In 2010, Ned and Sarah met in Ephraim, Utah. Both of us were starting our work that year as assistant staff members with Tri-Grace Ministries (TGM). Ned had been introduced to TGM on a mission trip earlier that year, and Sarah had been a summer intern with TGM several years earlier. Working together that year, we saw the best in each other as each of us poured out our gifts and energy to serve the Ephraim community. As often happens when young people work closely together, we discovered a friendship, and then deep love for one another. We are forever thankful for our year in Utah, because God used it to bring us together. Our hearts, though, weren't just ignited for one another that year. We also discovered a passion for inviting others to hear truth, especially in a culture where deception and false teachings take so many people captive.
God works all things together for his good - and what he worked together in this story is two people from far away, with vastly different interests and skills, and little in common apart from their desire to see truth presented to those who needed it. Ned grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Texas to attend LeTourneau University for an engineering degree. The Christian fellowship he found there led to great growth in his young faith, while the challenges of being out of the home for the first time required discernment and good judgment of him (that he didn’t always display). Fortunately, he got most of his embarrassing stories and foolish mistakes out of the way before embarking on a mission trip to Utah during his last year at LeTourneau. Before and during that week, God placed a passion in his heart to see the freeing truth of Jesus made known to those who needed it. The passion turned into commitment, and that week-long mission trip resulted in a summer as an intern, which continued on into a yearlong stint as assistant staff.
Sarah was born in Indiana, and the state would probably still enjoy her residency if not for Shane and Kim Jones. These two were soon to become TGM’s associate directors, and, having hailed from the church home of Sarah’s youth, began leading evangelism training sessions as they prepared to move to Utah. Sarah learned about summer internships with TGM during that time, and was an intern that next summer. After completing her degree in Biblical Literature from Indiana Wesleyan University, Sarah heard about TGM’s need for a female assistant staff member through their email newsletter. Although she briefly considered continuing her work as a line chef, it didn’t take her long to realize that she wanted an adventure (and perhaps a husband?) instead. She arrived in Utah with all her belongings packed in her car, and that’s how the best year began.
The best year ended as our places as assistant staff were filled by new faces. As we left, we both agreed that we would return to Utah - we felt that God still had work for us there. Until then, Ned returned to school to finish his degree, and Sarah returned to Indiana to wait for Ned to marry her, which he did in 2013. We now live just over the state line in Kentucky, where a good job has been allowing us to make steady progress through the student loans that have been the main barrier to our move back to Utah. The team at TGM has opened their doors to us whenever we are able to return. The Funnell family (Ned, Sarah, and baby Flint) are now close enough to having our debt paid off to start planning our move back.