From Missionary to Manager

FOCUS alum Gina Zaccagnini

How many years did you serve as a FOCUS missionary?


What campuses did you serve at?

University of Colorado, Boulder (2 years) and University of Wisconsin, Madison (1 year)

What did you go on to do after FOCUS?

Consultant for HealthGrades (a healthcare company based out of Denver)

What is your current title/position/occupation?

Strategic Client Manager

Tell us about the decision to become a FOCUS missionary?  Was it a difficult decision and what led you to take on that challenge?

It was a very difficult decision! To say you will give up everything to be a missionary is a terrifying decision. I had originally applied right after I graduated college in December 2005. My heart was definitely not in the right place and I was not ready to give up everything for the Lord, so I declined and went on to work for the Olympic Committee for 2.5 years. Upon discovering that my dream job wasn't as fulfilling as I had anticipated, I decided to take a good, long look at what my life goals were and what the Lord was calling me to. I knew it was time for a change in career, so I completely opened my heart to the Lord and found that He was calling me to be a FOCUS missionary! Of course, I went through the same discernment process I had a couple years before, but this time I knew my heart was thirsting to serve Him and my truest desires were to seek good formation and to find community. I called up the team director who was on my campus while I was in college to verify that I wasn't going crazy and he encouraged me to apply again. He told me formation and community are some of the best reasons to be a missionary. Before I applied again, however, I wanted to be cetain tht I would say, "yes" if the job was offered to me. I was not going to apply just to decline again. As I moved forward with the interview process, my heart was revealed as I grew more and more excited at the opportunity to truly change our world and to give of myself in a radical way. I actually welcomed the thought of meeting resistance from co-workers and family because I saw this as a chance to walk the walk and show myself/the world that I was finally taking my faith seriously. During the interview with Mark Bartek and John LaBarbara (I think) I noticed my heart was growing eager to commit to missionary life and I actually became nervous! I realized the true desire of my heart was to be a FOCUS missionary. I think Sean Dalton (I am pretty sure he is the one who called me) was shocked that I didn't ask for a few days to pray through this decision. And looking back on my time as a missionary, I have realized something powerful. When I accepted the offer from FOCUS, I thought I was doing something courageous and sacrificial. I was giving everything for the sake of the Kingdom. I was going to give my paycheck, my dating life, and my time to the Lord in a way that was beyond my wildest dreams. But in return I received exponentially more! I realized it was an honor and a gift to be invited to be a missionary. I was the one who was blessed because of it. Lord knows I am not the best vessel He could have used, but He invited me to participate in a piece of salvation and to see his work take place every single day. I was the one who was blessed, not the Lord. The Lord wasn't lucky to have such a great servant in my. Rather, I am lucky to have such a loving and generous Father who shared His fruitfulness with me.

In what ways did your time with FOCUS help prepare you for what you're doing now?

I could write a novel on this, I think. But I will keep it as succinct as possible. Perhaps the greatest tool FOCUS gave me to prepare me for my current job and for the rest of my life (both professional and personal) is the desire to seek humility - true humility, not false humility. This is something that is almost absent from the secular world and I see so many people get themselves into very bad situations because they cannot let go of their pride. I do not claim to have mastered humility, but I realize now how important it is and how I need to continue to pray for it and desire it. Another gift from FOCUS was that of a balanced and disciplined life. Being sure to put God in the center - where He ought to be - and to be sure we are doing what we need to do in order to thrive as individuals. This means eating properly, sleeping, and making time for life-giving activities (regardless of how large or small they may be). Facilitating group discussions - one of my biggest responsibilities right now is to facilitate conversations among doctors, administrative staff, nurses and executives in hospitals. Leading a Bible study has helped tremendously with this. Another gift - looking for any opportunity to share my faith - be that our custodial staff, a co-worker, a board member or someone next to me on the light rail (all of which I have been thankful to do). Another gift - creating community. I know how to surround myself with the friends I need in order to grow in my faith and to grow in character.

What would you say to a college senior considering joining FOCUS staff?

Trust the Lord. I wish I could say "do not be afraid", but I know that would not be enough. It will always be scary. God delights in his children who are willing to take big risks in order to be obedient to Him. Trust in His faithfulness. I would also tell them to look at this as an investment in the rest of their lives and in their vocation. FInally, do not do FOCUS as a plan B just because nothing else has come up and you haven't looked. This is plan A if you are called. Embrace that! If this is your plan B, you will be miserable and it will be a LONG two years.

How did you overcome the fear of fundraising?  How did your fundraising efforts go as a missionary?

I took my first year (and really every year) of fundraising one step at a time. I made small goals and acheived them to get me to the greater goal of being fully funded. I would say I had decent fundraising efforts. They were a little above average. But one thing I miss most about fundraising is having a huge support team behind me praying for me. I can feel the difference now! The fear of fundraising is no different than any other fear - you just have to face it and put one foot in front of the other. I don't know that it every got much easier, but I got more comfortable with the discomfort and I grew a LOT in gratitude.

Why do you personally believe the FOCUS mission is so important and critical today?

When people ask me what I miss most about FOCUS, I tell them I miss the gift of hope it was to me in a world that is crumbling. I was literally watching God change hearts and work miracles on a daily basis as a missionary. The harvest was plentiful! In my last year, I remember thinking, "We are doing it! We are actually changing the culture! I can see the ripples of FOCUS and I can see these souls setting other hearts on fire!" Then I retired from FOCUS and jumped into the secular world. Now it is a DAILY battle to not give in to despair about the state of our country and the world. FOCUS helped me to grow in hope and that is what is lacking in our world today. We need to be reminded we are not alone and we have a good and loving God who is faithful TO THE END and who will not forsake those who love Him. And we need to be reminded that the war has been won - we need to gather as many as we can now for the Kingdom.