Before I start talking about all of the wonderful things that God has been doing on this campus and in my own personal life over the course of this past month I want to thank all of you for your prayers for our UTA Fall Retreat!
Fall Camp was such an incredible success, not just in the amount of fun that was had, although there was certainly a lot of fun that was had, but also in achieving the goal for the reason that we have Fall Camp every year. To give our students an opportunity to really catch the vision of what it is that we are attempting to do here and to inspire them to take ownership of this ministry and make it their own. I wish I could describe to you everything that happened during Fall Camp but it would probably be far too long of a read for most, but I did want to share with all of you, one specifically special moment. At one point during the retreat after a long day of fun games and good food, the students gathered around in the cabin and began to open up about how God has demonstrated his love for them through college ministry. Nearly all of the students shared something. But many shared responses that went deeper than anything I was expecting. Some broke down in tears as they explained that they have never had a group of people care about them as much as this group has in the past month. Others made statements about how they were going to move forward in life actively seeking out opportunities to demonstrate the love of God to others because of the way that it had been demonstrated to them through college ministry.
I think sometimes it's easy to lose sight and wonder what we are doing here. I know that before that evening I was experiencing recurring thoughts of "So yeah, we play games on Saturday's, but what's the fruit?" or even "We come here and we sing songs, or we read scripture together, but what's really coming out of this?" Well God answered those questions in a really powerful way at fall camp. If we are loving people and informing them that we love them because God loves them, that is going to change people's lives and hearts and turn them towards a deeper relationship with Christ. And God is always going to work powerfully through all those who are faithfully attempting to follow Him.
Well goodness, Fall Camp was literally only 24 hours of the entire month of October and I have so much more that I want to share with all of you, but before I move on, once again I just want to thank you for lifting up this community in your prayers. God is truly doing great things.
Another really exciting thing that is happening here at UTA is our Campus Mission Teams! At a lot of different campuses, and many places outside of college, Evangelism is for whatever reason one of the scariest things that a lot of individuals can think of. And in my past experience, finding students willing to engage their peers in Spiritual conversations is a pretty difficult task, as most would prefer to get fed and not to pour out and share with others what it is that they've learned. Sometimes its out of fear of being judged, other times being unwelcomed, but most times, I would argue, it's a fear of being unprepared. Most students feel unless they personally have everything about God figured out that they shouldn't be the ones to attempt to talk about Him and his goodness to others. But that certainly has not been our experience here! Our students are passionate and bold about sharing their faith and asking their peers on campus questions about God and the way that he views us! Every week we have two different student groups called Campus Mission Teams that go out and have spiritual conversations on campus. These groups will go and meet their fellow college students, and engage them in thinking deeper about faith and belief and what sort of impact these things should have on our lives. I've been so incredibly proud in leading one of these groups. Just to hear some of the conversations these students are having, and how out of this God has brought in new friendships and more people interested in knowing more about Jesus while also stirring in the students that we already have a further hunger to share their faith with everyone that they meet. If you could continue to pray for boldness for these groups and also that our students would not only share their faith but also that they would do so with gentleness and respect and would be a light to the entire student body of kindness and an offer of friendship.
I also want to update all of you on what I've been growing in personally! I don't have a picture of this specifically because it would be strange for me to have a picture of myself praying, but I'm going to go ahead and post a picture of me and some of the guys from our ministry hanging out together after FOCUS one evening just because.
If God has taught me anything in the past month, it's that I would really do well to talk to Him more. After all, it's His work that I came here to do, and not my own. And trust me when I say he's a lot better at doing it than I am. The importance of prayer is something that we have been studying and has been emphasized in our classes over the course of the last month. Questions like "Why do we pray?" "What happens when we pray?" "How does God view our prayer?" are all questions that I've been pondering over the month of October and continuously I've come back to the conclusion to pray more. Something really wonderful happens when we pray, when we approach our heavenly Father with a heart of listening and adoration. Charles Swindoll, author of So, you want to be like Christ? says this about prayer,
"A primary purpose of prayer is connecting with God in order to transfer His will into your life. It's colaboring with God to accomplish his goals."
I might do a lot of work on this campus, I might meet hundreds of students and invite them to dozens and dozens of events that I'll spend hours and hours organizing, but I might never lead them to know God deeper if I'm not stopping to approach God and asking him what his will is. How I'm supposed to disciple these students. How he wants me to interact with each one of them individually. What words he really wants me to say. God's will is perfect and his ways are beyond my ways and his thinking is above my thinking. I think of Mary and Martha in this situation. I tend to run around a lot. I'm a doer, I get things done, and how easily I convince myself that I'm doing it all for God. While I certainly believe God calls us to action, how deeply does he value Mary, who stops, and comes to his feet, just to spend time with him, and know him more deeply. I have started to spend more time in prayer and already God has begun to relieve a lot of my anxieties, assured me that He is in control, and He has prepared me to be a better minister to his people. Thank you for your prayers in this matter if you have been praying for my spiritual growth as I'm sure many of you have, I'm very thankful.
Things That You Could Pray For
Continued Learning: I'm only three months in to this internship, and that means there are still 7 left, 7 months of me being mentored and taught by people who really love God and have decades of experience in ministry. If you could pray that I would have open ears and a willingness to learn from both them, and also from the Spirit as I continue growing in prayer and the reading of scripture.
Sermon: On November 5th, I will be delivering my first ever sermon. I'll be speaking to the congregation of UTA Focus about the importance of remaining in Jesus, and constantly accepting his invitation of coming to him in everything. If you could pray that God would give me the words to say during my time in front of the community. I'll be recording this sermon and will certainly be sharing it with all of you in my upcoming blog post.
Students: Once again, I always pray that the students that have been placed under our care might come to know Jesus deeper. I would love if you joined me in that prayer. For those who don't know him, that he would reveal himself to them, and to those who do that they might know more about him.
Once again none of this would be possible without any of y'all's love, support, and encouragement, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity that each of you has allowed me to participate in to be on this college campus and engage students with the Gospel. I will do my best to remain faithful with the gift that you have given me. I will work to finish the race. Thank you again for your generosity as partner's in this mission. I love you all.
In Christ, Austin
Hey Austin! I am so encouraged to hear about Fall Camp at UTA! It sounds like God has been moving in the lives of those students through what you and the other FOCUS staff are doing out there. How amazing is it to think that their lives have been changed in such a short time through something as simple as teaching them about Jesus?ReplyDelete
I am also so excited to hear about those CMTs! I am praying that those conversations would lead people at UTA to start questioning their own beliefs and seeking God, maybe for the first time. Thanks for leading our students there in starting those conversations.
Thanks for sharing, Austin! My prayers are with UTA.