Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Christian Challenge June 2016 Update!

Summer is here! School is out. Our seniors have graduated. Most of our students have headed home. Though we are still meeting with our students that are still around, things are starting to calm down. Our state meetings in Colorado Springs have come and gone. We're back in Durango. We're actually getting a little rest and time to recharge spiritually which was much needed.

It's been an interesting past few months to say the least. Things with the ministry have been awesome! Check out our video from the past year: Click Here! Josh put it together for us.

One of my event highlights was our Easter Eve snowshoeing trip where we journeyed by snowshoe to a frozen lake in the mountains under starlight.

We roasted peeps over a campfire and made s'mores. We finished the night with me sharing a sermon and having a discussion around that campfire. We talked about how the cross wasn't something that caught Jesus off-guard. It was not plan B. It was the plan all along. He knew it before He left heaven and came down to earth. He knew the pain and torture He would go thru yet still came down to save all who believe and follow Him.

We listened to a song called "I Wonder" by an old friend of mine, Tara Leigh Cobble. It talks about Jesus being reminded of the cross by things throughout His everyday life. We discussed how heavy that burden must have been to carry, and yet even though He could have opted out at any point and gone right back up to heaven, He still chose to go thru with the cross. We talked about how much love He must really have for us to go thru all of that so that we could find salvation in Him.

Now, we also wanted to do some guitar and worship afterwards but this year, it was way too cold. We're talking 5 degrees where it's so frigid, your fingers freeze to the guitar strings. Even without it, we had a great night of ministry talking about Jesus around the campfire.

Speaking of ministry, overall it has been going really strong. It's been an exciting semester. We finished it off with another salvation and two baptisms.

Let me share a little about Audrey who got saved. This was a girl who we first met on the night we did Operation Christmas Child during the first semester. Audrey and her roommate Kelly were looking for something more positive to do than the typical college party scene. In talking with their dorm RA, Aleksandr, he suggested they check out Christian Challenge. It wasn't one of our typical nights but they connected and kept coming to more things. After getting saved, Audrey got baptized by Josh and Randi down in the Animas River with all of our students their to support her.

The baptism was actually pretty funny how it all went down. The water was really cold being that it was April. Josh is a pretty big guy so he wasn't fazed by the cold as much. Audrey and Randi are skinny girls. As Josh was taking his time explaining baptism, the girls were shivering and probably nearing hypothermia. Eventually, Audrey who is normally happy-go-lucky interrupted Josh and sternly said thru chattering teeth, "Josh! This isn't the time for teaching!" True, it probably would have been better to cover that part on shore. With that, Josh quickly finished up and they baptized her. And then of course, a bunch of our students jumped in the water too. Because you know, why not? It was an awesome time.

We followed that up with Aleksandr's brother, Nikolai, getting baptized a week after that on a morning filled with rain and snow.

Their whole family happened to be in town to see Aleksandr graduate so they all got to be there to support the baptism too.

With all of the great things God was doing, we should have expected that Satan would not rest. When things are going good though, you start to forget that we are in a battle. We were reminded the day of graduation. It was at Aleksandr's graduation party. The party was finishing up and we thought because we had all of our old staff and new staff together, we should take a new staff photo.

After taking the photo, Josh took a fall. I was right by him and watched it happen but, in him falling away from me, I wasn't able to catch him or break his fall. Thankfully, it appeared that he was able to brace his fall a bit. Now with Josh's heart issues, it's not the first time we've seen him take a fall. Normally when it happens, it's because his heart has gone into a weird rhythm and he eventually gets shocked by his pacemaker.

After talking with him while he laid on the ground, he couldn't remember getting shocked or passing out. He said his leg just gave out on him. I think with his past heart issues, everyone just assumed it was his heart again. He had an appointment with his doctor up in Denver two days later already scheduled so they thought they'd just get it checked then. He'd end up having two more episodes before getting to the appointment.

When he finally met with his doctor, his doctor told him his heart was doing better than they'd seen it doing in a long time. That was the good news. The bad news was that his doctor thought he'd had a stroke. A scan of his head later confirmed that.

Thankfully it wasn't a massive stroke but he is still dealing with balance issues due to having weakness on one side of his body. He even had to use a cane for awhile. Josh is also struggling with reading comprehension and a bit with speech. So he has been doing a lot of therapy for those things in the recovery process but doctors think he should make close to a full recovery. We're very thankful for that.

Josh and Jen had to drop a summer discipleship program they were going to run for college students in Denver but it was definitely for the better. Now Josh can recover from the stroke. I think this summer will be good for them to just rest and recover.

Randi's summer will be a busy one. She is currently in Germany working on college campuses there doing ministry. When she comes back, she'll transition down to Farmington. (She seems to be having a great time in Germany doing ministry so I kind of wonder if she'll even come back.) Aleksandr and Anna have a busy summer too. They'll be getting married in early August and preparing to come on staff with us as well. Rachel Horton is fulfilling an internship this summer so she can officially graduate and then come on staff with us this fall.

As for Rachel and me, it will be a summer where we try and find some rest. We've got a lot of work to do around the house like making it safer from possible wildfire. There's a lot of dead trees and brush to be cut down and turned into firewood for the winter. We are also hoping to put up that rain capture system we've mentioned so that we can have water more consistently at the house.

Unfortunately, we won't be going on a mission trip this summer. There are a lot of reasons. Our finances were part of it due to the large financial hits we took over the winter. It also turned out that our point guy for the trip just had a new baby. Jaime, our local missionary and translator just had eye surgery. So there were a lot of things that just made it seem like God was temporarily shutting the door for the summer. In my heart, I was still keeping the door open in case God opened a door last minute to go to Peru or maybe somewhere else.

Rachel and I have even gotten back to training. We're up to running 4.6 miles every couple of days. That's the most mileage we've done in years. I was seriously wondering if I'd ever get back there after the lasting effects of getting sick on the last Peru mission trip. I still have very low energy levels and am pretty foggy-brained a good amount of the time. I've worked hard to overcome those things and be ready for a mission trip if God does open that door.

That said, I'm not expecting that door to open this summer. As I look at the latest news I've gotten, I'm pretty sure God has us home this summer for a reason. If you read our last update, you read about the migraine-type headaches I started getting back around the first of the year. I went to a chiropractor and though I still get the start of those headaches, the adjustments helped greatly in bringing down the severity of the headaches.

In the process of that, and wanting to cover all of my bases, I also saw a general doctor to get his opinion. He referred me to a neurologist. The neurologist wanting to make sure it wasn't an aneurysm had me get a CT scan. Well, it turned out my brain was okay but on the scan, they found a nodule on my thyroid. That could explain a lot from getting sick in Peru to being exhausted, foggy-brained and forgetful to the 30 pounds I gained over the winter. At least that's what the internet research I've seen says...and we all know how reliable that is. I'm still waiting to meet with a doctor about it all.

It's unlikely that it's cancer but they are going to do a biopsy just to make sure later today. At the moment though, we don't really know what treatment is going to entail so it's probably good that we don't have a mission trip this summer. We can focus on getting this taken care of and not put off. Then, I'll be ready to go for the fall semester and ready for a mission trip next summer.

Despite a lot of the hardships endured recently, it was really such a great semester and a great year. I could probably tell a thousand more stories about how God is working but I'll leave you with the words of one of our students, Ryan Evanyo:

"When I first came to FLC I was not 100% looking for a ministry to join. I figured I would nominally attach myself to a campus group just to say that I had. In all honesty part of me just wanted to disconnect and have the "college experience." However I found Christian Challenge and the only way I can explain how was that it was destiny. I saw what this group could do for my life and the lives of many others. For the last 8 months Christian Challenge has been my life and I have connected in ways I could have never imagined a year ago. My friend circle has grown exponentially and my faith has been reignited in a massive way."

Ryan is a funny guy we love having around.  He makes us laugh a lot especially when he creates fun pictures like this with him and some of our graduates.  As he explained it, he got bored and decided he'd make a 90's-style rap album cover with the graduation photo.  Notice the two kids that just happened to be wrestling in the back when the photo was taken.  Seems fitting for a rap album cover and I think it gives their fake rap group street cred.  This picture just makes me laugh a lot.

We have a lot of fun at Challenge doing ministry with our students.  We share and have a lot of laughs with them but even more importantly, we share Jesus with them.  We share the Gospel.  We've been very blessed to be able to walk with these students like Ryan on their faith journey and help them grow in Christ.

Realize that when you pray for the ministry and give, you are a big part of impacting these students! Thank you for all the support and encouragement you give! We are super thankful for that! 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, follow this link to our giving options:

Prayer Requests:

- Be praying for Josh and their family as he recovers from his stroke.  It's certainly not been an easy year for them with this stroke and Jen's dad passing away this past winter.

- Sarah made it back from the Philippines safely and grew a lot spiritually while there on her mission trip.  She now plans to finish her schooling in the States and then possibly head back to the Philippines.  Praise God for her safety, her growth, and the ministry she was able to do there.

- The rodents are back with the warm temperatures.  We put out some poison blocks and this mouse kept devouring them.  We watched it scarf it down night after night.  We thought it was a super mouse being that it just wouldn't die with all the poison it was eating.  Finally, we caught it in a trap.  Then we caught another in a trap.  And another.  Turns out, it was a whole bunch of them, not a single super mouse.  We still have at least two running around the house free.  All that said, be praying that God would protect our house, its wiring, and our vehicle wires from rodents this summer.

- We're heading into dry season for our well.  Thankfully, it's been a wet spring so we've had water in it to use.  We'll soon have gone thru that though. Please be praying that God would bless us with a wet summer and a rain capture system (and the man power to put it up) so that we can have a more consistent and much cleaner water source.

- Things tend to calm down a bit for us in summer but we still remain somewhat busy taking care of everything we didn't have time to do during the school year.  We hope that it can also be a time to find some rest.  Pray that God would recharge us and re-energize us during this summer so that we can be ready to go when next semester comes.

- 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.

- Summer can be a tough time for our students when they go home and don't have the support they had here with Challenge.  Pray that God would keep them encouraged this summer and continue to grow their faith.  Also pray that God would already be working on the hearts of the new students we will have this fall.

- Over the years, our staff has had a lot of health issues that can really be a discouragement.  Currently, Rachel is having issues with her back and neck that she just soldiers thru despite the pain.  Of course, there is also my thyroid issue and biopsy.  Please pray that God would get and then keep all of our staff healthy and safe.

- Rachel has picked up a little side work caretaking for her grandma after her stroke.  It helps bring in a little extra money but we are still working to get our support where it needs to be.  We trust God to provide but would appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs would be met.  If you would like to give, go to: Give Now!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fake Hustle

I grew up the son of a sportscaster.  Sports are in my genes.  I was blessed to be around a lot of professional athletes when I was younger.  Because of that, I love all things sports.  Playing them, watching them, and watching sports shows...I love it all.

Two of the sports shows I've become addicted to over the years are the ESPN shows, Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption.  For the most part, they are just guys arguing about sports.  It's what I do with my friends but these guys actually get paid for it.  Not a bad gig if you ask me.

The shows are not exactly deep in a spiritual sense but as I've seen over the years, God can use normal non-spiritual topics to spark something deeper spiritually in me.  One of the things that has really stuck with me recently has been the topic of fake hustle that co-host Mike Wilbon has brought up.  Now, he's credited the idea of fake hustle to someone else who I actually can't remember right now but Wilbon has been using it recently.

Basically, the idea of fake hustle is exactly what it sounds like.  It's having the appearance of hustling but really just going thru the motions.  You look like you're doing a lot but really, you're not doing much.  You're not trying, not giving your all.

I think I connect with that because that was me in high school.  Once I got to games, I gave 100% but in practice and training, it was a different story.  For soccer, big parts of training were running and weightlifting.  Weightlifting came easy to me but I wasn't a huge fan of it.  I found ways of making it look like I was doing a lot while doing very little.  There was a lot of taking weight off and putting it on but not a lot of lifting.

It's kind of like those people nowadays who go to the gym just to take selfies and stare at themselves in the mirror.  Everyone thinks they went to the gym because they instagrammed it but in reality, they barely even worked out.

For me with running in high school, I literally cut corners.  Once we were out of coach's sight on our five mile runs, we were cutting corners, cutting streets, turning around early.  I use we because I wasn't the only one.  It was me and all of the other out of shape kids.  My favorite fake hustle was when I would act like I was hanging back to encourage all the slow kids.  Yeah, I was that slow kid but I was a goalie so it was more expected.  But still, it was fake hustle.

It wasn't good for me.  It hurt me in the long run and it hurt my team.  I wasn't achieving my full potential and because of that, my team was weakened.  I probably played a lot less minutes because of it too.  When you're young, you don't think about it.  That's not really on your radar.  You might even be told you're hurting yourself and the team but you either can't see it or just don't care.

Today, I've thankfully outgrown that.  I've grown a stubborness that doesn't allow me to cut corners with my workouts.  I now run almost five miles at a time every couple of days.  I won't allow myself to cut corners.  There's a deep guilt, conviction and anxiety if I think of cutting corners.  I've even gotten to a point where I push it farther than I was planning to or should go.  I think to myself, "I can always go a little further."  And that's coming from someone who still hates running with a passion.

Because I hate running, one of the things I do to pass the time and take my mind off of how awful running makes me feel is to listening to sermons on my iPod.  I focus on that and don't focus on how awful running actually is.

Well, a sermon I listened to recently sparked the connection between it and fake hustle.  The sermon wasn't about fake hustle but somehow, the two connected in my brain and left me with the question of: How often do we fake hustle in our spiritual lives as Christians?  How often do we just go thru the motions.  If we're just going to church so that others see us and think we're super spiritual, that's fake hustle.  If we're just reading our Bible but not putting it into practice, that's fake hustle.  Maybe it's going on a mission trip but really only because you love to travel.  Fake hustle.  Maybe someone has a problem, an issue, or needs help and all we offer to them is our prayers.  Again, fake hustle.  I could go on and on.

If you're just fake hustling thru the Christian life, you're hurting not only yourself but your team.  You're hurting the body of Christ.  You're hurting Christ's mission.  Fake hustlers seem to think they have everyone fooled but in reality, they don't.  People see right thru it.  Within Christianity, that makes you look bad and it makes other Christians look bad.  And the worst thing about it, it makes Jesus look bad.

Eventually, fake hustlers come to a crossroads.  You'll realize you're not fooling anyone and just give up all together...or you'll drop the act and the hustle won't be fake anymore.  It will be real.  It will be genuine.  You'll start growing.  And when you start growing, it encourages others around you in growing, in getting stronger.  It builds up a better team.

To close it up, it's simple.  Watch out for fake hustle in our spiritual lives.  It's not good for us or anyone around us.  I think these verses sum the whole issue up nicely:

"24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."  1st Corinthians 9: 24-27