After graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1999, Justin and Michelle have continued to live on mission in the city of Cleveland, TX. Along with once being Chi Alpha volunteers, the Faircloths lead multiple mission initiatives, kids programs, translation services, and bilingual initiatives in their local church and local community.
Michelle is a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing and a teacher of the visually impaired for two local school districts. She works with students and their teachers to ensure that they have auditory, visual, and sometimes tactual (braille) access to the curriculum and that they have the compensatory skills they need to be successful not only in school but in life. Justin works at a chemical plant in Houston, LyondellBasell, where he is a control systems specialist responsible for configuring the software that controls the plant.
How did Chi Alpha impact your life?
Michelle: Chi Alpha taught us about the kingdom of God and how we are to live it out in our daily lives. We learned that ministry is not a program; it is a lifestyle of relationships and discipleship.
Justin: Chi Alpha taught me the importance of discipleship and developed in me a passionate desire to pursue Christ rather than just being a casual Christian.
How are you continuing to live on mission and be involved in discipleship?
We strive to cultivate relationships at work, in our families, and at church. We see relationships as the foundation for ministry no matter where we are at. Discipleship cannot occur if there is no relationship to build on. At church, we co-teach an adult Sunday school class and lead the missions committee. Michelle leads girls ministry on Wednesday nights and helps coordinate kids events and ministry curriculum. She also interprets for a deaf man that comes to Sunday morning services.
Justin also serves on the board of the church. Two years ago, our church was predominantly white, but the Hispanic community in our area is growing at a fast pace. We have had several bilingual families recently join our congregation and sense the Lord telling us to “enlarge our territory” by providing bilingual ministry and targeted outreaches into the Hispanic community.
With COVID restrictions in place, Justin and I decided to take Vacation Bible School (VBS) into the Hispanic community. We played games that allowed for social distancing with the kids and began developing relationships with the parents. Going forward, we will be leading servanthood evangelism outreaches into this community on a monthly basis.
Prior to COVID, I (Michelle) taught the weekly Bible lesson for an after-school kids club at the local school. I hope to continue to do this once we are allowed back on campus. Last year this ministry saw over 50 kids saved and several families integrate into local churches!
How has the ability to give in the marketplace impacted your walk with God?
We understand that we are stewards rather than owners when it comes to the treasures of this world. The Church has a responsibility to support home and foreign missionaries, and we feel honored to be a part of what God is doing. We contribute financially to many through our church and several personally through the [Chi Alpha] national office. God doesn’t need “our” money, but a giving heart keeps our focus on God’s Kingdom rather than selfish gain. God has blessed us, and we recognize His ownership of all we have. We strive to keep a focus on the many and great needs of others around us. We feel that you cannot out-give God.
What advice would you give to other alumni who are trying to live on mission in the marketplace?
Michelle: The key is to build relationships with people at work and look for opportunities to speak into their lives. As an example: the nature of my teaching job enables me to develop trusting relationships with parents, and I have had a few reach out to ask me for prayer. But I want more.
Recently I have been praying for “women at the well” experiences. When Jesus healed, performed miracles, and spoke words of discernment and knowledge, He was not at church. He was on the street interacting with friends and strangers alike. I long to be like Him in that I want my everyday conversations at work, Walmart, and the restaurant with the waiter to be seasoned with salt. I want to always anticipate the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to use me, maybe with a smile, a prayer, a Word of encouragement or a miracle. May we all be used by the Lord in our everyday encounters.
Justin: One thing I learned right out of college is that life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned it. Jesus himself said, “in this life we would have many troubles,” but I have discovered that through my greatest struggles God was developing my character. Looking back over the twenty years of our marriage, I can see that in every struggle and heartache, God was preparing us to better impact the world around us. We all experience times of failure and realize our unworthiness. We all experience loss, grief, and heartache. But those who win the prize get up, keep running, and continuously pursue Christ.
What our world needs most is to know the love and compassion of Christ. Jesus did not show great compassion to the so-called righteous, but to the adulteress, the thieving tax collector, the poor, and the sick. With each person you meet ask the Lord to let you see them through the eyes of a loving Father.