Friday, August 31, 2018

The School Year Begins

I'll be heading up FOCUS at Texas Woman's University this year! 

My time will be perfectly split between TWU and UNT this year. It's been so neat to get to experience what God is doing on a different campus! Our student leaders at TWU have taken ownership of God's mission. They've been out on campus meeting people every day since school started, seeking to invite people into God's family. 

These are some of our student leaders at TWU for the year. The laughter in this picture is genuine. They are a fun crew. 

Here they are again, planning what they wanted to do for outreach during the first few days of students being on campus. 

We've been setting out picnic blankets and inviting people to come a hangout with us. We've already made some new friends! 

More picnic pics! 

TWU is mainly made up of female students. So, our mens side of the ministry has always been small. While we were eating lunch in the student union, this group of FOCUS boys decided to sit together. There were tables upon tables of women, and one little pocket of men who are interested in seeking Jesus together. How neat! That's Claudia, our Tdub president, front and center. 

I tried to arm wrestle David. Even using two hands and all of my strength, I was defeated. 

On the second day of freshman moving in, we invited them to a movie night at a student leader's house. Look how many people showed up!

Move in: 

Every year, we move new freshman and some returning students into their dorms in order to serve and reach out. I forgot to take pictures of TWU move in, but here are some of UNT! 

Brittany couldn't decide where to put her face in this picture. I can't help but think that's so funny. 

Erin and Angel were having a laugh-jump contest? 

Ways to pray: 

  • Pray for our corefas as they plan their small groups and begin investing in their new friends! Ask God to give them wisdom beyond their years, and love beyond their capabilities. 
  • Pray for the students on these campuses to hear the voice of God and be drawn into real, life-giving community. Ask the Spirit to show them the reality of his kingdom hope on earth. 
  • Pray for our staff as we begin meeting with new students and ministering as best we can! Ask God to help us get behind what he's already doing in their lives.  
  • Pray a prayer of thanks. I love my job; and I'm very thankful to all of you for making a way for me to be on campus full-time! Thank him for all he's doing on the campuses, and for making a way for all of us to play a part in his work! What a joy and honor! 

More random pictures: 

Here's our orientation booth. That's Crystal and Michah in the back, waiting to welcome new students to campus and invite them to community. 

Every year, we host a Welcome Week Prep mini-course to help prepare students to outreach on campus during the first few weeks of school. 

We got to join in an all-campus worship event, in the middle of the library mall at UNT. It was sweet to hear students praising God on their campus. 

We invited the girl corefas (small group leaders) to our house to get to know each other. This is us playing get-to-know-you Jenga.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The end of summer

Wrapping up the summer: 

This was a wonderful summer. Throughout our summer program, we taught on what it means to 'get behind Jesus.' As school approaches, that's exactly what we're aiming to do. We're wanting to get behind him as he leads us to new outreach opportunities, as he ministers to the students we're spending time with, as he challenges the social norms of our campus culture through real community. 

Already, our students are getting ready to do his work. They're fixing their schedules in such a way as to free up time to invest in their peers. They're getting ready to be on mission. 

We're getting ready for some neat things we think the Lord is leading us to - launching a new weekly meeting at Texas Woman's University, amping up outreach with a renewed sense of gusto, and more. We've finalized our student leader group for the year as well. I'll introduce you to my new peer team in next month's blog! 

Here's Kassi and I at a transfer student organization fair. We met some new students that day who want to get plugged into a Christian community! We were the only Christian / religious organization represented at that organization fair. So, it's neat that God asked us to show up.

Sam, Emily, and Brittany are all started their apprenticeship today! Sam and Brittany came up in the Denton FOCUS ministry. Brittany will be on staff with us this year, while Sam is moving to Collin College. 

Fundraising update: 

I'm at about 90% of my goal for the year! Praise God! I'm praying for 3 more people to join my team at $100 a month beginning this month. Please ask the Lord to send those supporters my way! 

Student testimony: 

Pita is one of my awesome supporters! Her heart for campus ministry is HUGE. She's been such an encouragement to me and to so many. 

Thank you all for being there for me, for being dependable, and for choosing to believe in what God wants to do through me. Your investment means the world. 

Let me know how I can be praying for you. 


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sermon points and story time

The Lord keeps giving me sermon points

The summer is a fun time to be in campus ministry. Right now, I'm building relationships with students, fundraising, and prepping for the school year to start with all of its hustle. The more time I spend in ministry, the more I realize that God doesn't just show me things for my own sake. Everything He reveals to me is also for those I get to minister to. Lately, I've been hearing a bunch of random sermon points from Him. I'd like to share two with you! 

  • doing + being = becoming
    • James 1:22 "be doers of the word, not hearers only." 
    • John 15:5 "I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing." 
    • It's no good for me to have the truth but do nothing with it. It's like if I had a toothbrush, but never used it. The truth of God should transform my life; it calls me into action. As I go and "do" ministry - meet up with students and invest in their lives - it's important for me to stay connected to Jesus. I can't become what He created me to be without Him. 
  • Intimacy comes through imitation 
    • Philippians 2:1-18
    • 1 John 2:3-6 "We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did." 
    • I want to be like Jesus. It's my deepest desire. The more that I choose to act and think like He does, the more I understand Him. The more I understand Him, the more connected I feel to him. 

I'm not sure if these points will ever make it into a sermon, but I hope you find them helpful. It's funny how I have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again. 

Tate, one of our student leaders this past year and a dear friend, got married! 

Opal will be leading a small group this next year. She's a talented artist, a caring friend, and a might force for the kingdom. I can't wait to see what the Lord will do through her obedience.

It's so neat to be a part of a staff team that enjoys being around each other! Most of the people pictured are on staff with FOCUS, apart from two who are spouses. We recently got to spend time together in Colorado. Shayla (green t-shirt) and Ryan (far left) will be joining our Denton team this year. I'm excited to have them around.

My plans for the next few weeks 

I have a little over $8,000 dollars left to raise. Be praying that God provides that funding so that I can stay on campus full time with students. 

Building our new leader team: 
I'm in the process of getting time with all of our upcoming female student leaders, as well as some students who will be leading in other areas. 

Story time: 
My latest outreach project is designed around stories, since humans are hard-wired to hear and retain tales. We'll be on campus most weeks telling short stories to help spark spiritual conversations and friendships. Stay tuned for how that goes. 

Here's the lawn sign I made for Story Time! Pray that God sends students who are hungry for spiritual connection!

Student Testimony 

Harrison Wijaya, Collin College - Spring Creek, Finance Major, Freshman
"When I came to the United States from Indonesia, I was pretty concerned about what life would be like. I immediately assumed I’d have a pretty lonely time at Collin. I heard about FOCUS but wasn’t really interested since I didn’t have a connection point. Interacting with strangers had never been my strong suit. Little did I know that God was listening and was ready to meet my needs. My first day on campus I met Graham, who told me about his involvement with FOCUS and introduced me to his friends. He followed up with me, and that was a huge way God started giving me a vision for what my life could look like.

"Through one-on-ones and pastoral messages, this community has taught me the impact of
reflecting Christ in every word I speak and action I take. Through my friendships, I’ve been shown how we can best love one another by putting all our efforts into blessing strangers like me. I've also had the opportunity to honor God at home by getting to live with five other guys from our community. Being in FOCUS, I’ve learned that God wants to open my eyes and heart to truly be shaped into someone who loves Him and those around me in all areas of my life."

Thank you all for your generosity and prayers! Please reach out and share what God's teaching you in this time of your life! 

Monday, June 11, 2018

May Adventures!

The Student Institute of Campus Ministry 

We recently took an amazing group of young students to the Student Institute of Campus Ministry for a week of training. They learned how to practically minister to their peers on campus, and were able to create lasting friendships along the way! This group of upcoming FOCUS leaders are fired up about what God wants to do through them. Please be in prayer for our staff and these students as we have conversations about whether leading a core this coming school year is a good fit for them. That's one of the most important things that happens during the summer.

God really showed up in amazing ways at SICM. Our students caught visions for themselves, as people who He loves and has big plans for. 

Angel, Mya, and Brayden are praying for their week at SICM! 

I'll be spending time at Texas Women's University this school year, in addition to my time at North Texas. Chisom, Bridgett, and Nicole will be leading on that campus with me! 

Here's the whole Denton crew at the border of Canada! 

We stopped to get dinner at a popular burger place. These three goofballs were full of friendship and silliness. Alyssa, Chris, and Emily have all been leading their peers towards Jesus. I can't wait to see what impact they'll have this upcoming year! 
Alexea, Beth, Orion, and Isabella at SICM! 

Cynthia and Greg hosted me for the week of SICM! They opened their home to Isabella and I, fed us meals, and shared their lives with us for a week! 

Here we are seeing mountains for the first time with Greg and Cynthia! 

This is our attempt at a human pyramid. It's a bit lop sided, but it'll do. 

Next Year

There are so many things to look forward to! UNT FOCUS recently received a $12,000 grant to invest in evangelism! We're looking into purchasing a portable ball pit, hosting monthly spike ball tournaments, and even having a weekly Story Time to engage the students at that campus. Pray a prayer of thanks to God for providing for that need! Ask him to give us the wisdom to use that money in the best way. 

You're looking at the 2018-2019 Denton staff team! We'll be spending our time investing in students, getting to know them and pointing them to Jesus. There were ants in the grass, so it took us a while to get a photo of all smiles. 

With love,

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