As we begin to pack up and wrap up our first year as missionaries, I’ve found that a lot of folks have a lot of the same questions, so I figured I’d write up a blog answering the most frequently asked questions about life as FOCUS missionaries, and as a missionary family – if I’ve left one of your burning questions out, leave it in the comments and I’ll answer it, too!
How long will you be missionaries for?
As long as we discern that God is calling us to this life! We’ve made an initial two-year commitment to FOCUS and we are wrapping up our first year. After that, we’ll discern on a year-by-year basis.
Will you be in the same place as long as you are missionaries?
No. The longer we are in FOCUS the greater chance we have of eventually staying in one place for more than a year, but chances are pretty high that we’ll move a few times before we settle down. (And, yes, that means we’ll most likely be leaving Boise and moving elsewhere in the fall.)
Isn’t that crazy to make missionaries move so often? Doesn’t that lack consistency?
Actually, it is consistent to have us move. Each team averages 4 people. If each person makes a two-year commitment and never moves then an entire team would be turned over every two years and that isn’t beneficial for the campus – and the mission is about the campuses, not the missionaries. So, by moving people around (some people do stay on the same campus for more than a year at a time!), campuses can be consistent. Plus, moving reminds the missionaries that where we live – wherever that is – isn’t our final home. It keeps us focused on Heaven as our final destination.
Why make families move? Don’t they cut you a break?
We signed up for this, same as the single missionaries. We do get some say in where we do or don’t want to go, but ultimately we leave it up to our superiors and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
When do you find our your next assignment?
I’ve got answers for just about every question…except this one. Hopefully we’ll know by the time we are done in Boise (early May), but even that isn’t for certain. The analogy I used a lot last year was that of being out of the boat, on the water, in the storm. God certainly likes to keep us on our toes even in the storm 😉
Why fundraise your salary?
There are a lot of reasons for this, actually, but the short answer is two-fold. (1) It invites the missionaries to fully rely on God’s generosity through others to provide for us. That trust grows us as missionaries and allows us to witness to His generosity on campus. We become living proof that God takes care of us. (2) It invites others to go on mission with us without packing up and moving to a college campus.
Aren’t you a little crazy to do this with kids? Is this fair to them?
“Did people ask that of Mary and Joseph?” – Anthony 🙂
Monkey was a big consideration as we discerned this call and our kids continue to be a big consideration going forward. For now, they are still little and can (and do!) adapt to moving. Monkey loves meeting new people and we get to travel as a family, which is an awesome opportunity as well.
Who decides where you go?
Short answer? Jesus. There are a lot of factors for placement – how many male missionaries we have on staff is pretty high up on the list. There is a hierarchy in FOCUS and those who oversee campuses for the various regions have a big role to play in who goes where. As does prayer and the Holy Spirit 🙂
How does the fundraising work?
Short answer: we meet individually with people, explain the mission, and invite them to join us as mission partners. We accept gifts of all kinds (all financial gifts are tax-deductible), but monthly contributions help us to set our monthly budget as a family so we know what is coming in. Gifts go to FOCUS and get added to our account, then we get paid from there.
What are the expectations for the non-missionary spouse? Are you considered a missionary or just Anthony?
There are three basic classifications for spouses within FOCUS: (1) full-time missionary (2) affiliate (3) missionary spouse. This year I am an affiliate missionary, which basically means that I’m a part-time missionary. As such, I’m supposed to lead one bible study and have two disciples. My role has scaled back since having Mistletoe. Missionary spouses (which I am considering for next year) don’t have any formal responsibilities, but can if they chose to at the discretion of the team director. I’ve been through all of the first-year training so I can do more, but chose to do less so that I can be home with the kids full-time. Anthony is the full-time missionary and I’m kind of an added bonus. 🙂
How much do you get paid?
We don’t get a monthly or yearly stipend. We make whatever we fundraise, minus the administrative fee (which is minimal!). This also varies by missionary. FOCUS does set a minimum that we need to raise to be allowed to go to campus, but that can also vary based on cost of living for the area (i.e. California campus cost of living is higher than, say, Idaho), whether or not a missionary will have other roommates, etc. So, the answer is that it varies by missionary and it varies by year! Often times, mission partners commit on a yearly basis, so what a missionary (or missionary family) makes one year is not necessarily an indicator of what they will make next year – more or less.
What is the best part? What is the hardest part?
Best part: so far, my favorite moments are getting to discuss life with students, especially the stuff of vocations and parenthood, discernment, and NFP. It is awesome to be able to share our story and share what life is really like as wife, mother, husband, father, etc. with the students.
Hardest part: Sometimes the schedule can be tricky, so every day looks a little different. Some mornings Anthony is home, but not all, some evenings he is home, but again, not all. With two little kids this can make it a bit difficult to set a consistent schedule, but it also means there is some variety in our day to day lives.
What does a day in the life of a missionary look like?
There is no average day! For Anthony an average week will include most (if not all) of the following: one on one time with any number of students (males only!), leading bible study, evangelizing on campus (meeting perfect strangers, usually), time spent talking to our mission partners, daily holy hours and daily Mass, team meetings, team development (on going formation), a weekly meeting with the team director, and more!
How much time do you get for yourself? Are you always on-call or is it more like a regular job with set hours?
I get more time to myself, or more flexibility in my schedule since I am a part-time/affiliate missionary. Anthony, since he’s full time, obviously has to work on campus more 😉 Generally speaking, each day is broken into thirds: morning, afternoon, and evening (8am-12pmish, 12pm-4pm, 4-???ish) and Anthony is expected to be working for two out of the three thirds. He also has one day a week that is completely off and that is our Sabbath. So, not totally set hours, but a rhythm, more or less. What that means is that he is normally home for at least one meal a day, but he can also invite students over for dinner/bible study and be home and still, technically, working 🙂
What does a team usually look like?
Most teams – unless the campus is gender-specific – consist of 3-4 full time missionaries, with at least one male and one female on each team. Bigger campuses, like Benedictine in Kansas, have a larger team. Some campuses, due to there being less male missionaries over all (cough men should apply cough), have only one male missionary and two female missionaries.
What is training like? Is there a typical career path as you ‘move up in rank’ so to speak?
Training, which we call New Staff Training (NST) (side note, FOCUS has acronyms for everything – so much so that I kind of got lost in all of the acronyms at NST last year!), lasts five weeks. All of the first, second, and third year missionaries attend the full five weeks. It is INTENSE. Classes from 9-5, Mass, sometimes there are evening classes, small group time to facilitate further formation, gender-specific recreation time, and more. There’s training on fundraising (which we call MPD – mission partner development), leading bible studies, forming disciples, and so, so much more.
There isn’t a typical path, per se, it just depends on the missionary. After your first year on campus you can apply to be a team director and team directors have more responsibilities and oversee the team on a given campus. From there, there are DCOs (Directors of Collegiate Outreach, they oversee ~6 campuses), Senior DCOs (they oversee ~3 campuses and have more involvement in recruitment and outreach, FOCUS’ long-term expansion goals), RDs (Regional Directors, they oversee the DCOs in a given region), and more. The DSC (Denver Support Center, our headquarters) has a number of positions there as well, including the ELT (Executive Leadership Team). Within FOCUS there are a lot of options should you decide to move out of campus ministry but still want to be part of the mission. Oh, and FOCUS is starting to get into parish ministry as well, so there are currently four parishes in the country with a FOCUS team serving there as well.
Do missionaries have plans for after their time is up or do they just see how they feel as time goes on?
The answer to this is as varied at the missionaries serving in FOCUS. Some have post-FOCUS plans, some don’t. Some have really firm post-FOCUS plans and then end up being missionaries for ten years, then moving to the DSC and stay with FOCUS for much longer than they originally intended! Or, some plan on joining FOCUS and staying for the long-haul!
How much do relationships with bishops affect your campus work?
Immensely! FOCUS won’t send a team to any campus without the commitment and support of a local bishop, not to mention the presence of a chaplain on the campus in question.
Is fundraising a huge pain?
Actually, no! It was intimidating at first, but once we got started, it was actually really awesome. I loved meeting with people we love and respect and inviting us to join us in the mission, not only financially, but in prayer as well. It is humbling to know that we have such an incredible support team behind us.
How is what you do different than a campus minister?
It is very different, actually! I spent more than six years in parish ministry and I love that FOCUS is working with students. My last job, Director of Faith Formation, involved overseeing people who ministered to students. FOCUS missionaries are, as I like to say, the hands and feet of campus ministry. Campus ministry and FOCUS work together. FOCUS missionaries spend time with students in a way that campus ministers don’t usually have the time for because there are 4 missionaries on a team and usually only one campus minister. We teach and equip students to lead their own bible studies, as well as to evangelize other students. (That’s it in a nutshell!)
Why did you decide to become missionaries?
Big question! The short answer is that we felt God calling us – us as a couple and us as a family – to this life. We feel strongly about what FOCUS is doing and the mission of spreading the Gospel to college students and equipping them just as they go out into the work force, starting the next generation of marriages and families.
Got any more burning questions? I’d love to hear them, leave them in the comments!