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.