function without student leaders who take on the responsibility of ministering to their peers, and I am in awe of the incredible young people who have chosen to take on that responsibility this year.

Cooling off with water balloon dodgeball on the second day of class
Much of our outreach during the first few weeks of school is making new friends and having fun together.  The other staff and our student leaders attended many dance parties, BBQs, and other campus events with the goal of meeting lots of new people.  We made connections, got phone numbers, and invited people into our community throughout the week.

Girls' Game Night

This year, I will be a Corefa again!  It's been a few years since I've had the chance to facilitate a Core, and I'm excited to see how God works in the girls who will be gathering together every Wednesday night.  Pictured above are the girls who came to a game night hosted by me and Renee (my Co-Fa).  I'm praying that they will come back this Wednesday night for our first Core and that they would be open to learning what God wants to teach them!

Our first Thursday Night Fellowship

Last Thursday, we celebrated our first Thursday Night Fellowship (TNF) of the semester.  Over 100 students packed into a meeting room in the University Center to worship Jesus together and hear preaching from the scripture!  Some of those students signed up for FOCUS at their orientation, some saw a poster or sign on the campus advertising our organization, but most were invited personally by someone who purposefully met and befriended them this week.  God worked through those one-on-one interactions to bring this group of students together in His name.  Please pray with me that these students would come back to TNF and join Cores so that we can continue to call them to become disciples of Jesus.

Finally, I would like to invite you to our 20 Year Celebration!  FOCUS has been making disciples on campuses around DFW for 20 years now, and I think that's worthy of a celebration!  If you are excited about the work God is doing on our campuses through FOCUS, please plan to join us on October 8 for this celebration!  And please let me know if you plan to come.

As always, thank you for your prayers and support!  I am so encouraged to know I have a team like you supporting FOCUS at UTA.

Monday, August 8, 2016

It's time to "Mav Up!"

Now that I live in Arlington, I get to see the roller coasters at Six Flags almost every day as I drive around town.  It reminds me of a perfect analogy for my work in ministry: at this point in August, I and my fellow campus ministers feel like we're sitting in a roller coaster car at the very top of the Titan, the ratcheting sounds below us have slowed, and we're about to plunge screaming with delight into loops, twists, and turns on a wild ride.  Summer is almost over, new students are about to arrive, and we're ready to hit the ground running and "Mav up"!  That's what we say here to show our school spirit because we're the UTA Mavericks!

"So what do campus ministers do all summer?"

If you've wondered that question, let me tell you the answer: a lot!

Evangelism displays on campus
UTA has surprised me with the number of students who are on campus over the summer!  There are crowds of new students attending orientations once or twice a week all summer.  We've met hundreds of those new students at the "Involvement Fair," which is the portion of orientation that gives students the chance to connect with existing organizations on campus.  Many of them signed up to receive more information about FOCUS, so we will be inviting them to join our Cores and Thursday Night Fellowship meetings that will begin soon.

There are also many current students on campus taking summer classes, working at part-time jobs in the library and University Center, or doing research in the lab through special summer programs.  Our team has organized outreach events, like the one pictured above, to engage these students in spiritual conversations.  The goal of these times isn't to convert someone to Christ in a single conversation; rather, it's to encourage people to start thinking about the big questions in life and let them know that we are available to help them work through those questions in the context of one-on-one relationships.

FOCUS Staff at our ordination ceremony
Summer is also an important time for our staff, which changes every year.  On August 1, we welcomed seven new apprentices to our team.  They made a commitment to serve alongside us for ten months as they develop the skills of campus ministry.  The biggest task by far in preparing them for the apprenticeship is fundraising.  With coaching and direction from myself and others on staff, they worked hard and asked many people to invest in the vision of FOCUS.  Some of them are still seeking supporters who will pledge to fund their apprenticeship this school year, so please continue to pray for our fundraising efforts.

Mav Stampede

"Mav Stampede" begins on August 22 when new students move into on-campus housing at UTA.  The University hosts all kinds of events for the students to welcome them to campus.  There are informative events about the various departments, events with games and movies, and a ton of free food.  Most importantly, tons of students will be out on campus and open to making new friends.  Our student leaders will take advantage of this opportunity to meet new people and make friends.  Those new people we meet at Mav Stampede events will become UTA FOCUS members, student leaders, and maybe even staff in the years to come.  If we are faithful with this opportunity, I believe God will work amazing things through us.  Please pray for our student leaders as we prepare them for Mav Stampede; pray that they (and we) would have relentless energy and a keen sense of where the Spirit is leading us during this vitally important time.

Please be in prayer for us as we get ready for the roller coaster of the new semester.  Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Student Spotlight: Brooklynn

Brooklynn, sophomore at UTA
This is Brooklynn, a current UTA student.  I'd like to share with you how God has worked in her life (in her own words):

"I grew up with a single mom and was privileged to grow up in a Christian household. Leaving for school was a big step for me, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Coming into college I felt I had two options: I could go off, explore the party scene, and be rebellious in way that I never really have, or I could pursue my faith. During welcome week I met some of the student leaders in FOCUS; they really seemed to be interested in my life and pursued my friendship in a way that I wasn’t used to. I took that as my sign. Since then, my corefas and the other leaders in FOCUS have taught me, and displayed what living life with Jesus as a disciple looks like. Prior to college I was a Christian, but I wouldn’t say I was a disciple. Studying FOJ challenged me in that aspect. I have come to know how freeing it is to give my life completely over to God and let him set my priorities. Most of my favorite memories from my freshman year have centered around, or at least involved, the friends I have made in FOCUS. I have made deep, meaningful, Christ‐centered relationships that I wouldn’t have found, or known how to find without community. FOCUS has loved me in a way that I haven’t experienced outside of my family, and as an orientation leader, I want all of my freshman orientees to have that as well."

Brooklynn's story is exciting to me because she is one of the students I'll be working with at UTA this fall.  I've already gotten to meet up with her a few times.  She has a humble heart and a lot of love for God and His people.  I can't wait to see how God works through her to impact this campus!

Urgent Prayer Request:
Our staff and upcoming apprentices have less than one month to finish raising their financial support for the coming school year.  Please pray that God will provide financially so that all of us can continue to do the work He has called us to do.  It is only through the generous support of our donors that we are able to spend our time ministering to students and making disciples on our campuses.

Ways You Can Help:
- Pray!  I believe that God hears our prayers and wants us to ask for His help during this season of support-raising.
- Give.  If you are not a current financial supporter, would you consider becoming one?  Our upcoming apprentices need supporters who are willing to give monthly over the course of their 10-month apprenticeship that starts August 1.  If you are interested in supporting an apprentice or giving to the FOCUS General Fund, please contact me at kelly@anyfocus.org.
- If you already give to FOCUS, thank you!  Would you consider increasing your current support by 5%-10%?  Even a small increase can help us cover our full budget for the coming 2016-2017 school year.  If you would like to increase your current donation, please contact me at kelly@anyfocus.org.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  Let me know if you have questions about FOCUS at UTA or if there is any way I can be praying for you.  I love hearing from you!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer - A Season of Transitions

This summer is a season of change for many of us in FOCUS.  The spring semester has ended, students are headed back home or starting summer jobs, and new graduates are discovering life after college for the first time.  Please pray for all our students over the summer - that they would make smooth transitions and use their summer break wisely.

It's also a time of transition for the FOCUS staff.  May 31 was the last day of the FOCUS Internship.  We gathered together to celebrate our fourteen interns and thank them for their service over the past ten months.  Of those fourteen, some already have new jobs lined up.  Others are still searching and waiting.  Some will pursue graduate education.  And four of our graduating interns will continue on as members of the FOCUS staff.  Please pray for all fourteen graduating interns; pray that God would guide them through the transitions they are facing and that they would continue to serve him faithfully wherever they go.

As you may remember, I will also be going through a major transition of my role in FOCUS.  Next Saturday, I will be packing up a truck and moving to Arlington!  I will be joining Sarah King, Austin Gage, and April Ashton on the FOCUS team at University of Texas at Arlington.  FOCUS has only existed at UTA for one school year.  It's a young group, but it's just bursting with enthusiasm for following Jesus and growing His kingdom on that campus!  Please pray for me and the UTA team as we get to know each other and work to prepare for the coming school year.  Please pray also for the Denton team that I am leaving.  They are losing me and Sarah Hubbard, but they will be gaining Danielle Rodriguez.

I am eager to get to know my new campus, and I hope you are, too.  Here are some quick facts about UTA so you will know the situation we are headed into.

- Founded as Arlington College in 1895
- Incorporated into the UT System in 1965
- Over 37,000 students currently attend classes on campus.
- 72% undergraduate students; 28% graduate students
- 12% of enrolled students are internationals!
- Popular fields of study include nursing, engineering, and public affairs.

I can't wait to start connecting with those students and introducing them to Jesus!

Please keep me, the FOCUS staff, and all our students in your prayers this summer.  I appreciate your support!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

SICM - Student Institute of Campus Ministry

The photo above may not seem exciting to you, but it fills me with eager anticipation for what's to come!  That photo shows students in a session at SICM, the Student Institute of Campus Ministry.  They are diligently listening and taking notes as they learn how to make disciples of Jesus on their college campuses.  When they return home on Saturday, they will go back with new skills, new knowledge, and new enthusiasm to reach out in love to their classmates, roommates, professors, and friends.  God is working in the hearts and minds of these SICM students, and I can't wait to see what He does!

At our lunch break today, I got a chance to talk to one of our young men from UNT.  His attitude about this conference encouraged me so much.  He told me he is working hard (and drinking lots of coffee) to stay awake and alert during the classes.  He described this conference as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; he described the wise and experienced speakers as "diamonds," people with a rare and valuable gift to impart.

As our students continue their classes for the rest of the week, please pray with me that they would all have the humble heart and open mind of that young man.  Pray also that they would return to Texas filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to advance the kingdom of God on their campuses!

Friday, May 6, 2016

The End is Near

Don't be too shocked by the title, I'm only talking about the school year!  As I write this, many of our Denton students are studying for the finals they will take next week.  After that, some will graduate, others will move back home, and still others will stay in the DFW area to work, take summer classes, and participate in our summer FOCUS activities.

Spring Formal

Get used to seeing those beautiful people behind me and Miriam - those five will all be FOCUS Apprentices next school year!

To wrap up the 2015-2016 school year, we celebrated with Spring Formal.  We take this time at the end of each year to honor our graduates and to thank our Corefas, worship team, and other volunteers who have worked hard for God's kingdom on our campuses.  Pray with me for our many graduates from TWU and UNT who will be starting their careers for the first time.  It's a difficult transition for many of them, but I am confident that through FOCUS they have learned valuable lessons that will help them follow God's path in their futures.

Leader Team

This is our 2015-2016 Leader Team
Don't be deceived!  The silly looking people in the photo above are some of the hardest working, most competent, and deeply faithful college students you will ever meet.  Most of them served this year as Corefas (Core facilitators), working in pairs and trios to lead a same-gendered group of fellow students in the pursuit of Jesus.  A few others served as worship pastors; they spent time each week practicing their music and prayerfully considering how God wants them to lead our community in worship.  A handful of these fine people led the push to start FOCUS at NCTC (North Central Texas College), a community college in Corinth, south of Denton.  They spent time on campus weekly, meeting new people, building friendships, and engaging them in spiritual conversations.

I am tremendously grateful for the hard work and dedication of each person in the photo above.  It has been an honor to work alongside these students, many of whom volunteered fifteen hours or more per week to lead their Cores.  We are already thinking about the composition of our leader team for next school year, and I pray that we find even more students who are just as committed as those above!


In case you don't remember, here's a photo of our SICM students last year!
On May 12, FOCUS will be taking over 100 students from all our campuses to Washington for our annual SICM conference!  SICM stands for "Student Institute of Campus Ministry."  It's a week-long conference packed with intensive classes that teach our students how to reach out to their peers on campus, how to study the Bible deeply, how to teach others about the Gospel, and so much more.  The 100+ students we're taking to SICM have been specially selected for this conference because we believe that they have the potential to serve our community by leading Core or filling other leadership roles.  My prayer is that by the end of SICM, all of those students catch the vision for what God is doing on college campuses and see their crucial role in building His kingdom.

I want to mention a few things about how we selected the students we will take to SICM.  Some organizations ask for applications for leaders.  Others seek out and recruit people who are outgoing, put-together, or otherwise seem like "natural leaders."  In FOCUS, we use the FAITH acronym to determine who could become a leader:

F: Faithful to God and people.  Is this person faithfully devoted to Jesus?  Does this person keep the commitments he makes?
A: Available.  Has this person made herself available by attending community events?  Has he structured his life in such a way that he is available to serve and participate?
I: Initiative.  Does this person take initiative in leading and serving people around her, even without a formal leadership title?
T: Teachable.  Is this person humble and willing to listen when others correct him or share differing views?  Has this person actively sought to grow and improve?
H: Heart for God and people.  Does this person have a passion for serving God and others?  Does this person have an internal motivation rooted in love?

Jesus surrounded himself with twelve disciples who didn't look too impressive to their society.  He didn't pick twelve valedictorians, or twelve all-star quarterbacks, or twelve Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, or twelve Senators.  He chose fishermen and tax collectors, unschooled, ordinary men.  But those twelve exemplified the same qualities depicted in the FAITH acronym.  Jesus chose them, lived His life together with them, and ultimately entrusted them with the task of spreading His message.  As we look forward to choosing our Corefas for the next year, we look for people who possess the same qualities, because they will be entrusted with the same vital mission.

Please pray now for the students we're sending to SICM.  Pray that they will learn and grow as the Spirit works in them, and pray that we as a FOCUS staff would choose wisely as we recruit a team of students who will continue the mission on their campuses.

Moving to Arlington

2015-2016 Denton FOCUS Staff
It has been my honor this past year to work with the gorgeous and gifted people above.  They deeply love our students and pour out their hearts to help them grow.  They work long hours doing work that is sometimes physically demanding and other times heartbreaking.  They don't get paid nearly enough.  And they've spent the year patiently tolerating my nit-picking, sarcasm, and occasional tearful outbursts.  I thank God for these beautiful people and the blessing I have found in them.

Matt and I are now in the process of selling our house in The Colony, and we will move to an apartment in Arlington in June.  There, I will join a new team of co-ministers at UT Arlington.  I'm certain I will love and respect that new group just as much, but I will certainly miss the people in the photo above.  It is with a mixture of sadness and eager expectation that I end this phase of life and begin a new one.  I'm so excited to see what God has in store for me in Arlington!

I ask that you pray for everything going on in the life of FOCUS, and I thank you for your faithful gifts that help us answer God's call to reach college campuses in the DFW area.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

SSI, Spring Showcase, and so much more!

So many exciting things have happened in the life of our community since I last wrote, and I can't wait to share them with you!


Each spring, CCF, our sister ministry in Washington, sends a group of students to our campuses for one week for an event known as SSI.  They spend the week reaching out to students on our campuses, starting spiritual conversations, and making friends.  I'm pleased to say that the week went smoothly, and the ten students and two interns who came to our Denton campuses had a great time.

One of the benefits of SSI is that each year, it encourages our students to start more conversations with their peers about spiritual topics.  Pray with me that the excitement of SSI week will continue to motivate these students to reach out to people in their classes and just walking on campus.

The SSI team getting ready for a day of outreach
Spring Showcase

The Finale
If you didn't make it to Spring Showcase on April 2, you missed out!  We had something for everyone: Broadway duets, dueling violas, ballet, Storm Troopers, and more!  It was an incredible evening of entertainment, but more importantly, we raised around $17,000 to send our students to SICM!  Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed!  With that money, we will be able to help our aspiring student leaders attend SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) this May, so they can learn the skills needed to lead Bible studies and help their fellow students become better disciples of Jesus.

Spring Showcase was organized and run by our interns, and they did a fantastic job.  And that leads me to the team that will be taking over next year...

The Apprentices

The 2016-2017 FOCUS Apprentices
These five beautiful people pictured above will be our apprentices for the coming school year.  Right now, I am working closely with them as they raise their financial support for their upcoming apprenticeship.  Please pray that God would reward their efforts and lead them to people who are willing to support campus ministry.  I am so thrilled that these five apprentices will be working on our campuses next year to lead students into closer relationship with Jesus.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Big News!

Hello friends!  The semester is flying by, and God is working in amazing ways on our campuses!

Student Institute of Campus Ministry

Big news: we are taking 116 people to SICM!  This is our biggest group ever, and I am so thrilled that they will  have this special opportunity.  Those students will learn how to reach out to others on campus, teach Bible studies, and disciple their peers.  Please start praying now for these students.  Ask God to open their minds to learn and to provide the money that is needed to send them on this trip.

Here are a few of those amazing students who will be going:


Spring Showcase

If you want to help these students get to SICM, please come to the Spring Showcase!

Spring Showcase is a concert event with performances from very talented students and alumni.  We will also have an art sale featuring original works by students and alumni.  All funds raised will benefit our SICM students.
Here are the details:
Saturday, April 2
Art sale opens at 6:30 PM
Concert begins at 7:30 PM

North Dallas Community Bible Fellowship
2801 E. President George Bush Hwy.
Plano, TX 75074

How much?
Adult tickets $20
Student/child tickets $15

Where do I buy tickets?
You can purchase tickets in person from any student who is attending SICM, or you can click here to purchase online.

I hope to see you there!


I am pleased to announce that I will be moving to our UT Arlington campus next school year!  This decision has been a difficult one.  I'm sad to leave the students and my team in Denton, but I am also excited about the prospect of moving to Arlington, living near the campus, and getting to know a whole new group of students.  Please be in prayer for me during this transition, and for all our students and staff as we move into a new season of ministry.

Here are a few of the new friends I'll be spending time with in Arlington!
Thank you all so much for your prayers and support for me and the FOCUS ministry.  Next month, I look forward to sharing with you about our SSI adventures!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Spring Semester

The spring semester is always so full of exciting milestones marking the growth of our community.  Here are just a few that I can't wait to tell you about: Winter Camp!  SICM Invites!  Apprenticeship Applications!  Fundraiser!

Winter Camp

Winter Camp 2016 was an enormous success.  Each year, students from all of our campuses across the Metroplex gather to worship God together and learn about Him from our guest speaker.  This time around, over 500 students gathered, along with a handful of alumni and special guests.  We sang praises to God and even enjoyed some dancing in our worship.  We heard an inspiring message from Dr. Rikk Watts that helped illuminate how the first-century Jews experienced the ministry of Jesus, and how Jesus incorporated the message of the Old Testament in His life and teaching.

I have heard nothing but positive feedback from our students about their camp experience.  One student told me Rikk's talks inspired her to study the Scripture more deeply and look for connections that bridge the gap between Old Testament and New.  She also said she felt particularly challenged to look with mercy and grace on other people, just as Jesus showed tremendous grace to Zaccheus the tax collector.  Another student found our talk about dating for disciples provided a new perspective on relationships that she hadn't considered before.

Brandon and Garrett do a little role-play to illustrate a point in the dating talk

I don't know what I love more: meeting Rikk Watts or seeing our students learn so much from him!

SICM Invites

Each summer, we send promising young students to the Student Institute for Campus Ministry, an intense, week-long training conference where they learn the skills to minister to other students on their campuses.  The conference is in May, but we are already determining which students to invite to this special opportunity.  We're looking for students who exhibit faithfulness to God and to our community, who are already taking initiative to serve and lead, who humbly and eagerly desire to learn, and who make time for ministry and for their brothers and sisters in our community.  Many of these students will be asked to lead Cores next year, while others will bring the skills they learn to their classes and workplaces.  Please pray for our staff as we decide whom to invite to SICM; God often uses people who don't look like "leadership material" at first glance to do great things in His Kingdom, so pray that our eyes would be open to see God's plans for our students!

Apprenticeship Applications

As you know, I work closely with our FOCUS interns.  What you probably don't know is that we are renaming our internship.  It is now the Campus Ministry Apprenticeship.  We believe that the language we use matters, so I think this renaming will help us think differently about the program.  "Intern" conveys the idea of someone inexperienced, underpaid, and unskilled.  "Interns" make copies, get coffee, and rarely have any input into the way an organization operates.  "Apprentices" work closely with someone who is already engaged in a craft or profession, learning the necessary skills through hands-on experiences.

Our interns have never been copy-making, coffee-fetching, silent lackeys.  They are vital members of our team and spend their time on our staff learning the art of ministry by doing ministry.  Changing our language around this program more accurately reflects what we actually expect from these team members, and it will more accurately covey their level of experience to future employers.

With that said, now is the season of accepting applications and interviewing prospective apprentices.  Please pray fervently that God would send us the apprentices He wants on our team, and that we as a staff would be wise in making those hiring decisions.  The recent graduates applying to our apprenticeship now could be the ministers who carry FOCUS to new campuses in the decades to come.

Keep FOCUS Growing Initiative

We met our goal of $45,000!  THANK YOU for giving generously and for praying for this fundraising initiative.  Some of that money will help pay staff, some will cover our office expenses, some will help us get our students to events like Winter Camp and SICM.  But it's clear that ALL the money raised will help us make disciples for Jesus on all our campuses.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Christmas Blessings and New Beginnings

Happy New Year and welcome to 2016!  I hope each one of you enjoyed a special holiday season and took the time to reflect on the greatest Christmas gift any of us has received, namely the gift of Jesus Christ our Lord.

December was a time to celebrate many things:  Christmas, the close of the fall semester, and the blessing of family and community.  Let me share with you how I and the FOCUS community celebrated.

Our Denton Christmas Party
 Just before the chaos of final exams, our students gathered together to celebrate Christmas.  This was a time of laughter as our Cores performed silly skits to entertain their peers.  The skits had to incorporate a Christmas song and reflect the unique character of our Denton campuses.  My favorite was the performance put on by Darby, Katie, and Hanna's Core.  Their group re-wrote Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" into "All I Want for Christmas is the Union."  They sang about the new UNT Union that recently opened, and each of the girls dressed in a different costume to represent some aspect of the new building.  Everyone could see that those young women had not only school spirit but a lot of love for each other.  Those skits of course are not meant only for entertainment; we strategically ask our Cores to do something that requires planning, practice, and often a little embarrassment because it helps strengthen the bonds of friendship within each group.

After the silliness of our skits, the party took a more reflective tone.  I read many biblical passages aloud to our students and asked them to ponder the magnificent reality of Christmas.  I read from the Old Testament prophets who looked forward to the glorious coming Messiah and the universal victory of God's kingdom, and I read from the Gospels as they told the story of a baby born to an unwed teenager, surrounded by livestock in a stall.  The meaning of Christmas is tremendous: God has come to earth.  But the visible reality of Christmas is mundane: a Jewish child born into a common family while sheep slept under the watchful care of shepherds nearby.  I encourage you to ponder that paradox of Christmas and these words, spoken by Simeon over the infant Jesus: "For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.  This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."

From left: Sarah K, Danielle, Miriam, and Debbie

After Christmas, while our students were still away relaxing with family and enjoying the break from school, the FOCUS staff and interns gathered together for a retreat.  We drove four hours to a remote bit of the Texas hill country and stayed in two huge rental houses (there were 30 of us on this trip).  For four days we learned, prayed, and spent much time preparing for the upcoming semester and the many exciting things we have planned.  We also had plenty of time to play together, enjoy each other's company, and strengthen the tight bonds of friendship that allow us as a staff to work together effectively.  As you look at these funny pictures, please pray for this team.  I am privileged to work with some of the most talented, intelligent, self-sacrificing and faithful people in the world.  Pray that God would keep us wholeheartedly committed to Him and that He would use us to bless college students at all of our campuses.

From left: Sirak, Sarah, and me
This is me with my fellow Denton pastor, Cody.  Please pray for the McCartys, as the family home where Cody celebrated Christmas was completely destroyed by the December 26 tornadoes.
From left: Garrett, Tana, and April (with Debbie in the background)

Finally, I am thrilled to tell you that our annual Winter Camp is quickly approaching!  Students from all the FOCUS campuses will gather from January 15-18 at Sky Ranch to worship, learn, and play together.  Please pray that camp will be a catalytic moment in the spiritual lives of these students.  Pray also for students who haven't yet decided to attend; sometimes it's the students who decide at the last minute who have the most meaningful camp experience.

If you would like to come to any part of Winter Camp, please let me know.  Many of our alumni and supporters come on Saturday to hear the lessons and meet the students they support.  I would be delighted to see you there.

Thank you for the prayers and support that enable me to keep making disciples on our campuses!