We are praising God that both Karen and I had the opportunity to serve high school students at FastBreak. As a freshman in high school, our son was able to attend as well! FastBreak is an overnight winter conference that takes place in multiple sites around the country for a weekend filled with fun, training, and worship.

   While each location looks a little different, they’re all designed for teens to grow closer to Jesus and their friends as well as to learn how to share Him with their friends. Our son reported that he did not get a ton of sleep, but bonded with his friends and grew deeply during some tearfully powerful sessions.

   Karen and I were honored to prepare and present for two different breakout seminars that were a HUGE hit! The first taught students how to identify their feelings and bring them to Jesus. The second discussed how God feels about how we spend our leisure time. Praise God with us!

Ministry Design Sprint

  Both Karen and I have also been blessed to take part this year in an Innovation Residency, where we learn how to move a group of people to strategically solve the most important problems in an organization. The centerpiece of the year-long program is called a Design Sprint, where think-tank teams will spend a full week researching, developing, and testing prototypes to solve what are seen as the most pressing issues facing our ministry.

   All residents were asked to pitch what they believed most needed a Sprint. Karen planned to pitch on helping Christian communities be a safe place for people to be authentic and thrive emotionally. I hoped to pitch on engaging the 3.2 billion video gamers in the world. Though we were prevented from presenting by a pretty serious health scare (more on the back), I put together this video. Leadership awarded me a Sprint to explore how we might create an event experience that draws students from the gaming community into trust-based relationships with their Christian peers for the sake of the gospel. We are so excited to see how God will use this time of collaboration!

What God’s Been Teaching Us

   Mid-January, I (Karen) started experiencing intense pain that was diagnosed as mastitis (very rare when not lactating) and needed an ultrasound to examine a painful bump. That bump turned out to be a cyst (harmless, and apparently very common), but they found “something” nearby that required a biopsy. I suddenly found myself surrounded by prayer, encouragement, and solidarity from friends near and far. Though I know God answers His children in many different ways—and whether He says yes or no does not define His love for us—I believe prayer is the reason my test results were benign and no follow-up is needed.

   I am grateful for the clear test result, of course, but also struck by how God carried me through the whole situation. Medical stuff usually freaks me out, especially waiting on answers. This time, I felt at peace during the waiting. I kept thinking, “if it IS something, I am so grateful we found it early by looking at something unrelated.” The day I found out I needed the biopsy, God helped me write a whole list of things I was grateful for.

   High on the list was my experience in the waiting room. I was there for hours (they wanted additional testing after the ultrasound showed “something”) and I connected with some other ladies there. One lady eventually teared-up and expressed that she was scared (she needed extra testing as well). I went over and put my arm around her, and she cried and opened up to me. I was thankful to be a comfort to her, even though her English and my Spanish were both very limited.

   After the biopsy, I was surprised by how difficult the recovery was. Jeff and the kids were amazing at holding down the fort and letting me focus on resting and recovering, and some friends and family cared for us in various ways. I was able to rest and be “okay with not being okay,” which is also pretty new for me because of issues related to some chronic medical stuff I’ve dealt with. I felt like I was able to process it with God and be more okay with it than I ever have been.

When you think hope is lost… keep praying!

Students are definitely the heroes of our ministry. They take great steps of faith to shine Jesus among peers who may judge or even ostracize them for it. Still, there are faithful prayer warriors behind the scenes in the form of Cru missionaries, pastors, mentors, and parents who believe even in students who don’t believe in themselves. Check out Bailey’s story:


Loving the Outcast

     Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Have you ever been treated like there’s something wrong with you because you are different? I’ve discovered a very common theme among those who are creative, artistic, and “geeky.” I had the opportunity to capture the testimony of Nick, a professional animator and video game designer who has been serving on my team:

     “I was really shy and I heard things like, ‘you’re into Pokémon and drawing cartoons? Aren’t you twelve now? You should be into girls and stuff!’ You have no idea how many times I was asked, ‘are you gay?’ in much more colorful language, usually by my dad and people who questioned whether I was acting right. I grew very resentful.”

     The judgment Nick felt in the church caused him to pull away from God. He figured that God either didn’t exist or didn’t care. Things started to change during Nick’s freshman year, when he met AJ. “He was just like me in so many ways, but actually took pursuing God seriously.”

     AJ’s sincere faith, kind heart, and common interest stirred Nick to truly dig into exploring whether God was real. AJ couldn’t convince Nick of God’s existence, because Nick felt he had to experience it for himself; but their friendship brought Nick to a place where he knew he had to take a step of faith. He said, “I’ve never seen it yet, but I’m gonna give it a real shot.” Nick sealed this decision by “handing over to God” his most prized possession, the sketchbook he carried everywhere and which brought him so much ridicule.

     He noticed a change in his heart very quickly. “I didn’t resent people for thinking I was weird all the time anymore. That was huge to me! All of a sudden, I didn’t have that tension, always feeling left out and ignored. I can be me, even if people don’t get it. God gets me and that’s actually enough.” From then on, Nick pursued God while drawing and telling stories—which has led to an active career and ministry.

     Nick and his wife are now working with us—producing gospel animations, video games, and developing a strategy to reach those within a gaming or “nerd” culture. In order to continue to send students like AJ as missionaries to the outcast, Karen and I are trusting the Lord to provide special gifts to help fully fund our ministry in 2023 and increase our impact on the next generation. Would you prayerfully consider helping to meet this need right now with a one-time or monthly gift of the amount which God puts on your heart?

     Whether you are able to help meet this need or not, we want to express our deepest appreciation for your partnership. Through your generous giving and prayers, we and many young people have been truly blessed. Thank you for serving with us to bring the gospel to the whole world through the next generation!

Reaching High Schoolers

   25 students at our local high school invited Jesus into their hearts a few weeks ago! That was about 1/4 of the students who attended the first Cru outreach of the year led by Cru High School missionary, Carlos.  Since then, we’ve been discussing the possibility of teaming up with the school’s gaming club to do another gospel event.

     Jon-Gabriel, the gaming club president, is both a renowned eSports competitor and the son of a local pastor.  He has been praying for God to use his gifts as a platform for people to discover Jesus.

     This has also been an opportunity to work together with missionaries from FamilyLife (a Cru ministry that focuses on empowering marriages and parenting), and a partnering ministry called Crossover.

Finishing Well

   On the 29th of this month, we were saddened to hear that Steve Douglass went home to be with the Lord.  Steve became the second president of Campus Crusade for Christ in the year 2000, after having served with founder Bill Bright for over 30 years.  Dr. Bright said that Steve, “knows and understands our movement as well as anybody, and better than most. He genuinely seeks to honor our Lord in his actions and decisions.”  Our current president, Steve Sellers, called him a “great missionary statesman,” saying that his death was a “tremendous loss for the [Cru] family.”

     Steve Douglass had a special place in our hearts, personally.  He was the leader who welcomed us into the ministry family 16 years ago, and 10 years ago he prayed over Karen when visiting our team right before our decision to move to Cru headquarters.  Steve balanced a heart for God’s mission everywhere with an approachable and genuine concern for individuals.

     We got to know him a little more over the years and, when our team asked him to pray for Cru leaders to catch the vision for reaching students through video games, he replied “I hope they easily see the opportunity.”  We pray that our own lives will be proven as good and faithful as that of this kind and generous man of God.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

   Karen and I like to teach people to do what we call “stride-of-life ministry.”  Sometimes Christians can believe that it is solely up to pastors and vocational missionaries to spread the gospel, or that ministry is something individual Christians do on trips or during events.

     “Stride-of-life” ministry, though, is the idea that God owns every day of every believer (Galatians 2:20).  Being a light for Jesus isn’t something we turn on and off, or set on our calendars.  When we wake up each day re-centering on what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him (2 Cor 5:21), the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith, allowing the unconditional love and peace of God to fill us to overflowing (John 7:38-39).  As we set out each day to engage in the world around us (at work, in our family, in our neighborhood, or with our friends), it is that love and peace that people see evident in our lives (2 Cor 4:7).  Life becomes an adventure with the our heavenly Father, keeping our eyes open for the good works He prepares in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10).

     Karen is my favorite example of this.  Everywhere she goes, Karen truly sees people.  Just the other day, it happened again.  We split up in Walmart to run some errands.  When I found her again, she waved me over with excitement to meet her new friend, Jonathan, whom she met in the toy aisle.  Jonathan travels around the area making sure his company’s supply is stocked and displayed properly, but he also makes it a point to be kind and helpful beyond his official responsibilities.  It was amazing to see how God opened his heart to share with us about his family, his back pains, and his emotional journey.  We’ve kept in touch, and have been praying for him ever since.  Would you pray for him, too, and look out for the Jonathans God may be putting in your path?

Strangely Easy to Share

    One of the core ways Cru spreads the gospel, and one of the first things we teach Christian students to do, is to walk their campus starting conversations with new people and inviting them to learn about our Lord and Savior. We coach them to never take that conversation where the other person is unhappy to go; our goal is to leave each encounter with the other person closer to Jesus than when we started. We realize that most of the time people won’t go from hostile to new believer in one interaction. That said, these “random conversations” led to many people giving their lives to Jesus (2,056 total salvation decisions so far this year among our different evangelism strategies)!

Pray for “Broken Bonds” and “Blissful Dawn” (screennames of those we met)

    It may sound strange, but one of our favorite places to go on campus is wherever people go to smoke. People there are usually not rushed and are more open to chatting. The same is true in some video game spaces, like VR Chat. In the midst of people being weird and silly, my friend Frank and I met a college student who opened up about a recent tragedy, and his friend who struggles at her job. All this without leaving the house. Pray for more like this!

Innovators for Christ

Karen and I getting to know some of our teammates

    “One of the greatest dangers for Cru is that we would stop innovation. Cru has always been on the cutting edge, thinking about new ways to do ministry more effectively. If we lose that innovative spirit, we will lose something that is core to our movement. We all need to look for new ways to accomplish the mission and the vision God has given us.”

– Steve Sellers, President of Cru

    This year, Karen and I are participating in an Innovation Residency to explore insights and opportunities, with the goal of helping to design fresh solutions to our most pressing problems and deliver these ideas around the globe.

    We hope to develop unique ways of building people in their faith & sending them out with that same life-changing message and relationship. We are fueled by the words of Cindy, who told us, “Without you [trying new things], I never would have become a Christian.”