Ministry Updates: August
I am so happy it is August.
If I’m honest, I've had mixed emotions around the fall and how COVID was going to impact the work I love. There was so much in the air initially surrounding the campus and that challenged the part of me that desires control and certainty. The Lord has been kind to me, reminding me of His character through scripture and people. I want to share some verses that have ministered to me as I think about the upcoming semester in 2 Timothy 4: 2-5:
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.
This chunk of verses that Paul wrote to Timothy reign true today. We are to be prepared in season and out of season to do God’s work. I love the lines about “keeping your head in all situations” and “enduring hardships”. Every fiber of my being wants to not keep my head in our current situation. I had to grieve how this year of ministry is going to look different. I will miss the big move-ins and all the neat events on campus where there are huge crowds of students. But, I know we are being called to rise to the occasion. Our UTA staff is beginning to plan how we will provide Jesus community through socially distanced events and zoom hang outs. We will use QR codes and all the neat technology we have available. The honest truth is we might be one of the few groups on campus planning events. Pray that we will find students and that students will find us. Pray that Jesus will be made known. Pray that when we look back on this season, we will only be able to point to God on why we were successful. The pandemic does not change the fact that people need Jesus. I know that is true no matter the circumstance.
Thank you so much for your support and prayers. They mean the world.
To close, here is the student testimony from my dear friend Jessica. She is a talented writer who truly paints images with her words. Her story of coming to know the Lord is sweet and reminds me of His goodness. She taught me how to see God in nature and appreciate the wonders around us.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep.’” - Luke 15: 4-6
Purple and white confetti, an almost surreal dream, drifts down all around me, blanketing me in Joy, Grace, and Love of the Lord. I remember the day I stood in that grand, bright church, surrounded by believers all around me. In honor of the once meek lamb who had sacrificed himself only to resurrect as a noble Lion, I was filled with an indescribable happiness as I celebrated my new life in the Lord - dancing in Freedom, awake and alive. But the first day I was pursued and chosen by God, a tugging in my heart, a whisper in my soul - I had no idea how God would move to change and uproot my life.
My first day at college, my dorm’s resident assistant called everyone down for a fun game night. As an excited and eager Freshman, I ran down to see a bustle of activity swarming all around me. Unsure of where to turn first, I was surprised to see a bright-eyed young woman approach me with a radiant smile and an enthusiastic handshake. She introduced herself to me as Emily, a member of a Christian ministry named FOCUS. Little did I know that Emily was a gateway and the first instance where God introduced himself to me. From that day on, I would experience an internal transformation I never would have predicted: Getting to jump “All In” and put the Lord first in my life.
The road to getting to know God was not an easy one. I was originally part of a different group on UTD’s campus named EPIC, before learning about FOCUS through Emily. My first experience of being surrounded by Christian community in Friday night Focus was an awkward one. “Singing to God, whom I didn’t know? What were people doing, all raising their hands into the air? None of these songs make sense to my ears!” Trembling in my shoes and overwhelmed by the crowd, I wasn’t sure whether to take a leap of faith to understand the Lord. But Emily soon made me feel comfortable by teaching me about Him through one-on-one FOJ. We worked through brief yet enlightening lessons to learn of God’s character and truth: about Grace, Sin, His Hard Teachings, Faith, and Rebirth. While these messages weaved their way through my heart, any doubt I formerly had about God vanished when my eyes witnessed first-hand, the work He did in my life.
Strange incidents occurred during my time at University, almost seemingly out of nowhere, or in moments of perfect timing. Earth-shattering rain battered the campus during my lowest moments, animals that I had never seen before roamed about, melodies & music now contained lyrics that struck chords in my heart. God worked diligently day and night, never once sleeping while watching over me, to protect my heart from an unhealthy relationship. Where my actions were once sinful, made evident through folly, envy, and strife, God changed a former heart of stone into a wellspring of Living Water. I felt truly saved – not only did God have a hand in protecting my heart, He bestowed upon me a new way of seeing my world, breaking chains and transitioning me to exit from a major I hated into a new one I love. New talents and skills blossomed in my life, as if seeds planted inside of me sprouted into rare flowers. Through some of the roughest storms in my life, God’s presence was unfailing and true: through sermon, through Core, through friends and mentors, and through His Word, He was there. When I resisted belief in God, He pursued me harder. When I lacked hope in my circumstances, God patiently reminded me of His plan to “prosper me, plans to give a hope and future,” turning around failure into success, and losses to gains.
Ever since the fateful day that God led this lost sheep home, He continues to provide for me, His daughter, an everlasting home with Him and His Children - a strong community of sisters and brothers where I am constantly surrounded by Faith, Love, and newfound Joy. His persistent acts of Goodness secured my trust, His Guidance a compass I resolutely follow, and His assurance teaching me how to embrace any challenge and change. In these recent months, God has never left me isolated, revealing to me that what I have to offer to myself and others is a heart of gold, a steadfast faith, perseverance, and a way to fly higher with Him by my side, safe under the Light of His Eagle’s wing. God removed in me every branch that would not bear fruit, so that what was left would only produce good fruit. Without God in my life, I wouldn’t have found devoted, Christ-loving friends. I wouldn’t have found greater purpose through a fulfilling career. I wouldn’t have found a counsel of mentors and new wisdom for this journey called Life. Without God, I wouldn’t have learned how strong I truly was. Today, I am proud to be holding my head up high, no matter where the future takes me. Because of God, I have courage to soar confidently and believe in more, trusting Him to lead me towards new heights among the stars.