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The Brothers’ Ice Cream Dream

Despite multiple setbacks, teen siblings find a cool way to raise funds for Speed the Light.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of PE News articles on people in the Assemblies of God under the age of 20 who are making an impact in their communities.

Everyone likes ice cream. So what better way to make money for two entrepreneurial-minded brothers, Blake and Nolan Shofner, than to sell the treat?

Three years ago, the Princeton, Illinois, teens took their idea to their parents, Jason and Monica, who agreed to purchase a used handicap-accessible bus, which they planned to turn into an ice cream truck.

“The boys have always had a passion to do something big,” says Jason. “So when the ice cream truck idea came up, we thought that was realistic and something we could do to get them started.”

The boys were thrilled with their prospects, but were unable to get the business going because the Shofners ended up using the truck as their main vehicle after the family van broke down. Then they suffered another setback. Nolan, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a disease that’s left him unable to move and requires a full-time caregiver, lost his night nurse, so Jason and Monica had to step in. For nine months, with limited sleep, time, or resources to focus on refurbishing the ice cream truck, the boys’ dream stalled.

Nolan, 16, and Blake, 13, continued with other activities, including involvement with the youth group at The People Church in Princeton. In 2014 the family headed to a National Youth Ministries Momentum conference with the AG Illinois District Student Ministries.

While there, Blake and Nolan caught the vision for missions and wanted to raise money for Speed the Light, the student-initiated program that provides AG missionaries with essential transportation. During the convention, the attendees set a financial goal for how much they would raise. Together Blake and Nolan decided on $4,000. But how could they raise that much money?

Immediately, Blake knew. The ice cream truck.

Nolan agreed. “We wanted to get involved because some people don’t have the chance to know Jesus,” he says.

Soon word got out about the brothers’ goal — and that the truck needed work. The Shofners were stunned when Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge offered to pay $10,000 for the repairs, which included new tires, an air conditioning unit, serving windows, refrigeration unit, inverters, and a generator.

But it wasn’t that simple. Adversity after adversity hit the Shofners; between issues with Nolan’s care and their other vehicle continually conking out, the truck sat unused, while Blake and Nolan grew discouraged about missing their goal. But when Momentum ’15 came with its time to set the next goal, Blake pledged to raise $3,000. Nolan pledged $12,000.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Monica. “When I questioned that amount, Nolan said, ‘Mom, God told me $12,000.’ ” She asked if, perhaps, he’d misunderstood, but Nolan remained adamant. “We’re encouraged to pray big. Nolan was teaching me a lesson in faith!”

By August of this year, the truck was finally ready to make its debut. Their first stop was the AG National Fine Arts Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. But on the way, another hardship struck. Ten minutes from the venue, the ice cream truck broke down. With no other option, the Shofners had it towed to the festival.

“It’s been like this ever since we got that $10,000 gift!” Monica laughs. “Every two weeks some breakdown would happen.”

The family believes the disappointments teach lessons.

“Speed the Light is about providing vehicles to help missionaries spread the gospel,” says Jason. “We get that, because it’s essential to us too, because we have to safely transport Nolan with all his medical equipment. But the experience added a whole other layer to why the boys are so passionate about raising this money.”

“We definitely get it now!” Monica agrees.

After the festival, the Shofners traveled around the region selling their ice cream and educating people about Speed the Light. So far, Blake and Nolan have raised almost $9,000. Although they fell short of their goal this year, they aren’t disappointed.

“It’s awesome that we’re able to be part of helping people know Jesus,” Blake says. “We have to keep relying on Him. When things get tough, He’ll help us through it.”

Now that everything is back to working order, the Shofners hope to make a bigger impact next year — although Nolan admits, after this year’s $12,000 goal, he’s nervous about God’s message for 2017.

The boys are continually amazed by the reception to their story.

“We’re not anything special,” Blake says. “We just make big goals and run with it. Even with the disease Nolan has, we just rely on God and then dream big.”

Ginger Kolbaba

Ginger Kolbaba ( www.gingerkolbaba.com) is a speaker and author who lives in the Chicago area. She is the author of Your Best Happily Ever After and co-author of Breakthrough: The Miraculous True Story of a Mother's Faith and Her Child's Resurrection.