An Injured Foot + No Crutches = Teaching English for the first time

My first trip to Romania in June 1997  is etched in my memory for several reasons.

Me in Constanta in 1997

It was my first trip to another country that I interacted with people and the culture. I had gone to Canada as a teen but that was a canoe/fishing trip that started in Minnesota, so didn’t meet any Canadians.

I met many wonderful people and who I look forward to seeing again in heaven if not in this life.

It was the first time I stayed with a host family in another culture.

Pamphlets I had written about Jesus were translated into Romanian and well received.

My translator Mihai and I had A LOT of fun 🙂

One thing I will never forget about that trip because it led to what I do today. My role on the trip was not teaching English. I went around and talked with people about Jesus. I did hang out at the school where the classes were for a while, but did not have a class.

woman with a crutch
Photo by Kaboompics .com on

One evening I was shooting baskets with some kids on the playground basketball court. It was a freak kind of accident. All I did was push off my left foot and I felt a pop and could also hear it. I could not walk on it. So there I was in another country newly out from under communism and I had hurt my foot.

Compounding the problem was that even though my translator and other Romanian friends checked all over Constanta a city of over 300,000 people, there were no crutches to be found to purchase. So the missionaries made a makeshift one with a broom stick so I could hobble along. My original purpose was out.

But God causes all things to work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes according to Romans 8. 

Because of my hurt foot, I hung around the school where the classes were. I went into the classes and used my acting skills to improvise acting out words for the students. I enjoyed being in the classes so much that I returned to Constanta in June 1998 to teach my own conversational English language class. That is what started me on my path to becoming an English Second Language teacher.

If we look at a situation like I was in on that trip, we might think that An Injured Foot + No Crutches = A Disaster.


With God that equation comes to An Injured Foot + No Crutches = Teaching English for the first time and a whole new path opened up for me in life.


Romania- Where It All Began For Me

In 1990 I read a book written by Rev. Wurmbrand, Tortured For Christ. In the book he shares his imprisonment and torture at the hands of the communist regime led by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. When I read the book, there was something I just knew between me and God. I thought, “I must go to Romania.” I knew there was something for me to discover in Romania and also I greatly desired to show Christ’s love to the people there.


After that I went to Bible College, became sick, returned to Lincoln to die, I didn’t die, I got better, all in the span of six years. In April 1996 the doctor told me, “Matt, you are now a healthy man. It is a miracle you didn’t die.”

In December 1996, it was announced at my home church that they wanted people to go to Romania again. There had been four previous trips. When I heard that, it was jolt of lightning in my spirit time, I knew I needed to go. I signed up to go and was accepted.

I ended up having 7 trips to Romania. My first one was in June 1997. I took to it like a fish takes to water. It felt so natural for me to be in another country and experience another culture. I knew during that first trip that God was calling me to work with another culture but nothing had come into focus yet.

me with a Gypsy girl in the street in Constanta Romania in June 1997

What struck me the most was the people I met there. They had lived under the oppression of communism for almost 50 years. The country was so far behind the western world. Running water would be shut off with no warning. I saw horse drawn carts that used car tires. They still had so little, but the people I met in the classes and at the church had such big hearts.

That first trip I experienced something I will never forget. One Sunday afternoon we walked to the boardwalk area above the beach and at a corner there was a large group of people singing while a few people played guitar. The group was an informal gathering of young people who were Baptists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Nazarenes, and Orthodox Christians. They were singing worship songs in Romanian together enjoying their new freedom to be able to worship God out in the open. I prayed with some of them, but I was the one who walked away the most blessed. It struck me that they could not have done that a few shorts years before. I wish those of us who follow Christ in America could have the same spirit those young people had there that day and lay down our differences to do a few things together. I realize there are differences that would prevent us from having church together, but to have some activities together like those young people could be so meaningful.

me with a Romania young man and a Turkish young man at the church in 2004

It was through my trips to Romania that God called me to the work I do now. I taught English for the first time during those trips. When I was there, I spent more time with my Romanian friends than I did with the Americans on the team. Simply put, I loved my Romanian friends.

Romania will always have a special place in my heart. I hope to return there someday just to visit and see some people. Of course I would like to walk the beach again, eat some sarmale again, but most of all just to see some people. I haven’t been there since 2005 due to God leading me in other directions, but I will never forget Romania and my friends there.

June truly is a month that God has led me to some adventures. It all started with Romania. I love Romania and my Romanian friend so much. If you are one of my friends from there and reading this, please know that I miss you.

A New Year is Approaching, so I Wonder What God Has In Store for Me :)

In my spiritual journey with Jesus, God has brought so many changes into my life and so many adventures and exciting new things. Sometimes He will start it by bringing a book into my life to read even some years before the change happens.One example is a book I read in 1990 called Tortured for Christ. It is a book about Rev. Wurmbrand who was a pastor in Romania while Romania was a strict communist country. Rev. Wurmbrand was imprisoned and tortured for his faith. He got out of Romania and finally ended up in America. When I read that book, I knew I had to go to Romania. I did not know why, but I knew I had to go. I ended up going 7 times through my church. It was through my trips to Romania that God led me to become an English teacher and work with Refugees and Immigrants at my church.

Another example-One time several years ago I read some books by Billy Graham. When I read those books, I thought I need to meet him. I admired how he conducted his ministry and life with integrity and NO scandals. While I was a student in Minneapolis, I got a job at Billy Graham headquarters which was in Minneapolis at the time. Of course he was hardly ever there due to travels, but one day there was a Christmas chapel for the employees. I had the opportunity to meet the man I admired so much. God worked through the experiences of reading his books and working as a janitor at Billy Graham Headquarters to lead me into living a life of caring for and reaching out to people who are less fortunate. That was before God led me to work with refugees and immigrants.

In the summer of 2008 I saw a book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble Bookstore titled Left to Tell. It is a book about a woman, Immaculée Ilibagiza,  who survived the Rwandan holocaust in 1994 by hiding in a small bathroom with 6 other women for three months. The book caught my eye because of my work with refugees. I had just come to the realization that I would not be going to Romania, but that I would stay here and continue my work here. However, I did not feel joy in the realization. It took me over a week to read Left to Tell. It is not a long book, but the message is very powerful about a young woman who grew closer to God hiding in a bathroom while a genocide was happening, so I would read and then ponder what I had read. After I read the book, I thought I hope to meet her someday. I also began to feel more joy in my realization that I would stay here and continue my work here. In November this year I went to a retreat listen to her speak. Her books Left to Tell and Led by Faith have had a profound impact on me spiritually and personally.The retreat also had a profound impact on me.

So now I am waiting to see what God has planned for me in 2012. I wonder if I will go to Rwanda 🙂 Perhaps God will bring more people from French speaking Africa into my life. Whatever it is, it will be another exciting adventure. Following Christ is an adventure and a lifelong journey.

Our Disappointments can lead to God’s appointments

In the bible it says that God causes all thing to work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. That is easy to see when things go well for us, but when disappointments come into our lives it is difficult to understand how it can be for the good. This morning in my class I asked my friends what the all things meant and one man answered the good, the bad and the ugly. All thing includes our failures, mistakes, and misfortunes not just our successes.

I will never forget the day in June 1997 when I was in Romania. My original purpose for being on the team was not to teach English. I was playing basketball with some kids when I hurt my foot and could not walk. I ended up spending four days helping in the classes. I could not walk, so I hopped from class to class to help out. It was not a good thing to have an injured foot, but the bible verse doe snot say all things are good it says God causes all things to work together for the good. The bad, hurting my foot, led to me having my first experience teaching ESL. That injury led me to what I am doing now.

Our disappointments can lead to God’s appointments if we give them to Him and let Him guide us. We need to be willing to be led and not worry about the results because God will take care of the results.

A New start in Life- with Jesus there is always a 2nd, 3rd……. chance

My first trip to Romania I had a pamphlet I had written translated into Romanian. The title was I want a new start in life can anyone give me a second chance. One day as I was walking in a park in Constanta with my translator Mihai I came across a man sitting on a bench. I handed him one of the pamphlets. I went to sit on a bench nearby to relax and noticed the man smiling at me. I went over to him and we talked through Mihai. He told me he had just been praying for a new start in life before I gave him the pamphlet. We prayed for him to get a job on a ship.

The bible says that His mercies are new every morning. Basically it  means that we can come to Him for a fresh start anytime. Morning is a great time to ask Him to help us have a new start. With Jesus it is never too late for a fresh start. The bible also says if anyone be in Christ they are a new creation. The old has passed away behold new has come. Whether we just need a fresh start on our day, week or month because we have gotten into a slump spiritually, or we need a new life in Jesus by being born again spiritually by trusting in Jesus for the first time, Jesus stands ready to give us our fresh start or new life.