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End of the Year, Newness of Life

 It is certainly strange to be writing this out and in doing so officially recognize it, but we are about one week away from reaching the end of the school year. I truly believe that God has been active and present on this college campus. I hope to use this post to share some of the encouraging stories in which I have gotten to see God at work in just this last month. As always, I want to begin by just thanking you for taking part. You may never get to realize the full extent of how God is using your support of college ministry to bring about His purposes but I really hope and pray that in reading this you will along with me be able to stop and catch a glimpse. Let's start with our leader team!

This picture features our leader team at UTA from this last year. Individually from left to right you've got Matt, JB, Brock, Ryan, Daniel, Sarah, Austin (Me), Rachel, Brooklyn, Leeann, Reneem Kassidy, Kaylee, Hallie, Kelly, and April. With the exception of the staff as seen below every single one of these individuals are students. Students who commit at least 15 hours a week of their life to investing in other students in one on one discipleship. These students serve in our community, host events in our community, and daily make commitments to live as an example to our community as one following Christ. Every week me and the rest of the staff get to meet with these students both one on one and also in a larger group setting on monday nights called leader meetings. In these leader meetings, we do devotionals together, we read through books and discuss them together, and we learn from and teach one another on how lead well in our community. I am continually proud of and impressed by the character of our students, their willingness to learn and to serve, and most importantly their desire to make Christ known in the lives of their peers. Every week these students are deeply investing in the lives of others through intentional friendships that are Christ centered and aimed at discipleship. I'm so thankful for each one of them as our ministry would not be able to exist without them. Although I get to spend time doing outreach on campus, as well as personally investing in our newer students most of our time as a staff is spent investing in the lives of these students. So when you are praying for our community and be praying for our leader team. Certainly pray for me, and my fellow staff, and for this campus, and for new students, and for the faculty of UTA, but also please please please be praying for students. Without these students commitments we would be unable to operate at the level that we do. Pray for their continued maturity in the Lord and for the filling of their hearts with the Spirit of God so they may continue to experience the joy of college ministry and express gratitude to God always for the opportunity that we have here.   
The UTA Staff whom I have the pleasure of leading with. Kelly, Sarah, Myself, and April.
 Because we are still pretty new to this campus (only two years) we are still continuing to try to involve ourself with the events that are hosted by the campus at large. This last month we got to compete in UTA's the amazing race! As a team we ran around campus completing different challenges all in the hopes of winning the top prize! The top prize would be to be able to donate all of the profit from the competition to a charity of our choice which is a really neat prize to win. Having no idea how grueling the race would be I decided to just pick two guys from our ministry, sign up, and run the race together. It has been many years since I have run. We ended up in dead last out of about 15 different organizations. But it was an absolute blast and I got to spend several hours running around our beautiful campus and doing silly activities with two of our students Ivan, and Cody. You couldn't ask to meet two sweeter dudes. Always willing to help and serve however they can.
I did want to share a story about my friend Ivan though, not because it in any way emphasizes how great I am, but because I think it speaks really powerfully to the importance of christian community. Ivan had been going through a difficult time several months ago. He was experiencing doubts about his faith and due to schedule conflict issues with the guy who had been meeting with him in the last semester he had no one to talk to about these things. He was overwhelmed with life and work and so in an attempt to save time and also follow the leading of some of these doubts, he decided in his heart that he was just going to leave focus and do so quietly so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. But after the first Thursday night that he missed I called him, and I asked him how he was and where he had been the previous Thursday. I told him that we missed him and being aware of the schedule conflict issues him and that other guy had had I asked if he would like to meet up and catch up with me that week. I didn't know it at the time but I was very humbled when after visiting one of our male core groups earlier this month Ivan shared this story with me. He said that the idea that someone cared enough about him to follow up with him when he was attempting to disappear meant the world to Him and that led him to making a commitment to continue to be a part of Christian community and continuing to seek out God in his life. Now Ivan meets every week with my good friend Matt and just a couple of weeks ago they finished reading through one of our bible study materials entitled foundations of faith together. Ivan is incredibly loved in our community by all sorts of guys, he is deeply cared for and he knows it. And I know that if any one of those guys was ever having a difficult time Ivan would be there for them to encourage them and listen to them. Because he understands the importance of the body of Christ and he has been deeply influenced by the impact of community. I just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to reach out to Ivan and reminding him of God's faithful pursuit for him always.
Hayli and I after one of our dates a couple of weeks ago.
 On a personal note, it is hard to believe but Hayli and I are less than 100 days from getting married. She continues to be an encouragement to me every day. She brings an incredible amount of joy to my life and I couldn't be more thankful for her or proud of her in her own accomplishments and in her constant pursual of Jesus. She continues to be an example to me in that regard. Hayli has applied for an internship with the International Rescue Committee in Dallas. The International Rescue Committee works primarily with refugees, finding them places to live and getting them connected to work in the area. But they also have a division in rescuing victims of human trafficking and counseling them as they work through the trauma that they experienced. An internship in this division is usually reserved for graduate students, but with a year left in her college undergrad all signs are pointing to the possibility of her having received that position. Hayli has a deep heart for those who have been hurt and abused. She wants to commit her life to serving the under served. This would be an incredible opportunity for her as, to my understanding, the IRC is one of the largest organizations internationally doing what she has decided she wants to do. Please be praying for her as she may find out on Monday whether or not this position will be open to her. I really believe that God will use her to be a blessing to a lot of individuals that are in need of healing. Thank you always for being a support.


To end, we have had two students in the last month that have made the decision to get baptized! Alexis and Jared. Below are some pictures from those days. On the left members of our community surrounding and laying on hands and praying for Alexis. On the right, one of our student leaders and my dear friend JB Gibbs who has been studying the bible with Jared all year baptizes our new brother Jared.

Lest we forget how momentous each of these occasions are I want to close with some scripture.

John 3:1-6
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Romans 6:3-4
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
I praise God for allowing us to enter into death with him so that we might be resurrected with him in new life. I praise God for the opportunity to be born again and to be forgiven of our sins through His son Jesus Christ. And I praise God for his spirit who lives in those who know Christ and have been baptized into Him.

Father, I pray that these words and these stories are encouraging to those who read them. I pray that you would be glorified in our lives and in the lives of those whom we interact with. Make us like you O Lord, to be a light to the world and servants to one another. We praise you for the newness of life that is found in you. Let us never forget what you are accomplishing in bringing about your kingdom. I pray that we would have the faith to take part in your work and that the fruits of your Spirit would overflow in your hearts. We pray all of these things in your name, Amen.

I love you all! Thank you so sincerely for another year of college ministry.
In Christ,
Austin

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