Matthew Fehse

How would you describe the mission of our partner in the Philippines?

Our partner here is the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Much of our work is fellowship with brothers and sisters facing hardships and trials on a range of issues: death in the family, overseas foreign workers facing arrest, organizing rallies or demonstrations around causes and issues, or providing venues for people to voice their grievances.  The partner here makes a difference in that their service is not limited to strictly Protestant Christians, but to any and all who share the like-minded objective to make the Philippines a better place to live; that encourages a justice system that truly reflects equality under the law.

How do you fit into their mission?

My work varies month to month depending on the assignments, but much of it surrounds documentation, reporting, and simply listening.  Much of what happens in the Philippines is completely unknown back home in the States despite how heavily active our foreign policy is here and how it affects even the most remote sections of the nation.  So many times I've heard from people responding to stories or reports with, “I had no idea that was even happening there,” and I believe this slow, but steady spread of knowledge encourages voters back home to reflect on what they're voting for and how it can affect other people beyond their borders.

What led you to engage in this calling?

Years growing in a Disciples church encouraged me to reframe work that I wanted to do to work that God wanted me to do.  Being a student of government through college, the more I studied, the more I was saw that the work the church does wasn't restrained to simply “strategic interests,” but rather  indiscriminate love that God has shown us.  What I wanted to be a part of and what God thought I should be a part of were congruent.

Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?

"Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him."–Proverbs 14:31

What are some of the challenges facing the people in the Philippines?

Impunity is rampant throughout the justice system here.  Harassment and detention of our activist church members and our partners of other organizations are not uncommon, but the perseverance of the church here in working towards change is inspiring. We ask for prayer with continued small successes that will turn into larger ones and that the hope doesn't dissipate.

What lesson have you learned working alongside the staff of the UCCP that you would like to share with churches in the U.S.?

In so many decisions we make, however seemingly isolated and harmless they may be, send ripples throughout the world.  Human rights violations are often associated around areas where mining of precious metals are used for our tech gadgets.  The juice we drink and fruits we enjoy come from deforested areas which has resulted in flooding and land slides.  Candidates we vote for, from the House, Senate, and Presidency, dramatically impact the condition of the Philippines.  No man is an island and although we cannot expect to change our standard of living we've grown accustomed to, being aware is the first step to ushering change.

Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work?

  • The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
  • Jesus for President Pack: Politics for Ordinary Radicals
  • Making Sense Out of Suffering
  • The Will of God
  • The Politics of Jesus

Which movies have shaped your understanding of your work?

  • Machine Gun Preacher (not his method, but the transforming power of faith)
  • Father of Lights

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Matthew Fehse