It wasn’t until this school year that I have felt at peace with myself in terms of living out my faith, and I fully attribute that to learning the model of discipleship that belongs to FOCUS.
I was out to lunch with my brother, JohnMarc, who just so happens to be a FOCUS missionary here at KU this year, one day in the fall semester. He had been asking me every month or so for nearly a year what I wanted to do in my life to bring people closer to Christ. He’d ask me, “Tom, what are your passions? How are you going to use those to bring people closer to Christ?” Each time he’d ask, I would talk my way around the question and kind of shrug it off. This time, though, we were at Raising Cane’s, and, as we sat there and ate he asked me once again…
“Tom how are you going to use your passions to bring people to Jesus?”…. It struck me this time, for some reason or another, a lot harder than it ever did before. I sat there – dumbfounded and speechless – “JohnMarc, I honestly do not know what God is calling me to do in order to bring people to Him,” and began to cry into my Box Combo.
JohnMarc began to talk into my distress, as he told me some stories from his 5 year experience as a FOCUS missionary. I’m not exactly sure what it was that he said that did it, but that day at lunch, it clicked. Jesus was asking me to simply live each day in my true identity as a son of God, and that would ultimately lead me to my Vocation. From that moment on, I knew I was to lead a bible study and begin living that out.
I started by inviting a couple of guys that I had known for quite some time to a bible study on Wednesday nights. One invite led to another, and before I knew it, I had 10 guys at my study – a handful of which I had never met. There were Catholics, Protestants, and non-denominationals. I was nervous as I introduced the study series that we would be going over – The Story of Salvation (a walkthrough of the covenants between God and figures of the Old Testament). The first study was a blur, and I found myself praying at the end of the night that I impacted one of the men there in a positive way, and that they would all return the next week.
Fast forward a few weeks of study and a talk on campus by Sarah Swafford on “Dating in the 21st Century”, when I texted one of the guys, Connor (one of the guys I had never met prior to study), after we met and thanked him for his participation in the study, and he sends me the following response:
“Tom, honestly I need to be the one thanking you. Something as small as a bible study with a couple of guys has opened up my eyes to a lot of things and has given me opportunities that I would have never had before and for that I am grateful. I love talking about God and life in general. That’s not something I ever did before. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have genuine faith in myself and in God.”
Connor had shared during study that night that he had just recently ended a rather sin-driven relationship with a girl before he started coming to bible study. After week 6, a study about King David and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Connor made his first Confession since being confirmed Catholic 4 years ago – he now regularly receives the sacrament, and attends mass.
He didn’t miss a study the entire semester – there were 9.
January came around, and Connor, along with 3 other guys from the study (one of them a Lutheran named Brad) signed up to go on the SEEK conference in San Antonio! This conference brought about an abundance of fruit, as Brad attended confession with a priest, and the 4 men came back to Lawrence with aspirations of bringing study into one of the fraternities – Pi Kappa Phi – here on campus so that we could “reach more souls,” as they said.
We advertised bible study to our friends during the last few weeks of Winter break that preceded the Spring semester. The result of this brought about a total of 25 men attending the first study of the Spring Semester (!!!) . There were men there of all kinds of backgrounds – Greek, non-Greek, in-state, out-of-state, Freshmen-Senior, Catholics to non-believers – as we began another FOCUS series called “Living the Gospel: Seven Daily Habits of Highly Effective Catholics.”
Midway through this semester, I asked Connor to coffee one night, as I planned to present the Gospel to him – I thought I was nervous when I was first leading study. I used the Ultimate Relationship booklet and we walked through it together, and he ultimately invited Jesus to be at the center of his life. I called my brother JohnMarc immediately after and exclaimed, “I have my first disciple! It feels like I just had my first kiss again!” – but really.
I now have 2 disciples as a result of the bible study.
The Holy Spirit was working before my eyes through the weeks, as we covered topics ranging from daily prayer, to receiving the sacraments, and being open to the Holy Spirit. Now, with just a week before Finals week, we’ve concluded our series for the semester, and an average of about 16 men showed up consistently to each of the 11 bible studies. Connor helped me lead the last 4 studies, and I am currently working on getting him to a point where he can lead study on his own as he sticks around here next semester, and I move on to the Medical Center in Kansas City.