Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Christian Challenge April Update!


Dear Friends and Family,

Happy Spring!

We are still finding ourselves with 3-4 feet of snow piled up outside our front door but are thankful God has provided just what our area has desperately needed.


There are three weeks left in the semester at this point, and we thought we would check in. We wanted you to share in our joy of answered prayers from the last letter and thank you for praying!

Victoria came to faith in Jesus! This is so exciting. She has been hanging out with us for the past three year taking it all in. She has seen and heard about Jesus and who He is in many of our lives. I love how God uses the body of Christ to minister in different ways for someone to get a fuller picture of who He is and ultimately to draw that person to Himself.

Days after sending the last letter, a connection was made with Rikako and Jenny, a Christian Challenge graduate from Grand Junction who is living in Japan as a missionary right now. The craziest part is that they had met years ago at our January Life Impact Conference at Glen Eyrie where 300 college students from all over the state and country gather, back when Rikako was in the states. During this conference, they break students up into prayer groups for the week with students from multiple campuses. Jenny and Rikako were in the same prayer group! You guys, this is not only an answer to prayer but it’s over and beyond! Japan has a lot of prefectures. Rikako lives twelve hours from Tokyo. Guess where Jenny is serving? In Rikako’s town! They have been meeting ever since and reading the Bible together. We are overjoyed with this news.

Another answered prayer is that the snowblower and camera sold to help pay off the past Peru mission trip and our taxes! God always takes care of us. The camera sold to a pastor up in Denver as a present for his wife and we were able to sell the snowblower to family in town. We were glad that we could help out our spiritual family and physical family. And it was nice to know that the snowblower was a big help to family with all the snow our area received this winter.

My Sabbatical is going well! I appreciate the love and support I have received from many of you. It means the world to me to know you all are praying and behind us in this season. I’m starting to slowly come out of burn out. I’m hearing the Lord. I am absolutely loving being at home. I find great joy in extended time with the Lord daily, planning/cooking healthy meals, cleaning the house, organizing, being creative, and finding my own rhythm. I actually have energy for date day adventures and connecting more intentionally with Mike. We have been able to do weekly dates and are just enjoying a more relaxed pace as we are not running in opposite directions, running on fumes.


These few months, God has been re-establishing my foundation; reminding, showing, teaching me, and anchoring me. I have sensed the shift has now come and I will be moving into the next phase, which is facing my losses and grieving, and walking through that with a counselor. The truth is that infertility is just part of a long line of significant loss throughout my life that’s been buried and unresolved. I am grateful for this beautiful gift of slowing down and hearing the Lord without deadlines or strict timelines. I have desired to live at a slower, more simpler pace, and this has given me that opportunity.

Mike has continued on campus and in January started up a Sunday night worship service. God has put this on his heart, and he’s faithfully stepped out to walk in it. I absolutely love and admire this about Mike. He hears the Lord and obeys, no matter how hard it can be and no matter the unknowns. He is doing a trial run before a full launch this coming fall. He has met new students and had opportunities to have deeper spiritual conversations. As you pray for Mike this week, send him a note of encouragement as a boost for the last 3 weeks of school. You can Facebook him, email him or send him snail mail.


In sad new unfortunately, our young and super sweet cat, Snowie, passed away. We believe that she contracted a fatal virus before we ever took her home from the shelter just under a year and a half ago. She was a great little ministry cat that our students loved...even those with bad cat allergies.


At the beginning of last month, we had spring break and a group of 10 headed off to Juarez, Mexico spending their break serving and loving at the James. R. Ganley Mission School. They spent their days building, loving the kids, and bringing encouragement and refreshment to the missionaries running it. I miss being able to partake.


After returning, one of our Japanese students who had been on the trip, Rinna, accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior! We are so excited! Her grandparents back in Japan are actually Christians and have been praying for her and planting seeds her whole life. We've been able to continue that after meeting her at the beginning of the year. She has been very interested in learning more about Jesus and the Bible during her time here. Turns out, when she returns to Japan, her college is mere blocks from a missionary we know there who is already discipling some of our past students. We're excited to see how God works in her life once she returns home!

This past weekend, we had our Christian Challenge Spring Getaway. It went really well. The focus was mental health from a Biblical perspective. We brought in Darrin Crow who runs Christian Challenge at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. He is also a professional counselor so he was able to tap into that background to share with our students. (If his last name sounds familiar to you, Darrin is also the father of one of our former students, Blythe, who is still running her ministry, She has a Name, in Africa to rescue women out of sex-slavery, and additionally now helping her dad lead Challenge in Junction.) Our students were able to take away a lot from the weekend.


Thank you for making all this possible and being part of God’s Kingdom advancement in the lives of college students. We don’t take for granted your sacrifice to entrust your resources to the Lord and His Kingdom.

We appreciate each one of you and the part you play in reaching college students with the good news of Christ! Because of you, many have heard for the first time. Many have come into the Kingdom. Many have been supported in their journey. We are so thankful for that!

If you would like to give for the on-going ministry happening at Fort Lewis, please go to: Give Now.

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

Prayer Requests:

- Praise God for the students we have seen come to salvation!Along with Rinna and Victoria coming to the Lord, we also had a third student come to the Lord recently. While our staff member, Ryan, was out starting up spiritual conversations with students around campus, he was able to share his faith with a student and that guy eventually accepted Jesus!

- Pray that God would continue to grow our current student-leaders and provide us with new ones to replace those graduating at the end of this year. It's so important to have student-leaders who buy in to what the ministry is doing.

- Pray for our students that God would continue growing them and keeping them strong in their faith. On the surface, it wouldn't seem like Fort Lewis would be an easy place for that to happen but despite that, God is still working in our students lives.

- Pray that God would help us learn how to connect better with the new generation of students that are starting to arrive on campus. We are now seeing Generation Z show up and they are very different than students we have seen in the past. They are a generation that has grown up with technology. It influences how they ask questions, how they seek information, and how they interact with community.

- Praise God for a fruitful Life Impact Conference where our students were able to learn and grown in their faith!

- Pray for Rachel as she finishes up her sabbatical. Pray that she would find rest, healing, and growth in Christ as she finishes up her time away from the ministry.

- Being Christians, we are in a spiritual battle. When you do ministry, you become a bigger target in that battle. Keep praying for us and our team that God would protect us from any spiritual attacks. Pray that God would give us the strength and encouragement to endure. Also pray for everyone praying for our ministry because when you pray for the ministry, you become a bigger target as well.

- Over the years, our staff has had a lot of health issues that can really be a discouragement. Pray that God would keep our staff safe and healthy.

- With the size of our staff, it's easy for personalities to bump into each other and rub each other the wrong way. Keep praying for our team that it would continue to mesh well.

- There are going to be a lot of changes in some of the ministries on campus. Some staff members are moving on and new ones are coming in. Please pray that despite the coming changes, the different ministries on campus would have unity, being team players, with the common goal reaching FLC with the Gospel.

- God seems to be narrowing down where He might want us with mission trips this summer. We plan on having a more finalized idea of that by our next update. Please be praying that God would give us wisdom and discernment as we listen for His plans for us this summer.

- Pray that Rachel and I would not neglect the ministry that is our marriage. We can be much more successful in our college ministry if our marriage is in a good place but it's easy to put that on the back burner when things get busy.

- Praise God that our snowblower and camera sold! We're thankful that it helped us pay off the Peru trip.

- Pray that God would open the door for us to partner with more churches and individuals. Rachel and I trust God to provide for us and the ministry but we'd appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs would be met. If you would like to give for the on-going ministry happening at Fort Lewis, please go to: Give Now.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Lessons from Handies Mountain


We had been training all summer. We’d been running, hiking, and climbing. This adventure would be the culmination of all that training. It was our last climb before our journey into the high mountains of Peru. This was our highest training elevation before we headed into the Andes.

Our plan was to make the long drive up to the trailhead of Handies, one of the many fourteeners in Colorado. We’d camp for the night and then climb the mountain the next morning. Hopefully, we’d summit and be back down at the vehicle before thunderstorms moved in.

Our team assembled mid-afternoon. We loaded up my Xterra and headed north. Driving the many mountain passes like Coalbank and Molas, we ran into a lot of rain. It continued as we drove thru the town of Silverton and back into the wilderness. Things were not looking good. We had a much more dangerous pass ahead of us, and rain or snow could make it treacherous.


Thankfully, as soon as we arrived at Animas Forks, an old mining ghost town, the rains stopped and the clouds parted. It was perfect timing. Cinnamon Pass stood right before us. It would be slick but not nearly as dangerous as it could have been had it continued to rain or snow.

As we ascended the pass, the engine struggled thru the thin air while we climbed above treeline. The road was extremely narrow with plenty of rocky bumps and switchbacks. As we arrived at the top of the pass, things smoothed out a bit.



After taking in all the beauty of the surrounding mountains, we descended until we eventually made the turn into American Basin. There, the road became rocky again but it was only for a short while. We would be at the trailhead in no time.


Once arriving, we unloaded the Xterra and started setting up camp. I was just going to sleep in the Xterra. The ladies on the team would share a tent. We needed to get that set up before the sun went down and temperatures dropped.

As I looked around after getting our camp set up, I noticed that we had the place to ourselves. For me, it’s such a freeing feeling to be someplace so beautiful and not have strangers there to disturb you. It was just our team and the quiet of God’s Creation.

I was feeling so free that when I had to use the restroom, I decided it would be safe to go on the other side of the Xterra. Being that we had ladies on the team, I was trying to be a gentleman and put a vehicle between my business and their tent. It’s not like there was an indoor bathroom or even a tree to go behind so I did the best I could.

As I began peeing, I saw a house in the far distance. Even though it was probably just an uninhabited vacation home, I started to wonder if they’d be able to see me. After pondering it for a moment, I realized that I was probably safe from their view due to the distance. I thought, “That’s good, I’m not flashing anybody.”


And then I lowered my eyes from the cabin to see a woman walking up the road. She was certainly close enough. Guess I was flashing someone. She was probably as shocked as I was. The moment I noticed her, she did the “look up at all the mountains and pretend she didn’t see anything” move.

At that point, you can’t stop mid-stream. I couldn’t turn and risk possibly flashing one of the ladies on my team if they had exited their tent. Scarring one person was enough. No need to scar multiple people. So our stranger was just going to have to keep looking up at the beautiful mountains until I was done.

I had tried to be so careful. So much for being a gentleman. I was listening for other vehicles and heard nothing. Why would someone be hiking up the road that late in the afternoon? Well, she was scouting ahead for a vehicle that was following her. Guess we weren’t going to have the place to ourselves. Thankfully, they set up their camp quite aways from us so that we still had peace and quiet…and we didn’t have to awkwardly interact with each other after getting far more views than she probably was expecting. (This is probably far more information than the reader was expecting too. Don’t worry. You’ll survive…and maybe you’ll laugh a little too. I know I did.)

After that interesting experience, we sat down and had a simple dinner of hot dogs. Probably my favorite camp food. So simple, so salty. We finished the night off with some banana boats. We threw in some chocolate chips and marshmallows, and cooked them over the stove. Mine was actually pretty awful…but the ladies liked theirs. I just don’t think bananas should be hot…or burnt. I know, I’m so picky.


The ladies headed to bed early after dinner and dessert. They were planning on getting up in the middle of the night and summiting for sunrise. They tried to convince me to do it but I value my sleep…especially if I’m the one driving back on sketchy passes the next day. Let’s be honest. When you’re 35 years old, a good nights sleep is just as beautiful as a mountaintop sunrise. So I stayed up until midnight watching the stars and the moon. There was supposed to be a lunar eclipse that night as well but it turns out, I was in the wrong part of the world to see it. But hey, I got to see some shooting stars instead which is always exciting.

When I woke up the next morning as the sun was coming up, I saw our ladies sitting in their sleeping bags in their camping chairs. Apparently, they got lost on their way up the mountain in the darkness. They lost the trail and eventually decided to turn back. They’d still get a chance to summit with me when I finally got out of my sleeping bag which would be an hour or so later. Being that the sun was not up enough for my liking though, I pulled my sleeping bag over my head and tried to get a little more shuteye. Sorry ladies, I need my beauty sleep.

The next time I popped my head out of the bag, I noticed that the parking lot was no longer a quiet and peaceful place. We certainly no longer had it to ourselves. It was filled up to the brim and was enough to get me out of my bag before it became even more packed. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic jams on a mountain that frequently sees lightning. That said, we had a quick breakfast and were headed up trail.




As we ascended, we passed by many people. There was a group working on the trail doing general upkeep. We also passed another family from the lowlands. It was their second time attempting the mountain. The first time, they got turned around by lightning. This time, they started earlier determined to summit before the lightning moved in. We passed by them and wished them good luck as they stopped to take a breather.

Being that I had climbed the mountain before, I noticed that the trail had been redirected since our last summit. This is what probably led to the ladies getting off trail in the dark. My wife followed where the old trail was, not the new trail. It’s an easy mistake to make in the dark.

But we wouldn’t get lost this time. The trail and the stream of people made it really easy to find. About halfway up, we passed by a beautiful high alpine lake. Many people stopped to grab a rest and take in the beauty but we kept pushing ahead.


Our weather was perfect at the time, blue bird skies with not a cloud in the sky. But we knew that the weather up on the mountain can change rapidly. We knew that lightning storms could build or blow in at anytime, and we wanted to be off the summit before that happened so we pushed on. We thought, we can always stop on the way back down if the good weather continues to hold.


The higher we ascended, the more our fellow climbers began to struggle. Their lungs battled at that elevation with the thin air to pull in enough oxygen for their bodies just to take another step. After all of our summer training, even the ladies on our climbing team began to slow. That’s when I saw the trail widen to allow room for passing. I also saw the summit. It was so close. Seeing it gave me a shot of adrenaline. There would be no stopping. There would be no rest. I was climbing with speed. I could feel the effects of the thin air on my body but a stubbornness to fight against the effects of that harsh environment I was in would not hold me back as I stormed my way to the summit.


Once reaching the summit, I took notice of my surroundings. I saw beautiful views. I saw big groups of people who had also summited. I checked on the ladies to see their progress. I then checked the weather. There were some small clouds starting to form in the distance but it didn’t seem like anything to worry about. Even if they did build into a thunderstorm, we’d have plenty of time to enjoy the summit and get off of it before any danger moved in. With us in the clear and not worried too much about the weather, I was able to snap some pictures and have good conversation with the many others that had made the climb. One guy had just gotten back from the Andes so we had an especially interesting conversation.



After my arrival fifteen minutes later, the ladies on our team reached the summit. They were tired but happy to be on top. We celebrated with a team picture. As the ladies sat down to the lunches they had packed, I spent the time exploring the summit some more looking at other possible routes for future ascents. I even got a little jog on the top in to push my body a little more. I knew I needed all the exercise I could get in preparation for Peru. So I figured that as long as I was above 14,000 feet, I might as well push myself a little more. I always feel good running downhill or on the flats but it’s the uphills that will really make you feel it especially at that elevation.


After I returned to the team eating lunch, I grabbed a few bites to eat as well. That’s when I looked up to see that the small clouds I had seen earlier were no longer small. They were growing and growing fast. It also seemed like their direction had shifted, and they were now heading our way. Despite still being under blue skies and thinking that we had plenty of time, I told the ladies to pack up and start heading down. I was going to stay up top and snap a few more pictures of the coming storm and then catch up with the team.



As the rest of the team descended, I pulled out my phone to snap four more pics. With that, I put my phone away and decided it was time to go. I thought, “I need to catch up with the ladies before they put too much distance between them and me.” It was at that moment that I started to feel something strange on my hands. It started out as tiny sensations of cold. My first thought was that maybe it was starting to drizzle a bit. Then the sensation turned into what felt like my hands tingling.



Lastly, I felt not just a tingling but I was getting shocked. I was getting zapped as if someone was dragging their feet over carpet to build static and reached out to shock me, only these were multiple zaps quickly over and over again. I instantly knew what that meant. Though the storms had not reached the summit yet, a storm was building right on top of the summit as I was standing there. The air was becoming electrified. It meant that I was in great danger of getting struck by lightning. It meant it was time to get the heck out of there and fast.


By then, there were only four other climbers with me on the summit. All others had already started heading down. I quickly explained to them was was happening and sternly told them, “It’s time to go!” Two of them started running down the mountain. And the other two didn’t seem too concerned. It seemed like they were going to wait for the rest of their party to reach the summit. They jumped on their walkie-talkies to radio down. What they said, I’ll never know, because I didn’t stay long enough to find out. I had warned them and wasn’t about to stick around to lecture them on the dangers of lightning on mountain tops. Like I said earlier, it was time to go. My priority was racing down to our ladies and getting them down off the mountain quickly and safely. I jumped in right behind the two who wisely heeded my warning and were sprinting down the mountainside.

Being that we were moving with speed, I quickly reached my other team members. They were actually putting on their rain jackets when I found them. I remember vividly crouching with them on the mountainside as they finished putting on their jackets hoping that we had descended enough to be in safety. I was no longer getting shocked but I knew we still needed to descend quickly to get out of danger. As I waited, I explained what had happened while thunder began rumbling over the summit. The storm was still building, and we needed to keep descending. We could also see more storms heading our way.



As we were running down in the thunder and lightning, and the occasional mix of hail, sleet, snow, and graupel, we’d come across people still heading up. It was like they couldn’t see the storms. They couldn’t hear the thunder even though it was nearly right on top of them. Or maybe they could see and hear but were just ignoring it. The skies were giving them warnings, and they chose not to heed them.



Each time we’d come upon a group, I’d also warn them. I’d quickly tell them of how the air on the top of the peak had become electrified, and I was literally getting shocked. A few turned around like the lowland family we had met on the way up. They were so close to the summit. They were even closer than they were the first time they tried to climb the mountain. Looking at his family, the dad asked, “What do you think?” Their daughter let out a quick, “Nope!” She turned around and started heading back down. Her family soon followed.



The rest of the time descending, we spent trail running…at least when we weren’t in traffic jams. Being in deadly weather on a mountainside is not when you want to run into traffic jams. There just aren’t a lot of places to pass. Many refused to get out of the way. They couldn’t move as fast but they knew the dangers and weren’t going to step off the trail for a moment to let faster people pass. They wanted to keep moving toward safety too.



Every now and then when I’d hear thunder or see a flash of lightning, I’d glance up the mountain to see people continuing to head higher. Eventually, we had descended enough to where we felt a little safer. We could see the trailhead and our Xterra. We’d only been descending for a little over an hour. Amazing how a little lightning can speed up a descent. Soon, we slowed down to a walk, partially due to the feeling of safety and partly because we had a family with a small kid in front of us. Still, they were pushing a good pace. No need to pass them at that point…until lightning struck the summit a couple thousand feet above us.


It was the classic flash-bang where you hear the thunder as you see the flash of lightning above you. It happened a handful of times and was extremely loud due to it’s proximity. The rest of my team saw a small passing lane and bolted around the family back to the vehicle leaving me stuck behind them. The little kid was extremely freaked out. I figured if I tried to pass them too, it would have really scared the kid so I patiently stayed behind. Despite the lightning being scary close, it was hitting the highest point in the area, the summit. Being that I was almost down in the valley, I still felt fairly safe. And my hands weren’t tingling and getting shocked so I wasn’t too worried at that point…at least for my own safety.

I couldn’t help but worry for the people still on the mountain, those who continued to ascend when I warned them not to. I truly thought that I’d read a headline the next day about hikers getting struck by lightning on the mountain. They had so many warnings between the weather and my quick story of electrified air I’d share as we crossed paths. But most didn’t take it seriously. They ignored the warnings. They were deaf to the life and death consequences right before them.

Looking back on the day, it makes me wonder how often we do that with God? How often do we ignore the warnings God puts before us? I think so often, we get warnings but just ignore them. If we look and we listen, I believe that God gives us a lot of warnings throughout our lives. Not because He is just wanting to control us but because He loves us, because He is looking out for us. He’s keeping us safe. He’s helping us avoid danger. He knows what will pull us away from Him and gives us warnings so that we may not drift away from Him but draw near. All too often, we don’t head those warnings as we slowly drift away.

Many times, those warnings are also to keep us from blowing up our lives. In John 4 of the Bible, Jesus heals a guy by a healing pool and tells him to stop sinning or something worse may happen to him. I think God tells us the same thing. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you. Ezekiel 18:32 tells us that God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of any man so repent and live! He’s telling us to stop going down that path of sin we’ve been walking down. Sin leads to death. Dangers ahead! Turn around so that you may live!

Sometimes, those warnings are also to keep us from blowing up the lives of the people around us. He’s protecting them from becoming collateral damage. That is, if we heed the warnings. It reminds me of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. God sent Moses to Pharaoh to tell him to free his people or bad things would come upon Egypt. Pharaoh didn’t listen and plagues soon came upon Egypt. Each plague seemed to get worse and worse. It took ten plagues for Pharaoh to finally heed the warnings. He finally let the people go…and then quickly changed his mind sending his men to chase after them. That decision would eventually cost his men their lives in the Red Sea. There were consequences to turning a blind eye to the warnings for Pharaoh and his people. God used Moses to warn Pharaoh but his heart was too hard to believe those warnings.

God often gives us warnings of coming consequence. He reminds us that there are consequences to our actions. He convicts us. Maybe it’s thru the Bible. Maybe it’s thru a sermon. Maybe it’s thru a friend. It might even be an article online that convicts us. We know what the consequences are to certain actions. I think a lot of times, we just block it out. We don’t listen. We choose not to believe God. We think: “I can get away with it this one time. The consequences are for everyone else. I’ll be fine. I can hide it. I can outsmart it. It will never blow up in my face causing collateral damage to all those around me. I’ve got it managed.”

Luke 8:17 tells us that things which are done in darkness will come to light. Things that are done in secret will be exposed. If that’s not a solid warning, I don’t know what is. If we’re truthful with ourselves, we know that when those things are made known, there will be consequences. Sin has mental, physical, emotional, and/or spiritual consequences.

But like I said, all too often, we just don’t want to hear it. We went to do what we want to do. We want to push the limits and not in good ways. We see how far we can get to the edge without fully falling off the cliff. We think, it’s the best of both worlds. We can hold close to temptation and sin without the consequence of being fully immersed in it. We walk right up to the edge and think we’re just fine. We’re good. What a lie!

When we do that, it only takes a nudge to knock us over that edge. It doesn’t take much wind at all to send us tumbling down. If we stand at a safe distance from the edge, a nudge might make us stumble or even trip but it won’t push us over the edge. Even with a strong gust, we’re safe. Unfortunately despite warnings, a lot of us still live a life walking that edge. We like to see how close we can get to the fire without burning ourselves…and sadly we often still end up getting burnt.

Thankfully, God is extremely forgiving, gracious, and patient with us. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us of God’s patience, not wanting anyone to perish but to come to repentance. That patience doesn’t give us a reason to keep sinning though. It doesn’t give us freedom from the worldly consequences of sin. We can’t continue climbing up mountains in lightning storms ignoring the warnings of those running down the mountain. Whether we listen or not, there are consequences for us and possibly those around us. Heeding warnings won’t save us but it will save us a lot of pain in this life. So lets heed those warnings when God puts them in front of us. Turn away from the sin in our lives and turn back toward Jesus.

If we’re struggling to turn from sin, let’s find someone to walk alongside us and help us turn from that sin. There’s no shame in asking for help no matter what the sin. We may not be able to do it without help, and we certainly can’t do it without Jesus. Turn to Jesus and let Him help you turn from sin. In the end, John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came to give us an abundant life. So let’s heed warnings. Let’s find repentance, and let’s live that abundant life!

That day on the mountain ended up being pretty crazy.  It was a day that really made me think.  There were good lessons to be learned.  It was an awesome adventure.  There was danger.  There was beauty.  Big storms brought the thunder and lightning.  We certainly could have died on the mountain that day.  But we didn't.


We heeded the warnings in front of us when they became apparent and got off the mountain as soon as possible.  Sure, we still had a long drive over sketchy roads in the rain, sleet, and snow to get thru but that was nothing compared to running down a mountain in a lightning storm.  It just added to the adventure.



In listening to the warnings, we still had a lot of fun and gained a great story to tell.  With warnings, we often see them as making us miss out on something good but in reality, they direct us to something greater.  Heeding Godly warnings helps us live the abundant life Jesus came to give us and living that abundant life is a true adventure.  As someone who has adventured a lot in my life, there is truly no adventure more grand.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christian Challenge Christmas Update 2018!


Hello Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas! I hope the holidays have been and continue being a time of reflecting on God’s goodness, finding deep joy abiding in Him, and living out of that abundance. What if preparing for Christmas, it was simply about being, and beholding Him? What would your advent season look like? How would your heart be different?

The fall semester is coming to a close December 15thwith a couple of our students graduating. It is always exciting to see the next group launch into the real world and see how God continues working in and through them in their new context. We’ve been blessed with keeping in touch with almost all the students we’d had a privilege discipling over the 7 years we have been with Challenge.

On that note, recently Nick came to town for a visit after graduating two years ago. Mike had the privilege of meeting with him while he was attending Fort Lewis. We had the chance to spend the day with him in our home, hearing about the joys and hardships of life after college. He is working as an educator on a ship now and getting ready to sail to Europe with semester-at-sea high schoolers. He has been able to minister to these students but longs for Christian fellowship.


Would you pray for him? That another believer would be on his boat. And for more opportunities to love and share Jesus with these kids and fellow deckhands.

I’ve also gotten to Skype with Rikako. She’s the Japanese gal you all prayed for, got to see come to Christ and be baptized while she was at Fort Lewis. She is struggling with lack of community back home in Japan but is strong in her belief and desire to follow the Lord. She has shared Jesus with a student who is currently studying abroad with us this year.


Would you pray for a solid Christian friend her age as well as someone who will intentionally meet with her?

My favorite part of this semester has been this house God has blessed us with back in June. We call it the Tree House. In it, we’ve been able to be part of hosting the weekly student family dinners. Just recently for our Thanksgiving family dinner, we packed around 50 people into our new place. It was a good-sized group of students. We even had some new students show up.


We’ve also been able to use the house to invite one or a couple of students over at a time for dinner to love on them, have deep conversations, movie nights, fort building, baking days, meeting to read the Word, spending extended time in prayer, sharing the gospel, making cards together to give to others, etc. I thrive in this setting using the giftings and skills God has given me to give people a chance to taste and see God’s goodness in practical ways. Having smaller groups of people in our home is a way Mike and I minister well together, sitting around the dinner table intentionally engaging students.

I have some big news as well! I, Rachel, will be taking next semester off for a sabbatical. A sabbatical is not a long vacation. A true sabbatical is a season of sabbath for prolonged rest. The Biblical precedent and Christian tradition is to go on sabbatical once every seven years. Typical sabbaticals today are from one to six months long, with three being a standard. It’s an extended time in which you do not work. You step back from leading. It’s a time to BE with Jesus.

I have been discipling students for seven years as of this past November. With that, our organization encourages a sabbatical. I’ve been running on burnout for quite some time. I have not shared any of this before because it’s closely tied to walking the road of unexplained infertility. Because of this, I also feel a sense of wandering, lost direction as well as identity struggles. It is time to step back and heal.

“Eventually, after your body stops jittering, after your thoughts stop flitting about, after you start feeling your emotions, after your ideal self that performs and pleases is dismantled, after you experience your nothingness and nakedness before God, after you experience unconditional love, then you can begin to really rest in your body and soul. We’re putting the words of Psalm 23 to the test. ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ we say with David. ‘I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.’ He restores my soul. This soul restoration comes as we submit to the Lord as our Shepherd, lying down and being still in his presence.”- from Soul Shepherding, a booklet I am following for my sabbatical.

What do I need during this time? Prayer! I would love prayer to truly be grounded in my identity in Christ and how it is separate from what I do and the roles I have in this life. For heart healing and softening as I’ve allowed parts of my heart to grow cold and hard during this journey. That I would delight in the Lord, just enjoy being with Him.

Most people go away for their sabbatical, therefore leaving behind relationships and daily responsibilities. I however will be staying home so I would appreciate understanding in me being around but not available. I need this time to rest. Time spent with others will be limited, meeting for mutual edification, counseling, and encouragement along this journey.

While I go on sabbatical, Mike will continue working with Challenge on campus discipling students. He’s also got some big news. For the first time in Fort Lewis Challenge history, he’ll be launching a weekly worship night on Sunday nights. There’ll be worship and a message. This won’t change what Challenge is already doing. His hope is that this will be a stepping stone for students to jump into discipleship and the local church. This coming semester will be to see what gets traction. The plan is to do a full launch next fall with the new freshmen.

We appreciate each one of you and the part you play in reaching college students with the good news of Christ! Because of you, many have heard for the first time. Many have come into the Kingdom. Many have been supported in their journey. We are so thankful for that!

With it being the end of year, would you prayerfully consider giving a one-time end of year gift? It helps us continue on in this ministry and is tax-deductible. Or perhaps you are led to start giving monthly. Everything we have goes into this ministry. We pay the bills and daily living expenses and the rest is invested back into the ministry. If you would like to give for the on-going ministry happening at Fort Lewis, please go to: Give Now.

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

Prayer Requests:

Pray that God would continue to grow our student-leaders.  Last year, it was tough at times to find committed student-leaders that would reach out to our younger students.  Thankfully this year, many who weren't quite ready to step up last year have stepped up this year.  We pray that they would continue to step up and grow.

Pray for our students that God would continue growing them and keeping them strong in their faith.  On the surface, it wouldn't seem like Fort Lewis would be an easy place for that to happen but despite that, God is still working in our students' lives.

- Challenge has our big Life Impact Conference coming up in Colorado Springs just after the new year that we'll be taking students to.  Two of our Japanese students will be part of that.  Pray that God reaches our non-Christian students coming and grows the Christian students we have coming.  Also pray for safe travels as traveling Colorado this time of the year can be pretty snowy.

Pray for Rachel as she goes on her sabbatical.  Pray that she would find rest and healing in Christ during her time away from the ministry.

- Being Christians, we are in a spiritual battle.  When you do ministry, you become a bigger target in that battle.  Keep praying for us and our team that God would protect us from any spiritual attacks.  Pray that God would give us the strength and encouragement to endure.  Also pray for everyone praying for our ministry because when you pray for the ministry, you become a bigger target as well.

- Over the years, our staff has had a lot of health issues that can really be a discouragement.  Pray that God would keep our staff safe and healthy.

- With the size of our staff, it's easy for personalities to bump into each other and rub each other the wrong way.  Keep praying for our team that it would continue to mesh well.

- For years, Challenge has done everything possible to preserve unity on campus between us and other ministries knowing that division opens the door for the enemy to attack and try to tear down what God is doing.  Please pray that the different ministries on campus would have unity, being team players, with the common goal reaching FLC with the Gospel.

- It's that time of the year when we start trying to figure out summer plans and if God is calling us to go.  We've been praying about where God might want us this coming summer.  There are a few trips on the radar.  Please be praying that God would give us wisdom and discernment as we listen for His plans for us this summer.

Pray that Rachel and I would not neglect the ministry that is our marriage.  We can be much more successful in our college ministry if our marriage is in a good place but it's easy to put that on the back burner when things get busy.

- We've got a couple of items we are really needing to sell.  The big thing is selling our snowblower.  When we lived at our old cabin that received 150 inches of snow a year and had a 60 yard driveway, we had a huge need for a snowblower and finally gave in buying at commercial-grade one that wouldn't break down on us thru the big heavy snows.  Due to the drought we're in, we only used it about 30 minutes last season so it's basically brand new.  And now we don't have a driveway so it's time to sell it.  We need to sell it because that's what was going to pay for our last Peru trip which we still need to pay off.  I've also have a pretty nice camera I've been trying to sell off.  It's not quite DSLR quality but it's pretty close. Would make a nice Christmas present for anyone wanting to get into photography at a reasonable price...wink, wink.  Please be praying that the snowblower and camera would sell and if you know of anyone in the market for either of those two things, feel free to pass our contact info along to them.

Pray that God would open the door for us to partner with more churches and individuals.  With us moving closer to town, we've had students in our home a lot more.  From one-on-discipleship meetings to mission trip trainings to Bible studies to family dinners, our ministry costs have gone up quite a bit.  I know this is no secret but students can eat a lot and that can get pretty expensive.  Rachel and I trust God to provide for us and the ministry but we'd appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs would be met. If you would like to give for the on-going ministry happening at Fort Lewis, please go to: Give Now.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Step Off and Let Jesus Handle the Rest


As someone who works in college ministry, I'm asked a lot of questions about faith. It's often questions of apologetics or doctrine or theology. This time, I received a question that I'd never received before in almost 20 years of campus ministry. "Why do you think I haven't become a Christian yet?" It's certainly something I've asked of others, even if just in my head. I think that's something we often ask when we see a person being so close to accepting salvation thru Christ, especially when they have been so close for so long.  It's a good question but one where there often isn't an easy answer.

I think becoming a Christian can a lot of times be like my first time jumping Baker’s Bridge. Here in Durango, jumping Baker's is a pastime. It's a right of passage. Depending on water levels, it's about a 35-40 foot tall bridge. A river passes between a granite canyon below.

The legality of jumping it is certainly questionable. The local paper has stated that it's illegal. Elsewhere, I've heard that jumping off of it is legal but getting out of the river after jumping is trespassing and therefore illegal. But then again, I've been up there while cops were there admiring the adventure taking place. No one was arrested or ticketed. We were just told to be safe. If it is illegal, maybe it's only illegal to protect against lawsuits. Legal or not, it's not uncommon to find a group of 20 or so young people hanging out on a summer afternoon jumping it or swinging off of it on a rope swing.


Early in my college days, I went with friends my first time and watched them all jump. I saw the fun and amazing time they all had. I had all the intention of jumping but the first time I stepped up to the edge, I just couldn't. I basically stood at the edge looking at the water for 45 minutes. Fear was holding me back. At times, I’d step away for just a moment trying to pump myself up. I’d then step back to the edge and freeze again. Thankfully, my friends were very encouraging and patient with me. Finally after that 45 minutes, I realized that I just had to jump. I wasn’t going to let fear rob me of something great. All I had to do was step off and let gravity do the rest.



With Christianity, there are a lot of fears that may enter a mind before making the jump. Many stand at the very edge looking down for what seems like forever. Some finally jump. Some never do. It seems fear is holding the back. The fear of what others will think. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of "If I do this, my life is going to have to change." In other countries, it may even be the fear of losing your life. There are many more fears that people have, I’m sure. If you are going to ask, "Why haven't I become a Christian yet?" Then I'm going to ask, "What are your fears?" I think in the end, you just have to take the plunge. You can’t let fear rob you of something great. We make it out sometimes to be so complicated. But it's not. All you have to do is step off and let Jesus do the rest.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Christian Challenge New Fall Update 2018


Greetings!  The beginning of the semester is here.  Well, actually, it's come and gone.  We're over a month and a half into the new semester, and we've met a lot of new students.

You might be wondering, "But what about Peru?"  Don't worry, Peru was great, and God did some pretty cool things!  But I'll have to update you on that in a later update because there is a lot to share...and I'm still working on putting a video together (which takes a long time for a closet perfectionist like myself) from pictures and videos taken on the trip.  I hope to get all that out to you in the next month or so.


Anyway, we hit the ground running after getting back from Peru.  I think we had three or four days of rest and recuperation before our Challenge schedule started back up.  After finishing up the mission trip on six hours of sleep in 72 hours, getting back into the swing of things for Challenge was challenging.  I felt like I was in a fog for about two weeks as I recovered.  The semester came quickly and I was just trying to get traction and keep up.

The freshmen moved in soon after we arrived back in Durango.  We were on campus as much as possible, day and night, making a big push to meet as many new students as possible.  Anything from setting up tables at student club fairs to slacklining to volleyball to Frisbee to throwing a big pizza party outside where we had around 200-250 students.  We were out there trying to meet freshmen and make new contacts.  They hung out for quite awhile, and we got to have a lot of good conversations with them.


During the first week, we also had a dinner for our student-officers.  It was great to see everyone and catch back up.  We were able to cast a vision for our officers as to what our expectations were for them and the ministry this year.


More events followed over the month.  We had a freshman dinner and an international dinner to connect with those students.  And of course, our first family dinner.


We hosted our traditional night hike up Smelter Mountain.  Though having a lot of students on a mountainside in the dark can be like herding cats, this year, it went really smoothly.  Nobody got lost which is always nice.  There were even some good spiritual conversations on the hike which opened the door for more to be had with those students after the hike.  The conversations continued when we hit up Denny's afterwards for a late dinner and milkshakes.





We went waterfall jumping this year again as well.  Despite the extremely cold water, everyone had a pretty awesome time.  There were some good spiritual conversations on the ride up there as well.




There was our trip to Silverton which was a big hit.  We had nine sign up for the trip beforehand.  Nearly thirty showed up for the actual trip.  That always is tricky making sure we have enough rides for everyone but we made it work.  We drove up to a mining ghost town just outside of Silverton.  During the drive, we discussed that a lot of people left their values behind going wild and crazy when they went to mining towns.  We talked about how college is similar and from a Christian perspective, how to protect yourself from that.



Once we arrived at the ghost town, everyone got to walk around and explore the houses and structures that are still standing from around 100-150 years ago.  Then we headed back into Silverton and got dinner together.  We had students we'd never met show up for that trip.  It was great getting to connect with new people.

This year, instead of our normal Ice Lakes trip that we've done in years past, we decided to move locations and do a camp and climb of Silver Mountain to mix things up.  It's a mountain I've been climbing since my college days.  We've done a lot of expeditions on it for ministry.  It's a super sketchy drive up the side of the mountain covering extremely narrow switchback after switchback.  The students walked the sketchier parts so that I didn't flip my Xterra with them in it.  Thankfully, I only got on three wheels three times during the drive up.  We drove up to almost treeline and set up camp there.



As day turned to night, we got the campfire going and cooked up some chili.  We followed that up with some s'mores roasted over the fire.  As the night went on, we hung out around the fire talking about anything from cultural differences between America and Japan, to life, to the Gospel.  We went to bed when the fire finally died out around 2 a.m.




After an early unscheduled wakeup call by a hunter driving his dirt bike into camp around 6 a.m., we cooked up some eggs and sausage, and had a short devotional about following Jesus and letting Him guide us.  Following that, we packed up camp and started our ascent of Deadwood Mountain and Silver Mountain.





Having a smaller group and great weather, we summited Deadwood, traversed the ridge, and then summited Silver quicker than any expedition in the past.  In the end, we made it down safely and had a great trip despite being pretty exhausted.



We followed up the Silver Mountain expedition with a retreat for Christian Challenge college ministries across the Western Slope of Colorado.  We had Mesa (Grand Junction) and Western (Gunnison) drive on down to Durango.  We hosted the retreat at Cross Bar X, a camp just outside of town.  In all, we had about 70 attend.  The Mesa group brought with them their worship band to play.  I got to join in and play bass guitar with them.  I hadn't played in ten years so it was a bit challenging getting back into the swing of things but it was a huge blessing to be able to join them.




We also brought in Josh's dad, Mike Story, to be the speaker for the weekend.  We covered topics like the importance of Jesus, the importance of discipleship, and the difference between discipline and legalism.  Our cooks for the weekend came from Mike Story's church and were able to share their testimonies throughout the weekend with the group as well.

It was a great time for our students where they really had an opportunity to grow.  We also had a bunch of our Japanese students check it out which sparked some great questions and conversations.  And of course, we had fun activities for the students too.





So far, our events have really opened the door to connect with new students.  Just recently, we had a bunch of new students we were able to take down to Albuquerque for Balloon Fiesta.  Being that it's one of the biggest hot air balloon festivals in the world, it's always a big selling point for our students, especially the Japanese.  It's amazing the good spiritual conversations that can be had when traveling in a car for hours.

All in all, it's been a pretty good semester so far but we've definitely felt a lot of spiritual attacks since being back.  Hopefully that means we're doing something right with the ministry.  We know that God's doing big things in the lives of our students and the enemy can't be happy.  So we expect attacks to come but still, it can be exhausting.  We need all the prayers we can get.  And that's a nice segue into the next paragraph.

Over the past years, there has been a lot of prayer covering our students and our staff.  God answers those prayers.  We know that you play a big part in that so keep praying.  I've challenged everyone in past newsletters to really be praying for the ministry and campus, to set at least 5-10 minutes a day aside to do that.  We have really seen fruit from that.  So please, keep praying.  God is moving thru your prayers!

Thank you for all the support and encouragement you give! We are super thankful for that!  As always, keep us, the ministry, and the FLC campus in your prayers! #Pray4FLC

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

If the Lord is leading you to give, please follow this link to our giving options:
http://thewallscall.blogspot.com/p/other-giving-options.html


Prayer Requests:
- Pray that God would continue to grow our student-leaders.  Last year, it was tough at times to find committed student-leaders that would reach out to our younger students.  Thankfully this year, many who weren't quite ready to step up last year have stepped up this year.  We pray that they would continue to step up and grow.

- Pray for our students that God would continue growing them and keeping them strong in their faith.  It seems like some of our students took some steps back this summer while they were away and that's carried on over into the school year.  We hope and pray that they'll get back on track and get serious about their faith again.

- With as many things as the ministry does, it's easy to take on way too much and get burnt-out.  Most of the time, it's all good things that lead us down that path.  Pray that we would find time for rest and that God would protect us from burnout.

- Being Christians, we are in a spiritual battle.  When you do ministry, you become a bigger target in that battle.  Keep praying for us and our team that God would protect us from any spiritual attacks.  Pray that God would give us the strength and encouragement to endure.  Also pray for everyone praying for our ministry because when you pray for the ministry, you become a bigger target as well.

- Over the years, our staff has had a lot of health issues that can really be a discouragement.  Pray that God would keep our staff safe and healthy.

- With the size of our staff, it's easy for personalities to bump into each other and rub each other the wrong way.  Keep praying for our team that it would continue to mesh well.

- For years, Challenge has done everything possible to preserve unity on campus between us and other ministries knowing that division opens the door for the enemy to attack and try to tear down what God is doing.  Please pray that the different ministries on campus would have unity, being team players, with the common goal reaching FLC with the Gospel.

- It's that time of the year when we start trying to figure out summer plans and if God is calling us to go.  We've been praying about where God might want us this coming summer.  Peru is probably not an option this point but an exploratory trip into the high Andes of Bolivia may be a new open door.  We'll see.  That's just one of many trips on the radar right now.  Please be praying that God would give us wisdom and discernment as we listen for His plans for us this summer.

- Pray that Rachel and I would not neglect the ministry that is our marriage.  We can be much more successful in our college ministry if our marriage is in a good place but it's easy to put that on the back burner when things get busy.

- Pray that God would open the door for us to partner with more churches and individuals.  With us moving closer to town, we've had students in our home a lot more.  From one-on-discipleship meetings to mission trip trainings to Bible studies to family dinners, our ministry costs have gone up quite a bit.  I know this is no secret but students can eat a lot and that can get pretty expensive.  We also have other costs like campus parking passes to pay for this time of the year.  Rachel and I trust God to provide for us and the ministry but we'd appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs would be met.  If you would like to give for the on-going ministry happening at Fort Lewis, please go to: Give Now.