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Thankfulness and Excitement

The month of July has been in large part a reminder of God's provision which has continued to develop in me an even further ingrained thankfulness and appreciation for the ways that God blesses us daily and for the people that he has used in my life to bring those blessings about.  Many of you are the stewards and administer of those blessings. I'm happy to report that as of currently I have reached 90 percent of my support raising goal for the year and that's simply because of you and the ways that God has opened your hearts to be a people of generosity. I have been incredibly blown away by not only the willingness that each of you have shown in contributing to my financial needs, but also by your shared excitement in what God is doing on these college campuses. The conversations that I have gotten to have with each of you this month have been in large part one of the main reasons that I have been so recently encouraged. Thank you for your gift. It really means the world to me and it will have an impact on the lives of college students this year.

I have less pictures this month than usual. Part of that is that we have not been having our large group meetings as of recently as most of our students are out of town for the summer, but I personally  must admit that taking pictures has for the most part slipped my mind! I will however make you a promise to be more fervent about my photo taking in the future :)

I have really been enjoying living with my roommates so far this year. We have certainly encountered challenges as happens when you bring in 5 maturing young men in to a house together. But I've been really encouraged and really thankful that for the most part we have all united in sharing the mindset of Jesus in our relationships towards one another. We don't always agree on the way that things should be done, or the frequency with which we should do them, but when asked in humility, each one of the roommates have been willing at one point or another to sacrifice their preferences to better serve the other. We are far from perfect, but I am just grateful to God for the fact that I have a house in which to live. I have dear friends to laugh with and we are able to live together in a setting that promotes humility, servitude, and love. I don't know how I got so lucky. But I'm thankful to God for what He has given me.

I have been doing three studies over the course of this summer. One is with Matt Davis who I wrote to you about last year. With Matt I've been meeting twice weekly working through scripture with him and attempting to help guide him towards stepping up as a student leader. I see a lot of potential in his life and through our study together I've really had affirmed that He is eagerly seeking out what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus and I've seen him act those things out (I have the benefit of being his roommate) Please keep praying for him. This year Matt will be one of our student leaders and he will be meeting with and studying scripture with the young men that he encounters and reaches out to. That can be a terrifying experience for someone who is still very much learning about God themselves. But I am reminded of 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 verses 16-20 where Paul writes that  

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:a The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God."

Matt believes these things. He believes that God has reconciled us to Him through Jesus and our sins are no longer counted against us and so therefore we are to be Christs' ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us. As long as Matt remembers these things I believe that he will be Christ's ambassador. Believe the Gospel, live it out, and proclaim it. God will reconcile the world through us as Christ's ambassadors when we live in this way.  I am excited to see how Matt will be an ambassador to his fellow peers.

Another guy that I recently have been studying with is a guy named David Woodward. I met David on campus while playing a game called Pokemon Go. I asked David what he was studying and he told me and then he asked what I was studying and I confessed to him that I was in fact not a student but working with a campus ministry. He then proceeded to say "Tell me about htis campus ministry, I've been meaning to read the bible recently, do you know where I should start?" I instantly told him that I would love to study through scripture with him if he would be open to it and he agreed. Haha I was dumbfounded. Sometimes we can spend hours on campus doing outreach, trying to engage students and attempting to get them to entertain the thought of God and create in them a hunger for answers with little to no luck. And here I was playing video games on campus and in a 2 minute conversation I had a student initiate with me a one on one weekly bible study. I can only attribute that to God. I have met with David twice now in the past 2 weeks and I've been really encouraged by our study. Not only does he ask good questions but he is willing to wrestle with some of the tougher things that Jesus teaches about discipleship. On top of all of that we have established a pretty neat friendship! We both enjoy swing dancing and may very well here in the next couple of weeks go on a double date with our girlfriends. I feel very thankful that God allowed me to be on this campus at that time even if I perhaps wasn't attempting to be the most productive for the Kingdom. He used me and I really hope not to let that opportunity go to waste. Please pray for David and I's study for the remainder of this year. It is clear to me that the gospels are somewhat new to him with most of his knowledge of scripture is primarily from Genesis and Proverbs. I am excited to share with him more about Jesus!

Lastly I've been meeting with Guang! Guang has one month left before he returns to China and I am attempting to use all of the time that I have with him wisely. He will be returning with a bible of his own, but before he leaves I am currently attempting to work through Matthew and Acts with him. We may or may not get that far but please keep praying for him! If it has not been made clear in my previous blog posts Guang has a very special place in my heart. I consider Guang my Chinese brother and I fully believe that God is constantly tugging at his heart. The Holy Spirit is beckoning to Him. Please pray for wisdom and guidance for me on what to emphasize in the short time that we have left, but also pray that I surrender Guang to God and trust that it is He who will do the convincing, not myself, although I am thankful for the ways that God has allowed me to be a part of Guang's life, as well as for the ways that Guang has gotten to be a part of mine.

As previously mentioned one way that I and the rest of the Focus staff has been spending our time over the summer is by doing outreach and evangelism on our college campus. I've been pondering over something from those events recently and wanted to share my thoughts with you so that you might have a better understanding of the culture and atmosphere that we are attempting to bring the good news of Christ in to. Sometimes for outreach we will write on a board a question along the lines of "God is ______" and then invite students to write their answers on the board and then hopefully they will be willing to engage with us in a conversation about what they wrote. Sometimes people will write "Love" or "Life" and with those students we often get their numbers and they are excited to join a college minsistry and that is great. Some other times we will get "vindictive" or "absent" and with those students it is also a great opportunity to seek to know their hearts further and minister where we can. Sometimes we establish enough trust to where we get their phone numbers as well and grab coffee with them later in the week and continue those conversations. But the most common answer, more than anything that could be described as atheistic, hindu, islam, or even Christian nominalism, is "Whatever you want Him to be" This answer is the result of a postmodern relativism that is difficult to engage with. For these students in their minds, most times there isn't a truth. There is no "right" or "wrong" there is only what is perceived as such. And in that mindset, the need for Jesus seems to be non existent. Many of these conversations for me personally have truly been heartbreaking. These students aren't open to conversation because in mind there is no conversation to be had. I am asking myself how to engage these students in even the notion of truth. And I am in prayer to God that this relativism would not remain the cultural attitude of our worlds young people for very long. The need for Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, is incredibly large here on college campuses. Please pray for these conversations and for changed hearts. I believe Jesus is the solution, I am just in need of wisdom on how to help bring them there. Thanks for praying!

SOME MORE PRAYER REQUESTS
1. Welcome Week is almost here! In just about two weeks we will have a flood of new students coming on to UT Arlington and we will attempt to be at every single one of the events that we can be at so that we can form connections with these students and invite them into Christ centered community. At last years welcome week I alone got over 60 students phone numbers so this is a huge opportunity. Pray for boldness for the students that are already a part of our ministry that they might be willing to approach students who are looking for a place to belong. Pray also for open hearts for the incoming students and that they wouldn't allow their insecurities or desire to be cool keep them from seeking out Christ centered friendships.

2. Corefa training is starting this weekend! For those of you who don't know a Corefa is a Core Facilitator.  A Core is our version of small group bible studies and our facilitators are our student leaders who will help facilitate those discussions and conversations and be the ones primarily investing in our incoming college students. So we are spending this weekend helping these student leaders become even more equipped to reach out to their peers and ask good questions in the cores that they will be leading. Please pray for their growth and that they might be fully dependent on God for their strength, wisdom, and boldness as they themselves be missionaries to the campus around them!

3.  I am currently 90% of the way to being fully support raised and I am so thankful for that! But to reach the full extent of my goal I would still have to raise another $200 a month. Which considering what God has already done with the other 90% I believe is not beyond what is possible for Him. So I am making a humble request. If you know of anyone that may be interested in hearing more about college ministry please let me know! I would love an opportunity to get in contact with them and speak to them more about that. OR if you yourself feel led to increase your support at this time then that would also be an incredible gift. 

Lastly I delivered a sermon earlier this month that I was very thankful to be able to share with our college students. It is over Jesus healing the Leper and how that true story has been influential to me in my life. Id you'd like to listen to it you can do so here...
https://anyfocus.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/austingage.mp3

Thank you for everything that you have done, for everything that you have given, and for all the love that you have shown and the prayers that you have given. I am so excited to continue to keep you updated with what God is doing at UT Arlington through my time here at Focus. As always, thank you for that opportunity.

In Christ,
Austin


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