Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Matt Clark's June Update

Today was the last day of our current internship program. Over the last week all fourteen of our wonderful interns preached their final sermons about what they learned this year. It was such a treat and I can confidently say that each staff member was ministered to during this time. God blessed us with some amazing young ministers this year! We concluded this 10-month journey with a celebratory home-cooked dinner where we enjoyed fellowship and shared our favorite memories throughout the year. It's always a bittersweet time because we are sad to see our interns move on, but we are proud of their growth and excited to see where God takes them next.

We are fortunate to have four of our interns, Aaron, April, Austin and Peter, continuing to work with our larger staff team this coming year. Aaron will be the only one who will be on the Denton staff team.

I'm also excited to welcome Brittany Tydlacka, our new apprentice (we changed the name of the program!) in Denton, for this coming school year. I've known Brittany and her husband, Kevin, since I was a student at UTD. They had moved to Austin, TX, for a while then to Nashville, TN, to pursue a music career. They just moved back to Denton this past week.

Sometime this summer I'll try to get a picture with all of next year's Denton staff team so you can get a good visual.

SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry)

Instead of telling you about how great our SICM trip was, I have asked a few students to share about their experience. I didn't really give them much of a prompt other than to share one or two meaningful things they learned or took away from it:
Upon being invited to SICM, I was somewhat skeptical. I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to go on this leadership conference. I'd heard so much about SICM, however, I still had reservations. It wasn't until I actually arrived at SICM that I knew that Bellingham, Washington, was exactly where I needed to be. I saw God move in such amazing, powerful ways, from the insightful night of worship, to the destined impact of campus evangelism. During SICM, I was encouraged, convicted, challenged, and spurred on by my amazing peers. As a result of SICM, I think differently about what disciple-making discipleship looks like, how crucial evangelism is in our daily lives as believers, and how to invest in spiritual relationships and friendships. Furthermore, I will not only be able to apply what I've learned from SICM in my immediate ministry of FOCUS at UNT, but also with every ministry that I become involved with for the rest of my life. I thank God daily for giving me the opportunity as well as the privilege to experience SICM first-hand.

SICM was great in so many unexpected ways for me. I experienced God’s grace in such a real way that I pray I will never forget or take for granted. Even before I left for SICM, I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness in His provision for me to go on this trip. God showed me his faithfulness and laid the ground for the rest of the trip before it had even begun. I knew it was going to be good and that He was already working. I could go on and on about what I learned at SICM, but one thing that impacted me the most was seeing God working in and through other students and friends who were there with me. Seeing people’s hearts being captivated and molded by Him was so encouraging. I watched God break down barriers in both myself and others; barriers of fear to step out in faith and boldness in Christ, sharing His love with others. Another thing that became very tangible for me was the idea that God wants to use anyone and everyone to bring His Kingdom to earth and its people; it doesn’t matter what part you play in someone’s spiritual journey, whether you prepare the soil, plant the seed, water the seed, help it to grow, or see the fruit. I've always known that God wants to use me, but I never really knew how. SICM showed me that I can and should do Kingdom work in anything and everything I do. I no longer have just a conviction, but a desire and excitement to share God’s love with everyone.

My SICM experience was so impacting and full, I hardly know how to narrow down what I felt like the Lord was teaching me, reminding me, showing me, etc. However, I think the largest, repeated message God laid on my heart was that He is a faithful God that finishes what He starts. I saw the reality of God's faithfulness through 2 large events I'll share, the first being campus evangelism. I had never participated in evangelism and approached it with a timid heart full of preconceived notions. What I learned both that day and throughout the week through classes is that the point of evangelism is really, truly, simply to do God's work by challenging people's world views in hopes that they come to know Christ. I and another student from UTD (shoutout to Daniel), talked to a girl for almost 2 hours, and heard bits and pieces of the ways in which God is pursuing her heart and "planting seeds". She even skipped class just to talk to us! Daniel was able to share the whole gospel with her, and her face lit up like nothing I've ever seen. She was so locked into the goodness of God and His heart to restore His creation to Him fully. While she didn't accept Christ, I was reminded in that moment that the true story of the gospel is all about the fact that God is faithful in tilling the soil of hearts in ways we may never know of or see; He is a God that works behind the scenes to accomplish His will. And because of that, we are able to boldly come before Him and ask for things that may seem (to us) outlandish or 'too big.' I am continuing to pray for her, especially now knowing that our conversation could have opened up a whole new door for her. 
Another area in which I saw God's faithfulness the week of SICM was when I met Becca Johnson, a woman whom my host family knows. Becca is a trauma therapist for victims of human trafficking- which is precisely what I have felt called to do and am studying to do. I have never met another person in the vocation I feel so deeply called to pursue, and was reminded graciously by Abba that He will not call us to something He will not help us complete. He is a God of provision and will provide in ways we can not foresee, in order to guide us where He calls us, because He finishes what He starts.

Thank you, lovers of our Father, for prayers or payment of any form towards making my walk with Christ--among many others--a closer one. Before the travel to SICM had even started, I had walked a few miles in much larger shoes than my own. I was first committed to raising funds on my own for a time which took action that included working for people I normally wouldn't, helping in ways I never had before, and getting to genuinely know the more visceral parts of people that have been in my story for years. 
Upon arrival, God placed a man in my life who's presence I first questioned and quickly understood to be friendship. To me, he looked like a tax collector. He wasn't raised in a home of Christians and didn't give empty Christian answers to questions. His hunger for Christ, preparedness to listen, and understanding of his past was a perfect image of who Jesus calls and works through. I judged him critically within myself when we first met but now love this man for all his heart can take. This was for me a saving grace, albeit a bit disguised at first, he showed me the multiple planks within my eyes without ever seeing them. The funny part is that he gives thanks for my answers when I know he could have found them almost anywhere but I found answers in him that I may have never learned elsewhere. 
It took a conversation with him outside a playground during lunch in Washington to understand God's call for us both. We were wrapping up a long conversation over discernment and the deep pain everyone feels knowing they're wrong but not knowing the answer is in God. I attempted to end the conversation saying, "We need people who are so enveloped in God that the world finds all its answers in the way those people live." Before I could get out my last word a little boy ran up to me and tags me exclaiming, "You're it!" 
He didn't run off like the game goes, however. The little guy just looked at me and my new brother for a while with deep blue ocean eyes. I finally understood in this moment that God has been building me, answering my prayers, and speaking directly into my life using the least suspected all along. I should've guessed. Jesus, after all, was born in a lowly manger and not on a Tempurpedic California king sized bed. As much as I read and listen, I don't seem to fully grasp an idea until I've lived it and SICM brought me to life in more areas than just this one.
God bless your heart and contribution to God's kingdom, good and faithful stewards of life and love.


This summer is going to be interesting. It's always a pretty deceptively busy time but with building our leader team (lots of conversations to have), continuing to mentor students we may not normally get much time around during the semesters, debriefing last year & strategically planning for the following year, fundraising, etc. it tends to fill my schedule pretty easily. Additionally, Danielle and I are planning our wedding (big day is July 23rd) and moving her into our new apartment in a few weeks where I’ll be joining her in July. We are excited for this new chapter of our lives!

Please be praying for:

  • The Lord to guide us in our student leader selection. We don't want to simply pick the students we like to work with or set anyone up for failure. It's a difficult process and requires telling many people that now isn't the time. Please ask the Lord to fill us with His Spirit as we have conversations and make decisions.
  • Planning for this coming year. There are so many things we have to think through to determine if we want to do things differently, the same, or try something new altogether. My Denton staff has already accumulated a long list of strategic planning topics to work through in our weekly summer staff meetings. We can't possibly do that on our own though. We need our Father's help!
  • Our staff fundraising so that we can continue doing ministry to the current capacity! We strongly believe that one-on-one is how it's done and we couldn't possibly be able to spend the quality time we do with students if we didn't have financial supporters. These gifts are a blessing from God!

Thank you so much for all that YOU do to support me in ministry. I am incredibly blessed!

Yours for the Campus,