Thursday, January 7, 2021

I blinked then all of a sudden it was 2021... (Sirak's December Update!)

 My friends :) My team :)

Here we are, another year. I was listening to "The Thanksgiving Song" by Ben Rector and there is a line in it where he says: "Life never stops changing but some things never change." It touched me because of how true it is. Time never quite stops moving on but we find that in each new season that arrives we are a little different...the world is a little different...our society is a little different...technology is different...etc.

There are some things that never change in campus ministry: meeting students, loving students, and discipling students. These never change. But, 2020 has shown us time and time again that life truly never stops changing. We experienced some drastic changes in 2020, but, maybe the changing has always been there but we just finally experienced it on a deep level. 

As we enter the spring semester we have a lot of ideas as to how we can keep the constants continuing: meeting students, loving students, and discipling students. But, no doubt as we have seen: things will change. This semester may present new issues and things we may need to shift & move around, but we're here for it!

Thank you for your support and for believing in us! December was a relaxing month of reflection, reading, and remembering what God has done this fall and praying for him to move this Spring. We have an awesome group of students that were consistent with us this past fall and we're looking forward to an awesome spring semester!


Our end-of-the-semester Christmas service was an awesome time w/ our students. We had dinner with each other (individually packed) and worshipped while sharing about the semester with each other! 

We even had a student-led choir!

This year for our preaching lab, we invited Bill Watson (back center) to be our guest and listen to Adam (2nd from left), William (far right), and Andrea (front center) preach 20 minute sermons and receive feedback. Our apprentices were split into 3 groups and this was the group I led! They all preached such powerful sermons and I enjoyed our time together!

Just in case you haven't seen me in a while - this is an updated photo of me doing what I love: enjoying pho!



Thank you all so much for your support and for believing in me! I am blown away to get to serve alongside you on God's campuses. Even though this will be another online-only semester, we still hope to meet new students and love them!

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Sirak's November 2020 Update!

My friends! My team!

This time last year we were preparing for Winter Camp and our students were looking forward to a much needed break! It was a challenging semester but one that was full of joy and seeing God's faithfulness. Even though the last 365 days have stretched us as a ministry and as individuals, I am deeply grateful for the students and relationships that God has placed in my life to experience life with. 

We have an amazing group of students, amazing student leaders, and one of the best staff teams I've ever served with. The past year couldn't be possible without them. 

Many college campuses are moving forward with the 'hybrid-campus' model where on-campus AND online classes are both offered with on-campus classes being around 10% - 20% of the classes offered. This spring, Richland College will again be 100% online. Even though I deeply want to be on campus again, I am encouraged by our awesome fall semester and am looking forward to the spring! 

Thank you all so much for your continual support and for believing in our mission to meet students & love students on :) 

I hope that these pictures below encourage you wherever you are. I am grateful for each and every one of you and the many ways that you've been supporting me! 

 My good friend, Dr. Mary Poplin, came into town a few weeks ago so she and I grabbed lunch. She came and spoke at our November 2019 Pizza Theology event and the students absolutely loved it. I am glad to have connected with such a brilliant woman of God! She has become a dear friend of mine. 

At our end-of-the-semester Thursday Night Thunder, we got to celebrate with one another through having a meaningful Christmas Service, dinner, and then Karaoke/Board Games. Our students love to party with each other! I'm grateful for each and every one of them! 

Our worship team did an especially great job! Bridgett and Ashley did a great job planning out the evening and we even had a great choir made up of students come along and help us with the singing! 


Valentin, one of my favorite students of all-time, came back to Richland Thursday night and hung out with us. I am thankful for him and his heart! He has since transferred from Richland College and now attends UT Arlington FOCUS. He is doing awesome over there! Love him!


(from left to right) Matthew, Simon, and Valentin! Love these students so much!

Our end-of-the-semester Christmas service was a success! I loved getting to be with all of our students and it was a very meaningful way to end the semester. 

(from left to right) Dayo, Ricky, Simon, and Lucas. I'm grateful for all of our students and their heart toward one another!

This semester I have loved getting to watch our other Richland FOCUS staff and apprentices get to preach & share with our students. In this picture, Ashley Obregon, one of our FOCUS apprentices is preaching on - How to love God with our mind! Our students have been so attentive and appreciative of when reading or hearing God's word! 

This year I have had the privilege of leading our Men's Wednesday 2pm Bible Study. The students who show up are attentive, excited, and engaged. Even though it is difficult at times to hear what the others are sharing (due to wearing masks), our guys have still been consistent and have had an open heart to one another!


Thank you so much for your support and for believing in me! I'm so honored to know that you are all there with me when I am on-campus loving & meeting students. It means even more to me to know that even though campus is 100% online you are all still there side-by-side with me as we love & serve college students.

Please don't hesitate to let me know if you have anything in your life that you need prayer for! I'm here for you!

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A Long Semester Felt Pretty Short :)

My friends! My team!

Thank you for your time reading this :) As I sit in this coffee shop and type my blog I am filled with many emotions. It's hard to believe that we have only a couple of months left of 2020 and the semester is coming to a close.

I love getting to work with the amazing students and staff in my life. They are courageous, kind, bold, and attuned to what God is doing around them. I've always struggled with thankfulness - I can be more pessimistic than I am optimistic - I can be more negative than I am positive - I can be more hostile than I am warm; these are some of my 'natural tendencies' and I have seen God grow and develop me in. 

I can honestly say that right now I am optimistic. I am positive. I am warm towards what our ministry and communities are going through. Our students have responded jumped into the year in stride and are opening their hearts to one another each and every week. Our leader team is warm to one another and the visitors that we have in our meetings every week. 

This has been a year to remember - not just in campus ministry but in the world at large. I hope that you all are encouraged and reminded that optimism, positivity, and warmth are all choices that you and I can make on a day-to-day basis.

Also, I released some music yesterday, my single, "Making The Best"! A song about - making the best with what we've got! 

Check it out if you've got some time: spotify:track:5wOzNpUs7Dswl7Ov8XIKL7


Enjoy the photos and THANK YOU for your support and friendship :) 

Our Tuesday afternoon co-ed core! They have done a great job building community and loving/serving one another :) 

I got to have dinner a few weeks ago with Dayo & Matthew - I enjoyed our time together. I also tried Horchata for the first time. It was delicious!

I'm thankful that I get to lead worship each week with our volunteer student worship team! They do an awesome job serving our Richland FOCUS community :)

Our Richland Men's Wednesday 2pm core! Half of us meeting in person w/ masks and the rest are via zoom. It has been encouraging and fun! 

Our ministry got together a few weeks ago for pizza theology and it was a great experience :) We watched the live-stream and discussed how to think like a Christian in society.

There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes of a pizza theology event! Thankful for Cort and Rhett for putting in all the work behind-the-scenes to love & serve the students!

Our 2020 apprentices did a great job at our 1st preaching lab! We have another one coming up soon and I'm looking forward to the experience of it as well :)

We did a Richland FOCUS Halloween Party last week and it was awesome! The costumes were very creative and we had a great time! 

We had an 'open-sharing' portion of the evening where the students got up to share what they felt "God was wanting to share through them with our community" and it was an awesome experience! We also did pumpkin paining together! 






Friday, October 2, 2020

The Best Is Yet To Come!

 My friends! My team! My squad!

Hi there, how are you? What is your name? What is your major? Have you found a group of people to connect with yet on campus? Have you had an opportunity to connect with any of the student organizations on campus? 

These are all of the questions I miss asking to the hundreds of new students I meet every year. Even though this year has been so so so different and the number of new students we've been able to meet has been little to non-existent, we are still making the best with what we've got :)

We have a SOLID group of students coming every week to our core(s) and Thursday Night Thunder meetings, we have a student worship team that serve every week and our student leader team feels closer than over. Thank you so much for believing in us and supporting our mission to make & mature disciples at Richland College (even though the campus is temporarily closed!). 

We got an email last week that informed us that this spring semester will also be online, and, to be honest, it was a little disheartening to hear but God has already been so faithful with us this fall that I'm excited to see how the Spring semester goes!



Our 2020 FOCUS apprentice did their first preaching lab and it was great! They were each given a ministry scenario to prepare a response to. I enjoyed it and they ministered to me!

FOCUS held its pizza theology, "In In Not Of It: Thinking Like A Christian In Society" and it went great! It's hard to think through difficult social-political issues but we want our students to be equipped and engaged with the world around them - I enjoyed it!

Cort (left) does an amazing job with the Audio/Visual aspects of our live stream. There are so many moving parts and we are grateful to have someone like him handling the technical aspects of what we try to pull of!

Our Richland students did an outdoor, socially-distanced watch party for pizza theology. I was encouraged and uplifted to see them all meeting together, eating pizza, and talking through issues such as race, culture, and black lives matter. 

I lead core w/ Dayo (middle) and we have our core on Wednesdays at 2:00pm. We offer an in-person socially distanced option as well as a zoom link. The students that have been attending have added so much energy and positivity to our men's side of the ministry! Love them!

From Left to Right: Jacob, Me (Sirak), Brian, and Erika - our worship team this year! Josh Soto (our apprentice from last year) has been helping some with worship as well!

Here is an updated picture of what I look like. 

Thursday Night Thunder! 

A throwback photo of me & my brother!

Peter sharing during pizza theology!

Our Tuesday afternoon co-ed core! I've enjoyed seeing this group connect & thrive with one another :)


Thank you so much for your support and for believing in our mission over the years. I could never have predicted that I would be an online campus pastor, but, here we are! Just like I wrote in my title, The Best Is Yet To Come!

Please don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions, comments, or things in your life that you need prayer for!

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak

Thursday, September 10, 2020

We Cannot Change Anything But Our Heart & Perspective

 My friends! My team!

Here we are - it's September! At this point we are moving full steam ahead into an amazing year @ Richland College! Even though our campus is 100% online this fall, we are thinking through creative and innovative ways to serve & love our students :)

This is probably the most amount of pictures that I have ever posted on a blog! I hope you enjoy :)

This year is going to be different for sure - not just for me as a campus pastor - but for everyone. Last week during our Thursday Night Thunder I asked our students: "How many of you feel that you have fully adjusted to this pandemic?" Only about 1 or 2 out of 25 students raised their hands. The majority of our students still feel disoriented and not-adjusted to this pandemic - and that is just where we're at. My gut tells me that they are not alone in how they feel. 

Our theme this year is, "A Voice In The Wilderness", and our students 100% feel like they are in a wilderness. In fact, I've accepted that we cannot change the 'wilderness' that we're in. We can't change the surroundings we are in but we can adjust our heart & perspective. We can continue to draw our students close together as we engage with each other and seek where God is working and join him.

My prayer for this year is that we, as a community would be present to each other and what God is trying to teach us about ourselves and his will for us. My fear is that we would just dig our heads into the sand and 'wait this thing out'. As far as I'm concerned - God's plan has not changed! He still is raising up a generation to raise their heads and be a voice in the wilderness :)

I know that we aren't the only ones who feel disoriented throughout this season. I hope the photos below encourage you and remind of you of what your support and partnership is going toward.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have anything in your life that you need prayer for!



Our first Richland Thursday Night in-person socially-distanced meeting! It was a good reminder to see how God has been working in the lives of our students.

We had our first men's core of the year! We did an in-person option in addition to a zoom option for our students who were joining over the internet. Our 1st core was awesome!

From left to right (Bryan, Dayo (my co-leader), and Ricky) our guys that showed up to the 1st core of the year! 

Our 1st in-person meeting of the year! We met at Huffhines park and had games, drinks & snacks for all of our students who stopped by! 


We did our first combined leader day w/ the SMU & TWU-Dallas leader teams and it was awesome! We're all smiling underneath those masks, I promise!

Sayuri & Tom were facing against each other in the final round of our rock-paper-scissors tournament! It was a fun way to get our students excited and engaged after a long day of leadership training.

Another shot of our SMU/TWU-Dallas/Richland student leader teams preparing for the school year. It was so fun to get time with them and prepare for the year together!






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Thank you so much for your support and for believing in our mission to make disciples on God's college campuses :)

I'm blown away to have you on my team side-by-side with me as we connected students to God and to each other!

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Voice In The Wilderness

My friends, my team! 

I remember hearing around March that by June things should be back to 'normal'. Little did I think that this would be our new normal. At this point it's hard to imaging anything really getting back to normal, but, if this is the context that God has called us to my prayer is that we would be faithful! 

But let me ask a question: Is what we do on campus ever considered 'normal' by any time of standard? Our routines, habits, systems...etc. may have created a sense of normalcy but the work that Christ has called us to - it's never been normal. I keep trying to remind myself of this truth as we prepare for a very un-normal school year.

The school year is just a few weeks ago and our campus, Richland College, will be 100% online this fall. All of the in-person classes that we once knew are currently a thing of the past. It is hard to envision what this semester will be like, after all, who plans on being an "online campus pastor"? 

By now we all know that zoom meetings aren't the ideal format to connect with one another, but, we are making the best with what we've got! Our FOCUS theme this year is, "A Voice In The Wilderness", and - it sure feels that is what we are: a voice in the wilderness. This year is its own type of wilderness - the unknown, unexpected, unplanned for - but, the call is the same: God calls us to be his voice. 

In the same way that John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ, we too prepare the way for his kingdom to come on his campuses. Even if things are different.

We have a great student leader team assembled this year and we are excited that they would volunteer their time as they are full-time students to also be missionaries on their campuses!



One of my dear friends and Richland FOCUS alum, Henry Pham, wanted to take me out for lunch for my birthday - he is one of my favorite people to get to spend time with. Love you Henry!

We did a couple of outdoor, socially-distant meetings before the summer ended and it was so encouraging to get time around everyone. This fall it looks like we may do more and more outdoor activities/events to maximize social distancing and the safety of our staff and students!
I got in ANOTHER car accident :) 1 month ago I was driving down Campbell rd. in Richardson when a tire came off of a trailer in front of me and hit my passenger side door. I got my car repaired and their insurance took care of everything. Just a few weeks after I got my car back, my car was hit in a parking lot by an inattentive driver. No one was hurt both times :) I suppose this is why we have car insurance :)

Another picture of the car accident.
Poor Camry. Been through a lot these last couple of months.

The students that have showed up consistently and participated have been a very encouraging source of life and community for me and my Richland team! I'm looking forward to a very different looking fall semester!


At our final Summer FOCUS meeting we had a zoom call for some of the students who were attending virtually. Maybe this will be our reality for the foreseeable future! 



Thank you so much for your support and for believing in what we're doing :) Thank you for believing in making and maturing disciples for God's glory whether or not our campus is physically open!

I would've never guessed in a million years that we would be where we are at, but, then again EVERY year at Richland College has been a surprise!

Please don't hesitate to let me know if you need prayer for anything at all!

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak