Sunday, July 11, 2021

Summer Ministry

What Does a College Minister Even Do During the Summer??

Well...this one got married!! 

Austin and I are SO excited to begin our lives together, and we actually will BOTH spend this upcoming school year doing campus ministry full-time! 



    One of the things I loved most about my wedding was getting to see so many people I love all in the same place at the same time. I was so encouraged to see multiple girls from my core this past year, in addition to those even from past years of my core, celebrating with me and Austin. It's rewarding to see that the work done in college ministry is not done in vain and the relationships built and invested in are really worth something. It reminds me of this axiom we teach our leaders, "If you love enough people, enough people will love you." My heart was so full of affection for God when I looked out during the ceremony and saw many people I've befriended and poured into- they were there, expressing deep and genuine love for me in return.

This is my co-fa from this past year, Sam. She's been such a good, helpful friend to me and I was beyond blessed to have her around all day getting ready for the wedding and of course during the actual wedding festivities. She sets an example for me in service and authenticity.

These are my apprentice friends that I spent the year learning with and doing ministry along-side (all at our different campuses)! They also came to support me and Austin! I would not be the wife and minster I am without these guys.

And these are all girls from my core this year that came to the wedding!! It was so sweet how many of them drove from multiple hours away to be here. God definitely used them to make me feel loved and special that day. I know he will continue to grow them and use them to show His love to MANY more people too.

What Else?

    I'm still meeting up with students! Some I meet up with over FaceTime since they have gone home (to Houston or Waco or Austin or even Connecticut) over the summer. And some are still around so we can meet up in person over the summer.

    I started FOJ with MaLiyah, a girl who joined our core in the spring semester. She's living in Arlington over the summer, so we have been meeting consistently to read and study the Bible and talk through our lives and how we can love God and people better through them. 
FOJ is a one on one Bible study tool FOCUS uses and if you're interested in using it to study the Bible with someone you know, here's a link!! https://fojapptest.z19.web.core.windows.net/study/table-of-contents

    Lastly, this summer I am FUNDRAISING! As many of you know, I raise support for my salary to be able to do college ministry full-time. I'm at about 75% of my goal with about 3 weeks left to keep reaching out to people. I'm so grateful for the people who are currently on my support team. I am immensely blessed!! I trust that God will continue to provide, but it's easy to feel anxious about this subject when it feels I'm pressed for time. I would greatly appreciate your prayers!!


Here's some things you can pray and praise for too!






Friday, June 4, 2021

Looking Ahead

Transition Season

     So the semester is officially over...not only for my students, but for me. I'm no longer an apprentice, but a senior staff member. I no longer live in Arlington- I've now moved to Richardson (but don't worry, I'll still be doing ministry in Arlington). And soon I will no longer be a Repa, but a Nelson. There's quite a bit of change happening in my life. I'm in a season of new beginnings that I know will have some difficulties, but for the most part, I am really excited about this season!

This is who's last name I'll be taking...
We CANNOT wait

     FOCUS is also undergoing some transition...for starters, like a lot of other organizations, we are easing out of the pandemic, so our ministry is looking more and more like normal. On top of that, UTA FOCUS staff is planting a ministry on a new campus!! We are stoked to start working on Tarrant County College's (TCC's) campus! We really believe this is something God has laid on our hearts for a little while now, and opportunities have recently come along to actually make it happen. So many students go to community college and don't get connected to anyone or anything- it's a very different atmosphere than a university, but ministry belongs here too. Jesus is for these students too. It's a great place to begin establishing roots in students so that they can continue walking in faith when they transfer to UTA or wherever else they may go afterwards!

TCC Southeast Campus (we will be planting here and on the Northeast Campus!)

     Thinking through what it looks like to start on a new campus, I was also introduced to a parallel idea- pursuing a new group/demographic on an existing campus. This really got me thinking about a people group our ministry really lacks- student athletes. Many of you know I ran cross country and track for UTA my first 2 years of being there. This gave me a lot of opportunity to cross paths various athletes. I met, studied with, and attended the same events as not just runners, but basketball players, baseball players, volleyball players, etc. This was both a fun and difficult experience. My heart breaks at the lack of Jesus in this people group. Being an athlete and a disciple is heavy work- both require a lot of time, attention, and devotion, so it doesn't surprise me that it's rare to find student athletes who are sold out disciples of Christ.
I think ministering to athletes will mean adjusting the way we do certain things, but "how can they believe if they have not heard?" (Romans 10). God has put it on my heart to be more thoughtful of this specific group on our campus. I think being a former athlete gives me a unique opportunity to connect with some of these students. While nothing official is set in stone about when/how we will reach more athletes, it's something on my radar that I'm excited about and wanted to share with you. I invite you to pray through this with me!


     Meanwhile, we will still be hosting our large group fellowship on Thursday nights!! Oh how we missed Summer FOCUS last year!!



Can You Pray For...

  • My intimacy with Jesus through all this transition- to rely on him more than myself through it
  • Our students to stay faithful and connected to God and one another over the summer
  • My fundraising!! I'm only at about 20% of my goal and could use a lot more financial support for the upcoming school year.
  • My wedding and first month of marriage!

And as always, here's a student testimony and more prayer requests for our ministry as a whole! This student is from UTA so I actually got to watch from a distance what God was doing in his heart/life.


Thank y'all for reading!






Sunday, May 9, 2021

Wrapping Up

     What the actual heck. I am in shock that it’s the last month of my apprenticeship with FOCUS. What a ride it’s been!

This was our LAST Thursday night together with our UTA community before students head home for the summer

     I wanted to start with sharing a post from social media that my friend, Sarah, posted to remind myself and each of you reading why college ministry is so uniquely valuable:


"My first year of college was sort of hard for me. I had a hard time making friends because of my introverted personality and looking for a church that was welcoming. I tried different churches around the area by myself and just couldn’t find the one I loved.
This year was different. The second week of school, I was walking to my room from work when this girl called me over to a booth that was set up and asked if i was interested in joining a campus ministry called FOCUS. I was hesitant but wrote my name on the list. Apparently, my roommate also saw the booth and wrote her name down that same day. Later, the girl we met at the booth invited both of us to a small group bible study called, core. Lizzy and I were unsure about it and said to each other that we would never go back if we didn’t like it. But here we are right now going to core and Deep Dive every week because we loved it! The people in FOCUS are amazing. They are so welcoming that they want to get to know you and want to be your friend. They are so kind, loving, and show how Christians are special...
Through this campus ministry, I have seen myself grow a lot. I’ve come out of my comfort zone to meet new people, invite people to join FOCUS, and also got to lead a bible study with my friend, Melina! I am so grateful for the girls in my core who encourage each other and love each other. Despite covid, we got to gather together to worship and learn about God, go on a trip to Oklahoma, And also do fun activities! We might not be in the same core next school year, but i know that we will continue to spread our loving energy to the new people we get to meet and i am so excited to see what God has planned for each one of us!"


This is Sarah and I celebrating our last FOJ one on one bible study!
She's so right to notice her growth this year!



A ministry that impacts people for Jesus like this wouldn't be possible without all of our supporters. The cause you’re giving to is one God is really working through and one he really cares about. We appreciate you!



     As I’ve written before in a previous post, I am staying on our UTA staff with FOCUS and will continue my role as a campus pastor there for the 2021-2022 school year (WOOHOO!), but I wanted to share some things I learned specifically in my apprenticeship year before solely looking ahead.


  1. I can and should be assertive with others because Jesus was assertive.
  2. My value is not in my performance- it’s okay to mess up and own up to my shortcomings.
  3. The Bible is full of different genres and contextual elements that affect what it communicates to us about God and how we should respond to it.
  4. God’s ability to move and work is not limited by my expectations (thank goodness).
  5. People being displeased with me doesn’t necessarily mean God is displeased with me.
  6. Jesus’ first concern isn’t what’s right or wrong, he’s primarily concerned with bringing LIFE. He’s not a moral police but a life-giver.

I hope maybe one or a couple of these things ministers to you! Feel free to comment, email, or text me if you want more details about any of those things...or ask how you can hear my sermon on May 27th where I'll talk about some of those lessons more in depth!


All of our apprentices this year with Ronnie!! He's a pastor in our family of churches and has spent weekly time pouring into us. Love him, love my apprentice friends.

Prayer requests:

    • Over my fundraising! If you are interested in financially supporting me for this upcoming school year, please contact me! And whether or not you are able to contribute financially, if you could pray for me to reach my support goal, that’d be great!
    • That I would finish well- taking advantage of last moments with students before they go home, being purposeful with the time I have left with my roommates (I get the keys to my new apartment May 31st!), and soaking up all I can from my last few classes.

  • That's my core! And that's a wrap!




Friday, April 9, 2021

Filled Up to Pour Out


 SPRING IS HERE!!

     With that in mind, I'd love to encourage you guys to go check out one of my favorite worship songs- Springtime by Chris Renzema. Give it a listen! It points me towards God in the small things like sunshine and flowers during this time of year.

    I've been sharing a lot in my blogs about the growth that is happening internally in our ministry- how the girls in my core are growing, learning, and maturing- but it's been really powerful watching the external effects that come along with that.

    About a week or 2 ago we had an entire week devoted to outreach at UTA. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision mid-year and forget that there’s still people all around our campus that God wants to meet and bring into his kingdom. Maybe it’s easy to feel like that in your workplace or school too. For that reason, I’m so glad one of our pastors at UTA, Emily, proposed that we spend a week focused on reaching new people.



     We had a display propped up by the dining hall with the question, “What do you think God is like and why?” People passed by and some had no interest whatsoever, but some were willing to stop for a conversation! Sometimes it seems like not much comes from something like this, but I don’t doubt that God used multiple conversations by these boards to plant seeds. Some people we’ve even gotten to invite into our cores and fellowship times too! Beyond reaching new students, it was a neat opportunity for our current students to practice evangelism and boldly make new friends. I was so thrilled to watch some of my girls step out of their comfort zones and engage in conversations with people they didn't know. Often, it was weird and awkward, but I don’t think God needs people with expert social skills or eloquent words to do something significant.  

     During our core time on Tuesday night that week, instead of having our usual discussion/worship, we went on campus and invited new people who passed by to play games with us like volleyball, Uno, and corn hole. 4 girls came by and played volleyball with us for a while. Their names were Laura, Janae, Allie, and Aubrey. They all expressed difficulty making friends this year and were so shocked to see something happening on campus. I was able to get their numbers to stay in contact- please pray for the spirit to place desire in their hearts for God and/or for community! Another guy named Scott came too. Scott doesn’t believe in God, but he seemed to enjoy his time spent with us that night (and again on Wednesday night when he hung out with another core while they were eating on campus). Please pray for him also!


    Pouring out was good and fruitful work, but I’m so thankful we had the chance to fill up before hand. My core took a weekend trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma! It was such a fun time and I genuinely believe God used it to deepen relationships in our core so that the girls have more freedom to be vulnerable with one another and experience community to a fuller extent. 








Prayer:

  • For your own outreach- ask God to put someone or a group of people on your heart/mind in your office or break room, your neighborhood, or wherever else you find yourself often, to reach out to; invite someone new into your life that you can reflect God’s love to
  • For the people we met at outreach this past week
  • For our last month with students to be impactful!




Monday, March 8, 2021

Real Growth

Hey you guys!

February was a SWEET month and not just because of all the Valentine's candy. (Comment your favorite Valentine's candy!! Mine are Reese's Hearts for sure.)
This month was one of growth for my girls, so I figured I would just use this blog post to talk about how I’ve seen all that growth. I know this post looks like a lot of words, but I really think this one has some neat stuff in it!!

    Let’s start with Lizzy. Lizzy is a girl in my core who has been meeting up with my co-fa, Sam, weekly studying the Bible, but recently I have been spending some time with her too. I had noticed her attitude and heart slowly shifting throughout the year in core, but I’ve gotten a much closer look at that transformation as I’ve spent one on one time with her. I asked her how involvement in campus ministry has changed  her life and she said this: “In high school, I never really cared about my faith. I was definitely a Luke-warm follower of Christ. But ever since joining campus ministry I have felt like God was calling me back. I have seen God work in my life by pushing me to dig deeper into myself and my relationship with him. I have never felt more worthy as a person. I talk to people about my faith which I never used to do, because I want them to feel loved and worthy too.” I mean…WHAT. Are you crying too? Lizzy is from Connecticut and has kept in contact with a few of her friends from there. They saw things she posted on her social media and noticed her bringing God into their text/phone conversations that didn’t quite match up with who she was in high school. She’s been able to share her story of coming to know God intimately with her friends all the way across the country and some of them are even expressing an interest in beginning to take their faith more seriously because of her!!! It is definitely not a mistake or coincidence that Lizzy ended up at UTA of all places over much more convenient, local school options! I think that is divine intervention- God’s pursuit of her heart and of those she has and will impact.


Lizzy, Sam, Me, Sarah
Gal-entines event!
(masks taken off just for a quick pic!)



Lizzy also has a roommate- Sarah! I’ve been studying the Bible one on one with Sarah for this whole school year. Sarah had a very real relationship with Jesus before getting involved in FOCUS, but recently I’ve seen things start to click in her mind and heart in a whole new way. Not only is she developing as a disciple of Jesus, but now as a leader in the kingdom. I’ve noticed recently as we have been meeting that she is taking more time to think and reflect on the questions asked in our bible study. She is really letting things simmer in her brain before giving a “correct” Christian answer. Upon reflecting on her school year, she decided to make a goal of meeting and befriending new people both inside and outside of the FOCUS community because she sees the value Jesus places on discipleship and relationships- which is SUCH a great goal for anyone, but especially for someone more introverted. The following week she came to an outreach event on campus! She also said upon reflecting that right now is the most engaged she has ever been in her faith, and I’ve had the honor of a front row seat in watching this! I continue to see her step out of her comfort zone as she takes initiative. She recently brought her journal to core and asked each of us there to tell her something she could write down to be praying over throughout the week. 
GOD IS AT WORK HERE Y’ALL!

I wish I had time to talk about every girl in my core, but I think I’ll wrap up with just a few shorter thoughts. You’ve probably seen these names thrown around in my blog before. Vanessa has expressed difficulty in interacting with some of her old friends from high school because her values and lifestyle have changed so much. I am saddened at the tension she’s experiencing, but I am encouraged by how drastically God has changed her heart in just a few months. Melina has been initiating conversations with me about specific events in which she wants to intentionally think and act like Jesus.
I am blown away at what God is doing. Those of you who support me financially and prayerfully- thank you so much!!! The Lord is using what you give to move in radical ways over here in Arlington. You are so appreciated.






Sunday, January 31, 2021

Back in Action

Hello Everyone,

I cannot believe another month has gone by!

    To start...because our work on campus gets a little slower in the winter with students going home for the holidays- our staff takes a retreat that equips us more as ministers before they get back for the next semester.
I love my fellow apprentices!

    So quite obviously, large group events are more complicated this year. Planning something like an all-staff retreat had its difficulties, and over half of our staff chose to participate in our discussions via zoom, but luckily all of the newbies on our FOCUS staff team (as pictured) were in a healthy and safe position to attend in person! It was an incredibly restful experience and reignited my passion for campus ministry after not having students around for so many consecutive weeks in a row. 
We had a devotional time in the mornings where each staff person told their story of how they got involved in campus ministry and some common themes stuck out to me. Currently for me, these themes apply to campus ministry, but I think they could apply to wherever you choose to do your own ministry..so DON'T MISS THIS READERS! Here's what kept coming up: being warm and welcoming, being relational, and inviting people into day to day life. These are things I often get sloppy on and take for granted, but God has used these things OVER and OVER again to impact souls, draw them into community, and more importantly, into His kingdom. 
How are you living out those themes? What does that look like to be warm and welcoming at your school? To be relational in your work place? To invite your next-door neighbors into your day to day life?

Can you tell I'm becoming more comfortable with this whole "pastor" thing?


    Shortly after we got back from our retreat, students came back to campus! It has been so good to get back into meeting up with people face to face!


    Cores and one on ones have started up again and I've been encouraged by the girls' eagerness to be back in community with one another. Some of these girls are really developing an authentic love for God for the first time in their lives and I would love if you chose to pray alongside me for that work in their hearts to continue this semester. As I've watched this unfold, my goal for a few of these girls has transitioned into developing them not solely as women that love Jesus, but ones that are also strong leaders and disciple makers.

Big News!!

    I am BEYOND excited to announce that I am officially staying on staff with FOCUS for the 2021-2022 school year at UT Arlington! I know God will continue do awesome things here and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. I will continue fundraising my support and if you are excited about the idea to either continue or start supporting me financially, feel free to text me, email me, or comment on my blog! I'm so thankful for those of you who have chosen to support me this school year during my apprenticeship and I am eager to partner with some of you for longer.

PRAYER:

  • For our FOCUS staff and students to be wise with Covid-19 precautions and also for protection from the virus so that ministry will not be any more hindered
  • For my ministry to be purposefully extended to my roommates (who are also students) rather than just to my core and the girls I study the Bible with











Sunday, January 10, 2021

Half Way!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (Kind of..)

    First I would like to say that I am deeply saddened at the events that have taken place in our country. This spiritual and political climate is one that brings me to my knees in prayer. We are in deep need of the hope Jesus promises. 

    While there certainly is bad news in the world that I do not wish to ignore, I do still think there is space to share good news. SO...I'm about half way through my 10 month commitment with F.O.C.U.S. and man this is both exciting and scary. I really think this year has been a catalyst to growth in my faith. 
December was an interesting month because hardly any students were around. Most of them went home and stayed home after Thanksgiving, so we met up with students virtually. This was a bummer, but I know it was wise considering we would be seeing our families for Christmas and over our breaks. 
I miss my girls a bunch, but here are some highlights of virtual meet ups:

Sam and I "hung out" with Sarah for a while just catching up, sharing about our breaks, reflecting on time with our families...and looking at funny sheep. I know it's silly, but I am convinced that God loves humor and can use it as a way to do ministry and soften people's hearts. That is my honest justification of how that sheep picture is spiritual.



    Another neat thing done over the course of this past month was a book club! Our UTA team decided to offer students opportunities to engage with community in purposeful ways. Each staff member led a different activity- some through scripture and some through books. I've been leading a book club through Love Does by Bob Goff. I have been so in awe of how God is using these simple stories to foster deep conversation and convict myself and our students to love the people around us more and better.


    This is Thu and I on a Face Time. This is her dog Tuna that I got to meet over the phone. I love them both!! I know I've introduced Thu in my other posts. It was sweet to see her on FaceTime, but I'm ready to get back to studying scripture with her in person! Honestly I've had a bad attitude in the past about technology, but getting to use it to maintain so many relationships recently has made me so thankful for the gift it is.


In other news...

I learned a lot through our Holy Spirit class. We read Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon Fee and the book along with our class discussions really brought to my attention how often we pay lip service to belief in the Holy Spirit, but don't actually live in a way that expresses or acknowledges that belief. God is so gracious and humble to work through his spirit on Earth so frequently, yet not get hardly any recognition for it. I'm growing to attribute more of the things around me to the Holy Spirit and I am working to bring even just his name into conversation more.


CAN YOU PRAY?

 - The biggest thing we can ask for right now is just prayers over this spring semester- for God to use FOCUS to bring the Kingdom to this campus despite the obstacles present. Pray for myself and our 6 other campus pastors to be well rested and excited to pour into students around us over this next month. Pray for God to show up in BIG ways this semester and move in the hearts and lives of students that greatly surpasses our expectations and shows us more of who God is.




Hope you all had a wonderful holiday,
I can't wait to share about the rest of this semester as it begins to get rolling!