“I still don’t understand why you decided to work for FOCUS for two years before applying to medical school.”
This is the question that I kept getting from many people after I decided to become a FOCUS missionary. “Medical school is long and very expensive,” many would say, “so why would you want to wait an extra two years to begin?” Some people advised me to look for an engineering job since I studied biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia. “That way, you could have some extra money to go towards medical school tuition…especially if you like math and science so much. I just don’t get the connection between FOCUS and medical school.”
Although not everyone fully understood my reasoning for becoming a FOCUS missionary, I knew this was what God wanted for me. In college, I almost fell away from the Church, but after coming to find the fullness of the truth in the Catholic faith, I was on fire to share this truth and the beauty of a relationship with Christ with those around me. I did not know much about FOCUS since I applied to become a missionary only a few months after FOCUS missionaries first came to UVA. At this time, I knew the Lord was calling me to go to medical school, but I wanted to take a year or two before starting my journey to become a doctor to do some sort of work serving others.
Little did I know that the Lord wanted to immensely transform me through this “service work” that I had in mind.
After understanding the vital role that FOCUS missionaries played in almost every other applicant’s testimony at the FOCUS interview weekend I attended, I could tell FOCUS was extremely effective in their mission of evangelization. I came back to school after the interview weekend feeling very indecisive (as I always am). Should I accept the position if I was offered it?
That night when I came back to UVA , I brought one of my friends to our 9PM student Mass. He was Catholic, but he had not been to Mass for many years. During communion, I remember looking up and saying a prayer for each student who received Christ’s true body and blood in the Eucharist. I saw some faces receiving communion whom I did not recognize. I saw some faces of students whom I did recognize but hadn’t known were Catholic. I saw other faces of students who would sometimes come to our Catholic Student Ministry social events. My heart went out to all these people. Do they all truly know Christ and have a relationship with Him? Do they fully understand how much God loves them and how He is truly present in the Eucharist? Do they have the passion to evangelize? Do they know how to evangelize and disciple those around them?
I had a strong desire to invest in the lives of each of these people: to show them how much God really loves them, to show them how much He thirsts to spend time with them daily, to help them not to be afraid to evangelize to others, and to show them how to lead others closer to Christ. I had a deep desire for all of these people to be one with Christ one day in heaven. I then started thinking of all my classes, my job at UVA, and everything else I had going on. I thought, I honestly don’t have time to invest in all of these people. But then I felt the Lord speak to my heart:
“Sam, if you become a FOCUS missionary, everything you desire to do right now would be your full-time job.”
It was at that moment that I knew the Lord wanted me to become a FOCUS missionary.
I went into FOCUS thinking I would be able to serve others and help lead others to Christ. I believe I have been able to do this. However, the Lord has transformed me more than I could have ever imagined when I first decided to become a missionary. I now understand God’s deep love for me more fully. I better understand my strengths and weaknesses. I have learned how to more effectively evangelize others. I can better grasp the utmost importance of spending time in prayer with the Lord daily and receiving Christ in the Eucharist in Mass. The list could go on. All of these things have helped me to love God and love my neighbor more perfectly and will continue to help me share Christ with others in the future.
I recently had a medical school interview, and the interviewers like many others did not understand why I decided to become a FOCUS missionary before applying to medical school. I told them the truth. “Honestly, I am very passionate about my Catholic faith. I had a period of intense doubt in my faith in God when I started college. After doing a lot of research, I came to fully believe in God. Then, it took me some more time to fully believe in the truths of the Catholic Church, but the facts lined up and it made so much sense to me! I grew in my relationship with Christ and wanted everyone to know Him and the full truth about God through the Catholic Church. I knew I could do that by becoming a FOCUS missionary.” The interviewers all looked taken aback but very impressed with my answer. This interview, along with every other medical school interview I have had, has confirmed a few things for me. One: that I am not a Catholic missionary just now, but I will be a Catholic missionary for the rest of my life. Two: that my relationship with the Lord has grown tremendously while being a missionary. And three: that I will be able to use these skills not only in medical school, but also as I become a physician, a wife, a mother, and wherever the Lord leads me in the future.
I am so blessed to have been called to work with FOCUS for two years and, although I am sad to leave, I know the Lord has amazing plans for me to spread the Gospel next year and in the years to come, just in a different setting.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope (Jeremiah 29:11).”
The Lord has a beautiful plan for every single one of us. Surrender everything to the Lord and rest in that hope.