Amanda Turk: A Missionary for Christ in training
“After a lot of prayer and thought, I committed to serving as a missionary with FOCUS!” says Amanda Turk, a 2008 graduate of La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks, and a recent graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.
FOCUS --- Fellowship of Catholic University Students --- is a national outreach to college campuses, both secular and Catholic. Founded by Curtis Martin in 1998 at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, it began with two missionaries on one campus and today is present on 60 campuses.
Its trained missionaries help college students find a place for Christ in all aspects of their lives --- their studies, social life, dating relationships and major life decisions. The training consists of five weeks of prayer, hands-on experience in evangelizing and team building.
Amanda Turk --- whose family attends St. Jude the Apostle Church in Westlake Village --- will begin her missionary training this summer in a five-week program at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. The preparation includes prayer, strategies for outreach, and a deepening and broadening of faith.
Part of Amanda’s training will teach her how to develop a team of mission partners, who will support her financially and through prayer. As part of the FOCUS program, she will live near campus with other female missionaries on her team, spending an hour a day in prayer and attending daily Mass.
Her dedication to a prayer life and to the Eucharist, she says, will give her “the grace to go out and meet students with the goal of inviting college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.” To this end, she will conduct small group Bible studies, mentoring students one on one, and sharing life with them at the campus to which she will be assigned.
As a member of a FOCUS group at MIT, Amanda witnessed firsthand the power of its missionaries, who established relationships with the students and helped them to grow in their faith by answering their questions, praying with them, and, most importantly, caring about them. Profoundly touched by the FOCUS missionaries, she began to lead Bible study and to mentor students herself, and saw her own understanding of Jesus develop and grow.
The emphasis of FOCUS is building relationships with others. “You cannot affect others unless you have a relationship with them,” Amanda says. “If you don’t know them, and share life together, then you cannot be effective. Truths must be conveyed in a way that is sensitive and loving.”
She says she has already witnessed the power of forming faith relationships with others. Several of her friends have made the decision to enter the Church.
“Being a missionary full-time means that I will be dedicating myself to serving students and helping them to encounter Jesus,” she adds. “What I do has to be rooted in prayer.”
A member of the Campus Ministry Core Team while at La Reina, Amanda does not find the title “missionary” daunting. “I will always be a missionary in whatever I do,” she says. “Every single one of us who is a Catholic is called to be a missionary, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. “
Her two-year commitment to FOCUS, she believes, will serve her well the rest of her life: “I know that by growing in holiness, I will also become a better mother, teacher, engineer or whatever type of professional I decide to be.”