Happy New Year!
I just came back from our annual staff retreat. This year it was much smaller, but it was quite refreshing. One of our values at FOCUS is that leaders are readers. Every staff retreat we are given a book to read beforehand. Our retreat was centered around a book called Money and Power by Jacques Ellul. I’m not going to spend much time talking about that book because it was quite dense and challenging. I am still processing what even God would want me to take away. (Praise Jesus there is grace for where we fall short).
I wanted to share some about two sessions we did during the retreat. They were not actually about the book, but were titled “Looking back: the FOCUS Story” and “Looking forward”. I imagine you can guess some of what we did. As a staff team, we talked about how our ministry came to be in its chronological order. We heard from our senior staff about how God was moving in their lives and how they listened to his call. This is quite a feat when you consider how much has changed from the beginning and all the faces who made this possible. When FOCUS began at UTD back in 1996, it was a couple of buildings with no student life, no clubs and no christian organizations. This amazes me. A Christian ministry made the way for that campus’s now booming student life.
The purpose of these sessions was to listen for the common threads in our experiences of this ministry. Why did these people stay to pastor in this ministry? Who invested in them? How did God change their lives? All 40 of our staff members were given the opportunity to share. For us younger staff members, we sat and were retold the history that we are now a part of. I want to share some of the themes I kept hearing as I listened. Peoples’ lives were changed through persistent invitation, through the opening of homes and friend groups and through intentional questions about who they really are. This might not be the list you would expect, but I would venture to say, many of us can relate to some part of what I mentioned. The longer I have worked at FOCUS, the more this statement has remained true: you might not remember all the sermons that have changed your life, but I bet you can remember many of the people who God used to change you.
I was encouraged by the reminder that God uses many people to bring people to himself. Story after story, staff members would share and honor all who showed them kindness and casted a vision for Christian community. Many of our staff members were not christian before coming into college. They embody our mission. Their lives were changed in college because God uses the unique circumstances there. College is a place where you can meet so many new people. You come to college to learn and explore. Many of our staff members were changed just simply through being invited from someone in their dorm. Be praying for our students who live in on campus apartments and dorms. Pray that they can be lights to the people around them and have the boldness to say hello.
I am blessed to be able to be a part of this mission. Another thread that stood out in our staff members’ testimonies was that God used the pastors in their lives. Many of them had not had a pastor who they were able to speak to personally. You make this possible on UTA’s campus. Thank you for being on my team and allowing me the privilege to do this. I am feeling especially passionate about this work as I come into this semester.
Pray for DBU and direction for that campus. Pray for the studies I have and that they will be open to Jesus. Pray for my ladies at UTA. Pray that their small groups will start without a hitch.