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A Busy Month, A Mind At Rest

I apologize for the late post, it has been difficult for me to find the time to write recently. But I have been itching to share with you. Thank you for your patience and thank you for your support. God is doing some really neat things through your support of Focus. And He has been teaching me a lot in the process!

There certainly has been a lot going on in the month of September, but one of the things that I am most excited about is our commuter core!
Just as a refresher, core groups are smaller, intentional, Christ centered communities that serve together, learn together, pray together, and worship together. We call them core groups because we consider them to be the core of our ministry. It is where the deepest friendships are formed and students really get to know each other better as we learn more about God's word together. However core groups are usually gender specific (all guys group or an all girls group) and they also typically happen in the evenings, when most college students are free. Last year as we went on to campus and did outreach we met a lot of commuter students. Commuter students make up about 30% of UTA's population. As we would interact with these commuter students we found that while a lot of them were interested in being a part of a college ministry, because they live an hour away and their classes end mid day it was rare that they would stay on campus for an evening event. That is why this year we decided to start a core group specifically for commuter students and it has been going really well! We typically have about 12 students present, we read scripture together, discuss together, and laugh together, but we also try to share life together. After core we will go grab lunch together somewhere on campus. I meet with 3 of the guys weekly outside of the core group time period. And my Co facilitator, April, meets with a lot of the girls. It has been really a blessing to get to know each one of these students more and share Jesus with them at every opportunity. Please be praying for this group that real spiritual growth would occur as we continue to meet together. 

The next thing that I am really excited about is the Arlington Church Plant.
One of Focus' earliest supporters and partners is a body of churches that is spread out throughout DFW. There is a church in Garland that supports UTD and Richland College, a church in Wylie that supports Collin College, and a church in Denton that supports Denton and NCTC. The relationships present between Focus and these church bodies are mutually beneficial. Through the church, Focus students have a place to establish multi generational relationships. They have a body to belong to after graduating college. And they also have a place to continually be served and discipled in ways that I can't even begin to count. The church is in turn blessed with the liveliness of college students, as well as with a generation of leaders to fill the church post graduation. I have longed for a church plant here in Arlington that shares the values of Focus so that both I and our students might be blessed in these ways. 2 weeks ago there was the start of a church plant in Arlington. It was only one meeting and it may only meet once a month in a slow gradual build until the churches are fully prepared to support a new branch, but, it gave me incredible hope. I was asked to share a talk on communion before sharing in communion with the church and I was simply very encouraged by the faces I saw present there. Although the plant may not seem real in this moment due to the still prolonged period of waiting before something permanent is built, I knew that it was real because I could see in the eyes of the people that were there how greatly they too not only wanted to support the students of UT Arlington with a church, but also how many of them had felt called by God to come and do so. This church is a long time in the making. Ronnie Worsham, the head pastor of the Church in Garland had come to Arlington 20 years ago and prayed over the city of Arlington and UTA in hopes that God would do something incredible here. God works in many ways, far outside of Focus, but to see this dream developing now is really a blessing. I can hardly wait for what is to come.

Just some personal notes about me. I have a tendency to be hard on myself. I'm not sure where that comes from but it is something I am working through. I fully believe that starts with understanding the way that God sees me. I also have a tendency to keep my mind occupied, either in work or entertainment, it is rare that I truly stop. In the beginning of this month I had felt a great deal of pressure, both internally, and some externally to develop a mens side of the ministry at UT Arlington. In part, that is my task. I am a campus pastor at UT Arlington, and I am a male, so that is certainly an element of why I am here. But I was placing an unhealthy amount of the burden on my own shoulders and that led to me feeling overwhelmed and even admittedly, depressed. My thought process was how am I supposed to develop leaders out of young men when sometimes they don't even see the necessary reason for growth or change? How am I supposed to form deep meaningful relationships and individually disciple 40 different guys with the little time that I have? But about halfway through the month I really believe that the Spirit convicted me. I will be here, giving my all to developing male leaders, followers of Christ, young men giving their all to Him who is worthy of all praise. But I will not do this alone. John 15: 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Apart from Christ I can do nothing. I can meet with 40 different guys. I can talk and talk and talk until my head spins. And I can do everything that I am "supposed to" but unless I am really stopping, truly stopping, to be with God and surrender not only my thoughts and my time, but also the guys that I am meeting with to Him then I can do nothing. Reflecting on this truth I wrote this poem. 
"I have never understood what it means to stop, even as I sit my mind races with thoughts. 
To be still & listen has never been a strong suit of mine & maybe that's why I find it so difficult to make the time. But you seem to care so deeply about the well being of my mind. You yell to me pleading, "discern what is yours & what is mine." I'm always working to improve & maybe that's why I don't believe that if I really gave it all up to you, you would begin to change me. You are the Lord of everything, help me to not forget. You work when I do not, I do not have to regret."

I have adopted a much healthier view of what my job is. I really love the guys that I get to meet with and I will meet with them as often as I can. I will read scripture with them and I will share with them what little wisdom I have acquired in my lifetime. But I will not change their hearts, I will not develop leaders for the kingdom. Only God will do that. And I am so thankful for that. I won't quit, but the end result isn't up to me. Which means I can stop and I can ask God to change their lives. Please pray with me as I do this. As always thank you for your support and for all of your prayers, they really are making an eternal impact in the lives of these students. Until next time!
In Christ, Austin

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