When Matt Winkler (Missions ’99) was 17, God used a missions conference to burden his heart for the mission field. Soon after, a Pensacola Christian College representative visited Matt’s church and inspired him to attend the College and prepare for his calling. This would be the beginning of a life dedicated to ministry, no matter where God called.
Taking the First Step of Obedience
At PCC, Matt’s foundational classes focused on learning about the mission field through service opportunities, intensive biblical instruction, and practical studies. “Ministerial Seminar was a big help to general ministry matters, and my cultural anthropology class was helpful in prepping me for cross-cultural understanding,” he explained.
These classes allowed him to delve into a deeper study of the Bible and learn from experienced faculty members. “The focused study of Scripture excited me as a young man,” Matt said. “I did not come from a pastor’s home. My father was a plumber. This made the concept of being at Bible college and having the opportunity to study [the book of] Acts or the pastoral epistles rather exciting to me.”
One of PCC’s best opportunities was being able to easily form lasting relationships. “Friendships I made in classes, Ministerial Seminar, Mission Prayer Band, and around campus are my greatest asset in these most recent years of ministry,” Matt shared. “My greatest memories of encouragement and inspiration happened during times of prayer with [some of my friends]. We would meet at the top of the stairwell in Ballard at the roof access door or in those small maintenance rooms in those same stairwells. These were times when God spoke to us through brokenness and a desire to see Him work.”
“I did not come from a pastor’s home. My father was a plumber. This made the concept of being at Bible college and having the opportunity to study [the book of] Acts or the pastoral epistles rather exciting to me.”
After graduation, Matt married his wife Sheri (Youth Ministries ’99) and started a family. As they began their new life together, God used another missions conference to move Matt and his wife into the next step of their ministry: entering the mission field. After taking a survey trip to Uganda in 2001, they decided to serve full time, officially moving there in 2004. During the first four and a half years in Uganda, they focused on learning the language, culture, and ministry while working alongside another missionary in the area.
Serving as Missionaries in a Foreign Field
In 2009, the Winklers moved to Iganga, the eastern region of Uganda, where they spent the next 11 years. There, they planted Lighthouse Baptist Church and started Lighthouse Bible Institute. “The institute got off the ground with a small group of pastors who had not even read the Bible through,” he said. “They actually told me that if anyone in the churches that they were associated with had ever read the Bible through one time, they were called ‘professor.’”
“Sharing the gospel with Muslims was difficult, and the fruit was sparse, but it was always amazing to see many acknowledge that the gospel made sense.”
After five years of pouring into the church, Matt handed it over to a national pastor. He then focused on the Bible institute and evangelism in the area, where 70% of the local population claim to be Christian and 30% claim to be Muslim. Although there is a vast difference in percentages, many mosques populate the area. “From my house, we were within 30 minutes’ walking distance from around 10 mosques,” he said. “Sharing the gospel with Muslims was difficult, and the fruit was sparse, but it was always amazing to see many acknowledge that the gospel made sense. Much seed was planted.”
During this time, Matt had numerous discussions about God and the gospel with his neighbor Steven, a proud TV and radio repairman who believed he didn’t need God. Before the Winklers left Uganda, Steven had a stroke that left him in declining health. Matt got word that he passed away in May 2022, and while this news was sad, it turned into rejoicing. “When communicating with our pastor, he told me that Steven had given him a clear testimony of having received Christ during one of those conversations with me before I left,” he said. “I am so glad I’ll get to be neighbors with Steven in the Kingdom of God one day.”
New Beginnings in a Familiar Place
After serving in Uganda for 16 years, the Winklers felt the Lord calling them back to America. In July of 2020, they returned to the States and took a one-year sabbatical to rest and rejuvenate. The following year, they began helping Fellowship Baptist Church in Montana. “A burden grew in my heart over a number of years to see western churches raise up their own ministers,” said Matt. “I wanted to step into one of these struggling churches and be a part of the solution.”
“No matter what happens in ministry, God never sends His servant to labor in a barren field.”
Matt was quickly voted in as the new pastor and currently serves there today. He also works as a handyman, as many of the pastors in his area are bi-vocational. “I own my own business and have my own clients,” he said. “It is actually very enjoyable working with my hands a couple of days a week, and it is a great way to meet new people and share the gospel in the community.”
When Matt Winkler followed God’s call to the mission field, he went ready to serve. And when God called him back to the United States, he obeyed again with a willing heart. Wherever the Winklers are called to go, they know that “no matter what happens in ministry, God never sends His servant to labor in a barren field.”
Read more about how God is directing and working through PCC faculty and alumni.