Thursday, November 24, 2016

Christian Challenge November Update 2016!

Happy Thanksgiving!  Hope everyone is having a great holiday and safe travels.  I also wanted to say thank you for all the birthday emails and cards.  Definitely feeling the love getting those.

So with the election craziness finally in the rearview mirror, I thought it was time to get our update out.  Something more positive and encouraging than all the political mail and emails.  It's time to share about what God's doing at Fort Lewis!

Before we get started, I just want to remind our friends and family who do end of the year giving, that the time is coming soon if you’re wanting to get that giving in for 2016 tax purposes.  And look at that just so happens to be #GivingTuesday this coming Tuesday...wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  It's the day set aside after Black Friday (and all those other shopping days I can't remember) for charitable giving across the nation.

We are hoping that we can use this time and opportunity to not only raise funds for what God is doing in Durango but to also raise enough for mission work opportunities overseas this summer.  Obviously, those mission fields are something very dear to our hearts and something we're very passionate about.  Know that we definitely appreciate that support for the ministry God is doing on campus and around the world!  You can give by clicking on this link: Give Now.

Alright, so what exactly has God been doing on campus this semester?  A whole lot of things!  But let's start with some quick facts.  Fort Lewis normally has around 4,000 students enrolled.  This year, we have around 3,500 students.  That said, this has been one of our biggest years for the ministry yet.  It's also been one of our most fruitful!

This has also been an extremely small year for our Japanese students.  There are literally only around 10 on campus this year due to changes in credits and how classes transfer.  That said, this has still been a very successful year connecting with the Japanese.

They are a very adventurous group this year and very active with us.  Not only are they going to our weekend adventures, many are also going to the Christian Challenge Bible studies we have on campus.  One of them has really connected with Rachel and I've got some great news about that but I'm going to save that for our next newsletter.

Our discussions have been going really well.  We've worked in more student led discussions.  This semester, we've tackled discussions like mental health and politics.  We're not shying away from tough topics.

We actually were even asked by the LGBT club on campus to lead a discussion on what the Bible says about homosexuality.  In that, we got to share the Gospel too!  It might surprise some but the discussion was very civil and respectful from everyone who attended which opened the door for Jesus.  That's a miracle in and of itself with as much of a sensitive topic "homosexuality and the Bible's stance on it" is in our culture.  God is really opening doors for His Gospel to be shared on campus!

The events we've been able to do have gone great as well.  We had over 300 students at our pizza party on campus the first month.

We had around 55 students on our night hike up Smelter Mountain.  It was a little like herding the dark.

Our next hike was up to Ice Lakes where we had around 30 students.  It was cold and snowy but everyone made it.

We also headed up to Adrenaline Falls to take our students, about 25 of them, waterfall jumping.

They all had a blast...except the one who face-planted in the water from 35 feet up.  She was fine but now knows why we tell students to not try to dive or do any flips.  In some strange way, it really bonded her to the rest of the students who thought it was pretty awesome that she even had the guts to try a flip.  God can even work thru a face-plant.

There was also our Telluride trip that went great.  It was another trip that really helped build friendships and create bonds with our students.

I could keep going about all of our weekend events.  We've had so many.  We've had an event pretty much every weekend since the end of August up until Thanksgiving Break.  That's a lot more than in years past but God is using them so we'll keep making them happen.

Two of those weekends, we had retreats.  The first one was on relationships and how the 10 commandments can be applied to that.

Our second retreat was on discipleship, spiritual gifts, and how to apply them in Challenge and in the local church.

Speaking of that, one of the students Rachel is meeting with is now helping lead a local church youth group with one of our upperclassmen.  That upperclassmen not only runs a local youth group but she also runs a ministry in Africa that rescues girls out of sex-slavery.

In other exciting news, William, a guy I've been discipling since he arrived at FLC, and his girlfriend, Chelsea, got engaged.  It's been great seeing God work thru them and their relationship to bring others to Christ.  William was one of our first cross-country runners who really helped open the door to the rest of the team.  Chelsea has been a big part of our ministry helping disciple other girls and leading them to Christ.

The exciting news continues with already having two baptisms this year.

We also had one of our freshmen who Rachel is discipling lead another student to Christ after going out with a group of students to share their faith.  And to go with that, we've had two of our other students come to Christ!

Some of you might remember me talking about Kelly in past newsletters.  She was one of the two girls from Alaska Aleksandr met when he was an RA.  Her and her roommate, Audrey, were looking for something positive to do so he recommended they check out Challenge.  Long story short, Audrey got saved and baptized last spring.

Kelly went home for the summer and came back to the Fort really wanting nothing to do with God even though she was so close to getting saved before going back home.  We didn't give up on her and God didn't either.  One of our student Bible studies even started praying for her salvation.  Then one night, she was talking to her brother.  After getting advice from him, she came away from that conversation knowing that she needed to figure out some way to change things up because what she was doing wasn't working for her.  Well, God had been tugging on her heart for a long while, and she knew exactly what she needed to do.  She needed to accept Christ so she did it.  We praise God for that!

Along with everything else God is doing, we're also seeing bunch of our returning students discipling other students.  It's such an exciting year seeing God work on campus and thru our students!

Our goal has always been to disciple students and turn them into disciple makers sharing Christ wherever God leads them in life.  Recently, a filmmaker came to Fort Lewis to create a short video on that.  We didn't really know the guy but somehow, he heard about what God was doing on the campus and the discipleship that was happening.  He followed our ministry around for a few days, got footage, and did interviews.  Check out the short video he did here: Challenge at FLC.

Speaking of good press, a short article was recently published in Missions Mosaics Magazine on the ministry that is happening at the Fort.  It was basically a missionary spotlight on me and the ministry.  I was interviewed for it over the summer but the article didn't come out until just before my birthday.  Unfortunately, I don't have a link to it online.

Though the videos and articles are nice and fun, that spotlight is wasted if we're not using it to help grow the Kingdom.  Thankfully, we've heard a lot of good feedback from across the nation on the video and article so that's really encouraging for us.  I'm glad to see it encourage people to not be afraid to share their faith and to hear how encouraged people are by what God is doing here on campus.

It's not lost on us that a lot of that has to do with the time you guys put into praying for us and the campus.  I challenged everyone in the last newsletter 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.  Please, keep praying.  Don't stop.  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:

Prayer Requests:

- Last year, we had a great group of solid students and leaders in the ministry. It was a big answered prayer. Pray that God would continue blessing us with awesome student-leaders.

- When semesters get busy, it's easy to neglect things big and small. We get so focused on ministry that we lose track of the things that help keep us going. We lose track of taking care of ourselves. Pray we have energy and get good sleep as the school year continues.

- With as many things as the ministry does, it's easy to take on way too much and get burnt-out. I'm pretty sure most of the staff is pretty close to being burnt-out by this point if not already there. Thankfully, Christmas break is on the horizon where things will slow down a bit until our conference for students after the new year in Colorado Springs. It's easy to be even busier over break catching up on everything and everyone that we didn't have time for during the semester. Pray that we would be good stewards with our time so that we don't fall into burn-out. You never want to start the new semester already burnt-out.

- Throughout the year, the semester can wear on you, and it can be easy to find yourself discouraged at times. It happens in just about any ministry at one point or another. Pray that God would keep us and our staff encouraged throughout the year.

- 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.

- Atheism is a big belief system at FLC. On any given year, about half of the students we work with are atheists or non-believers. Pray that God would open doors for the Gospel to be received and understood. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working on the hearts and minds of those students on campus.

- Over the years, our staff has had a lot of health issues that can really be a discouragement. Our most successful years have been when we have good health. Half of our staff this semester ended up getting bronchitis/pneumonia, me included. I haven't had that since high school. I've been fighting bronchitis off since the middle of September. I've also been fighting off a brown recluse spider bite (the second of my life) since that same week of September. Pray that God would heal us up and keep our staff safe and healthy.

- Our staff has meshed really well this semester. It's a huge answered prayer. I think it's one of the reasons why the ministry has been so fruitful this semester. Keep praying for our new staff members and our team that it would continue to mesh well.

- Pray for discernment about our summer mission trip plans. At the moment, we have three opportunities we are praying about. Our first option is going back to Peru. That would be in late July to early August. We really have a strong desire to get back there after our last trip being the most fruitful trip Climbing for Christ has ever had to that area of Peru. Our second option is another trip to the Philippines in early to mid-June. We've been asked by one of my best friends from high school to join his mission team there for a couple of weeks. We've been praying for years for God to open the door for us to do a trip and serve together. We'd be in a different region than the past trips we've done there but it would still allow to us connect and encourage our friends we met there on the first two trips. The Philippines trip would also allow us to hop over to Japan afterwards to visit and encourage all of our past and current Japanese students which is something we really feel like we need to do in the near future. Our last option would be going to where my wife grew up, in Serbia and Croatia in late June. Though we would do mission work on this trip and possibly open the door to bring students over on future mission trips, it would also be a trip to help bring my wife closure. It was something she never really got when she had to move to the States. It may not seem like a big deal to most but it's something that really weighs on her heart. There is a term for people like her in the mission world. She is a third-culture kid. Basically, she grew up in two different cultures but was never fully part of either of them hence being part of a third culture. Even as an adult, for many former missionary kids, they never feel like they have a home when they are back in the States. One of the things that is suggested is that they revisit where they grew up. It helps bring closure and healing. This is a trip we've been praying about for years. Recently, it's really been on my wife's heart. Funny enough, then we got a wedding invite from a really close childhood friend of hers in Serbia. Obviously, one of our goals is to take students with us on mission trips but that wouldn't be an option with this one. We do already have students interested in the Peru and Philippines trips. My prayer is that if we took my wife back to Eastern Europe, we'd still be able to do one of the other mission trips with our students. We realize that it's obviously a big ask though financially. So please be praying that God would guide us in our decision making and bring in the funds where He is leading.

- So you've heard me talk about our pest issue. For now, I can say it's under control. We put up bee catchers and caught probably 300 bees. I also had an idea to put up a couple of box traps which can catch up to 30 mice. I put them under the cabin hoping the mice would think they could nest in there for winter, and it actually worked. Now they can't get out to destroy our cabin. So at the moment, we don't have a pest issue for the first time since we moved here two years ago. Praise God for that and pray that God would keep those pest problems from returning.

- Some of you have been asking about our water issues. It is still an issue. We tried all summer and fall to find someone to put up a rain capture system for us but no one seems to want the one or two-day job. We have people look, say they'll do it, and then back out before ever giving us an estimate. At least we do know it's going to be cheaper than the $17,000 it would take to drill a new well. We just have to find someone to put up the gutters and heat strips. But yeah, it's been disappointing especially after hearing that our water truck guy put his truck in a tree again the other day in the snow. Needless to say, we're not very hopeful about having water this winter. I'd love to install the system myself but unfortunately, I'm not good on ladders which would be required. Having a bigger ministry and having more students over, we use a lot more water. So be praying that God would provide us with that water one way or another whether it be by getting the rain capture system of by our water truck guy being able to deliver. Also be praying for our water truck guy that he stays safe and on the road when he's just trying to help his customers out because that's no good for him or his business if he's ending up in ditches or trees.

- This semester has been a tough one at times for our staff. Three of us have lost people close to us to suicide. For me, one of my roommates and best friends from my freshman year at college passed away in Kansas City in late September. He was a John Doe initially as I understand it so no one, including his family, found out until a month later. He had struggled for years with mental illness, having extreme paranoia and having heard voices. That caused him to eventually go off the grid which made it really hard to get him help. I found out toward the end of October a week or so after we had done our mental illness discussion. It was weird timing for sure. Be praying for his family and friends. Keep our staff in your prayers as well. Pray for comfort and peace. Ministry can be very heavy at times already and adding the suicide of someone close to you can be a lot for one person to handle at one time. Personally speaking, I'm doing alright but I know everyone processes things differently.

- This fall has been a stretch for us financially as the ministry grows and with that, ministry expenses increase. 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 for the end of this semester or the coming winter semester, please go to: Give Now.

- With as fruitful as the ministry has been, I want to end this section on a high note. We're so thankful for what God is doing on campus! Praise God for the fruit we are seeing at FLC and pray that He continues to bless the ministry and campus with that fruit.