Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Virtual Campus Ministry - Our New Reality

Hey everyone? How are things going? 

I'd say that right about now we are all experiencing a collective expression of confusion, sadness, and a posture of curiosity at how our current situation will play out over time. One month ago I would have never thought that the work I do as a campus missionary would fully transition into virtual 1on1 meetings, core small groups, and TNT large group meetings. Everything has been moving so fast and we are all continually accepting our new reality. 

Last week during our 1st virtual TNT, we talked about Acts 8 which says in verses 4-8: 

"Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in the city." 

Right now - it feels as if we, as a ministry are scattered. Though we are only a few minute's drive from one another we still feel scattered as we are confined to our homes and apartments. The immediate question I had when this new reality began to sink in was: "What will our response be?" 

Will we preach the word wherever we go? Will we stay connected and encourage others to remain connected to the word and each other? Or will we let circumstances determine our character? This is going to be a stretching time for many - and I am realizing that even though the reality of what we are going through is different than anything we have ever seen before - the rhythm doesn't have to change. 

Thanks to technology - we still can meet, we still can worship, we still can engage with one another to preach the word wherever we go. Please be praying for our staff & our students as we continue to press forward in the last 5-6 weeks of the school year. Pray that we would finish strong and continue to live by faith.

Thank you for your support - I hope that you're encouraged by the photos below!


One of the highlights of my week has been getting with Josh (top left) and Dayo (bottom). They are some of my favorite people to be around and connect with. They lead core together on Wednesdays @ 1:30pm - thankful for these guys!


Our first Thursday 2pm core done virtually. These guys were all so happy to get together and connect about how everyone is doing. We read scripture together and encouraged one another to stay connected during these times.

One of the last pics we took at our Thursday Night Thunder gathering (before the schools closed down). Miss seeing these students!

We have an awesome incoming group of FOCUS apprentices that are about to graduate with their bachelor's degrees and step on as campus missionaries this fall. Please pray for them as they begin their journey fundraising!

Sandra (top right) began a weekly Tuesday scripture reading and it has been going so well! The students are engaged and excited to read scripture together and connect on what they are reading. Awesome! 

This was a shot of our virtual TNT that we had last week! It was so different than anything I have ever expected, but, I know that as we continue to step forward in hope & trust God will help us make the best of what we've got! Thank the Lord for technology!


Thank you all for your support and partnership during these troubling times for so many. Please if you have anything in your life that you'd like prayer for - do not hesitate to contact me; I'd be honored to pray for you!

Thank you for believing in what we do on campus - we couldn't do this without you!

Your brother & campus missionary,


Sirak

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

February Finished Well :)

My friends! My team! How are you?

Thank you so much for your support and believing in us this year :)

We've only got about 8 weeks left in the semester before summer hits and I don't think that things are going to be slowing down at all. Our students are engaged, committed, and willing to finish the semester strong! Please be praying for us as we wrap up the semester with our SICM invites, our student leader team conversations, and our last few Thursday Night Thunder meetings!

It was around last year that we began our Thursday Night Thunder meetings. A year has flown by and I am so encouraged by how God has used Thursday Nights on campus to open up the hearts of our students. We only have 7 left and then the semester ends!

Thank you for your support! I hope you enjoy the photos below of what your support & partnership is going toward!

From left to right: Dayo, KB, Rinsy, Josh, Ranelle, and Lydie! These are such an amazing group of students! We had a space jam movie night and they stayed out and kept pizza rolls coming in for the people watching the movie! 

Thank you so much for your support and for believing in what we do! We couldn't do this without you :)

Our Thursday Night Thunder meetings have been going so well! The students are engaged and building a very special community on campus! 

Josh Soto, my wonderful amazing apprentice did a great job preaching a couple of weeks ago! He preached on, "Do Hard Things: Seek Advice from Wise People" and our students loved it!

Two weeks ago we got to have a combined service w/ SMU FOCUS and it was awesome! They were amazing hosts for us and welcomed us with open arms :) Grateful for them! 

Amber, our staff member @ SMU/TWU-Dallas preached on Silence/Solitude and it was great! Thank you Amber for doing an awesome job :) God spoke through you! 

I'm so thankful for this group of students that I get to lead core for each week. They are so attentive, energetic, and add so much to our core experience! 


Thank you all so much for your support! I'm honored to get to serve on God's college campuses and I'm grateful to have each of you on my team :)

Please don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions/comments about anything!

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak

Monday, February 3, 2020

2020 Is Rolling Forward!

My friends :)

Hi, hello, greetings, cheers!

Life consists of...rhythms. Wake up. Brush teeth. Put on clothes. Drive somewhere. Do stuff. Drive back. Take off clothes. Brush teeth. Go to sleep. For many of us...these rhythms are important because, in a way, they enable us to do the things we need to do in order to get going on with life. These rhythms, for a lot of us, are mindless...monotonous...routine. But, as soon as this rhythm is messed up or shaken, we immediately notice and do everything in place to get back on our rhythms.

Campus ministry has a rhythm to it. It has a certain routine and cadence about it. I used to think that campus ministry was unique in its rhythm, but, it really isn't. Much of life is rhythmic and, one would say that this rhythm is even instilled in creation through the seasons, calendar, and even the rotation of the earth. Here's a question: can something seemingly predictable still be sacred and holy?

This question was on my mind because...going into winter camp if I'm being honest, it felt like another event - another activity - another thing to do. Now, winter camp is arguably our most anticipated and exciting event of the year, as it should be, but, for some reason, it didn't have the excitement that it had in previous years for me. 

Don't get me wrong, winter camp was awesome! Our students arrived safely, the sessions were awesome, the free-time was well spent, the walk & talks were great, but, still, I sensed that something was different.

I had several students inform me that camp was life-changing, God spoke a particular message to them, and that they are ready to come back to campus and impact the people around them. Half-way through the weekend I was struck with this realization: even though it feels like we may be going through another rhythm, or going through the motions of an event, or even sensing the predictability of life...God is still at work

We're often tempted to take credit when it is beneficial, assign blame when it isn't, remember our successes while dismissing our failures. When this gets old we may have moments of boredom or confusion. I think that maybe I went into camp with pride and arrogance expecting it to be awesome because of how good I am. But, camp is always only good because of how good God is.

As the Psalmist reminds us:

"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127:1) // I pray that we would be aware of the rhythms that we are in and that we would stay present in them. They are not mindless and they are not pointless. God is working in them!

Enjoy the pictures, my friends: 



Our Richland FOCUS ministry! These students have been such a blessing in my life and I love that I get to see them pursue Christ with each other!
One of my favorite students in our Richland ministry is Jacob. (see student with Saxophone) He is an extremely talented Saxophone player and I LOVED getting to see him play it (even if it was towards the back of the room). Jacob is great!

We had our first Thursday Night Thunder of the year and it went great! Thankful for each and every one of these students. 

All of our FOCUS Campuses! Thank you so much for making this winter camp a success!


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 that I get to have such an awesome team supporting me as we build his kingdom here on earth! :)





Your brother & campus missionary,


Sirak

Monday, January 6, 2020

Each Year Is A New Opportunity

My friends! :)

How are things?

In case you haven't noticed, we have officially arrived in 2020! I was reflecting on where I was 20 years ago: halfway through my 6th grade year at Bowman Middle School and thinking to myself, "I wonder what I'll be doing in 20 years?" I don't think I would've ever thought I'd be a missionary to college students! But, such is life. I'm grateful for the many decisions, twists, and turns that have led to where I am now.

Question: Are we in control of our lives? I think that we can answer this in 2 parts. Part 1: If we think about the future, we'd ideally love to assume that we are in control of the outcome of where we are heading. Part 2: If we think about the past, we see the reality that life is a complex combination of decisions we've made, random chance occurrences, and everything else in-between.

One of the things I love about college ministry is getting to meet new students on a consistent basis. Yes, I love getting to meet them - I also love getting to hear their stories, I love learning about their family backgrounds, and piecing together all the stuff that led to them crossing paths with me. As I get to know them better, it encourages me to think that God was involved along the way leading up to that particular moment.

Some of the students I've met along the way have become some of the dearest friends of mine in my life. Others have gone to break my heart and hurt me. It encourages me to think that God is still involved along the way.

What does 2020 hold? I do not know...or understand to be quite honest. Even as a pastor I still struggle at times with questions about God and his providence; how involved he is in the day to day operations and actions of my life in addition to if I really am in control of my life or if he is...

I am, however, encouraged to trust and have faith that he is involved along the way. I am encouraged to trust that he will be just as involved in 2020 as he has ever been in the years before.

December was a restful month and I hope that you're all encouraged by the photos and stories! Thank you for your support and for believing in me and our mission!

I've been missing seeing our students since the break! It'll be good to see them for our FOCUS winter camp :) Looking forward to it! 

I can't wait for the year to get started up again and kick off our Thursday Night Thunder meetings! These have been such an encouragement to me every week.  
Our end-of-the-year dinner party was fun! We all got to eat with each other and learn about the culture of one another. It was fun!


Another picture of our end-of-the-year party!

Three students: Kendall, Kiden, and Evan are transferring so we gathered around them to pray. We are going to miss them but we know that God will be moving in their lives as they continue to grow and learn. 

I've been supervising an intern this year, Josh Soto. He's done such an awesome job learning and growing into such an awesome college pastor. This is a picture of him preaching to his fellow apprentices and the other FOCUS staff. He did an awesome job and it's been a blessing having him on our team. 

Our Richland FOCUS leader team! Grateful for these students and their hearts to serve our campuses. 

Brady Bobbink, college pastor in Bellingham, Washington; came and spoke to our FOCUS staff for staff retreat. We spent our retreat sessions asking him questions about ministry and life. It was great!

After staff retreat, Brady spoke to our family of churches and it was awesome! I got to stay with Brady and his wife Shirley at SICM last year and they are amazing hosts and we are blessed to have them as a resource.  


Thank you for believing in me all of these years and for your consistent partnership :) I'm grateful to have you on my team :)

Please be praying as we prepare for winter camp! We still have a week to get students to sign-up and prepared!

Until next time -

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year :)

My friends! My team! 

Thank you so much for your support and for your partnership :) I can't believe that 2019 is almost coming to a close. I'm grateful for your friendship and for God's faithfulness. God has been so faithful this semester and we are grateful for the way he has been moving in our ministry. 

Be on the lookout for our FOCUS Christmas Cards coming in in the mail! One thing that God has been teaching me recently has come out the book of John. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35). At our end of the year Christmas party, we got to hang out with one another and watch our students share with one another a potluck and share stories from the year. They really do love one another! And that is an answer to prayer! There was a time in our ministry where I was the main person who was keeping all of the students connected to one another. That time has passed! The students love on one another and I can just see God's faithfulness in that!

Thank you for believing in us and walking side-by-side with us on campus. I hope you enjoy the photos and I hope that you're encouraged! Your prayers and financial partnership mean so much to me! 


Our Richland FOCUS apprentice, Josh, doing a great job leading announcements!

Dr. Mary Poplin, of Claremont College came to Pizza Theology at UTD and she did a great job speaking at Pizza Theology: Is Reality Secular? Our students really enjoyed what she had to share throughout the evening.

Our FOCUS apprentice last year, Jesse Bales, got married! He's one of my favorite dudes :) Congrats Jesse! His wedding was kind of a reunion of sorts with all of our Richland FOCUS peoples!

We did an outreach called, "Free Life-Advice" and it went so well! Our students were very engaged with the topic!

Our Thursday Night Thunder group! I love these students :)

Our Richland FOCUS leader team! So grateful for this team :)

Our end-of-the-semester Christmas dinner. It was good and fun to spend time with them! We had a potluck and the students were so eager to hang out with each other and have fun!



With every semester we get to meet new students and spend time with them! Every year we say goodbye to some students and send them off. This year we said goodbye to Evan, Kiden, and Kendall. They are all transferring to different universities and we are going to miss them!

Thanks so much for your support! Please don't hesitate to ask me if you need prayer for anything going on in your life!

Until next time - Your brother and campus missionary,

Sirak

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Cold Season is Among Us!

What's up my friends?

Only 2 months left of 2019? Scary to think about but, it is true.

I remember the cold of January - April - the months that we began having Thursday Night Thunder and meeting a new (and amazing!) group of students. I remember April through July - the months of preparing for SICM (our leadership training conference), fundraising through the summer, and preparing for the school year. I remember August - September - the craziness of welcome week, inviting (it seemed) more students than we ever have before to FOCUS @ Richland, and as I reflect now on October/November - I see one thing: God's kingdom being built on campus.

I'm no architect or civil engineer but, I've heard from many different sources that when you want to build something that lasts, it's important to start off with a solid foundation. The foundation is very important to the overall structure of the building.

There are times when I wish our ministry was already 'there' or already 'arrived' (whatever that even means, hah!) - but, I know that the 'there' or 'arrivedness' (is that even a word?) of right now may just be this: to lay a foundation. Reflecting on the previous months, I see that God was doing just that: building a foundation. Students that have shown up over the last couple of weeks are only aware of what they have experienced in the last 2 weeks. But, the truth is: what they've experienced over the last 2 weeks is thanks to what we've done in the past: laid the foundation.

I suppose that is what most of ministry is: laying a foundation for more people to stand on. Building a stream for more people to drink from. Laying a path that more people can walk on. And finally - helping build a kingdom that more people can be invited into.

Thank you so much for your support and for the way that you've believed in me over the years. I am grateful and filled with joy every time I think of you and how your partnership has pushed our campus ministry deeper into his presence :)

Enjoy the photos!


Elson, a student who has shown up to Richland FOCUS in the past few weeks has been consistent and great to have in our group. He found us through our google calendar that we post our events on! Thank God for technology!

Josh Soto, my ministry apprentice that I have been supervising has done an awesome job this year with helping @ Richland. He has been leading worship, leading our Wednesday 1:30pm Men's core and has done an amazing job serving the students :) Thankful for this dude!



Our Wednesday, 1:30pm core!
Our Thursday 4:30pm core!


Thankful for all of the students who show up on Thursday nights! 

Tom Miller, a good friend of our ministry, preached a couple of weeks ago on the Love of God. The students greatly appreciated what he had to say and he has been such a light to our group :) Thankful for Tom! 

This is a picture for MONTHS ago of me praying for Sandra before she preached :) Thankful for her!

Our campus is very ethnically diverse and after our Halloween party, several students from Nigeria began playing music from their homeland :) Let me tell you: they.can.dance. It was fun and - I'm pretty sure that they could've kept dancing until 2 or 3am. Who knew?


Thank you so much for your time and partnership :) I'm so grateful for your friendship and financial support! The fall semester is coming to a close but we've still got a lot of great things planned :)

If you have any prayer requests, please don't hesitate to let me know!

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak

Friday, October 4, 2019

October is Here! (Lots of pics!)

My friends! My team!

How's it going? I hope you are all doing well and that the month of September was restful and peaceful for you. You know, what? I was thinking recently about God's presence and the question of: What does it look like exactly to invite people into God's presence? 

I used to think that it meant 1) inviting people to church 2) inviting people to core (or, small group) 3) asking people to hang out/study the Bible with you 4) pray together 5) (insert spiritual activity here).

This is a question that many students are consistently asking me and wanting the ultimate 'guru advice of'. How do I experience God's presence? Sometimes I want so bad to be able to tell my students: "THIS: __________________ is how you do it. And then, you'll be 100% done!" - But, it doesn't simply work like that.

There are moments in my life that I can look back on and think: "Wow, I was in God's presence that entire time and I didn't even know it." - Almost as if God was beckoning me into his presence time and time again but I may have just been ignorant to his call, busy with life, concerned with the worries of my everyday stress, and other reasons.

Some of these moments could've been the 1st core I ever led as a student, my first fall camp, my first 1on1 bible study with a leader, and other reasons. As I reflect on the past month, I can see that God is calling his students to be in his presence time & time again - and, here's the twist: he is with us. He is inviting us into his presence. 

I imagine someone who is wondering whether or not they're invited to a party. They may sit around and wait for an invitation, pace back & forth in stress, prepare their outfit, wonder who is going to be there...but...ultimately it is dependent on whether or not they're invited. God has already invited us to his party: his presence. I hope that these photos are encouraging and a great reminder of the students who are responding to his invitation to his presence. Cheers!

Thank you so much for your donations and prayer - your support means the world to me!


Our student group that came to Fall Camp! Love them!

So thankful for our student leader team :)

I get the privilege to teach/preach every week at Thursday night Thunder - this year we have such a special group of students. They are excited, attentive, and ready to engage with God!

Our Wednesday, 1:30pm men's core! Dayo & Josh do such a great job leading these guys.

One of our student leaders, KB, sharing at Thursday Night Thunder. She is such a strong woman of God who we are grateful for. She is at Richland for her sophomore year and is doing a great job leading our students :)

We got to have dinner with each other at Richland Fall Camp and it was awesome! We took communion together afterward and it was a very fun and meaningful experience together. 

Howard Wang (see bottom right...) took this photo. Not sure what I am doing here, haha. Maybe preaching? Maybe singing? Maybe providing commentary on everyone eating breakfast? 

I get to lead core with Kendall (top back right) and he does such a great job with our guys. I've really enjoyed spending time with all of them on Thursdays @ 4:30pm. They are always excited and ready to learn together!
We had our students lead YIA (You In Action!) time at FOCUS! Love them



Thank you again so much for your support and believing in our mission! I can't believe that it's already October - the year has been off to such an amazing start and I'm blown away that I get to work with such amazing students and staff.

Please don't hesitate if you have anything in your life that you would like prayer for.

Until next time,

Your brother & campus missionary,

Sirak