I was on a thankfulness kick last month. To start my update, I am still in this state of gratitude. The Lord has been moving me as I have been reflecting on ministry and how it is compared to last year. What can I say? I am a sentimental type of person. Outside of myself, I do believe we are called to remember in our faith.The Old Testament comes to mind. There are many stories of the Israelites acting foolish because of their lack of memory retention surrounding who God is and what he promised. God had been faithful, keeping his promises. Israel just couldn’t keep their end of the deal. I guess that is the gospel summed up, right?
Anyways, I have had the story from Joshua 4 in my mind. It’s where Joshua asks the tribes of Israel to grab stones and lay them down. The stones were to serve as a marker of when God made the Jordan River dry, so that the Israelites could cross into the promised land. Here’s what Joshua says at the end of the chapter starting in verse 20:
20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
These stones were to help Israel remember what God had done. The miracles the Lord had worked in their lives so they could tell generations about His faithfulness. I’m not planning on laying any stones necessarily, but I am wanting this update to be a “stone”. God far exceeded what I thought this school year would be. The semester is done. There is a lot to celebrate and thank God for. I hope this encourages you to reflect on what God has done this year for you too.
FOCUS was able to meet as a ministry in person this year, but often, in rooms that never really fit our full ministry because of social distancing. Most of the semester, we would invite our small groups through a rotating list and have half come in person while the other half streamed. This is how we functioned till April. April was different. We spent most Thursdays in a huge theater on campus for our weekly service. It was so exciting to see our full ministry. we had not done this since last year before spring break. Our ministry got spoiled using that giant theater. It all came crashing down when the school gave us a room that only fit four people for our final services. We got creative. This is a skill that has been stretched during covid. We were able to wrap up our Thursday night services this semester by meeting in a backyard. I cannot express how sweet this was. Everyone sitting in lawn chairs all together in the same space.
While many of our students will be home for the summer, FOCUS will be having our summer service this year! We will be in person hosting a sermon and worship for our students in town to attend. Summer FOCUS is one of my favorite rhythms we get to do in campus ministry. It was actually one of my first interactions with the ministry all those years ago. Our students are ready to be in person. They are ready to connect with all our campuses. FOCUS in a regular year would have several opportunities for all of our students to connect through camps and leadership conferences. Our summer FOCUS event will be special this year because it will be the most consistent event where all of our people are together. Be praying that we are able to stay safe.
I want to remember how excited and thankful I am in this season. These two events mark how faithful the Lord has been. We are coming back to normal ministry. A year ago I was unsure how we would move forward. Ministry in my mind was wrapped around these special events. The question in my mind was ,”What would God do with us if we couldn’t meet?” Well, God taught me this year that ministry will continue because ultimately it’s about one-on-one connection and a virus can’t stop that. We did facetimes, phone calls and zoom. Our ministry is personal and relational. The big meetings were stripped away, but what remained was still very valuable. We met people during the oddest year and provided them Jesus-loving community… just in smaller groups.
During our last leader team, our staff was blown away by all the good news our leaders shared. We have freshmen who have only experienced covid-FOCUS and they loved it. They want to continue on and lead. Praise God! A year ago, we were preparing for whatever was ahead of us. We thought God might just call us to be a steady place for the students we already knew. Little did we know God would be using our ministry as a place to connect with students when many organizations couldn’t. You were a part of this happening. Your support allowed us to be present in an uncharted time. Thank you for that. I want to remember this feeling. God provided far above my expectations!
To close, here are a couple prayer requests: continue to pray for the campuses FOCUS will be pioneering in the fall. Pray that doors open at the colleges and that we connect with the right people. Pray for our campuses as they make decisions on what the fall is to look like. Be praying that students will be involved over the summer.