Matthew works closely with VOM to oversee projects and a Bible college in the Philippines. In this interview you’ll discover his response to persecution and just how we can support the ministry in prayer.
How did your involvement with Voice of the Martyrs start?
In 2006 I was asked to be a VOM contact. I asked, “Why me?” I didn’t have training; I didn’t have much experience. But they said to me, “You are acquainted with persecution.” Muslims had burned our house, and then they burned our church three times. Once I also had to evacuate at 1 o’clock in the morning because Muslims were coming against us. So I said, “If the Lord told you, who am I to refuse? I want to obey the Lord.”
Are you ever afraid or worried because you are an active Christian living in a restricted country?
I grew up in a Muslim community; I played with Muslims, I learned how to speak with Muslims. I learned how to live with Muslims. So I think I’m less worried about that. But then when we are hearing bombing and then shooting, it bothers me.
But we just trust the Lord about it. One time when my youngest daughter was about seven or eight years old, we heard shooting, shooting and bombing early in the morning. Sometimes it shook the roofing of our house. My small daughter said, “Papa, what’s happening, is that shooting?” I said, “Oh, yes, maybe they’re just testing their guns.” But then it continued for more than an hour, and I think maybe they’re fighting. But I don’t worry; the Lord is with us. That’s the assurance. He gives assurance and protection even when that is happening close to us.
We have experienced the protection of the Lord. My wife and daughter were in the market buying some vegetables, and right afterwards, only one or two minutes away from where they had been, a bomb exploded. If they had stayed longer, probably they were part of that. But the Lord’s protection was on us. So we acknowledge the goodness of the Lord.
How have you grown as a Christian as a result of your ministry?
I learn to live by faith. In the Bible college, we live totally by faith. We can start without any support, just live by faith. I always teach people we live by faith and we live by feet. I have experienced travelling without money and the Lord just provided the money on the way. Stepping by faith, we trust the Lord. It is good that we can be part of this, ministering to these people who are under persecution. So praise the Lord for that.
What encouragement do you give to a Christian who is being persecuted?
How I encourage them is that we focus on God. Our life is limited on this earth. What is important is that we have to be committed. Death is not the end of our hope; after death, we still have hope. We do not know how much longer our life will be on this earth. So that’s why I encourage them, if our hope in Jesus is only on this earth, we are the most miserable people, but God has something for us. So I always encourage them that persecution and hard things in this world are only temporary. The glory is ahead.
I also encourage people that they are not the only one who is suffering. We lost three of our children because they were born prematurely but we could not afford hospital care. In the Philippines, if you do not have cash, they will not admit the patient. Sometimes you do not understand at first. We prayed for their healing, but they were not healed. One of the hardest things is when God is silent. And in that situation, I just go to the verse, “All things work together for good.” God has a plan. Later on, we understood that the plan is to become a part of this kind of ministry. And when others are suffering, we know how to give some advice because we have been in that situation, and I can use verses like Joshua 1:8 and Romans 8:28 to encourage people.
How can we pray for persecuted Christians?
Pray for the protection of the Lord. We travel a lot, sometimes even at night, and we need His protection. Also for people who are suffering and are in need. When we distributed Bibles Plus packs to some of them, they did not have food for that day, then we gave them the rice and they were so encouraged. Later on, that church was filled with people coming every Sunday because of that.
We need to pray for how we can be effective in the ministry.
Another thing is to pray that the Bangsamoro law will not be passed. If it is passed, there will be a big problem, because many of the members of our churches, their property will be taken by the Muslims. Every time at harvest, they will take the crop. So pray that they’ll be protected and that they’ll be provided for. Their land is being taken by the Muslims, their crops are being taken, and they are being pressured. Almost every week there are some killings of the Christians. So those are needs that we have to pray for.
How does knowing that Christians in other countries care, support and pray for them make a difference for persecuted Christians?
There is a great impact, especially in the continuance of the Gospel through the Bible college. We are being empowered and prepared because of help from VOM. We are so thankful for the partnership. They know that someone is behind them, praying and giving. We see that it is God’s blessing and looking after us through this.
Another of the great encouragements is to have the Bibles through Bibles Plus. It shows that there is somebody who cares – the body of Christ – so that is a great encouragement.