FOCUS PROFILE: Christopher Appel
Photo: Christopher (second from the right), and his FOCUS missionaries pictured on campus at Boise State University campus this spring.
Originally from Colfax, Christopher Appel headed down the road to Pullman for college at Washington State University with hopes of entering medical school after finishing his bachelor’s degree. Attending Mass at the Newman Center was a part of his life, but in 2016, he met the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries working on campus at WSU. “I got involved in their Bible studies,” Appel said. “They invited me to go to the SEEK conference, so I went in January 2017 in San Antonio.”
For Appel, FOCUS was not just a campus ministry that helped put on events, but a group of missionaries that helped him build a relationship with Christ. “As a student, I had this thing in my head that a relationship with Jesus wasn’t actually a Catholic thing,” he said. “It was a Protestant thing.”
Appel said, “The FOCUS missionaries were actually the ones who taught me that’s not true. And actually, as Catholics, we are called to have a level of intimacy with Christ and a relationship with him.” A new routine of prayer, and growing in intimacy with Christ helped Appel grow in his faith as a college student, but it would begin to impact his plans for post college life as well.
Appel was involved with FOCUS-led activities at the Newman Center and looking forward to finishing school and continuing on with his plan to enter medical school. At one point in 2017, he was in prayer and felt the Lord ask, “how would you go be a missionary?”
“At that point I was studying pre-medicine so I didn’t necessarily want to do that,” he said. Nevertheless, he was struck by what he heard in prayer, saying, “it was just very obvious to me that I was called to be a missionary.”
After interviewing and being accepted as a FOCUS missionary, Appel was trained and sent to work on campus; first at the University of Northern Colorado and later at Boise State University. He now leads the Boise State FOCUS team, which consists of himself and three other missionaries.
One of the main things missionaries work at developing with students is something they call authentic friendship. “I think that can’t be overstated how real that is,” Appel said, “but then, it is also calling them higher. With the guys I’m walking in discipleship with, I am hanging out with them on a very regular basis. We’re calling each other on, and just sharing our days. We’re walking with each other in virtue; asking each other, ‘how do we get out of these sins?’ Or, ‘how do I walk through life?’”
That life of growth in virtue together is at the heart of what FOCUS does, one-on-one and in small group relationships. Appel said his time in FOCUS has changed his own life goals. He said he is now thinking about what he might be called to, vocationally, but is excited about where he is now.
As missionaries work to bring people to Jesus, they get to know him well, and seek to share Christ’s love on campus, bringing a message that “the Lord loves us in the middle of our brokenness”—a message that is often needed on campus, as students are discovering their own identity.
To support Christopher Appel in his work as a FOCUS missionary visit: FOCUS.ORG/MISSIONARIES/CHRISTOPHER-APPEL
Look for more stories of FOCUS missionaries from the diocese at WWW.INLANDCATHOLIC.ORG in July