Reflecting on Ten Years at GO Project with Jake BarrethJulie Smith
Like many of the members of our leadership team, Jake Barreth never imagined that serving vulnerable children would be his career. Now, he’s celebrating a decade of working at The Global Orphan Project and calls it “the best job I will ever have.” Get to know more about our Director of International Ministry and find out what’s in store for the next ten years!
Jake was born in a small town on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. His dad ran three family businesses, and their last name was displayed in huge letters on each of the buildings throughout town. When he was four, Jake’s dad sold the businesses and the family moved to Cardiff, Wales to help plant a church and establish a Christian publishing company. They lived in the U.K. for 16 years before returning to the United States.
When he was 20 years old, Jake was living in Miami, Florida. His career started off in financial services, then Mergers and Acquisitions, and eventually he was hired as a representative for a multi-billion-dollar real estate project that was transforming the downtown Miami skyline. After a few years into this endeavor, one investor meeting transformed what Jake felt called to do.
A Different View Leads to a New Calling
It was up to Jake to convince an investment group to fund the company’s next project, so he led half a dozen investors around one of their luxury condominiums and ended the tour in the penthouse on the 34th floor. Jake knew that the penthouse’s stunning eastern view of the Atlantic Ocean was sure to seal the deal. “The view had the ability to captivate and lock you into place,” says Jake. “But on this occasion, one investor kept turning away, instead favoring the view to the north.” In reality, the property had been built on the site of an abandoned rail yard. What used to be a sprawling wasteland of rusted rail cars had been transformed into a mix of high-end real estate, boutique shopping, and dining. While the views to the east were breathtaking, a sprawling ghetto began at the northern border of the property, spanning to the horizon.
“I reflected upon that meeting over the next few weeks, and a heaviness filled my spirit,” says Jake. “My job had been to keep everyone focused on the beautiful side of the property while ignoring the harsh realities of the city.” After a few months, Jake left his job and joined a small church plant in an underprivileged part of the city.
“We planted a church in a movie theater, figuring this was neutral territory and more approachable for someone who may be disenfranchised from the church,” says Jake. “On our first Sunday, a group of young men showed up early to watch a movie and ended up attending church. That was the start of some of the most impactful friendships of my life.”
Once a week, the group would meet for lunch to talk and hang out. Jake showed the young men how to run the AV equipment and they began running the church production every week. They shared their stories and revealed the pain that fatherlessness, broken families, and fear had caused in their lives. This set Jake on a journey to engage the local church in issues of fatherlessness and research church-based orphan and foster care ministries. His investigation led him to The Global Orphan Project website.
An Invitation to Serve
While visiting his mom in Kansas City, Jake set up a meeting with Adrien Lewis to learn more about The Global Orphan Project. In November 2010, Jake joined Adrien on a trip to Haiti and saw fatherlessness manifested in the faces of the children there.
“I heard heart-wrenching stories of children who lost family after the 2010 earthquake,” says Jake. “Others who had lost parents to sickness, poverty, or abuse had found a home within a local Haitian church. I wrestled with what my purpose and responsibility as a Christian was to respond to such a massive and seemingly impossible challenge. This wasn’t just a local issue, but one that spanned the world.”
Three months after that trip, Jake was offered a position with The Global Orphan Project serving in Haiti. He accepted and in the weeks that followed, he was named GO Haiti Director of Operations.
The Ministry Begins
Living in Haiti challenged Jake’s faith in a very deep way and made him realize that, as a Christian, serving children and those on the margins of society is a lifelong call. The responsibility to be an agent of mission in every community became very real and personal.
“It also made me realize how important the local church is in this work,” says Jake. “The friends I made along the way, my teammates, pastor partners, and the wisdom they shared was the best learning tool. Listening intently to their ideas and dreams for the future continues to shape our ministry and goals.”
In the last ten years, the ministry has seen tremendous growth, adding GO Africa, GO India, and GO MENA in Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. Transition initiatives were formed in Haiti and spread to other parts of the world. Our signature family-strengthening ministry emerged in rural Uganda and is now being implemented in Haiti, India, Lebanon, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and beyond.
“I’m very proud of the work our team has done in our Orphan Prevention ministry,” says Jake. “With the recent success of our family-strengthening initiatives, I really do believe our model of Prevention – Care – Transition is the most complete, holistic model of caring for children and families that I’ve ever seen. We have changed a lot and our team has been excellent at embracing these changes to form our ministry into something we are all proud to have built together.”
Looking Towards the Future
The next few years are sure to bring more growth to our international ministry. War refugees and economic pressure have created a huge need for local churches to engage in child and family care and GO Project will continue to provide advice and counsel on Prevention – Care – Transition. We anticipate many opportunities to collaborate and create new partnerships that better equip other churches and nonprofit ministries to implement their own versions of our model.
“It has been an incredible journey!” says Jake. “All of the growth has been a response to what God is doing through the local church around the world. I try not to take for granted what an amazing blessing it is to build the Kingdom of God for a living. I love our team, our culture, and seeing God work through incredibly humble people in miraculous ways on a near-daily basis. As I look back at the last ten years, I can’t presume to know what God has in store for the next ten. We will continue to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading to the next adventure!”