Happy New Year!

I hope your New Year is off to a great start. I started back to work on the first of January. Our staff took a retreat to Burnet Texas and spent some time praying about the year and building our relationships with each other. It was a great way to start off the semester and the year! We read a book called "The Signature of Jesus" by Brennan Manning. Here's a quote:

“The Crucified says, “Take up your cross not annually, but daily. Forgive those who hate you or hurt you, cheat you or scorn you. Reject the world-wisdom that fastens your identity on money, pleasure, power, and the psychological insights of the social sciences; find your true self in the faith-wisdom of my servant Paul: ‘Christ loved us and gave himself up for us’ (Ephesians 5:2).” Is such power and wisdom within the reach of an ordinary disciple? Yes! But only if we realize that what Jesus commands, he empowers us to do. We can live the crucified lifestyle, not because we are Supermen or Wonder Women, but only because he lives in us. “I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Galatians 2:20, NJB). Jesus Christ nailed to the cross is the power and wisdom of God. He is ours as well.” 
― Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus

This book led us in some great discussions and reflections. I'm reminded of how incapable I am to work or provide or save others without him. My prayer is that he will continue to use me and our community, and that we would step out in faith. I'm also realizing the gravity of that prayer; that's a big prayer to pray! Asking God to increase our faith is needed, but doesn't mean it's going to always come easily or naturally. Some of the seasons I've grown most in my trust and faith in God have been the harder seasons of life.

I pray your year is marked by the signature of Jesus and that he reveals his great depth of love for you through his death and resurrection.

During the break I got to spend some time with my parents. We took a trip to Seguin Texas and went to some caverns. It was beautiful and so cool! We also got our exercise that trip!

First and Second Year Staff Class

Our first and second year staff members have been meeting every week and doing a class together this past semester. I don't think I have talked about this class, but it has been so helpful this past semester. It's been helpful in equipping me in my mentoring and discipleship abilities and my relationships with our staff. I look forward to this class every Friday! We have read through three different books this past semester and this coming semester we are taking an online class together over Christian History. Here is a quote from a book we read and discussed called, "Inside Out" by Larry Crabb.

“We must admit that simply knowing the contents of the Bible is not a sure route to spiritual growth. There is an aweful assumption in evangelical churches that if we can just get the Word of God into people's heads, then the Spirit of God will apply it to their hearts. That assumption is aweful, not because the Spirit never does what the assumption supposes, but because it excused pastors and leaders from the responsibility to tangle with people's lives. Many remain safely hidden behind pulpits, hopelessly out of touch with the struggles of their congregations, proclaiming the Scriptures with a pompous accuracy that touches no one. Pulpits should provide bridges, not barriers, to life-changing relationships.” 
 Larry Crabb, Inside Out

My prayer is that the Spirit of God would move through me in impacting college students lives and that he would equip me in humility to do so. I pray that our pastors don't let anything get in the way of meeting students right where they're at in life. I pray we would have a willingness to go through the trenches of their lives with them. 

We've almost finished up our fundraiser. I'm so thankful for all your donations and support we have raised $46,050 this year! Praise God!

Student Testimony

"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 Akagha (Senior, University of North Texas, Choral Music Education)
Be praying as we send our students to Winter Camp, this weekend!! This is another huge way that our students get loved on and impacted in our community. We value deep friendships that reflect the character of Christ. So be praying that every student that God wants there is there and that no student feels left out or not cared for. 

Be praying as college students are starting back to school. Breaks can be tough for students, so pray that they come back rested and that we can step in and love, encourage and motivate them in the areas they need it!


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