The small town of Spearfish S.D. welcomed four FOCUS missionaries to the campus of Black Hills State University in August of 2018. FOCUS stands for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students and is a "Catholic collegiate outreach whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same."
Meet the Team
At BHSU, the four FOCUS missionaries host bible studies, offering equipping for missionary discipleship, educational sessions like their Lenten series, "Outcasts" and more. The Newman center that students currently utilize opened the first year campus welcomed the FOCUS team as well. Having this facility has been a great advantage for students. They now have a space that they can meet and a "home away from home," filled with those who share similar believes and values.
Since they first came to campus, the team has gained a new member. Currently, the BHSU FOCUS team is made up of two women, Kim Herdering and leader Sarah Knopik and two men, Andrew Noah and Tynan Bollinger. The four work both independently and cohesively to create a welcoming space at the Newman Center where not just Catholics feel at home.
During the years that FOCUS missionaries serve on campus, each individual has to fundraise their own salary. If you are interested in donating to their cause, you can reach them through their emails (email@example.com).
One of four kids, Kim Herdering grew up in a Catholic home in Melrose, Minnesota and is 24-years-old. She received her degree in biology with a minor in human development and family science from North Dakota State University, and you can always find her at a local coffee shop, whipping up some delicious food in her kitchen, spending time with friends or gushing about the beautiful things in life.
Kim is currently in her second year with FOCUs. She says, "Being a missionary is one of the best and most challenging things I have ever done, but I would do it again in a heart beat!"
Finishing up her junior year of college, Kim first felt a calling from the Lord to be a missionary. She attended a FOCUS training that summer as a baby sitter for the missionaries from NDSU. There, Kim discovered what it meant to live out her life active in the faith. "Living with hundreds of young people who are pursuing Jesus and holiness was something that I had never experienced," Kim explains.
Her main goal, she states, is to lead people to a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church while also building up people to share this with others. Kim has traveled on mission trips to Alaska, Florida, Spain, Colombia and has been to Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago, Indianapolis and Phoenix for annual conferences.
"The most poowerful thing about being a missionary is watching people open their hearts to Jesus and seeing Him bring in His healing love. Watching someone experience Jesus' merciful love fill the places in their hearts that they thought were most broken is by far, one of the most amazing things that Jesus has ever allowed me to be a part of," she adds.
After she finishes her work on campus leading others to Christ, Kim hopes to enter the medical field and pursue a degree that allows her to work and care for others when they're at their weakest.
From Killdeer, N.D. 26-year-old Sarah Knopik studied Criminal Justice at North Dakota State University and comes from a large family (8 siblings!). For the past 4 years, Sarah has put her trust in God and volunteered her time, serving as a FOCUS missionary. In her pastime, she loves dancing, singing, reading and spending time with her friends and family. Currently, her favorite hobby is planning her wedding to her "wonderful fiancé," Phil.
Sarah hopes to continue work as a FOCUS missionary "for as long as He keeps inviting me!" As a missionary, she has been able to not only serve the South Dakota campus, but travel to several other states and countries including Honduras, Vietnam, Belize, Ecuador, New Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia.
"A great priest friend of mine said the best advice he could give is 'don't waste your life," Sarah shares. "I second this statement as my time with FOCUS has made me aware of how quickly our lives go, and how each decision we make actually matters. We have a Father in Heaven who loves us infinitely and unconditionally, and who so badly desires us to live out our true identity as His beloved daughters and sons. It's what we are made for, and the only way we can truly be at peace."
Engaged to be married this November, Sarah says her ultimate goal is to have a wonderful marriage and raise a whole bunch of kids!
Through her time being a missionary, the two biggest things that she's taken away is:
Honesty and Generosity are two of the most important qualities in a person.
Love is meant to be given away rather than stored for our own safekeeping.
In closing she adds a quote from Mother Teresa, "Have we forgotten we were made for each other?"
Think about that. When was the last time you did something for someone else instead of expected and waited around for someone to do something for you?
23-year-old Andrew Noah is from Spencer, Iowa and a graduate of the St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. where he studies Theater and Theology.
Growing up in a Catholic home, Andrew found great support from his family; he's been a missionary for over a year and a half, and hopes to continue his work for the next year or so.
Andrew shares one of his most impactful experiences with a student in his first year as w missionary. "I encountered a student who considered himself to be an atheist while I was out on campus. We got to talking and discovered we had a mutual love for theater. After a few more encounters with him over the next few weeks, I took the opportunity to invite this student to come to SEEK 2019, a national conference held by FOCUS," he says.
"To my surprise, he said 'yes!' During the conference, this student was able to attend talks by some of the best Catholic speakers in the country, attend Mass everyday, and have a life-changing encounter with Christ during adoration. This same man has since went on a mission trip to Ecuador with me, is going through the Rite of Christian Initiation in Adults, and is committed to a life as a student missionary."
Like Kim, Andrew felt his calling during college. He attended an Leadership Summit (SLS) conference hosted by FOCUS and for the first time understood that the universal call to all Catholics is to make disciples of all nations.
"SLS is designed to train leaders in discipleship, prayer and small-group facilitation. Hosted every other year in between the SEEK conference (an invitation to college students to explore life's bigger questions), SLS is an event where leaders not only learn the essentials of evangelization, but they also put it into practice by teaching their peers the essentials as they go."
Andrew adds, "After spending much time in prayer over the next couple of years, it was clear going into my senior year that the Lord was indeed calling me to make the radical decision to be a full-time missionary with FOCUS."
After becoming a missionary and serving Christ, Andrew believes his has grown as individual and in his faith. He says, "I have grown in patience, conflict management, humility, leadership, communication, and trust in God as my loving Father who wills my good and will always provide for me. Through his growth, I know that I am better able to truly be a light of Christ's love to each person I encounter."
The newest member, as of this last January of 2020, Tynan Bollinger comes to us from a small town in Kansas.
At 23-years-old, Tynan just completed his degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Kansas. Tynan gew up in a smaller family with one older and one younger sibling.
He shares, "At a young age, I had the incredible opportunity to witness my family join the Catholic Church during Easter of 2005. That gift of the Church was something I realized 10 years later, as I stepped onto the campus of the University of Kansas."
It is easy to lose yourself in a sea of people on large campuses. When he first began his education, Tynan opens up about how he felt alone and stressed amidst the workload within his degree-work. It was then that he started asking questions for the first time, and when he stumbled across another student through a FOCUS bible study, he found himself challenged to dive deeper into a relationship with Jesus.
"I became a missionary out of desire to make Christ known to students on the college campus. The FOCUS missionaries on my campus walked with me, shared their life, and pointed me back to a relationship with Christ in times of struggle," Tynan says.
Tynan also served as a missionary on the campus in Kansas as he finished his degree. As a newer missionary, Tynan has yet to see half of the impact he will have in the area and on others. With that being said, he shares that one of the most impactful experiences as a missionary thus far is "seeing men realize their desire to be fathers by first being loved by God the Father."
FOCUS aims to accomplish bringing students into a deeper encounter with Christ through one on one discipleship. His mission and goal is to aid in this cause and "helping students walk and share Christ in their time in college but also after graduation in their careers, families, and among their peers."
No end in sight, he shares that he will work for the Church as long as God is calling him.
Are you ready to become a Disciple?
Have you thought about a career in the Church? Do you feel a calling to do God's work? Even if you don't think a mission through FOCUS is fit for you, there are tons of ways to get involved and help fulfill the mission of the Catholic Church. Through the team at BHSU, students have travelled nationally and internationally attending conferences to educate themselves on how to be a better disciple and mission trips serving others in need. Last summer, there were several FOCUS mission trips that brought students to Europe growing in their relationships with Christ.