Mona Hennein M.A. ’88
Words: Bella McDonald ’24 (with reporting by Jasmine S. Young ’13)
Photos: Tony Hughes
Mona Hennein M.A. ’88 was convinced that she wanted to pursue a medical degree. After earning her bachelor’s in biology at the University of Illinois Chicago, she juggled two jobs and studied for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). One of her two burgeoning career options was the beginning of a prolific broadcast ministry, but it wasn’t the path she thought she would take.
Hennein had a lot on her plate in the two years between her undergraduate and graduate schooling. Between writing for the local newspaper and working at a lab, she covered her beats late into the night and then woke up early to conduct research. Hennein’s lab supervisor eventually fired her for being late—and unknowingly sent her on a journey that would change the lives of millions.
“The doctor said, ‘Let’s face it: You’re not really a scientist. But I’ve seen your writing, and you’re pretty good,’” Hennein said.
In 1986, God drew her to the Wheaton College Graduate School in preparation for a career in ministry by way of journalism.
“I really wanted to try Wheaton,” Hennein said. “When I was interviewing, I felt like I was in heaven. I had only attended secular schools before that, so it was such a gift to be surrounded by Christians.”
After graduating with her master’s degree in communication studies, Hennein worked for Inside Edition and networks like ABC and CNN. But when she realized she wanted to go deeper into the lives of the people featured in the news—people who had been in fires, wars, natural disasters, and other life-altering situations—she knocked on the door of PBS.
“I loved people’s stories, but their stories of faith never got on the air,” Hennein said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a television series where we asked people about their faith? If someone was in a fire and prayed, what happened?’ Things like that.”
After sending tapes to PBS, Hennein’s proposal was turned down several times. But she didn’t give up. She sent one last tape along with an email, and God decided the rest. PBS accepted the series, and Life Focus reached 44 million viewers. Several episodes were nominated for Emmy Awards, and a few of them won, including “One in Five,” a story of women recounting their stories of sexual assault and speaking out against assault on college campuses.
Hennein continues that work through Life Focus Communications, the production company she founded as she made the series of the same name.
Hennein hopes to continue merging trauma-informed healing with reaching the world with the gospel.
“It’s a new frontier,” Hennein said. “We want to reach people with a Christian message, and we also want to bring these stories to light. We want to do it in a way that is very much real.”