Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - When Jim Jansen agreed to go to a FOCUS Bible study as a junior at Benedictine College, he had no idea how much his life would change.
“It really facilitated a deeper conversion to my faith,” he said. “Things I learned as a kid and as an altar boy suddenly clicked and just made sense.”
FOCUS (Fellowship Of Catholic University Students) was founded by Curtis and Michelann Martin at Benedictine in 1998 in response to Saint John Paul II’s call for the New Evangelization.
As his own college graduation approached, Jansen decided he wanted to “give something back” before going to law school. He signed up to be a FOCUS missionary for two years, beginning in the fall of 1999 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).
So much for law school.
“I realized that my desire to change the world was going to be best realized as a missionary,” Jansen remembered. “Then I got my masters in theology and I’ve been a missionary ever since.”
With 15 years behind him, Jansen is one of the longest-serving missionaries in FOCUS. Through the years, he served as campus director and regional director.
As of June 1, he became Director of Collegiate Outreach for the state of Nebraska, overseeing missionaries working at UNL, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Wayne State College. He’s also overseeing the FOCUS program at the University of Pittsburgh.
Jansen said that in the U.S., college campuses are an important mission field.
“Studies show that 75-80% of Catholics stop practicing their faith in college,” he mourned. “We’re hemorrhaging young Catholics.”
He continued, “What’s even more tragic, they are at a time in their life when they are more poised to make decisions about their life, career and values.”
Calling from Alaska, where he is currently on a FOCUS mission trip with students from across the country – including three from UNL, Jansen said that even though he’s gotten older, he hasn’t lost any ground with college students.
“In many ways, I am probably more effective than I have ever been,” he said, describing himself as an older brother or father figure to the students.
His new role will enable him to share his experience by training, coaching and encouraging the younger missionaries who are leading Bibles studies and building one-on-one relationships just as he did in his early years with FOCUS.
He is grateful to his wife, Kim, who also was a FOCUS missionary and now is his biggest supporter as he continues his mission work and they raise four children together.
“So much of the fruit of what FOCUS does is still unseen in the future,” Jansen said. “The impact we desire goes way beyond college campuses.”
He remains undaunted by the bleak statistics.
“Water is more precious in the desert,” he said, “The students we work with are grabbing on with both hands; they love it… It is really inspiring.”