14 More Reasons Why You Should Become a FOCUS Missionary in 2014

So, you may have seen Chris’s post floating around the web with 14 pretty darn fantastic reasons why you should become a FOCUS missionary in 2014.  Since there is a plethora of reasons–way more than 14–why you should become a FOCUS missionary, I thought I could offer 14 more* because, why not?

Now, I know what some of you skeptics are thinking: Chris is a missionary; you are too, Jane.  You’ve both already “drank the FOCUS juice” so to speak so you obviously just want to brainwash us into thinking we should be missionaries (just like every other missionary I know who’s trying to convince me to join FOCUS staff).  

Well, of course in true Jane-fashion, I have a response to that: First, get over yourself.  (Just kidding…)  Second, would you want a list from an engineer of reasons why you should become a cosmetologist?  No, that’s silly.  You’d want a list of why you should become a cosmetologist…from a cosmetologist.  So, here’s your list of why to be a missionary…from a missionary.  Finally, I officially declare you ought not listen to those people who haven’t ever been a missionary tell you that us missionaries are crazy and you should never be a missionary… :)    

Without further ado I present:
14 More Reasons Why You Should Become a FOCUS Missionary in 2014

1. Say “good-bye” to that awkward mold you’ve been placed into and skip town.
It became known at my last job that I was one of the best people to go to when the copy machine broke or you needed to figure out how something logistically could work.  Maybe I don’t always want to press buttons on the copy machine until it starts working–you could do that too, you know!  Also, I was the “one who hates hugs.”  (Because used to hate hugs.)  How do you convince everyone who’s worked with you for a couple years that you don’t actually hate hugs that much anymore?  Answer: You don’t.  You pack your bags and skip town to a new exotic locale.

2. It’s the best job ever.
I can’t tell you enough times that being a missionary is the. best. job. ever.   I give you “Exhibit A” from a tweet I tweeted a couple weeks ago.  All the comments underneath are from, you guessed it, other missionaries who agree with me!

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3. MPD (a.k.a. Mission Partner Development…a.k.a. fundraising your salary) isn’t that bad.  In fact it’s pretty enjoyable.
A lot of people are held back from missionary work because the thought of fundraising your salary is too daunting. Yesterday a couple of Sisters from the School Sisters of Christ the King  were visiting campus and asked what the most surprising part of being a missionary has been.  My reply was, “Fundraising.  It’s crazy how easy it ended up being.”  I went on to discuss that, yes, I did have to work hard, but the Lord totally provided (surprise there, He did it again)!  It’s also a huge blessing and joy to share the mission of FOCUS with friends and family.  All this talk about fundraising leads me to point 4…

4. Want a raise? Okay, get one.**
So you can’t possibly be a missionary because you have a boatload of school loans and could never pay them back.  Or, you couldn’t do it because you’re just graduating and already married with a baby on the way.  If you need to raise an extra $1000 a month for all your ridiculously huge student loans, then you can!  Just go out and find more people to share the mission with and ask them to join your support team.  (I dare you to find me another job that allows that.  Imagine walking into your bosses office at your first “grown-up” job and asking for a raise right off the bat so you can afford your school loans.)

5. Attain mad-crazy skillz for future employment.
I give you some questions from the future (your first job interview after your time with FOCUS):
1) So, tell me about when you’ve had to be self-motivated in your work.  –Oh, if I wanted to get paid I had to find people to support me.
2) Do you have any experience in managing people? –Yeah, I had a “discipleship chain” which looked a bit like a family tree that I was in charge of–I had to make sure messages were communicated and making sure everything was copacetic in my “chain.”
3) Okay, do you have any sales experience?  –A little…Every week my teammates and I would go out on campus and walk up to random strangers and start conversations and try and get them to accept Jesus as the center of their lives and join a Bible study.
4) Good, how about public speaking? –Yeah, I mean I helped lead a few retreats and every month we had a gathering for everyone who was a student leader on campus and I had the opportunity to speak to a group of 50-100 a few times every year.
Need I go on?  I could.

6. Three words: New. Staff. Training.
Before I became a missionary I heard a lot of complaints from current missionaries about how much they didn’t like summer training.  What on earth were they talking about!?  Sure, it was exhausting and a lot of work.  But, it’s also the best training for young people in the New Evangelization in the U.S.  (or, more probably, the world).  And, it’s in Florida.  There’s a waterpark ON CAMPUS.  If you live anywhere near me (or, I suppose right now, anywhere in the U.S. besides Florida or the very bottom of the map) the thought of those hurricanes, heat and alligators in the canal behind the dorms is pretty. darn. appealing. right now.  I loved summer training and can hardly wait to go back!

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Your waterpark awaits!
(Pic from campavemaria.com.)

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Here’s my “college” (or small group) from New Staff Training!

7. You always have a place to stay.
So there’s a missionary from Philidelphia who’s serving in Missouri and she came up to North Dakota for a wedding last weekend.  When she went to visit some people in Grand Forks, she stayed with the missionaries.  Let me tell you… that’s not an uncommon occurrence!  (It doesn’t even matter if you know the missionaries you want to crash with!)

8.  The rest of your life can be totally purpose driven.
So we’re supposed to make disciples our whole lives.  After 2 summers (as well as continued formation and growth throughout 2 school years) of some of the best training in the business of Gospel sharing and making disciples you will know what you’re doing!  You won’t have to go Grad School, Law School, the workforce, etc. and be totally lost.  You’ll know just how to build a Bible study and lead your coworkers/classmates closer to Jesus.  It’s refreshing knowing what you’re doing.***

9. You can pretend you’re an expert blogger even though your mom is the only one who reads your blog.
I think it would be cool to have a blog that thousands of people check everyday to see what sort of wisdom you’ve posted that can inspire them.  That’s not what this blog is.  It’s more a way to keep in contact with my family and any mission partners and friends interested.  But, sometimes for fun I pretend that’s what this is!

10. You get to serve on a team.
You don’t go to summer training with hundreds of other missionaries and then get sent off somewhere by yourself to try and be a missionary.  Having a team for support is a good thing!  FOCUS also has other forms of accountability and encouragement–for example, everyone on staff has a mentor or accountability partner that they talk to every-other-week.  So, you’re not left alone on this fun, though frequently challenging, mission.

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Here’s my team. Team fun: Pictures with Santa.

11. Jesus probably wants you to.
Enough said there.  How could you say, “No, thanks.” to Jesus?

12. Live the adventure. Trust the way.
That’s the recruitment slogan for FOCUS.  Don’t you want an adventure to live?  I wanted an adventure, that’s why I became a missionary.  Last year, a missionary said to me that so many people want to be a missionary (or work for the Church) after graduation because they want to “give back.”  And, while that’s good, the reason people should want to be missionaries is because it’s a great adventure.  Now I know from personal experience, it is!

13. Infinite wedding invites…who doesn’t love a good party?
Join FOCUS staff and your friends will grow exponentially.  Between ages 24-26 the number of weddings you’re invited to grows from only-your-cousins-weddings to your-old-friends-from-high-school and maybe some college friends.  You just start getting older so you know more people getting married.  But, then you become a missionary.  Not only do you meet a ton of people who are also missionaries****, you go to a campus and form close friendships with a bunch of students on campus.  Let’s just say every day in FOCUS is a day closer to many more epic weddings.

14.There is no juice.
Yeah, can you believe it?  There isn’t actually any “juice” they make you drink to love the mission of FOCUS.  I realized that during our last class at New Staff Training last July.  The speaker was talking about staff retention (among other things) and my friend Mary leaned over and wrote, “Where else would we go?” on my notebook.  She meant, “We have the best job ever.  Why would we leave FOCUS?  I can’t imagine another place I’d rather work!”  So, happily there is no juice, just a bunch of young Catholics on fire to share their faith with students all over America!

Now that you’ve read the list, head to the website to apply!

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*If you read Chris’s list and cross-check you may, admittedly, find some some doubles (or almost doubles).  If you think that’s a copout because I couldn’t come up with 14 unique reasons to become a mish, you’re wrong.  Challenge me to it and I can give you plenty more unique reasons.  I just thought some of his reasons were so legit they were worth mentioning again.

**All the “raise” business is, of course, within reason.  There are salary caps and the like.  But, FOCUS does a good job of teaching responsibility with money (Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is actually on the first-year reading list)!  I don’t mean to imply that FOCUS encourages greediness or selfishness with money…cause, of course, they don’t!

***Obviously there will be challenges in navigating a new situation like Med School or your new job.  But, let’s just say you’re better trained than a large majority of other young Christians who want to share their faith with their classmates/coworkers.

****Don’t worry, if you become a missionary you’re not obligated to invite the hundreds of other missionaries to your wedding.  But, you will certainly develop close friendships with plenty of other missionaries that you’ll want to invite to your wedding!

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4 thoughts on “14 More Reasons Why You Should Become a FOCUS Missionary in 2014

  1. Jane, I just want to say how I disagree with almost everything FOCUS does on the business side of things. Also I disagree with many things FOCUS does on the spiritual side of things.

    I can’t begin to tell you how many “missionaries” have asked me for money. I am a college student working a full time job. You say that kids need to pay off their loans. So why in good conscience do they allow “missionaries” to fundraise from college kids. Do you see the logic in that? I think you need money to survive, however, when I see my local “missionaries” wearing high dollar clothes and watching their flat screen TV and holding their $7 cup of coffee, it makes me a little irritated to know someone else’s money was spent to get all this and this was done “all in the name of the Gospel.”

    My other big complaint is what you identified in #11. How do you or any other “missionary” know what Jesus is asking of me and my life? That’s pompous, arrogant and rude to say that Jesus really just wants people to be “missionaries.” If you are truly living out what FOCUS claims to have you live out then you would help people find their calling instead of forcing them into your little cookie cutter and calling it good. How is that spreading the Gospel? How is that allowing Christ to pave the way for college students. It doesn’t seem to Christocentric to me.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tyler. I appreciate your willingness to comment and hope you’ll read my reply setting aside any misunderstandings you may have about FOCUS with a desire to learn why I wrote some of the things I did.

      First, I understand your frustration in being asked many times to support missionaries as someone with little money. When I worked for two years before joining FOCUS staff, I was approached by many missionaries and I was living on a stipend that allowed for about $50 of money set aside to tithe every month, so obviously I couldn’t support everyone who asked and it was hard telling people there was no way I could help them. I do want to say that after meeting with many people this summer–from doctors and business owners to first-year medial students and interns working for the Church–many people told me they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) support me. And receiving that rejection from them definitely didn’t make me think less of them as a person. My job as a missionary is to go out and share the mission with people and ask people to join me. It’s not to force people; not to make people feel bad if they don’t; not to judge people if they don’t want to help; certainly to accept many generous offers to join my support team with prayers as monetary help wasn’t possible at the time. One thing I came to a deeper understanding of after my training in fundraising and reading much about it is that people have the freedom to say, “no.” And, if we never ask them for support we are judging people before giving them a chance by thinking, “Oh, they’re too poor to help me.” Or, “They would never help. I know they don’t give money to charity.” And, I believe allowing someone the opportunity to tell me “no” honors their God-given dignity much more than if I make the decision for them. I know that though I had to tell my friends that I couldn’t help them, I was very honored that they had the courage to ask me even though they knew I wasn’t making much money.

      Second, I think a common presumption with missionary life is that we should live on as little as possible to spend as little of other people’s money as possible. But, we are also trying to bring the Gospel to students who don’t know anything about Jesus and His life. I couldn’t invite some random students I met on campus to my house and serve them rice and beans and then sit on the floor with them because I gave up furniture because it’s an unnecessary expense and I can survive without it. I know I wouldn’t be relatable and the message of the Gospel would be less relatable to students. Since we minister to college students, we live like college students. We raise money to live a sustainable lifestyle for the future–in order to pay off loans, save for retirement, buy a nice pair of boots (if you live in North Dakota like I do), etc. While we try to be responsible with money, we don’t try to just “survive.”

      That being said, we (myself included) need to be careful about judging missionaries. Many missionaries have mission partners who have bought them things like a new TV or brand new couches for their apartments. In fact, a missionary on campus where I worked last year bought a brand new exercise bike with money people donated to her mission. Yes, it was a large purchase, but she talked to mission partners specifically asking if she could buy this with money they donated so that she could exercise when it became too cold to run outside. Did the students know she went to all this trouble raising extra money specifically for this person and then wrote thank you notes to people who donated? No, all they new was she had a brand new exercise bike. And, if I meet a new student on campus I’m not going to invite them over to my house to enjoy a glass of water. I’m going to take them out for coffee and buy them something and myself something. So, the missionaries you see with coffee could have just shared the Gospel with a brand new student or invited someone into Bible study for the first time. Or, maybe they just wanted to buy a coffee for themselves which, I believe, is okay to do. I made it clear to my mission partners this summer what their money would be used for. I said it would be used for things like taking students to get coffee or buying them lunch as well as buying my groceries, paying rent and saving for the future.

      As far as reason #11, I have to admit I was being a little facetious. Obviously the Lord doesn’t want everyone to be FOCUS missionaries. We need good Christians in the world being lawyers, business people, cashiers, politicians, environmentalists, etc. So, that reason was a little bit of a joke. But, I do strongly believe that the Lord does want everyone to be missionaries–note, I didn’t say specifically missionaries with FOCUS. We all have a mission to share the Gospel and make disciples of all nations per Christ’s command in Matthew 29:18-20. Perhaps I could offered an edit on number #11:

      “Jesus wants you to be a missionary.” We are all called to be missionaries and one of the biggest reasons I was led to FOCUS was because I knew I would receive training of how to be a missionary for Christ for the rest of my life. I wanted to know how to fulfill the great commission whether I was a FOCUS missionary, in grad school, retired, or in a nursing home. I knew that the training FOCUS would give me would provide the resources for me to be on mission for Christ the rest of my life, regardless of my career. A great reason that you should be a missionary is because when you are done you will know how to be a missionary the rest of your life, even after your time with FOCUS is done.

      Perhaps that is better for #11? Also, I would never force anyone to be a missionary. Sure, I tell them how awesome it is–because I truly believe that it is the best job. But I also answer questions about the struggles and challenges because I want people to have the best possible information to discern what they should do. In fact, there is a young woman on campus who applied to be a missionary a week ago and was scheduled to attend an interview weekend in February. My team and I were so excited because she has the passion and skills to make a really, really good missionary–not to mention she’s totally fun and I’d love to have her as a coworker. She had also recently interviewed for a job and was in the process of discerning what to do. Though we wanted her to be a missionary we gave her the freedom to decide for herself. She chose to accept an engineering job and decline an invitation to a FOCUS interview weekend. What do we do now? Continue to push her to reconsider FOCUS? No, certainly not. We honor her decision and do what we can to help her best prepare to take everything she’s learned as a FOCUS student missionary and figure out how she can use that while she’s working a secular job. I have no doubt she’s going to be able to do that competently and am genuinely excited for her decision not to do FOCUS because she is at peace and totally excited for her new job.

      I apologize that this comment is so long, but I hoped it helped clear some things up. If you have more questions, I’m more than willing to answer them. Feel free to comment here or email me at jane.voelker@focus.org if you want to continue the conversation. God bless!

      • I appreciate your thoughtful reply, however there are still several things within your post and within your reply that highlight the main reasons why many people dislike FOCUS.

        One question I have is that when you ask people to support you do you first ask for spiritual support before asking for money or is it the other way around? When I have been asked over and over again the team members simply say, “Would you like to join my support team?” I almost always respond with, “I will join your team, but it will have to be as a spiritual supporter rather than monetarily.” (Or something to that effect.) At this point it usually gets awkward because the FOCUS members were not looking for that answer. Several of them admit at this time that this is great, but to really join my support team I would need to “pay in.” As a full time student and youth minister, I think that I can explain it until I am blue in the face that I don’t have money to give, but that answer is never satisfactory. I would love to see a monthly budget for a FOCUS member. I highly doubt that it would qualify as a “missionary” status.

        Since I brought this up, I wanted to talk about the term FOCUS misuses in their company. Missionary. I want to know what you think a “missionary” is? This bothers me that FOCUS would use this term to describe its workers rather than to save it for true missionaries in the world. The term missionary really assumes that the person to which it is given is living uncomfortably in some way. Correct? However, you said, “Since we minister to college students, we live like college students.” Since most if not all of you were college students at one time or another then I would like to know how “uncomfortable” you are in your job? Missionaries devote their lives to their work and bring Christ into every aspect. What I am trying to say is that even though I minister to high school and middle school students this doesn’t mean that I become one or live like one. Is not your mission to bring Christ to them? Then I have a difficult time trying to understand why it is necessary to live like a college student in order to minister to them.

        As for #11, I have a very strong feelings for this. You are correct that you didn’t say specifically FOCUS, however your blog post is titled “14 more reasons why you should become a FOCUS missionary in 2014.” So it seems as though you were very specific in what kind of “missionary” you want people to become. Why this topic is so frustrating to me is because in college my roommate was in a discipleship. He had high hopes of going to med school, going to graduate school, getting a job as a campus minister at a local high school or working in other ways for the Church. When he shared all these things with his “mentor” the guy essentially said that you don’t know what you want to do so you should just become a FOCUS member because that’s what God wants. I was absolutely appalled at the insensitivity and rudeness that your coworker exuded. First, how does this guy know anything about what God is calling someone else to do? Second, just because you are told to encourage people to do FOCUS, it seems that you might want to use your own slogan “trust the way.” This means trust Jesus. Believe it or not people came to know Jesus before FOCUS ever existed so I think FOCUS should spend a little more time pointing people to Christ rather than back to FOCUS.

        I believe that FOCUS has great potential to become one of the best evangelistic tools that our generation has ever seen, but I think it has so many problems and needs to stop, look at itself and evaluate where it is going.

        If you are willing I would like you to make a list of the top ten reasons why FOCUS is a great program in itself, but also I want you to make a list of the top ten problems with FOCUS. I use this exercise on myself from time to time to help me become a better person by looking at myself from someone else’s view. What do you think?

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