Many times I heard financial teacher Larry Burkett (my boss from 1990 until his death in 2003) warn that taking on too much college debt could become an obstacle to responding to a call to mission work or other kinds of ministry.

If that warning was needed 20-plus years ago, it is even more critical today when most students are graduating with huge debt loads.

The March 17 issue of WORLD Magazine reports on how education debt is hampering many who desire to go into missions work.

Joel Sutton began working with the [Southern Baptist] International Mission Board’s assessment and deployment team in 1999. Students had debt then too, but the average topped out at $17,000. Now, Sutton regularly talks to prospective missionaries who have between $60,000 and $100,000 in debt. "Those kinds of folks have really disqualified themselves for service," Sutton said.... "They think they need the loan to get their education, but they don’t think about the ramifications down the road."

WORLD's story — titled "Repayment ministry" — highlights an organization formed five years ago to help pay down the debt of would-be missionaries.

Luke Womack graduated from California Baptist University with a business degree in 2011. He got a well-paid sales job and felt himself settling in to live the American dream. Then he listened to a John Piper sermon on the Great Commission: "He said to be an obedient Christian we must either go or send to the unreached, or disobey."...

In 2013, Womack started the GO Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to raising money to pay off student loans for long-term missionaries working among the unreached. He recruited board members and began raising money for his own salary so any funds he secured for missionaries would go directly to paying for their debts. The GO Fund launched a website in 2014 and invited prospective missionaries to apply.

The Fund requires each missionary family to commit to remaining in the field for 10 years. During that time, the GO Fund pays their loans.

The GO Fund now partners with 19 missionary families, 11 of which have already started their overseas work. Womack has an ambitious goal for growth: By 2020 he hopes to be making loan payments for 125 missionaries.

The GO Fund isn't the first missions-minded organization to take on the school debt problem. In 1992, 16 mission boards and sending agencies came together to form Project Medsend, which helps pay the educational loans of medical missionaries. From the Medsend website:

MedSend offers student loan repayment grants — not scholarships — to healthcare professionals who have completed their training and are headed for career, full-time healthcare missions service under the authority of a mission board that collaborates with us…. If you receive a MedSend grant, we will make your monthly educational loan payments while you serve.

More than 60 boards and agencies now participate in Project MedSend, and generous donors enable the program to disburse grants of more than $1 million a year.

You can learn more about The GO Fund here and Project MedSend here.

Do you know of any other organization enabling debt-laden students to embrace the call to ministry or mission work? If so, tell us about it in the comments section below.