Thursday, July 16, 2020

June: Wrestling with God


    I don't have any huge ministry updates for y'all this month. A lot of June has been getting regular time with students, fundraising, and starting to make plans for the school year. God has showed up so much in those things, absolutely! But, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the things I've been working through with God this month. 

    In a lot of ways, the Lord seems to be preparing me for this school year, more than he's letting me plan the year. Almost every part of the next year of ministry is going to be unfamiliar in some way. The universities are still in the process of making the tough decisions for what campus life will look like, which means that we're in limbo with some of our decisions. We're in the process of whittling down all of our big, community wide events - those don't seem to be very possible. We won't be able to plan much for our welcome week, a time when we meet so many new freshmen (and that's one of my favorite weeks too!). The main things we'll be doing are cores (with limited group numbers) and one on ones. In a lot of ways, this works out so well! One of our axioms is one on one is how it's done. A big part of our ministry's DNA is to develop personal, deep, discipling relationships. So, small groups and one on ones come naturally to our students. In other ways, that is intimidating to me. I say all the time that me doing ministry is God working through my weakness. I love meeting new people, developing friendships, and growing with people. But, those things don't come easily all the time. Sometimes, I really struggle to be relational. And, gosh, it really is crazy the difference being in person makes! I am really excited for this year and the changes we'll get to experiment with, but it's also a little scary to step into a year so new and strange.  

    What does this have to do with wrestling with God? Well, while I have been preparing for the year, I also have times where I avoid thinking about these things with God. I have this tendency (maybe some of y'all can relate) to value productivity over prayer. I would much rather work on a spreadsheet or make some phone calls instead of praying. I know, that sounds bad - but that's where I'm at. Even when I do spend time talking with God, I find myself wanting a quick fix, an easy solution. So I get discouraged and try to avoid really facing Him. During our online TNF service last week, we talked about Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestles with God. I was convicted in that moment - I hadn't been taking my fear and trepidation to God. I wasn't engaging with Him and therefore I wasn't going to find peace or change. So I've been trying to engage with the Lord more. Not to feel better or get answers on what we should do, but just to be with Him and to let Him reshape me as He wants to. I'm learning to value that time in prayer and listening to God over the things I could be getting done. God's kingdom work is often slow, small changes over time because heart change is a process. But our God is loving and knows us well enough to know what we need and how much conviction we can take at one time. Praise God he is patient and walks us through change!

    How are y'all doing in this season? How has the Lord been encouraging you? Is there any way I can be praying for you? Let me know!


Ways to Pray:
- Please be in prayer for all college students right now. Some of them are really struggling with the uncertainty of their classes, living situations, and jobs. Pray that this season will be one of all of us finding our stability in the Lord and not in our circumstances.

 
Love y'all!

Reagann







Monday, June 15, 2020

May: Bittersweet Endings

Happy June! 

I've always been a bit nostalgic when it comes to beginnings and endings, firsts and lasts. I take note of every last meeting of the year, every last Bible study with a student, the end of year parties, and the graduations. I also love the start of a new season, especially summer. Summer for our staff means a different pace to spend time fundraising, reflecting on the last year and planning for the next, and investing in our staff's pastoral development. I really love getting to take a step back and engage with ministry in a different way.


One of the lasts was our staff's end of year dinner! We got to be together (mostly at a distance) to celebrate the year. This was also Kristen's last day on our Denton staff. She moved over to the Collin team starting this month so I still get to work with her, just not as closely.

   

We started off June with our own SICM alternative! We wanted to be able to give the students we invited to SICM a chance to grow in their leadership skills so our staff put on our own Summer Leadership Training. So we got people together over Youtube and Zoom for some really great talks and Zoom discussions. I'm so excited for the leaders God is raising up in this generation!


Our church is still meeting virtually so we sometimes sit outside for church. Is anyone else loving the weather?


Jon and I started a garden! Gotta jump on that quarantine hobby train. This half has herbs and tomato plants. We just planted flower seeds on the other side and they're already starting to sprout! It's so fun to watch them grow. This is kind of corny but is this a tiny bit how God feels as we grow?

All in all, what a great start to the summer! God is faithful and walking through this season with our ministry.

Ways to pray:
- Obviously, there is a lot our country is working through with racial tensions. Our students are working through these things too. Please pray for them to seek God's wisdom and heart and for us as pastors to help point them to Jesus.
- I am 80% fundraised - whoa! Thank you guys for your support and prayers. Could you continue to pray for me to raise $600/mo? This would get me to that goal!
- Summer can be a tough time for students and there is so much uncertainty with what next school year will look like. Please pray for them to press into community and to seek God, especially in uncertainty.



Love y'all and praying for you,
Reagann Smith


Thursday, April 30, 2020

April: Zoom Calls and A Doggo

Y'all think I'm kidding but my update is solely Zoom calls and my doggo - because that's how I've spent the last month! 
But seriously, happy May! I've been praying for y'all often and I hope y'all are making the most of this time. Ministry has still been in full swing - just from the comfort of our various couches! In a lot of ways, things have felt pretty normal for me. I've gotten to meet with so many of the people I've been building relationships with this year. I've even been able to add some really fun things to my routine that have made this time even sweeter! Here's pictures to prove it!

Staff meetings are going strong with many a shenanigan. Last week included Kristen changing everyone's names on Zoom without them noticing.

TNF is still a blast! We've been streaming a short sermon through Twitch before we break up into small discussion groups through Zoom. These discussion groups have been so fun! They're completely random so I love getting to interact with students I don't normally see! One week, my group was fascinated when someone said the length of your foot is the same as the length of your forearm. So we put it to the test!

We just had our last official core this week! Even though I would have preferred to finish out the semester with these girls in person, everyone really has made such an effort to stay in touch and connected to community. I was sad that we wouldn't get to meet together, especially since we had just gotten to a point where everyone was becoming friends. But God really has brought so much good in all of this. We've been able to have so many conversations about what it looks like to honor God with everything we do, even with less structure. 
Blue Belle Really likes to be in my lap so sometimes she becomes my desk.

Scribblio has been such a fun hang out after core and TNF! It's essentially a way to play pictionary with a group of friends online. We've been pairing that with a zoom call so we can keep chatting while we make the wildest guesses.


Our corefa team has been working so hard to keep the ball rolling, to minister to the people in their core and really anyone they've met this year. These students have been so faithful to God's kingdom building!
One of the fun, sweet things I've gotten to add to my day is a daily Zoom call with girls from my core. We spend about thirty minutes talking about Scripture. We just finished reading Luke and now we're in Romans!
I also talk with Coral and Jess every morning for about thirty minutes to help our days start out with prayer and encourage us to use our time well. It's been so sweet to get to know them even better in those little glimpses every day! These two things every morning for 8-9 (these girls get up early!) are easily the best part of my work day.
Happy Easter! 
Blue Belle fell asleep like this during church.


Isn't she freaking adorable??
Overall, it really has been a great month and I can't help but praise God for all the ways he's provided for me and the people around me. How are you doing? How has God been providing for you? Is there any specific way I can be praying for you? I'd love to hear from you!



Love y'all!
Reagann Smith




Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March: A New Way of Ministry

I hope this update finds you well. I've been praying for y'all, that you would be resting in God's peace and security in these more uncertain times and that He would make His constant presence known to you. Obviously, a lot has changed over the last month and campus ministry has had to change with it - but God has been so good and is still doing His kingdom work. So, here's what we've been up to!

Pre-coronavirus quarantine

Having a dog is great for ministry! My peer team loves having our time constantly interrupted with Blue Belle begging for cuddles and pets!

Crystal tends to fidget a lot so playing with blue Belle's ear kept her hands busy while we talked.

Blue Belle wanted in on our peer team discussion. We're starting to read a book together called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. This season is a great to to read a book!

On one of our last days before switching to virtual everything, Coral and I wen to the dog park for some strong tugs with Blue Belle.
We also had a fundraiser for SICM students. A few students and I made our community pancakes with all the toppings! It was so sweet to see everyone come out and support these students. Obviously, SICM is a little uncertain right now. No decision has been made to cancel as of right now as everyone waits to see how things continue to unfold. 



Claire had never made pancakes before - but she killed it!


How my ministry has changed

At UNT and TWU, schools basically didn't come back after Spring Break. The week after Spring Break was an extended week of no classes as the schools figured out what steps to take. We tried to do as many of our normal things as possible that week. That Friday our staff made the call to go completely virtual. So, our one on ones, peer team meeting, cores, and Thursday Night Fellowships needed to flex a lot. Last week, as the schools switched to online, we had our first run at that ourselves and it actually went way better than I expected! Students have been so patient and understanding as we make those adjustments and those video call platforms has been an incredible resource! For TNF, we did a live-streamed mini sermon over Twitch before breaking up into smaller Google Hangout groups for discussion. Y'all, we were totally expecting that to be a hot mess, with so much confusion and technical difficulties. But it really wasn't! People seemed to know what was happening and technical issues were really minimal. The smaller groups seemed to really facilitate connection among people who don't regularly talk, because everyone was mixed up. It'll get smoother as we go, but so far so good! 

Our core over facing uncertainty and looking to Jesus.

Our small group at TNF talking about Philippians 3 and what it means to count everything as nothing compared to knowing Jesus intimately.

Overall, God has enabled our ministry to be flexible and make changes necessary to continue ministering to these students. While I don't want to discount the fear and sickness in the world, I have seen God's sovereignty more and more the last couple of weeks. It seems like he's slowing us down, prompting us to reflect on so many things. I've been thinking through what is necessary to do ministry - and it's not a lot. Community can happen in isolation, especially with the technology we have access to. I've already seen God providing for the students who will struggle financially. My peer team is also going through this spiritual disciplines article, and we have time to start practicing some of those disciplines, to build tools for seeking intimacy with God. This extra time has been such a blessing, although difficult. 

I'd love to know, how has God used this time to minister to you? Is there any specific way I can be praying for you? 


Love y'all lots!
Reagann Smith

Friday, March 13, 2020

February: Showcase and a Surprise

Wow, March has really gotten away from me already! I'm so sorry my February update is late, but here it is! I'll be keeping this update to stuff that happened in February, but I also have a surprise at the end from this week! Since February was so short, Showcase overtook the month! Remember, Showcase is our yearly fundraiser to help send some of our students to SICM - a disciple-making leadership conference up in Washington. We put on a show packed with various musical and comedy performances given by students, FOCUS alumni, staff, and people from outside our little community. We also put on an art sale where people donate their art - paintings, calligraphy, woodwork, crocheting, food, and more. Showcase was such a success this year! We still aren't sure exactly how much we raised. but I'll update y'all on that next month. But I heard multiple times how this show was our best one yet! We had a lot of great performers and they worked so hard to serve these SICM students. Here are some pics Sean Do captured of the show.


Sweet Clarissa, a Denton leader who brings so much life and energy wherever she goes.

Sirak, one of our staff members over at Richland and a very talented musician.
Ana (middle) performing with her mom and aunt.

The art show also went well! I worked with the team on this so I felt incredibly invested (and only a little stressed) in this part of Showcase.  We had a lot of really gifted artists donate some great pieces and we sold almost everything! It really was pretty challenging and intimidating for me to be one of the main people running this part - this was my first year doing that. But I was so encouraged by everyone's willingness to jump in and help, and they were so sweet too. We had a lot of the SICM students volunteer to help out the show. What a hard-working, grateful group we have this year!

This isn't the best picture but Aaron Hollingsworth made this piece for us to raffle off. We ended up making $1,200 off this piece alone!

Ashlie, a UTA student hand-painted these Bibles and journals!

 
This piece probably went the fastest. This is a Bible Project poster, signed by Tim and Jon themselves! 
My sweet mama made delicious cupcakes! Thanks mama!
Overall, what a sweet, encouraging, exhausting day. Thank you to everyone who was able to pitch in in some way - that means so much!

Speaking of SICM students, meet Bo. 
I just had to share this story with y'all. Bo is an international student we are sending to SICM. I've been working with him on fundraising but it's a little complicated because his parents are back in Hong Kong. They send him lump sums once or twice a year to cover his schooling and housing but it's hard for him to plan out his finances this way. He doesn't know really anyone in the US except for people in FOCUS to ask for help fundraising. So I walked him through his budget and what he was spending. We found that he could save a decent amount if he would severely cut down on eating out (typical for college students). He's been so motivated to save up money that he said he wouldn't eat out at all. After a fundraising session with a number of students, we all went out to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Bo decided this would be his last Chick-Fil-A for a while. This is him very sad, eating his last few bites of chicken. He was being dramatic and funny here - this kid definitely makes me laugh! Since then, I think he's stuck to his plan for the most part, at least only eating out a third of what he used to.

If you would like to support these SICM students and help them raise the money they need, feel free to go to anyfocus.org/sicm and donate to the Denton campuses. 

Surprise!
I know you've been anxiously reading to get to my surprise! Here she is! Meet Blue Belle, the newest addition to our family. She is a 3 year old blue pit mix and I'm already obsessed with her! She is so sweet and cuddly, not aggressive at all, and a great listener. So far, she seems great with people and dogs and responds really well to our commands when she knows what we want. She's settling in great!





Ways to Pray:
- Pray for our SICM trip in May. Obviously Coronavirus is a concern and something we're keeping an eye on. Pray firstly, for those sick to get well and for a quick dissipation in general. But for the trip, pray that we would not have to cancel the trip and that things would calm down. Pray for worried parents and anxious students to be cautious but not to let fear rule them.
- Pray for students like Bo who are fundraising. Pray that God would provide for them as they learn to trust in Him.



Love y'all,
Reagann Smith


Monday, February 3, 2020

January: Winter Camp Fun!



Happy February, y'all! I can't wait to tell you about this month - especially Winter Camp! - so I'm gonna jump right in!

Y'all, God really showed up at Winter Camp! As a refresher, Winter Camp happens every year in January where our whole community (around 12 campuses) gets together out at Sky Ranch for a long weekend of worship and fellowship. One of the things I love about this camp is that students who are new to the ministry get a chance to catch the vision of so many people coming together to worship the Lord and learn about Him. There's something really powerful about singing praises to our God with almost 600 people. 



This year, our theme was centered around the Psalms, with the idea of learning from them and growing in talking with the Lord. Different members of our own staff did the sermons for the sessions - and God really spoke powerfully through them. We started by talking about Psalm 1 as a blessing over the path of the righteous. Psalm 1:5 says that the Lord knows the way for the righteous. It's easy to read that as God being critical and overbearing over those trying to follow Him. In reality, God is watching over His kids like any good dad does. He knows us intimately - how we're doing emotionally and spiritually, what we're dealing with, and what decisions we're facing. What a comfort to see the depth of God's love and care for us - and He's just getting started in the Psalms. 

We ended the weekend talking about building a love for the Word of the Lord in our lives. We talked about cultivating our garden - are we building a life full of rocks and dead plants or are we cultivating a life full of flourishing growth and deep roots? Cultivating a garden is hard work and so is developing a love for the Lord and His Word. Sometimes i don't feel like spending time in prayer or in Scripture but I am learning to choose Jesus over what I'd prefer to do in that moment. The Lord is shaping my heart in this area.


These messages seemed really impactful to the students as well. This is our core that went to camp! I loved getting to see each of them grow in their friendships with each other. Our core has struggled to become a tight knit group of friends and I prayed that God would start pulling us together. Two of the girls I spend weekly time with transferred here at the beginning of last semester. They've talked to me a lot about feeling lonely and struggling to make friends. On the second day of camp, I was talking with another girl and she was telling me how she had decided to pursue friendship with both of those girls. She'd been having conversations with them and they both expressed feeling lonely here. The girl I talked to told me, "Why haven't I been friends with them before?!" And that girl has stuck to that! What a cool way for God to show up and start making a home for people here.

Love these goofy girls!
These brave girls did the zipline together.



We can't have a FOCUS camp without a dance party!

My sweet peer team!!
The Lord really showed up this weekend! Thank you to my sweet prayer and ministry partners for making events like this possible!

Announcement!!!

Each year hundreds of our students are invited to attend the Student Institute of Campus Ministry where they learn the foundations of being student missionaries on their campus. To help fund this once-in-a-lifetime experience FOCUS proudly hosts an annual benefit concert and art show. Each year the performances leave us wowed and the generosity leaves us in awe. I hope to see you at #Showcase2020! Go to anyfocus.org/showcase or reach out to me for tickets.

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Ways to Pray

- Pray for some of our students dealing with some pretty serious mental health issues.
- Pray for students to not move on from the things God did at Winter Camp but to meditate on what the Lord told them and to take steps to grow closer to Him.
- Pray for Showcase to be a success in order to really bless our community and the students going to SICM.
- Pray for my fundraising progress. God really is working and providing for me but I still need to raise another $150/mo to get to my goal of $2600/mo.


Love y'all so much!
Reagann Smith