I Am Going To Be A FOCUS (Catholic) Missionary

I am so dumb. I am really dumb. For real.

Hi, my name is Chris. I’m a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, majoring in Electrical Engineering. Last time I checked, electrical engineering at UIUC is ranked #3 in the nation. Basically, I’m in demand, and the average starting salary for my classmates and I is $60,000 and up.

I’m going to have to fundraise everything I’ll live on for the next two years as a missionary (that’s ~$2,000 a month depending on my location). It’ll be way harder to get a job down the road.

Needless to say, this is a very tough decision for me. I’ve caught a lot of flak for it already, enough to remind me of that youtube hit. But I know that it will all be worth it. And so, for the next two years I will be a FOCUS missionary.

If the world was only about money, power, security, or any other sort of earthly thing, then this really would be a dumb decision. But as I’ve come to grow as a person, as a son of God, I’ve come to realize that some things are more important than others. God is most important. Without God, we all would not be here! God has given me everything that I have: life, family, friends, talents, possessions, everything! And even better than the gift of life in the first place is the opportunity of eternal life with God. Without Jesus, we wouldn’t have an opportunity for salvation! It doesn’t matter what we have in our earthly life as long as we have faith in Him- only Jesus can save us! He died on the cross so that ALL may be saved, not just those who were already of a certain religion. He died on the cross out of love for us, and gave us the Church, the Body of Christ, to continue to proclaim the Gospel and to be Jesus’ hands and feet for everyone, so that ALL could be saved. In Matthew 28:19-20 He told His disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The most important thing is that people come to know Jesus, so that they know who they are (God’s beloved children) and who they were meant to be (saints!). I can do this most tangibly on campus through meeting up with and forming friendships with students. I hope and pray that God will put me in a position to introduce people to Jesus and encourage them to develop their relationship with Him. I only wish that people will come to know that God loves them, because as much as our culture thinks of Christianity as merely a set of morals and rules, our way of life is actually a response to the love of God who loved us first.

I’ll be on a college campus somewhere in the United States for the next 2 years, leading bible studies, helping students to grow as disciples of Jesus, and sharing the Gospel with all that I can. Yes, I could do a similar thing by working a normal job and leading a bible study or youth group, but it wouldn’t make as much of an impact as this specific mission.

The college campus is the place where most students lose their faith, but it is also the perfect place to find it anew. In college, students finally begin to make decisions for themselves for the rest of their lives and are actively searching for meaning in life. Oh, hello. That’s where I come in: and I’ll attempt to introduce them to this guy named Jesus.

I am very excited to live radically for Christ. When He called the disciples, He didn’t ask them to come sometime when it is convenient for them, but rather called them right then- even when they were in the middle of things. Making a difference in the world doesn’t happen in the future but rather starts right now. I intend to do all that I can to share Jesus- the one who is the hope of our lives, the love of our lives, and the savior of our lives- with everyone that God puts in my life.

“We are fools on Christ’s account” -1 Corinthians 4:10

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” -Mark 16:15-16

“How can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” -Romans 10:14-15

“Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional — rather than as an encounter with Christ — which explains why they don’t see it as a source of joy.” -Pope Benedict XVI

FOCUS’s main thing:

Inviting college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship, and friendship in which they lead others to do the same.

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My Testimony

Some good friends and I at a concert this    summer, I’m in the green.

For the first couple of years of high school, I was basically friendless. I don’t know what the reason was, but there was NOBODY my age who seemed to take any significant interest in being friends with me. So I was lonely and shy. But it’s not like I wasn’t likable, I was one of those nice kids who wouldn’t say a single mean thing to anyone, and I did very well in school and played a couple of sports. But I felt like I didn’t “fit in,” I felt like there was nobody like me. I don’t want this to sound like I’m judging people or anything, but at least the impression that I got was that most kids would do anything to fit in, even if that meant compromising their morals. And so naturally I was turned off when many kids would make fun of others or swear and be crude, sometimes just so that they would be like their friends. I desired friends that would stick up for me even when it wasn’t cool, I desired friends who wanted to help others instead of hurt them. The more that I think about it, I was looking for a role model, a hero to believe in who believed that I was worth something and loved me. With all of my free time, a lot of my attention was turned to books: I loved to read stories about heroes, so books like King Arthur, Harry Potter, and Redwall inspired me because of the heroes’ determination to do the right thing, even when it was hard to do.

I’m a cradle Catholic, and I got confirmed at the end of my sophomore year in high school. I was hoping that I might feel different or something at my confirmation, but to my disappointment, I didn’t feel any different. Whether or not I felt an instantaneous change, in hindsight, confirmation was clearly the first domino to fall in the process of my conversion. I began to gain more confidence in myself and became drastically more outgoing- I was on prom court senior year! I had kept up a habit of praying every night since I was around 12 or so, which I hid from my parents because I was afraid that they might find out, but now I began to have more fruitful prayers, real prayers where I would share with God what was really on my heart. I asked God to bring me closer to Him. He answered that prayer over and above, leading me to develop some great friendships with kids who did care about others and sought to encourage everyone that they were around. I am very thankful for them all. Most of these friends were devout Protestants. They founded a Christian group at our public high school, and it was mind-blowing for me to be around such a genuinely friendly and welcoming group of people who truly cared about each other and were not ashamed of their faith in God. Over the course of the year, they encouraged me to read the bible. Being me, I read the whole thing :). In the process, I encountered the most amazing man that I have ever heard of. He was a loner. He stood up for what was right, even when everyone else was against Him. He looked out for the poor and sick. He cares about and loves everyone, including me, loving us with all that He is. This man is Jesus. He is God, and He died for my sins so that I might be saved. I resonated more with Him than with anyone else that I have ever met in my life, He is the perfect hero whose story is actually real- it’s not just fiction! He invites us all to come and follow Him, so I began to live my life for Him.

I finally had the Jesus/Christian thing taken care of by the end of high school, but in college I still hadn’t quite figured out the Catholic thing. Honestly, I was becoming a little conflicted: I first saw a vibrant Christian faith outside of the Catholic Church. But at the University of Illinois, especially at their Newman Center, I saw a faith perhaps even more vibrant! I had the opportunity to join a Catholic bible study. I was blessed with more wonderful friendships with friends who invited me to come to daily mass, adoration, and pray the rosary with them. There were catechetical classes every week where I could learn more and have my questions answered. I found Christians who were absolutely in love with Jesus to the point of giving it all up and becoming priests and nuns, who had both an active faith and prayer life and were able to receive the sacraments that Jesus Himself instituted as well! At FOCUS Conference my freshman year it all finally clicked. If Jesus really sent down the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to lead and guide the Church and protect her from the gates of hell, then of course we have to look for the Church that Jesus actually founded, because there is no reason for there to be a new one. I realized that Jesus founded the Catholic Church, instead of a hodgepodge of Christian churches. And on top of that all, the evidence added up: I had read the entire bible and the only church that still practiced everything found in scripture is the Catholic Church.

I am a Christian. I am a Catholic. I am thankful. If I could give you any advice in the world, I would ask you to learn more about this Jesus guy 🙂

Our Message is Love

“Jews demand SIGNS and Greeks look for WISDOM,  but we proclaim Christ CRUCIFIED” – 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 (emphasis mine)

Our culture likes to put things in a box, to try and label things and make them nice, not much unlike the Greeks or even the Jews back in the day. Some examples:

Divorce -> exercising your freedom to be with whoever you want to be
Abortion -> health procedure
Death -> doesn’t happen
Missing mass -> you can pray at home

And then there’s perhaps the worst: Jesus -> social teacher.

Yes, Jesus is ZEALOUSLY (Jeremiah 1:5, Mark 9:37, think cleansing of the temple) pro-life and unabashedly pro-marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). He sought out opportunities to serve the poor and disregarded certain social norms. Nowadays He would still be pointing out the hypocrites who follow some of His teachings but disregard others, just like He did to the pharisees.

But that’s not the point. That’s how our culture has boxed Jesus in. They’ve labeled Him “old traditional moral teacher whose views don’t matter anymore.” We can’t let ourselves be tricked by this simplification! The Devil loves to lie, he loves to turn people against each other, he loves to make things all wishy-washy.

The point is that Jesus loves us. He loves us so much. So much that He died for us. He gave His life for us. He didn’t have to do that. But He did.

Jesus is GOD… He’s not just some guy, some moral teacher. No, He’s our only hope, our only salvation, the only truth.

And so, as Christians, we are called to love others with all that we are, to even die for others in the name of Jesus. This is following His example of sacrificial love, a love that we call Agape, “The love of God.”

The whole point of Jesus’ life was to give it for us. So when we talk about Jesus, let’s remember that our message is love. Not everyone is going to agree with all of the social teachings. That’s okay, for now. We all have an incomplete understanding of the fullness of the truth. The first thing is proclaiming Christ crucified so that all may come to know that they are loved, that there is purpose in life, that there is hope even in the darkest moments.   The social teachings come as a response to God’s love, rather than as a prerequisite.