The Starfish Story: An Update

In Dr. Scott Todd’s Hope Rising, the author shares not only the starfish story you may have heard growing up, but two new versions of the tale. Some friends from Fenton, MI, who lead a non-profit called, Till Kingdom Come, recorded me as I told the story and created this video from our recent trip to Haiti. It describes a glimpse of the goals we have on the field:

To financially support the work we do, please visit this site through our sending organization:

The Starfish from Till Kingdom Come on Vimeo.

How the Lab & Mirror Help Me Grow

Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Through serving cross-culturally, I’m often surprised by what I see, and how I grow as opportunities to serve in community impact me.

Spending intense time with others in close community while seeking and serving God often causes some important things to take place. Growth comes through the lab & mirror.


The Lab:


Thomas Edison’s laboratory in Ft. Myers, FL

I remember high school chemistry with Dr. Flores. He would often walk around with a squirt bottle of water so he could soak anyone who was sleeping. In his class, which was also a laboratory, he’d often have us wear safety glasses, white jackets, gloves, etc. The Bunsen burners and chemicals brought risk, but the safety tools allowed for experimentation.

In the lab:

-New Discoveries
-Real life experiments
-Sometimes things worked, sometimes they didn’t
-New discoveries

Short-term missions, when done well, can be the safe place where we allow God to create new things in us as He works through new discoveries and our wonder.


The Mirror:

My wife has many talents, and one of these talents is that she’s a professional makeup artist. She’s even done the makeup for Johnny Cash! At her spa, she has a makeup table with a mirror surrounded by lights. The mirror magnifies and shows every pore and blemish. I learn things every time I look at it.


The mirror:

-Shows a view with clarity we don’t often see
-Can magnify blemishes (or our best features)
-Creates awareness in the midst of insecurities


Short-term missions can be a mirror that magnifies insecurities, highlights emotional and relational limits, and helps us see our strengths and weaknesses with more clarity.



Short-term missions provides opportunities for both greater clarity and opportunities for growth. As I serve with teams, my prayer is that we’ll all look in the mirror, and learn new things about ourselves, God, the world, and interaction with others. As we learn things about ourselves, we’ll at times be thrilled, but at other times frustrated or even hurt. I pray that in the midst of this learning process, the team and time with Jesus will provide a wonderful laboratory where we can grow as a person in a very safe place. Hopefully along the way, we won’t get squirted with Dr. Flores’s water bottle…


How have you grown through the lab and mirror?

A letter to my sweet friend Pat

[Update: I got word that Pat indeed met Jesus earlier today, December 23, 2012. I’m thankful that my friend Jon read this to her in her last hour. While I don’t know how much she understood, I was able to share these things many times before and after she got sick. She was so awesome that you couldn’t help telling her to her face how much you loved and respected her. Pat is dancing with Jesus, and we’ll miss her. I’m reminded of Job 19:25-27, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”]

Dearest Pat,

First of all, I remember taking this picture in Antigua, Guatemala, at that cool coffee shop with the OneHope Intern team back in ‘04. The look you gave as we celebrated your birthday communicated, “Matt, you’d better not take my picture!”  I’m guessing you feel the same way about me posting it on this blog. Sorry (not sorry)!

You and I have traveled many places together, leading teams back in the OneHope days.  Now I join people around the world in praying for you as you struggle with one of life’s cruelest diseases, ALS. Your mind is aware of what you’re hearing, but your body is not cooperating. To say it makes me and a host of other friends around the world sad is an understatement.

You’re hearing this as Jon reads it to you. I wanted to share it here so other friends could read it too. You’ve impacted SO MANY people throughout the years and I thought this letter would tell a few more people about you…and that you could impact them too.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from you, and respected along the way…

–You are an encourager! Remember the time around the pool in Guatemala at the end of our first term together back in’ 02? I think people took about 2 hours sharing how you’d encouraged and impacted them. With Pat, there’s never a negative word, but enormous encouragement from you to many.

–You tell the truth…with love. People know they can go to you when they’ve blown it. They know you’ll not let them get away with anything, but that you’ll share what’s needed with lots of love. I blew it with poor communication on the bus schedule in Belfast, and you and the team had to wait. I deserved to hear it…and you spoke it, with tons o’ love and grace. That’s a good friend. You’re the most “go-to person” I know.

–You’re an optimist. No matter what situation you face, you face it with optimism.  Missed flights? Maybe God wanted you to meet some new people. School closed down? God must want you to share Books of Hope in another. ALS? Don’t know how you’re optimistic even with ALS, but you are and it brings glory to God and encourages us. Optimism is contagious.

–You love and trust Jesus. When things are good, you love and trust, and when things aren’t, you continue to love and trust. You know He was with you during the fun moments like this group picture where we’re surrounding you, and you know He’s with you right now, when life is most difficult.

–Pat, you’re a woman of legacy. So many have found healing through your words. Your influence has affirmed the callings of people serving in places you and I will never see. You never had biological children, but your mom-like love and insights have helped more than many people grow beyond where they ever would have without you.

I could go on and on and on and on and on…for all of these things and so much more, thank you.

Pat, I’ll continue to pray for a miracle and believe with you that one is possible. However, if you happen to meet Jesus face to face before me, please look Him in the eye and boldly say, “HELLO! My name is PAT! And I’m from DETROIT!!!” How beautiful it will be for all of us to throw our crowns (see the photo 🙂 at His feet someday.

When the time for you to meet Him does come, I trust it’ll start a season where you’ll be very busy standing at the gate helping to welcome some of the tens of thousands from around the world with whom you’ve shared His love. How many countries? How many people? How many words of encouragement? So many…

I love you deeply Pat, and am bummed I haven’t made it to S. Florida to say hello, hug your neck and kiss your cheek. Please feel the love from my family and me, and know that Pat will always be a big part of who I am.

Until next time my sweet friend,