Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Denton Fall Camp

Two weekends ago we had our annual fall camp with the three Denton campuses: UNT, TWU, and NCTC. It's only 24 hours long, 12pm Saturday to 12pm Sunday. The goal for this event is to help our newer members make more friends within the larger community. By this time in the year they will have made some friends in their cores (small groups), but often those are the only people they know well. At camp we spent some time worshiping God and hearing students/guest speakers share about how God sent them to a specific place or person. It was really encouraging to hear and connected to our theme this year of "Send Me!" which aims to move our community to be more outreaching. A large portion of the time was free time so the students could play games or do activities together. Everything was geared toward people building relationships and our student leaders were on top of facilitating these relational developments. I wanted to share the reflection of one new member who went to fall camp this year:

"I came to Denton without a single friend here. At my very first campus activity, which was a transfer meet up, I met Nate Dolores who later invited me to FOCUS. I came to FOCUS and enjoyed it so I joined Nate and Trent's core and have been attending it for the past few weeks. The only people that I had really talked to though, outside of introducing myself, were my core brothers. So at any kind of event, I was kinda attached to them at the hip trying to kind of converse with some others. Unfortunately, I'm not as social as Nate and can’t really just walk up to people and start talking. So I saw fall camp as a really good opportunity to become more integrated into the community and it was even better than I could have hoped."
- Chris Young, UNT student
Chris' story is really encouraging to me and I've really enjoyed getting to know him too. It brings so much joy to my heart to see this happen to many other new students who are just looking for a place to belong, where the people there care about them. One disappointing thing this year was that our camp fell on the same day as parent weekend at UNT so a lot of our new freshmen weren't able to come to camp because their parents were in town. It's a little frustrating since we have to book the camp over a year in advance and generally have no concept of the university's schedule but God still worked in the lives of those students who did come. Please be praying that we can still succeed in integrating the other new members in our community who weren't able to come to camp! Fall camp certainly isn't the only way to do that.

Another encouraging thing I wanted to share with you are a couple snapshots of our community after our weekly Friday night fellowship meeting. These two pictures were taken at two different Friday night meetings earlier in September this year. The neat thing is this is what our community looks like about half an hour after we ended for the night. It's typical to have to kick a bunch of people out of the room an hour later at 10pm! It brings a lot of joy to me to see how much our community likes to be together and how well they do at including new people into their conversations.

Now that we're past fall camp, we'll be able to find a more consistent rhythm. However, there are still some things you could be praying for!
Cores: please pray that our core groups will be places where God works mightily in developing deep spiritual friendships and community. Some of the cores have struggled this year with finding new students to come - please pray for them to find creative ways to reach out to the people in their classes, at work, etc. and invite them into meaningful relationships. Pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance in the lives of these core leaders as they navigate the difficulties of mentoring their peers in discipleship.
International Students: something we have had difficulty in as well is consistently reaching out to students at UNT or TWU from other countries. Pray for us to find effective opportunities to extend real friendship to them and make them feel welcomed in our country. So many of them feel lonely and miss home. And a large majority of international students are never invited into the home of an American the entire time they are here. We want to do whatever we can to change that!
TWU ministry: our group at TWU has faced some difficulties in simply having a lot of staff turnover the entire time it's existed and that campus is overall a lot less social. Additionally, it's roughly only 10% men so we've struggled to develop a mens ministry. Generally, we're barely able to put together a single guy's core. My consistent prayer over the years is that God would bring us some solid young men who we can build our TWU mens ministry upon. Will you join me in this? This year we actually had only one male TWU student leader so we asked one of our UNT guys to help lead the TWU guy's core. Bekwele is our TWU guy this year, so please be praying for him (and his co-leader, Ivan!). Pray that the Lord will give them both strength and courage as they face many of these obstacles. They are both brave young men for answering the call to leadership this year.

Me and Bekwele wearing our TWU shirts! He's a weirdo for getting a TWU Dad shirt :)

I thank God for you as often as I think about it. Thank you for all that you do to support the work He is doing here in Denton. It's amazing to be the one who witnesses firsthand the lives being changed. I hope that I'm sufficiently conveying that to you! Thank you!

Yours for the Campus,


"I grew up Catholic but never consistently went to church. I always admired the concept of community and was really saddened by the idea of not experiencing that within my faith because of my lack of involvement. When I came to UTA this desire to be involved in a Christian community only grew. After being greeted kindly at the FOCUS information table at orientation, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. God is really working here and I want to be a part of it.” As classes started in the Fall, I was contacted by a girl named Kaylee who consistently invited me to events and had a deep-rooted desire to get to know me. Through people like Kaylee, I was really able to see how those in FOCUS loved the Lord which directly translated into how they interacted with and loved people. As the semester began I was asked to go deeper in my faith and study scripture in a one-on-one study, Focus on Jesus (FOJ) with Alexis. Alexis really encouraged me and wanted to walk with me in my journey of building a relationship with God. Through this community, I was challenged to give love like I had received it. Although I didn’t know it, God had been working and was faithful to answer a prayer I hadn’t even thought to ask for. He blessed me with this community and an opportunity to share that with others. "

Jocelyn Payan
University of Texas at Arlington, Nursing, Sophomore