Click the link below and listen to The GO Fund’s Founder and Executive Director, Luke Womack, discuss student loans, why they keep missionaries off the field, and the solution to this problem on The Missions Podcast. This 42-minute episode aired on 03/18/19.
As Jasper lay in his hospital bed, he knew he was taking his final breaths. He looked to Charlie and asked, “Is salvation really that simple?”*
Charlie was taken aback, completely stunned. He had been visiting his new friend in the northern Canadian hospital for some time now and did not think he would get to present the gospel this way. Knowing Jasper loved stories, Charlie responded by sharing scripture with Jesus’ words. “When a group of people asked Jesus what they must do to perform the work God requires, Jesus responded ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.’” Charlie wanted to take the focus off what we as humans think we can do and on what Jesus has already done for us. What saves us is God’s work to give us faith in his Son.
Jasper’s view of Christianity up until this point was a result of severe trauma inflicted when he was young. As a boy, he and many other First Nations People were taken from their families and placed in Indian Residential Schools. While there, he was forced to stop speaking his native language and only use English. He was malnourished. He was beaten physically and abused sexually. All his pain was caused by men who called themselves Christians.
Jasper had not known the true gospel and how Christ came to save and redeem all nations, tribes and tongues. He saw, turn the Indian into a white man because that’s what God wants.
By God’s immense grace and love, in that hospital room, as Charlie shared more of God’s truth and the gospel of Jesus, Jasper heard and understood. One week before he passed away, he accepted the gift of salvation.
After hearing his father’s decision, Jasper’s son asked to meet with Charlie to read through the scriptures. Last month, he was baptized. God is moving through this tightly-knit community of First Nations People. Charlie and his wife Joanna are there to see it happen, but this was almost not the case.
People of this secluded town are wary of foreigners. They rarely see them and prefer to trust the community in which they were raised. The way Christianity was portrayed by those who abused their families left deeply-rooted hurts and tarnished the legitimacy of the gospel.
When Charlie and Joanna were first introduced to the town, it was because a native elder from the community had visited their church to present the needs of the people and how they needed to hear who Christ is. Charlie and Joanna knew where the Lord was telling them to go.
Their student debt would have precluded them from moving for many more years. They could not have known it at the time, but this would have been too late for Jasper.
They partnered with The GO Fund and this allowed them to leave unhindered and able to focus on the difficult tasks ahead.
Three years have passed since the family first arrived and much of their ministry has grown in ways they did not expect. They’ve learned the Native language of their community and Charlie has established summer camps where kids can learn activities like swimming, archery, rock climbing, and crafts. He is also able to share Bible stories in-between busy sports.
While teaching and caring for their three boys at home, Joanna has started a cake-decorating business. What began as one, widely-loved cake has turned into weekly requests for cakes of all shapes, sizes and themes. This allows her to enter local’s lives and foster relationships that otherwise may have taken longer to cultivate.
The couple prays to see a self-sustaining and reproducing, Native-led church founded on the gospel in their new home. It has not and will not be easy, but they continue to hope in the one who provides our faith and desires to see all peoples, nations and tongues know and worship Him.
*All names changed
Second highest to mortgages in this country is student loan debt when it comes to personal indebtedness. Our country has collectively accrued $1.5 trillion in student loans, higher than both credit cards and auto loans. This is a crisis.
While tuition continues to skyrocket, disproportionate to American wages, private-loan lenders hold their interest rates at astronomical heights. Graduates are incapable of obtaining a career-position without a college-level education. This all results in a trifecta culminating in decades of debilitating loan repayments.
The average student in the Class of 2017 graduated with around $40,000 in student loan debt, compared with $37,172 for the student who graduated in 2016. Among the several consequences, the most notable are that young people in their twenties are not buying homes and they are unable to obtain jobs in their fields.
Individuals burdened by student loan debt aren’t willing to also take on a mortgage, if mortgage lenders even choose to accept them. Also, the workforce is filled with men and women who hold degrees in fields which may have nothing to do with their jobs, simply because they need an income to cover the cost of their high payments.
The latest student loan debt statistics for 2018 show how serious the issue has become – for borrowers across all demographics and age groups.
Student Loan Statistics: Overview
Total Student Loan Debt: $1.52 trillion
Total U.S. Borrowers with Student Loan Debt: 44.2 million
Student Loan Delinquency or Default Rate: 10.7% (90+ days delinquent)
Total Increase in Student Loan Debt in Most Recent Quarter: $29 billion
New Delinquent Balances (30+ days): $32.6 billion
New Delinquent Balances – Seriously Delinquent (90+ days): $31 billion
(Source: As of 1Q 2018, Federal Reserve & New York Federal Reserve)
What this means for the Christian who is called to life among the unreached, is that they are kept from the field.
Missionaries who are equipped with the degrees to be effective in their ministries are tethered to the States for more than a decade, paying off their loans before they can finally make it overseas. That is 10 or more years of a lost generation dying without the chance to hear the Gospel.
Why not send them without the degree? Sixty percent of unreached people groups live in what are called “closed,” or “creative access” countries. This means, higher education is essential. A doctor, engineer, teacher or business owner will gain access while the name “missionary” will not.
Why not send them with the debt? Most missionary-sending agencies cap the amount of debt one can be sent with at around $15,000. When the national average of total debt for a graduate is more than double this number, the question of how remains unanswered. Even if a missionary goes with debt, on average, within two years they will be forced to come back to raise more finances to make certain their payments are covered.
We are left with a crisis within a crisis. There are capable, educated and trained men and women who are called and ready to share the Gospel among unreached people but they are chained. Meanwhile, their peers surround them, working in roles they didn’t earn an education for and living in homes they can not afford.
At The GO Fund, we believe we can overcome the crisis. Through generous Champions, individuals who give of their resources for the sake of the Gospel, we are eliminating the barrier of student loan debt for qualified missionaries. Click here to learn more about the unreached, or to find out how you can step in the gap between our missionary partners and the lost, learn more about becoming a Ropeholder.