Matt’s Story

Our story together begins in Jacksonville, FL in 2002 when I became the youth pastor of Arlington Baptist Church.  This is the church where Jess was saved and where she began her life in Christ.  We met in the church when I first arrived and just before Jess was leaving for a mission trip to Hungary.  The story should have ended there because I was on staff as a summer intern and Jess was gone for the whole summer.  However, God had other plans.  Arlington asked me to stay for the next year and I accepted.

One of the coolest things about our story is that in December of that year, both Jessica and I went on a mission trip to, guess where…Haiti!  It was the beginning of a story that would lead right back to where it began.  It was on this trip that we really got to know each other and it was not long after that that we began to date.  How awesome is God!

We had such a wonderful 2 years of dating/engagement and were married on March 12, 2005 with the expectation that we would move to New Orleans in August of the same year for me to go back to Seminary.  For those of you who don’t remember, that would have been the time and the place that one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in American history hit – Hurricane Katrina.  God kept us from that, and the same church where we met and where we were married asked us to return as youth pastor and, again, we accepted.

After 2.5 years at Arlington, God moved us to RiverTown Church, which is also the church that is sending us out as missionaries.  It was during our time here that God completely changed our lives for Him in a way that we never expected.

We had never really talked about being missionaries before in the previous 6 years of our marriage, and all of a sudden God started breaking our hearts for people we had never met.  We read 2 books that became very influential in our lives at the same time that God was already completely changing us for His glory.  These 2 books were Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and Radical by David Platt.  We were already in the midst of a personal revival, and these books stoked that fire to an even greater degree.  We began thinking of our lives in terms of God’s Kingdom instead of our own glory.  Ministry and teaching were no longer jobs that we did but ministries that could bring glory to the Savior of our souls.  Our lives were no longer our own.  We still do dumb things and have to fight against pride and idolatry and many other sins.  But God changed us, and we were ready for whatever He would call us to.

At the same time, God laid it on my heart to begin a missions ministry at RiverTown Church, and we got a team of 9 people together and we started.  And for the first 8 months, nothing happened outwardly.  We had never even been a part of a missions ministry before, so I told the team that until we knew what were doing, we would do nothing but pray.  And so we met 2 times every month and we prayed.  We threw out ideas and discussed them, but mostly we just prayed.  I am so thankful for a team that would commit to this because all of a sudden God worked.

God brought a man, through 2 members of our missions team, named Edsel Redden to one of our meetings to talk about a potential partnership with his ministry in Gressier, Haiti.  All of a sudden, the leading and will of God was clear…We needed to get down there and see how we could partner with Christianville (the name of this ministry).  So we took an exploratory trip in December of 2012 (exactly 10 years after the first trip Jess and I took together) and we met a man who, after the earthquake, began taking in kids that had no other place to go.  They lived in facilities that greatly needed repair and there were 16 beds in 2 small huts for the kids, but they had a place to live and they had food.  And we fell in love with the, at the time, 27 kids who lived in that orphanage.  It was official, this is where God was calling our church.

We went back in March, and Jess had the wonderful idea to begin a sponsorship program for the kids there.  Our small church of about 100 people took it upon themselves to sponsor, for $40/month, each of the kids in that orphanage.  It was an awesome sight to see our church involved in ministry for the first time.

For Jess and I, it was exactly where God was leading us.  Every time we came back home from Haiti, we wanted to be there even more, and we went 6 times that year (2012).  Finally, right before a trip in October, Jess told me that we needed to really pray about moving there.  She had talked about it a few times before, but I never thought she was serious and I never really gave it that much thought.  In fact, up to this point, I was pretty much completely against even praying about making the move.  It did not make sense to me how it would even work.  This time though, it was different, and I didn’t know how to handle it.  After all, in the midst of this time, we began the process of adopting children from Ethiopia and I thought for sure that was a deal breaker in terms of moving to run an orphanage.  I mean what were we going to do…Adopt kids from an orphanage in Ethiopia just to take them to an orphanage in Haiti?  Well, the answer to that question is “yes,” that is exactly what we are doing.

After much prayer and discussion, it was official.  God was clearly, and I mean as crystal clear as anything I have ever known, calling us to this orphanage.  And to this point, that is our story.  There is so much to do.  We have to buy new land, build new buildings, purchase cars, legalize the orphanage, raise a ton of money, and I’m sure do many other things that we have not even thought about.  But we are sure that God is leading us here and we are ever surer that God will make this happen.  As difficult as it seems to do all of the things we need to do, it is not difficult for God.  If He could create the universe and everything in it, can’t He surely raise a little money to start and run an orphanage?  If He loves us enough to die on the Cross for us, won’t He also do whatever He needs to accomplish His will?

Thank you for your support in this, and we pray that this story encourages you in your own walk with Christ.  There is nothing better than knowing Christ, and we are so thankful for all that He has done.  Please keep us in your prayers as we attempt this thing that God has clearly called us to do.