After marrying in the spring of 2003, doing missions work as a vocation was never a question in the minds of Christa and I, it was after all, our passion. As young single people we had already ministered in a combined eleven different nations, in fact, it was while leading a trip to Ecuador together that we first became friends.
I'll never forget Go International’s very first mission trip, which was to the nation of Peru. I was a young, newly married, 22-year-old man with big vision, a dream in my heart, and absolutely no idea how to actually do it! So naturally, we just ran at it as if we had done it 100 times before.
We knew that to pull off our first trip it would take a lot of focus, sacrifice, and dedication. We promptly resigned from our 8-5 jobs at another ministry and took on night jobs so that we could have the business day to do Go. I worked as a server at a local restaurant, and Christa managed a small graphic design company out of our house. Money was tight but we were launching our dream. I remember being so proud of our little office which consisted of a cheap desk (purchased with a Target gift card from our wedding), a donated fax machine, and over time we finally saved enough to get a bookshelf. Yeah, we were pretty big time. ;)
That fall we took a pre trip that would proceed the summer team trip. As I said, we didn’t know exactly “how” to do what we felt in our heart we just knew we “must” do it. Lucky for us, God’s grace was on us as we took steps of action. I remember we traveled to four Peruvian cities in just eight days, scouting out which city we would return to with the team. A few of these cities we didn’t even know one person in, and as destiny would have it, that was exactly the case for the city we chose.
As the plane touched down in Cusco, Peru an expectancy filled our hearts. We sensed there was something special about this place. Armed with a folded piece of paper, containing the scribbled name and number of local pastor Willy Mont, which was handed to me by a friend as we boarded the plane from Lima, we set out to plan our very first trip.
Upon checking into our hotel room I removed the piece of paper from my pocket and dialed the number of Pastor Willy. “Here goes nothing”, I thought, as the phone rang. Pastor Willy answered, and I introduced myself to him and asked if we could take he and his wife to dinner that night. Shockingly he said “Yes.”! We walked into this little restaurant and I remember thinking, “He’s going to think we are little kids, he’ll never work with us.”. But after spending several hours talking, dreaming, and shedding a few tears over dinner we were all convinced that this encounter was of God. Prior to our meeting, Christa and I had felt that when we returned in the summer we would like to do; an evangelistic campaign, a youth concert, and a children’s festival. To our surprise, Pastor Willy and his wife Jessica, had been praying that a team would come to Cusco to do these exact things, in order to help them launch their newly founded church. This was confirmation that we were on the right track.
The next day we traveled to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu to see if it would serve as a good free day for the team. While waiting in line to enter we struck up a conversation with a really nice man. He eventually asked us where we were from, and we of course responded “Tulsa.”. “Tulsa?” he exclaimed! “I used to live there while I was a student at ORU. What are you guys doing in Peru?”. We told him about Go and how we planned to return with a team that summer. “That’s interesting” he said. “I am a Pastor in Pennsylvania and I have been looking for a team to send my church with to Peru this summer”. Once again as destiny would have it, this ten minute conversation indeed led to Pastor Craig Nanna bringing his team with us that summer. If only all of our “marketing campaigns” had been that easy! Once again we saw this as God’s grace not only on this trip but on the very existence of Go.
It turns out that these confirmations would prove to be critical in our journey in the months that followed. The task of paying for all of the outreaches we had planned was challenging, especially on the budget of a server, and just a handful of partners (mainly our families). As contract deadlines approached for deposits for the band, stadium, and other necessary expenses, there came a day where we simply had no more money personally. We had sent all we had.
Unfortunately this led to one very cold winter night. That’s right, our electricity was shut off because we just didn’t have the money to pay it. (Now to all of those who are thinking, “That wasn’t very responsible you should have paid your bills first”. You are probably right but none the less, that’s not how the story went.) I remember throwing extra blankets on our bed and cuddling Christa in the dark, and through the silence I begin to hear Christa choking back the tears. “Shouldn’t it be easier than this?” we asked. But it was in that moment that something powerful happened that would set the course for how we lived our lives and operated Go in the years that followed.
I remember asking Christa, “If you were a Peruvian woman who was sleeping in the cold with her family tonight, alone, desperate, and without hope, wouldn’t you pray that someone would spend a night in the cold for you to have a chance to hear the Good News of Christ?” We committed from that moment on that we would pay the price to proclaim the Gospel to the nations of the word. That summer as our first team converged on the city of Cusco, and was saw the lives that were changed through the campaign, concert and children's festival, we knew that all our sacrifices had paid off.
Now nine years into Go, we have led teams on more than 20 different trips, and traveled to almost every continent sharing the redemptive message of Christ. We’ve learned a thing or two since our early days but we have realized no matter how much we grow, or how talented we become, nothing replaces the grace of God.
We are honored and humbled to have the opportunity and privilege of demonstrating God’s love to the world. We are so thankful for every single person that has linked arms with us along the way. The price and sacrifices you have made are not in vain.
To all of you who are starting out on a new journey and have a dream in your heart, don’t quit. The world needs what you have and who you are. Work hard, trust God, rest in his grace, and never forget to enjoy the journey.
Greg & Christa
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