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New Horizons

Remembering Matt Baugh

Douglas B. Clawson

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, Paul outlines the extent of his suffering for Christ:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; ... in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, ... danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; ... in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

Paul saw his suffering as essential to his Christian life (Phil. 3:7-11):

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.... For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him ... —that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Certainly, persecution is the preeminent way in which we share in Christ's sufferings, but Paul's words to the Corinthians and the Philippians make it clear that every danger and hardship in this life is part of sharing in Christ's sufferings.

In their service to Christ in Haiti, the Baugh family, like many other missionary families on many other fields before them, faced many such dangers and hardships. Malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, dangerous driving and sailing conditions, kidnappings, shootings, robbery, and political unrest are part of the way of life for the Haitian people and those who go to minister the gospel to them.

Matt Baugh understood these dangers. Before going to Haiti, he wrote:

Leaving a dear flock in Mississippi was hard and the prospect of moving our five young children to Haiti with its many challenges was a bit daunting, but it seems clear to me that the Lord has providentially equipped me with the gifts and deep desire to see the doctrines of grace effect change in the lives of the Haitian people. I look forward with great expectation to see what wondrous things He will do. Though most Haitians believe that the island belongs to Satan and worship him through Vodou, we know that the island was given to Christ at His ascension. Satan, the usurper, has been bound that he might not deceive the nations any longer. It is a distinct privilege to be Christ's ambassador calling the Haitian people to do homage to the King of kings and find pardon through His amazing love. May God give us the grace to be faithful to this calling.

Our God is sovereign, good, and loving. From all eternity he has decreed the dangers that we will face and the means by which he will take us from this world. Those means are for his glory and our good (Rom. 8:28). On one occasion Matt hid in a shipping container while automatic gunfire sprayed around him. On other occasions he crashed through a burning tire barrier and slept in a building that was on fire and filled with smoke. The Lord might have taken him at any of those times or on any of the occasions when he crossed by boat to La Gonâve or rode in a tap-tap (a pickup truck that has been converted into an open taxi) over tortuous roads. Instead, our good Lord chose an occasion when Matt was riding his motorcycle on May 4.

On that day, as Matt headed south on Route Nationale No. 1, he was going to meet with PCA pastor Charles Amicy to discuss the details of leadership training that was to take place in August. It was to bring together for the first time church leaders with whom both we and Pastor Charles have been working.

Just south of Williamson, at the turnoff to the fishing village of Luly, Matt approached the crest of a hill. Approaching the crest from the opposite direction, a tap-tap crossed into the oncoming lane in order to go around a pothole. The collision was head on. Haitians standing at the scene stopped another tap-tap and put Matt into it to take him to a part-time clinic in the nearby village of Centre.

Over the next couple of hours, word spread up the road to Kaliko to inform Shannon of the accident. Someone dialed the last number called on Matt's cell phone, which reached Pastor Charles, and told him what had happened. About two hours after the accident, Shannon drove past Matt's bent motorcycle. Pastor Charles arrived in Centre shortly before Shannon. Matt was placed in the Baughs' car in order to be taken to a hospital.

On the way, Shannon talked with Matt. She recited Scripture, prayed and sang hymns with him, and tried to encourage him. When he stopped breathing, she used CPR. However, it was the Lord's time to take Matt home. His work here for his Savior was done, and he died before reaching the hospital. (The tap-tap driver and his vehicle were taken to the police station, but the driver was released uncharged.)

We miss Matt, but the question that Shannon and others ask is, "Who will continue his work?" Before his death, we were looking for a minister of the gospel to join him. Now we need two.

We are not the first to face these circumstances. In April 1876, the Church Missionary Society of London sent five members of its first missionary expedition to Victoria Nyanza, Uganda. Before leaving, all five were given an opportunity to speak. The society's secretary recalled:

We vividly remember one of those five little speeches. It was Alexander Mackay's.... "There is one thing ... which my brethren have not said, and which I want to say. I want to remind the Committee that within six months they will probably hear that one of us is dead." The words were startling, and there was a silence that might be felt. Then he went on,—"Yes; is it at all likely that eight Englishmen should start for Central Africa and all be alive six months after? One of us at least—it may be I—will surely fall before that. But," he added, "what I want to say is this: when that news comes, do not be cast down, but send some one else immediately to take the vacant place." (A. M. Mackay, by his sister, p. 32)

God made Matt for the work of strengthening and building on the foundation of Christ's church in Haiti. Shortly before his death, Matt wrote a letter that was about to be sent out to OP churches. That letter, in part, follows:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your continued prayers and support of the Haiti Mission. The Lord's hand is blessing the work here and strengthening us! We have had many visiting servants in our home and on the island of La Gonâve.... We are hoping the political situation will so improve that we can receive more teams: medical groups, vacation Bible school teams, construction teams, and teaching groups.... The Lord shows us many areas for ministry. As I hike through villages on my way to preach, it weighs heavily on me that so many of them do not have an evangelical witness. I see children playing around decorated tombs and Vodou "peristils" (worship areas), and thank the Lord for the "bounds of my habitation," while weeping for these lost, hopeless children. Pray that the Lord would send more workers "unto the harvest"!

... It is sobering how common death is here. (1) Last year I took a shortcut down a dirt road and drove by a body lying in the road. The man had been shot in the back of the head. Vendors with their laden donkeys and children were walking by as though the scene was commonplace. (2) A pastor of a church on the mainland with which we are working died suddenly a few weeks ago. He was in his forties and left a widow. (3) Last week we were driving in Port-au-Prince after getting groceries and ran into a traffic jam. The cause proved to be the body of a teenager, hit by a truck while riding his bike in a busy street.... (4) Recently we postponed a conference on La Gonâve because a young son of our host had died of dysentery. The prominence and casual acceptance of death in this culture is one indication of the ignorance of the gospel, of the significance of death, and of the need for the hope of life everlasting. Please pray that we would be faithful in preaching and teaching about the glorious life-giver, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who else might God be calling to carry on Matt's work? The work has only begun to see the first Presbyterian and Reformed church established in the history of Haiti. Who will go? Who will share in the sufferings of Christ, face the dangers, and be used to see Christ glorified and his church built?

Reprinted from New Horizons, July 2006.

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