February 2020

I'm praying that this blog finds you in good health and great joy. I'm so thankful for your partnership in missions; and I'm excited to give you this update on what God's been up to over the last month. 

Winter Camp: 
As many of you know, we started this semester off by taking over 600 students to Sky Ranch out in Van, TX for a 4-day spiritual retreat. It. was. awesome. I can't think of a more Spirit-filled camp experience in the 7 years I've been. There was so much joy to spread around. The girls in my core where able to really bond and grow closer. Even in the midst of some harder ministry situations, God was breathing new life. Girls who were in abusive relationships decided to follow Jesus to freedom, others who self-harmed reached out for help, and still others who needed to let Jesus be their Lord decided to take him at his word - that if they'd only let go of their grip on their own life, they'd find flourishing and abundant life in him. 

Our staff led our students through the Psalms that weekend, and how impactful those poems can and should be for the Christian's life. I'd encourage you to give any of them a listen if you've been looking for a way to reconnect with God! You can find them on our website. 

Student highlight: 
Melissa is a young lady in my core. I've been studying the Bible with her for the last couple of months; and I think you'll be encouraged to hear a bit of her story. Melissa grew up in a very religious household, with parents who are more intrenched in tradition than they are in Jesus. Growing up, she wasn't allowed to ask questions, and any veering from the traditional expectation was met with anger and disappointment. When Melissa mentioned wanting to go to Winter Camp, her parents threatened to cut her off. They perceive her involvement in FOCUS as a threat to her salvation, and worry that if she doesn't follow their tradition to a tee then she is at risk of damnation. While their hearts are in the right place, Melissa has had a very hard time with their disappointment in her. Melissa has only just begun to really follow Jesus for the first time in her life. In the past, she's been a wild child, rebellious, even unsafe. Her mom told her that she'd rather Melissa be who she used to be than go to our Winter Camp.

She decided to come to camp. I asked her why and she said, "I just want to know Jesus." 

Her parents did cut her off. They haven't spoken to her in weeks, and won't allow her to see her little siblings. Please pray for her. She's a very new believer, and is trying hard to make her faith her own as she sorts out God's true character from what she's been told about him. Her pursuit of Jesus so far has been more costly than most of us will ever understand. 

Social Media 
Quick side note: You probably didn't notice, but I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I'll offer an explanation. Statistics show that younger generations are more at risk for depression and anxiety than ever before. Whether or not social media has a causal effect on that has yet to be determined, but studies have shown that there is a correlation between social media and depression/anxiety. 

I'd find myself sitting there on a weekend, and hours had gone by of me scrolling through my Facebook feed. Hours. I realized that my thumb instinctively went to that app, without my conscious permission. I heard God tell me to delete it all. So I did, and I haven't missed it even once. It's been about a month now, and I feel more present and connected to people than I have in a long time. 

The college students are a bit shocked that I didn't die. Social media can be a big idol in their lives, it certainly was for me. The Facebook and Instagram gods can quickly become tyrant kings of our hearts - we'll set our value on how many likes we can get, feel secure by the number of friends we have (even though we don't connect with most of them), and look to our screens for distraction and coping instead of running to our Lord who offers us life. I'm hoping they see my example and realize they have another option. 

Let me know if you need prayer for anything specific! Thank you for all that you do for the kingdom. 

Kristen Paz 


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