A Few God Moments at Cru19

Moby Gym at Colorado State University

In many ways, this year’s Cru staff conference was similar to previous ones. We met at Colorado State University. There were lots of people. There were lots of meetings with some great and inspiring speakers. We saw old friends and made a few new friends.

However, the things I remember most about our time at Cru19 are the ways in which God seemed to meet us right where we’re at, in our present life situation.

Bob Beaton (left), 1959 Graduate of the US Naval Academy, has worked with Midshipman at his alma mater for nearly 20 years!

Early in the conference Jen and I received a text from a person Jen works with in her side role of National Leadership Development. He wanted to connect us with a man he knew named Bob Beaton who is on staff with Cru at the Naval Academy. I texted Bob and we arranged to meet. It turns out, Bob is a 1959 graduate of the Naval Academy and after a long military career, joined Cru’s staff in 1994. In 2000, Bob started the Cru ministry at the Naval Academy and while he stepped down from leading the movement a few years ago, Bob is still active in ministering to Midshipmen (aka “Mids”) at the Yard (the US Naval Academy Campus).

Not long after that, Jen and I bumped into one of our former UC Davis students in the lobby of our hotel (one of the fun things about these conferences is running into people you haven’t connected with in a while). Her husband mentioned that they personally know the Cru Director at the Naval Academy and they introduced us to Kyle via text. Kyle and I were able to meet a few days later during an afternoon break.

After sharing introductions, I asked Kyle if he knew anything about our family. He said he only knew that we had a son who was entering the Naval Academy. I began to share a bit more, including the fact that Jacob has a twin brother, Joshua, who is at West Point.

Kyle Sponaugle (right) has been the director of the Cru ministry at the Naval Academy since 2008.

At that point, Kyle interrupted me and quickly pulled out his phone where he pulled up a photo and said, “I think I’ve already met your son.” The photo showed about 15 Plebes (that is what they call 1st year students) who were at the first Cru Bible study just a few weeks prior. Jacob was front and center in that photo. Kyle then went on to share that Jacob had talked with him after the group time and asked for prayer for his twin brother who is at West Point. Jacob never shared that his parents are on staff with Cru and that he is a staff kid.

It was amazing to find out that Jacob has already been pursuing a spiritual community on his own and we were able to connect with the leaders of that community at our national conference.

Jacob (Front Row, 4th from the right) at the Cru Navy Bible Study

A few days into the conference, we were scheduled to get phone calls from both Jacob and Joshua, ON THE SAME DAY! There are limited opportunities to talk to our boys during the summer training so we were pretty excited to hear from them. The problem was we had no idea the exact time they would call….we only had a Cable TV-like window of 5 hours where we knew a phone call would likely take place.

Joshua was all smiles on his FaceTime call to us during Cru19.

As it turned out, Jacob and Joshua both ended up calling us AT THE SAME TIME! It was a bit of a panic but we ended up getting them on our different phones where they were able to talk to each other via speaker phone. I think it was just what they both needed since the biggest challenge for them is that they are away from each other for the first time in their lives.

In the end, God provided inspiring and visionary speakers, just as we expected. He also refreshed us by connecting us to friends and colleagues we had not seen in a while. But the bonus was providing those moments that calmed our hearts as parents, allowing us a glimpse into what He’s doing in the lives of our sons who are no longer with us. Thank you for your continued prayers. They mean the world to us!

Cru17 Highlights

Almost everything was different about our summer conference at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

For starters, we skipped the usual two day drive with the family that would take us through the deserts of California and Nevada, the amazing rock formations of Utah and the majestic Rocky Mountains. We opted to fly instead.

It’s been four years since Jen and I attended this conference so of course we noticed how much the town of Fort Collins and the campus have changed with recent construction. Some of our favorite places to eat have closed and new eateries have opened up.

When we entered Moby arena for the first session, I could tell this conference was going to be different.

The stage was set right in the middle of the arena, instead of at one end, as has been typical in the past. Somehow, it gave the sense of drawing people in.

The worship was inspiring and of course, the speakers were diverse and challenging. It’s hard to encapsulate all that happened in a short newsletter so we’ll share a few of our favorite moments.


Cru President Steve Douglass presents a local Native elder with a traditional gift blanket.

During one of the opening sessions of our partnership weekend, Donnie and Renee Begay, the diretors of our Native ministry (Nations) led us through a time of honoring local Native elders. There was an exchange of gifts between leaders and one of the elders who addressed our conference mentioned that this was the first time anyone had approached them and included them in this way before. It was incredibly moving and redemptive.



The Aruna Project seeks to help woman in India who are in bondage as sex slaves

For the first time, Cru partnered with the Aruna Project to host a 5K run on campus to raise funds and awareness for women in India who are enslaved in the sex trafficking industry. Jacob and Joshua ran the race and did quite well, but that’s not the highlight.

What was different about this race is that every runner ran with the name of a woman taped to their body who is still enslaved. As the runners started the race, they were encouraged to shout the name of the woman taped to their body.

The hope is that each woman represented will soon be able to experience true freedom.

Additionally, each participant received an Aruna drawstring bag that was made by women who were once enslaved but are now free and employed with jobs making usable clothing and gear. For more information on the Aruna Project, go to arunaproject.com. To see more photos from the race, see my Flickr album at: http://bit.ly/2vVBlVf.



Jennie Allen shared her story of growing as a believer in the context of Cru when she was a new believer in college. She mentioned how the staff person who was following up with her initial contact invited her to Sonic in order to connect with her personally. She remarked, “Don’t underestimate the power of a Sonic run.”

It was a funny comment but it reminded me that what we do is valuable. We often meet people in various places all over Orange County and we have no idea the impact we are having. Jennie’s story was a great example of why it’s important to meet with and connect with Young adults.



Joshua, left, and Jacob take a photo with Jerry, the founder and president of Newton Running Shoes!

We had a half day off during the conference and we decided to spend that time in Boulder, which is about an hour away. Jen had arranged for us to visit the small office of Newton Running Shoes.

Earlier in the year, the Cross Country coach had recommended Newtons for Jacob and Joshua as a way to help correct their heal-striking tendencies, which we think was contributing to some of the knee and shin issues Jacob had been experiencing off and on for the past year.

Newton is a small company that has appealed to a lot of triathletes. They make good shoes but they’re not easy to find. Basically, you have to order directly online.

It was fun going to their office because everyone was super friendly and asked a lot of questions. They showed us samples of the new models that haven’t even come out yet and the founder and president took several minutes out of his time to personally greet us and ask questions about Jacob and Joshua’s running.

They even hooked us up with some free stuff, which was a nice bonus!



Andy Crouch speaks on the topic of true partnership.

Andy Crouch, author, speaker and former executive editor of Christianity Today, spoke on partnering. I’ve always found Andy to be very thoughtful and insightful as it relates to how Christianity intersects with current culture. Andy challenged our thinking on partnership. In particular, he said that, “Partnership is not a trade. You can’t walk away after getting what you want.”

He stressed the importance of relationships and engaging with one another in our struggles and our suffering.

Andy’s talk reminded me of you, our PARTNERS. We missed the Cru conference two years ago because of Jen’s health. During that trying time in our lives, you truly demonstrated the kind of partnership that Andy talked about. You encouraged us, prayed for us and suffered with us through our struggles. Your generosity and compassion sustained us and we are truly grateful! Thank you for your prayers and partnership!

Cru15 Highlights

Hundreds of Cru Staff outside of Colorado State's Moby Gym after one of the main sessions of Cru15.
Hundreds of Cru Staff outside of Colorado State’s Moby Gym after one of the main sessions of Cru15.

Every other summer, over 5000 Cru Staff members from across the United States convene at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado for 2 weeks of vision, training, worship and spiritual refreshment.

Over the years, this has been a highlight of our summer and a family tradition as we make the trek across the Southwest to connect with friends, and be challenged and motivated from God’s Word by Cru leaders and Christian leaders from around the world.

This year, Jen and I were not able to attend the conference due to Jen’s recent health issues. Back in February, the outlook for Jen’s health looked very uncertain. We were anticipating another round of chemo-therapy that would have lowered Jen’s immune system and put it in its most compromising state right at the time we would be surrounded by 5000 other people in varying states of physical wellness.

As a result of the questions we were facing, our leadership granted us an exemption from attending this year’s conference. It seemed like the wisest course of action.

Jacob & Joshua had a blast attending the Cru15 high school Getaway program and being challenged in their faith.
Jacob & Joshua had a blast attending the Cru15 high school Getaway program and being challenged in their faith.

Though Jen and I weren’t able to be there, we made the decision to send Jacob and Joshua so they could participate in the Cru high school Getaway program and connect with some of their friends. They had a blast flying on a plane for the first time by themselves and were definitely challenged by speakers like Josh McDowell. In addition, their faith was stretched as they had the opportunity to share their faith in the local community.

Jen and I were disappointed that we weren’t able to attend the Cru15 conference in person. You may be wondering why we would be sad to miss out on a 2 week-long conference of meetings and training sessions. After all, getting exempted from a work conference is normally like a receiving a “Get out of Jail Free” card.

Though it’s a conference, with many meetings and sessions, there are a lot of fun activities with a definite family atmosphere. We’ve found it to be a great time to connect with our friends, co-workers and even many of our former students who are now working with Cru. It’s amazing how road trips and living out of your suitcase for a few weeks can create a lot of family bonding opportunities and many lifetime memories.

Over 5000 Cru Staff from all over the U.S. inside Moby Gym for a main meeting session of Cru15.
Over 5000 Cru Staff from all over the U.S. inside Moby Gym for a main meeting session of Cru15.

Though we weren’t there in person, through the marvel of modern technology, Jen and I were able to live-stream many of the main sessions and interact with our co-workers on social media. It wasn’t the same as being there in person of course, but it was great to hear the speakers and see the direction and vision of Cru for the next few years.

A couple of exciting themes emerged from this year’s conference. One was a continued commitment to reach the ethnic scope around us and to create an atmosphere in our organization that would welcome and foster ethnic diversity.

Jen and I have a passion for ethnic diversity in ministry because of our many years of giving leadership to Ethnic Student Ministries in the campus ministry. It has been a long road of learning and growing as an organization, but we’re confident that we’re on the right path as an organization and that our leaders are leading us through the necessary changes to make sure we are relevant as an organization for many years to come to those whom we seek to reach.

Francis Chan uses a Lego to illustrate the need to humbly partner with others for the sake of the gospel. Each one of us is a brick but together, we can create something special.
Francis Chan uses a Lego to illustrate the need to humbly partner with others for the sake of the gospel. Each one of us is a brick but together, we can create something special.

A second theme that emerged was the need to humbly partner with others. If we’re committed to reaching every person, we must be willing to come alongside churches, volunteers and lay people and work together synergistically to accomplish the Lord’s work.

Partnering is one of the core values Jen and I have as we seek to reach Millennials, who have a strong desire to be mentored. Our desire is to raise up and train dozens if not hundreds of volunteers throughout Orange County who could impact Millennials by leading community groups and providing mentoring both spiritually and professionally to this unreached generation.

We couldn’t be more excited about the vision and direction the Lord has given us. Would you please pray for us and with us as we seek to take the next steps in developing our ministry to Millennials?

Thank you for your partnership with us and your ministry to us. You are a blessing from the Lord to us and our family!

Click here to access the pdf version of The Lowedown.

Senior Leadership Initiative


Jen, with her coach Judy, after graduating from her 2 year leadership program

How do you describe something that literally transforms your life? How can words be put to an experience that helps you to grow in your confidence to lead, and which helps you grow closer to the Lord in the process? That is what I (Jen) am tasked to do in this month’s edition of The Lowedown.

Back in July of 2011 I became a part of the Senior Leadership Initiative (SLI). This is a program within all of Cru that invites 25-30 leaders to build into them to learn how to lead “at 10 times their scope.” This past July when we were in Colorado I graduated from the program. Click here to read the latest Lowedown where I share a few of the highlights from the past two years.


Rocky Mountain High

5 weeks and nearly 5000 miles this summer saw us driving through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

The central event of our summer was attending our National Staff conference, which takes place every other summer in Fort Collins, Colorado. During the conference, Jacob and Joshua participated in “The Getaway”. The Getaway is a special program for junior high and high school students. They heard from speakers like Josh McDowell, participated in small group Bible studies and did fun activities like Paintball and Rafting, as well as the infamous “Food Fight”.


Joshua got more "food" in the food fight than Jacob did.
Joshua got more “food” in the food fight than Jacob did.

While Jacob and Joshua were experiencing the Getaway, Jen and I, along with about 5000 other U.S. Cru staff, were attending main sessions and seminars that challenged our thinking and motivated us to continue to engage in our ministry efforts. We heard from great speakers such as Alistair Begg and Lisa Harper. Some of my favorite messages were the short “TED” style talks that challenged our thinking on how to engage the current culture.

Jonalyn Fincher shared how our language and even the words we use can be confusing to our audience and can turn people off before we even get a chance to share our message.

Jonalyn shares more about how our words and language can sometimes trigger negative reactions among those who don't understand our message.
Jonalyn shares more about how our words and language can sometimes trigger negative reactions among those who don’t understand our message.



One of my favorite speakers was a man named Skye Jethani, who serves as the senior editor for Leadership Journal. Skye was part of a series of speakers who spoke on issues related to culture. The question being addressed is how can we better engage our culture and more effectively reach people today for Christ.

Skye’s talk really resonated with me because he was able to articulate an idea that I have thought about for a long time but had never synthesized or communicated in the way that he did. He talked about the role of consumerism in our society and how consumerism is actually a worldview where we are at the center and everything exists to satisfy my desires.

Consumerism doesn’t just affect those whom we’re trying to reach. It affects us in the church too. It affects our view of God and of ourselves. Consumerism affects our evangelism when we present Jesus simply by the gifts He will give us.

Skye shared an interesting perspective on the story of the prodigal son. He said that both sons were looking for what they could get from the Father. The younger son did it in a socially unacceptable way while the older son did it in a socially acceptable way. Both sons missed the joy of simply experiencing the presence of their father, which is really the whole point. Too often in the church, we as Christians are guilty of trying to make older sons out of younger sons.

We live in paradoxical times in that today’s generation of students and young adults is the most self-absorbed generation ever (thanks to consumerism), yet they are also the most activist oriented generation ever. They want to make a difference in the world.

Skye Jethani talks about the effects of consumerism on the culture.
Skye Jethani talks about the effects of consumerism on the culture.

Our goal often is to tap into that activism and get them to be a part of the mission. But according to Skye, the solution to Christian consumerism is not Christian activism (mission); it’s our presence with the Father. Christian mission isn’t bad, but it needs to be placed in the right order. We need to ensure that we are helping others experience the presence of the Father before we seek to employ them in the mission of Christ.

Skye’s talk was a reminder to me to beware of falling into the consumerism trap that puts me at the center of the universe while everyone, including God, exists to satisfy my needs, wants and desires. Please pray with us and for us that we would be experiencing the Father’s presence first and foremost in our lives and that we would be drawing others to the Father’s presence as well.

To read the pdf version of our newsletter, click here.

A Quick Update

Cru Staff Conference

A few days ago, we returned from our National Staff Conference at Colorado State University. It’s always nice to be back in your own home and own bed after more than 5 weeks of heavy travel.

In the next day or two, I’ll share some reflections from our staff conference. In the meantime, you may be interested to read this general newsletter that explains what happens when Cru staff spend the summer in Colorado. Though we were not there for the whole summer this time, you can get a picture of what we’ve experienced in previous summers as well as reading about the staff conference, which we did attend.

Click here to read the newsletter.