educational loan debt

Taking Faithful Steps


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.”


It's happening. She leaves tomorrow.


Tomorrow, Sarah* will move to the Middle East. Her decision to go and the years of planning culminates in one final step – to trust wholeheartedly in God’s promises and get on the plane.

When she looks forward to the moment she will leave America behind, she is reminded of how the Lord brought Abram outside into the dark and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them … so shall your offspring be.”

In our current timeline, we see the result of this promise. Centuries of lineage followed that conversation and we read about them in the stories woven throughout scripture. However, in the moment, Abram wondered and doubted, “how is this going to happen?”

As a freshman in high school, amid a chaotic time in her life, Sarah from a small town in Missouri devoted her life to Christ. At home, she was exposed to the painful effects of her mother’s battle with Bipolar Disorder as well as her father’s struggle with alcoholism. Her father’s commitments to drop his habits and take her fishing on the weekends were replaced with the reality that he would choose to stay home and continue his normal routine. Sarah learned to not expect follow-through.

However, knowing her life had been redeemed by the Lord, she moved through high school and college with renewed perspective of her purpose.

“The Lord saved me in the middle of it,” she said. “Since I started walking with the Lord in high school, I knew there was something bigger, more than the American dream. That’s not what I want to be about.”

She graduated from college with her bachelor’s degree in physical education and was confident in the Lord’s prompting to seek opportunities in full-time ministry. She applied to internships that took her to North Africa, Texas and Arkansas, all with the aim of exposing her to the possibility of life in missionary work.

While in Africa, she became aware of a desperate need for workers to live among unreached people groups, specifically Muslims. She returned to the States and applied with several sending organizations. She found and was accepted by an agency whose specific goal is to reach the Muslim world.

I knew there was something bigger, more than the American dream. That’s not what I want to be about.

Her path seemed sure. She was confident this was where the Lord was leading her. The only problem – her educational loan debt.

The debt Sarah accrued while earning her degree was necessary to complete it. However, to be sent with the debt on her shoulders would ensure her quick return from the field. To wait until her debt was paid month after month would halt the process for decades. She wondered, “how is this going to happen? Will it actually happen?”

One day, over lunch with a friend, she heard about The GO Fund’s educational loan repayment program. She quickly applied, hopeful and anxious at the possibility this could be the answer to her many prayers. Then, Sarah was contacted by the GO Fund’s program director. She was vetted by a fine-tuned interview process and asked to join a final conversation with a selection committee. 

The day after her final interview, she got the call. “You’ve been chosen. Your debt is covered.”

She was freed to go. God did not leave her in her wondering and doubts. He showed her follow-through and provided a way for her to get to the field, without the burden of educational debt.

“In order to get me on the field more quickly and more efficiently, (The GO Fund) made it happen,” she said. “To have that wider base of support and to have more people involved ... It’s really encouraging.”

Now, she is prepared. She has packed and is ready to see the result of years of patience, prayer and provision. As nerves and expected fears settle before her departure, she clings to God’s voice that once told Abraham and now comforts her, “This is how I will make it happen.”

Two years after Sarah began to attend church, her mother joined her. One year later, her father started to come, and Sarah watched them get baptized shortly after. Today, her father is sober, and he and Sarah’s mother continue to support and love their daughter as she transitions into the fulfillment of God’s promises to keep and sustain her.

*Name changed for security

How It Began

Two hundred people rose to leave at the end of The GO Fund’s 2015 Vision Dinner. Plates and silverware clinked together as several volunteers packed away the evening and David Rimestad made his way to the front of the room.

Luke Womack, executive director of The GO Fund, stood as he thanked and said goodbye to the attendees when he saw David approach him. David grabbed Luke and with tears in his eyes he said, “There is not a chance we would be going overseas right now if it weren’t for this … thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Emily and David Rimestad present their ministry's vision at 2015 Vision Dinner

Emily and David Rimestad present their ministry's vision at 2015 Vision Dinner

Three years prior, Luke imagined a ministry that would tackle the biggest issues facing missions to unreached peoples and he wondered, “If we want young people to go to the mission field, why aren’t they going?”

Over the course of two months in the fall of 2012, Luke called about 100 peers from his alma mater, California Baptist University, and he asked them two questions. The first, have you ever considered moving overseas for fulltime ministry or in a church-planting capacity? If the answer was yes, the second question was, why haven’t you gone yet?

Without hesitation, the answer was always the same, “My student loan debt.” Luke had discovered the issue around which he could launch a kingdom-focused ministry.

One night in the spring of 2013, he met with his trusted friend and mentor, Brian Zunigha, who works as director of discipleship at CBU. Luke wanted to share his vision for this organization, but decided to first ask Brian what was on his mind. Brian acknowledged a problem he was working through and told Luke, “I want to figure out how to send qualified missionaries to the unreached by paying off their educational loan debt.”

Alarms went off in Luke’s head. God had given him the same concept. Stunned and in awe, his excitement overflowed as he laid out his idea to his friend.

It was in this moment Luke knew the Lord was prompting him to move forward with The GO Fund. “We both laughed for a minute,” Luke said, “then we got right to work.”

Brian Zunigha with his wife, Jen, and their three children

Brian Zunigha with his wife, Jen, and their three children

David and Emily Rimestad are friends to both Luke and Brian. The Rimestads knew they had been called to the unreached people of Papua New Guinea, but were held back by years of educational loan payments. Luke invited the two to come hear how the Lord was inspiring him to create a non-profit organization that could pay off their educational loan debt and free them to go. “We told them we didn’t have the money and we didn’t know how, but that we would do it unless God stopped us,” Luke said.

The two years that followed were filled with strategic plans and paperwork. Meetings with friends and family lead to The GO Fund’s first 40 investors, without whom The GO Fund would not have been able to break ground.

The GO Fund's first office was in the Womack's second bedroom

The GO Fund's first office was in the Womack's second bedroom

Then the time came in 2015 when The GO Fund hosted their first Vision Dinner. At the event, people were invited to hear The GO Fund’s purpose and prayerfully respond by giving financially.

That evening, donors provided enough to launch the Rimestads into Papua New Guinea by covering their educational loan debt.

David, Emily and their two children on the day they left for Papua New Guinea

David, Emily and their two children on the day they left for Papua New Guinea

Today, the Rimestads are serving in Papua New Guinea among the Maliyali people. They have built their home and begun to teach and share in the native language. Emily’s degree in kinesiology equips her to offer healing to many who have no access to medical attention. David’s degree in theology gives him the skill set necessary to learn how to translate scripture into a language that has never been written. Missionaries like the Rimestads are growing and flourishing because of faithful donors who believed that educational loan debt was a poor excuse to keep the gospel from spreading to the unreached.

The Rimestad family stands with their new community, the Maliyali people.

The Rimestad family stands with their new community, the Maliyali people.

Nearly three years after David embraced Luke, God is using the Rimestads to bring early fruit to the Maliyali people. God has also moved through The GO Fund Champions (donors) to launch 17 missionaries to the field. There is still much to be done and the task is significant.

Eternity alone will show the impact our decisions have made on God’s kingdom. We look forward to the day when we will link arms with representatives from all nations and tribes in worship of the only one who is worthy of our eternal praise!