Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Welcome to the New Year



 It has begun! 

Welcome, September! Fall is seriously my favorite time of the year and I've felt hints of it creeping closer within these last few weeks! It's such a subtle, yet drastic change from the beginning of August to September...subtle in the ways that the temperatures seem to be evening out and not horrendously hot each day! Subtle in the way that some of the trees in my apartment complex have started changing colors and even dropping leaves! Ok, maybe they're dropping from heat exhaustion, not autumn...But a girl can dream, can't she?
This last month has been a drastic change for me in my work focus. We started out in August with our staff retreat, which I'll tell you about in a sec, and have ended with being two full weeks into hard core campus ministry! I'm so excited to be back with students and to get to be on campus more often now! God's done some awesome things this last month, which I am thrilled to get to tell you all about!

Staff Retreat

FOCUS Staff 2015
So this was just an insanely fun couple of days! Our whole staff carpooled down to Port Aransas, Texas, where we stayed in a large beach-house just a short walk from the beach. 
Last year, this staff retreat was good for helping me get over my nerves about working on a brand new team, but was still so out of my comfort zone that I felt more stressed than relaxed for the majority of the time. This year was night and day different! I think it says a lot about how this team functions that I felt like I was on a giant family vacation with people that I really loved all week.
While there was a lot of playing together and getting to know each other on a "fun level," there was also time for deeper reflection and preparation as we all look forward to a year of bringing the gospel to our different campuses. 

Movie Night!
One of my favorite times of the retreat was when we spent an entire evening telling our individual FOCUS stories. To hear how FOCUS was started in the mid-90's with just a few key people and then to continue chronologically with each staff member telling how they got involved with FOCUS and how their life has changed as a result of being part of this community of believers was beautiful. So often in the Old Testament, God reminded His People to remember their past, where they had come from and how He had worked it all for good...I felt like this was a time of precious remembering and seeing how God has already led us this far. How encouraging to know going forward into a new year that He continues to go before us and that He will complete the good work that He has started! 



Happy Re-Birthday!
 We had two girls this month decide that they wanted to get baptized! I love getting to watch students as they make their faith their own and then step out in obedience to get baptized. For one of these girls, she had been baptized as a child and felt like she hadn't fully understood the commitment she was making. As she's grown in her relationship with God, it became heavier and heavier on her heart that she needed to be baptized again, as an adult with full understanding of what she was doing. For the other girl, this was her first time to be baptized and did so in response to becoming serious about her faith. 
I am so proud of these girls and they ways that I've watched them grow and mature in their faith this last year. It's so good to see God working in individual's lives and then to see them turn around to make public declarations of their allegiance! Praise God for what He's doing at UNT! 




 Corefa Prep

Leader Team 2015
Thank you for your prayers for this weekend of preparation as we trained our new student leaders to be Core Facilitators (Corefas). We have a team of 50+ students who dedicate fifteen or more hours each week to leading a small group, studying the Bible with their peers and to attending various leader meetings. I'm amazed at their dedication and zeal for reaching their campus for Jesus! 

This weekend got off to a bumpy start with us finding out two days before that we didn't get approved to have a room on campus because it was finals week for summer classes! EEP!! Thank God for a local church that graciously allowed us to meet in their youth room on Friday. After that the weekend flowed smoothly as we talked about the vision for the semester, how to do Welcome Week well and spent some time getting to know each other as new leaders in this together. Please keep praying for these student leaders throughout the semester, as they're really the rockstars on campus...they can meet people and build connections through classes, age, etc that most of us on staff just can't anymore. Pray that God moves mightily through them and gives them stamina for the whole year.

Welcome Week

Move In Day
This is probably the busiest and most vital week to campus ministry that we have! Starting on Sunday, our whole staff, leader team, and other student volunteers help move new freshmen into the dorms. What a sweaty and practical way to meet new students and make them feel welcome! After that day comes a whole week where the university puts on fun "get to know you" events. The new freshmen are required to attend various orientation classes until around 1pm, but from that time til probably close to midnight each night, events are happening that encourage students to make friends and get involved. Our student leaders, knowing why this is such an important week, work their schedules to try to be able to attend the most strategic events and to meet as many people as possible. 

After Move In Day
You might be wondering "why is this such a big deal?!" It's because within these first couple of weeks, everyone is new (whether legitimately new or starting a new semester) and it's not weird to go up and start talking to someone. We have this amazing window of opportunity to connect with people before they've made their decisions of what they're going to be involved in on campus. 

This is not just a big ploy for bulking up numbers at UNT. It's statistically proven that about 25% of students stop attending church or any other religious function when they move away for college. That's incredibly sad to me. But maybe by reaching out and befriending early we can help stop that trend and start a new one of students staying involved in the church and become mature disciples of Christ! That's my prayer for our campuses and I hope you'll join me in that!

Welcome Week Stories

These were two of my favorite stories that happened to me over the course of Welcome Week:

All Because of God (and my dog) 

Tuckered out from meeting students
 So two weeks before Welcome Week, a friend from Midland had texted me saying that the daughter of a woman she worked with was going to UNT this fall and that I should met her! She gave me a name, but no number to contact her. I asked for one and she never responded. I figured on a campus of 36,000+ students, my odds of just running into this chick were really just impossible and then kind of forgot about it. 

Sunday evening, after Move In Day, I went up on campus with Camilla to meet students. What better ice breaker is there than a cute puppy, especially when all of these freshmen have just left home and their pets behind, right? Pretty soon these two girls walked up to me and asked if they could pet my dog. As we stood there talking, we introduced ourselves by first name only and chit-chatted about how the first day had been. I offered to exchange numbers with them so that I could let them know about events that FOCUS was having throughout the week. As they told me their numbers, one of them had a Midland area code! I asked her what her last name was to see if we had mutual friends at home and when she said it, I almost had a heart attack. 

She was the girl that my friend had texted me about two weeks earlier! WHAAAAAAT!? Just think with me of how very impossible of a "coincidence" that happened to be. What makes it better is that she's come to some events and is starting to get involved! I'm simply amazed by God and how He works all things to His glory! He is going to do what He wants done, regardless of having phone numbers! 

International Lunch Time
Mmm. So true.
As we've been trying to get more engaged with the international students on campus, we've had some terrific opportunities this month to serve and befriend new students. One of these opportunities was simply coming to their lunch time and making conversation with them in between their various activities on campus. I loved getting to attend these lunches, not because I love pizza so much, but because I saw the same couple of girls from Korea three days straight! Each time I would walk in, they would flag me down and ask me to come sit with them, which I did happily. On the last day, one of the girls told me as we were leaving, "Miriam, I think we do you say...DESTINY to be FRIENDS!"

What a unique opportunity we have to really love and serve these students through the friendship and hope we have to offer! I'm so excited about the doors that are opening up to do this more and that our students are catching a vision for the world!  

I hope that these stories encourage you about what all is happening on our campuses. God is moving and it is so wonderful to get to be a part of that. Thank you for the ways that you support me in this, through your prayers and financial giving. I appreciate each of you so much and am incredibly thankful for you!