The last thing Mike Fox wanted to do was look like a missionary. He was a successful businessman and entrepreneur with plans to retire early and enjoy life. But a growing passion for serving orphans was pushing its way to the forefront of his and his wife’s minds.
“We were going to move to Florida for the winter and get a big boat and go to golf courses and country clubs,” Mike said. “We lived well. Our plan was to do this orphan care thing on the side.”
Little did Mike and Beth know that their orphan care side project would grow into The Global Orphan Project, an international ministry serving twenty countries, including the United States, with 2,340 children in family care through local churches, 6,680 children on the brink in school, and 725 jobs supported to help keep families together.
Their love for orphans began in 2003 when they went to dinner with a missionary couple from Thailand. Through this new relationship, Mike and Beth learned about a Filipino missionary providing care for abandoned children in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. Mike and Beth funded a humble home for those children and started supporting their day-to-day care. After that, Mike decided to go to Thailand himself to meet these children.
In Thailand, Mike was mesmerized by the large amounts of people living in abject poverty. “I hadn’t traveled much internationally, and it was culturally different from anything I had ever seen,” he remembered.
One memory that particularly stands out is his first visit to a refugee camp. Though the kids there were living in deep poverty, they were happy, and that surprised Mike.
“The children were joyful,” he said. “They were satisfied, content. I realized somebody must have intervened or they wouldn’t be here today.”
Mike returned to the United States with a new passion for orphans, which he told Beth about. She can’t remember a time when she hasn’t felt the calling to help people, so she completely supported his desire. However, it took them a while to figure out how to help the orphans in a productive, healthy way.
“In Thailand, at first I was a skeptic, not moved at all, almost turned off by their poverty,” Mike said. “But [getting to know] their caregivers transitioned me to something like empathy. Then I moved on to a compassion that made me willing to do anything and everything to make their pain go away.”
Mike and Beth also had to change the way they planned to help. At first, they thought caring for the orphan would mean using their resources to “save the orphans,” but slowly, they realized their true call was to serve orphans.
Once they began talking to friends about their idea for The Global Orphan Project, word spread quickly. Being missionaries was never part of Mike and Beth’s plan, but then opportunities began to arise to take people on vision trips to Haiti.
“I’m not going to take a bunch of people to Haiti” was Mike’s first reaction. He didn’t understand why people would even want to go but quickly realized they did indeed want to go. Mike and Beth led their first vision trip in 2004, and since then thousands of people have gone to Haiti and East Africa with The Global Orphan Project to experience first-hand what local, church based orphan care is all about. This year alone, around 800 people have gone on vision trips through The Global Orphan Project.
“We were just going to write checks,” Mike said, “but the trips kind of became DNA of who we are. We are a ministry that facilitates life transformation from the inside out, within hurting children there and within people here who engage their hearts with these special children.” In fact, many current GO employees became involved because a vision trip changed their lives.
“It snowballed,” Beth explained. “It wasn’t our plan, but it was God’s plan.”
The trips have actually become one of Beth’s favorite parts of the ministry. “Many people come home so grateful and thankful. Many give their lives to the Lord while they’re there. One of the highlights for me is taking people to Haiti and seeing how ‘messed up’ they get.”
Mike explained the concept of becoming “messed up” by a vision trip. “We see people who think they have it all figured out and are going to go down to Haiti to give – they’re going to ‘fix it,’” he said. “Then they get down there, and they realize maybe it’s not quite so broken. Maybe it’s what they have back home, inside of the heart, that needs a little fixing.”
Mike and Beth’s own lives have become completely “messed up” by their passion for orphans. Caring for the orphan is not a simple, transactional ministry. It is often difficult to find local churches who will take on the heavy, lifelong commitment of caring for abused and abandoned children. And the ministry is set up to serve children and empower local communities, not to market them in a manner that elevates fundraising above the mission. But the life transformation that surrounds the ministry and their conviction that this is what God wants them to do keeps Mike and Beth encouraged and confident.
“For Beth and me, to serve these kids is to be their advocates and tell stories they can’t tell themselves,” Mike said.
And so they continue to share those stories whenever they get the chance.
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