Tuesday, May 1, 2018

End of year thankfulness

Our last leader meeting of the school year! These students spent a great deal of time and energy building up the community. They planned worship, cores groups, one-on-ones, and did their best to disciple their peers. God has been so pleased to use this wacky bunch of kiddos to spread his gospel of peace and maturity. We all shared stories from the year, and mostly laughed at how weird Rhett (my fellow apprentice) is.

This is my last week of official 2017-2018 meet-ups with the 7 girls in my peer team. It has been such a blast getting to know them. Here, Kennedy and Jacy and I are about to think about how cool God's plan is. We marveled at what his perspective must be like, and let ourselves be grateful that he lets us be apart of his story.

Here's Stephanie and Devan at our Garden Party Formal. In our last 2:1, we got to think about our tendencies towards legalism and encourage one another to trust in God's grace.

Stacey and Ingrid never fail to make me laugh. At their last core, they decided to wear matching pjs and make everyone breakfast. In this picture, their prepping for a King's Kaleidoscope concert by dancing in the kitchen. Their friendship has been such a sweet gift to our community.

Matt made us coffee for one of our staff meetings. This is the team, minus Brittany (who just had her baby)!!

The newest member of our staff, our little blueberry, Willow. We're all in love with her.

Peer team at the Garden Party. I couldn't stay still long enough to take the "cute" picture that they all wanted. This is the closest we could get. 

Reagann and Brittany will be joining our Denton team as apprentices next year!! I'm so excited to get to work with my friends! God is so kind!!

God is doing amazing things in our hearts and on our campuses! We just received a $12,000 gift to use towards outreach for this upcoming year, so please be praying that God would tell us how he wants us to use that! Thank you for all of your prayers and support!

We're about to take our upcoming leaders to the Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM) in Washington! Please be praying that God would impact their lives and give them a vision for how he wants to work with them! 

Love you all! 
Your apprentice for 1 more month, 

"I first became involved with FOCUS when I was just starting out at Collin College. I had been living in Nigeria for a few years, so I was walking into a college experience where I didn’t know anyone. I worried a lot about not being able to find any meaningful friendships while I was there. So it came as a surprise when some old friends of mine, LorĂ© and Gibby Yessuff, invited me to a 
Thursday Night Fellowship. From that first night of fellowship, I made more friends than I could have prayed for. People asked me to sit with them, scheduled time to hang out with me, got to know me, and challenged me as a disciple. It became clear to me that this was not only an example of authentic Christian community; this was the way Jesus called us to do friendships—intentional, genuine and loving.

Through the many friendships I’ve been blessed with in FOCUS, God has changed my fear and worry of not having any friends into a desire to grow and develop friendships at TWU. I am beyond thankful when I see what he is doing in the lives of students here and for the example of Christian friendship that I’m now able to extend to others."

Bekwele Wodi
Texas Women’s University

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Marchin' while the trumpet sounds

Ronnie, the man at the head of the table, first had the vision for FOCUS all those years ago! Now, he still takes the time to teach the apprentices twice a week. I've learned so much from him! For one, "the doing flows out of the being." It's the idea that above all, God wants us to be with Him. It reminds me of Jesus's warning to the evildoers, that he'd tell them to depart from his presence because he never knew them. Jesus wants to know me. How incredible! Jesus wants to know me! The sovereign Lord of creation cares about having a relationship with me. He wants to know you too! 
Here, Dani is preaching her last sermon at Friday Night Fellowship with all of our Denton students. She'll be heading off to Collin College next year. We're in the middle of our 'Get To' series. We're trying to communicate to our students that being a disciple of Jesus isn't about having all of these 'rules' that we 'have' to follow. Following Jesus means that we get to do amazing things with and for God. We get to surrender, get to change, get to lose, and so many other things.

This verse is a taste of what we're working on with our students with our Get To series: "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not labor in vain." - Philippians 2:14-16. We want them to shine on their campuses like passionate stars in the sky! Our vision is the while that rest of the world learns to take, our students would give life and light. 
Here's Kennedy giving Christina a 'free bad tattoo' at outreach during SSI week!
SSI week, or Student Spring Initiative, was a success!  This is a group of college students from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. They spent their spring break on our campuses reaching out to students! We talked to SO many people! 
The dream team. I love these girls so much. Sam is missing from this picture, but I still wanted to share it with you guys! That's Ingrid laughing on the left end by the way. She's got a laugh that can fill a room with God's joy. I wish you could hear it! 
Miriam has discipled me for 2 years of my undergrad. We're on the same staff team this year, and she's still speaking into my life and teaching me to be more like Jesus. She's been gifted with a personality that reflects the nurturing sweetness of God's character. She loves people so deeply, fights for them, dies for them, and does all the she can point them to Jesus. It's been such an honor to get to work with and know her all these years.

I hope you are all doing well! Remember that you're invited to our Spring Showcase! I'll be singing Johnny Cash & June Carter! There will be a lot of more talented people than me performing to raise money to send some up-and-coming student leaders to a week of leadership training in Washington this summer! They'll learn the practicals of campus ministry, and get equipped to pursue God's kingdom for not only the rest of college, but the rest of their lives. Please join us! Let me know if you're going so that I can say hi!! Thank you all for your continued belief that God is at work in the lives of these students we've been entrusted with. Thank you for supporting me so that I can give all I've got to building them up with God!

Much love,

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Treasure Hunting and February Fun

Thank you! 

I have one of the best jobs in the world because of your generosity and kindness. Thank you so much for helping me do what God's called me to do! 

Beth got baptized!! She's both elated and super cold in this picture! Praise God for what He's done in her life over the past couple of years! 

Treasure Hunting & Bad Tattoos 

If you're not having fun doing campus ministry, you're doing something wrong. We've been having so much fun trying new things this past month! In an effort to live like 'Sent Ones', we've been getting creative with some of our outreach events. Bad Tattoos is one of our favorites. We set up 'shop' with washable skin crayons and invite people to spend some time with us getting a poorly done, unprofessional tattoo. Students love doing this; and we've met some great people! Another favorite of mine is Treasure Hunting. It's not only quick and easy; it's so fun! Feel free to give it a try!  

How to Treasure Hunt: 
  1. Take a minute to pray and settle your mind. 
  2. When you're ready, start a timer for 45 seconds. Write down whatever comes to mind in that tiny period of time. It can be a name, a pattern, a color, a place, or any other noun. Don't try to filter out words that seem irrelevant! Just write it all down. 
  3. When your 45 seconds are up, take your list and go look for someone who fits that description! When you find someone, ask them how're they're doing and tell them about Jesus! 
Alex's list included the word 'orangutan'. He wasn't sure what to do with that, but he actually heard a musician making orangutan sounds in the syndicate while he was out treasure hunting! Mateo wrote down 'purple, jacket, and mohawk'. He sat with a guy who had a mohawk, and shortly after another guy joined them who was wearing a purple jacket! Kennedy went treasure hunting with just 3 words: red, rainboots, and plaid. Listen to what happened: 
“The words God put on my heart were ‘red, rainboots, and plaid,’ not necessarily in that order. Literally 30 seconds after I prayed, I saw a girl wearing a red raincoat and plaid rainboots. God told me to go up to her and tell her that God sent me to ask how she was doing and see if she wanted to talk about anything. We ended up having a great conversation; she said she isn’t sure what she believes spiritually, but is open to the possibility of learning. I got her number, she might check out Focus, and I’m really excited to hopefully establish a friendship with her. I’m continually blown away by what happens when I let God lead!” -Kennedy Thornton, UNT Junior 
Brittany was our best tattooer by far. Here's a close of up Unicow, a crowd favorite. 

Bad Tattoos at TWU was a hit! I'm still not sure what Morgan is doing with her arms in this picture. 

Pizza Theology 

Pizza theology was this past Sunday! We spent 4 hours learning about the second coming of Jesus. So many of us where struck by the profound hope this reality offers - Jesus is coming back, soon. What a comforting and challenging truth! 

Pizza Theology Spring 2018
On our way to pizza theology! We got to sing a song that we wrote called Treasure Keeper! (Sorry about David showing off his arm muscles. We thought it was funny.) 

These sweet nuggets stole my phone. 

Kennedy and I at Pizza Theology. I've got to work on my resting face. I promise I was in a great mood! 

Stay tuned for next month's blog! We've got some exciting things on the calendar for March! 

Your apprentice on mission, 
K Stroud

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Good News

"To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?" 
"As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene..."
"You accept the historical existence of Jesus?"  
"Unquestionably. No one can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."
- Albert Einstein, 1929 What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George S. Viereck

In the last month, the other apprentices and I have read through the gospels twice. Every time that I give my attention to those texts, I'm struck by how alive Jesus really is. There is a reason that he claims to be "the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14) There is something about him that makes me want to dance like a toddler to a good groove, to laugh hard, to play with the wind as I drive down a sunny street. Jesus gives me more life than I know what to do with. Reading through the gospels has re-awakened that sleepy part of me.

The living Lord has been speaking to me about our students in Denton. In some ways, we've all lost touch with the simple gospel, the good news that God is good.

So, sweet college student, you think God has turned his face from you because you're not perfect? I've got good news for you! God would never do that! He's kind, patient, and unreasonably forgiving. Jesus didn't come to the world to shame you for not being good enough; he came to save you because he knows that you're not. (John 3)

Yet another girl thinks that God will only love her if she checks off all of the appropriate religious boxes - goes to church, has a quiet time every morning, prays before every meal. When she misses a morning of prayer, she spends the day trying to make up for her mistake so as to earn her way back into God's good graces. Again, the gospel is good news for her. Jesus calls out to her saying, "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11)

Be praying for the Spirit to move in their hearts this semester! Pray that he would re-awaken their sleepy hearts to the beauty and freedom found in Jesus. Pray that they would give up their perfectionism, and trade in their religious activity to simply sit at Jesus's feet.

Family Night

Last weekend, our students invited their families to come to one of our fellowship times! Here are some pictures in case couldn't make it!

Jacy and Ernesto shared their stories of how God has pursued them through FOCUS!

Kennedy's mom and dad shared how they've seen God impact their baby girl during her time in college! 

My parents came too! My dad is in the hat, step dad is in the blue; and the sweet lady on the right is my beautiful mom. 

Winter Camp

At the end of last month, all 11 campuses came together for Winter Camp! GOD MOVED SO POWERFULLY. Students' eyes were opened to just how big the family of God really is. There is something about standing in a room of 600+ college students worshiping Jesus. A large portion of them will leave college, have families and careers of their own, and look back on this experience as a transformative moment in their faith. Thank you for all of your prayers leading up to that special weekend! 

I wish I'd taken more pictures! Here's what I've got: 

UNT students at winter camp!

Kennedy and Jacy's core, in their natural state.

Thank you all for your love and support! I get to do what God has called me to do because of your generosity. Praying for you guys! 

Your apprentice on mission, 
K Stroud 

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,