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







Monday, February 4, 2019

February Update!

Winter Camp

A couple weeks ago, we brought nearly 600 staff and students to our annual Winter Camp to praise God together, to lament together, to grow in intimacy with one another, and to learn together about who God is and who he made us to be, as we listened to our guest speaker, Dr. John Stackhouse. I had two great conversations in particular with non-Christian students who were inspired by the passion of our community's pursuit of Jesus and desired the kind of intimacy with God that their Christian friends had. Praise God for working in the hearts of these students to move them one step closer to a relationship with him!


"for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" 
- Philippians 2:13 NIV

Winter Camp keeps growing year after year. Pretty soon we won't all be able to fit in the picture!
UTA crew. Mav up!
DBU crew!


Raising Leaders

This month our staff and teams of student leaders are discussing and praying about who to invite to SICM for training to be missionaries on their respective campuses. Please join us in prayer for the selection process and for God to move hearts and finances to make the trip possible for our potential leaders!


Open House

Finally, this Saturday at 5:30, we will be having our annual Open House at UT Arlington, where YOU are invited to come see for yourself all that God is doing here at FOCUS. I would love to see all of you who can make it; I am so thankful for all of your support and would love for you guys to see the real impact your support is making on this campus!


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Grateful (cont.)

I know Thanksgiving has come and gone, but as I sat down to reflect on what God has done in our ministry this month, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming urge to tell you some stories about more experiences and even some specific people through which and in whom I have seen God so clearly at work!

UTA Friend

Every week I have the privilege of studying Scripture with a friend of mine from India. This friend came to the UTA for grad school with no intentions of learning about Jesus and even was reluctant to come to core at first. However, over the course of the semester, this friend has become more and more interested in Jesus. A couple weeks ago, we read John 13 and Philippians 2 (if you don't know which passages these are, I encourage you to read them. They're insane.), and I asked my friend to compare Jesus to the "gods" of his Hindu faith. He responded by saying something along the lines of "no such humility is displayed by any of the gods of Hinduism. Jesus is pretty cool." Understatement of the century. Please pray with me that God will use this community and our time in Scripture to bring my friend into a relationship with him!

Another UTA Friend

I also get to meet each week with this good-looking guy.

FOJ and Fudge

In spite of some experience with church in his childhood, Bobby here spent all of college as the lord of his own life. This summer, right before starting grad school at UTA, and right before the Lord brought him into our community, Bobby decided to follow Jesus. This semester alone, I've seen Bobby cut sin out of his life, step out of his comfort zone to reach others for Christ, and thoughtfully search for truth without settling for easy answers. Praise God for working in him "to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:13) and to bring me fudge.

DBU Friends

A couple of weeks ago at our DBU core, during a time of confessing sin, a student confessed that he finds it hard to desire to put sin behind him because he doesn't fully trust that God is good in light of the pain he sees around him. As I internally celebrated his vulnerability in front of this relatively new group and considered how I might respond, the other guys in core jumped right into the conversation, counseling him with Scripture and with love. It was so stinking encouraging to see young students value each other and God's word enough to play an active role in making and maturing disciples in our little group, one that exists on a campus where there are many Christians but few disciples.
This is Joseph. I lead DBU core with him!

This is Elliot. He's a rockstar!


KFG

Thank you to everyone who supported our ministry through prayer and finances during Keep FOCUS Growing. God provided upwards of $70,000 to our family to invest in students like my UTA and DBU buddies. Praise him and thank you!!



Finally, with Christmas around the corner (am I the only one who feels like 2018 lasted five minutes?), I wanted to leave you with a piece on Jesus' birth that has ministered to me over the last couple of years. Enjoy!

With love and gratitude,
Jalen