Matt grew up in Greenville, SC and Becky throughout the Midwest of the US. Each of us attended Bob Jones University and Seminary. Becky completed a B.A. in Humanities (2006) and a M.S. in Biblical Counseling (2008), and Matt completed a B.A. in Christian Missions (2009) and a M.A. in Pastoral Studies (2010). We met at student prayer meeting in a home near BJU and regularly attended those meetings every Saturday evening. In my second year of college, I (Matt) asked Becky to go with me to an opera on the life of Simeon. From then on, we began writing, and eventually started dating. We were married in May of 2009 at Trinity Bible Church in Greer, SC. Since then God has blessed us with six children, though only five are with us now. Our second son Joseph went home to Jesus as a stillborn in January of 2012.
In the summer of 2008, while we were engaged, I (Matt) spent two months in Cambodia as an intern with Forrest & Jennifer McPhail. During that trip, God put a burning desire within me to return to Cambodia and spend my life making disciples of Jesus there. After some years of further study, ministry training, and partnership development, we moved to Cambodia in April of 2014.
God’s Saving & Calling
Below we have included each of our stories of how God saved us and called us into cross-cultural ministry.
By the grace of God, I have been acquainted with the Scriptures from childhood. He gave me a home of God-fearing parents who trained me in the way I should go. Godly pastors and teachers also helped point me in the right direction. At a young age I heard the gospel, mentally assented to its truths, and made a profession of faith, yet I experienced no personal conviction of my sin.
I remained spiritually blind, convinced that I was a pretty good person.
By my teen years, I was a proud and self-righteous Pharisee, doing good to be seen of men and quick to judge others around me. In high-school, I made friends with some guys who had a living relationship with God, evidencing itself through their delight in prayer and discussing the Scriptures during the school lunch break. Deep down this troubled me because Word and prayer were mere religious duties to me. They rarely stirred my affections and God seemed more like an idea to me than a person. But during these high-school years I began to sense my spiritual blindness and began searching for a deeper meaning to my life.
During my senior trip to New York City, a teacher shared an evening devotional from Romans 1-3. When he read Romans 2:1, I felt as if God was speaking directly to me, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” This verse spoke directly into my experience as one who so often judge others with confidence in my own righteousness. I sat staring at these words until the page blurred away through tears of conviction. “How could I have been so blind?” I thought. My self-righteousness and pride must be so hideous to God.
I had heard the gospel message from the time I was small, but for the first time I felt deeply that I really needed the Savior. that night I cried to the Lord in my grief, confessing my pride and pleading for forgiveness. He heard me, forgave me, and transformed me. The next morning I awoke and knew some radical spiritual change had just occurred in my life.
I still don’t know everything that happened that day in March of 2005, but just as man born blind said so long ago, I can say, “, I can say “Once I was blind, but now I see!” Yes, once I read the Bible as a religious duty, but now His Word has become my true delight. Once I struggled finding purpose and faced depression, but now I have tasted the fullness of joy in God’s presence. Once God was merely an idea to me, but now I know Him as a living Person. I have received all of this because His grace, because He chose to love me and call me to Himself. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (Psalm 86:12-13)
I also give thanks to God for calling me into the incredible privilege gospel ministry. How did he call me? He led me to this conclusion through five primary means: providence, Scripture, desire, the Church, and His gits.
1. Prepared by Providence.
The Sovereign One planned my life before I was born, and since then has providentially prepared me for the gospel ministry (cf. Jer. 1:5; Ps. 139:16). Through my Word-filled upbringing He laid a foundation of truth upon which I stand today. He further prepared me with cross-cultural and theological training in college and seminary, and ministry experience in my local church. He greatly blessed me with a faithful ministry partner, my dear wife Becky.
2. Commissioned from Scripture
The day I received Christ as my Savior I began to regularly submit to Him as Lord. Since then, my life-aim has been to do His will and accomplish His work. Through the plain command of His Word, He has commissioned his people to go make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:18-20), and I desire to obey this command. In several instances, while reading the Scriptures, the Spirit has stirred my heart to get up, go, and speak. “Now therefore arise, go.” (Josh. 1:2) “Go, and say.” (Is 6:9). I respond, “Here am I Lord, send me.”
3. Directed through Desire
Through the desire He has placed in my heart, God is providentially leading me to go make disciples in a foreign nation (cf. Ps.37:4; Ps. 145:19). Through the years He has kindled this desire through missionary biographies, presentations, trips, and especially a mission internship in Cambodia. Above all, His Spirit has fueled this desire through the Word and times of prayer.
4. Confirmed by His Church
On March 25th, 2012 the elders of Trinity Bible Church ordained me into the gospel ministry after judging my spiritual gifts and examining my Christian experience, call to ministry, and views of Bible Doctrine. We thank God for Pastor Greg Mazak and the entire Trinity Bible Church family who have faithfully encouraged us and supported us on our journey toward making disciples among the nations.
5. Equipped with His Gifts
With Paul, I confess that I am not sufficient in myself, but my sufficiency is from God (2 Cor. 2:16). When I consider the challenges and sufferings of missionary life, the oppression and struggle of spiritual warfare and the continual battle against my own depraved heart, I am fully convinced that doing work of the ministry is impossible in my own strength. Yet my God has made me competent to be a minister of the gospel (2 Cor. 3:5-6), equipping me with the gifts of His Spirit, His Word, prayer, and the Church. One of the foundation themes of my life, which I long to experience in deeper reality it this: Without Him I can do nothing, but with Him, all things are possible.
Like the apostle Paul, I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service (1 Tim. 1:12). I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). O Lord, my God, help me cross the finish line of my life as a good and faithful steward of your grace (1 Pt. 4:10; 1 Cor. 4:1-2).
My relationship with God began early in my life. I grew up in a pastor’s home where my parents surrounded me with the Word of God and taught me the truth about my sin and about my Savior, Jesus Christ.
I learned that I was born with a sinful heart. Sin displayed itself in many ways in my life – in stubbornness as a toddler, in unkindness toward my little brother (I purposefully hid his favorite hat under my bed for several guilty months), in stealing a coveted toy from the church nursery, and especially in prideful attitudes towards others. God graciously convicted me of sin and moved my conscience to confess it, but I have never forgotten the weight of guilt that burdened me as long as I chose to hide my sins.
The most significant teaching I received from my parents was the message of salvation through faith in Christ. I am so glad that they explained it simply enough for a child to understand – that sin is every person’s greatest problem and that Jesus Christ is our only hope of deliverance from the penalty of death that we all deserve. Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead is the greatest story of self-sacrificing love I have ever heard. I have been humbled often to realize that His suffering and triumph was for me. Why does He love me? I cannot understand it, but I am so thankful to Him for reaching out and rescuing me from the punishment of being separated from Him forever. I chose the path of death by my sin, but He chose to turn me around, draw me close to Himself, and give me the gift of eternal life that I could never earn.
At a church service, when I was 8 years old, I remember being impressed with the spiritual needs of people around the world. The theme of being a light in the darkness was emphasized and I felt strongly that God wanted me to be a missionary in a dark place. I shared my “call” to missions with a friend, but her disinterested reaction discouraged me and I decided to not tell anyone else what the Lord had impressed on my heart. The desire to share Christ with those who have never heard continued to grow however and motivated me to get involved in many different kinds of ministry.
Growing up in a pastor’s home, I had many opportunities to serve in the local church, in nursery, Sunday school, choir, orchestra, women’s groups and teen groups. It was exciting to serve with my parents! They included us as part of their ministry in each church. In high school and college, I was able to go on several short term mission trips to small churches in the US, and overseas to Singapore, Hungary, and China. Each experience expanded my understanding of God’s grace as I learned from older Christians and saw God at work changing lives through His Word. These ministry opportunities also increased my interest in overseas mission work.
Understanding what Christ has done for me has set the direction for my life. I want to live for Him because He died for me. As Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I know that Christ desires for others to know about His love for them, displayed in His death on the cross. I believe that I can best live for Him by spending my life telling others about Him. I am excited that, along with my husband and children, I can serve in a place where many have never heard the truth about Jesus. I am also looking forward to teaching our children as my parents taught me. I pray that Christ will draw them to Himself at an early age so that they may serve Him with their lives too.