This past Saturday the Denton staff team went out to my parents' house in Azle, TX to spend some meaningful time together and develop our team relationships before the new school year starts. Each year we tend to have new teammates, especially when we take on new apprentices, so we want to do all we can to welcome them into the Denton staff community.
|Left to Right: Rhett, Aaron, Kristen, Miriam, Brittany, Kevin, me, Danielle|
I've learned over the last few years how foundational it is for my staff team to develop deep relationships in order for our larger community to follow the example. When the staff strives for the example that Christ set, our student leaders have a greater potential to follow, and consequently, so will our larger ministry. So I can't imagine skipping such an opportunity during the summer to bring my staff team together to share their stories and build up an excitement in one another to do God's mission this year on the college campuses!
One of the questions I had each person share this weekend was how God brought them into the FOCUS ministry at their campus. As I was reflecting on the retreat and thinking about what to share with you, this is what came to mind. Consider how powerful it is to hear stories about students' lives changed by God and his Church. Each one of the people on my team was a student who went through our ministry, each with a unique story of how God changed them in big ways during their years in college. That's one of the reasons why we are all so passionate about college ministry!
Then I think about stories like Ismael's below and it blows me away. He had so many obstacles and reasons not to believe in God or even see his goodness. At the beginning of this last school year he tended to isolate himself even when many of the people around him were reaching out to him. By the second semester God had revealed himself more and more through some of the other guys in our leader team as we would pray for him and walk through tough times with him. The amount that he has grown in vulnerability this year is nothing but a mighty deed of God. Praise the Lord!
And this is just one story among many that God is writing in our world. Plus many stories are just in the introductory chapters. The blessing of college ministry is that we so often get to come alongside people when God starts the bigger plot line and major character development in their lives. It's incredibly exciting!
Please be praying for our leadership selection process as we try to finalize our student leader team this week. We are praying that the Lord gives us discernment for each individual person we are considering. Being a core facilitator is not for everyone every year. We ultimately want to do what's best for the students. Also, continue praying for our staff as we try to finish fundraising this summer and prepare for the start of the coming school year.
Thank you for partnering with us on this exciting mission to make God known in our world! I'm looking forward to entering another school year alongside you!
Yours for the Campus,
"Growing up, I knew there was a God, but I viewed church as a place for people who were “good”, and I did not fit the bill. As a result, I was guarded in my friendships and viewed vulnerability with people as a weakness. Entering college, I suffered from severe depression because of the college drinking culture and a very unhealthy relationship, which ultimately led me to taking a year off of school. During that year I decided to work at a penitentiary to make ends meet. In prison, you fight for respect daily and often look behind your back in case you had stepped on someone's toes and forgot. This is true for both the inmates and the officers. As an officer, I learned a lot about the harsh reality of life but I also learned about the consistent presence of God. Once I went into a dorm full of inmates and had to settle down an altercation. One of the inmates said to me, “This is our home, and you only leave at the end of the day because we let you.” At nineteen years old I had seen and felt pain that most people my age would not experience for a long time, if ever. Those experiences only brought me closer to God. During that year one of my peers and friends from FOCUS, Kurt Doty, never lost touch with me and checked up on me regularly. I find it funny that when I had real questions to ask about faith and religion, God provided me a friend who could help me. God has always met me where I was, and although I could not see it until I started searching, I think the patience of the people God has blessed me with has truly exhibited what the Church is meant to be."
Ismael Garza (Senior, University of North Texas, Music Education)