Friday, March 6, 2015
Serving on mission in the Dominican Republic my junior year of college
in December 2011 changed my heart. It was at this moment that I knew I was being called to serve Christ on a college campus
WILL YOU JOIN?
To serve on these missions I need
to raise $5,000. If you would like to give:
send your gift to
P.O. Box 18710
Golden, CO 80402-9809
All checks should be made out to
“FOCUS” with my name & the number
“44220” in the memo line.
donate online at
Thank you & God Bless!
Thank you & God Bless!
Saturday, August 30, 2014
As many of you know, I have transitioned from Arizona State University to the team director at the University of Southern California. It's been a crazy change but feel very blessed to be surrounded by such an amazing staff & team. I am so excited to see how the Lord will work in the hearts of students here in LA!
-first year missionary
-born in Canada, grew up in Iowa
-Elite Triathlon (2 time Junior National Champion & 7th place Worlds Finisher) & D1 Cross Country/Track runner)
-graduated from University of Northern Colorado in Greeley with a degree in Chemistry
-pastimes: playing sports, reading, and being outdoors
-first year missionary
-from South Dakota
-graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences
-worked in a regional laboratory following graduation
-pastimes: soccer, spending time outdoors, and education
-second year missionary (served at Auburn University in Alabama)
-from St. Louis, Missouri
-graduated from Benedictine College with degrees in Theology & Chemistry
-pastimes: reading, playing pick up sports, theological discussions
-team director, second year missionary
-from Humphrey, Nebraska
-graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in Advertising/Public Relations and a minor in Art
-pastimes: painting & drawing, spending time outdoors & with people
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
It's taken me a while to post about the incredible experience of serving on a FOCUS Missions trip in Nicaragua, but I think I've finally had enough time to upack (literally & figuratively) the trip to attempt to share the impact it has had on my heart and the hearts of the students.
In the eyes of the Western world, the way that the Nicaraguans live - the clay huts, the wood burning stove, the lack of technology - is heartwrenching. We want to fix their lives, with hopes of finally allowing them to be happy, but we've totally missed the point. The people that I encountered are happy, much more than most anywhere I've ever been.
During our first day of work we took the Nicaraguans off guard with our speed and focus on the task at hand. They watched us, laughing as we got lost in our speedy work and eventually asked if we would slow down. They explained that they enjoy working alongside one another. They desired to converse and form relationships as we worked to complete the task together. I began to recognize how easily I get caught up in my work, moving from one task to another, and forget to be totally present to those around me. The truth is that we can never completely eradicate poverty from the world - it just isn't possible. We can do everything possible to alleviate the pains of poverty, but the true beauty of serving is living with compassion and solidarity with those in poverty, and translating it to the poverty around us and within us.
Mother Teresa says, "The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty - it is not only a poverty of loneliness, but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God." So which is the greater poverty? The people that I encountered in Nicaragua were so filled with joy of the Gospel. They didn't desire more things or money - they were content with what they had. They recognized the spiritual poverty that many of us carried, and they reflected the hands & feet of Christ in loving us and teaching us the true importance of life.
Celebrating Mass with the Nicaraguans was easily the most powerful of all. In recognizing the universality of the church, we recognize that Christ is present in Nicaragua and in every Mass in which we partake. This unites us all - we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are truly the body of Christ, and they treated us in this way. During the sign of peace I felt as if my heart may explode with love as men, women, and children flocked us with hugs & kisses. They were filled with such love and gratitude for us being there. The parishoners explained to us that merely taking the time to be there, we reminded them of the importance of "going outside of yourself" to share the faith. They continued to describe their joy in sharing in the body of Christ with us.
Throughout the week we worked to replace the roof of a church - their tin roof had begun to rust away and had several holes. Later in the day we spent time praying with families and playing with the children & teaching them Bible stories. My fellow missionaries and I gave talks to the student missionaries to teach them different forms of prayer and to aid in translating the experience into lifelong mission. It was truly beautiful to see how the group came together and opened up through nightly sharing of testimonies and experiences throughout the day.
The entire time we were in Nicaragua I felt as if my heart was coming alive within me. I've realized that traveling reveals a part within myself that I never knew to exist. God reveals the beauty of Himself to me in a new way, through nature and people. I often ponder this reality of "beauty" and of "God the Creator" and the ways that God reveals himself to me through His creations. As an artist, this speaks deeply to my heart. Blessed Pope John Paul II, in his letter to Artists says, "That is why artists, the more conscious they are of their 'gift,' are led all the more to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation and their mission. Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece."
The greatest lesson that I have taken from the people of Nicaragua is the art of living. I've learned that the art of living is in being completely present to the moment at hand and to love the person next to you with the joy of Christ. It is the ability to see with God's eyes, to hear with God's ears, and to love with the heart of God. In being present I am able to recognize the way that the Holy Spirit is working through and in me right now. How I choose to respond are brushstrokes on the canvas of my life and of others, and He has entrusted me with the task of bringing Him glory through creating a work of art, a masterpiece.
If you'd like to see more pictures, check out my entire
Nicaragua Mission Trip album here.
Monday, March 3, 2014
The word "Lent" often draws thoughts of "giving something up" for a period of time. But what is the true meaning behind the 40-day season? At the heart of the Lenten Season lies preparation for Baptism and a renewal of baptismal commitment. As the candidates for Baptism enter their final period of preparation for Baptism, the rest of the Church accompanies them on their journey and together, we prepare to renew our baptismal vows at Easter. Lent then, is truly baptismal, whether for one who is entering the Church for the first time, or for someone seeking to grow closer to Christ and renew their Baptismal promises.
So why do people fast during Lent? Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and His way of life. Lent is a 40-day season. Let's take a look at where the number forty appears in the Bible:
-Noah waited 40 days before opening a window on the ark and releasing a dove. (Genesis 8:6)
-Moses fasted on a mountain 40 days and returned with the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:28-29)
-The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness searching for the Promised Land. (Exodus 16:35)
-Goliath taunted the Israelite army for 40 days before being defeated by David. (1 Samuel 17:16)
-Jonah warned the city of Nineveh that they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city. Within those 40 days the people repented and God spared the city. (Jonah 3:4)
-Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days enduring the temptations of the devil. (Matthew 4:1-2)
-After Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection He appeared to the disciples for 40 days and then joined His Father in Heaven. (Acts 1:3)
As you can see, the number forty has long been biblically recognized as an important number, one often associated with a period of trial followed by grace and renewal. This is exactly how we view Lent. A time of preparation followed by renewal of spirit. In order to grow spiritually, we must turn away from sin. The goal is not to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ. Fasting is a way to develop self-control and to gain the ability to say "no" to the small things we enjoy, even if they are ultimately good, so that you can say "no" to the things that draw us into sin. Fasting should also be connected to our concern for those who are forced to fast by poverty or are in need for any reason. Thus, fasting is linked to living out our baptismal promises. By our Baptism, we are charged with the responsibility of showing Christ's love to the world, especially those in need. When human suffering is accepted and offered up in union with the Passion of Jesus, we believe that our suffering can be united to that of Christ and so in union with His Passion. Fasting can help us realize the suffering that so many people in our world experience every day, and it should lead us to greater efforts to alleviate that suffering. (This recognition of suffering will become a strong reality as I set off for a FOCUS Missions trip to Nicaragua with several students and fellow missionaries in just a few days! Pray for us!)
But why put ashes on our foreheads? The ashes for Ash Wednesday are made from blessed palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday. The ashes are sprinkled with Holy Water and incensed before distribution. Ashes are applied to our forehead in the sign of the cross as the words, "Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return" or "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel" are spoken to us. The words "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return" are from scripture. They occur after The Fall when God is explaining to Adam one of the main consequences of Original Sin -- separation from God and mortality. God reminds Adam that his body is dust, and after the fall, to dust it shall return. Ash Wednesday takes us back to that moment. We are standing in the Garden with Adam and Eve. We are dust and to dust we shall return. There is a great schism between God and us, and how can that relationship be repaired? Jesus' death and resurrection reconciles us with God, and is precisely the focal point of Lent -- Easter. We look forward with hope to the celebration of Easter. We remember that we are nothing but dust if we do not have Easter; it is only Jesus' resurrection that gives us hope that we too shall be risen from the dust. When we hear the words, "you are dust and to dust you shall return" it should call to mind the spirit of Lent, reminding us that not only are our bodies dust, but so are all of the things of this world. All money, possessions, and earthly accomplishments are not important in themselves. They are all fleeting. They are all, ultimately, dust. Lent is a time to re-evaluate our lives. Yes, we are dust. Do we spend our lives chasing more dust? Or are we chasing the one thing that can truly make an eternal difference? Are we chasing the one Being who can breathe life into dust? For a people of dust, this is our only hope. Receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday symbolizes our mortality as well as our need for ongoing repentance. It is a reminder that this life is short and merely a foreshadowing of what we shall become through the redemption of Jesus Christ on the cross. We look forward to when we are raised from the dust, in resurrected bodies like His own and called to the eternal communion of heaven.