Teaching Teachers to Teach Who Teach More

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At the beginning of January, our team took 39 UT students to a FOCUS conference in Dallas called the Student Leadership Summit, or SLS. The conference was put on by FOCUS for all student leaders in FOCUS from across the nation.

Wait, what’s a “student leader?”

A student leader is a college student who has committed to sharing Christ on his or her campus. He or she most likely leads a Bible study and meets weekly with a missionary or another student leader to grow in faith and learn how to share Jesus more effectively.

At the University of Texas in Austin, we call our student leaders “student missionaries.” These students do what we do. They love Jesus and share Him in real ways every day. As FOCUS missionaries, we couldn’t do what we do to spread the Catholic faith without our student missionaries.

Because the conference was held in Texas, our students made t-shirts that said “welcome to the promised land” on the back!

I feel like a proud parent as I share that every single one of our 39 student missionaries had a profound, life-changing experience at SLS. It was incredible for me to sit back and watch them be changed by the Holy Spirit each day of the conference.

Another appropriate name for the Student Leadership Summit could have been “student missionary boot camp.” At SLS, our students (along with 1,500 other student missionaries) took practical classes about prayer, Bible studies, and how to share the Gospel. After taking the class, the students would go to a session where they would teach other students what they learned that morning. Literally, this conference taught teachers to teach.

So watch out world! There are a little over 1500 students roaming the United States that are now well equipped in multiple ways to share the Gospel and are on fire for the mission of Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who told us all to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Every student that went on SLS has taken these words to heart and is living them out on his or her campus at this very moment. I can’t wait to see how the world will change because of it!

2013: The Year God Called Me to be a Missionary

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I am incredibly grateful for the year 2013! And I can honestly say it’s been the best year yet. It started with a trip to Orlando for a FOCUS conference with all my best friends, where I decided that God was not calling me to be a missionary. (He’s very funny like that.) It continued with an internship at one of the top public relations agencies in Kansas City, an incredible spring break with my best friends, giving my first talk at a retreat, winning my senior campaigns class, my first niece being born, graduating college and, of course, interviewing for and accepting a job with FOCUS.

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The summer of 2013 included New Staff Training for FOCUS as well as fundraising my own salary. Both of these things inspired tremendous growth for me. I learned more about myself in three months than I had my whole life. As hard as it was I am beyond grateful for last summer and the ways I learned to trust God as He showed me just how strong I can be.

And then I moved to Texas.

This past semester has been the most fun, joyful and rewarding times of my life. I’ve gotten to know Jesus Christ on a much deeper level and learned to give him my all every day as I have the privilege to serve him as a missionary. I have the best job in the world. See the photos below for a few of my favorite things about the semester.

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The city of Austin is beautiful and so much fun! The picture above is from a Sunday afternoon in October. My disciple, Melissa, and I went on a walk in Zilker Park and found it packed with people playing frisbee, picnicking, and just hanging out enjoying the beautiful weather. It’s a great place to be!Image

ImageThese pictures are with a few of my disciples. I spend a lot of time with these girls as we deepen our faith in Jesus and learn how to share him. And during all of that, we also became best friends. I am so grateful for the relationships I have with all of my disciples and the ways we lead each other closer to Christ!ImageFamily! They have been so supportive this year in every way. They love me even when I don’t call and never come home. I love them all a lot, too. ImageTexas football. It’s been awesome to experience the intensity of Longhorn football and the students have been very patient with me as I try to learn all the cheers and fight songs!ImageSpeaking of football, I’m very thankful for the Packers bar in Austin. It’s a home-away-from-home and the people there are great! They even serve cheese curds. What more would I need?ImageMy niece. Even though I don’t get to see her as nearly as often as I would like, it’s a beautiful sacrifice I can offer for the mission. I am so grateful for a perfect and beautiful niece that has stolen my heart!

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And lastly, I aincredibly, especially, exceptionally BEYOND grateful for my team at UT! Sam, Tina, Matt and Ben have become my family and my best friends this year. I’ve loved, laughed and learned more from this team than I could have ever imagined. 

Dear Lord, thank you for all of the blessings you’ve poured on me in 2013. Please bless every person that made it so special and bless my mission partners for making it possible. Continue to call us closer to your Most Sacred Heart and make our efforts to serve you fruitful. Let it all be for the glory of your kingdom, Jesus!

Amen. 

[Good] Excuses, Excuses

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I am a horribly inconsistent blogger. BUT I am going to use the typical excuse that I have been very very busy. And I can prove it!

 In the last two weeks we have been blessed to see tremendous growth in our program at The University of Texas at Austin. More importantly, this growth means more students being convicted and zealous in sharing their faith, which means more students reached for Christ and more lives changed and souls saved! Praise God.

Three new female Greek students have said “yes” to God’s call in their lives and agreed to be in discipleship with me. Basically, these women have agreed to meet with me one-on-one every week so I can help them grow in their relationship with Jesus and learn how to share Him with others. Things are going great so far as Emily (Delta Gamma), Colleen (Zeta Tau Alpha) and Claire (Alpha Chi Omega) are growing deeper in their faith and committing their lives to being Christ to others.

In other exciting new, a few of my other disciples have taken on their own disciples! This shows that the Holy Spirit is at work in students and that the concept of “spiritual multiplication” really does work! As I invest my time in my disciples, they invest time in their own disciples, who will eventually have their own disciples and so on. It is a beautiful process that is based off of how Jesus founded our Church. He had 12 apostles and particularly invested in three: Peter, James and John. From this small group of men, Catholicism has carried on and been spread to all nations, which is exactly what we are all called to carry on today! 

First Weeks on Campus

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I hope my lack of blogging can be a testament to how great Fall Outreach is going.

What is Fall Outreach, you say?

Fall Outreach occurs during the first few weeks of school. It’s when missionaries meet as many students as possible and refuse to sleep until Bible studies are overflowing and new students can say the Mass times in their sleep. The logic behind the crazy is that many students meet their best friends of college within 72 hours of arriving on campus.

So we stalk them and hope they accidentally become best friends with missionaries instead! (Joke.)

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Students at our house watching Longhorn football after the Welcome Retreat

From my perspective (though limited because I’m a 3 week-old missionary) Fall Outreach has been quite a success! We, as missionaries, cannot take credit of course… it’s all the work of the Holy Spirit (and the missionaries at UT the last 3 years who did such a great job of establishing FOCUS).

So, what have I been up to these past 3 weeks?

– Figuring out the crazy city of Austin

– Praying for the grace to remember names

– Meeting and getting to know the incredible FOCUS student leaders at UT

– Giving a student leader evangelization training

– Hosting social events at our house for students three weekends in a row

– Inviting women into discipleship and teaching them how to speak Christ’s Truth on campus and in their daily lives

– Experiencing Texas Longhorn sports… volleyball AND football

– Being present at all the Masses and on campus to sign students up for Bible studies

– Learning how to evangelize on campus

– Chasing after any girl in an oversized t-shirt (sorority women)

– Being humbled and awed by how much Jesus can do when I trust Him

My favorite part so far? The student leaders on campus. We call them “student missionaries” because they are working just as hard for the Kingdom as we are and are SO essential to the mission. Five FOCUS missionaries cannot reach 50,000 students. But with the help of our student missionaries we are reaching all parts of campus. Please keep these students in your prayers!

A Lesson in Trust

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What the heck have I been doing for the last five weeks?!

Being humbled and learning to trust in Jesus, that’s what.

“As a Catholic missionary for FOCUS, I am responsible to raise 100% of my own month-to-month salary.” I think I said this sentence over 3,000 times this summer. Whether I was meeting with someone to ask for support, speaking at a parish, or explaining to my dental hygienist what I’m doing with my life post-graduation, one thing always came up.

“How do you get paid??”

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Cue explanation of mission partners.

Mission Partner (n.) – A person who supports me by prayer and finances. He or she goes on mission with me by giving and any work I do for the Kingdom is credited to him or her (and Jesus, of course). 

Although I’ve explained fundraising 3,000 times, I think I have said the words “thank you” over a million times. (Rough estimation.) Why? Because God shocked and amazed me through the generosity of my mission partners this summer!

Let me be honest here. There were horrible days. Days full of rejections which always led to an over dramatic breakdown of crying, “God doesn’t want me to be a missionary” and “I’ll NEVER be funded!” (I think doing theater as a kid left me with a few drama queen tendencies.) 

But the most beautiful thing was, directly after every awful day God would give me a day with more success than I knew what to do with. I would get a phone call from a random person saying, “you don’t know me, but I’d like to support you.” I got asked to speak on national radio, I met a woman in a coffee shop that decided to support monthly… the list goes on and on.

My conclusion? God provides! He just wanted me to learn to trust Him while He was doing it. I can say with full confidence that the Holy Spirit did the majority of my fundraising. I just held Him back by complaining, procrastinating and crying.

Lesson learned… trust in God! If it’s His loving Will, He will make it happen. And because He found me such incredible mission partners, I get to live here. 

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Austin, Texas