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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Change in Giving Options

Just a quick but important update for all of those who support what we do with the ministry.  Our giving options have changed.  More specifically, our online giving website has changed.  It is now  Hopefully, this will make things easier going forward in the future.

And just a reminder but we are still raising funds for our coming Peru mission trip.  You can give to that thru the new link.

Stay tuned for a new update coming out soon covering the past semester.  There is a lot of cover since God has been doing a lot so be prepared for a longer update.  As always, thanks for the prayer and financial support!  We couldn't do this without you being part of the team!


Friday, June 2, 2017

Everest and Faith

Well, it's nearing the end of Everest climbing season quickly.  There's only a small window in the spring when the weather is nice enough to climb the great mountain.  Nice is actually a poor word of choice.  It's too...nice.  A better phrase would be...less awful.  That less awful weather allows climbers an opportunity to trudge to the top and hope the window doesn't close on them.

I've loved Everest and its mystique ever since the day I learned of it when I was much younger.  I watched every TV show and movie on it I could get my hands on.  I went onto reading Into thin Air and The Last Climb.  Both are excellent books.  I'm fascinated by Everest.  For a long time, I even wanted to climb it.  That's changed over the years though.  I truly think I could with enough training but it's so expensive to wage an ascent on it.  I've grown way too thrifty for that.  Plus I have a wife and she'd kill me if I died trying to climb Everest.  Getting to base camp, though, is still on my bucket list.

With us being in the age of the internet, I'm now able to live vicariously thru others.  Every year, I follow multiple climbing teams' dispatches from the mountain.  I love the near real-time updates.  In 2016, I followed the Russel Brice's Himex team and the USX team of American soldiers bringing awareness for soldiers with PTSD.  I followed Jeff Evans as he worked with the Life Flight helicopter that rescued climbers who were sick or injured on the mountain and saved many lives.  They all provided great storylines to follow over a month or two.

Another storyline that was always interesting to me was Erik