Friday, December 1, 2017

Keep FOCUS Growing

'Tis the season to Keep FOCUS Growing. Each year, FOCUS raises funds through our Keep FOCUS Growing campaign. This year, our goal is $50,000, and, thanks to supporters like you, we are already over halfway there!

The theme of our campaign this year is #NewChapter. We're sharing stories of how God has used FOCUS to help young people write a New Chapter in their lives.

You can see more stories like Danni's by clicking here to follow our Facebook page.

The money we raise through Keep FOCUS Growing will  help us grow on our existing campuses and expand to new campuses. Those funds pay for everything from paper and printer ink to counseling for students in need. It pays for our full-time administrator, Isabelle, who keeps things running smoothly behind the scenes. It pays for outreach displays that attract attention on campus, and for Focus on Jesus booklets that help students encounter Jesus through the Scripture.

If you've already given to Keep FOCUS Growing, THANK YOU! I am tremendously grateful for your support!

If you haven't given yet, please give what the Lord leads you to give. You can donate online by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November Already

Greetings from UTA! The semester is more than halfway over, and God has been on the move!!

UTA Fall Camp
Fall Camp
Fall Camp is a highlight of every year in ministry! Sometime in early October, we take our FOCUS students away for a 24-hour retreat at a beautiful campground. They spend time playing games, eating snacks, and hearing from their peers how God has been at work changing their lives. Although it's only a short time to get away from the hectic routine of college life, Fall Camp has a big impact on the depth of relationships between our students. For some, they get to spend more time together at Fall Camp than they would in a whole semester of Core!

Caitlin and Jalen preaching the word at TNF
Jalen and Caitlin are our UTA apprentices. I have been so blessed to work on a team with these talented young ministers! Above is a photo of them preaching their first sermon together at one of our Thursday Night Fellowships. Even though it was their first sermon, they were comfortable and clear communicators, and I was deeply moved by their message about the importance of connecting to God on a personal level.

In addition to preaching, all of our apprentices also spend plenty of time in class. I have the privilege of teaching a class to them on Financial Stewardship that begins this week. The Bible speaks frequently about money, greed, and generosity, and my task is not only to help them form a coherent understanding of how God wants them to deal with their finances, but also to teach them how to teach those principles to the students they meet with each day. It's a big task; your prayers are appreciated!

So far this semester, four of our young women at UTA have been baptized! Each of these ladies has made the choice to commit fully to God, and I couldn't be more honored to play a tiny part in their journeys. I know God has big plans for them! Would you pray for each of them? Their names are Megan, Carla, Natasha, and Jocelyn.

Thank you
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but I want to begin early by thanking you for your prayers and financial support. You are making an impact on students at UTA!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Stampede is over

Each fall, UTA kicks off the new semester with the Maverick Stampede - a two-week extravaganza of moving in, waffles, free t-shirts, dance parties, pool parties, burgers, balloons, carnival games, and school spirit. These events are meant to welcome students to the campus, either for the first time or as returners, but FOCUS utilizes these events for a different purpose; our students show up to meet new people, make friends, and invite them into the FOCUS community and life with Jesus.

On the first day of class, we handed out popsicles and encouraged students with these posters.

Silly selfies at girls' game night - eight of the ladies in this picture are new friends we met last week!
I am beaming with pride for how hard our student leaders have worked during the Mav Stampede. They were tirelessly meeting new people, getting phone numbers, and making connections. The result of their efforts was clearly seen at our first TNF - Thursday Night Fellowship.

Most people in FOCUS come because of a personal invitation - but a few see signs like this and come to visit our meetings.

Students milling around before our first TNF (photo cred: Ryan Jacobson)
Our first TNF was an outdoor gathering in the middle of campus. Meeting outside isn't ideal, but we were blessed to have beautiful weather for our first meeting. Since we were in a highly visible spot on campus, we also had a few people see us as they were walking by and decide to stay! Sarah shared a message about how Jesus was sent into the world to save it, and how we are now sent to on a mission to spread the good news. Lots of people were interested in what she had to say and engaged in conversation about the message afterward. Join me in praising God for leading these people to show up and hear from Him!

I will be co-leading a Core this year with Charity; she's a senior accounting major with a goofy sense of humor and a passion for spreadsheets. Our first Core meeting is TONIGHT at 6 pm. Please pray for us and all the ladies we've invited. Core is a place where people make close friends and grow closer to God in the context of loving community. I'm praying that our Core will be that place for all the women we've been meeting on campus these past two weeks.

Next time I'll update you on how Core is going and our plans for Fall Camp. Please pray for that event as we prepare a special experience to help these young people connect with each other and with Jesus.

THANK YOU so much for your prayers, your financial support, and your love for college students at UTA and all our campuses.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Ready for a new semester!

Our FOCUS staff for the 2017-2018 school year. I'm so honored to serve with this team!
Our FOCUS staff just got back from our staff retreat yesterday, and it was a blast! On Monday, we welcomed six new apprentices to the team, and then we drove an hour away to spend the week in prayer, worship, and fellowship together.

On the first night of retreat, we all went around the group and spent a few minutes sharing about the first person who reached out to us to teach us about Jesus. It was an encouraging time to see how God has worked through so many different people. One thing that struck me was that few of us remembered specific things we had been taught, but we all remembered the way those people loved us - how they sacrificed their time to meet with us, how they remained committed even when we weren't, how they invested in us through real, deep relationships. As we get ready for another school year of ministering on our campuses, I am more convinced than ever that God is at work through our relationships with one another. Would you join me in praying that God would work through the FOCUS students and staff to provide those life-changing relationships to the new students arriving at all of our campuses?

Two of our UTA students at an Orientation Involvement Fair
One vital way we connect with those new students is by meeting them during their orientations. We set up a table, hand out some free pens and wristbands, and talk to incoming students about FOCUS. As I have worked at these orientations, I've met students who are both excited and nervous about beginning a new experience, students who are actively looking for a Christian organization and those who definitely aren't interested in Christ, and of course a lot of parents who are anxious about sending their kids off to college for the first time. We've had over 250 students sign up to be contacted by FOCUS at UTA, and we still have six more orientations before school starts! Please pray with me that God would move those students to respond as we invite them into our community.

The 2017-2018 UTA FOCUS Staff (from left to right: Jalen, Caitlin, me, Sarah, Austin)
These beautiful people above are the team that I have the privilege of working with this school year. I first met Jalen during his Welcome Week as a freshman at UTD. I gave him and a few other freshmen a ride to church one morning, and now he and Dawn, another one of those students I drove to church, are both FOCUS apprentices! Caitlin found FOCUS when she walked up to one of those orientation tables (just like the one above) and met Austin. She's now the first FOCUS apprentice to graduate from UTA! As I reflect on their stories, I am continually reminded that God is always at work, even in small things, and He asks that we join Him in faithfully doing those small things for the sake of His kingdom.

Thank you for your support and prayers, especially during this busy season as we welcome new students to our campuses.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Summer Shenanigans

The sun is out, the temps are rising, and the flood of students walking around campus each day has diminished to a trickle.  That can only mean one thing: SUMMER!


At the beginning of summer each year, FOCUS sends a group of students to SICM, the Student Institute of Campus Ministry, in Bellingham, WA.  This year we sent around 80 students who have shown their potential for leadership in campus ministry through their faithfulness to God, their love for other people, and their willingness to learn and grow.  Those students spent a week in intensive classes taught by seasoned ministers learning how to grow deep spiritual friendships and lead their peers toward a thriving relationship with Jesus.  They also got to do a little sightseeing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Some of our UTA ladies enjoying the weather at SICM

SICM students at Peace Arch Park on the border with Canada

Here's what a few of our UTA students said about the experience:

"This week I was blessed to go to Bellingham, Washington to spend my first week of summer participating in the Student Institute of Campus Ministry, learning more about how to be a disciple, and how to disciple others. Boy oh boy did God show up! I am so grateful for this wonderful community who values us each as individuals and as a whole! So excited to see all that God is going to do this next semester and to be a part of it!" - Goodness I.

"This trip was filled with so many memories that I won't forget. I love these people and their hearts for Jesus so much. Washington is so beautiful and a great reminder of how mighty our God is. SICM taught me and equipped me to be a better missionary on my campus and for that I am so grateful." - Brooklynn T.

"What an amazing week learning about God and how to further His Kingdom spent with amazing people who strive to do it alongside me." - Taylor R.

Those quotes are answered prayers for these students and many more.  Please pray with me that all the students who attended SICM would take what they've learned to their campuses and make disciples for Jesus there.

School of Ministry

Even though most of our students are out of school for the summer, ministry doesn't stop!  One of my favorite things about summer is School of Ministry, in which FOCUS invites students to engage with their faith on a more academic level.  This summer I am leading a ten-week class going through the entire New Testament.  We're listening to the New Testament Foundations class taught by Dr. Rikk Watts at Regent College.  After listening to the lectures, we come together as a group to ask questions, share insights, and reflect on what the books of the New Testament have to say to us.  This class has been personally enriching for me, and I am hopeful that the students participating will experience the same benefit.  Would you pray that all of our FOCUS students would continue learning and growing in their faith this summer whether or not they are in class?

Summer Fundraising

Summer is the season when we, the FOCUS staff, contact friends, family, past FOCUS alumni, and other members of our community and ask them to invest in what God is doing on our college campuses through FOCUS.  Our new apprentices are raising their entire budget for the next school year, while the rest of our staff are trying to increase their monthly support or raise money for the general fund.  Either way, every donation received helps us to continue the important work of making and maturing disciples on our campuses.

I have two requests to make:
- First, please pray for our entire staff, and especially our apprentices, that God would stir the hearts of generous people and move them to support us and the mission of FOCUS.
- Second, would you prayerfully consider supporting FOCUS financially?  Or if you already support, would you consider increasing your regular donation by 10%?  You can make a donation at or email me at with any questions.

Thank you so much for your prayers, your financial support, and the love you show me and all our FOCUS students!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

It's been an a-MAY-zing month!

Greetings from Arlington!  Students are taking finals this week, and FOCUS events for the school year have wrapped up.  We celebrated the end of the year with Formal.  We took some time together to laugh, eat desserts, and remember what God has done in the past school year.  Check out some of the cute photos below!
Wednesday night Core - It has been my privilege to worship and learn with these ladies all year!
My partner-in-Core Renee - this young woman is beautiful inside and out!

Commuter Core with my teammates April and Austin on the left

Formal was May 4, so a few of our guys celebrated Star Wars Day!
Tomorrow at 4:15 AM (yes, in the morning!) our students and staff will be leaving to attend SICM!  This conference will train and equip our students to reach out to their peers on campus with the gospel of Jesus.  Would you join me in praying that God would move in their lives and they would return fired up to serve him at UTA?

I know many of you have been praying for me and Matt as we look for a house in Arlington.  I'm pleased to share with you that we have found a beautiful home close to campus!  We'll close on the house June 1, so please pray that we would have a smooth transition and that we would be able to welcome many students into our new home.

Looking forward to hosting lots of students in our new house!
In my next post, I'll share with you all about what we do over the summer here in FOCUS!  Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April Awesomeness

Hello friends! March and April have held so many blessings for the FOCUS community.

 In late March, a small group of students came to Texas from Washington state on their spring break. Instead of enjoying a relaxing vacation, they spent their week reaching out to students on our campuses for Jesus. These students came from Campus Christian Fellowship (CCF), a college ministry in Washington that has blessed FOCUS by sharing their wisdom and experience with us for many years. Our campuses were blessed to have those students visit, and our local students were motivated to reach out to others on campus as well.
Washington students starting spiritual conversations at UNT

On April 1, a few hundred FOCUS students, alumni, supporters, and friends gathered to enjoy an evening of music and art at Spring Showcase.  This event was a huge success - incredible performers, beautiful custom artwork for sale, and lots of funds raised to send our students to SICM this summer.  But the most encouraging thing to me about Spring Showcase is seeing so many people who have been impacted by FOCUS all together in one room.  FOCUS not only touches the lives of our student members, but it impacts their families, their friends, their coworkers and neighbors - and many of those people enjoyed a fun and entertaining evening to support FOCUS.  If you made it to Spring Showcase, THANK YOU for coming out and blessing our students!!!

All the friends who attended Spring Showcase!

The school year is winding down at this point.  Students are working on final projects and studying hard for exams.  Please pray for the following needs at this time:

 - Pray for students to be open to Jesus even at this busy time.  Just last night a new friend visited our Core for the first time!  Praise God!
- Pray for students attending SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) in May.  This is a huge opportunity for them to learn how to lead their peers toward Jesus.
- Pray for summer plans - FOCUS continues to meet over the summer, and we also hold School of Ministry classes for our students.  We also have an intense season of fundraising ahead in order to welcome 8 new apprentices to our staff!
- Pray for me and Matt.  We are currently searching for a house in Arlington.  Please pray that we would find something close to UTA and suitable to host students for Cores and fun events.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

March Madness

Spring is in the air, and that means we are gearing up to send students to SICM!

SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) is the annual student leader training conference in Bellingham, WA, where hundreds of FOCUS students have learned how to reach their peers on campus and invite them to become disciples of Jesus.  SICM has been a transforming experience for many FOCUS students, and I am praying that God will work powerfully in those we take this year.  We've invited around 90 students to attend SICM, and now we're in the process of raising money to help pay for their trip.

One way we help our students pay for SICM is...


Spring Showcase is our annual concert fundraiser to support SICM students.  The Showcase features performances by talented students and alumni, and an art sale with a wide variety of one-of-a-kind works.  Spring Showcase is the evening of April 1, and you can buy your tickets here.  I invite you to join us for this special evening in support of our students.

New Apprentices

Another exciting development in the life of FOCUS is the group of seven young leaders we've recently accepted to our 2017-2018 apprenticeship program.  These talented and faithful young people are committing to serve students on our campuses for the sake of Jesus for an entire school year.  Right now, they are gearing up to start raising their support.  Please pray that God would provide for their needs during this time.
I'm especially excited that two of these apprentices will be joining the UTA team here in Arlington!
Caitlin, our first UTA student to become an apprentice!

Eddie, left - Dallas team.  Jalen, right, will join our UTA team!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February Fun!

The spring semester is well underway, and God is at work on our many campuses!  There are three special events that I'd like to share with you: Winter Camp, SMU Kickoff, and Open House.

Winter Camp

The UTA crew at Winter Camp!

Our annual Winter Camp gets better every year!  This year we had over 600 people in attendance for a long weekend at Sky Ranch.  The weekend was packed with worship, games, food, friendship, talks by the FOCUS staff (myself included) and others, and most importantly, an opportunity to experience God together as a community.

One of the most memorable parts of this Winter Camp was dancing together during worship as Leeann and Renee, two of our UTA Corefas, led the group in some simple movements inspired by the words of the worship songs.  Most of us looked a little silly as we tried to follow along, but I think this activity helped us to quit thinking about how we looked and enjoy the chance to praise our God together.

If you're interested in hearing any of the talks from Winter Camp, they are available by clicking here.

SMU Kickoff

I don't have any pictures, but we had our very first FOCUS meeting at SMU!  God brought a handful of interested students to that meeting, and we keep finding more connections with people at SMU who want to be a part of what God is doing on that campus.  Please keep SMU and the students there in your prayers as we plan for the future of FOCUS there.  And if you know any students or staff there who would be interested, please let me know!

UTA Open House

The room is University Hall 121 - Please join us!

This coming Saturday, you are invited to Open House at UTA!  We will have a special event to invite students' families, professors, and other community members to see what FOCUS at UTA is all about.  You are invited to this fun time!  Please let me know if you plan to attend.

God is at work on our campuses.  Please keep us in your prayers, and thank you for your support of FOCUS!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you!  This is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings for many people as we turn the calendar to 2017.  I pray that God would bless you richly in the new year, as He has generously blessed me in 2016.  If you're thinking about goals for the coming year, I encourage you to include this one: to experience and love Jesus Christ more deeply in the next year, allowing yourself to be changed by His presence in your life.

I'd like to share with you this testimony from Chiazo, one of the UNT girls I spent time with last year:

"Before college, I spent a vast majority of my time at church, from volunteering to mission trips. After graduating, I was nervous about what Christian community would look like now that I had to find it for myself. I prayed for a group of friends who cared about me. I was at the gym six weeks into my freshman year and while I was working out on the treadmill, something made me turn around (while running 80% speed) and I saw a banner for FOCUS. I visited that Friday night and stayed because people sought out His Word, ways to practice His teachings and made Christ-likeness a lifestyle- specifically, Autumn Priestley, a senior at the time I joined FOCUS. I constantly asked myself “why would someone who’s about to leave college want to spend time with me”? She spent time with me because of the lessons she learned through FOCUS. As I make my transition into the “real world” and becoming a teacher, I will remember to seek to understand then be understood when working with students, parents, and other teachers. I will look at my students and love them. I will consider their needs and provide for them, whether that means that I attend their sporting events or support them through tough times. I will show them who Jesus is through my teaching, patience, and discipline on and off the podium. It’s because of my involvement in FOCUS that I am able to know what it looks like to be a disciple in the “real world”."

Chiazo is about to begin student-teaching as a middle school choir director for the last semester of her degree.  I know that she will bring her passion for serving the Lord into her classroom and bless her students tremendously.  Please pray for her and all the students who are nearing the end of their degree programs and the start of their careers.

Over the Christmas break, while our students were away with their families, the FOCUS staff have read The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning.  The following section from this book touched me deeply, and I hope it does the same for you:

"My futile attempts at self-improvement, the sadness that I am not yet perfect, the boasting about my victories in the vineyard, my sensitivity to criticism, and the lack of self-acceptance belie my profession of faith that Jesus is Lord - lip service from a shackled servant still in bondage to the insecurity that wears a thousand masks, still lacking the courage to risk all on him who is all, still thrashing about trying to fix myself, still struggling for that elusive achievement that will make me presentable to God... I resist the saving truth that I am lovable simply and solely because he loves me."

These words remind me that nothing I can say, do, or believe will change God's love toward me.  I can't, by hard work and discipline, earn any more of His love; I can't, through selfishness and wanton sin, dampen the strength of His affection for me.  God's perfect act of love was shown to us by Jesus on the cross; He waits only for us to accept it.  I pray that you would accept the love that God so graciously extends to you, and that you would be comforted by the knowledge that your own efforts won't change it.

As we enter the new year and prepare for the spring semester, please pray for the many exciting things coming up in the life of our FOCUS community:

- Pray for the Keep FOCUS Growing fundraiser.  We have raised over $40,000 and are still asking for your help to get to our goal of $55,000.  Please pray for us, and also please consider giving if you haven't already:

- Pray for Winter Camp.  This event is where many new students will catch the vision of what God is doing through FOCUS for the first time.  Pray that our students who haven't decided yet would choose to go, and pray that they would be prepared to experience God there.

- Pray for SMU.  We are planning our first outreach events at SMU this semester.  FOCUS has been blessed with a special opportunity to reach this campus, so please pray that we would connect with students who are ready to hear from God.

- Pray for leaders.  We are already thinking about which students will be ready to lead their peers next school year.  Please pray for wisdom for the FOCUS staff as we make decisions about whom to invite to SICM, our annual leadership training conference that prepares many of our future Corefas.

Thank you for your donations and prayers!  I wish you all the best in 2017.