Two years ago, I was called away from my home in the Midwest to serve at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga. The city is nestled in a beautiful valley in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains (very different from the cornfields of Nebraska). When you think of Tennessee, you may think of cowboy boots and pick-up trucks. However, the city of Chattanooga is a whole different ballgame. Instead, think Whole Foods, Chaco’s, and countless coffee shops.
This is my second year on mission and I can officially say that being in the South has challenged and changed me in many ways. Primarily, I have grown and learned countless things by being a missionary, but I have also gained some new practical life skills by entering into the Chattanooga culture. For example, not only can I make you a black cup of coffee 5 different ways, but you can rest assured that the beans were freshly ground that morning. Aside from my barista skills, I have grown in love for the outdoors by taking advantage of the incredible hiking trails in the area and kayaking down the Tennessee River. Lastly, I’m proud to say that I’ve officially adopted “y’all” into my daily vocabulary and have replaced most of my winter coats with thrifted flannels.
Now, the University itself is located downtown in the middle of the city (which is a stark difference from the rural agricultural college I attended). Here, if you were to look for me during the week, you would probably find me losing in a game of spike ball on Chamberlain Field or on a walk with students enjoying the southern sunshine and doing my best to blend in with my purple JanSport backpack.
I graduated from Northwest Missouri State University with a bachelors degree in Emergency and Disaster Management. My plan was to become a first responder and to use my degree to save lives. With this in mind, I started college filled with excitement about what was ahead of me. However, I quickly entered into the party scene and was the emptiest I have ever been in my life. One night, I saw the Newman Catholic Center advertise online that they were having mass on campus with confession and adoration to follow. I knew there was something missing in my life and I felt my heart drawn to go to confession. That night I had a profound encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist after receiving an outpouring of his mercy and forgiveness. The peace that radiated through me completely filled all the empty places of my heart and I knew I had found the one thing I was missing. However, it didn’t stop there. I needed a lot of help learning how to live as a Catholic on a college campus. Through the incredible patience and perseverance of the FOCUS missionaries at Northwest, I learned what true friendship looked like and I began to trust them to lead me in my pursuit of virtue. I found myself surround by people who had a strong desire of walking with me in this journey to heaven. Through the invitations of these missionaries, I joined a bible study and fell in love with the Catholic faith. My life was radically changed and I was the happiest I had ever been. As graduation approached, I was drawn to be a FOCUS missionary because I couldn’t think of anything better than getting to help other college students have a similar experience. I began college believing the lie that living out my Catholic faith would leave me desolate. The truth could not be more opposite. When I look back on my time as a student, my memories are filled with joy, laughter, and fun. I now have the incredible honor of getting to be on the other side and I get to prove the same thing to the students we serve here at UTC. After being a missionary for almost two years now, I have been deeply humbled by the way the Lord has used my “yes” to aid in my own continued growth and sanctification. Lastly, I really really love my job. FOCUS has been such a large part of my story and I am honored to be a part of such an incredible organization!
When I answered the call to join FOCUS, I made the decision to rely on the spiritual and financial support of mission partners to help me through this mission. I’ve been blessed with the most amazing people who have journeyed with me as I serve on campus. If you are interested in partnering with me, please let me know of the best way to reach you and I will schedule an appointment. I’d be honored to share this mission with you.
It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.