Fish & Bread

“What do you have?” Jesus asked.

What do we have?! What do we have?!! What DONT we have!”

The disciples looked around and saw the hungry people and knew their demand was bigger than their supply. 

A little boy hugged tightly to what little he had as he made his way over to Jesus. 

“It’s not much, but it’s all I have…five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Barely enough to feed a starving boy, much-less, thousands. 

But can you imagine how pleased Jesus must have been with this tender-hearted little boy’s sacrifice? I can imagine Him beaming, “Yes, something I can work with!”

When you’re with Jesus, you begin to realize it is never about how much you have to offer and it isn’t even usually about what you have to offer….its simply THAT YOU TRUST HIM ENOUGH TO OFFER.

You take what little you have and you sacrifice it into His hands and watch and be amazed with what He can make from it.

He’s an expert at bringing something from nothing.

He can take fish and bread and make a feast for thousands.

That was the hope that we were clinging to at Campus Life last Thursday as our leaders frantically prepared to serve thanksgiving dinner to students in the city. 

Ten minutes before we’re supposed to eat and we have 15 bags of rolls, four pumpkin pies, a mini crock pot of green beans, and four bundt cakes.

We know more food is coming, but we also know the number of students is growing also. 


The pitifully (almost embarrassing display) of a table sits, many dishes still in transit…

Three people asked me if they should go purchase more food quickly.

There’s no time and for some reason, I just nod, “No. Fish & Bread. Start praying.”

You see, Jesus is an expert at bringing SOMETHING from nothing. 

He delights in showing off. 

And He Did.

Two minutes before serving, the door opens. Six people walk in, carrying trayfuls of food-

Chicken on skewers, fruit, cheese, salad,  stuffed mushrooms, beans, potatoes, desserts….

There was an ABUNDANCE of leftovers. 

When I say an abundance, I mean, abundance..
Students were able to take two and three platefuls. Some even made plates to take home to their parents and families.
Staff members from the YMCA trickled in to grab a plate, themselves.

When it was all said and done, entire cakes and pies and trays were left over but no belly left unsatisfied.

He left no table unturned. No plate unused.  No person left hungry. 

After tonight’s feast, I cannot help but think about those few loaves and fish and how nervous the disciples must have been.

And how sad, but excited, the little boy must have felt. On the one hand, he just lost his lunch. But only minutes later, Jesus showed him that His little lunch was a feast for thousands because he was willing to give it to God. 

That little boy not only witnesses the miracle but he was A part of the miracle. 

“What do you have ? What’s your fish and bread?

What do you have that you Can offer to Jesus? 

You don’t need anything fancy…Just open hands, a willing heart, and trust that whatever Jesus takes from you, He can always give it back in an even better way. 



If You Only Knew…

For the past several weeks, we’ve been working through our Freedom Writer’s series at Campus Life.

Week One: God Sees Me.

Week Two: God Hears Me.

Tonight: God Knows Me.

I say it’s our “Freedom Writers” series because we’ve either watched clips, watched the entire film or adapted different strategies that Mrs. G used in her classroom, with our very own Campus Life squad.

Tonight we got vulnerable. We got real. We got…honest.

Everybody in the room had a moment of silence-of reflection-and answered the statement: “…If you really knew me…”

And here are just a few of their brave responses:

“If you really knew me, you would know I am scared of death. I am scared of speaking in front of large groups of people. I second-guess pretty much everything I do.”

If you really knew me, you’d know that I want to change. How my life is going now, is not how I want it to be.”

“If you really knew me, you wouldn’t know what I’m going through. You wouldn’t know how I feel about every detail about me, about my insecurities,  and every way I think of myself. You wouldn’t know at all.”

“If you REALLY knew me, you would find that I will always believe in God, Jesus & myself. It’s just, I can’t really put my all in God because I know inside that I am going to still make mistakes, not all of them are going to be bright or right.”

“If you really knew me, you’d know that I have a grateful heart.” 

If you really knew me, you would know that I try to do good and not mess up but sometimes I just can’t and I always end up letting people down at the end of the day.”

If you really knew me, you would know that I am just a kid who wants to make friends with all my favorite people & I would do anything for the people I love. I’m scared to let my friends down so I do stupid stuff.”

“If you really knew me, you would know that I want the best for everyone and worry about myself last. You would know that I try my best in everything I do.”

“If you really knew me, you’d know I’m not as shy. If you really knew me, you’d know I have a big heart & a lot of love to give.”

“If you really knew me, you’d know that the choices that I made, I regret it all. I want to take everything back and start my life over and be a better person in life, to make you and my family proud. I love you with all of my heart and never want to do wrong again.”

If you really knew me, you’d know when I think of Jesus’ sacrifice, I am amazed. That God Himself would endure the cross, despising the shame for me, even knowing everything I’ve done, is so encouraging. How is it then that I get lost in my own issues and selfish ambitions? How is it that I still struggle with sin? But there are still times where I see God’s glory revealed and I believe that I can serve Him in whatever I do in the future.”

“If you really knew me, you’d know I’m not taking in enough of you [God].”

“If you really knew me, you would know that I want to trust you with everything but I struggle to give it all to you.”

The amazing thing is, we got to talk about how God does know us….from the inside out and He still loves us. We talked about the story of the woman who anointed His feet with her perfume and the response of the Pharisees. 

We talked about how there is room at the table for EVERYONE because God knows us and loves us anyways. 

He loved the woman but he also loved the pharisees. He wanted them to have a different story-a better story-a perfect story that only He could offer.

We ended the night with a song: “He Knows My Name” by Israel Houghton. If you haven’t heard it, go pull it up and listen to the words.

Then, take a deep breath, grab a pen and write your own brave, honest, vulnerable response:

If you really knew me…” 




God Hears Me

As the students started filing in they began playing games and chatting. Various different games were going such as Jenga and Chess among others. After a little bit of hangout time, everyone gathered to play a group game to help learn each other’s names and get to know some of the other students. They introduced themselves to others and then told them various fun facts about themselves, and even made up some secret handshakes.





Then we played a game where one student would put a plastic mouthpiece in their mouth and have to read a phrase which the other members of their team tried to guess. It was very entertaining and there was plenty of laughter.




After all of that silliness, we sat down to eat some pizza together and watch a movie clip. The clip was from the film Freedom Writers and the teacher, “Mrs. G” was encouraging her students to write and share their stories. After the clip, we entered a discussion time where we reflected on why it is important both to share our own stories, and also to listen to other’s stories.

This year’s overarching theme is “Better Than Ever”. Tonight our topic from our series “More To Me” was entitled “God Hears Me”, so one of our leaders, Candice, shared a bit about her own story. She talked about how when she was younger she struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. She felt like no one cared or listened, no one heard her. She then encouraged the students that God heard her, and God hears them. Even when it feels like nobody in the world will listen, God always will. She also encouraged students that they could talk to their leaders about anything, because they are there to listen.

After closing out in prayer, each student received their own journal to start documenting and giving life to their very own story.

What are you learning? 

“He’s telling me to face my fears.”

“He’s challenging me to be secure In Him. He’s teaching me to not be fearful and to trust in Him and His plan for me.”

“He’s teaching me to be more fair to others and to treat others how I want to be treated and also to be respectful towards others and things.”

“He’s getting me closer to people.”

“He’s trying to build My relationship with Him and to maybe change the way I treat people.”

“He is allowing me to be vulnerable with everyone around me and drawing me closer to himself.”

“He’s starting to change my perspective of things. I’ve realized how much I really do need Jesus. God will always love me and forgive me no matter what I do. God put new people in my life, people that I can connect with and be vulnerable with.”

“I don’t know.”
These are just a few of the responses our students wrote when prompted with the question:

“What is God doing in your life this week. What has he been teaching you?”
They were encouraged to be honest. These were some of their tried and true answers.

Now how about you? 
When is the last time you paused to think about what God is teaching you right now, in this season? When did you last pause and reflect on what God is doing in and around you?

Do me a favor. Pause, reflect and then respond. 

Leave a note about what God is doing in your life as a way to encourage our Campus Lifers who did the same for you.

Just Another Mountain

“There is no way I am going up there.” 
Mary looked at me, eagerly hoping I would change my mind. I could see hear the anxiety in her voice, as sweat beaded down her forehead. 
“C’mon, Mary. You can! And you have to! Because our group is waiting for us!”

That day, Mary climbed to the top of NOT ONE, but TWO caution-taped-non-trail routes to get to the top of a mountain that we were supposed to rappel down. Key word: supposed. 
When we reached the top of two very-scary “trails” that even the park workers were directed to avoid using, we realized we’d made it to the top of the wrong mountain. We’d found a group that wasn’t expecting us and therefore we had no gear to rappel back down. 

Thankfully, the adrenaline kicked in and we began making our way down to the bottom of the mountains once again. This time, we realized we were probably not going to be rappelling that day. 

Five exhausted faces frustratedly looked at me, as I caught up to them.
 Where was our group?
We were lost. 
So we headed back to the van and I convinced them the day was still young. What better way to redeem my directionally-challenged self, than to treat them to Golden Arches’ ice cream cones? They didn’t seem to mind and I felt a wave of relief that I didn’t have to rappel down a mountain after all. 
That is, until my phone started ringing and sweet, kind Kent was on the other line. He and his crew were still waiting for us to arrive. 
I heard several mumbles and saw the look on some very frustrated kids’ faces when I said, “Let’s try this again.”
Mary looked like she wanted to kill me!
After getting lost AGAIN (and determining that I was NOT allowed to drive next time!) we finally arrived and stood before the mountain that we aimed to reach all along. 
Kent convinced us that there was very little work to be done on our part and for some reason, we actually believed him. I know that sounds ridiculous but he was a very kind, and convincing man! 
We geared up and began gradually walking up the backside of the mountain.

Again, I could hear Mary’s frustrated growls and we exchanged worrisome glances. 
Neither of us was particularly thrilled about this but as the only leader, I couldn’t abandon the rest of the group and I wasn’t about to let anyone get away with skimping out. If I was going to climb and rappel this beast, then none of my young, vibrant students was getting away with sitting out. 
Once we were safely at the top, I looked around. 
Bethanne. Good, she made it.
Shawneescy. Check.
Nyla. awesome, we’re on a roll.
And there’s Mary, right ahead of me. 
And me. That makes…Five!
Corey! Where’s Corey? Corey’s missing!

“I’m over here!” 

“Corey what on earth are you doing?” (A phrase I became well-acquainted with during our week in Colorado). 
Shawneescy laughed, “He said he needed to go to the bathroom.”
My heart about stopped. Here we are on THE VERY TOP of a mountain, holding ropes to keep us from falling and there Corey is, free-falling it…just chilling trying to find a decent place to relieve himself. 
As we all re-grouped, the words of our rappel guides went in one ear and out the other. 

The only sounds I could hear was my racing heart and lungs gasping for breath.
‘This is not happening,’ I thought, as I looked out over the trees. How in the world did we get up here? And how in the world am I going to get down? 
I’d spent the last thirty minutes encouraging and comforting the kids, that I didn’t allow myself to experience the terror of it all.
Until now. 

Bethanne volunteered to Rappel first, and then Corey. 
Shawneescy went next. 
The plan was for Nyla and Mary to rappel together after Shawn but both were very apprehensive about making the next move. 
I grabbed Nyla’s hand and began to pray with her. 
I knew she would pick up my fear if I disclosed it and I also knew, the longer we waited,the more fearful we’d become. 
“C’mon Nyla, C’mon Mary. You got this. We’re all going to go together. Look! Bethanne & Corey & Shawn are already at the bottom. Let’s do this.” 
The next thirty minutes are a blur.
At one point, I was rappelling close to Nyla when suddenly her line crossed over mine, trapping my leg above my head. 
But somehow, I was flooded with peace. 
Nyla, you can do this. You’re almost done. You’re doing great. Don’t look down. Just look at the rock in front of you. You got this.
After what felt like an eternity, Nyla corrected herself and she was headed back down again. 
To my right, Mary was above me, on the edge of a cliff. She couldn’t get up the nerve to take the step backwards. 
I’m right here, lady. I’m right next to you. Listen to my voice. You’re doing great. Just one more step. That’s right. One more. C’mon, you’re doing great. 
The look on her face was sheer terror. 
“You can pull me back up now!” She yelled up to the people with the fancy belts who were holding our lives in their hands. 
“We cannot pull you back up. We never said we’d do that!” 
Well, that’s comforting. 
Mary began to cry even more hysterically, until all of a sudden, she had a moment of “kick-a**” wash over her. 
Nyla was professionally rappelled down after her little mishap and had safely reached the bottom at this point…so it was just Mary and myself, still on the mountain. 
She glanced at me, I glanced at her. We each took a step.
Neither of us could see where our own steps would take us but we could see each other’s and that was comforting, at least for me.
We were simultaneously panicking, yet, both fully aware that we were conquering this monster of a mountain. 
I’ll never forget the moment my foot hit solid ground again.
Victory. Somehow, we made it. 
Somehow, all six of us had climbed that son-of-a-biscuit and we all lived to tell about it. 
We even have a picture to prove it.

Someone once told me, If you only climb half the mountain, you only get half the view. Well, we climbed more mountains than we cared to that day, but it was worth the view. I guess the same is true for rappelling down; If you only rappel half the mountain…Well, you’ll just get to keep that view a whole lot longer because, as we learned, there’s no pulling you back up the mountain! 
If you ever get the chance to rappel a mountain, Do it. But call Kent first for directions because if you’re anything like me, you’ll drive right past the mountain THREE TIMES. But don’t expect him to be forthright with you about how terrifying it is. He will say it’s easy. He will say you’ve got this. He will tell you what you need to hear, to get you on that mountain because he knows the victory of climbing & rappelling it is far greater than the fear that will keep you from it. 

Tired Eyes; Full Hearts; Bare Feet. 

“What do you mean our vans weren’t delivered?”

I anxiously waited as the kind clerk on the phone explained the situation.
The week started off with a challenge, when transportation fell through last minute but God continued to provide with each challenge…

Night one of camp, Anthony broke his back during the “Protect Your Leader” challenge and things quickly escalated from ‘stressful’ to overwhelming…

Regardless of my ‘plans’ for the week slipping through my fingers, God was still at work…actually, in even better ways than I could’ve ever planned. 

One of my favorite (yet, diverse) group of people bonded as a family. 

We were challenged physically…



And spiritually..

Priceless conversations, timeless truths, and meaningful experiences were shared this week.

We were challenged to be vulnerable with one another..

And with God.
We had an opportunity to say YES to Jesus and to invite the Holy Spirit to live inside of us…

And as confusing and messy as that can feel sometimes, there is nothing comparable to the companionship of God.

More than anything, at Campus Life, we want students to have an opportunity to experience the love and grace (and the changed life) that God offers daily…

That’s why we have decided to partake in a 90 Day shoe challenge.

For the next 90 days, campus life is trying to Collect 7,500 pairs of gently used shoes, to help raise money to continue to provide local programs to help keep kids off the streets and in healthy community…

While simultaneously being involved in a mission greater than our own, sending these gently used shoes overseas to countries in need…

We want our students to be aware of Gods amazing love for them while also living a life that impacts the world around them for Good! 

Will you join our cause and be ONE of the 300 who participates in the ONE BAG CHALLENGE?!

Here’s what you do.

Rally 25 people in your world to donate a Pair of gently used shoes to a mission that benefits our Community AND our world…

Once you’ve collected 25 pairs (any size, any style) check out our website/social media/contact us for drop off locations. 

We have tired eyes. 

Full hearts.

And bare feet…

…Because God has given us a mission bigger than ourselves. 

Will You Join The Cause?

A Story To Tell

Tell them they have a story to tell and their voice will follow. 

Eight months ago, a group of incredibly talented, selfless and driven dreamers sat around a table and believed that if young people understood that their story is part of a bigger story-a story that does not revolve around them but around a mighty and awesome savior who cared enough for them to give them a part in His story- if they really understood this, then it would change their lives forever. 

So they set to work…praying, planning, dreaming, executing and delegating. Their vision inspired The Voice Project: a 30-day devotional that helps students discover who they are and what their role is in this amazing story they’ve been given. At the end of the 30 days, we gathered and celebrated God’s story while learning all the different ways He has equipped us to use our voice.

We challenged our kiddos to use their voices and some students submitted their stories via written work, a poem or essay. Some drew pictures. Some wrote song lyrics. Some took selfies and posted to social media….

Every voice is different. But that is ok. I think that it just might actually be intentional from our Creator because His voice is infinite. His story is timeless. His words are eternal. There is no “one” way to communicate His truth. He has gone to great lengths to reach those who feel too far from His reach. 


Meet Shawneescy Lopez.img_4696

She is amazing and beautiful, inside and out. She submitted this poem as her story submission:

The Knowledge of Sometimes

~ I hate knowing what I know, the knowledge of the pain and sufferings life struggles has put me through. ~ Sometimes my mind falls into a hole, a deep, dark never ending tunnel that has no way out.

~ I hate knowing what it feels like to lose a loved one, and a friend.

~ Sometimes my life is a mess, and it’s so jumbled that I want to give up, it feels like I’m trying to solve an algebraic equation that has no solution, like I’m trying to figure out a cure for cancer, like I’m trying to solve a 9X9 rubik’s cube.

~ I hate knowing what it feels like for someone to believe in me, and I hate worse knowing what it feels like for someone to give up on me.

~ Sometimes my soul is tired, and bruised, and weak, the feeling of giving up is so strong, just wanting to take a nap until I wake up with no problems, no worries, and no troubles.

~ I hate knowing that we are together on this planet, the ones with the darkest of souls and those with the brightest of hearts.

~ Sometimes my brain says to my heart that it’ll be okay, just take another beat, okay, now another, that’s it, give me another, good, one beat after another.

~ I hate knowing that you know the lost empty feeling you get that hollows the insides and fills the heart with what feels like black tar, blocking out the blood from getting to the heart and from leaving.

~ Sometimes I try and try to pick myself back up, after the struggles in life and the punches it lands, I try to pick myself up from the fall.

~ I hate knowing I’m on shaky grounds, and the will ill of thinking this will never go away, of feeling the foreverness of it.

~ Sometimes I feel a voice calling out to me, to pick myself up, to dust myself off, telling me I can do this. ~ I hate knowing that I don’t know what to do when I hear that voice, whether I should pick myself and get ready for another round, or just remain on the ground and play dead.

~ Worst of all I hate knowing that sometimes life’s not perfect and just, but it is made for our own individual journeys and conquests.

By: Shawn Lopez


Isn’t it incredible how these words penetrate so deeply? 


Here’s Noah.img_4731

He’s a graduating senior this year and this is how he choice to submit his story:



These are just two of the stories submitted to The Voice Project. As someone who sat in on the original dream sessions of this incredible committee (hoping and praying that The Voice Project would equip others to find and use their God-given voice), it is ironic that these submissions (and the others) have left me completely and utterly speechless. 

It is incredible how God can take our stories-the things we have done and the things that have been done to us- and use them all for His glory and our good. He gave us a voice to tell others of His goodness but how often do we idly stand by in silence because we are too scared or intimidated… or perhaps we think we have nothing of value to say? 

Let me remind and encourage you: the most significant thing about your story is that it isn’t yoursyour story is a part of a much bigger, grander, and more wonderful story.

No matter where you’ve been or who you’ve become, God is For You.

God is all about writing a beautiful ending even to the most tragic of beginnings.

Put down the pen and let him write your story…and you will see that He Will Give You A Story Worth Telling.