This post was published on Ned's personal blog on May 28, 2015.
Sarah and I have some exciting news to share! Yes, we are expecting a baby, but that’s not the news- it’s that we are also expecting to join the staff of Tri-Grace Ministries as full-time missionaries, and that we are beginning the process of building a support network. You may know that our little boy (due in August) owes his existence to Tri-Grace, because that is where Sarah and I met almost five years ago while working as assistant staff. When we left Utah after the 1-year program, we were in love, both with each other, and with Utah. As we spoke about our hoped-for future together, returning to Utah was always part of the conversation. Today we are pleased to announce that Tri-Grace has invited us to join their team as full-time staff as soon as we are able.
One big question is “when?” The main determinant of that is paying off student debt. With a return to Utah in mind from the beginning of our relationship, we have been steadily paying off student debt for over three years, and are about 75% done. Although our current rate would forecast us being debt-free about a year from now, there is also a baby coming, and little Funnell’s impact on our finances is difficult to predict. We need this time, though, to prepare for the new roles we’ll be filling, and to build a network of supporters before we can go.
The other big question is “why?” Answering that question could be an all-day conversation, but the simple answer is that Sarah and I are convinced that the truth Jesus Christ taught is essential for all people to know, and the people of Utah have been uniquely disadvantaged in hearing it. For over a century, people in Utah have been sheltered from the outside world by a cult which misrepresents and distorts what Jesus taught, and replaces it with a system of performance and self-glorification that leaves people hopeless. The culture of Utah presents a façade of success and wholesome living, but there is very real turmoil under the surface. Utah is a frontrunner in the US for antidepressant use, high stress levels, suicide in all age groups, pornography consumption, prescription substance abuse, and other heartbreaking statistics.
Sarah and I have seen the way this can play out- a person has a thin veneer of perfection they are attempting to hold up as their church and culture demand, but inside they are full of repressed questions about why they exist, who they are, and what the truth really is. 21st century technology has made answers available to many through the internet and media distributions, and the LDS church is in a crisis- people are losing their faith in their man-made religion en masse: either actively denouncing their association with the church or slowly losing their faith and fading away. We are ecstatic to see a false church crumble, but are also keenly aware of how this affects its members. When a person’s entire worldview has hinged on one thing- a prophet, a church, a conviction- and that thing crumbles, it is devastating. What will happen to the people of Utah, already struggling with in incongruity between the expectations of their faith and reality, when the primary thing holding their culture together collapses?
Tri-Grace has seen an influx of ex-Mormon traffic in their ministry, and have a need for additional staff to help handle the changing situation. God has done so much in little Ephraim, Utah, where no light shone 25 years ago- there is now an active and growing church of 110 with a coffee-shop outreach ministry to the small college in town. Sarah and I want to go there and put our shoulders to the wheel to save those who have never known true hope.
We are taking first steps to partner with Tri-Grace Ministries in Ephraim, Utah, but there is still quite a lot of work left to do. Expect to see more news and information from us in the months to come. We will be establishing a separate blog to share our journey and hope you will follow us.