During most of his formative years, Mat worked on a farm. “Starting about age 12, I worked on a truck farm, raising vegetables for a hardworking Christian couple whose children had moved away to the city to work. When I was about 16, I helped manage the farm because the owners were getting up in years. They paid for the seed, the equipment and fuel, and I provided or paid for the labor costs. We split the proceeds. I hired my friends from high school to do some of the work.
I learned to operate about every kind of farm equipment they had and learned how to market tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, sweet corn, cantaloupe, watermelons, squash and other produce to the grocery stores. People also came to the farm to buy produce and when we couldn’t sell it fast enough, we filled up the pickup and sold it beside the highway. It was a practical introduction to a lot of hard work and business for which I am grateful.”
Mat also worked at home. “My mom operated a small café during my high school years in the first level of our house, which was an old hotel built in 1888. My brothers and I learned to cook and wash dishes. Knowing how to motivate teenage boys, my mom would say ‘As soon as the dishes are done, you can have whatever you want to eat.’ I once asked her if she ever made any money with the café. She said ‘No, but I fed four teenage boys.’”
Mat has been in WCG/GCI most of his life. “My parents were baptized in the icy Clark Fork River in northern Montana in 1963. I was two years old. My parents became interested through the church’s media and my mother was miraculously healed of a serious illness not long after they became members.”
During high school Mat became interested in Ambassador College. “I was active in YOU and through the basketball program I visited both Ambassador College campuses for tournaments. My parents and our pastor encouraged me to go to Ambassador after high school and it seemed natural to do so. At the time I was personally more interested in becoming a chiropractor and had applied to Palmer College in Iowa. However, I decided to go to Ambassador in Pasadena where my brother Tim already lived.”
Transitioning from farm to city was not easy. “I nearly left college after a few weeks. I learned that I needed more money than I had first thought and I did not like the city crowds. The smog, which was thick at the time, caused me to have severe headaches. Also, I did not like the fact that I had to give speeches. When I called my parents to tell them I was coming back to South Dakota, they and the pastor encouraged me to stick it out another month and the congregation sent me enough money to get through the first semester. So I gritted my teeth and stayed.”
It proved to be a good decision. Mat survived his first few speeches and started a job on the Ambassador landscaping crew. “Because it was like farm work and because my boss was encouraging, I began to feel better, but I still felt out of place, though I stayed. I called home and had my parents sell my horse to cover my second-semester tuition.”
Mat transferred to the Big Sandy Ambassador campus in 1981. “I was chosen as one of the ‘leaders’ in the sophomore class to go help with reopening the Big Sandy campus. I learned that ‘leadership’ in Big Sandy that year meant working the graveyard shift on security and eliminating varmints like copperheads and armadillos from the property. These critters had used the vacant campus as home for a while and had to be pushed back into the surrounding ‘jungle.’ Because it was more rural and relaxed in some ways, I thrived there. I was baptized in Lake Loma that year.”
While in Big Sandy, Mat became interested in cycling, which would lead to participating on staff at “SEP On Wheels” held in New Zealand. “I still enjoy cycling today in the hills around Glendora—mostly on my mountain bike.”
Mat returned to Pasadena to finish his BA degree. “I became involved in community outreach during that time and began organizing tutors and tutoring children who had been abandoned by or otherwise had lost their parents. Through this experience, I experienced God’s heart for children and the joy of seeing children succeed, even in difficult circumstances. I am a strong supporter of GCI’s Generations Ministries camps and missions because I see the tremendous value in helping kids see who they are in Jesus.”
Besides his job in landscaping, Mat worked in the Ambassador Auditorium. This turned into a full-time job after graduation. “I supervised the ushers, parking attendants, concessions areas at various times, and later served as a foreman and house manager.”
During this time Mat started working with the budget for the areas he supervised. “As part of that job, I worked for Herbert Armstrong, organizing and serving luncheons and dinners at his home where I met many interesting people including Nancy Reagan, Queen Sirikit of Thailand, Prince Philip from the UK, Anwar Sadat from Egypt and several world-renowned performing artists. Although I appreciated these opportunities, I became personally troubled seeing how Mr. Armstrong and some around him handled the finances. I was so troubled that I nearly left my employment. I had no idea at the time that I would have influence in this area later as church treasurer. It reminds me that God has a plan for us all.”
It was while working at the Ambassador Auditorium that Mat met Pam, whom he calls “the most important person in my life.” Mat and Pam were married in Indianapolis where her family was living at the time. “We were married in 1988—25 years ago. We initially had a 5-year plan for just the two of us to be together before having children. This turned into a 5-month plan when Pam got pregnant.
Our son Mathew was born in 1989 and our daughter Jessica in 1991 (see their pictures at left). Both have now graduated from college. Mathew is a financial consultant and Jessica is finishing her teaching credential, hoping to teach early elementary school children. We are very proud of them. Both love God and are working in areas where they are gifted. Family is such a blessing.”
Mat started working with WCG pastor general and president, Joseph Tkach, Sr. “He invited me to work for him as a project coordinator and to do the president’s budget. While working with Mr. Tkach, I helped organize senior dinners at the campuses in Pasadena and Big Sandy. I also served as a steward on the church’s airplane on the weekends when Mr Tkach visited churches. I still have the flight uniform (if only it still fit!).”
While working for Mr. Tkach, Mat entered graduate school. “I could not afford it, so Pam and I worked another job managing property, but it still wasn’t enough for a young family to live on. I asked Mr. Tkach if the church would help pay for me to finish an MBA. He told me if I could show him how I would use what I was learning to serve the church, that he would help pay for it. During that month I renegotiated discounts with existing vendors, which saved more than twice the amount of my complete tuition. After I showed him this, he agreed to help. Looking back I really appreciate that challenge.”
When Mr. Tkach Sr. died in 1995, Bernie Schnippert asked Mat to work with him as assistant treasurer and Joseph Tkach Jr. asked him to serve on the church board. “I worked with Bernie for about 10 years during some very challenging times. Our doctrinal changes led to a dramatic decline in income over several years and forced the sale of many of our church properties, including the camp in Minnesota, both college campuses and many other assets. This proved to be a challenging real-world education in finance, real estate and business administration. I would never wish to repeat those years, but, as they say, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. During that time, Bernie carried a heavy burden and served as my mentor. When Ralph Helge retired, Bernie took on the role of the church’s general legal counsel and I was appointed church treasurer in 2005.”
When asked what he enjoys most about being church treasurer, Mat said, “I don’t always enjoy this job because I see both tremendous need and scarcity of resources and feel personal angst about this tension. However, seeing money well spent corporately and by individuals makes me happy. Other things that I see as treasurer that make my heart smile is generosity of spirit and generosity of possessions by people who are helping others. I especially enjoy when resources are well spent for the gospel so that others can understand who they are in Christ and be connected, elevated and energized through this experience. When the light goes on in a young person’s eyes I feel tremendous joy. What a privilege to participate in this adventure! I think money is well spent for the gospel when it is used to help others see their true worth in Christ.
“I have so many good friends in GCI, my family and I feel like we are part of a worldwide family. I also enjoy the foundation of sound theology, which allows us both to feel God’s love and to share it freely with all of God’s children, whether they know Christ lives in them or not.”
Mat’s passion is “seeing young people discover who they are in Christ and view their future from this perspective. I love to see young people learn to handle their finances responsibly. I also enjoy being outdoors in God’s creation, hiking, biking, fishing, camping, meditating. I have climbed Mt Whitney a couple times and several other mountains in Southern California. I think a rainy day outside in the mountains is better than most good days in an office. I am told by my children that I have a stern appearance and for whatever reason I have been placed in a job where I often have to say “no” to people. Those who know me well, understand that under the stern appearance, I care deeply for people. God certainly has a sense of humor.”
When asked if he had a final thought, Mat said, “I am blessed to work with some of the nicest people on this earth every day. If members are ever in Glendora, I invite them to stop by and meet some of these folks who serve them every day.”