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 some energetic children: Jonathan, Jedidiah, and Hope. We also have a son Joseph who went home to Jesus as a stillborn in January 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, God gave me my heart’s desire. Our family moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in April 2014 and have been focusing our energies on learning the Khmer language and culture.
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. This troubled me, because the Word and prayer were mere religious duties that rarely stirred my affections. I began to sense my spiritual blindness and starting searching for the Light.
During my high-school senior trip to New York City, a teacher shared an evening devotional from Romans 1-3. When he read Romans 2:1, God spoke 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.” I sat staring at these words until the page blurred away through tears of conviction. The light of the Word exposed the self-righteousness and pride of my heart.
My sin was so awful, yet I knew where to turn.
I had heard about Jesus all my life, but for the first time I felt deeply that I really needed Him. I cried to the Lord in my grief, confessing my pride and pleading for forgiveness. He heard my cry, forgave my sin, and made me a new person!
I still don’t know everything that happened that day in March of 2005, but I do know that though once I was blind, now I see! Once I read the Bible out of mere duty, but now His Word is my delight! Once I was depressed and empty, 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! And all of this I have received because His grace, because He chose to love me and call me to Himself. What grace! It overwhelms me!
I am fully persuaded that God has called me into gospel ministry. 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 surrendered 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 me to go make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:18-20). 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 passages from His Word and times of prayer.
4. Confirmed by His Church
On March 25th, 2012 the elders of Trinity Bible Church ordained Matt into the gospel ministry after judging his spiritual gifts and examining his 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. 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). I lean on God to help me cross the finish line of my life as a good and faithful steward of His 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.