Hey! My name's Ben. I'm a FOCUS missionary.
Hey! My name's Ben. I'm a FOCUS missionary.
I am serving my fourth year in FOCUS and returning as the Team Director at California State University Fullerton. I am recently married (August 6th, 2016) to my beautiful bride Emily and our son Benedict Joseph O'Neill was born on May 20th, 2017! We are so excited to be on mission together as a family!
Until God leads us elsewhere, Emily and I will continue to serve with FOCUS for years to come. We invite you to journey with us along the Way.
"Let not your hearts be troubled... I go and prepare a place for you." - John 14:1
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 next five years, I 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 these last years 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.
We encounter God in an intimate relationship through daily prayer, the sacraments and the Scriptures.
By building genuine friendships, we meet students on a deeper level.
We teach students how to share the gospel, who in turn teach other students how to pass it on …