Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christian Challenge Christmas Update 2018!

Hello Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas! I hope the holidays have been and continue being a time of reflecting on God’s goodness, finding deep joy abiding in Him, and living out of that abundance. What if preparing for Christmas, it was simply about being, and beholding Him? What would your advent season look like? How would your heart be different?

The fall semester is coming to a close December 15thwith a couple of our students graduating. It is always exciting to see the next group launch into the real world and see how God continues working in and through them in their new context. We’ve been blessed with keeping in touch with almost all the students we’d had a privilege discipling over the 7 years we have been with Challenge.

On that note, recently Nick came to town for a visit after graduating two years ago. Mike had the privilege of meeting with him while he was attending Fort Lewis. We had the chance to spend the day with him in our home, hearing about the joys and hardships of life after college. He is working as an educator on a ship now and getting ready to sail to Europe with semester-at-sea high schoolers. He has been able to minister to these students but longs for Christian fellowship.

Would you pray for him? That another believer would be on his boat. And for more opportunities to love and share Jesus with these kids and fellow deckhands.

I’ve also gotten to Skype with Rikako. She’s the Japanese gal you all prayed for, got to see come to Christ and be baptized while she was at Fort Lewis. She is struggling with lack of community back home in Japan but is strong in her belief and desire to follow the Lord. She has shared Jesus with a student who is currently studying abroad with us this year.

Would you pray for a solid Christian friend her age as well as someone who will intentionally meet with her?

My favorite part of this semester has been this house God has blessed us with back in June. We call it the Tree House. In it, we’ve been able to be part of hosting the weekly student family dinners. Just recently for our Thanksgiving family dinner, we packed around 50 people into our new place. It was a good-sized group of students. We even had some new students show up.

We’ve also been able to use the house to invite one or a couple of students over at a time for dinner to love on them, have deep conversations, movie nights, fort building, baking days, meeting to read the Word, spending extended time in prayer, sharing the gospel, making cards together to give to others, etc. I thrive in this setting using the giftings and skills God has given me to give people a chance to taste and see God’s goodness in practical ways. Having smaller groups of people in our home is a way Mike and I minister well together, sitting around the dinner table intentionally engaging students.

I have some big news as well! I, Rachel, will be taking next semester off for a sabbatical. A sabbatical is not a long vacation. A true sabbatical is a season of sabbath for prolonged rest. The Biblical precedent and Christian tradition is to go on sabbatical once every seven years. Typical sabbaticals today are from one to six months long, with three being a standard. It’s an extended time in which you do not work. You step back from leading. It’s a time to BE with Jesus.

I have been discipling students for seven years as of this past November. With that, our organization encourages a sabbatical. I’ve been running on burnout for quite some time. I have not shared any of this before because it’s closely tied to walking the road of unexplained infertility. Because of this, I also feel a sense of wandering, lost direction as well as identity struggles. It is time to step back and heal.

“Eventually, after your body stops jittering, after your thoughts stop flitting about, after you start feeling your emotions, after your ideal self that performs and pleases is dismantled, after you experience your nothingness and nakedness before God, after you experience unconditional love, then you can begin to really rest in your body and soul. We’re putting the words of Psalm 23 to the test. ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ we say with David. ‘I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.’ He restores my soul. This soul restoration comes as we submit to the Lord as our Shepherd, lying down and being still in his presence.”- from Soul Shepherding, a booklet I am following for my sabbatical.

What do I need during this time? Prayer! I would love prayer to truly be grounded in my identity in Christ and how it is separate from what I do and the roles I have in this life. For heart healing and softening as I’ve allowed parts of my heart to grow cold and hard during this journey. That I would delight in the Lord, just enjoy being with Him.

Most people go away for their sabbatical, therefore leaving behind relationships and daily responsibilities. I however will be staying home so I would appreciate understanding in me being around but not available. I need this time to rest. Time spent with others will be limited, meeting for mutual edification, counseling, and encouragement along this journey.

While I go on sabbatical, Mike will continue working with Challenge on campus discipling students. He’s also got some big news. For the first time in Fort Lewis Challenge history, he’ll be launching a weekly worship night on Sunday nights. There’ll be worship and a message. This won’t change what Challenge is already doing. His hope is that this will be a stepping stone for students to jump into discipleship and the local church. This coming semester will be to see what gets traction. The plan is to do a full launch next fall with the new freshmen.

We appreciate each one of you and the part you play in reaching college students with the good news of Christ! Because of you, many have heard for the first time. Many have come into the Kingdom. Many have been supported in their journey. We are so thankful for that!

With it being the end of year, would you prayerfully consider giving a one-time end of year gift? It helps us continue on in this ministry and is tax-deductible. Or perhaps you are led to start giving monthly. Everything we have goes into this ministry. We pay the bills and daily living expenses and the rest is invested back into the ministry. If you would like to give for the on-going ministry happening at Fort Lewis, please go to: Give Now.

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

Prayer Requests:

Pray that God would continue to grow our student-leaders.  Last year, it was tough at times to find committed student-leaders that would reach out to our younger students.  Thankfully this year, many who weren't quite ready to step up last year have stepped up this year.  We pray that they would continue to step up and grow.

Pray for our students that God would continue growing them and keeping them strong in their faith.  On the surface, it wouldn't seem like Fort Lewis would be an easy place for that to happen but despite that, God is still working in our students' lives.

- Challenge has our big Life Impact Conference coming up in Colorado Springs just after the new year that we'll be taking students to.  Two of our Japanese students will be part of that.  Pray that God reaches our non-Christian students coming and grows the Christian students we have coming.  Also pray for safe travels as traveling Colorado this time of the year can be pretty snowy.

Pray for Rachel as she goes on her sabbatical.  Pray that she would find rest and healing in Christ during her time away from the ministry.

- 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.

- With the size of our staff, 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.

- 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.  We've been praying about where God might want us this coming summer.  There are a few trips on the radar.  Please be praying that God would give us wisdom and discernment as we listen for His plans for us this summer.

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.

- We've got a couple of items we are really needing to sell.  The big thing is selling our snowblower.  When we lived at our old cabin that received 150 inches of snow a year and had a 60 yard driveway, we had a huge need for a snowblower and finally gave in buying at commercial-grade one that wouldn't break down on us thru the big heavy snows.  Due to the drought we're in, we only used it about 30 minutes last season so it's basically brand new.  And now we don't have a driveway so it's time to sell it.  We need to sell it because that's what was going to pay for our last Peru trip which we still need to pay off.  I've also have a pretty nice camera I've been trying to sell off.  It's not quite DSLR quality but it's pretty close. Would make a nice Christmas present for anyone wanting to get into photography at a reasonable price...wink, wink.  Please be praying that the snowblower and camera would sell and if you know of anyone in the market for either of those two things, feel free to pass our contact info along to them.

Pray that God would open the door for us to partner with more churches and individuals.  With us moving closer to town, we've had students in our home a lot more.  From one-on-discipleship meetings to mission trip trainings to Bible studies to family dinners, our ministry costs have gone up quite a bit.  I know this is no secret but students can eat a lot and that can get pretty expensive.  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.

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