Thursday, September 1, 2016

Clay within His hands

Looking back and looking forward
School started two week ago and "So... what are you doing here?" has become the most popular response I get from people after I tell them I'm not actually a student taking classes at Collin. It always makes me laugh. It reminds me of how four years ago, before I started at Collin, I was adamant about going to a university; I didn't even care if it was back in Mexico, I just wanted to be normal and go to a four year. Unfortunately, to attain that goal, the only realistic option was to return to Mexico, since tuition would be affordable. It's crazy how on board I was with that idea seeing that it was unknown and dangerous territory especially for someone from the U.S.. For those very reasons my parents couldn't fathom letting me go and I couldn't fathom putting them through the constant concern of my wellbeing. I settled for what was attainable and unappealing with no expectation of anything good coming out of that time. Thankfully staying put allowed me to find authentic Christian community and a more holistic and sincerely intriguing view of God. He gave me insight into His heart for His people that compelled me to love and care for them in ways I never experienced before. Affection, encouragement, challenges, and the intentional sharing of time were among many things that I discovered that year. I saw the hard work of the Lord through our staff and student leaders of the time and couldn't help but eager to join and be a part of it. Good thing He requires willing hearts who are open to being crafted by Him. Now, although my response to the people's confusion of my presence on the campus varies, at the core, I seek to communicate my love for the work God is doing on that campus and in the lives of countless students who are bummed that they're not out on "a real college campus."
Some of the guys that first helped me understand the joy of following the Lord and being a part of His body- May 2013
There's about five of our staff and student leaders each sitting with a new person at a different table trying to engage them in a genuine and thoughtful conversation at the Preston Ridge campus

The kind of leaders God raises
The fourth full week of August is what most colleges call Welcome Week. It's the week where most colleges create a lot of on campus events to engage students and create a lively environment. At UNT, we had things like Recstravaganza, where they opened up the Rec center and let the students use anything they wanted while serving pizza and free t shirts, Mean Green Fling, where hundreds of student organizations would mingle with interested students while they walked around and got free food and other items (also including t-shirts), and countless other events all before school even started. At Collin, however, FOCUS was the only one hosting events throughout the first week of school. This was partly great because most students were intrigued by the events and activities we held since they had little reference as to what those would typically look like for a college. Throughout the week, myself, the three other Collin apprentices, and our 24 student leaders (corefas), literally got personal contact information from anywhere from 10 to 40 people. It's the time when we most aggressively cast our nets to invite people to spend the year with us, either through our big fellowship services (TNF), gender-oriented small groups (cores), or one on one bible study (FOJ). There honestly are many interactions I had, and heard of, that week that reminded me of how consistently God is at work in people's lives. So many have been begun by simply asking the question, "have you made any friends on campus?" More often than not the answer is no BUT we, as Jesus people, get to invite them into our community where they'll encounter normal people who genuinely want to reflect the heart of Christ.
Just about all of our UTD, Richland, TWU Dallas, and Collin- Spring Creek and Preston Ridge student leaders prepping for our small groups and one on one studies!
After our first official Thursday Night Fellowship (TNF) we packed Raising Cane's, with a lot of the new people we met the week before, so the manager had to take a picture

We also packed out the back of the cougar cafe during our first official TNF

Speaking of our student/small group leaders (corefas), I'd like to take a second to talk about them. They not only have committed to leading a weekly small group in pairs, but they've also consistently followed through on their commitments to being ministers everywhere they go! Whether that's in class, at work, or at a sushi restaurant, they've caught the vision that God has; it's the vision to offer life to all His people through joyful and willing ambassadors of Him. We've had three leader training days so far and I've grown more and more ecstatic to work with our team each time. I'm already so encouraged by their eagerness to help get people on God's agenda and to not only help new people understand what God's character is truly like, but also to open up about how He has revealed Himself to them through their involvement in ministry. After all, it's so true that, as Garrett, our main campus pastor at Collin, recently said, "when you do God's work, the things you were created to do, things just click!"
All of our Collin- Spring Creek and Preston Ridge corefas

At home
On a different note, I finally moved in to my new house! It's much nicer than a bunch of early twenty year olds need but super great for having people over for small groups (cores), game nights, and a UNT favorite- murder in the dark! We told God we fully intended to use this house to bless the people in our community and my roomies and I fully intend to keep it that way. This is my third year of living with guys from our ministry and man has it been good. I've learned to be more considerate and consistently focused on reflecting God's character, as well as more willing to be share my life in unstructured moments. Needless to say, I'm beyond excited to live with those guys (plus Quincy, my 4th roomie) and grow more in my ability to always be salt and light as well as fun loving and laid back. I can't thank each and every one of you enough for making this experience a reality!
Me, Stephen, Matt, and Jeremy (missing Quincy)

My 14 year old sister, Aless, and I at our friends Mick and Raquel's wedding!
Sandra, an apprentice at UTD, and I got to translate the wedding for our friends Sean and Vianet!

OT class thoughts
Lastly, I wanted to leave y'all with a couple notes of encouragement from our Old Testament class with Mandy (one of the staff members at UTD). From reading through the Old Testament, it's become difficult not to see God as a solid dad. He cares for His kids in the best possible way, consistently. All of His discipline is rooted in a deep love and yearning for them to be full of life. When kids get old enough, they get to decide if they'll trust the provision of their parent or if they're going to seek to do their own thing, often in opposition to Him. He invites us to be a part of His family where restoration and wholeness are inevitable. I've also more clearly seen that His compassion is a definitive trait of His being, despite our negligence. For those who acknowledge their incompleteness, He is quick to heal us and exercises kindness that reveals His goodness. Again, thank you so much for enabling me to see God more fully and let that drive my desire to love Him and His people better! Although I don't have all the answers or abilities to get people in closer relationship with Him, I do have a strong willingness for Him to use me and thankfully I know He can work with that.
Please join us in prayer for the rest of the students our staff and corefas will get to interact with and help point to Jesus this coming year!

Yours on the campus,