When Jesus Says- Come Follow Me

It was twenty-six years ago this weekend that my adventure began. We had a weekend training to prepare for a ministry trip to Romania in 1997. The two men doing the training for us had served as missionaries in what is now Congo. The weekend training was fun for me as we prepared for teaching English and also as they spoke to us in a tribal language, Lingala, to start the training. I still remember how to greet people in Lingala from that weekend and have fun surprising students from Congo with it.

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That weekend was made even more adventurous as it snowed Friday evening to early Sunday morning. It was a March snow of 13 inches by the time it was done.

That weekend I had no idea about how much it was about to change my life. It was through my seven trips to Romania that Good called me to teach English Second Language and have a ministry for immigrants and refugees. As I look back, I can see how God fit all of the pieces together along the way. That weekend was the first action step of the journey. The first step was signing up to go.

Because of that weekend, it has been my blessing since then to meet people from all over the world teaching them and sharing Jesus with them. That weekend was a “Come Follow Me” moment with Jesus.

“Come Follow Me” moments lead to wonderful experiences. Yes, there are difficult moments. Yes, there are trials along the way, but as I look back over the past twenty-six years, I do not regret responding to “Come Follow Me.” Instead I am filled with gratitude that Jesus would choose to ask me of all people to follow him.

Have you experienced a “Come Follow Me” moment?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

One Step of Obeying God’s Prompting Led to….

Peevee is a blogger I interact with. She is from the Philippines. Her blog is peeveeblog.wordpress.com. In a recent post she shared about what q country Africa has meant to her and asked if readers had a similar experience with a country. I replied that Romania had significance for me, so she encouraged me to write about it.

I read a book Tortured For Christ by Rev. Wurmbrand. He was a pastor in Romania when it was under a communist dictatorship and was imprisoned by the communists. When I read his book, I knew I had to go to Romania. It was an impression before God that Romania would be important for me.

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My first of seven trips to Romania was twenty-five years ago this month. It was there that I realized how easily I connect with other cultures. It was there that I taught English for the first time.

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It was through my trips to Romania that God called me to the work and ministry he has me doing now. As I look back over the past twenty-five years, it amazes me how one obedient step of following through on that prompting after reading that book has transformed my life. It also amazes me the numerous opportunities to share Christ with the nations that resulted from that first trip and subsequent trips to Romania.

I loved the people and the culture of Romania. I still hope to go back for one last visit someday just to catch up with people I have not seen since 2005. But that first step of following through to that prompting led to opportunities I could not have imagined at the time.

Have you experienced a first step that led to many blessings?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Prayed for Our Unity- John Chapter 17

One of the most poignant experiences I have had was in Constanta Romania in 1997. It was not too long after the fall of the communist dictatorship. I went to the boardwalk area with Romanian friends from the church that organized the English Camp I taught in.

When we got there, we joined a large group gathered to sing worship songs. There were young people, college and high school ages, from various churches, Evangelical, Lutheran, Baptist and even Catholic and Orthodox. They were singing worships freely. The thought that hit me was that not many years before that, there was no way they could have done so.

They were gathered to worship a person-Jesus.

Yes there are doctrinal differences between the various groups, but their focus was on Jesus and worshipping him.

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When Jesus was praying in John 17, at the end he prayed for all who would come to faith in him. He prayed for unity for those who would come to faith.

 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

That early evening in Romania was a picture of what Jesus was talking about. People who profess faith in Jesus coming together.

I am not saying we disregard doctrinal differences. I have no plans to join the Catholic Church for example. But would I worship together in an open air setting like that time in Romania? Yes.

What I am talking about in my post is our attitudes especially public ones. For example, when Lauren Daigle won an Emmy she came under attack by some Christians because she did not express her thanks the way they felt she should. Others criticized her for appearing on Ellen. In both instances I thought people were being petty and in both instances those who do not know Jesus noticed.

Those who do not know Jesus watch us and our attitudes about each other. Jesus prayed for our unity. Our unity does not mean we all have to think exactly the same. It is about our attitudes toward each other even though we have differences.

If Jesus prayed about it, perhaps we ought to pay attention.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays-I’ll Be Okay by Lydia Laird

When I read the about section for Lydia Laird’s site-lydialaird,com, three things got my attention. First she is a Christian. The other two things I related to, 1-she lived in Romania part of a missionary family, and 2- she has struggled with depression and anxiety which for me were side effects of chronic illness.

Whatever we go through in this life, we can know God is with us. We can look to God for help, comfort, and strength. Laird’s song I’ll Be Okay is a reflection of that borne out of her experience looking to God for help, comfort and strength.

May this song bless you as much or more than has me.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

June Is Here-Now What?

Here we are in the month of June. June has been a month of new adventures for me. It has also been a month of God doing something new in my life. So each June I tend to have a sense of expectancy about what will happen.

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A few examples:

June 1997 I had my first trip to Romania.

June 2010 I had my one and only trip to Mexico which led me to study Spanish.

June 2013 I had my first trip to Brazil which led me to study Portuguese.

One change will happen today. I will go do my employment paperwork for the school system here. My morning class had been a collaboration between the community college here and the public school system. It will only be with the public school system and I have been hired. But I knew that was coming.

Either today or Monday I will find out about starting a new medication. But that does not seem so exciting to me.

So I thought I would share an idea and get feedback. I have written short stories in my other blog- encounterswiththeancients.com. My idea is to make short films from them and post them on YouTube. Let me know what you think.

So June is here. I have had 5 of my 11 international ministry trips in June. I wish I had one this year too but COVID is still an issue in many places. So it will be staying at home.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Become A Pastor- Part 5- Romania

In this series on A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Become A Pastor, I shared about A Decision and A Book in Part 1, Part 2 was A Discovery and The Downfall Begins, Part 3 was The Valley of Death, and Part 4 was Recovering and Remembering That Book.

Part 5 today is about Romania and how God worked through my trips there to begin to show me what he was calling me to do.

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As I shared in Part 4, in April 1996, the doctor told me, “Matt you are now a healthy man, It is a miracle you did not die.” Upon hearing that there was a sense of relief, but when I got to my car I had question- What now? My life was in shambles after three years of health struggles. God would begin to show me What Now through my trips to Romania.

After hearing my church wanted people to go to Romania, I signed up to go. My first trip was in June 1997. That trip demonstrated two themes that would reoccur. The first was being doubted by others and the other was being with other cultures was like a fish taking to water for me.

When the missionaries first saw my name on the list, their first thought was, “Isn’t he the guy who talks slow?” Their only frame of reference for me was meeting me when I was still sick.

But while I was in Constanta Romania, I found that relating with my new Romanian friends was so natural for me. There were so many incredible moments we shared. That first trip gave me the desire to return in June 1998 and teach a class in the Conversational English Language Camp.

I loved interacting with the students in my class and spending time with them in the afternoons or after the evening classes. Being in a classroom teaching English was something I loved. I learned some Romanian phrases during those first trips too.

In October 1999 during my third trip, I had a conversation with a missionary outside the People’s Palace, built under the dictator’s rule, about teaching English as a way to connect with people. He told me it was one of the best ways to connect with other cultures.

I returned from that trip knowing God wanted me to gain experience teaching English Second Language. At the time I thought it was for the purpose of returning to Romania full-time as a missionary.

God would bless me with four more trips to Romania, but the calling would become clearer in time. More about that in Part 6.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Funny Thing Happened on my Way to Becoming A Pastor- Part 4- Recovering and Remembering That Book

This is Part 4 in a short series of posts about what happened on my way to becoming a pastor. Part 1 was about the decision and a key book in my life. Part 2 was about a discovering and decline in my health. Part 3 was about my health crisis.

Part 4 today is about my recovering and remembering that book I shared about in Part 1.

In Part 3 I shared about the night I prayed and experiencing the presence of Jesus. The pain stopped. The next day I had a doctor’s appointment. He was still puzzled by what could have been wrong with me. He told me he wanted me to go to the hospital to be admitted. When he was at the door to leave the exam room, I blurted out, “I am tired of feeling cold.” He looked at me and asked, “You feel cold?” I told him I felt cold all of the time. The light went on in his head. He told me to wait for the nurse. Side note this was in July one of the hottest months in the year where I live.

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The nurse came in and took ANOTHER blood sample. She told me the doctor thought he knew what my problem was and that I could go to work. If it was what he thought, he would call in a prescription. If not, I would need to go to the hospital.

I got to the pizza restaurant where I worked and saw a note to call the doctor. The nurse told me the test showed the problem and the doctor had called in a prescription for me already and that I should start it right away. The problem was my thyroid stopped working. I got the prescription and that day began my long recovery.

Over the following months, I had to see the doctor for testing at first once a week for one month, then once a month for three months, then once every three months.

In April 1996, the doctor told me, “Matt you are now a healthy man, It is a miracle you did not die. I did not want to show you this last summer because I feared you would go into heart failure.” Then he showed me my chart. I was headed into heart, liver and kidney failure.

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Those months of recovery were a constant uphill battle. It seemed like for every mountain peak of improvement, there were two valleys or more. I only knew one thing according to the bible in Philippians 4:

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

I got more involved with my church helping with the prayer ministry. I arranged to transfer to a school in Omaha to finish my education having to drive one hour there and back two nights a week. Progress had begun in my life.

Then one morning in December 1996 during worship service, my church which had sent teams to Romania in the years after the fall of communism, announced they were looking for people to go to Romania.

Boom. The memory of that book Tortured for Christ by Rev, Wurmbrand that I shared about in Part 1, hit me like a ton of bricks. The same urgency in my spirit before God hit me. I MUST GO TO ROMANIA. It was as if God was telling me the answers would be found there.

So I signed up to go…..

Thank you for reading. God Bless. More in Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Becoming A Pastor Part 1- A Decision and A Book

I have been in the process of trying to become a substitute teacher in my city. There is a shortage of substitutes due to COVID. To teach Adult ESL a person only needs the college degree, but to teach K-12 a person needs teacher certification. I have taught ESL for adults for over 20 years.

During a phone conversation with someone at the State Department of Education, I said, “I should have gotten certified to teach.” She replied, “Why didn’t you?”

My reply was, “Well I was studying to become a pastor. A funny thing happened on my way to becoming a pastor.”

I shared that with the librarian at the school where I teach Family Literacy She encouraged me to write about it in my blog, so here goes. This will be at least two parts.

A Funny Thing Happened on my Way to Becoming a Pastor Part 1- The Decision and a Book

In the late 1980s, God began to do a work in my life to draw me to him. I was an Office Furniture Rep for a top 50 dealership in the U.S. actually located in my home city. He began bringing people into the store that were Christians, in ministry etc. Through that series of “chance” encounters, Jesus brought me back to himself and I rededicated my life to Jesus in July 1989.

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God became so real in my life and my pray times were so deep. I would lose track of time in the prayer room at my church. In that prayer room, God changed me on the inside to where my desires in life matched his. In 1990, I visited a bible college in Minneapolis with my pastor. The decision was made that I should indeed go to that school to study to become a pastor.

In 1990, I also read a book- Tortured for Christ by Rev, Wurmbrand. He was a pastor in Romania during the brutal communist dictatorship of Ceausescu. Rev, Wurmbrand was imprisoned for his faith but was allowed to leave the country. He eventually came to the U.S. and started the ministry Voice of the Martyrs.

When I read that book, an overwhelming thought struck deep within me, “I must go to Romania.” I just simply knew God wanted me to go to Romania for some reason.

In 1991, I left my home city, my career as a sales rep, and moved to Minneapolis to study to become a pastor. But a funny thing happened on my way to becoming a pastor. More on that in Part 2.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

God’s Timing for Jesus’ Return

“He isn’t here. He is an American and we were very late.”

Those were the words of a young woman in Constanta Romania during my last trip there at Christmas time in 2005. I was there to help a partner church with their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. One evening there was a Christmas party for college students. I was waiting outside the apartment building for her and her brother for a ride to the church.

They had told me they would be there at 5pm. I waited until 5:15pm and then I thought something happened, so I took the bus. They arrived at 5:30pm. The brother suggested I was in the apartment. The sister said, “He isn’t here. He is an American and we were very late. He took the bus.”

They walked into the church and saw me. The sister laughed and told her brother, “I told you.” She shared with me what happened and we had a good laugh.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the different views about timeliness among different cultures.

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God has a specific time set for when Jesus will return to earth. But it is not for us to know. When Jesus was asked about when he would set up the kingdom, his answer in Acts 1 was:

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It is not for us to know the time Jesus will return. But we have work to do. Jesus wants us to share him with others. But God is not slow about the promise of Christ’s return. Peter wrote in 2nd Peter 3:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God is being patient, for now, because of his desire for people to come to know Jesus as their Savior. But the day is coming for Christ’s return. Until then Jesus has work for us to do.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

The Favorite Christmas Memory Tag

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A few years ago, a drama monologue I had written was part of our Christmas Eve service at church. I directed it as well and a friend of mine acted the part of Gabriel. It was a drama about Gabriel coming to the manger to see the baby Jesus as he shared his perspective of an angel who had seen Jesus on his throne in heaven.

In the choir practice room, we had snacks and time to socialize between services. We shared our favorite Christmas memories. Mine was of Romania.

My favorite Christmas memory is Christmas 2005 when I went to Constanta Romania to help a partner church with their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services as well as other Christmas related activities.

It was wonderful to share the love of Jesus in Romania. A group of college students invited me to their special worship celebration and party afterwards. I also joined the children’s ministry for their special Christmas program. I also had the opportunity to visit people in their homes during the three and a half weeks I was there.

Serving Jesus on a ministry trip was the best Christmas gift I could have ever received.

Now for the tag. Here is how it works.

Please share a link to the original post- The Favorite Christmas Memory Tag.

Share your favorite Christmas memory and tag some fellow bloggers to join in.

If they choose to participate, I am tagging:










Thank you for reading. God Bless.