Finding Normal

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Air conditioning in 100 degree weather? Too expensive and fans work fine. Government documents you turned in on time with the proper notarization? But you forgot the under-the-table bribe. Portable hand sanitizer – what’s that? That was an earthquake! No, somewhere a cow just moved its horns. When faced with the reality that our cultural biases are no longer “the norm,” what happens to us?

For *Ethan, Charlotte and their three kids, the transition into their new normal has taken difficult turns.

“The hardest thing has been the culture stress,” Ethan said as he thought back over the one year he has lived in their African country. “Living (here) is so different than the West. It’s a big thing that’s kind of put a damper on our family and our marriage. It’s a strain.”

Culture stress transforms necessary, daily rituals and errands into catalysts of crippling anxiety. To leave the house and buy food for the family or wait in line at the bank become moments of dread (if forming a line is even culturally acknowledged).

Learning the language of the people you live among is step number one out of stress – learn the language to know the people and adapt to their culture. However, hope begins to fade after one year of study, when the foreign dialect seems too difficult to master and there are more plateaus in growth than conquered mountains.

For Charlotte and Ethan, it took years to even get to this point in their ministry. When they were first married in 2010, they applied with an agency that would send them overseas to work with unreached people. “We knew from the get-go we wanted to go overseas, but it was a long journey,” Charlotte said.

It took seven years for them to finally arrive at their new home and the road was filled with hurts and doubt. In 2017, after the births of their three children, the unexpected passing of a loved one and several months of holds placed on their application, they were ready to be sent. They were trained by their agency and their student loan debt was lifted by The GO Fund’s student loan repayment program.  

Charlotte attributes every trial and test to the Lord’s faithfulness in their lives. “I see God’s hand of protection over us, protection from ourselves. I don’t think our faith was ready or where it needed to be to make that life change.”

Now, looking at the trials before them and remembering the journey behind, they focus on the one who redeems every struggle.

“This whole thing is about waiting,” Ethan said. “We’ve definitely grown our trust in God, to realize that he’s faithful – it’s a part of his character. It’s something about him that will not change.”

In the difficulty of language study, Charlotte has seen through cultural barriers and observes her language instructor’s relationship with the Lord. “Learning from their example has been a huge blessing. How can we work together to see the kingdom expanded?” Charlotte said. “I’ve been seeing my weaknesses in terms of giving and hospitality at times too. The culture’s so different here – to see things taken care of the way they know how, it has been a huge encouragement.”

Finding the “new normal” and adapting is never easy. It’s one of the many trials after passing through the barriers which precede the move overseas.

Through it all, Christ and his gospel prove to be more valuable. The task to share with those who have never heard his name is more imperative than the demands of our anxieties and culture stress. So, Ethan and Charlotte’s family pushes through. While culture, languages and daily routines shift and morph around them, they hold fast to the one whose faithfulness and compassion forever remains steadfast.


*Names changed for security

find the open door

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At four o’clock in the morning, Sam and Emma* are awakened by the sound of a loud and melodic string of verses that shout from the mosque’s PA system and weave their way through their city’s streets. The Islamic Adhan, or call to prayer, is the couple’s constant reminder of the darkness in which they live.

The first time Sam and Emma moved to North Africa, it was only for a two-year trial period. They wanted to see if the Lord would affirm what they felt in their hearts to be a call to the lost men and women of Islam.

At the end of their term they were nearly fluent in Arabic. They established a language center where locals could learn English from westerners. They hosted a regular fellowship meeting in their home which was on the cusp of becoming a church-plant. They saw a handful of friends choose to turn from Islam and follow Christ. They knew where they belonged.

They rejoiced and knew the Lord led them to this place and that he wanted to use them in great ways. Yet, never far from their mind was a darkened cloud that hung low over their celebration.

Student loan debt they both owed was enough to keep them tethered to the United States for several years. They knew it would mean a pause or even a halt on everything that had grown in their North African city.

They knew where they belonged.

Sam and Emma returned to the United States with a plan to move back after one year. Several months passed as they searched for additional, financial support and they wondered how the Lord would show them an open door. They knew their God-given passion, found the opportunity to serve, but couldn't find a way to bring the pieces into one cohesive puzzle. That's when they stumbled upon The GO Fund.

They applied with the organization’s student loan repayment program and were invited into the initial interview phase. Then, they were asked to attend a partner-selection committee where they would present their ministry to a panel of GO Fund investors.

In their interview, their leveled, wise and thought-through strategy to reach their community resonated with those in the room. Their educated and passionate focus on the people of their city radiated. They shared how they pray for a movement among the Arabic world and that they believe this location could be the epicenter.

Three days later, they were told they had been accepted as partners.

Sam and Emma could finally rest in the assurance that the Lord had brought them to this specific place. They have since been able to joyously flourish and so has their ministry.

Sam and Emma continue to expand their Arabic vocabulary. People continue to come to them for English lessons. A church is growing. Men and women are coming to know and worship the true God. Their family is established, and their cloud is gone. All that remains is joy as they continue to see God work in the hearts of the people he has shaped them to love.


*Names have been changed for security.

Taking Faithful Steps

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Anytime Ellie spoke with her friends about the Gospel, she was overcome with an unshakable feeling – that she would one day devote her life to ministering among the unreached.

During her junior year at university, she talked with a friend who would soon move overseas. While he talked about the passion the Lord had instilled in him to go, her eyes were opened to the existence of unreached people groups and her perspective was forever changed. She was unable to forget that feeling of disbelief that there are billions of people who have never had the opportunity to learn about Jesus. After she received her Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, she became certified as a teacher.

She knew her life was being directed toward seeing the unreached know Christ, she simply didn’t know how. Ellie wanted to obey this newfound calling on her life, but every logistical question was without answer.

She discovered a missions-training curriculum called Launch Global, taught through Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. She said she clearly heard the Lord’s prompting, “Here’s how you’re going to pursue it.” She applied and was accepted into their two-year program.

Still overwhelmed and uncertain, Ellie asked, “What is it you have for me, God?”

At one point during her training program, she was sent to New York City for a short-term outreach project. As she and her team walked through the bustling streets, they prayed the Lord would present opportunities for them to share the Gospel. 

It was there, walking through the neighborhoods of the city she heard the Lord say, “Pursue this.

She gladly accepted this word but when it came time to decide where and with whom she would go, it was still unclear. The Lord had lead her this far, where was he in the rest of her questions?

After months of patiently deliberating, Ellie met with a couple who had lived overseas for four years and were looking for a team to move to the Middle East. That’s when she heard the Lord say, This is it.”

“I know I’m supposed to be there and with these people.” Ellie said she never once doubted the decision to obey. The last and most difficult question she had left to answer was how she would go when she was attached to years of monthly, student loan payments.

Ellie told the Lord, “I don’t know how long it’s going to take for me to pay off this debt, but I trust you.” Then, she said, “And I had a note in my phone: ‘Apply with The GO Fund.’”

Ellie had put off the idea for months. In a conversation with a supervisor, she was told she should consider this organization that takes on student loan debt for qualified missionaries. She thought there must be some catch or that she would not be selected in the end, but she put her trust in the Lord’s plan and applied.

To her surprise, excitement and joy, she was interviewed and later selected as a partner.

“To be partnered with (The GO Fund) is truly such a gift,” she said. “I can’t believe I get to be here without that weight on my shoulders. Each month I get an email from my FedLoan with a message that says, ‘Your payment was processed today.’ The fact that someone’s dong this on my behalf is amazing and I’m so honored.”

Ellie is now in the Middle East. She and her team are in their first year of language acquisition and are striving to acclimate to their new home. She said God continues to provide generously everything they need.

Lord, instead of asking you to “be with me,” help me to recognize that your presence is already here.

These are the words Ellie consistently prays as she transitions to her new life. When she looks back over the process she endured to arrive at this point in her life, she sees the moments in which God has spoken, moved and arranged everything for her good.

How good the Lord is to bring us to each place in our life and answer us when we call. We need only recognize that he is already there in the details, ready to offer answers like, “Here’s how,” “This is it,” and “It’s here.”

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To Be Willing

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As eleven-year-old Elizabeth* sat with her family in their Michigan church, a missionary who had traveled from India shared stories from the stage about a far-away land and of people who had never heard of Jesus.

Elizabeth listened intently to the man’s heart for the people he interacted with and the ministry God had set before him. That’s when she heard the Lord quietly ask her, “Would you be willing to go to India?

Unshaken by the question, she thought, “Yes Lord, I’ll go.”

Little did she know at the time where the Lord would eventually lead her but this willingness to go would follow her throughout her life.

While attending Eastern Michigan University, she met Jacob*. They were both involved in student ministry on campus through which they met several international students. These relationships fostered in both a desire to see unreached people groups transformed by the Gospel.

Over one weekend, Jacob attended a discipleship and worship conference while Elizabeth simultaneously participated in a different conference. When he was alone, Jacob sensed the Lord asking him what he wanted to do after graduating from university.

Jacob wanted to marry Elizabeth but wanted to obey the Lord’s calling above that desire. He wanted to know what the Lord had planned for him to do next with his life and was confident He would lead the way. I’ll do whatever and go wherever,” he said.

Then, he knew. Jacob told the Lord he wanted to go to the Middle East.

When the two returned from their conferences, Elizabeth said she knew with confidence the Lord was leading her to full-time ministry overseas. Before Jacob could share his revelation, she told him that she was being called to the Middle East.

I’ll do whatever and go wherever.

Their willingness to go not only affirmed their call to unreached ministry but also their future as husband and wife.

After they were married, they trained for two years. They were equipped and eager to begin life in their new country and yet, their drive to be healthy and effective field workers was consistently overshadowed by their student loan debt. They left anyways, but after one year of living overseas, they had to return to the United States and find a way to cover their costly, student loan payments.

While back in the States, they were introduced to The GO Fund. 

They applied to the student debt repayment program, uncertain if this was how the Lord would bring them relief and still skeptical of The GO Fund’s ability to help.

When they were interviewed and accepted soon-after, they rejoiced in the Lord’s direct answer to prayer and returned to the Middle East completely unencumbered.

Jacob, Elizabeth and their three children are now growing and thriving in their new home. They operate a tourism business with other families on their ministry’s team and have seen many opportunities to share the Gospel with locals in their city.

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Obedience. Their lives are marked by it. Little did Elizabeth know as an eleven-year-old that one moment of confident obedience would lead her to this ministry. Little did Jacob know that when he determined he would follow the Lord’s leading above anything else he wanted, he would be brought together with Elizabeth to raise a family in their middle eastern city.

What provision and exciting new chapters unfold when the Lord prompts us and we are willing to lean in and respond, “Yes Lord, I’ll go … I’ll do whatever and go wherever.”

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*Names have been changed for security.

conquering the storm

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In southwest China there lies two coffee shops, the only foreign-owned businesses in a city of 500,000 people.

They are operated by Shawn and Megan*, a family burdened by the lostness of the country. In their city alone, there are 190 unreached people groups. They are taking on the charge of making the Gospel known throughout their vast community by drawing people to the only coffee establishments in town.

You believe in God?” 17-year-old Xiong once asked them. He walked into the shop hoping to learn more about the outsiders who had moved to his city. He asked Shawn and Megan why they came. They made small talk, and deeper pieces of their faith seeped into the conversation.

Xiong was captivated by what he heard. “I’ve never met anyone who believes in God before, not my parents or my friends, but in my heart, I always knew there was a God.

Three years later, Xiong is now a bold and faithful follower of the Lord. He attends one of China’s most prestigious universities and can find more direct ways of reaching a generation of China’s lost.

Owning this cafe also allows Shawn and Megan to bring three other missionary families into the country under their business visa, as well as provide jobs for locals. In their city, a church needs to be planted and the team desperately wants to see it built. Their goals and ambitions were on the horizon of possibility one year ago, but it almost came crashing down.

Their student loan servicer would no longer allow them to make the lowest-monthly payment toward their debt. Their earnings from the coffee shops displayed a larger income than what they truly make. Shawn and Megan live on the financial support of a team of people in the United States while every penny from their business goes back into the sustainability of their shops. To close the gap in their suddenly costly, monthly payments, they returned to the U.S. to raise extra support.

Nearly one year after returning to the States, without an answer for how they were going to cover their debts, the Chinese government gave another threat— to revoke their business visa.

In the year they were trying to raise extra funds, the Chinese government grew suspicious of their time in America. It was assumed they took the profits from their business to spend their income in another country, a common problem China tries to monitor.

Losing their business visa would mean the loss of their shops. It would mean the return of the other families in China who depend on the visa to stay. Then, they saw the Lord intervene in a miraculous way. Through casual conversation with friends, they were introduced to The GO Fund.

Shawn excitedly applied to The GO Fund's student debt repayment program and they were called for an interview shortly after.

They had been so faithful to trust the Lord and his provision. They knew he had a plan. They had prayed so often for answers. Just when they allowed themselves to imagine a break in their circumstance’s storm, they were notified by the Chinese government that they had one week to return to China or they would lose their eligibility as business owners. Would the storm overtake them?

Matt Sonke, program director at The GO Fund, was astounded by their ministry’s vision and the results they see from what is already established. Aware of their looming deadline, he rallied together a committee of the organization’s board members to either approve or deny Shawn and Megan as partners.

Two days before Shawn, Megan and their two children boarded their flight back to China, their future in the country still undetermined, they were called and told, “You have been approved! Your debt has been taken.

The storm was broken! They could breathe again and lift their eyes to the warm and radiant sun. Shawn and Megan are now back in the city where their businesses have opened a multitude of opportunities for relationships to form – in their shop and beyond.

They source their coffee beans from surrounding, remote villages. These areas are completely unengaged with the Gospel and nearly impossible to access because of the government’s tight travel restrictions. However, their business provides a legitimate purpose for visiting these villages many times per year. This is one of many examples in which the Lord has divinely appointed a channel for the team to share the Gospel with the unreached.

Thanks to The GO Fund Champions, Shawn and Megan’s family and team are unhindered and ready to continue their ministry for many years to come. They excitedly anticipate meeting many more like Xiong; ready to love them, share truth with them, and all over the course of several, delicious cups of coffee.

*names have been changed for security

If you Hold the Rope

A man stood at the edge of a dark, unexplored cavern. He looked down and wondered what it may cost him to descend into it and away from the life he knew. As he returned to his friends he said, “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.”

A small group of English pastors in the late 18th century looked at what seemed to be an insurmountable task before them. The spiritual darkness they saw clouding India could no longer be ignored and these friends desired to bring the Gospel to the distant nation. William Carey said that he would go if his colleagues who stayed behind would commit to “holding the rope.”

Andrew Fuller was one who stayed in England. He championed for his friend and the ministry to unreached peoples as fund-raiser, promoter and pastor. He continuously battled the western world’s ill-formed doctrines and he visited churches to represent those who followed Carey’s path overseas. He even took the lead role of selecting new missionaries. 

 Andrew Fuller, a pastor, theologian, husband and father.

Andrew Fuller, a pastor, theologian, husband and father.

Fuller never made the journey across oceans to preach the Gospel where it had not been taken. However, because of his efforts to never let go of that rope, he helped shape much of what modern missions looks like today.

The GO Fund wants to emulate this very idea with the, “Ropeholder Event.”

Ropeholder Events can be held anywhere. They can be scheduled at any time and with anyone who is interested to know about how they can be actively engaged in missions to unreached peoples from the United States.

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It starts with a box. Those who are interested in facilitating an event will be given one from The GO Fund office. Inside are the leader’s instructions and a DVD guide which leads a group through video discussion. Once everyone is invited, present and ready to listen, the Ropeholder Event kicks off.

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At the end of the 90-minute program, event-goers are then invited to pray and create a video of themselves to encourage a missionary partner of The GO Fund. *

This is not another class. Ropeholder Event is an easy way to be around others who want to see unreached lives transformed by the Gospel. It is a convenient platform to learn and pray for God’s work through several missionaries and to bring friends and family into that discussion. While in the U.S., we may not be reaching the farthest ends of the globe, but we can and must be ready to hold the rope for those who are.

Philippians 4:14-19

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

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I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

*All material, discussion and recording instructions are equipped for missionary partners’ safety and security.

At the End of Your Journey

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The Celestial City is beautiful. Encrusted with jewels and gold-paved roads, it’s where real treasures are stored and never fade. It’s where the Lord resides and where the main character in The Pilgrim’s Progress journeys to find. He knows he won’t get there right away, but it will be his last destination and the place he can finally see Jesus, the one who took away his heavy burden.

This 340-year-old, allegorical novel follows the story of a man who is appropriately named, Christian. It opens with the author, John Bunyan, who says he fell asleep and dreamed. In his dream, he sees Christian standing with a large weight on his back and a Bible in his hand. Bunyan watches as the man becomes distraught over the reality of his sin and how he might be saved from it.

As Christian commits to his quest toward the City, he experiences a myriad of trials and meets several aptly-named characters – all of which appear as relatable metaphors for any believer’s faith.

Similarly, those who are followers of Christ are woven into an intricate story in which we daily walk a path laid out for us. Unlike Christian, the decisions we make along our individual journeys are not confined to the pages of a novel. We have been invited into a more complex, more stunning narrative, and it’s one in which we know the ending.  

I prefer to be where I shall die no more, and in company of others who shall continually cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy!’

The GO Fund’s annual Vision Dinners are themed after these beliefs. As we move toward the Celestial City, we want to celebrate the ending we know comes for those who put their faith in Christ, the one who takes our burdens. We also want to link arms with brothers and sisters whose paths have lead them to the farther reaches of the world.

Matthew 6:19-21 tells us to store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven where they can not be destroyed. Followers of Christ can rejoice that there will be a reward for the work that often shows little return here on Earth. The beautiful currency we will be given at the end of our journeys are small tokens that further reveal God’s goodness and character – the ultimate provider and Father who delights to give his children good gifts. This truth is paired with the stronger, underlying reason we so desperately desire to reach the Celestial City. It is the same as Christian’s in The Pilgrim's Progress:

“There at the Celestial City, they say there is no death and there I shall dwell with such companions I like best. For, to tell you the truth, I love Him because He released me from my burden, and I am very weary of my inward sickness. In view of this, I prefer to be where I shall die no more, and in company of others who shall continually cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy!’”

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When the Answer is 'Not Yet'

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Any mention of Christ or a word of scripture would have been a drop in an empty bucket for the small Indonesian village in which Mary* found herself.

While completing a student teaching program at an international school in 2013, Mary made plans to meet with missionaries in a distant village. A van took her through neighboring towns along the route and she absorbed vibrant scenes in the island heat. They stopped at a tribe along the way and she noticed their remote, secluded location. She realized that with no connection to anyone who knows the Gospel in their language, they had never been given the truth of who Christ is.

Broken and burdened, she thought, “I want to be a part of seeing the unreached come to know Christ.” But how would she get there? Where would she go and how long would it take?

She returned from Indonesia with renewed outlook on her future and where the Lord might use her. Excited and eager, she began to think through what it would look like to live as a missionary long-term.

One thing she knew for certain — she would not begin that phase of life without first paying off her student loan debt. “For me, student loan debt is the only debt I have,” she said as she recounted her despair over the one barrier keeping her from being mobilized. “I have this education that gave me the opportunity to develop a heart for the nations. It crushed me that [it] bound me in ties and prevented me from going.”

In 2015, Mary found The GO Fund. She felt ready to go and knew she had found the way the Lord would get her there. She applied to the Student Debt Repayment Program and when she received a call from the The GO Fund, she was told, “not yet.”

She was told to seek further training. The GO Fund saw a potential in her they did not want to lose but with so much at stake, they wanted to know she would not just arrive but thrive.

When she received a call from The GO Fund, she was told, ‘not yet.’

The GO Fund referred Mary to Radius International. Radius, a missions training organization, matched perfectly with Mary’s vision and values. During her one-year program in 2016, she grew and learned many tools, but most importantly, she saw the importance of church planting and how to develop a strategy for it.

Then came the task of finding a sending agency who would pair her with the right team to the right place and would propel her well into long-term missions. She found Frontiers and was impressed by their desire to see Muslim unreached peoples know Christ. It was then Mary knew she was being called to central Africa and quickly developed a love for its people.

Throughout her journey of seeking organizations and agencies who might get her to the field, a common thread she observed were the people who care about sending healthy individuals.

“It’s just helpful to have the structure and administration,” Mary mentioned with a smile. “These people have either been on the field or have interacted with field workers. I’m really just thankful for the support and structure.”

When she came back to The GO Fund in 2017, they gladly accepted Mary as a partner and she saw how everything fell into place.

“Now I’m free to be obedient to the Lord,” she said. “In many ways, The GO Fund has acted like Christ by taking away my debt. I have new life in Him and in a lot of ways it’s like how the GO Fund has lifted this burden.”

Now, Mary is trained, prepared and ready. With The GO Fund, she is being backed by hundreds of Champions who will see her to the field faster than her debt would have ever allowed. She is able to see a lost people in central Africa fill and overflow their empty buckets with the good news of Jesus Christ, whose love will never let them thirst again.

*name changed for security reasons