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





Thursday, February 2, 2017

Spring Semester beginning update!

Hello friends and supporters!

January has been an exciting and eventful month! The beginning of the Spring semester is well underway and we've seen God do some powerful things in our community. In a community of around 150 students (at both Preston Ridge and Spring Creek Campuses) we've had over 100 one-on-one Bible studies led by our students and staff so far this school year. Our 10 week Bible study is called Focus on Jesus and it is aimed at getting students to look at the life of Jesus, consider what he really says, and ask themselves if they are following him well. It's a very personal and in-depth study between two people who develop a friendship under the banner of Christ. Some of these studies don't pan out for various reasons but many end up finishing and being life-changing. Many of the studies that began in the Fall are now done, and as a result we've been seeing a lot of students hand their lives over to Jesus! When a student who either doesn't know Jesus or hasn't given their life to him yet studies FOJ, it's not uncommon for them to have the same response as the Ethiopian eunuch that Phillip connects with in Acts 8; basically they say "Well I love Jesus and I want to follow him forever, so why not start now?" Baptism is an important part of bringing people into the community of believers under the lordship of Christ. I've been so blessed to get to see so many students make this decision recently, and I'm reminded of how the priesthood of believers, constantly pursuing the Lord together, is powerful beyond any institution or nation in this world.

Winter camp was also in the month of January, and despite the persistent rain it was truly an amazing experience. Winter camp drew over 600 of our students from campuses all across the metroplex to worship, learn, and develop relationships that will change the course of their lives. It was neat getting to see my students connect with people from other universities and develop deeper ties with one another. Getting to worship together and acknowledge the big work God is doing on our campuses was overwhelming to me. What a great and memorable experience it was! Finally, I'll just talk a bit about the beginning of the semester on both our campuses at Collin. We've tried to put some more time and attention into being on campus and drawing people in to have fun with our students, get to know us, and get plugged in to community. So far we've done just that! We've had a lot of new students showing up, especially at Preston Ridge, to our weekly hangout on campus (We call it Tuesday Hang at PRC and Wednesday Hang at SCC). Student life is so hard to come by at the community college campus. We're trying to fix that one week at a time as we stay faithful to inviting people to connect with their peers, develop friendships, and start a conversation with Jesus in their lives. We're going to keep being faithful with what we're given and let God do his work. We're excited about these new initiatives to reach students more! 
Thank you so much for your prayers, for your support, and for sharing in bringing the good news to our campuses. It means so much to me to be able to partner with you in this important, life-giving work!
In Christ, 
Garrett 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

January Update...Happy New Year!!!

Hello friends and supporters!

Sorry this post is a little late; I usually aim to have my blog up the 1st or 2nd of the month but every January we have our staff retreat the first week of the month and I like to wait to release my blog so that I can tell you how it went! So I'll start with our staff retreat and work my way back through December. Here we go!

Staff retreat this year was an amazing experience. Before we went to the retreat in Llano, Tx we all read a book by Brennan Manning titled "The Signature of Jesus". It was an amazing book when I first read it over 8 years ago, and reading it again served to confirm that. So much of my mindset regarding following Christ emphasizes the victory and grace I have in his resurrection, but rarely is his death on the cross (what Manning calls the signature of Jesus) and what that means for the life I'm supposed to live on my mind. It's easy to win with Christ, but will I also lose with him? Do I look more like everyone else in the world, vying for position and comfort, or do I look more like the Christ who gave up his comfort and worldly success in order to bring God's kingdom? Those were questions we chewed on at the retreat. Besides our discussions, we got to spend a lot of time getting to know one another. We have such a young and lively staff; we laugh a lot together and enjoy each others company immensely. I feel so blessed to get to work with these people, especially considering the kind of work we get to do on college campuses across the metroplex.

The other big ministry thing that happened in the last month was our Collin Christmas Party. I'm sure you're done with Christmas now, as am I, but reflecting back on that event is fun for me. We had over 100 students show up to sing songs of worship, play games, and celebrate Christ's birth together. Our theme was "awkward family photos", and needless to say, people looked weird. It was a ton of fun, though, and was a neat way to end the semester! Pictured to the right are our guy corefas and myself posing for an awkward photo.


The last two weeks of the year is technically the time we take a break. I used those two weeks to meet up with people I don't normally get to spend time with, do woodwork, and to rest. It was fun, but I'm glad to be back to a more normal busy schedule where I get to spend a lot of time with people in ministry. Pictured to the left are the Collin apprentices and myself, the people I get to do another semester of ministry with. I couldn't be happier about these weirdos, and I love working with them.


Finally, we have Winter Camp coming up in less than a week! Winter camp is the single largest and most difficult event we put on as a ministry each year. Over 500 Focus students from campuses all over the metroplex will meet at Sky Ranch in Van, Tx to spend 4 days worshipping, learning, and building friendships. This is such an important part of our ministry and so I'd like to ask that you be praying that God would prepare everyone's hearts and minds to follow his guidance and be sensitive to the Spirit speaking to us. I can't tell you how thankful I am that I have you all in our corner, praying for us, thinking about us, financially supporting us, and making everything possible. My prayer for you all is that God would continually bless you as you work to let his kingdom come and his will be done.

Yours in Christ,
Garrett

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December Ministry Update

Hello friends and supporters!

Before I start, let me encourage you to consider giving to our annual campaign to keep Focus growing. This campaign allows us to start Focus at new campuses, support new initiatives to bring students to Christ, and covers costs for student events and other things! Theres more info at https://anyfocus.org/donate/next20/ if you want to check it out!

As the semester draws to an end (finals are next week for our students), I've been considering what God has done this fall semester and I'm amazed. The way he's worked through our students and campus has been nothing short of miraculous, and I'd like to share some of the ways I've seen that.

Our corefa team (student leaders) has bonded and grown tremendously. When you're a college student with all the demands of work, school, family, etc., and you are also learning how to do ministry, life can be very difficult. Trying to minister to your peers is a daunting task when faced with the numerous and complex issues they have. Considering how their college peers need to grow and being bold enough to encourage them in that way is challenging. This corefa team has had to face some difficult challenges within the core groups they lead and with the people they spend weekly one-on-one time with, and they've done a great job. I'm proud of them. I once watched a Planet Earth episode in which a bird called the Barnacle Goose had to watch its offspring jump off cliffs as tall as 400 feet to the ground below. They cannot begin life as goslings without leaving the cliffs. The reason they have nests so high is to avoid predation, and the goslings must jump down because the parents can't carry them safely to the ground waiting below. The episode shows the dramatic and often deadly falls of these little ones as they try to begin life and leave infancy. This stark image is often what I think of when I think of our corefas. The difficulties they face in assuming the role of servant leaders in community are beyond their abilities to safely navigate. We guide them as best we can, as many of their parents have done. We tell them about the best way to jump, and the dangers of jumping. But ultimately they are protected by the Lord they rely on, and despite bumps and bruises they often walk away ready to live as disciples, on the road to maturity in Christ. It always renews my trust in God to see these inexperienced and often brittle beginners develop real depth and determination in the faith all on their own before God. It has been an ultimate encouragement to see these students accept the call of Christ, jump from their nests, and begin to lead God's people. How good of a God we serve!

Another blessing I've been reflecting on is the new staff team at Collin. I remember asking you to pray back in August and September about that and that God would grow and develop our new team as we served our students. Prayer answered. Our apprentices have done a phenomenal job. They've worked hard to serve the ministry and grow personally. They've dealt with numerous obstacles and discovered some of the difficulties of being a campus pastor, all with grace and faith. Their mid year evaluations were all this past month (these evaluations are very in depth and take a ton of time, but are well worth the effort), and as I reflected on each apprentice I became acutely aware of their contribution to our team. I'm so thankful for them and love getting to work with them on a day in, day out basis.

On a more current note, we're wrapping up core groups and our main Thursday night meeting for the semester this week. The break offers us the chance to get to spend more relational time with students and staff that we normally wouldn't, and gives us an opportunity to hit the reset button before next semester. As we wrap up we're beginning to assess students' leadership potential as well as their opportunities for growth. These are the beginning stages of deciding who we should be investing in as leaders. I ask that you pray for this process and that God would give us his eyes and discernment for people he wants leading at Collin next year.

Finally, I just want to thank you for your involvement in making all this possible. Seriously meaningful kingdom work is going on at Collin Focus because of your prayers, your financial support, and your partnership. Please continue to pray for us as we undertake this work on campus!