This is Post 4 of 4 telling the stories of staff members at The Global Orphan Project. You can read the first post about The GO Project’s founders, Mike and Beth Fox, here, the second post about Adrien Lewis, the director of The GO Project’s U.S. orphan care division, here, or the third post about Mike Mitchell, head of The GO Exchange, here.
In January 2010, Tate Williams was working in the construction business when his boss told him to take some time off as a result of the market crash two years before. Tate had already been considering a career switch, but when his boss’s notification came, a new calling hit him like a ton of bricks.
Only a week before, the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake had hit Haiti, and like many others in the U.S., Tate had been tracking the story through the news. He had never been to Haiti, but God’s call was clear: GO.
“It came with such a level of urgency, with the weight of ‘Haiti, or else,’” he explained. “It was just this force.”
Then Tate saw that a buddy on Facebook was doing some volunteer work in the Dominican Republic, helping route supplies to Haiti for The Global Orphan Project. He reached out to his friend to see if there were any opportunities for him there. Simultaneously, he shared his calling with his pastor. Twenty-four hours after Tate felt the call to go, he was on a plane to the DR to volunteer with The GO Project, using a round-trip plane ticket paid for by his church.
Tate’s grooming to take this step of faith began years before, during his childhood. The community he grew up in was incredibly poor – cinderblock houses, lean-to dwellings, homes made from tents and tarps. Tate’s family never had much in the way of possessions either, though Tate didn’t notice at the time. Now, looking back, he realizes that between caring for their large family and working for a ministry, his parents were dealing with a lot.
Despite the challenges, Tate appreciates how his parents taught him and his siblings that God was a real being who cared for them.
“A big part of my childhood was being groomed for a lifestyle of faith,” he said. “A lifestyle that said, ‘Yes, planning,’ and ‘Yes, strategy,’ but also ‘Yes, trust,’ and ‘Yes, radical belief that God does, in fact, control all things.’”
When Tate started college, he was wrestling with his faith as he tried to figure out whether he believed the same things his parents did. Meanwhile, he had significantly more freedom than he was used to, as he experienced life away from his parents’ home.
“It was a fairly toxic combination – wrestling with my faith and having the freedom to do whatever I wanted,” he said. “I was living a dual lifestyle.”
It wasn’t until after Tate graduated that he was able to find peace from this struggle by making his faith his own. Slowly, he realized God was interested in his heart, not his lip service, and he changed his lifestyle to reflect that realization. During this time of recommitment and re-ordering his priorities, he also discovered the importance of God’s kingdom.
“I realized the kingdom of God was completely different from what I had thought, that you cannot dismiss the fact that the vulnerable of our society, the weak of this world, are intricate parts of that kingdom.”
From that time onward, Tate sought to understand what it meant to take part in the kingdom of God. Eventually, this journey led him to Haiti.
Within 48 hours of Tate’s arrival in the Dominican Republic, he had assumed his friend’s position so that his friend could work directly with the hurting people of Haiti. For the next 6 weeks, Tate coordinated the movement of supplies from the DR into Haiti, and eventually, he traveled to Haiti.
One afternoon during his time in Haiti, he was watching a group of orphans playing a soccer game, and he experienced a revelation regarding God’s heart for the orphan. “I realized those kids were me and I was them. There was no difference between us – God was friends with us both.”
When Tate returned home, he expected his life to return to normal. He was planning to get married in June, and he thought Haiti would become a valuable experience of the past. But in April, he received a call from Mike Fox, asking him to join The GO Project team.
Multiple circumstances proved this was God’s will for him, and soon, Tate was on another plane to Haiti. He got married in June, as planned, and then for the rest of that year, he was on a 2-week rotation – spending 2 weeks in the U.S., followed by 2 weeks in Haiti.
By spring of 2011, Tate was burning out, and his role at The GO Project shifted yet again. Mike Fox, the organization’s founder, returned from a trip to Asia with a burning question on his heart, which he posed to Tate: “Are there orphans in the U.S.?” That led Tate to research the foster care system and discover what made a child an “orphan” within the U.S.
Today, Tate works with Adrien Lewis to facilitate The GO Project’s U.S. division of orphan care. He and his wife have become licensed foster parents and currently have two foster daughters, in addition to their biological son.
Tate’s personal involvement with foster care and his relationships with his daughters have enriched his understanding of his ministry.
“[My daughters] have helped me understand who I am in relation to God,” he said. “Their normal looks like chaos to me, yet that is where they feel safe. My normal looks like predictability to me, but to God, it spirals into self-gratification and death. His normal terrifies me because it requires complete trust and faith.”
Tate compares the mission of The GO Project to the mission of the Israelites when they faced the walls of Jericho. Growing up, Tate pictured himself as one of the Israelites, but he has since come to relate to the people of Jericho. When the Israelites arrived at Jericho, the people inside the walls hid in their homes, cowering in fear of these strange others, the vulnerable people of God.
Tate compares this to the reaction many in the U.S. have toward orphans and other vulnerable people in their society.
“We view the vulnerable as a threat to our stability, and we hold them at bay with our wall,” Tate said. “I believe…God has called The GO Project to tear down this wall so that the church can open up doors.”
This is where Tate’s journey has brought him, to the mission of uniting the church with the vulnerable people of God – one wall, one family, one step of faith at a time.
Have a question, comment, or encouragement for Tate? Click here. To see the needs he has listed as prayer requests, click here. To give to The GO Project, click here, or to shop at The GO Exchange, click here.