Discipleship and Change Through Coaching

Eric, with now wife Suemi, as a student at San Jose State University

I first met Eric thirty-one years ago. I was a brand-spanking new staff member with Cru at San Jose State University. It was a Friday night and we were hosting a Prayer night at the Crusade house where I lived with 12 other guys.

Eric opened the front door and walked in, looking for a friend who lived at the house. He felt like a deer caught in the headlights as he realized there was a prayer meeting happening. To avoid embarrassment, Eric played coy, acting as if he had intended to join.

Later that next week I met Eric on campus and we got into a deep spiritual conversation. Though Eric had a Christian background, he had never placed his faith in Christ, until that day.

Eric, taking time to reflect on God’s Word. As a new Christian, Eric spent the summer of 1990 on a Cru missions project in Santa Cruz getting vital discipleship training.

Over the next four years, Eric and I developed a close friendship as I helped him grow in his newfound faith. Since that time, we’ve stayed connected and remained friends, occasionally connecting as families as the opportunity has presented itself.

Earlier this year, I contacted Eric about coaching. I was looking to gain experience in implementing the training Jen and I had received last fall and I needed people to help me get started.

Unbeknownst to me, Eric had specifically prayed last fall that the Lord would give him wisdom and help him make progress in an area of his life that he’s struggled with for a long time – his health…specifically, his weight.

For years, Eric has tried to gain control of his weight, with very mixed results. There was a certain sense of urgency this time though as Eric’s doctor presented certain health related realities that were a direct result of his weight.

Can you relate? Is there an issue you’ve struggled with for as long as you can remember? It may not be weight or health-related but we all have areas in our lives that seem to hold us back.

Eric in 2002, attending a Sacramento area Cru Vision Dinner.

Eric and I officially began our coaching relationship right before Covid hit and the primary issue we’ve been tackling is Eric’s goal to lose 90 pounds.

If that sounds like a big goal, it is. Coaching isn’t a panacea. It’s not the silver bullet that solves all issues or problems. Primarily, it’s an avenue for self-discovery that empowers those who want to see growth and change make progress in areas that matter most to them.

For Eric, the journey has been long and hard. There have been many ups and downs. But with setbacks, coaching provides a structure for support that makes it a bit easier to keep going instead of throwing in the towel.

Eric has now lost 45 pounds and is half-way to his goal. He feels better, has more energy and is starting to see improvement in some of his weight-related health concerns.

Recently, I asked Eric about the spiritual connections he’s made through his weight loss journey.

Eric and I using Google Meet for a virtual coaching call.

Eric said that he came to realize that losing weight was about more than just eating the right foods and exercising more, as important as those things are.

“There comes a point where you realize you can’t just will yourself to get the results you want to achieve. We lack discipline, focus and will power.” Eric went on to explain that we need help from others, whether that’s in the form of support and motivation or instruction and tools.

What Eric described to me is a picture of grace. Grace is applied when we can’t reach a standard we’ve set on our own and we need help to reach the goal.

Jesus is the ultimate grace-giver. He came to die for us, achieving the standard of righteousness required to experience a relationship with God that we couldn’t meet via our own efforts.

God answered Eric’s initial request from last fall by bringing others into his life to support him in his journey. I’ve been blessed to play a part in helping him hear the Lord’s voice through our coaching relationship.

How about you? What are the areas where you need the Lord to give you wisdom and grace to move forward to see significant life change? Who can you invite into your process to provide support and encouragement?

Coaching is an avenue that can help you gain greater awareness of your situation and provide support and encouragement to help you achieve goals that may have seemed out of reach.

Crossroads, Chicago and Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Chicago was cold but it was fun to see the city and also connect with some of our colleagues from around the U.S.

At the beginning of December, Jen and I got a chance to spend a few days in Chicago with some of our Cru colleagues from around the nation who are also reaching out to Millennials in their respective cities.

It was bitterly cold, but it was a great time of connecting and learning from one another as we’re all in various stages of pioneering this new venture to reach and minister to Young Professionals.

The headline on this newspaper aptly describes how our ministry feels.

Ironically, one morning as I was waiting in the lobby to meet someone, I noticed the title of a newspaper, which read, “Chasing The Millennials”. Sometimes, that’s what it seems like we’re doing. We’re chasing the Millennials and we’re not quite sure where to find them or how to catch them when we do encounter them.

One of the questions we have been frequently asked since starting this new venture is: how are you going to find Millennials? It’s a good question.

When we were working on campus, it was easy to find students. We just showed up on campus and there they were. It was simply a matter of engaging with them and seeking to connect them to our specific campus community.

But reaching Millennials in Orange County is more complicated. There’s no “campus” where they all naturally congregate. There’s no Student Union where they all relax and hang out. They’re everywhere and nowhere at the same time. For us, it’s a matter of finding the natural places where they live, work and recreate and engaging with them there.

We believe that our ministry is going to grow through the natural relational networks that already exist among Millennials. For that reason, we’ve been focusing efforts on meeting and connecting with as many Cru grads as possible who are living and working in Orange County. The hope is to connect with Young Professionals in our area who already have a familiarity with Cru and then expand by tapping into their relational networks.

Attending the Crossroads conferences allowed me to connect with students and many staff friends, including former UC Davis students Paul (left – San Jose State), Chris (Univ. of Arizona) and Josh (right – Chico State).

Right before Thanksgiving, I attended Crossroads, a yearly conference for Cru juniors and seniors designed to help them navigate life’s choices as they seek to pursue Christ while making decisions about their vocation.

Being at the conference gave us a first-hand opportunity to talk to students and share with them about our ministry in Orange County. Perhaps the biggest benefit though was connecting with many of the campus staff we’ve known throughout the years. Many of them were reminded of grads who are now living in Orange County whom they can connect us with.

One of our former students who is now directing the Cru ministry at UC Irvine and Chapman invited me to dinner to hang out with his team. While there, I met Jeff, a recent Cru grad who is serving as an intern with Cru here in Orange County. Jeff expressed an interest in what we’re doing because he works with students all day and he wants to have more community with guys who are in a similar life stage.

Jeff, far right, not only won our Ugly Christmas Sweater contest, but he connected us with (left to right) Josh, Andrew and Tim.

I invited Jeff to come to our Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. To my surprise, Jeff not only came but he invited some of his cycling buddies to come as well.

Through a series of natural relational networks, I met Jeff who then introduced me to Tim, Josh and Andrew.

Our hope and prayer is that the scope of our impact will continue to expand as we tap into the natural relational networks that already exist here in the OC. Please pray with us as we continue to reach out to Young Professionals and seek to help them thrive spiritually and live missionally!

Shamrock, UFC and LinkedIn

The Greatest FightLast summer I received an e-mail regarding a film that was soon to be released online entitled “The Greatest Fight”. Intrigued, I clicked on the link (www.thegreatestfight.com) and soon learned that it was a documentary on Ken Shamrock, considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the modern UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

Immediately, my mind was flooded with images and memories of a guy named Jerry Perez, whom I had met nearly 20 years ago while I served with Cru at Fresno State. What made me think about Jerry is that he was really into the UFC. Those were the early days of the sport, actually, and it really hadn’t achieved mainstream status yet. But Jerry and his family watched every UFC pay-per-view event as they were broadcast, and had recorded every one of them onto VHS tapes.

Jerry was a student I met on campus while sharing my faith. Our paths crossed and I had the privilege of leading Jerry to Christ and helping him with his initial growth in the faith. I wrote about my experience with Jerry in a newsletter, which you can read about at: goo.gl/inuVkr. Jerry and I connected because we had both been wrestlers in high school and it was Jerry who introduced me to the UFC world.

One weekend when Jen was out of town, Jerry came over early in the day carrying a stack of VHS video tapes that included every UFC pay-per-view broadcast since its inception just a few years prior. We spent hours that weekend watching the entire history of UFC fights and it was there that I became acquainted with early UFC legends such as Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock.

The website for “The Greatest Fight” explained that the film is a window into the struggle Ken Shamrock experienced as he came to the end of his fighting career. But more than that, the film shows a larger story emerge, “one where a man’s total identity is being changed.” I realized that the movie was really about the spiritual changes that Ken Shamrock experienced.

Watch Ken Shamrock’s testimony on the 700 Club

I thought back to Jerry Perez. The last 6 months that Jen and I were in Fresno before moving to Davis to start Cru, I began to see less and less of Jerry. He was working to make some extra cash and didn’t seem to have as much time for Bible studies and on campus meetings. One of the last times I talked to Jerry I remember him saying something to the effect that while he appreciated the time I had invested in him over the last year, he had decided that the Christian life just didn’t work for him. To say I was bummed would be an understatement. Over the years, I would think about Jerry from time to time, but I had no real way to connect with him.

But when Jerry came to my mind last summer, I thought, “maybe he’s on Facebook.” A quick search revealed that he WAS on Facebook but his profile was configured in such a way that I wasn’t able to initiate with him. I then wondered if he might be on LinkedIn, which is sort of a Facebook forum for business professionals. I quickly located Jerry on LinkedIn and was able to send him a message. To my surprise, Jerry responded within an hour or so. We exchanged several messages back and forth which led me to think that perhaps Jerry had not given up on God as I had thought all these years.

Jerry and I meet for the first time in nearly 19 years!
Jerry and I meet for the first time in nearly 19 years!

 

Over the Christmas break, our family was able to travel together outside of the SoCal area for the first time in 2 years. We spent several days in Fresno visiting Jen’s family and the first day we were there, I arranged to have breakfast with Jerry.

It was amazing to connect with Jerry after almost 18 years and see that he’s married, with kids, involved in church and seeking to follow the Lord as he looks to get involved in the local Gideons chapter where he lives. It was a very nice Christmas gift from the Lord.

Thanks so much for your prayers and partnership with us, which have allowed us to help people like Jerry make life-impacting decisions that lead to true spiritual transformation!

Story of a Changed Life

Jennifer and I were on staff with Cru at the University of Arizona for our first couple of years of marriage, so we have an affection for the ministry there. In addition, one of our former UC Davis students and his wife are the directors of the ministry there now. So it’s always fun to see what the Lord is doing on the campus there through some of our former leaders.

Here is a short video, highlighting a student who came to Christ through the Cru ministry at the University of Arizona.