Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christian Challenge Christmas Update 2017!

Merry Christmas! The fall semester is now over. We met up with our last students just the other day, and we managed to squeeze in a much needed date hiking up to frozen Spud Lake afterwards.

Starting off, I just wanted to thank you for another year partnering with us at Fort Lewis College. We would not be here without you and are thankful that you are part of the team. And just a reminder, if you were wanting to do end of the year giving for tax purposes, there is still time.  You can do that here: Give Now.

Some highlights of the later part of this fall semester:

Over Thanksgiving Break, we sent a group down to Houston to help out with flood recovery. They were able to work on a family's house that lost almost everything in the flooding.

We also had some students decide to travel to Juarez to help out at a school run by missionaries our ministry has been partnering with for years.

You may remember a student named Tate. He was an atheist student who came to Christian Challenge at the beginning of 2017. The next contact we had with him was when he joined our Juarez, Mexico spring break mission trip. He’s always had a huge heart to serve the poorest of the poor, a fingerprint of God’s heart. After that trip, CC became his family. He started coming to everything. He always had really good questions and was curious about what we believed. I’m excited to share with you all that Tate gave his life to Christ! He was baptized in the cold river after he shared what Christ had done in his heart.

Having seen God working in Tate's life over the past year, it was great to see him come to Jesus and get baptized. We're excited to see where the Lord is going to take him and use him going forward.

Another highlight is a student we will call N. She is an exchange student from Japan here for just one year. She got connected to us from the very beginning and was interested in reading the Bible. Not even a month into the school year, she was wanting to believe in and follow Jesus but could not imagine having to tell her family and friends back home. Some time went by and she got to talk with Rikako, one of the Japanese from last year that became a believer and has gone back to Japan with a non-believing family. N has chosen to believe and follow Jesus! We rejoice with heaven!

Please be praying for her! As she was deciding to get baptized, she wanted to tell her family first and the response was not good. She began receiving hurtful messages from back home. How her grandpa did not want to see her ever again. How her family did not send her to America to become a Christian, etc. She chose to not be baptized yet and was distraught by her family's reaction. However, she still believes and wants to follow Jesus her whole life.

Please be praying for Tate and Nana! Also for L and Y, as they are very interested in Christ and asking good questions.

Thank you again for partnering with us to make it possible to be here! College students are at a stage in life where they are a lot more open to Christ, as they are away from home and figuring out for themselves what they believe. As always, it’s an honor to be able to be at Fort Lewis College and serve the Lord there.

We cannot thank each one of you enough for your constant prayers and financial giving!
If you feel led to give a one time donation before the end of the year, or want to join our monthly support team, please go to:

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel


Prayer Requests/Updates:
1. We picked up a cat from the shelter just after Thanksgiving. Snowie is 4.5 months old and loves hunting and cuddles. We hope this will solve the mouse problem in our cabin. She has heard the mice in the walls. She paws at them and causes them to scurry.

2. Praise: God provided a snow blower so when the snow flies this year, it will not take four hours to clear our driveway! God also provided a 150 gallon water tank so we can haul some of our own water when needed this winter season...which may be a lot with as dry as it's been.

3. We had a crew come out and check the sewage smell we were having in the house. Some measures were taken to see if that would work and I’m happy to report 90% of the time, all is well. It is only when the house and outside temperature hits a certain point that the smell returns. It's typically at night not long after the sun goes down. Our next step is trying to smoke out a possible leak in our venting system.

4. Thank you for joining us in prayer for the summer 2018 mission trip possibilities. After much prayer, we feel like God is calling us back to Peru. We were both accepted onto the mission trip, August 3rd-17th. We will be returning to the Huayhuash where Mike’s first trip was. On this trip, we’ve got one student so far, who came with us on last summer's trip, and a handful of others interested. We are just waiting to see how big the team can be.

5. Over Thanksgiving while some of our students were in Juarez at the school down there, tragedy struck one of the local families involved with the school. While the parents were away at work, someone entered their home, raped the girls of the family, and killed one of them. The girls were all students at the school. Please be praying for the family, the school, and our students as they deal with such a terrible tragedy.

6. We are taking students again to Life Impact, a conference in Colorado Springs, just after the new year. It always has great growth and impact on the students that go with us. Due to that, there is always a lot of spiritual warfare that surrounds the event before and after. Pray that God would protect us and our students from that.

7. Needs: Having our propane refilled ($600), funding for the Peru mission trip and/or American Airline frequent flyer miles to help get us there. We 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, October 24, 2017

Christian Challenge Fall Semester Update 2017!

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 things are going well.  As always, it's been busy but thankfully this year, we've had a couple of church groups from Oklahoma come and help out with the ministry being done.  Over the last month and a half, we've definitely been seeing Jesus working on campus!

You might be wondering, "But what about Peru?"  Don't worry, Peru was great!  We all stayed safe, 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 taken on the trip.  I hope to get all that out to you in the next month or so.

Anyway, getting back from Peru was interesting.  We came back to a dead car battery and house issues.  As careful as we are, mice found their way back inside and were chewing things up again.

We also had a ton of rain when we were gone which is normally a good thing but it washed away a lot of the work we had done over the summer around the house...and flooded our cistern with contaminated, unusable water off the mountainside.  It was even too much to handle for our brand new filters we put in back in June.  So that was a bit of a bummer to come home to.  Instead of resting and recuperating, I got to dig a bunch of trenches so that we wouldn't have those issues again, Lord willing.  There's still a lot to fix but we're slowly making progress when we have the time and energy.

We had family in town as well when we got back.  It was certainly great to see everyone and hang out.  Before we knew it though, students were back in town and the semester was quickly approaching.

We started with three days of staff meetings.  The freshmen moved in just after those meetings.  After that, 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 the freshmen dorms, we were out there trying to meet freshmen and make new contacts.

This year, if I had to guess, we probably had more than 250 students show up at the pizza party.  (Those are pretty good numbers for school enrollment being significantly down again.)

They stuck around longer than in years past, and we got to have a lot of good conversations with them.

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

More events followed over the month.  We hosted our traditional night hike up Smelter Mountain.

We probably had nearly forty people on that.  Having that many students on a mountainside in the dark can be like herding cats.  In years past, it's given me a lot of gray hairs.

This year though, it was probably the smoothest the event has ever gone.

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.  One of those students is extremely close to accepting Christ so be praying for her.

We went waterfall jumping this year again as well.

We had around thirty-five people for that one.  That's the most I think we've ever had for waterfall jumping.

Everyone had a pretty awesome time.  There were some good spiritual conversations on the ride up there as well.

And thankfully, there were no face-plants this year unlike last year so that's always good.

There was our trip to Telluride which is always a hit with students.

We drove over Ophir Pass...

Did a short hike to a high alpine lake...

Rode the free gondola at the resort...

And had dinner down in the town of Telluride.  We had some students we had never met show up for that trip.  It was great getting to connect with new people on that trip.

We hiked up to Ice Lakes again this year as well.

Our numbers were a little smaller this year with three other campus groups running trips up there just before us.  It's become a popular place.

Despite having a smaller group than normal for the trip, it was still really awesome.  I shared a short devotional about if we wanted to go to Ice Lakes but had never been there, what was the best and worst way to find it?

The worst way would be to only wander and hope you eventually ended up there.  The best way would be to go with a guide who had already been or have a map drawn by someone who had already been.  I then tied that into wanting to go to heaven, Jesus would be our guide and the Bible would be our map.

We followed the Ice Lakes event up with a retreat for Christian Challenge college ministries across the Western Slope of Colorado.  Every year, there is a state retreat in Colorado Springs for Challenge but due to the distance, we have never been able to make it work.  This year instead of just doing our own thing, we invited all of the colleges on the Western Slope.  We had Mesa in Grand Junction and Western in Gunnison accept the invite. 

We hosted the retreat at Cross Bar X, a camp just outside of Durango.  We brought in Tyler Murphy to lead worship from Austin, TX and Nick Melazzo, a pastor from a Chinese church in LA, to share about the Kingdom of God.  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.

Speaking of the Japanese, it's another small year for them.  I think we have maybe ten of them this year.  We actually tend to connect better with them when their groups are small, it seems.  One of the girls is already super close to accepting Christ.  Be praying for her.  She's been involved with almost everything we do, even checking out some of the local churches with us.  We've been able to have her Skype with Rikako back in Japan.  She got saved last year and my wife, Rachel, discipled her.  It was awesome to see Rikako still so passionate about her faith and about sharing it with others.  She is still wanting to start up a Christian Challenge on her college campus in Japan after she graduates.  Rachel continues to meet with her thru Skype.

This year, I've really connected with two of the Japanese guys so far.  One of those guys, I had a two to three hour conversation with at the retreat.  We had planned a Q&A session during the worship service at the retreat.  We brought a lot of non-Christians to our retreat and didn't want to force them into a worship service that might scare them as that is feedback we'd been given from past students.  We thought those non-Christian students could go to the Q&A and ask questions about what the speaker had been talking about.  We figured that's where all of our Japanese students would go.

Well, all but one went.  I was pretty surprised.  As the worship leader started playing, our student started asking my wife about what different words in the song meant.  I pulled out my phone which has a translate app on it, and started translating and explaining the context of the songs.  We continued talking late into the night even after worship was over.  He had so many questions, and God was moving.  Every question seemed to open a door for the Gospel to be shared.  The guy leading worship told me afterwards that he was watching the whole thing and even called his brother later that night to tell him about how cool it was.  It was really exciting.  How do you go to sleep after God does something like that?

After the retreat, we had a couple of weeks where we didn't have any big events.  I ended up having surgery on my soft palate to correct a major snoring issue.  We thought it would be not too painful with a quick recovery.  I was thinking I'd be back on campus in three or four days.  Well, the surgery was scheduled for a Monday morning.  Unfortunately, the doctor kept making me gag as he was trying to work in the back of my throat.  So they drugged me up and tried it again that afternoon.  It wasn't enough.  That was not a good day.  Little did I know that it could be worse.  They rescheduled for Wednesday.

This time, they drugged me up enough to get past my gag reflex and finished the surgery.  I was down for around two weeks.  It was a long and torturous two weeks filled with struggling to swallow and breathe due to pain and being swollen.  It was also filled with pain killers not working, infection setting in, trips to the ER, and just being out of it mentally due to the pain and pain killers.  It was literally almost two weeks without being able to talk.  I had to use a whiteboard to communicate.  And after all of that, I still snore.

Rachel got sick pretty badly in the middle of it all.  We also found out that due to paperwork getting lost in the mail, we got dropped from our insurance.  Thankfully, that has since been resolved and we have insurance again.  Somewhere in there, the Vegas shooting happened and my dad lives in Vegas so there was the stress of waiting to make sure he and my step-mom were okay.  To top it off, Rachel's grandmother who she had been a caretaker for over the last two years had a seizure and ended up in the hospital.  Sadly, she passed away.  We can celebrate that she's with the Lord now, though.

So needless to say, it's been a rough few weeks with everything seemingly hitting at once.  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 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, maybe more fruit than we've ever seen.  I don't believe that's a coincidence.  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:

Prayer Requests:
- Pray that God would bless us with awesome student-leaders.  We lost a lot of really solid leaders and core students last year to graduation and transferring.  With those students gone, we need some of our younger students to step up and carry the torch.

- 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 home 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, and pray that God would continue healing my throat after my surgery.

- As staffs grow, 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.

- As ministry staffs on campus grow and student numbers continue to decline, ministries on campus can rub each other the wrong way at times.  It's bound to happen on a smaller campus.  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 on a mission trip.  We've been praying about where God might want us this coming summer.  Obviously, there is always Peru.  It would be hard not to go back with all God is doing down there.  It's also a great mission trip we can take students on.  We have also been praying about going to Japan.  This would give us the opportunity to visit students like Rikako and Yuko, and encourage them in their faith.  It would also give us an opportunity to connect with local pastors and to scout out possible churches we could plug students into upon their return to Japan.  Lastly, there is a mountainous country in Asia on our radar where we haven't been before.  We'd be backpacking into the high mountains and reaching the people there.  We've been praying about that country for a couple of years now but each summer, the doors have been closed.  God may finally be opening the doors to do the trip safely.  Unfortunately, it's probably not a country we could take students to.  Obviously, we'll keep praying and listening for where God wants us.  It could be some country not even on our radar yet.  Please be praying that God would give us wisdom and discernment as we listen for His plans for us this summer.

- The mice are still an issue with our house (I can hear one chewing on things right now as I type) but things should calm down a bit as they settle into our walls for winter.  Pray that God would keep those pest problems under control.

- We thought we had our water issues figured out but unfortunately, that wasn't the case.  Sadly, we just don't have the square-footage to capture the water we need.  With that, we're going to have to put up gutters to make it work.  And to keep those gutters from being ripped off by 150 inches of snow a winter, we'll also have to put up heat cables.  Pray that this would be the final fix and solve our water issues so that we can have running water in the winter time.

- When we looked at our house before buying it, the windows were always open.  We thought it was to cool it off.  After moving in and keeping the windows closed, we noticed a fowl underlying smell.  We thought it was just sulfur escaping from the ground as much of the ground water in the area contains sulfur.  We learned to put up with it thinking there was nothing that could be done.  Then, as we were working on the water system, new water storage tanks were put in our crawl space under the house.  There, it was discovered that we had a raw sewage leak...which our original house inspector missed.  The guys working on the water system fixed the leak and put lime down to take care of the raw sewage.  Unfortunately over the years and years of leaking, it had soaked deep into the ground where the lime could do no good.  Any moisture that got into the ground under the crawl space made the smell much worse.  When we came home from Peru, our house smelled awful, and we could feel moisture seeping thru our floor.  It turned out that there weren't good seals on the new water tanks creating extremely high humidity under the house and a breeding ground for mold and fowl smells.  With it getting to the point where we couldn't even invite students over because of the smell, we had to call a professional in.  Supposedly, he thinks he can fix the problem completely by laying a plastic covering down.  I have my doubts especially with how our mice love to chew thru anything and everything.  Pray that this proposed option can solve our sewage issues completely by having the pro take care of it.

- 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.

- With Rachel not care-taking anymore, our funding is taking a hit.  We'll most likely have to hit the road to do some more support raising in the near future.  Pray that God would open the door for that with churches and individuals.  We've also have some big financial expenses, currently and also coming up, like campus parking passes, refilling our household propane tank, gutters/heat cables, a heavy-duty snowblower, and resolving the raw sewage issue.  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.

- 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!  I fully expect a story or two of salvation in our next update.  Praise God for the fruit we are seeing at FLC and pray that He continues to bless the ministry and campus with that fruit.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Christian Challenge Peru Pre-Trip Update 2017!

It's finally here and boy, are we stoked! July 25th-August 8th, we'll be on mission in Peru! Though we've had an extremely busy summer, our mission trip to Peru with Climbing for Christ has always been on our mind. With all the training we've done for the trip, it's good to keep the mission on our mind to get us through the difficult workouts. When you remember you're doing it for God, you can endure a lot more. And you need that reminder when you're running 7.5 miles every other day for training...because running is awful.

It's really cool how God directed our footsteps with this trip. If you remember from past newsletters, last fall we talked about how we had three options for the summer. One of the options was that we were invited to a wedding in Croatia of a childhood friend of Rachel's from that area. With Rachel growing up a third-culture kid, she needed closure from her childhood growing up in Eastern Europe. TCKs are always encouraged to revisit where they grew up so that they can find that closure. Going to the wedding would have allowed Rachel to find that closure.

We also had been asked to go on a mission trip to the Philippines by a good friend of mine from high school. For years, we've been praying that God would bring us together on a mission trip and give us an opportunity to serve together. After already doing two mission trips to the Philippines, we have a heart to get back there someday. The mission trip would have also given us a chance to hop on over to Japan to visit some of our former students there and encourage them.

Our last option was the Peru trip. Now obviously, we wanted to do everything and would have if it had been God's will but as time went on, it was clear that the finances would only be there for one trip. By winter, we felt like Peru was where God was calling us. Then in April, Rachel's childhood friend surprised us by visiting us in Durango. And with that, Rachel got enough closure for the time being. A month or two later, I found out that the Philippines trip had actually fallen thru and been moved to another country. Looking back, we really feel like God answered our prayers and gave us direction towards Peru before things even unfolded.

This will be my third trip to Peru and Rachel's second. During past trips, our team traveled to the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Huayhuash of the Andes. This year, we will be focused exclusively on the Blanca. We will return to areas we have been working in and push deeper into unreached areas of the Blanca. There is still a lot of uncovered ground. There's a lot of work to be done for the Gospel.

The people group we will be reaching are the Quechua people. They live in many different areas of South America but ours specifically live and work high in the Andes Mountains at elevations of around 9,000-16,000 feet.

Religiously, there are many different beliefs amongst the people. Some believe in Jesus. Some worship animistic spirits. Many worship both Jesus and the spirits. Still, there are others who only know of a creator. They know nothing about Him because no one has ever shared, and they've never seen a Bible. They are so remote, that no one has ever told them about Jesus.

Despite the differences of beliefs, the common thing amongst almost all the people is that they don't have Bibles. So like last two trips, our goal is to distribute as many Bibles as possible. Though we will be ministering in many towns, a lot of the people we reach will be literally too far from any church to attend it and get fed spiritually with God's Truth. They need Bibles in their hands to learn that Truth and protect themselves from being deceived.

Along with giving out as many Bibles as we can backpack in, we will be putting on church services, encouraging those who are already believers and seeking out divine appointments to share the Gospel with those who need to hear it.

During past trips, God brought divine appointment after divine appointment in our path. It was amazing. I've never seen soil so ready for the Gospel. I truly can't wait to get back and see what God is going to do this year. I can't wait to see how God has grown the seeds that were planted in years past. We saw a lot of people come to Christ. I'm stoked to see where God has brought them since we were last there.

I'm also stoked for our team this year. I will have served on C4C missions with all but two of them.

Jordan Rowley is back for another go. Jordan works for C4C at their headquarters in Rochester, NY. Another Rochester local, Gary Fallesen, will also be on the trip. Gary is the president and founder of Climbing for Christ. He's done many trips to Peru and was also on my first two trips to the Himalayas.

Then, of course my beautiful wife, Rachel, will be going again this year. It's always blessing when I get the chance to serve alongside my wife in the mission field.

This year, we also have Aaron Hemphill and his son, Ronen, joining the team. Aaron founded AustriAlpin, a climbing gear company out of the Calgary, Alberta area. Aaron was on my first trip to the Himalayas.

And of course, I can't forget one of our students, Lexi Hooper. Lexi is a student at Fort Lewis and came to us from Austin, Texas. She joined our Christian Challenge mission team that went down to Juarez, Mexico over spring break.

Rounding the team out will be Peruvians Jaime Jesus Servat and Edwin Milla. Jaime is our local missionary on the ground there. He is the one who returns to each area we visit to followup and disciple those God connects us with. Edwin is a professional climber, missionary, and our guide for the trip.

Feel free to click on each underlined named for more info on the team member.

You can also keep up-to-date with the trip as we go! We'll try and get daily updates up online about what is happening and what God is doing on the trip. You can follow online by clicking this link: Dispatches!

If you'd like to see what God has done on our past trips to Peru, get caught up on past trip reports. It's truly amazing what God did and worth the read! Click here: Peru 2014/Peru 2015!

Thank you for all the support and encouragement you give! We are super thankful for that! Check out our prayer requests below and keep us in your prayers! #Pray4Peru #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:

- Sleep is always a hard thing to come by on these trips yet it's extremely important. Last trip, we lost power for twelve hours or so if I remember right the night before we were to fly out early in the morning. I ended up having to pull an all-nighter due to that. It wasn't a good way to start the trip and set me back for the rest of the trip health-wise. I'd pull two more all-nighters before the trip was over. That said, it's important the whole team gets good sleep so that we can be in good spirits and good health. Pray we would have energy, be in good spirits, and get good sleep during the trip.

- Spiritual attacks on these trips are always something we need people to pray against. On past trips, it always seemed like God would do something huge one day and the next day would follow with a big spiritual attack on the team. In talking with other missionaries in Peru, it seems to be what happens in the country. Not to be dramatic but it can be life and near death stuff as we've seen on past trips. It can also just be illness or injury...even in the lead up to the trip. Rachel has recently been getting bad headaches. Two days ago, I could barely get out of bed or breathe deeply due to back pain. Thankfully, that looks to be clearing up just before we leave after a lot of prayer. Keep praying for us and our team that God would protect us on this trip from any spiritual attacks. Pray that God would give us the strength to endure whatever comes our way. Also pray for everyone praying for our team because when you pray for our team, you're stepping into the battle as well.

- We fully expect God to change many lives on this trip. Pray that He 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 the people we are going to meet.

- On trips like this, there is always the chance of a rolled ankle while hiking or food poisoning at some point in the trip. Pray that God would keep our team safe and healthy from all those sorts of things.

- We trust God to provide for the ministry we do but would appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs of the mission trip and the ministry we do on campus would be met. If you would like to give toward the ministry or even the mission trip, there is still time. Go to: Give Now.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Christian Challenge June Update 2017!

Greetings!  Hope you are doing well!  Things are going well here other than being a little (or maybe very) exhausted.  We've been going strong since classes got out.  God has been doing a lot and there's much to cover in this update.

So before we go further, just wanted to let you know that our online giving options have changed.  It's a much shorter link now, and hopefully, it will be easier for everyone going forward.  If you ever want to give toward the ministry online, you can now just click here:  Let us know if you have any questions.

Anyway, things have been busy around here this summer.  We started with our state directors' meetings up in Colorado Springs.  Though the meetings were really long hours, it's always encouraging to get around other collegiate ministers who are also so passionate about reaching the college campuses of Colorado for Christ.

There, some big news was announced.  Our state director, Max Barnett, is stepping down after years of guiding the ship.  I'd say he was retiring but Max will never retire from ministry.  His passion for Christ and discipleship just won't let him.  Bobby Pruett, who was the Christian Challenge director at CU Boulder, will be stepping into Max's position.  Definitely be praying for that transition.

After the director's meetings, Rachel and I hiked up to an old forest fire lookout for a night to get away and refresh.  It was pretty amazing.

We had views of Mt. Evans, Longs Peak, and the lights of Denver 6,000 feet below us.

Well, we at least had those views when we weren't socked in by the storm.

We then headed back down into the Springs to spend some time with family.  It was quick because we had to get back to Durango for our Durango Christian Challenge staff meetings.  We got a lot of planning done for the next year which was great.  After those meetings, Rikako, one of our Japanese students who got saved last fall, moved in while taking a summer class.  She is a student Rachel disciples so it was great for them to get a lot of good quality time together before Rikako heads back to Japan.

During that time, we also had a wedding to be at.  That was seven hours away in Rangely, CO.  Two of our students, William and Chelsea who had just graduated were getting married.  William is a guy I had been discipling since his freshman year.  I met him originally thru our time leading FCA as he was one of our cross-country runners who was coming.  We met Chelsea when she arrived on campus a year later.  She eventually became our Christian Challenge student president.  William, being a new graduate and newly married, is currently looking for an engineering job if anyone hears of any openings.

After the wedding, we had Rikako for a few more days before she flew out.  Soon after, Jack Dody and Joel Ramsey come down from Colorado Springs to help us put in a water system.  Jack runs a ministry called Abundiculture which helps people, specifically missionaries, live in a sustainable way in whatever location God may place them.

When all is said and done, we should have not only enough water to run a normal household but also water clean enough to drink.  No more maroon-colored water.  It is stretching us a lot financially to make it happen but it was needed if we were going to continue to use our house for ministry.  Getting it done for just under $2,000 is sure better than the $17,000 a new well would have cost us.  Obviously, we're extremely thankful.

After that, Rachel and I got one last overnight getaway camping up north of town.  It was well needed.

We climbed Grayrock Peak the next day.  You can see it from Purgatory Resort and after years of ski instructing there, it's been on my list of mountains I've wanted to climb.  It ended up being amazing and just what we needed.  There were no other souls out there.

It was just us, a lot of snow and a lot of wind.  The wind was sustained at 50 mph with gusts to 70 mph.  It was enough to knock us over a few times. 

That makes climbing a little sketchy feeling like you'll get blown off the mountain but that just adds to the adventure and an adventure was just what we needed.

So that's a taste of what's been going on since graduation but there is so much more to catch you up on.  God has been doing so much!  It's hard to know where to start.

When we last updated you, Rikako had just gotten saved.  My plan was to do a salvation or baptism per newsletter but then students stated getting saved and baptized left and right.  It was amazing!  I think we ended the school year with seven students getting saved and nine baptisms total.

Lane was the first to get saved and baptized after Rikako.  If you remember, Lane started coming to our group years ago.  He was a staunch atheist.  He told us he thought Christianity was a load of...garbage.  He used another word but you get the picture.  Over the years, we kept pouring into him and praying for him.  Eventually last summer at one of our game nights, he asked, "So if a guy were to want to check out a church, where would he go?"  Then in January, he decided to follow Christ.

When he was asked what the biggest thing was in him finding salvation in Christ, it wasn't us having an answer for all of his spiritual questions.  That was still important but the biggest clincher was that he saw the love of Christ in Christian Challenge.  When he hung out with us, he felt that love.  Soon after his salvation, he got baptized.  It was amazing to see how God changed Lane's heart over the years.  There were certainly a lot of prayers for Lane.  We didn't give up on Lane and neither did God.

Soon, spring break was upon us.  That was a big week for the ministry.  We sent a team of twenty-three down to a missionary-run school down in Juarez, Mexico to fix up the school and build additions so that they can take in more students.  Rachel was part of that trip.

It was the biggest group we've sent down there in the history of the ministry.  We typically send less than ten but this year the trip exploded in size.  With all of the students who went, the ministry was able to get so much more work and ministry done.  They were covering in a day what would typically take the whole week.

During the time there, God was also ministering in the hearts of our students and changing lives.  All in all, it was a hugely successful trip.  Check out the video Josh put together of the trip here: Juarez Video!  The school is always looking for volunteers to help out so if you're interested, they'd love to have you down there.

With the group heading to Mexico, I stayed behind.  We had a big group of our past Japanese students coming in town.  Ryo, who I mentioned in our last update that he was a big influence in Rikako coming to Fort Lewis, came in town first.  He is dating a Christian back in Japan which opened the door to a lot of good spiritual conversation and questions while he was here.

After he headed back to Japan, more past Japanese students came in.  We finished up their time with a family dinner for them.  It was one of their birthdays as well so we celebrated that too.  It was awesome to get to catch up with all of them.

I even got to have a conversation about Jesus with one of the students who seemed totally closed off the first time he was in Durango.  This time around, he was open to it.  It was awesome!

Over spring break, God was working in Juarez and Durango...and Peru too.  That's right.  One of our students just happened to get saved in Peru over spring break.  We had been pouring into and praying for Yuko, one of our Japanese students, since the beginning of the school year.  My first memory of her is waterfall jumping with us.  She was one of the first to jump and had no fear.  Needless to say, she's an adventurous one.

She was worried that other Japanese students would think she was getting brainwashed if she went to Juarez with the group so instead, she decided to go to Peru by herself.  Well, as she traveled thru the country and thought about all she had learned about Jesus and who He claimed to be, she realized that she actually believed it, that she was actually a Christian.  After returning to Durango, she quickly wanted to get baptized and even asked if she could give her testimony in front of all of our students at one of our discussion nights.

And then, I think it was within a day of us hearing about Yuko's decision, another student got saved.  We met Bailey on our first night hike.  She also came on our camping trip to Ice Lakes where she really connected with a group of our students.  Following those events, she started going to our Bible studies and meeting with our staff weekly.  After all of that and reading thru the Bible we had given her, she decided it was time to become a Christian.  Bailey then ended up getting baptized with Yuko.

We followed those baptisms up with one of our sophomore (soon to be junior) students, Ryan R., getting baptized.  Ryan has been discipled by William for the past two years.  We hope to have Ryan discipling a student this coming year.

But God still wasn't done.  Joycelin, who was the secretary of the LGBT club on campus and whom Chelsea was meeting with got saved and baptized.

When she started reading the Bible, she said a peace like she had never felt would just come over her.  She was a student who had a lot of real questions and Challenge allowed her to ask those questions in a safe place.

Just before graduation, Nina, Rachel's childhood friend from Croatia, visited us.  Nina is the one who invited us to her wedding in Croatia this summer.

It was really awesome for Rachel having Nina here.  Rachel had needed closure with being a third-culture kid and while it wasn't revisiting Croatia and Serbia to get that closure, talking and hanging out with Nina was enough closure for now.  It was really great to see how God worked thru that visit.

Somewhere in there, we fit in some hikes as well.  Crader Ridge was a fun one with a lot of deep spiritual discussions. 

My favorite was our night snowshoeing trip.  It was an amazing night snowshoeing up in the mountains to have an Easter Eve service around the campfire complete with a short sermon...and Peeps s'mores of course.  It's always a highlight for a lot of our students too.

Before we knew it, graduation was upon us.  We watched a lot of our core students walk across that stage into their next season of life.  Some weren't sure where God was going to take them next.  Others did.  Blythe Crow, who started a ministry rescuing girls out of sex-slavery in Kenya, will be joining Challenge staff at Colorado Mesa University while continuing her ministry in Africa.  Ryan Evanyo will be joining staff with us next fall.

It's been amazing to see how God worked in the lives of our students and staff this year!  We've been really blessed with such a fruitful year!  We definitely praise God for that!  Check out the end of the year video Josh put together of all God did these past two semesters.  There are student interviews and pictures.  You get bonus points if you can find the spelling mistakes.  Watch the video here: End of the Year Challenge Video!

Over the past year, there has been a lot of prayer covering our students and our staff.  God is answering those prayers.  We know that you play a big part in that so keep praying.  I 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, maybe more fruit than we've ever seen.  I don't believe that's a coincidence.  So please, keep praying.  Don't stop just because it is summer.  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:

- Pray that God would continue blessing us with awesome student-leaders. We are losing a lot of our solid student-leaders to graduation so we'll need current students to step up into that role.

- Pray for our students that God would continue growing them and keeping them strong in their faith over the summer. Summer can be a tough time on students. It's easy to fall back into old ways when you don't have the structure and the support base they have in with the ministry on campus.

- Over the last couple of months, I've been researching churches in Japan. I've been in contact with a few pastors over there and looking at church websites. It's not easy to find churches there, let alone good churches. It's not that there aren't good churches. It's just hard to know which churches are good when you don't speak Japanese. We've made a few connections there but we may need to, at some point, go there to check things out for ourselves so that we can know where to refer students who find Jesus here and then head back to Japan. All that said, be praying for Rikako and Yuko that they would have the discernment to find a good church they can plug into and continue growing their faith.

- 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. Summer is supposed to be more of a time of rest for us between keeping up with students, mission trips, and support raising but that rest can easily be neglected or just plain disappear. And here we are midway thru summer without rest pretty maxed-out and burnt-out. Pray that we would find time for rest, and that people would understand and respect the need for a little space so that we can recover from the burn-out we're currently in. We need that time to recover before the coming mission trip and before the new semester which will be here before we know it.

- 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. Right now, we're actually pretty healthy as a staff. Josh is doing pretty good, though there is always the worry about his heart and possible future strokes. Rachel Horton's migraines have become much less often. The rest of the staff has been pretty good other than Rachel and me. Rachel has been under the weather the past few days since getting back from a camping trip. Thankfully, she seems to be getting better. I had my wrist blown up playing hockey in early April and then played three more games on it before figuring out what was wrong with it: torn cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. Thankfully, surgery as of now isn't needed or wouldn't help much. It's healing but healing slowly. I've also got another biopsy coming up for the nodule on my thyroid. Pray that God would heal and keep our staff safe and healthy.

- Our staff has meshed pretty well over the last year. It's a huge answered prayer. I think it's one of the reasons why the ministry has been so fruitful. Keep praying for our team that it would continue to mesh well.

- Our Peru mission trip is coming up next month. The dates of it are July 25th-August 8th. It's less than a month away. I'll get an update out on what we'll be doing there before we leave. Be praying for our training and preparations, for us and our team, as we get ready for the trip, that it would all go smoothly. Be praying that God would be preparing hearts of the people we will be coming in contact with down there. Also pray that God would provide all the funding that we need for the mission to Peru.

- With all the work that was happening with the new water system, we had more mice come inside and start chewing thru things. Pray that God would keep those pest problems under control.

- So we now have a water system in place with filters and everything! Now we just need rain. Pray that God would bring us that rain. We haven't seen measurable rain since we put the system in but hopefully, the monsoons should be kicking in soon.

- As I write this, there is currently a forest fire (started on the property of where Rachel and I lived before we moved into our current cabin) just a mile or two west of Durango and moving toward town. Pray for rain (without lightning) for the entire area. Pray that God would keep everyone safe including the firefighters fighting the blaze.

- 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.

- 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 or towards our Peru mission trip, 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.