Why I Left a $100K Job to Become a FOCUS Missionary

What if I told you that, after reading a book about trust—Consoling the Heart of Jesus—I was inspired to drop a $100K job, buy a one-way ticket to Ethiopia and go work with the Missionaries of Charity? What if I told you I heard about FOCUS by stumbling across a video on YouTube? And what if I told you I decided to apply to become a FOCUS Missionary when I saw the recruitment slogan, “Live the Adventure. Trust the Way”?

I graduated from college in the spring of 2009. In the past five years, I’ve predominately worked in the oil business. I did legal work and negotiated oil-lease terms with landowners. I moved from farm to farm, county to county, and state to state. I moved in and out of hotels, wherever the job would take me.

I worked in the oil business for one reason: money. Near the end of my oil career, I bought a 2012 F-150. This truck became a sign to me of my restless heart. It was clear to me that, in then having what is most sought after in our culture, I was still unfulfilled. I was unable answer the question, “What am I working for?” It seemed reasonable to discontinue my work in the oil business, though I didn’t know where else to go.  However, I had two friends who had lived in Ethiopia as missionaries for four years. I had always wanted to visit them, and this was definitely the “now or never” moment.

On October 1st, 2013, I left the oil business and departed for Awassa, Ethiopia. I bought a one-way ticket because I didn’t know how long I’d be there or what I’d do upon a return. Three months in, it was clear I needed to return, although I still didn’t know what I would do next. It seemed like I needed to get back on the road to find it.

Looking back, going to Ethiopia was exactly what led me to FOCUS. In my time in Ethiopia, I worked alongside some college-aged volunteers from Austria and Germany. My experience sharing life with them is what inspired me to look into college ministry. I read about FOCUS online; then I applied and drove to the interview before I met a single FOCUS missionary.

My journey to FOCUS has been an adventure. People have often told me as much. What they don’t know is how and when the adventure really began.

Remember that YouTube video I mentioned? It was called How to Discern by Fr. Mike Schmitz. You guessed it: it is a video about trust. Long since I had asked God, “What do you want me to do with my life?” and all I ever got was silence. Fr. Mike helped me to see that I was asking the wrong question.

The question I needed to ask God was, “What do you want me to do today?” Fr. Mike said if you are faithful to what God has planned for you today you can trust He will provide for tomorrow.

So I asked God what He wanted me to do today—and He hit me like a ton of bricks. I heard no audible voice, just a thought in my own head. It was as if God said to me, Your mother and I have told you to make your bed for 25 years. Start with that.

My journey of faith became an adventure the morning I began to make my bed. Each morning, my knees are the first thing to hit the ground (literally). I entrust the entire day to God in prayer and then make my bed as a sign of my commitment to totally trust Him. It begins the day with order: the physical is a sign of the spiritual. It has become a morning ritual, almost a daily consecration, which is saying, “Okay, God. I did my part. You take care of the rest!”

The crazy part? He does! It’s almost too simple. The Father’s mind thought us into existence. Jesus’ Heart loved us into existence. The Holy Spirit breathed us into existence. Life is a gift. Yet we seem to always think that our lives are our own, that we must keep our hands clenched to stay in control. But this life was never ours to hold. God waits on us to let go of ourselves and to totally trust and rely on his grace. He only asks us to be faithful, in small ways before great ways.

“Live the adventure. Trust the way.” I’ve learned that the adventure is TRUST! When we begin to live a life of trust—trusting that, if we are faithful to His inspirations, we will be fulfilled—life becomes an adventure. We can see the world with childlike wonder, waiting for the unknown way that He will fulfill us. What has continued to surprise me is how joyous I have been in this last year since I ventured out into the unknown!

So, did you make your bed this morning? If not, why not make it tomorrow? While you make it, offer up this prayer: “Jesus, I trust in you.” Maybe that is a tough prayer to pray. That’s okay; just try it and let Jesus know you are trying to trust Him. One of the most fruitful penances I’ve ever received in confession was when the priest said to me, “Tell God you are trying.” That is enough.

Maybe you’d prefer a more elaborate prayer. If so, I’d recommend Brother Charles de Foucauld’s “Prayer of Abandonment”:

“Father, I abandon myself into your hands. Do with me what you will. Whatever you may do I thank you. I am ready for all. I accept all. Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you Lord and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.”

Then get ready for the ADVENTURE! Trust and wait.

Have you thought about applying to be a FOCUS Missionary? Are you hesitant to go to an interview weekend? Why not give it a shot? Put the ball in the air and see what happens. It’s just an application. It’s just one interview weekend. After, you will still be free to choose. God always leaves us free to choose. Except you will be more free because you will have more choices! Maybe God will surprise you. One thing is certain-if you don’t shoot you won’t score!

“To SEEK God is life’s greatest adventure. To love God is life’s greatest romance. To find God is life’s greatest possible achievement.” – St. Augustine


Interested in becoming a FOCUS missionary? Apply today!

Ben O'Neill
Ben O'Neill
Ben has a tendency to jump into water! In fact, it's his favorite thing to do in life. He is the true romantic who risks all of himself to follow his desire. He uses no safety net but knows only the holy wildness of all or nothing, in search of the 'pearl of great price.' His journey to FOCUS was an unexpected joy. It is not clear where this journey will lead. That is why it will be an adventure. Walk with Ben on his blog at https://benjaminoneill1.wordpress.com/

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