Wednesday, February 12, 2020

February Update :)

Winter Camp 2020 is in the books! It was such a privilege to worship the Lord with hundreds of my siblings in Christ and to learn alongside them how to relate to God through the Psalms (this was the theme of our series of talks). One particularly encouraging story from camp this year: I have a friend who has been part of our community for a few years now. Over the last few years, he's been content to be a spectator; despite regular challenges to adjust his life to meet God's desires for him, he resisted vulnerability and life-change. This past semester, however, things began to change. He was consistent to his core, started coming to TNF more, and started letting people in on his life. Finally, we were given the opportunity to have a one-one-one discussion at Winter Camp in which he told me he was challenged by one of the speakers' admonitions that "those who worship God together must also obey God together." And so he confessed some sin to me that he had been holding in for a while. This semester, he's seeking accountability with his Bible study buddy, coming to church on Sundays, and learning how to reach out to his friends for Christ. Praise God for how he changes our hearts, even if it takes years!

Winter Camp 2020 was packed with hundreds of students ready to encounter God!

Our UTA crew at camp was hype.

Winter Camp worship is one of the sweetest glimpses of Heaven I think I'll get to experience in this age. 

These good-looking UTA/DBU guys loved each other all weekend and I've already gotten to see it bear fruit into this semester!
I have also been so, so encouraged by where our little community at DBU has found itself this semester. Our core of about 15 guys and girls absolutely loves one another, is diverse in experience, nation of origin, and belief, and is steadfastly pursuing Jesus while bringing others into our community to do the same. These past couple weeks, one of our international students brought three more of her international student friends into our community and we got to read our Scriptures for the week in both English and Korean. It was such a cool reminder that the Kingdom is for people from all places who are united under Jesus' lordship!

I felt God in this Braum's that night
Thank you guys so much for your generous support. God is seriously moving on these campuses and I hope that serves as an encouragement to you that your investment is not in vain! He's changing lives, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but he's changing them nonetheless :)

Lastly, I would like to invite all of you to Showcase 2020!! We are trying to raise as much money as we can to lighten the financial burden on our young students who we want to send to SICM to learn how to make and mature disciples on campus. I cannot stress enough how important of an event Showcase is. Please consider coming and inviting your loved ones to enjoy this seriously TOP-TIER talent while investing in the Kingdom. See you guys there!! :)


With love and gratitude,
Jalen



Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Near Year, Same Mission

Happy 2020, everybody! I hope you all were able to find some time to rest in the midst of the chaos of the winter holidays. Between celebrating Christmas, ringing in the New Year, and going on our winter staff retreat, this past month has afforded me so many opportunities to reflect on the goodness of God, both in the incarnation of his Son and in his activity in our ministry over the past year, and I am so excited to bring this good news to new students as we enter into a new semester!

Christmas


Last month I showed you a video our core put together for the upcoming Christmas party, and even though I completely objectively believe it deserved first place in our contest, we'll make do with our second place award. 😉

Our Christmas party was such a meaningful celebration of God's goodness. We spent some time reflecting in our worship time over chapter 2 of Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew, in which we see what God revealed about his character through his incarnation, namely his humility, approachability, "underdog-ness" (anyone know the adjectival form of underdog?), and courage. This chapter has ministered to me every Christmas for several years but has value for the disciple year-round. I encourage you to check out if you're looking for some devotional content this week!
A small subgroup of our core. Love these guys a lot!
It was also so cool to reflect on two groups of guys God has knit together over the past semester (see above and below). The guys in our core don't all have the same interests, are not all believers, and don't all have the same values, but we love each other and seek truth together. My roommates, on the other hand, are all believers and do have similar values, but get an even better chance to practice grace and intimacy in our daily interactions. I'm so thankful for all of them!

My roommates! Pictured from right to left: Cody, Bobby, Jesse, Bobby, Jalen, Bobby, Cole Bobby, Taylor, Bobby,  Bobby, Bobby,  Bobby, ... (The edits were not my doing!)

Our family was privileged to have my friend Sagar join us for Christmas this year! Sagar is not a Christian but has been earnestly seeking the truth about Jesus for about a year and a half now, and he finds Jesus very attractive. He was so touched by the message of hope at the Christmas service at my parents' church and by the Bible my family gave him for Christmas. He said he felt like part of our family and would use his new Bible for the rest of his life. Praise God that he uses campus missions to bring about spiritual friendships between people who have grown up on opposite sides of the world and then uses those friendships propagate the grace of Jesus in word and deed.


Staff Retreat

We just got back from our winter staff retreat and boy was it rejuvenating! I absolutely love the staff I get to work with. They're so fun and so intentional about pointing one another to Jesus.

Some of our staff at Buc-ee's on the way to our retreat!
At our retreat we got to hear from Brady Bobbink, who has spent almost 50 years in campus ministry with Chi Alpha/CCF at Western Washington University. Brady shared with us so much wisdom regarding what it means to be a pastor and how to fulfill that calling well.

Here's Brady with one of our pastors, Ronnie

Thank you guys so much for reading and for giving so generously to make this all possible! I would so appreciate your continued prayers this month as we launch into a new semester and strive to faithfully carry out the same good mission on our campuses.

With love and gratitude,
Jalen



Sunday, December 1, 2019

Thankful!


With Thanksgiving just behind us and the celebration of our Lord's birth just ahead of us, I am filled to the brim with gratitude. If, after the cross, God never did anything for us again, he would have already given us way more than we deserve. But in his goodness, God continues to bless us richly and boy has he done that this month in our community!

Open House

Open house was such a cool experience! Families and friends of our ministry came out to check out what FOCUS is all about and many of you were there :) I absolutely loved hearing students and parents share about how God has transformed lives through FOCUS and seeing a group of people so diverse in age, church denominational background, and ethnic culture worship alongside one another!

Love seeing our students worship with their families!!

Holiday Festivities

I absolutely love that God has taught our community not just to spur one another on in obedience to Christ but to enjoy the gift of laughter that God included in his creation. It was such a blast dressing up as the emotions from Inside Out with my fellow UTA staff and partying the night of Halloween away with my core! In addition, my co-facilitator Nathan and I were hard at work last night working on our core's skit for tomorrow night's Christmas party and boy ddid I love getting to film it with them! (Catch it below 😉)
They didn't commit as hard as I did, but I still had fun ;)
Silly guys being silly

Our theme was "Christmas of the Future" and we like anime...

Outreach

Outreach has been so encouraging this month! Every week we go on campus and pose a question to passersby in hopes that spiritual conversations will emerge, and emerge they have. In the past month alone, God's given me two new international student friends to meet with weekly and has brought several more young men and women into our cores!
I promise we only posed like this for the picture...

Keep FOCUS Growing (KFG)




KFG is here! As you all know, our campus missionaries are supported by generous ministry partners like you (THANK YOU) who enable us to do what we do, but it takes a lot more than campus minister salaries to enable FOCUS to function! Outreach activities and materials, administrative support, new campus plants, and Bible study materials also cost money, so KFG is our annual campaign to prepare FOCUS to be around for the long haul!

This year, some of our generous ministry partners have banded together and agreed to match up to $36,000 in total donations during this campaign. So if we receive $36,000 in total contributions, they will kick in a SECOND $36,000. Our students have already banded together to give a staggering $9,000 so we are well on our way! If you would like to be part of keeping FOCUS around for future generations, your chance to give will be THIS TUESDAY, December 3rd, Giving Tuesday! Click here for more info :)

Either way, I am so thankful for all that you guys do to support our ministry and the work God is doing on these campuses!! I'll see you in January on the other side of KFG ready to tell you all about what God did through this campaign.

With love and gratitude,
Jalen




Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Fall Camp 2k19!

This month we took our UTA and DBU students to Fall Camp to worship God away from the distractions of everyday life, bond as a community, and minister to each other, and it was fantastic!


Our weekend began with worship and student testimonies. We asked our students to share about key decisions they've made in submission to Jesus' lordship and how God has used those decisions to change their lives. We heard about one student's decision to not allow her personality to determine whether or not she lives evangelistically and how she is now able to lead a core despite naturally being pretty socially anxious. We heard about another student's decision to reform his thought patterns so as to be of better service to the Kingdom and find greater intimacy with God. And we heard about another student's decision to read Scripture daily and how that has impacted his walk with Christ. Praise God for how he transforms us when we say "yes" his calls to obedience!


Our weekend continued into a fun time of socializing and fellowship. It was so cool to see students who, prior to this weekend, saw FOCUS as something they attended become students who see FOCUS as a body they belong to.

Our worship that night consisted of less singing and more engaging with God through various forms of worship that students could then put into practice at home, such as Prayer of Examen, in which a disciple examines his last 24 hours through the lenses of gratitude and whether their thoughts and actions reflected the values of discipleship and Christian community, confessing sin before Jesus, and meditation on psalms of various genres. It was so cool hearing students talk about what new things God laid on their hearts during that time of worship, and I had numerous students request the instructions to these activities when we got back from camp, meaning they're hungry to implement these practices in their daily lives!


We concluded our weekend with another time of student testimonies. This time, we heard about a student's decision to wrestle with doubt instead of sweeping it under the rug and the resulting intimacy with God and preparedness for ministry he has experienced. We also heard about a student's decision to follow Jesus in the midst of financial instability and suffering in the form of death of loved ones. I heard so many students point to the student testimonies as the parts of camp that they not only enjoyed the most but that led to the most life-change and decision-making. It's one thing when a paid campus pastor talks about making tough decisions for the Kingdom, but there seems to be something effectively raw about hearing from a peer that makes discipleship in tough seasons seem accessible. 



Thank you so much for letting me get to be a part of what God is doing at UTA and DBU. He is changing lives in this community and I am so grateful to be part of that process for these students!

I wanted to invite you all to our annual Open House on October 19th at 4:00 pm at UTA. Our students and staff are inviting those we care for to come see what this community is all about and join us in worship. We'll also go out to eat afterward so you guys can meet some of our students and our staff. It's going to be a great time, so I hope to see you there!

With love and gratitude,
Jalen



Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Rejoicing!!

Welcome to my first post of the 2019-2020 school year! There is SO much good news to tell you guys, as God has shown up SO clearly these first few weeks of school!

Welcome Week

Weeks one and two at UTA and week one at DBU were jam-packed with relationship-building. Our amazing student leaders sacrificed so many hours outside of their normal work schedules and class hours to be consistently on campus meeting new people for the Kingdom. I am so thankful not only that we were able to host our own events for meeting students, but that the university hosted their own events that we could just show up to in order to make some new friends! And those friendships are already bearing so much fruit.

For example, we hosted a night of ultimate frisbee, kubb, Spikeball, and other games that we could invite students to come play with us. At this event, a Hindu freshman from India came up to us because he saw a dog that one of our students brought, and as we began talking and he learned that I was on staff with FOCUS, he pulled me aside and confessed his struggle to approach God when he is aware of his own sin. And I got to tell him that if Hinduism is true, God may actually be ashamed of us, but that if the good news of Jesus -- which I think is far more credible -- is true, then we can approach God with confidence because of his work on the cross! AND THEN I got to share with him the story of the prodigal son! AND THEN while I was sharing, another Indian student who was in our ministry last year and was captivated by Jesus joined us in our conversation and got to share his own testimony with this freshman. AND THEN this freshman told me he wanted to learn more about Jesus. Praise God that this is seriously just a small slice of the crazy conversations our staff and students were blessed to have to kick off a fruitful year of ministry!

We hosted a board game night on move-in day, before classes even began, and look at how many people came!!

We did gamble with the new students we met.... but with candy! So many students from our Candy Poker night are still coming around today!

Thursday Night Fellowship

We have had so many people at our Thursday Night Fellowship meetings these first two weeks! Not only have they gotten to worship with their peers and go play Zombie Tag, go to the movies, and go to eat afterward; they have also heard two amazing sermons on God's steadfast nature and the implications of that for their lives, should they choose to pursue a relationship with him. What a powerful and relevant message for a young student dealing with the life/career uncertainty and anxiety that college can so often bring!

Are you kidding me

Core

I have the absolute privilege of leading core this year at UTA with Nathan. 


I SO wish I was able to snap some pics of the first couple cores, because they were amazing. Week one, we had TEN people show up to talk about biblical community and what sacrifices we would need to make for core to be a place where such community could take place. Week two, we had FIFTEEN people show up to talk about Jesus-style friendship and what commitments we would need to make for core to be a place where our friendships genuinely an authentically help us look more like Christ. I already love these guys so much and I'm so thankful that many of them have already agreed to study the Bible with me and Nathan 1-on-1!

I also have the privilege of overseeing our DBU core and mentoring the students who lead that. They have been so hard at work getting this ministry off the ground this year and they did such an excellent job inviting people to core. We had around twelve people last week excited to learn how to reach any non-Christians or Christians-by-name-only on their campus!

You Guys

Thank you guys SO SO much for making all of this possible. I'm blown away that your generosity and the generosity of other supporters like you have placed five full-time campus missionaries on the UTA and DBU campuses, collectively, who are out here meeting students and equipping our leaders to do the same!

In addition, I wanted to invite you all to our annual UTA Open House!! I would love for you to come to campus Saturday, October 19 at 4:00 pm to participate in one of our fellowship meetings and see all this for yourself! It's going to be a blast.

With love and gratitude,
Jalen



Monday, August 5, 2019

Delight

As someone whose flesh is so performance-oriented, it's hard to believe much of the time that God delights in me apart from when I'm doing good work for the Kingdom. Likewise, it's hard much of the time for someone whose flesh is so performance-oriented to delight in God's good gifts, be they his presence, his people, or his word, because attempts to do so are often accompanied by a deeply seeded sense that I'm not enough.

Thankfully, God doesn't let us stew in lies for very long before exposing them as such through our exposure to his body, his scriptures, or his Spirit, through prayer. This weekend, our Arlington staff team retreated to an Airbnb to take some time before the school year starts to recalibrate our hearts with God's truth and build each other up. I can confidently say that God was at work in our team this weekend and did some ground work on our hearts that will no doubt pay Kingdom dividends this school year.

Our team for the year. Boy do they love God and people well!

Throughout the retreat, our team read through a book called In the Name of Jesus, which presents Henri Nouwen's reflections on christian leadership based on Jesus' three temptations in the desert. Though aimed at Christian leaders, the book has so much wisdom for all disciples, who in different ways struggle with the essential temptations Jesus experienced in the desert. It seems Jesus' temptations were in essence all about whether or not he would succumb to a performance-based life and ministry, Nouwen's proposed solution to which is getting in touch with God's love for us through theologically-informed prayer and the communal experience of confession.

In addition to the book, each person on our team led us in a time of prayer and worship with Jesus. In each of these activities, God gave us a chance to put some of the lessons we were learning into practice. In my experience, God reminded me his love for me that is independent of anything I can do for him -- by laying the word "delight" on my heart along with an image of my parents' delight in me (despite knowing how selfish I can be at times!), by using our time of encouragement and affirmation to remind me of how carefully, thoughtfully, and lovingly he made each of us, and by giving me a word from a friend about his posture toward me, which would later be repeated by another friend, post-retreat, that same day.  At this point, how can I not be fired up to be on campus this year, sharing with students the truth about their identities that God has just refreshed in my heart!

I can't wait to post again once Mav Stampede is well underway and students are being met and loved left and right! But in the meantime, I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who joined my support team this summer and to everyone who stayed on. God has literally used you to "give [me] this day [my] daily bread," and as a result I get to be on the front lines with our students loving people in Jesus' name. Thank you and praise God!

With love and gratitude,
Jalen



Wednesday, July 17, 2019

To This Very Day

Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working."
- John 5:17

It can be tempting to believe that God is somehow less at work during the summer, when students spend less time on campus or go home to their families. This month has been a clear reminder that God is at work in every season. How privileged we are to reap the benefits of joining Him in that work!

This semester, my buddy Jacob decided to make Jesus the Lord of his life, and this month, he decided to live that out by being baptized. I've had the privilege of studying Scripture with Jacob this summer and it is so clear that Jesus has captured his heart and given him a desire to make him known at UT Arlington. I'm looking forward to Jacob joining our leader team this year and learning how to effectively minister to his peers, both during college, and on into the rest of his life. Praise God!!

Jacob was baptized by our friend and pastor of Arlington Central Church, Tom

More wholesome content

We've also been trying this new summer small group format called PACCS, where students spend time in groups of two or three to press into God's presence and seek accountability and direction in their personal ministries and walks with Him over the summer. Students have told me that they not only have benefitted from intentional time in community this summer, but have grown tremendously in their biblical literacy as a result of the fourteen required chapters of reading per week!


God has also been clearly at work in providing for me this summer through my generous support team (i.e., you guys!!). Thank you so so much for partnering with God in making it possible for me to invest in beautiful souls like Jacob's over the past two years and the one upcoming!! I'm only looking for five more people to join my support team at $100/mo, and then I'll be all set, so if you know anyone who is looking to support a campus missionary, send them my way :)

With much love and gratitude,
Jalen