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


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Summer 2k19!

Our 2018-19 UTA/DBU Leader Team!

Some of my roommates and me at our end-of-year party!
Hey guys! As we transition into the summer, I wanted to update you all on what ministry has looked like since the school year ended.

A few weeks ago, we took our students to SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) where they spent a week in class learning how to reach their peers and make disciples on their campuses. Not only was it a blast to spend time with these awesome students in the beautiful Bellingham, WA; it was also so cool to see them fired up and feeling equipped to be missionaries to UTA and DBU! Praise God that such a resource exists and has blessed our campuses for so many years. I remember leaving SICM as a student feeling so ready to do ministry because I was confident that God could use anyone who would join him in his work, and I'm excited for our students to see that truth in action this year!

UTA/DBU Crew on the American-Canadian Border!

Our amazing students. I don't know why they are the way they are.

Now that SICM has come and gone, I'm spending my summer :
- learning alongside our students (through our Summer FOCUS sermon series) about what it looks like to continue to be a disciple and make disciple when the Lord calls you out of FOCUS (usually due to graduation)
- studying Scripture with some of our students who are still in town for the summer
- selecting students for leadership this coming school year
- fundraising! Thank you to everyone who has supported me thus far and thank you to everyone who has agreed to support me going forward. Your generosity makes all of this possible!

If you would join me this summer in praying for God to move powerfully in these four areas, I would greatly appreciate it!

With love and gratitude,
Jalen


Monday, April 8, 2019

April Update!

Hey guys! There has been so much going on in our community since my last post, and I wanted to tell you about two in particular: SSI and Spring Showcase!


SSI

Every Spring, students from a campus ministry at Western Washington University spend their spring break at Spring Student Impact, a week-long mission trip at one of our campuses helping our students reach their peers. This year, they came to UTA, and it was a blast! God not only formed many neat relationships between our students and theirs, but more importantly, between our community and previously unreached students on our campus. In fact, at our Thursday Night Fellowship the week of SSI, we packed out the room with many new faces. Not only that, but we had one new student share in front of our community that he was excited to finally experience real friendship and one new student also share in front of our community that though he had been living as an atheist up to that point, he was excited to learn more abut Jesus. Praise God!

Each morning, the SSI team began with a devotional to ensure their priorities were in order before embarking on campus.

One of our outreach displays was on anxiety. We asked students what made them anxious and discussed what Christianity has to say about their anxiety.

Each day, between engaging our campus in spiritual conversations, we also engaged our campus in friendship. You'd be surprised how much people are willing to open up to you after a couple games of spikeball!

This display was on the idea that everyone worships something, even if they don't identify as "religious". It was cool to see students on our campus wrestle with the importance of worshiping the right thing/person!

A couple of girls from the SSI team praying for a new friend they met on campus

Spring Showcase

Thank you to everyone who came to Spring Showcase this weekend! We raised more money this year than we did last year thanks to your generosity, which means thousands of dollars are now going straight to sending our students to SICM to learn how to make disciples on our campuses. I cannot express how grateful I am that God would use generous people like you guys to provide a way to equip our students to join him in his mission. He is too good! Enjoy some pictures from Showcase below :)

We had singers 
We had guitarists

We had top-notch emcees (me and my friend Sarah)

With love and gratitude,
Jalen


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Trying New Things

This month has been one of experimentation - both for our ministry as a whole and for me as a minister - and I'm so excited to tell you guys all about it!

Torah & Tea


If there's one startling trend in our incoming students who grew up in the church, it's that year after year they seem to be less and less biblically literate. If we're not careful, we can rely on popular psychology and worldy wisdom to minister to one another instead of the words of life that God has given us to speak to one another! So what started out as the crazy idea to improve this by having our students read through the whole Bible in their four years at UTA became a very exciting development known as Torah & Tea, where every Friday, our students gather for two hours to read and discuss the first five books of the Old Testament. It's been so cool to see a substantial group of students consistently show up eager to learn and ask questions each week, which gives me hope that next semester we can tackle another section of Scripture alongside another food item - Prophets & Pastries, maybe?

Yes, I did make this super cute graphic. Yes, I was assisted heavily by the internet.


Exploring Exodus (Pizza Theology)


So Pizza Theology is probably old news to you at this point. As we do each semester, students from all of our campuses gathered at UTD this month for four hours of top-notch teaching and one hour of community-building over the highest quality of pizza dinners. This semester, however, was a little different, in that rather than having a guest speaker teach our students, we had our younger staff do the teaching, myself included! It was a sweet experience for me to teach alongside my co-ministers who I have gotten to see God shape over the years as he has shaped me, but beyond that, I was elated to see over 450 students from across our campuses come together to learn from the book of Exodus, a book often thought to have little value for us who are under a new covenant, but that has a lot to say about the kind of God we serve (one who pursues all peoples relentlessly) and the tremendous value he places on us!

This is the largest room available to be reserved at UTD and we packed it out!


Spring Showcase!


As we get ready to send our students to SICM to learn how to effectively lead their peers in their walks with Christ, we are also getting ready to raise money to make the trip possible! I would like to invite you to our annual Spring Showcase, where our largest collection of talent yet (I promise these people are actually incredibly talented and I'm not just saying this because I'm a nice Christian man) is ready to blow you away! All proceeds will go straight to helping equip our students to bring the Kingdom to their campuses, so please please consider coming!



Thank you all so much for your support of me and our ministry! I thank God continually that I get to be a part of his work in these students' lives because of you guys.

With love and gratitude,
Jalen