What would it take to convince you to move overseas for long-term mission work? The promise of a secure job? A copy of Rosetta Stone to learn the local language? Or maybe a GoPro camera for your adventures would do the trick.
For many college graduates, they need no incentive. Thousands of US college graduates desire to willingly place themselves on the front lines of the mission field for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Tragically, many of them will never go because of the barrier created by their student debt.
This problem exists because many mission agencies (wisely) won’t send workers to the mission field with extensive student debt. Yet, two-thirds of college graduates today will leave their higher institution of learning with about $25,000 of debt. There exists a stalemate between college graduates and mission agencies that must be removed. But neither party is necessarily in error.
On one hand, agencies understand that the Great Commission is too great to send workers to the mission field who may return due to student loan default. On the other hand, young people have the privilege of learning in some of the best institutions the world has ever seen.
The result is that agencies are left scrambling. They must try to find worthy workers to take the gospel abroad, in place of those perfectly qualified, zealous college graduates whose applications are denied due to student debt.
We should not encourage a more liberal policy for sending agencies nor should we dissuade young people from pursuing higher education. Rather, we should declare war on educational loan debt for the sake of those who have yet to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
College Affordability—A Changing Landscape
Student debt is a relatively new problem. According to a recent report by The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, college tuition costs 17 times more than it did 40 years ago. The landscape of college affordability has changed dramatically. Long gone are the days where working a summer job would yield enough money to foot the bill for college (and maybe a Volkswagen if you were lucky).
Today we face a grim picture. As college costs continue to rise, young professionals are presented with a unique dilemma. There is now more pressure than ever to get a high paying job to tackle student loans as efficiently as possible. This pressure exists for everyone, missionary or otherwise.
Fortunately for college graduates, as the cost of education has increased so have the starting salaries for entry-level positions in most fields. This allows workers to pay off debt taken on from their corresponding degree programs.
This is true for doctors who undertake hundreds of thousands in loans, but are able to pay for their expensive educations with a handsome salary. This is true for lawyers in much of the same way. This is even true for teachers who pay for their teaching credential, but are rewarded with the promise of a steady, increasing government salary, and even the security of tenure in some states. Yet, the same is not true for missionary workers.
Like other professionals, missionary workers obtain the expensive college degree so they can gain access into the far corners of the earth. However, in contrast to other professionals, our front-line soldiers are often left to fend for themselves to raise the funds needed to complete their God-ordained mission. This is absurd, and it should not be so!
A College Diploma Provides Access to the Unreached
A college degree is usually a good choice for those aspiring to go to the unreached, mainly because it gives them access to 60% of the total unreached population who live in countries closed to missionaries.
As missionary workers get college degrees, they are welcomed into closed countries that typically deny access to “missionaries,” but enthusiastically invite doctors, lawyers, teachers, and coaches to benefit their economy.
Additionally, many college graduates are able to develop a maturity that comes from successfully submitting to 30-40 different professors. This experience serves to prepare them for the real world. Further, many college students become involved in campus ministries and learn how to make disciples among their peers. These are skills that translate cross-culturally.
For these reasons, we believe that the young college graduate who desires to go to the mission field is, more often than not, justified in his decision to get a college degree.
Student Debt as a Barrier to Unreached Missions
When it comes to sending young people to the mission field, Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary, says, “The greatest enemy other than Satan himself is educational debt.” This sentiment perfectly describes the disastrous potential of the problem. Educational loan debt introduces a threat to the spread of the Gospel that promises cataclysmic and eternal consequences for the unreached sinner if nothing is changed.
Some willing missionaries do not need convincing to go to the dangerous front lines of the mission field. They are ready to go today. How do we help them?
There are only two courses of action to take:
- Radically change the entire educational structure of the U.S.
- Support ministries that eliminate the burden of student debt for career missionaries
Lobbying for educational reform will take years to build momentum and see positive governmental response. After all, the government profited handsomely from interest on student debt in 2013—as much as Apple Computer. They are not going to surrender their dividends from student debt anytime soon.
Even if we could see changes in the next few years, time is not on our side. We must think of 74 million people who will die this year and enter an eternity without Christ. They don’t have years to wait. They need Jesus today. This leaves us with the second option.
A Solution to the Barrier of Student Debt
The GO Fund is the only organization that is actively eliminating student loan debt for college graduates going to the unreached for career missions. So why have many others already chosen to give monthly to The GO Fund? Because we give ordinary people an opportunity to invest in eternity.
In response to student debt, The GO Fund created the Educational Loan Repayment Program (ELRP). This program takes over the monthly payments on student loans for participants who are serving in career missions to the unreached.
It is not a “loan forgiveness program.” Forgiveness is necessary to amend a mistake. These college graduates have done nothing wrong. Rather, we are linking arms in partnership with those who desire to go to the front lines of battle.
So how do we decide who to partner with? We implement a strict vetting process so that only the top candidates are approved for the program. For instance, here are our minimum requirements of every candidate for the program:
- Growing in love for and obedience to Jesus Christ
- Obediently making disciples of Jesus Christ
- Active in service and commitment to a local church body
- Track record of wisdom-filled financial stewardship
- Place of service will be among the unreached
- Length of service will be long-term, or until the task is finished
- Supported and sent by an approved mission sending agency
Once an eligible candidate applies for the program, they enter a 6-24 month evaluation period. During this stage, we will accept the best candidates to assist them in moving toward the mission field. We begin to pay monthly payments once the participant is on the field. We guarantee that 100% of your donations will go directly toward the loan payments of missionaries approved for our educational loan repayment program. We find other ways to cover our operational costs.
Satan would like student debt to remain a barrier to the reaching the lost. We invest in eternity to thwart his attacks and reap the eternal fruits of salvation.
Join us and declare war on student debt.
Luke is the Executive Director and Founder of The GO Fund. He graduated from California Baptist University in 2011 with a degree in Business Administration.