We Love Because He First Loved Us

Fall Camp
Every year during our Fall semester we take our students to Fall Camp! Our goals for Fall Camp are to allow our students to spend a weekend together and deepen relationships with each other right at the start of the school year. We also have the goal of providing them a time to take a break from the busyness of the semester and rest in knowing that God's got it and the world will keep going without us. In 2010 Fall Camp was when I really decided to be committed to serving and being a part of this Community. I remember an intern at the time talking about befriending people. She talked about fighting for people, stepping out of our comfort zones to show Christ for people because we know how much he loves them. That connected with me. I had only been involved with FOCUS for about a month at the time, but had consistently been asked to get coffee, lunch and study the bible by several people each week. They reflected Christ's relentless desire for us. Fall Camp sealed the deal for me.

Our prayer is the same, that not only at Fall Camp but through our ministry, students would see the character of Christ reflected through our students. I asked one of our students from NCTC, who attended Fall Camp for the first time to share about this experience!

"My fall camp experience was an amazing experience. I was able to create greater relationships with amazing people and just build a greater relationship with God. To have a moment to just get away from the world that we live in and have an entire weekend to worship God and build community. For a year I was looking for a group my age that loved God like me. Having the opportunity to go to Fall Camp was exactly what I needed to finally have a community. At Fall Camp I learned that I am not alone in this game of the world. I have people who are here to build me up and keep supporting me. I can go through my struggles and ups and downs with people that I love and love me. These people give me motivation to have a fighting chance to keep moving forward. I thank God for everything he has done in my life so far and I can't wait to see what he has stored for me next."

Getting ready for worship! Our worship team is lead by our students. Another staff member and I meet with them each week to help them plan and grow as worship leaders. They have done such a great job in leading our community through worship this year. They are incredibly thoughtful, not only about the songs we sing, but what pastorally needs to be said alongside the songs we sing. They are doing an amazing job in encouraging our community to remember that worship isn't just the songs we sing, but encompasses every part of our time together. I'm so proud of them!
We talked about real relationships at Fall Camp. Melissa Collini came and talked to us about relationships that have deeply impacted her life and how because of knowing Christ she is able to offer real relationships with others. 
Being silly!
We had all kinds of activities set up for them. Here they are getting ready to do a craft. We also had a cooking class, a game called speed-ball (It's kind of a mix of touch football and ultimate Frisbee), board games, and dancing. 

20 Year Celebration
In October FOCUS celebrated 20 years of doing ministry! It was so great to see many of you and to celebrate together how God is impacting the lives of colleges students across the DFW area. 
Got to spend time with my parents at the 20 year Celebration! It was also my Mom's Birthday, so it was even more special!
Worship at 20 Year Celebration!

Leadership Conference
Yearly we have a leadership conference for all of our student leaders, pastors, church elders, small group leaders and anyone else in leadership in our community. I got to help lead our conference this year. The topic for the conference this year was "The Inner Life of the Leader." It was more than just personal walk with God, but also pushing on some of the major things going on in our culture that make it hard to develop a mature inner life--the narcissism epidemic, our obsession with entertainment, social media and technology, that fight for our attention over hearing that still calm voice of God. We had about 8 writers, artist, and musicians prepare a piece within this topic. Here is a painting from Tate Dollarhide a student leader at UNT who created this piece to help portray hearing from God at the conference. I attached what she wrote about her painting below, I hope it blesses you too.

"My hope for this painting, titled “Thankfulness,” is that the Holy Spirit will work through it to position your heart into a posture of thanksgiving.

Thankfulness is a vehicle that moves us to be more aware of the power of God’s presence around us. I once read that thankfulness is “humility and hope woven together.” True thankfulness requires us to be humble; it is never selfish and never self-promoting. We have to get lower; to stop and look up and around at what God has done and is doing. When we do this, we can easily begin to pour out our thanks to Him and realize the peace we can have in being fully dependent on Him. When we humble ourselves, this gives us a passionate hope because we realize that we can expect good for our current circumstances and circumstances to come, because we see that He is good, and He is in everything around us, whether it seems to be good or bad at the first glance.

If you look closely, you’ll see that I used a variety of colors and materials, representing these “fibers” of humility and hope, either in color, texture, or the materials’ purpose. The materials on the left side of the painting may be hard to distinguish or name; however, if you look at the right side of the painting, you’ll very quickly distinguish the lines of white string, as they are easy to see and even touch. Your brain understands the strands as white string, because it’s probably something you’ve seen or touched before.

I think this is similar to how recognizing God’s presence is. At first it can be complex and confusing and hard to identify, however, the more we search for it, the more we learn what it looks and feels like and the more it makes sense. It becomes easy to distinguish; the tangles of confusion begin to unfold into order. You’ll notice that the white string also increases in quantity as your eye moves from left to right, and even breaks the boundary created by the canvas and goes beyond what we would expect. I think that is also similar to God’s presence. As our awareness of it grows, the power of His presence becomes more tangible; we don’t expect it to be something we can touch and feel, but it is. It extends further than we could even imagine. God reaches us in places we never thought He could.

Just think; if you stopped to thank God and look for His presence as much you take the time to look at your phone, check your social media, or submit to those distractions surrounding you, how much more satisfied would you be with your relationship with God and with your circumstances? Do you see how much more beautiful and good the world that God has created around you is than the world you’ve created yourself? God wants to show you the beauty and power of His Kingdom. It’s right in front of you, all around you, and even in you, but you have to look for it.

Thankfulness is measurable; it’s growing and expanding, and the more we practice being thankful the more it becomes a part of who we are, and less an occasional thing we do. We must live our daily lives in a posture of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving opens the gates of our hearts to His Kingdom and increases our awareness of His presence. When we live in this posture, it allows us to reinterpret our circumstances, whether they seem to be ideal or not. We as disciples have been given the ability to see things differently; to see higher, to see beyond our earthly reality and into the Kingdom reality that we are called to reside in and bring to earth. We are moved from chaos into order; from darkness into the light. Thankfulness is a road to breakthrough.

1 Chronicles 16:11-12

Seek the Lord and his strength;

seek his presence continually!

Remember the wondrous works that he has done,

2 Corinthians 4:15
For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God."

Prayers and Praises
At all of our Friday night college services we have a time that we encourage the body to invest in the vision that God has for college ministry. Whether that is financially, with time or with prayer, we want to encourage our students to join in on what God is doing in the hearts of college students. So during this time each Friday we have a student share how they are investing in the vision and encourage others to participate. I wanted to share with you what one of our students said because what he said pertains to YOU my supporters! 

"Many people in this community have invested their time, love, and patience into me through friendship. One of those people that consistently does that is Aaron Hollingsworth. This man has been my friend and mentor for the past year and a half and I couldn’t imagine life without his friendship at this point. He’s constantly there to love me and affirm me, but he also loves me enough to constantly challenge me. He has been incredibly impactful on my walk with Christ, and my maturity as a man. Aaron takes the time to meet with me weekly, to facilitate conversation and outreach at NCTC, and answer my calls because I’ve got something on my mind that can’t wait until I see him next (which is usually within the next day or two). Aaron has redefined friendship for me and I am incredibly grateful for that. However, One thing I’ve grown to realize, is that Aaron can take this time because of his supporters. People support Aaron financially to be able to meet with students, and spend time on campus. Their money allows him to dedicate 3 years to redefining friendship to the students he meets with. Without their support that life change that I experienced is very much hindered. We all see the fruit of people's financial investment, whether it be a trip to fall camp that’s paid for, or a hot meal from a corefa when you’re out of money. Those things make us feel incredibly loved and blessed, and honestly they should. I want you to feel invested in by those things, but I want you to remember that many times investment of money and other resources are essential to these other types of investment."

I don't share this with you to make myself sound good or have you be impressed with me. I share this as a way for you to see how your prayers and financial support are being played out. God is working in the hearts of college students so keep supporting these young adults in prayer and financial support! Thank you for supporting these college students!


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