“When we pray, God works in ways we cannot even understand.” This is the testimony of Matthew Rowley, a Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary alum, about the founding of Training Leaders International (TLI) Canada. In an answer to his prayer, God called Matthew to partner with a ministry he had previously known nothing about, and is giving him the opportunity to impact lives around the world.
When we pray, God works in ways we cannot even understand.
Matthew graduated from CSBS with his Master of Divinity in 2015. After a year on staff at CSBS&C, he began his PhD in Historical Theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, which he completed in 2020. His passion for the last decade has been for theological education, and he has made it a practice to take any opportunity he can get to teach in a classroom or church setting. He enjoys connecting with students and challenging them to think about the practical application of theology to their Christian lives.
In 2017, while attending the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Matthew connected with a mission organization, based out of the United States, called Training Leaders International (TLI). TLI’s booth at the conference included information about teaching opportunities in Serbia, which caught Matthew’s attention because he already had some Serbian friends. He came to find out that TLI’s mission is to send trained ministry leaders overseas to help equip pastors and teachers who have little access to theological training. Their teaching opportunities came as an answer to Matthew’s prayers for more ways to be used by God.
In late 2018, Matthew took a teaching trip to Serbia with TLI and was thoroughly captivated by the country and the hunger of its Christian leaders. TLI’s mission lined up well with Matthew’s gifting and passion for teaching theology, but finding a way to be involved more permanently with an American organization was complicated. Matthew was in the process of settling his wife Joanna and their six children back in Alberta, and a move to the States was out of the question. Through ongoing conversations with Darren Carlson, the president of TLI, the need for a Canadian branch of the organization was suggested, and Darren asked Matthew if he would be willing to start it. Matthew has a self-proclaimed aversion to any administrative tasks, and yet, in his words, “God said yes and I jumped in with both feet.”
God said YES and I jumped in with BOTH FEET
By the beginning of 2020, he was in the process of setting up TLI Canada. Having a branch based out of Canada meant that TLI would be able to send out Canadian missionaries and provide a hub for supporters to send Canadian donations, without any funding or personnel needing to cross the American border. Matthew recruited a board of directors and took on the role of president. Since starting in this position, he has had the opportunity to teach twice for a school in Liberia, and TLI Canada currently has two other missionaries raising support to fill positions overseas. In December of 2020, the Canada Revenue Agency officially approved TLI Canada as a recognized charitable organization. This paperwork went through in the space of a week, a miracle which Matthew likens to the parting of the Red Sea!
Matthew has big dreams for how God might use TLI Canada in the future. He plans to travel to Greece in the summer of 2021 to help set up a ministry hub to Syria. He is also planning to return to teach in Serbia as soon as travel restrictions allow. He dreams of adding more full-time missionaries – some who would be based in Alberta to help him run the organization, and many more who would commit to moving permanently to the Middle East, Serbia, and Africa. Matthew is actively looking to connect with theological institutions in as many countries as possible, and working to recruit more Canadian missionaries who are called and willing to go.
Step by step God is moving us forward. His faithfulness is never ending. Every time we step out in faith to serve God He shows us just how much He has already gone before us and prepared the way.
Matthew reflects upon his journey thus far with gratitude, recognizing that God’s plans all along have been far bigger than his: “Step by step God is moving us forward. His faithfulness is never ending. Every time we step out in faith to serve God He shows us just how much He has already gone before us and prepared the way.” Where Matthew, like many PhD graduates, was praying for a single teaching position, God is giving him the opportunity to teach and have an impact around the world. His journey in some senses has come full circle since he is teaching Christian Theology at the college level at CSBS&C in the spring semester of 2021. He has also recently begun pastoring Cremona Country Fellowship, located 30 minutes north of Cochrane. He continues to pray that God would use him and his family to share the hope of the Gospel wherever and however He sees fit. In the words of one of his favourite quotes, attributed to J.I. Packer: “Work like it’s up to you. Pray because it’s up to God.” For more information about TLI Canada or to receive the Rowley family’s monthly newsletter, visit www.trainingleaders.ca.