Monday, September 18, 2017

Fall Update (First few weeks of school!)

Hello friends and supporters!

It's been about a month since I last updated you and it would be a dramatic understatement to say a lot has happened since then. God has been working in some powerful ways at Collin, and I can't wait to tell you about it. 

I'll start by describing the first two weeks of school from August 28th to September 8th: crazy. 
We spent the first two weeks as a community reaching out to our campuses on a daily basis. Every single day we were meeting new people, inviting people to the different events we were hosting, and getting to develop friendships. So many of our existing students from last year and incoming freshmen already tied to Focus made time to be on campus meeting new people and inviting them into friendship and community. It was such a cool experience getting to see so many young believers living out their faith and having a blast doing it. On Wednesday and Sunday night of the first week of school we hosted volleyball and tons of students showed up. Our students really walk the walk and it's a testimony to everyone who witnesses them that they truly love Jesus and people well.

Core groups have started up and so have the one on one studies we call Focus on Jesus (FOJ). This is a 10 week study of Jesus that two people go through together as they develop a friendship predicated on following Jesus together. These groups and studies have seen a ton of new people showing up and developing community! Speaking of community, Thursday Night Focus has been downright insane these past few weeks. We have reached capacity in the back of the cafeteria due to all the new students showing up to try out Focus for the first time. We hope they'll get plugged in to one of our core groups, start a one on one study with a student leader or member of our community and engage in life-changing friendship that will bring them closer to Jesus. God has been faithful to bring seeking people to our community and we want to be faithful with them. Here's a pic of Focus a few weeks ago!



Fall Camp is just around the corner for Collin (this weekend to be exact!) and it's a great opportunity for new people to make friends and for our whole group to become more tight knit. We'll be at Camp Copass in Denton having fun, learning together, worshipping God, and developing friendships that will hopefully last forever. If you would be praying about all the people showing up to Focus, for our faithfulness with them, and for Fall camp and them getting plugged in that would mean so much to us!

Thank you so much for making this ministry happen. Without your support we simply couldn't be here having the impact we are on the Collin campuses. Thank you!

P.s. Jack is due T-minus four weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Crunch time.

Yours on the campus, 
Garrett

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fall Semester Beginning!


Hello friends and supporters! It feels like it was just yesterday that I was updating you on student leader selection and the coming of the school year. This time of year moves so fast in campus ministry!

Student leaders:
For those of you that are new to my blog, "corefa" stands for core facilitator and refers to our student leaders who study the Bible with other students and lead the small groups (core groups) that are so pivotal to our community. We have selected our corefas for the year and paired them up with a peer to lead their core with. It's an exciting time for us as we have 2 cores that will be at the Preston Ridge Campus, 8 at the Spring Creek Campus, and the Central Park Campus will have 1 core (our very first foray into this campus!) We love the student leaders we picked and as a staff we're looking forward to spending a lot of time with them. We'll get weekly one-on-one time with them discipling and training them in serving their peers. We have 22 student leaders at Collin this year and we'd love for you to be in prayer for them!

Back to school:
This Saturday we have our Corefa Prep Day. With the group mentioned above we'll spend the whole day together Saturday getting them ready for the school year. We introduce them to key aspects of doing campus ministry, and as they get excited about reaching the campus they also get to know one another and build the team dynamic. We'll have a few more training kind of days but this one is aimed at the all-important Welcome Week.

Welcome Week:
Campus ministers know the most important week of the year for a campus ministry is the first week of school. What we do and don't do that week will have lasting consequences on the whole year and years to come. Our Welcome Week is from August 28th to September 1st this year. We have events planned at all the campuses for every day of the week that are aimed at drawing new students in. Our staff runs the events so that we can give our existing students a chance to reach out to and befriend their peers. It's such an exciting week as we see a ton of new faces and people being invited into loving community and authentic friendships. I'd ask that you also be praying for this week and our students!

Jack:
As Welcome Week draws closer, so does the arrival of our newest family member, Jack. His due date is October 17th and we feel such a diversity of emotions, mostly excitement. As he is our first, we have very little idea what to expect. We simply know it will be will be a great joy and a great challenge. We ask that you be praying for us as we discover what ministry with a child can and should look like and we also welcome any advice you have to offer! I look forward to seeing my students love up on Jack and if I'm sure of anything I'm sure he won't lack many older brothers and sisters in the faith.


 I know I say it often, but I hope you don't think it's rote repetition on my part. I feel extremely blessed to be supported by you all; I'm greatly encouraged by your generosity and partnership with us on the campus. Your prayer, help, and financial support are pivotal to reaching the Collin College campus. I'm so grateful for you and pray for you often! Thank you!

In Christ,
Garrett

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July Update!

Hello friends and supporters!

It's been about a month since my last update and I have some great stuff to share with you! I mostly want to share about three things that have typified the time between mid-June and mid-July: SOOT, leader selection, and a staff vacation.

I'll start with Summer One-on-One Training (SOOT). Starting in mid-June our staff has been getting with a group of around 35-45 students every week in order to train them in how to do one-on-one ministry. We meet a total of four times and our last meeting is next week. While none of these students have made any commitment to leadership or even to coming to SOOT, it has been so cool to get to know them and see them coming every week to learn how to reach their peers next year. This past week we covered some axioms of one-on-one ministry like "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care", and "moving people onto God's agenda". Besides from some of the basic teaching about ministry, SOOT is aimed at creating relationships among those students that will help them become core contributors to our campus community next year. God has blessed us so much with the group we have this year and I'm excited to get to work with them next year!


We've also started the process of selecting student leaders for next year. This is a massive undertaking as we sift through many students in our ministry and discuss whether they fit the criteria of a student leader. We have so many loving and capable students and we consider everyone to be a minister if they call Jesus "Lord". However, it takes a special student to have the ability and the desire to spend 10-15 hours a week minimum serving their peers by facilitating small groups, being trained in ministry, befriending people, and doing one-one-one ministry. We're looking for students who fit the FAITH acronym (Faithful, Available, Initiating, Teachable, Heart for God/people). None of these students are completely adept in these areas (and neither am I!) but we're asking God to give us discernment about who is walking that path so we can teach them how to fish for people this next year. Please be in prayer for us as we make those decisions and for the students as they consider those commitments!

Finally, I'd like to tell you a bit about the vacation to Louisiana that our Collin staff took last week. We had the chance to stay at a friends' parents house outside of New Orleans for cheap so we all jumped at the opportunity to get to spend the week together having fun and developing our friendships with one another. We mostly went to a close beach in Mississippi (which had dolphins!) and spent time eating and playing Spikeball in New Orleans. In the middle of our trip we went to serve at a really neat ministry for kids in a tough neighborhood in New Orleans called Hollygrove. Jesus Project Ministries (JPM) is trying to reach inner city kids by providing activities, supplies, food, friendships, and the Gospel and we got to be a very small part of that. Seeing these kids flock to their ministry was so cool. Our staff got to help out with odds and ends around their property and we were so blessed by their commitment and perseverance in bringing the Gospel to Hollygrove. Thanks JPM! Finally, I'd ask as I often do that you be in prayer for our ministry. The next time I write to you we will be in full swing for the semester, and so much work and preparation go into making that happen. Truly, it's God's work and our job is only to be faithful. Pray for our faithfulness. Thank you so much for continuing to make possible what we get to do on the Collin campuses. Blessings!


In Christ,
Garrett


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June Ministry Update!

Hello friends and supporters!

June has been a great month and as I've settled in to my summer routine I can't wait to tell you about what God has been up to in my life and ministry!

School of Ministry
At the beginning of June I began teaching a class as a part of Focus' summer school of ministry. Each summer, Focus offers classes that are aimed at allowing students to go more in depth in their understanding of God through Scripture and other writings. This summer I was given the opportunity to teach an 8 week course on the gospel of Mark. Although we've only had one class (with the second one tonight) it's been a big blessing to me. I love the Gospel of Mark and immersing myself in it has always brought me face to face with Jesus, and thus my life is changed again and again. It's impossible for me to read his words and observe him through the text and not be moved in so many different ways. It's also a huge blessing to get to teach the 50+ students from different campuses across the metroplex. Getting to know them and learn with them is special and I don't take it for granted. It speaks volumes of our students that they would spend 2 hours every Wednesday night listening to lecture on the Gospel and taking notes, asking questions, and growing their faith. I'm so proud of them and thankful I get to share the blessing of the Gospel with them!

Summer One-on-One Training
Last year we started something new: in the summer we invited students in our ministry who we thought could have a significant impact on the campus to a once-a-week training on how to do one-on-one ministry. Over t
he course of this 4 week training,  we tried to fire them up and enable them to reach their peers individually rather than relying on impersonal large events to do it for them. We also wanted them to get to know one another and our staff. It was a huge success and our students regularly referred back to it as important for them. This year we decided to do the same thing and we're currently in the process of planning for it. We're expecting around 45 students to be a part of this years training and we're SO excited to get to know them and get them excited for real ministry. That starts in two weeks so please be in prayer about that for us!

Our Baby!
Just a quick update on our baby boy coming in October: he's doing great! So far so good. I'm conserving sleep like a squirrel collecting acorns in Fall. Just kidding, I wish it worked that way! Erika is doing great too. She's such a trooper and has been in good spirits as she entered her 22nd week of pregnancy. I can't tell you how thankful I am to have a healthy wife and child as we're in this season. I've no doubt that your prayers are being heard. We're eager to meet the new guy! Next step: agree on a name.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support. I'm praying blessings for you and your families.

In Christ,
Garrett

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May Update!

Hello friends and supporters! 

Well, just like that school is over and the summer has arrived. It's hard to believe the school year is done already; it seems like just yesterday I was telling you about our prep day at Collin for all our new student leaders. Well now they have a whole year of ministry under their belts and have experienced all the ups and downs of ministry. As I look back on the team we had leading at Collin this year, both students and staff, I can't help but feel overwhelmingly blessed. God gave us such great workers who poured their hearts and souls into people. I'll always look back fondly on this group and I'm so thankful I got to work with them! 

The main happening in May was our end of the year banquet. It's a fun affair with food, dancing, worship, and honoring the people who have served the ministry this year. It was a great way to end the year enjoying one another's company and laughing together. Directly after school ends most of the people on our staff head up to Washington for a week with around 80 students from all the campuses for the Student Institute of Campus Ministry (I've mentioned this in my previous blog post). I stayed back in Dallas this year in order to get a head start on fundraising, as well as a little relaxation after many years of attending SICM. I still miss being around our staff so much as well as the CCF staff up in Washington. I've made some lifelong friendships up there that I love getting to refresh when I go back up each year. So I'll be that much more excited next year when I go up to Washington!

As we head into summer we'll be meeting with our full staff team as normal each week, with a primary emphasis on staff development (pastorally, intellectually, relationally, etc.) and preparing for next year. We get a lot of feedback at the end of each year from our students, and we have a lot of ideas ourselves of how next year can go better. Summer is an integral time for hitting the reset button and making some changes, preparing for next year, and growing together. We plant in the summer so we can harvest in the Fall!

I'd ask that you be praying for the changes Collin is experiencing on staff (adding Cody, losing Hannah), and that our summer would be productive in regards to what I just mentioned above as well as in fundraising. Thank you so much for all of your love and attention as we work to bring Christ to the campus. I'm so grateful for you!

Yours on the campus,
Garrett

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April Ministry Update


Hello friends and supporters!

It feels like it's been forever since I wrote my last blog. And since my last correspondence with you was me letting you in on what's been going on in my life, I'll start there.

Firstly, I want to thank you for your prayers and give all the praise to God that the anxiety I've experienced is completely gone! I have no doubt that God heard the prayers of so many of you and was merciful with me. I learned a lot in the past few months from this experience, not least of which was that it's necessary for us to go through "pruning" seasons that may be painful for a while, but that refine us and make us stronger in the end. I'm overjoyed, I'm thankful, and I'm praising God.
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Secondly, and more importantly, my wife Erika and I are (drumroll please)....PREGNANT!!! Well, technically, she's the pregnant one, but it's hard to say that any other way. We're expecting our first child in October of this year and we couldn't be more excited and thankful. I can't wait to be a dad; I know it holds challenges that are beyond my ability and joys beyond my understanding, but I trust God will provide and refine. Your prayers for Erika and the baby are much appreciated!



On a different note, but no less encouraging, we had a staff/student team from Bellevue College in Washington state come down to Collin College on their spring break and spend the week reaching out to students on our three campuses. First of all, how cool that that's the way they chose to spend their spring break. Secondly, it was such a blessing to have their staff and students here. They got to know our campuses, boldly spoke to students they didn't know, prayed with them, witnessed Christ to them, and invited them in to community and relationship with God. Our students at Collin got to do this alongside them; it galvanized our community and was life-giving to our entire staff and community. We are so thankful for these folks!

Finally, I can't believe I'm saying this already, but classes are about to wrap up for the semester which means we're heading into summer. For me that means I have some work to do. One of the hardest things for me to do as a minister is raise my own salary. I'm not particularly gifted in this area and I've always hated feeling like a burden to people. I'll need to get over that, though, because as Erika has our baby she obviously won't be able to work as much. She's the breadwinner of our family, but won't be able to play that role any more. That means I'll need to fundraise more in order to pick up the slack from her not working. I trust God's provision, and rely on him to give us exactly what we need. As a part of that I'd like you to prayerfully consider either joining my support team (by giving monthly or one time), or increasing the amount you give. I know that's a big ask. I hope you can see that it goes towards real, life-changing campus ministry and find it worth your investment. If you are interested please email me at garrett@anyfocus.org and we can go from there! Thank you for considering this. Your prayers and support mean so very much to me and the Collin College community. Thank you so much for your continued support and love. We could not do this without you!!

Yours on the campus,
Garrett

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A personal reflection

Hello friends and supporters!

First of all, let me apologize about how late in the month my update is coming to you. The last six weeks or so have been difficult for me. I believe God is trying to teach me a number of things that I've been slow to learn, and I hope to share some of that with you now. This post will be more personal than my typical ones about our ministry, and I hope it ministers to you in some small way.

For as long as I can remember I've been a very laid back, care-free, and unhurried person. Blessed with that disposition, I never thought I'd struggle with anxiety. But recently I have. I do not have anxious thoughts or find myself consciously worrying about much of anything, but the last few months I have been regularly visited by what I can only describe as anxiety attacks in the middle of the night. No bad dreams or conscious thoughts precipitate these happenings, they are very physical. The first few times it happened I thought something was wrong with my heart since chest pain and an imminent sense of doom always accompanied the occurrences. After numerous visits to the cardiologist, I found out my heart is fine (praise God!). Having visited my normal doctor, he felt confident that what I was dealing with was in fact anxiety. That was surprising. I spoke with him about what I do in ministry, and other circumstances I was facing and it confirmed his suspicions. He told me to cut way back.

Initially, it seemed wrong for me to cut back. "I feel like I have plenty of time", I said to myself, "keep going and it'll work itself out". Well it didn't. It felt strange. I felt broken. What worked for me forever suddenly stopped working and I was left wondering why. Was God trying to tell me something? Was I being punished for some sin? Was I just in need of a vacation? I had plenty of questions, and no answers. Through it I continued to pray a prayer of resignation to God, "God, you're good. My life hinges on that fact. Have your way, whatever way, and let me trust you regardless of whether it feels like a help or a hurt. Whatever you're trying to teach me, I'm open to it." When we're faced with what we consider bad or difficult things, it's easy to feel betrayed by God. I do not believe a good father abandons his children; I do not believe our most gracious Father abandons us. The most valuable lessons I've learned in my life have been through the desert path, in pain and trouble, void of consolation for a time as in a fiery furnace. His refining process is for our good; the help often feels like a hurt, and if winning looks like what it looked like for Jesus, then we must expect the cost to be great.

Through this experience I've also realized that I tend to find my value in what I do rather than who I belong to. I subconsciously believe the lie that because I am a minister to a large and growing ministry that the responsibility for its welfare is my own. So I filled my schedule up with one-on-one meetings to make my rounds and help people along in their faith and through their many, complex, and sometimes devastating issues. That takes a toll on the heart and mind, and I hurt for people like it was me that was experiencing it. I said yes to far too many things and I couldn't quite see anything that was unimportant enough to cut. My pride informed my sense of duty and my busyness was the badge of importance that told me that I was useful to God, as if he was concerned in the least about my usefulness! God does not want us or love us for our usefulness, he loves us and wants us because we're his children, and he's a good Father. That's just his way, and it's good. It's hard to accept that though because then self-importance can't play the role it played in my old self. Also, how can I show God I'm worthy of some small amount of grace if I don't work myself ragged trying to prove it? God isn't a slave-driver. He doesn't care about quotas. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. If I would have been less concerned about what I was "doing for God", and more concerned about his provision for me, I don't think I'd be in the same spot.

So I'm broken. Nothing new here, just more broken than I realized (a recurring realization for me). God, seeing that brokenness, is moving me on the painful path from brokenness to healing. It's a lot like physical therapy. In my devotional times I was reading 1 Peter every day and failed to see the provision of God's word he set before me until recently. 1 Peter 1:6-9 says:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I'm reminded of a quote by Thomas a Kempis that says, "All men are frail; but thou shouldst reckon none so frail as thyself". I'm reminded of my weakness and frailty. I'm reminded that I need God desperately and that the ministry I am a part of is his ministry. And I'm reminded of the goodness of God as he takes me from Haran to Canaan one trial and one step at a time. He's good!

On a different note, Collin Focus has been a great encouragement to me. Our students and our staff team continue to learn and grow together with each new week. This, too, is a testimony to the fact that God's work will continue, even despite our shortcomings and weakness. Please continue to be in prayer for our team and for the students as we near the end of the semester. Thank you so much for your prayers and your support of God's work on the campus. You are greatly appreciated.

Yours in Christ,
Garrett