Reaching Gamers

     To reach our community today, we’re plugging in with ministries who specialize in the world of video games. That’s where we heard about Matthew and Nathan.

As a sophomore in high school, Matthew tried getting his buddy, Nathan, to attend youth group time and time again. What finally got Nathan out was the promise of a popular video game before and after the meeting! Nathan then continued to attended pretty regularly.

When asked to name someone who is a good disciple of something, Nathan spoke up: “I’ve been through a lot this year, and Matthew has loved me. He hasn’t judged me, or acted preachy—he has just played games with me, and loved me.” As tears streamed down his cheeks, he continued: “I lost my dad this summer, and ever since then I have felt like there is a hole in my heart. The only time that hole feels full is when I am here, around people who love Jesus.”

Nathan has invited Jesus into his heart and now serves as a youth leader.  Nathan demonstrated the love of Jesus to his mother and now she has her own relationship with Jesus. God used video games as a platform for Matthew to love Nathan, and that love has spread to others.

Watch our video to learn more, and please pray for us as we lead the charge of Cru reaching some of the 3 BILLION video gamers this year!

Winter Conferences

Winter Conference is one place where, time and again, we have seen students grasp a greater vision for their lives. This December, 2,536 students attended across 4 cities.  They worshiped Jesus together, our speakers called them to a life more in line with the Scriptures, and they were equipped to share the good news of Christ in each of the four cities (where 41 people indicated decisions for Jesus)!  Here are a few of the things students shared from the week:

“Before coming I had felt very distant from God and felt like I was becoming a lukewarm Christian. This renewed my faith!”  -Faith, junior

At the outreach, while I was sharing what Jesus means to me, I realized I was doing what scared me so much. It was actually very fun to chat with people! It gave me new perspective on evangelism!”  -Bethany, senior

“I literally became a Christian today.”  -Nate, senior

“I’m eager to go out and do what God has called me to.”   -Ayana, sophomore

Please pray that Ayana and the rest would return ready to follow God on campus.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     I (Karen) wanted to share something we’ve been learning in church.  For 3 weeks, our pastor has been teaching a series on the Lord’s Prayer from Matt 6:5-13.  When speaking on vs 11-13, where He teaches how to ask for things, the pastor says to ask our selves three questions related to the three verses. 

1. What do I need

2. Where am I hurting? 

3. Where do I need help? 

     In discussing that second question, the pastor brought up the unforgiving servant parable from Matthew 18:21-35, saying that both the unforgiving servant and the one who owed him in debt ended up in the same debtor’s prison (a poetic example of how we become enslaved to the things we won’t let go of).

     The pastor explained that we cannot truly forgive until we have allowed ourselves to experience the hurt that needs forgiving.  He quoted Tish Harrison Warren: “Grief is stubborn. It will make itself heard… If we don’t face it directly it comes out sideways… explosive anger, uncontrollable anxiety, compulsive shallowness, brooding, bitterness, unchecked addiction. Grief is a ghost that can’t be put to rest until its purpose has been fulfilled.”

     This concept of not ignoring grief, or any feeling, has been instrumental in my growth.  We both really resonated with another of the pastor’s challenges too, that though counselors and friends are great we need to be careful not to “outsource” a conversation to them that we need to be having with God.

Finding Students to Reach their Campuses

Since that time, many of those students have continued to reach their campuses, and we also became connected with some powerfully active churches nearby who want to work with us to support these students. We’re doing initiatives like this all over the country, and volunteers and churches are joining us in walking campuses to find Key Volunteer students, “people of peace” that we an equip to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in their own communities. I’d be happy to equip you and your church to do the same!

A Volunteer of Volunteers

You know that your prayers and support help us coach students and volunteers on college campuses, but did you know our team works with high schools and middle schools as well? If you don’t think it’s possible for older generations to share the gospel with students today in a way that is meaningful, listen to Crista’s story!

Though her kids have all graduated now, Crista continues to volunteer with Cru High School with a heart for evangelism and discipleship.  It’s been over ten years now, and she has helped launch a Cru movement at both the middle school and high school in Coon Rapids, MN.  She has seen at least 51 people put their faith in Jesus in just the last few weeks!  One of her favorite tools for sharing the gospel is called “The Four,” a presentation of Bill Bright’s classic 4 Spiritual Laws guided by 4 symbols on a rubber wristband that correspond with four simple truths: “God loves you,” “sin separates you,” “Jesus rescues you,” “will you trust Jesus?”

Last month, the bitter Minnesota winds couldn’t stop Crista and her team from draping themselves in neon signs and heading out to the community Trunk-or-Treat with bags of the rubber bracelets (and candy of course).  While other cars were sporting spooky decorations, these ladies were shining the light and hope of salvation and the love of God!  Hundreds came and 29 kids put their faith in Jesus.  One highlight was a group of high schoolers who invited Jesus into their hearts along with their mom!  It is an incredible blessing to work alongside these godly volunteers and missionaries to reach students at every level. 

Let us know if YOU know a middle school, high school, or college student that we could talk to about reaching their school for Jesus!

Fall Retreats

     On any given Friday in October you can be sure that, somewhere in the US, college students (many of them freshmen) were piling into cars and vans, and following GPS directions to a rustic camp site to play crazy games with new friends, sing praise songs, and listen to Bible messages.  It was a bit different from how many pictured college life, but they encountered Jesus in life-changing ways, many for the first time.

     Ben, a junior, reflected on his experience at Fall Retreat: “Coming out of all of the Covid changes in 2020, I hadn’t been on a Cru retreat since my freshman year and had no idea what to expect. Fall Retreat was absolutely incredible, going above and beyond in terms of community building and strengthening, gospel centered conversations in small groups, and excellent teaching. The Lord was working, and I was able to see that—not just through how each message and breakout connected to some individual aspect of my life, but also in the ways in which the larger Cru community became closer as a collective whole. Fall Retreat served as a way to decompress from the fast-paced nature of life [on campus], and to slow down and spend time with the Lord, to understand what it truly means to abide in Him and His love for us.”

     Please pray for the bonds and the gospel momentum to carry back to campus.

Reaching New York State

     Using a new strategy to make ourselves known on the internet, our team has had many students reach out to us to help bring the light of Christ to their campus.  Many of them are attending schools in the SUNY (State University of NY) system, where my friend Chris has been directing his attention.

     I have been partnering with Chris to find local churches who can empower these young leaders, and have identified 58 churches near the first four campuses investigated so far.

  Chris and I have had several great conversations with pastors and volunteers who already have a heart to shepherd the students in their area, but my favorite encounter was with Nathan.

     Nathan, a professional chemist, began working as a professor for two reasons: to do research, and to make Christ known to students.  He has a heart for apologetics and, in the field of science and education, he stands against the stereotype that you have to turn off your brain to follow Jesus.  Nathan has had bible studies with fellow faculty and discipled a handful of students who have come to his church, but is excited about the idea of working with us to do more.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     Recently, I read an article in Christianity Today that deeply resonated in my heart.  The author described feelings of guilt for taking time to play.  While golfing and fishing, he is plagued by thoughts like, “shouldn’t you be doing something useful?  If you must take a break, why not one that is more useful like exercise or, better yet, reading your Bible?”  This led me to scour the Bible and Christian community about healthy, biblical play and rest versus laziness, worldliness, and idolatry. 

     Author David Naugle cites Psalm 104:24-26, saying that if children and animals play, “surely the animals tell us something about the playfulness of the God who made them.”  The Hebrew word for play, śāḥaq, is the same word used in the Bible for laughing, singing, dancing, and frolicking.  It’s what David did before the ark, and it is what Isaac was named after.  Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time for play contrasted with times for weeping and mourning.  But, when is it appropriate?

     Naugle says that God prescribed Sabbath and festivals so that “we can alternate our mastery of the world through work with a thankful enjoyment of the world as we experience its beauty in rest, worship, and godly leisure.”  Pastor John Piper explains the difference between sloth and Godly restfulness is whether you are avoiding work or celebrating it (Prov 13:4; 1 Cor 6:12; Ecc 5:12; Psalm 127:1-2).  Author/teacher Joshua Gibbs shared what he was taught, “If you can sing the doxology when you’re finished doing something, go ahead. However, if you realize there’s no way you can honestly thank God for what you’re doing, quit doing it.”

     There is a lot more to learn.  If you’re interested, one source everyone seems to site is Dutch historian and scholar Johan Huizinga, who wrote a book in 1932 called Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture.

Progress in Seattle

     This month, I arranged for 10 of our Cru leaders to meet with 15 churches around Seattle and learn about their hearts for young people.  The goal is to build relationships with God’s agents in the city and connect them to the 21 “unreached campuses” in the area, schools that have no known gospel activity. 

     As I’m working through follow-up with those 15 churches, and about  60 more that weren’t able to meet that day, I’ve already gotten to have some incredible conversations that God very clearly set up for me in advance!  One of my favorite new friends is Pastor Paul.

     After 20 years of ministering to his employees at Taco Bell, God had already put young people on Paul’s heart. He built an internship program at his church where recent grads could grow in 1-on-1 discipleship, small group fellowship, and service.  Now, he has 75 students and young adults who want to launch Cru movements on their local campuses.  They’ll start by rallying behind a newly-wed couple, Sammy and Michael, who will launch at their campus of Pierce College, then use that as a springboard to the schools the others attend.  Please pray for Sammy, Michael, Paul, and the rest!