The Start of the New Semester

    Hello everyone, I hope you're all staying warm during the snowstorm (for those of you in Texas right now, or anyone in a place with rough weather). Our first month back has been great! We had a rough start with Covid cases surging; it resulted in us having to postpone our staff retreat, and it caused a number of hurdles to deal with for Winter Camp, but despite that, God has been super faithful and really helped us jump back into the year with momentum. Our wise senior staff put together a devotional/spiritual discipline plan and discussion to give our staff team a mental jump-start in lieu of staff retreat. Here in Denton, we revamped our Outreach plan and communication, and we've already seen an increase in participation from our student leaders as well as increased fruit; I'm already hearing stories of people were very appreciative of our efforts to invite them into loving community and friendship. We had some trouble getting a room reservation for our weekly fellowship nights, one of our connections that works for the University came through and got us what we needed! 

The first fellowship night back on campus!

    For those unfamiliar, Winter Camp is our big annual event that spiritually boosts our students as they come back from break. It was such a fun, lifegiving, and intellectually stimulating time. Our whole FOCUS community from all the various campuses spent the 4 day weekend before school started again together at Sky Ranch. We got to enjoy various camp activities, meet and bond with each other, worship God together, and learn about why we can trust the Gospels and how the Gospels have already won from a renowned seminary professor, Rikk Watts. We unfortunately had to scramble the week before to account for a number of students who were sick and couldn't come, students who were no longer comfortable attending, and the camp's changing status as a result of the surge in Covid cases. It all worked out in the end though, and we were still able to have camp and lots of students came and had a great time!

Worship at Winter Camp

    As we move into the second semester, FOCUS starts thinking and praying a lot about people who may be ready for more leadership in the following year. It's when the staff start to discuss offering senior staff positions to apprentices, selecting new apprentices, and asking dependable students in our community to consider becoming a leader in some capacity. Each year, we send these students to a leadership conference up in Washington state where they train and practice ministering to their peers, either through leading small groups and bible studies, evangelizing on campus, or just helping disciple one another through sharing things they've learned and grown in throughout their walk with Jesus. We've been discussing which students from UNT and TWU are students with strong potential and who we think are ready to be given more responsibility and opportunities.

    The leadership conference costs a decent chunk of money, largely because it is all the way in Washington, so one of the things we do every year is a Showcase event to fundraise! FOCUS believes strongly that money should never be the reason someone cannot go to something our community puts on, and we, all together, try to help raise money for these faithful students who want to serve God. Showcase is a day when we invite many of our talented musicians, performers, and artists to come put on a show for us. There are talented musical performances, hilarious Improv acts, and an artwork sale (creatively dubbed 'Artisan Market' this year). All the proceeds go to the students who need help paying for their trip, and we get to have a Saturday filled with a fun and impressive 'showcase' of the talented members of our community. If you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, please consider coming to support our students! It is only $25 a ticket and it's an experience you won't forget, not to mention the great cause the money is going towards.

    This month, I met a guy during outreach, who I'll call 'F' who has been pretty interested in checking out FOCUS. Just by coincidence, he already has a friend who is involved who has told him a bit about it, however, he has some reservations when it comes to Christian groups. He was raised in a Christian household, but believes some things about life/his identity that Christians have traditionally clashed with, which made him wrestle with being able to be open with the church and worry about being accepted. He has since walked away from the church. He did really enjoy talking and hanging out with some of us over lunch and is willing to give small group a chance. Please pray that our community would know how to love him well and make him feel accepted and that he would be open to having God change his heart.

This month's student testimony is from a student at UT Arlington! Again, let me know if there's ways you would like me to be praying for you. I'd love to hear about what's going on in your lives. Have a good February!

Best wishes,