Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's over already?!

Yes, that fateful day has arrived. This year's much-anticipated New Staff Training has officially ended after some intense spiritual and personal formation, many great memories, shared laughs and newly formed friendships. I know that I myself had an amazing time and right when I feel like I'm getting the hang of this, it's all over! I distinctly remember feeling this same way last year, too. (Have I mentioned before that I don't deal well with change and transitions?)

I know a few things for certain: 1) I am so blessed to be a missionary. Recently I was talking with another mish (missionary...abbreviated) and realized that if I wouldn't have answered this call to FOCUS, the number of people I know would be far fewer! As in, over 500 people fewer, with missionaries and NDSU students combined! What the heck?! That's insane. 2) God is good to us, so so good. It's so encouraging to see the amazing things he's doing through all of us all over the country, and hearing other missionaries' stories this summer really pumped me up to go back to Fargo and get back at it! And 3) I'm not just tired, I'm exhausted. I think it's a sign that I really need to start working on saying yes and no to people more prudently. I've improved at recognizing opportunities to say no, and sometimes I feel like taking 20-30 minutes alone each day is enough, but I just don't that that's gonna cut it in high-emotional and high-relational situations like this! And just because I recognize the situation does not mean that I respond as I ought. You could say I'm guilty of not taking the best care of myself all the time. I l-o-v-e quality time with my friends, but when I can't have quality time with Jesus because I'm so tired from expending my energy everywhere else, there's probably an issue there.

Conveniently, pertaining to my self-inflicted truth number three, tonight at 7:30 pm begins an eight-day Ignatian silent retreat. I remember hearing about it last year and thinking to myself, "wow Kelsey, that is exactly what you need." And then when the sign-ups came around near the end of the school-year I chickened out, thinking I didn't have the time for it, until a wonderful Fr. Kevin Dyer sent me a message telling me to really consider giving it a shot. It's as if he read my mind because although I hadn't signed up, I still really wanted to, I just didn't have somebody to say, "DO IT." So, I signed up and have been looking forward to it ever since.

And you know, it's so funny how this whole "FOCUS" situation works out, I'm still asking myself how I feel about it. Wonder what I mean? Here's how one ends up in a current situation similar to mine, along with the other 350 missionaries (and that doesn't even include all of those who came and left staff before us!):
All on the same interview weekend and still great friends! I love these girls!!
  1. Answer the call (a.k.a., apply). This is pretty straightforward. Jesus Christ worked his way into the depths of your soul and wrapped himself so intricately around it and has now given you the urge to "go make disciples of all nations." Through prayerful discernment you understand that he's calling you to be a missionary, and you think it might be with FOCUS.
  2. Interview weekend. This is really where your adventure as a missionary begins, whether you get hired or not (since we're all called to evangelize, by virtue of our baptism...). You meet other Christ-centered people, hear their stories during their five-minute testimony about how Jesus Christ changed their life and why they want to change others'. Common side-effects of interview weekends include but are not limited to: being filled with joy and/or excitement about a potential call to this ministry, making friends that you actually keep in touch with, and falling more in love with the mission. (It also doesn't hurt that you get to have great meals, stay in a nice hotel and get toted around from place to place without having to really lift a finger. Thanks, FOCUS HQ for picking up the tab.)
  3. New Staff Training. After receiving the external call that yes, you should be a missionary with FOCUS, you prepare yourself for five weeks and probably don't know what exactly to expect. You begin gathering names, addresses and phone numbers for potential mission partners, and when the time comes you show up in the heart of the Midwest--Champaign, Illinois. You pull up to the front doors of the St. John's Catholic Newman Center and are greeted by a healthy number of other missionaries who just cannot wait to help you get in and get settled (and for you to move your car so other people arriving can park on the street). You watch as the second-years and above reunite with their friends, many of whom they haven't seen in a year, and ask yourself, "will that be me next year??" You're whizzed through a registration line and confusedly make your way to get your things to your room, probably with the help of one or two other people. If you have roommates you meet and analyze them, knowing that Jesus Christ was the one who brought you both here. After unpacking your few belongings and making a home out of your dorm room you get ready for the next five weeks. You're rushed from place to place, holy hour to class, class to lunch, lunch to MPD and MPD to Mass, Mass to dinner with your colleges, dinner to formation, recreation or more MPD. On the nights you're feeling up to it after all that, you can hit up Murphy's and grab a beer, or another favorite, Cocomero for some frozen yogurt. Throughout the course of the five weeks you're emotionally, spiritually and intellectually filled up, so much so that it begins oozing out of you and after settling in with a few good friends, they're ripped away from you and everybody rushes off to their respective homelands. That's the part with which someone like me, who loves relationships and quality time, has the biggest bone to pick. You meet tons of great people who you literally feel like you've known your whole life, begin sharing life with and loving the crap out of them, and then whoosh! gone. Gone like Elvis and his mom. 
  4. MPD (Mission Partner Development). That's right, you get to go home and work, work, work. Phone-calling, meeting up with people and trying to raise a salary that will provide for your needs for the following year! And you have a little over a month to do it. If you don't do this, you can't do #5. There's some motivation.
  5. Campus. The time has finally arrived where you can no longer just talk about going all the way to North Dakota, Florida, Arizona or Vermont--you actually go. This could arguably be where the real adventure begins, but take my position as you will with the beginning being the very application process. Being on campus involves too much to put in here, and seeing as I've only experienced one campus I'm a bit biased as to how smoothly it can actually and does go. I'll leave the rest up to the imagination for now, but as a first-year missionary you certainly get pushed, pulled and stretched in ways you didn't know were physically possible. Before long the last weekend of May rolls around and you know you get to go back to NST and start all over again, reuniting with old friends and making new ones. What a roller-coaster.
Have I mentioned how much I love being a FOCUS missionary? It's a lot. And for those of you who don't know me very well, when I love something a lot, I want err'body to love it with me, ergo, blog post. I'm off to my last social meal before the silence falls! I won't be using the internet or my phone for the next week so if you need to contact me leave me a message and I'll call you back on July 8th! Please pray for me and that I can be open to any graces the Lord desires to shower upon me! Thank you, and God bless,
Kelsey Marie

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You know it's week 5 of NST when...

  • You're asked, "Can you believe it's already the fifth week of training?" several times a day.
  • People start showing up right on time or even late to class... (grumble grumble). 
  • Second-years and above start doing MPD.
  • Pictures from the last month start going up on Facebook.
  • You dream that you're opening rec-night in a prayer and wake yourself up when you close the prayer with a vocal "Amen!" (So does a prayer actually count if you're asleep?....)
  • The line at Espresso Royale is much longer in the morning before class.
  • You, yourself can't actually believe it's the fifth week and begin to wonder where the heck all the time went, and wonder if you'll be back here next year.
  • There's no one at breakfast.
  • Nametags become optional.
  • This is biz-casual right? least I'm not wearing jeans.
  • You may have visited Cocomero more than once this week.
  • MPD can just wait til I get back, right?
  • "Bar culture" makes a comeback when people try to make the most of the time left they have with their friends.
  • It's easier to find a table in the cafeteria for college dinner night.
  • You see glasses on people you had no idea wore them.
  • You're coming to terms with the fact that you will leave NST not having met all the other missionaries. So. Many. First-years.
  • Cleaning up your room can "just wait until Saturday."
  • Girls decide that it's just not gonna happen this year.
  • The number of children running around has decreased drastically.
  • Girls get creative with two-day-old hair.
  • You're sick of the cafeteria food.
  • Morning holy hour is much less populated.
  • The dating fast becomes difficult for all the first-years.
  • The only way to stay awake in class is to take a nap beforehand....and after.
  • You sniff your shirts in the morning and convince yourself that, "this is probably clean."
  • Afternoon MPD time becomes the perfect time to hit up the pool at the rec center.... Mario. 
  • You're really, and I mean really tired. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

We'll miss you, Corinne!

College of St. Cecilia!
The other night, one of the young women in my college, Corinne Riley, suffered a swing-dancing tragedy: while being flipped she was dropped on her shoulder and ended up breaking her collar bone! Sadly, she has to leave and go back home to Virginia today and will be missing out on the last week of NST, and will be greatly inhibited with her MPD efforts due to her inability to drive after having surgery.

It has been such a blessing having Corinne as a bright-eyed and cheery member of our college and we will definitely miss her this last week!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beatin' the Heat.

The weather in Champaign is nice and toasty warm, and after a long day of classes and MPD (Mission Partner Development) a lot of us were craving something to cool off--both our bodies and minds. On Wednesdays we have dinner with our brother and sister colleges, St. Paul and St. Agnes (we're St. Cecilia!), and tonight after dinner the men of St. Paul blessed us with one way to cool down: an invitation to a water fight.

Tommy, the dean of the guys decided to pull out his chivalry card and even ask us if we would have a water fight with them. They didn't just assume we'd want to! I was really floored by how nice they were about it; they even waited until we were all done eating AND let us go change into different clothes. What gentlemen!

The ammunition consisted of a couple dollar store water guns, some 99-cent squirt bottles, cafeteria cups, a few water balloons we had quite the adventure trying to fill up in the bubbler and Tommy had the weapon of choice: one of the room's recycling bins. We had to be creative due to a lack of a hose and weapons which could mean one thing: great bonding with all the gals 'n guys in the *mist* of a lot of fun.

This reminds me of last year when the college I was in (St. Catherine of Siena--FIYAAHHH!) decided to try to surprise the guys with a water balloon fight and we spent all afternoon taking shifts filling up tons and tons of water balloons and then hiding them in the trash cans and doing a sneak attack after they finished eating. Luckily other people are a lot nicer and more honest than I'm known to have been... :)

I love being a kid. I love water fights. I love bonding with my brothers and sisters at NST. Overall, it's been a good day.

Much love,
Kelsey Marie

Monday, June 11, 2012

Heroic witnesses!

Our FOCUS men made the local Champaign news last night!

There were almost 150 men praying the Rosary in front of a local pornography shop for its closing down and an ending to the use of pornography and its destroying of marriages. What an incredible way to end the feast of Corpus Christi yesterday and storm Heaven with prayers for a much needed conversion in our world!

Check out the news clip here!

God bless,

Sunday, June 10, 2012


quarantine |ˈkwôrənˌtēn| noun
a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed : many animals die in quarantine.

I've given a hearty attempt to avoiding "The Plague" silently and slowly taking out missionary after missionary at New Staff Training. Sadly, my body succumbed and yesterday I was stricken with this nasty virus floating around and last night I was rocking a pretty wicked fever. I had been sort of preparing myself to get sick because being in such tight spaces with nearly 300 people, let's be realistic: it's more likely that one will contract this pleasant bug than that they won't. When my roommate Jess was taken out earlier this week I knew it wouldn't be long before I, too, would give in. One of my friends was telling me it was all about "mind over matter," but I don't think it worked.

The way this flu has usually manifested itself has been with vomiting or diarrhea and headaches for a day or two, and then a day where you feel better so you think you're better and start hanging around people again, but you're actually still contagious and you just infected all of your friends. It started in the married staff wing and when people became aware of the outbreak we tried to quarantine them so that it wouldn't get out to all the other missionaries, since we are in such close quarters. I remember when we found out that it got into some of the other missionary wings and Jenne and I were mildly freaking out, as though it was a deadly disease. Perhaps we overreacted. Although after feeling the way I did last night I sure wouldn't have mind crawling up and dying, no joke.

I woke up this morning and was feeling a bit better so I put on a nice dress, went to Mass and even walked in the Eucharistic procession we had out onto the campus for Corpus Christi. I saw Jenne after and she pulled out her nurse card (because she actually is one) and sent me to my room to be quarantined. Dangit. So now here I am, in a dorm room on a beautiful Sunday while all my friends are floating on the Kickapoo River. God is good though, this could have happened during the week and I'd have to miss classes, Lord knows I don't want to do that! Any prayers that I'm better by tomorrow would be great! Thanks a ton!

God bless,
Kelsey Marie

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How FOCUS Changed My Life - by Kelly Pechous

I was just talking with one of the students, Kelly, the other night and realized that she had written up her testimony for me at the end of the semester (probably the busiest time for her!) and I had yet to do something about it. Kelly Pechous, one of the wonderful student missionaries I was blessed to work with this past year at NDSU, continues to blow me away and it is such a joy to know her! 
    At the end of 11th grade, a good Catholic friend starting wearing off on me and I began attending mass with her family. When I came to NDSU, I was what people consider a “lukewarm” Catholic. I attended mass on Sunday, but only when I didn’t have a mountain of homework, and was roped into a Bible study that I attended under the same conditions. In the middle of my sophomore year, I met a girl named Britni in one of my classes who radiated with something I wanted but couldn’t put my finger on. Britni and I started to hang out outside of class and started discussing the role of Jesus in our lives. After spring break, Britni gave me my first ever one-on-one Gospel presentation and asked me into discipleship, but she stressed that it is truly discipleship with Jesus. I said yes.

Kathryn and Kelly at the end of the year Banquet
            However, there was one caveat. I was recently accepted to the University of Minnesota – Duluth College of Pharmacy and had committed to going there – meaning I was leaving NDSU in five weeks. Britni knew this and said it was okay; I would change so much in five weeks. The last statement worried me: change?! I’m good as I am, thank you very much! I could not foresee myself changing all that much. How wrong I was. After our first discipleship I began to journal. After the second, I started to have a prayer life for the first time ever (Not counting those random moments that went like this “Ok God, if you love me then help me out on this test I’m taking in two minutes”). I could not believe people actually spend a whole hour praying every single day! Never would I have thought this would become me too. The following discipleships were just as wonderful and inspiring. I went to Adoration for my first time. I started attending daily mass (people do that too!) and loving it. I re-evaluated my life to figure out where I needed to put my time: with Jesus. I proceeded to make one of the toughest decisions in my life:  I quit track. I realized that after spending 9 years on a track team, I had come to define myself by running alone, and this wasn’t right. I was nervous to tell my teammates and friends, but I knew I had to tell them the truth as to why I quit. I shouldn’t worry about what they think because only what Jesus thinks truly matters. Fortunately, they were receptive of my choice.
            The changes in my life would not have happened without my favorite part of discipleship: having somebody to openly share a conversation with about my faith and how living out my faith is going. These are the conversations I look most forward to. I felt like Peter when he’s in the boat with Jesus on the water calling out to him. For the past four years I’ve been saying “Okay Jesus, I’ll come, but give me a few minutes—or years”, then I would dip my big toe in, or maybe my whole foot, testing the water, but always holding tightly to the boat in case I wanted to jump back in. Then Britni came along and held out her hand, in essence saying, “Look, I am like you, I will help you walk on the water to Jesus. If you get out of the boat, I’ll be with you. Trust me”. Britni is the help I needed to get out of the boat. She is the blessing I needed to help me on my walk to Jesus. Without Britni, I would probably still be in the boat. Without Kelsey discipling Kristen, discipling Britni, discipling me, I might’ve stayed in the boat for who knows how much longer.
            Another huge change that has occurred in the past five weeks is that I have become less shy of the fact that I will be asked to lead a Bible study and to disciple others. If somebody had told me this ten weeks ago, I would’ve laughed. Me, a Bible study leader? Ha! I don’t know anything! I haven’t even read the whole Bible! But through the FOCUS meetings I’ve attended, and talking with Kelsey and Britni, I’ve come to learn that it isn’t me who will do the teaching, it is Jesus. Jesus will only work through me. He doesn’t call the equipped He equips the called. With the weight of worrying lifted off my shoulders, I’ve began to see myself as a potential leader and disciple. Ultimately, I look forward to the opportunity to make disciples of all nations.           

Friday, June 1, 2012

And the line-up is...

I have a very exciting announcement for any faithful followers of FOCUS at NDSU!

...drumroll please...

 I proudly present to you our FOCUS team for the 2012-2013 school year!

Say "Fargo!" Apparently I spoke too soon... I take after my dad.
  •  Starting at Left: Mikayla Koble! She's still a student at NDSU and will be graduating and departing from us in December with a degree in Human Development Family Sciences the Child and Adolescent option (or something like that!). She likes photography and art, soccer and sharing the Gospel with college students.
  • Next up is Bryan Thiry! He'll be our fearless leader and team director. Originating rom Butte, Nebraska Bryan loves to farm, swing dance, drive his truck and grill meats (I've already heard he makes a pretty mean burger!). He was a missionary at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas last year and is SUPER excited about being our team director! He has lots of exciting plans and I can't wait to see how everything pans out.
  • In the middle is Cari Devlin! She has an absolutely beautiful soul and is filled with the joy of Christ. She went to University of Northern Colorado and originates from Las Vegas, Nevada! How nuts is that? (Especially for a small-town Wisconsin girl like myself...) She likes to dance and teach others how to master such a fine art. I'm so excited to have her on campus this year!
  • To the left of me is T.J. Beyer! He's actually got quite the story and I feel extraordinarily blessed that God chose him as our teammate. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico (I know, two southerners, AND another Nebraskan! What are the odds?) he grew up as an Agnostic and after high school joined the army. He began following Christ while in service and ended up joining the Church just in 2010 after studying his way into it, so to speak. He started up a group of people that evangelized on a college campus and after meeting a missionary found out that's exactly what FOCUS does and made the executive decision to join up. What a rockstar! Maybe sometime I'll write more about him, all I know is that this is a dynamite group and we are so excited to do BIG things at NDSU this year! 

Oh, and Bryan already informed us of what the year will look like for us:

We will Pray hard, work hard, and play hard.

I think I can live with that.

And now to fall asleep to the sound of rain gently falling outside! What a night of blessings. Did I mention God is good? Because God is gooood. Amen!

Kelsey Marie