Monday, April 3, 2017

March Madness

I'm sitting next to Pedro and I asked him what the title of this blog post should be. In our combined efforts, March Madness was the best we could come up with. While I know essentially nothing about basketball, I can say with confidence that March was definitely filled with lots of madness, but the good, non-sports-related kind! We've had a lot going on, here are a few highlights:

IMPACT
An outreach event at Spring Creek campus
FOCUS has a relationship with a ministry up in Washington state, and every year that ministry sends a group of students to our campuses (during their spring break!!) to reach out to students and do some other cool stuff with our ministry. This year was particularly special, because students from Bellevue College (a community college!!) in Bellevue, WA came down for the first time to get a vision for what campus ministry can look like on a community college campus. They began planting a ministry there three years ago, and expressed a lot of similar feelings I had about Collin's Preston Ridge campus at the start of my Apprenticeship. It can be difficult trying to start something so new, it's hard to get people excited, and it feels lonely at times. But they were such an encouragement to us. To say it was a blessing to have them here would be a complete understatement. Every day, they were on campus meeting students, going so far out of their comfort zone to have conversations with them about Jesus, working through exhaustion of a 2 hour time difference, and re-applying sunscreen every 30 seconds. Did you know Seattle has seen a total of 30 hours of sunlight since October? They literally have to take Vitamin-D supplements.
One of my favorite things about having them here was to hear them talk about the Holy Spirit. They love Him, and they believe in His divine power to work in powerful ways. They completely rely on Him when they are having conversations with people, or when they're prayerfully preparing for the day. Sometimes I put the Spirit in a box. I assume He can only work in ways that I'll be able to understand. But of course the Spirit is going to move in powerful ways, ways that I can't even comprehend. Matthew, Jack, Lindsay, Katie, Erin, and Marina (pictured below, minus Marina) helped me remember that. Also, major shout out to our students at Collin who attended the events we had all week. They were fired up by having our Washington friends here, and God really worked in our ministry!

Please stop reading this and pray for their ministry in Bellevue. Pray that God has His way on that campus, that their team is aware of and encouraged by the Spirit's work, and please pray for all the students that they met while they were here, that God continues to grow the seed He's planted.

Spring Showcase
My sister and I got to emcee :)
Technically this event happened in April. But all of the preparation happened in the months preceding this one, so I'm totally allowed to post about it now. Like I mentioned in my last blog, we send students to SICM every year, and this event is a fundraiser to lessen the cost of that. Every year, I'm blown away by how talented the people in this community are. But more than that, I'm blown away by just how generously and faithfully God provides. To all of you that came to the event, purchased art, performed, volunteered, literally did anything, THANK YOU!! You helped make it a possibility for our students to go to SICM and learn skills that will hugely impact their ability to minister on their campus. Please pray for the students that get to go to SICM next month. Pray for ears open to hear what God's saying to them, for the relationships that will be built, and for no broken bones.


After the Apprenticeship
I've been putting off talking about this, but I think now is a really good time to fill you in on my plans for next school year. As y'all know, the Apprenticeship ends on May 31st. After a lot of time praying and many hours in conversation with Garrett, Shayla, my sister, my team, and lots of other wise people, I've decided to pursue a career in social work once my Apprenticeship is complete. I'm not someone who wrestles with fear or worry very much, but this decision makes my flesh fear and worry. I'm fearful of leaving a ministry that has been my home for the past 6 years, I'm fearful that I won't be as connected to Jesus, I'm fearful of what my relationships with people will look like, I'm fearful for my sweet girls who I've gotten the chance to minister to this semester, for Preston Ridge, for not being able to find a job, the list truly does go on and on. However, I have a conviction that I am not supposed to hold onto those fears. In the past couple months, God has taught me a lot specifically about how close He is, and how He really does hear us and answer prayers. I think God has been preparing me for this jump, and He doesn't want me to be afraid. That's really all I have to say about that. Please join me in prayer about these things:
  • I would be super attentive to God, and obediently follow wherever He wants me to go, whether that's a social work job or not.
  • That God would glorify Himself in how He works in my life during this transition.
  • For all the other Apprentices and FOCUS staff who are going through transitions this year.
Here's a song that has encouraged me for the past couple of months. I hope it does the same to you!


I really can't thank God enough for each of you. Thank you for investing in me, sacrificing for me, praying for me, and loving me.

Hannah

Saturday, March 4, 2017

How Is It Already March?!

Some cute girls and me hanging on campus!
Hi!! I’m so happy to be writing this. I had many moments this month where I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to put this on my blog!” February seemed to zoom by, and here we are in March with a new post! This month, God has revealed so much to me about Himself. As I reflect on what He’s shown me, I grow more and more convinced that His timing is absolutely perfect, He is very near, and He is very good. I’m praying this blog post will help articulate why I’ve come to that conclusion, thereby blessing you in your understanding of Him!

Us Apprentices recently finished up our Intro to Pneumatology class (I’m convinced it’s called that because Garrett, the guy who teaches the class, likes big words… In simpler terms, it’s our class on the Holy Spirit). I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to take that class! We read through the book Paul, The Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon Fee. That book totally rocked my world but my favorite part of class was getting to discuss with Garrett and the other Apprentices about what we were learning. One day Garrett was talking about how many of us have an objective understanding of God, we know Jesus forgives us, but how many of us can say, “yeah, and I know the guy! Here’s what He said to me last week, here’s how He’s changed my life, etc.” This is how the Holy Spirit works! He isn’t some watered-down version of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is God! And He is a “He”, not an “it”. Learning about Him in this class has allowed me to experience Him more and more. He really does answer prayer, He’s so close, and He’s so, so loving.

Twice a year we put on this event for all our campuses called Pizza Theology. It’s 4 hours of lecture on a particular topic lead by multiple speakers, sometimes our own staff and sometimes guest speakers, with an hour break in the middle to eat pizza. Earlier this year we had a Pizza Theology on Hearing God, which was so helpful and I’m still thinking about it months later! This semester we focused on the topic of race. I wish I could adequately articulate just how much I enjoyed it, how much it blessed me and so many other students, and how thankful I am for the work God is doing in this community to bring this topic, which so many choose to stay silent on, into the light. The topic of race is something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past year, (mostly due to conversations I’ve had with friends, not because of any goodness in myself). God has taught me a lot through people who have had different experiences than me, and this Pizza Theology was so helpful in continuing my understanding of race, ethnicity, culture, class, and how to interact with all of these things as a disciple. One of my favorite things that was said was “if something matters to my brother or sister in Christ, it is my responsibility to understand and make that thing important to me as well.” One of my sweet friends and fellow Apprentices, Sandra, is one of those people that I’ve gotten to have conversations with about race over the past year. Her, and others, have been patient with me through my ignorance and bombardment of questions. She got to share her experience as a Mexican-Salvadoran American to our community as a part of Pizza Theology. She reminded our community that “we must not see people as tokens, but value and learn about everyone’s culture, especially minorities.” I’m so thankful to get the chance to learn from people like her, and I’d so totally 100% two thumbs enthusiastically way up encourage you to listen to it as soon as you get the chance!

Remember Samantha, who I wrote about in a previous blog?! She got baptized!

I wanted to write a little bit about something I think God said to me earlier this week. And it’s all a little bit heady and vague, but I’m hoping you’re encouraged by it. I’ve lately been trying to grow in some pretty specific areas, and I’ve got a lot of support from different people like Garrett, Shayla, and others who hold me accountable to those things. One day, I was struck with such confidence that God works in ways that are so perfect. His timing is perfect. Me doing this Apprenticeship at this time is not an accident. Him putting specific people in my life, letting me move to a different city from where I lived last year, going through challenging things, everything! He works it all out. I wouldn’t be growing and stretching if I wasn’t in the place I’m in right now. I sometimes don’t trust Him, and I’ve always had a hard time with the verse that says “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. I’ll read that, or sing songs that say that, and in my head I’m like “... no way. God working for MY good?” It sounded to me like He’s this little task-master sort of going from person to person to make sure they’re doing okay, and calculating their every step to make sure whatever is good happens for them. But I realize more that He is good, and if we just stay close to Him, anything we face will turn out for our good. When I was a kid (and sometimes even still :) ), my dad always made me hold onto His hand when we were walking through parking lots. He would hold it so, so tight. And I would get so distracted. I’d just be doing my own thing, and then I’d feel the tug of his hand when I strayed too far. But as long as I stayed close and held his hand, I’d make it to wherever we were going safely. I feel like God reminded me of this. When all is boiled down, following Jesus and pursuing a relationship with Him is a matter of holding our Dad’s hand. He really does want what’s best for us. I’m so thankful He reminded me that His timing is the best, and that He really is so kind and good.


Last thing, I wanted to invite you to Spring Showcase!! This is one of my favorite things we do. Every year we send a group of students to Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM), which is a conference in Bellingham, WA, that equips them to do campus ministry. Needless to say, there are some expenses involved in that. Spring Showcase is a concert-fundraiser for SICM. And y’all for real, I’m blown away every year by how incredibly talented my friends are. There will be art for sale as well, and some student testimonies. This is me inviting each of you. Selfishly, I’d love to see you :) but also it would bless our students so much who would get the chance to go to this amazing conference because of you purchasing a ticket! Also, yours truly will be co-emceeing with my sister, Sarah! If you’re interested in attending, you can check out anyfocus.org/showcase to get more details and to purchase a ticket.

I love you guys so much. I love the students I get to work with every day, and you are such a huge part of the work I get to do with them. Thank you so much for investing in me this year and for being my biggest fans. You’re not just investing in me, you’re investing in individual students whose lives are being changed because of Jesus! How cool is that?!

Here are some pictures…




Bad Tattoos on campus to meet students
Here's one I drew... I just want y'all to be impressed by my ability

Some dudes talkin' about love for an outreach event we had on campus

Outreach on Spring Creek Campus

I mainly just wanted to show you this picture because I like these people. But it's also relevant because we're all Collin alum at the wedding of another Collin alum AND previous Collin Apprentice!

Much, much, muuuuch love,
Hannah

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Growing Pains

We brought around 600 students to camp this year!


Happy February (one day early)! I’m honestly feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of writing my blog this month. There’s so much to talk about! January has been filled with a lot of neat things and I’ve gotten to see God work in big ways. Yay! Let me tell you all about it.

Winter Camp
Samantha and I at camp.
Around the middle of January we invite the FOCUS ministries from every campus (UNT, TWU, TWU Dallas, UTD, Richland, Collin College both Spring Creek and Preston Ridge, NCTC, and UTA, that is :) ) to come together for 4 days for our annual Winter Camp. Camp is truly one of my favorite things in the world. This year, our speakers spoke on the Church (if you’re interested, check out their sermons here). I was so encouraged by what they had to say. One of the most memorable things coming out of camp was when Garrett, campus minister at Collin College, said that God uses broken people to heal broken people. That’s what the Church is! We’re all just beggars just telling other beggars where to find food. God’s redemptive work in His beloved Church is awesome and big and it’s happening right now! Gosh. On top of hearing speakers, our students participated in worship, got to bond over card games, play indoor volleyball, jump on a giant pillow, play outside, eat, laugh, dance, and learn from one another for the 4 days we were there.
I asked a girl in my Core, Samantha, to share about her experience at camp and this is what she had to say:

"Going to camp, I was excited. Returning from camp, I was free. Truly, I felt encompassed by the Holy Spirit throughout the entire weekend. I felt love toward everyone and equally felt that love back. I learned amazing insight by those with both great and tough life experiences. My camp experience encouraged me to break from the fear that has held me back and empowered me to be a fool for God. "


Outreach
Tuesday morning at Preston Ridge
This semester at Preston Ridge has been so awesome! One of my big prayers going into this semester was that God would bring us more girls. We have a solid group of girls who have grown so much this semester and I am so beyond thankful for them in my life. But I’ve also been really encouraged to dream big and trust that God is capable of really big things, we simply have to ask Him! And let me tell you, IT’S BEEN GREAT. This semester already, we’ve been meeting so many girls, have had new girls come to be apart of our Core, new FOJ studies starting up, and generally more friendships being made. It’s been so cool to watch our girls reach out to their peers and invest in one another. I’m so proud of them and so thankful for the Spirit who is at work within them!


Growth
This month has been challenging for me for a number of reasons. If I had to describe my feelings about the Apprenticeship for the past month in only one word it would be refining. A lot of my friends who have done the FOCUS Apprenticeship told me that they felt this way. They experienced so much growth and shed many many tears in the process. I definitely believed them, but I was kind of in a place of “I’m doing fine. I know I’m going to grow but like… probably not that much.” Maybe that was coming from a place of pridefulness, maybe it was not believing God would have any interest in growing me, or maybe a mix of both. But MAN was I wrong!! All throughout the Apprenticeship, but this month especially, I’ve been face to face with my own issues, sin, and ways of thinking that are not honoring to God. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am hopelessly flailing about in life without Jesus, and I am totally desperate to simply be faithful to Him. I think I’ve experienced the many tears shed part, but I’m really hoping that God uses the remainder of my time as an Apprentice to refine me and grow me into the woman He wants me to be. But listen to this totally awesome fact: I’m not doing this alone! I have people surrounding me who care about me so much and who want the best for me. I am way too blessed by the amount of time, money, and emotional energy people have given me. Again, God uses broken people to heal broken people. Man, that is good news.


As always, thank you so much for joining me in this work. All of what I wrote is possible in big part because of how you’ve chosen to invest in this me personally and ministry in general. Please let me know how I can bless you.

I wanted to leave you with a song that has been a comfort to me through the Apprenticeship. Sometimes I doubt God’s goodness, I question why He’d want to work through me and draw me closer to Him. But I cling to this truth: “I may be weak, Your spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, My God you never will”. I’m praying this song ministers to you in the ways it has ministered to me.




Much love,
Hannah

P.S.,
Pictures
On Sunday nights, a group of students goes running (It's called Running Club and it's really cool). Look at these sweet athletes!
Preston Ridge crew getting off the bus from camp
Two girls I've gotten to spend time with this semester made the decision to get baptized! This is Leenu...
And this is Ma'Jestic (in very poor quality mode). Join me in praising God for the work He's done to draw them close to Him!


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Halfway!

Happy new year! Here are some observations...
1. I'm currently sitting about two feet away from this space heater from the '80s that periodically makes the electricity in my apartment shut off. It's so worth it because it's negative degrees outside if you're calculating it in Celsius!
2. The holidays are most definitely over but I'm still listening to Christmas music.
3. I am officially more than halfway done with my Apprenticeship. What?! Time has flown by and it's  super bitter sweet!

I'm eager to begin another semester and hopeful for what God will do. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and got to spend some restful and purposeful time with family and friends. I had such a great end to the year, and I’m excited to tell you about it!

Our Apprentice Christmas party! We did secret Santa :)
I’ll start off with the most recent thing, staff retreat! All of us on FOCUS staff caravanned to Burnet, TX to spend some time preparing for the coming semester. We spent time worshipping God together, playing, enjoying yummy meals, and growing closer to one another before the busyness of another semester. We also spent time discussing a book together. During our break, we read The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning. This ministered to me so much and I highly recommend you pick it up! Every day a different staff person lead us in a discussion of a specific idea that Manning talks about. These conversations were truly life-giving to me and made me so excited to continue to invest in my relationship with our kind God, and made me even more eager to go out and do His work on campus!

One of my favorite parts from that book was when Manning was reflecting on how much he wants to be able to present himself as worthy before God. He says “I still struggle to let go of the preposterous pretense that my paltry prayers, knowledge of Scripture, spiritual insights, tithing to the poor, and blustering successes in ministry endear me to God’s eyes. I resist the saving truth that I am loveable simply and solely because He loves me.” I loved this and I feel like this is something that God has been re-teaching me throughout my entire Apprenticeship. At the end of the semester, the Apprentices get to give a sermon to the rest of FOCUS staff with the subject “My Gospel”. An idea I talked about was the fact that God has told me specific things about Himself and how He views me, why would He have told me those things if they were not the truth? And it is true that He loves us, He’s the one who enables us to come before Him, and He died for us and loved us at our very worst. That’s so cool! I’m thankful that God has put this truth on my mind and is teaching me more about Himself!

Lastly, I wanted to talk about this month’s student testimony. Chiazo is one of my dearest friends, and her story is so encouraging to me. Her friendship has had such an impact on my life, and I know God will continue to use her obedient and loving heart to do His work. Thank you so much for investing in students like Chiazo through your investment in this community. I’m reminded more and more every day at what a special opportunity I have to work as a minister this year. I couldn’t do it without you all!
Click here to enlarge this photo if you're having a hard time reading it :)

One last thing, we've got our annual Winter Camp coming up on the 13-16th of this month. I'll talk about it more in depth in my next blog, but just know it's the BEST. It's such a fun time for our students and staff! Please pray that the students that come would encounter Jesus as they never have before. Please also pray that God would receive all the glory for all the good that will come from this camp. I'm so excited for our students to experience it!

Love you so much,
Hannah

Here are some pictures for you to enjoy!

Core Cookie decorating... This picture is awkward but sweet, kinda like our Core
I got to dress up as a snowman for a Christmas party in New Orleans! It's a long story...
Preston Ridge students at our "Awkward Family Photos" Christmas Party

Exam week outreach at Preston Ridge!