Monday, January 8, 2018

Miracle of Grace

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see. - C.S. Lewis

My first sermon

Among the many miraculous things that occurred in December, one will stick with me. I gave my first sermon. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Kristen, you're a campus minister. Of course you preached a sermon. That's not exactly a miracle." I hear what you're saying. It's not like the lame got up and walked, or the blind opened their eyes to see. But, even still, try to consider who I was just a few years ago. 

Before I finally let Jesus get a hold of me, I was a suicidal kid with no hope. The bucket of my identity was full of bitterness, arrogance, hatred, and an assortment of other empty things. I trusted absolutely no one, and wouldn't dare let anybody get close enough to try and change that. I was Kristen the Hider. Kristen the Invisible. 

But Jesus saw me. 

He's much taller than the walls I'd build up in my heart. At the right time, when I was still powerless, Jesus stooped down to lift me up. He put me in FOCUS, and surrounded me with people who were going to care about me even when I didn't want to be cared for. He completely transformed me from the inside out. 

It is undeniably an act of God that I, Kristen the Hider, could ever stand before a group of God's people and preach from a place of vulnerability. Jesus did that. It's amazes me that he could take a caterpillar like me and teach me to fly. Everything I am has come about by a miracle of God's grace. 

Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in grace? 

These girls certainly do: 

Here we all are getting full on Mexican Food. It's one of our more attractive pictures. 

Here we are after Corefa Class. We'd just finished up watching Nacho Libre. Ingrid, Devan, and I just about have every word memorized. 

I really love this picture of Stacey. This is her, hanging out in the student union. Doesn't she look happy to see me? 

Winter Camp! 

We had a restful break, but we are so excited to start things up again with Winter Camp! All 9 of the FOCUS campuses will converge this weekend at Sky Ranch for fellowship, worship, and fun. That'll be all over next month's blog! Be praying that God moves in student's hearts, just like He moved in mine. Pray that He would draw these students into His kingdom. Pray for miracles of grace! 

Family night! 

Pretty soon, we'll be hosting family night at FOCUS! You are all welcome to come to that, just to check out the ministry that you've already invested so much into! It'll be Feb. 3rd from 5:30pm to 7pm. If you're interested in coming, let me know so that I can get you the address! 


Finally, thank you so much to everyone who gave to our Keep Focus Growing campaign! WE COULD NOT do what we do without your generosity. 

A million thank yous, 
To the best support team in the world, 
K Stroud

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

November in Review

So much has happened in the last several months. It's hard to know where to even begin. I could write out stories upon stories of God moving in peoples' lives. Many of our students have had hard semesters. They've struggled to balance their studies, jobs, and personal lives with the ministry they've been called to. 

Our Core-Facilitators, student leaders, do so much. They meet with other students weekly, checking in and ministering where they can. They give their very best to God. They spend their time, money, strength, intellect, houses, cars, and other resources, sowing into the kingdom of God. They really do go above and beyond.

That's why getting to lead them is a joy. They're already seeking after Jesus, already running towards him. All I have to do is watch what God is already doing in their hearts, and join in. I have the best job in the world.

Here are a few pictures that might encourage you this holiday season. Thank you all for your continued support and prayers. Your generosity towards me has blessed me in more ways that I can communicate.

Stacey (left) and Ingrid (right) are as nutty as they come. The 3 of us became fast friends. Stacey has a real nice way about her. Her heart has become so soft to the Lord. Her identity is getting all tangled up in who God's created her to be; she is a beautiful mess. Ingrid is learning to find her security in her good Father. Her ministry is so sweet to watch.

Kennedy (left) and Jacy (right) are such special girls.  Ken is markedly mature for her age. She works super hard, and almost always follows through. She's someone that God can count on. Jacy's love for the Lord gushes out of her. She is a walking waterfall of grace. 

Stephanie (top) and Devan (bottom) are two of the most creative, interesting people to ever walk this earth. Before starting her career as a kingdom builder in the film industry, Devan decided to finish out the school year as a Corefa even though she graduates this week! What a heart for God! Stephanie has struggled through the semester to balance all of the things God's put on her plate. She's persevered through the trial, and has learned to really lean on God for strength.

Stacey and Ingrid came to the Christmas party dressed as Joseph and Mary. Baby Jesus is heavier than he looks. (Note: Sam is pictured here in the top row, second from the right. I get to support her while she leads in the worship team. Sam is an absolute diamond. )

Here's a picture of Matt leading them in a devotional time. He's dressed as the train conductor from The Polar Express. 

Some of you ask how you can be praying! Here's how:

  • One of my teammate's grandfather just died; and her mom is very sick with cancer. Pray that God would comfort her! 
  • Our students tend to have a hard time following God as they go home over break. Many of them come from broken or disinterested families. Pray that God would protect and keep them over the break! 
  • Ask God to give me wisdom to know how to help them grow towards God! 


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October in pictures

Students getting ready to outreach! (That's Stacey in the black sweater with the smile on her face.)

Outreach is one of my responsibilities this year; and I've learned SO MUCH.  I've begun to rethink the term 'evangelism'. For many of us, that word connotes street preachers with megaphones trying to yell people into heaven. In the kingdom of God, evangelism really just looks like Stacey being willing to go out on campus and make a new friend even though she was scared. I've been so encouraged by our students' bravery and their willingness to say to God: "send me."

We went on a hike. Kennedy, Sam, and Ingrid found the tiniest frog in the world.

Devan and I at Denton North Church! We wore the same color shirt, so naturally we took a picture.

College ministry is all about building spiritual friendships. The resource that Jesus, arguably, spent the most on his disciples was time. He spent time with them. The past month, I've been trying to follow in his footsteps. I get time with my girls throughout the week anyways, but I find myself wanting to be around them even more. I'm not sure they realize how often they minister to me.  I look forward to meeting with them, to hearing about their weeks, to sharing my life with them. If I feel this way, how much more does our God love spending time with us? 

The apprentices at our last Old Testament class for the year!

As you know, a large chunk of my time is devoted to learning who God is through scripture. Having officially read through the entire Old Testament over the last couple of months, I can say without a doubt that God is good. Just he did with the Israelites, he has set his church apart to act as a blessing to the rest of the world. The young men and women sitting in this room have been and are being transformed by the knowledge of God. Think of who we'll all be in 40 years time. I am so excited to get to be who God's made me to be. I am so excited to get to learn who I am with these sweet people by my side. Thank you for playing a part in what God is doing in me and those around me this year! Your support makes all of this possible. I pray that God repays you in ways that I will never be able to. 

A million thank yous,

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fall Camp and Foundation Repair

One of my girls, Devan, took this beautiful photo at Fall Camp. 

God has been pulling up my theological foundation and laying a new one. I spent the month of September unlearning harmful theology, relearning the basics of God's character, and seeking to simply love God and his people well. My mind has been stretched in more ways that I'm even aware. 

Jesus said that "anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice will be like a wise man who build his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." (Matt 7:24-27)

The Lord is teaching me to trust him, to think prudently, and to value being with him. These are all basic things, but in many ways I'm learning them now for the first time. The parts of my foundation that I'd foolishly built on sand, are being washed away in an ocean of grace. God is good. He's faithful. 

And that's not to mention all of the ways that I see him working on the foundations of the girls I get to minister to. One is learning that rest is about being with God. Another, that God cares about her past. Another, that she can trust that she is who God says she is - a leader. 

God is doing mighty, remarkable, and glorious things in our students' lives. 

I'm working on being better about taking pictures for you guys. Here's what I've got for the past month: (they're all from Fall Camp) 

Sunday morning of Fall Camp. Our students got to hear from Brianna and Jamiann, who started the Denton ministries way back in the day!

The sumo suits in all their glory. Aaron and I led the game portion of Fall Camp, and our theme was Wrestle Mania.

Kennedy and Jacy's core at fall camp! What a bunch of weirdos. I love them. 

Ingrid and Stacey's core at Fall Camp! They all sat on their bunks and talked about diversity in the body of Christ. 

Devan and Stephanie's core at Fall Camp! They look normal in this photo, but at one point they were all wearing matching cat galaxy shirts. 

This is us waiting for our cue. My wrestle name was The Cavity, because I get to the root of the issues. His was The Void, because the pain is unavoidable.

Love you guys! Thank you for all of the prayers and support. I hope that you're encouraged by what God is doing in my life, and at UNT! He's moving. He cares. He's good. Let me know how I can be praying for you! 


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

August Adventures

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.  -Psalm 100:5

Our first large group fellowship!

I remember coming to this campus as a freshman. I remember feeling lost, afraid, and alone. I had no friends to sit with in the cafeteria, no one to talk about classes with, no one to call when I felt sad. All of that changed when I joined FOCUS. A student leader invited me to her core (small group), and to Friday Night Fellowship later that week. I went to both, and quickly found that I was wanted and loved and cared for. It is amazing to me that 4 years later, I get to witness the same God draw students to the same ministry in the same way, through a wacky bunch of students being willing to reach out.

This month was jam packed with awkward introductions, get-to-know-you games, hundreds of small conversations, and all of the things that come with meeting new friends! At the start of Welcome Week, we helped move in some of the new freshman. One girl invited me into her room when I mentioned that I liked the dragon figurines on her window sill! The next day, her roommate and I walked around campus so that she could know where her classes where going to be. It was a really sweet time, and I'm hoping that a friendship blossoms out of that! As sweaty as I was on those move-in days, given that we were in a dorm with no elevators, it was hard not to be in a good mood!

Sam, one of our student worship leaders, being a goofball at move in. 

FOCUS students waiting to help freshman move in! Look at how happy they are to be in the heat!

With the first week of classes came the first week of meeting with my peer team! I have such a great bunch of girls! I have loved getting to spend time with them these past couple of weeks! They are silly and fun and kind and I am SO proud of how they've been reaching out to people these past 2 weeks. 

My beautiful peer team! Each pair will lead a core this year!

God is doing amazing things on these campuses!

Please continue to pray that he would help us to see where he is moving, and give us the courage to join him!

Pray that my girls would come to know him more fully!

Thank you all for your continued support! Your gifts, prayers, encouragements, and love mean the world to me!!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Blog Begins

FOCUS Staff and Apprentices 2017-2018

My apprenticeship has officially begun! 

As all of you know, I'll be spending this year learning as much as I can about how to be a minister. I'm apprenticing under men and women of God who have been ministering for years, some of them decades. I'll be taking classes on different topics in pastoring, and then putting that knowledge into practice as I meet and minister to the students on my campus. 

This blog will serve to keep you updated on what all is happening in and around my life. My prayer is  that you will read these blogs, be encouraged by what God is doing in my life and in the lives around me, and then praise God for being so good. He is, so good. I will put a great deal of thought and care into what I share with you in hopes of serving you well. Thank you all for supporting me through financial gifts, prayers, love, and kindness. 

Who am I working with:

SO MANY WONDERFUL PEOPLE. I am 1 of 6 apprentices this year. Rhett and I will be in Denton, while Caitlin, Jalen, Eddie, and Dawn will be on other campuses across the metroplex. Even though we just started working together, we are already friends. 

This is a picture of 5 of us coming home from an all-staff retreat. We spent 3ish days with our team of around 30 staff members, playing games, connecting with each other, worshiping God, and preparing for the start of the fall semester on each of our campuses.

The time that 5/6ths of the apprentices left staff retreat blasting Natasha Bendingfield. 

The time Renee made Caitlin and I take a selfie at our ordination ceremony; and I ruined it with this cheesey smile.

The time Rhett and I got super excited about our peer teams.

The Denton team: me, Rhett Hayes, Brittany Tydlacka, Aaron Hollingsworth, Danielle Clark, Matt Clark, Miriam Freeman

In addition to my very nerdy and very fun apprentice team, I'll be working with the Denton team who are pictured here. This is a special treat for me, given that most of them have been ministering to me in some capacity for the last four years.

Miriam was my peer team leader for two years while I was a student leader. She was a wonderful shepherd to me, sticking with me when I was difficult to love, and showing me the Truth when I didn't want to see it. Brittany was my peer team leader last year, and her perceptive and gentle spirit has done so much to help me grow into a more mature person. I could say so many things about the rest of them too. Aaron helps me to see myself rightly and cares for me like he would his little sister. Matt's consistent presence as my campus pastor has helped assure and steady me throughout the ups and downs of college. Kevin's* thoughtfulness, which often plays out behind the scenes, permeates throughout our entire community. Dani has discipled most of the people who have discipled me over the years; she's cared for me in more ways than I even know.

I am working with a great group of people, who are giving all they have to follow God and to serve his people. 

*not pictured here

What's coming up and how you can be praying:

First flight week is about to begin for all of the incoming UNT freshman. (Our mascot is an Eagle, which is why "first flight" is such a cute name for welcome week.) 
  • It's scary for freshman to come to a university where they don't know anyone. Almost all of them will be dealing with some degree of social anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and homesickness. Pray for them! Ask God to lead them into a good community where they will find friendship and belonging! 
  • It's scary for our student leaders, who range in age from sophomores to graduate students, to go out onto campus and talk to people. They will be out on campus everyday meeting new people, and doing everything that they can to offer friendship to new and returning students. Pray for them! Ask God to give them discernment, to give them boldness, and to help them be kind.
  • Pray for me, that God gives me wisdom to know how to guide students towards his kingdom and to love them well. Pray that he helps me be attentive to their needs, and pastoral in my direction. 
I've officially been assigned a peer team! (This is the group of female student leaders who I will be meeting with every week and discipling directly.) 
  • One of my girls will be transferring to UNT from Collin College. Pray that her transition is a happy one! It's hard to leave home. I am so excited to have her here; I want her to feel valued and welcomed.
I'm 98% funded!! 
  • PRAISE GOD for getting me this far. He has blessed me with a team of partners who are willing to give so that I can do ministry full-time. This astounds me every time I think about it. I'm so grateful to you, and to God, for your generosity. 
  • If you've pledged to give, but haven't set up you're giving yet, you can find out how to do that by clicking this link!

I hope that you all have a wonderful month. Please call or text if you'd like to catch up or if you have any questions! Praying for you!

A million thank yous,
K Stroud