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WorldVenture::In Review featured Matt and Elizabeth Van Wart from Uganda 

This was a live stream from February 29, 2024. Click here to watch: (Approximately One hour)


Feel free to share your favorite quotes to your social media with the link to this blog. 

Transcript Highlights:

The transcript is not a complete transcript. To see and hear the stories, press play


What was the most challenging recipe you ever had to make in Uganda?


You know, the most challenging, I feel like, is (just because of preparation work) is Mexican food.

Because, if you want to make refried beans, you have to soak the beans and pressure cook and then mash them with all your seasonings and grind your beef.

Go buy all your produce that make your salsa, make your Guac great, your cheese, make your own tortillas. So, like, it just it takes a lot of time to prep work that, but it’s the one we like the most. So, we only get it, though, like twice a month, once a month, just because it’s too much work. So, to me, that’s the most challenging.

I’ve tried pop tarts before and they failed, so I don’t try making those again because they tasted terrible. But other than that, it tasted good. But I made Tootsie Rolls from scratch.


Matt and Elizabeth’s Testimonies:


I grew up in a Christian home. My dad is a pastor, and my mom was a pastor’s wife. And Sunday in charge of Sunday school, all that stuff. So, I grew up with God a part of my life from a very early age and when I was about four years old, my mom and I were sitting in our little yellow Honda Civic in the church parking lot, waiting for Dad to finish, locking up the church after a music group had finished practicing. And I don’t know how it came up.

I don’t remember exactly, but I remember talking to her and she asked me, so if you were to die, how would you know that you would go to heaven? And I would. I said, well, I think I need Jesus into my heart. And she said, Yeah, you need to tell Jesus that you want to be his follower.

And so, I prayed there with my mom when I was about four years old. I actually had prayed that prayer a day or two before with a friend of mine and had actually trusted Christ at that time.

But I could tell that my mom really wanted me to be sure and everything. So, I didn’t let her know that I had already kind of trusted Christ a little bit before that. But the official story is when Mom’s listening, especially when I prayed that prayer with her.

One of the big steps in my spiritual journey was when I was a young teenager. We had a missions’ conference at our church and a WorldVenture missionary. Bill Simons was one of the speakers there, and we had a play where we were sharing the story of some missionaries who were martyred in Zimbabwe.

And at the end of the play, Bill Simons gave an invitation and that was the day that I went forward and really surrendered my life to God to do whatever he wanted to. I think that was the day I really understood what it meant to fully surrender your life. And I surrendered to the possibility of being a missionary at that time, although I didn’t think God would really want me to be a missionary.

And in my head, I still thought that missionaries were all pastors and I wasn’t really gifted like my father was as a pastor, so I didn’t think I would really be a missionary. But I told God that I was willing if he wanted me.



I was raised in church by my parents, became a believer when I was one year old. So, I just grew up in church. But I remember one time at naptime, my mom and I were talking. We were laying in her bed, and she explained to me what it meant to accept Christ as your Savior. And before taking my nap, I accepted him as my Savior.

I was around four or five years old also. I don’t remember. I know I was very young, and I was having nap time still, so I do remember that. But I do remember that though, like I’m missing naptime, some of it to be listening to Mom and talking about this.

And for me when I was 13, our church that I had grown up in had a lot of difficult struggles and it pretty well almost disbanded then, at least at my age at 13, because of some things that went on.

And that’s when I had to make my faith my own. And is it just because of what mom and Dad believe or is it what I truly believe? So, I at the age of 13 is when I really I wrestled with it for a while. But I also saw that my faith was my own. It’s not because mommy and daddy believed, it’s because I believe, and it is what I wanted to do.

I wanted to follow Christ. And yeah, it was a hard time, but it was also a good time, strengthening time.


How did you two meet? Who said, “I love you” first?


So, we went to college at the same college, we went to Pensacola Christian College, and Elizabeth got her associate degree in legal secretarial, and she began working for the college after she finished her degree.


So, this was my bubble I had created. So, I was like, oh, work there. So, I was the secretary and assistant for four of the deans at college and one of them was the dean of nursing.


So, I was a nursing student. So, all my classes, all my nursing classes were down the hall from Elizabeth’s desk. So, each time I’d get off the elevator and walk to class, I’d see her shining face.


I see all the Bible majors ever going up one more floor, and I’d be like, Oh, there’s that nurse guy. And I’d be watching all the Bible majors going up one more floor in the elevator like, Hello.


But so, but she was stuck with me because I was the only one getting off on her floor.


No, we had a couple friends who were guys that were getting off to, so, you know. Yeah, but yeah, that’s what we met. That’s how we met was just he was a nursing student walking by my desk every day.


Ooh, we don’t remember who made the first move at the end of one of the semesters. I don’t even remember which semester it was. I think it was when I was going home for Christmas break or something. Elizabeth made me a goodie bag of just all kinds of candy and snacks. Mountain Dew. And for our trip. Our road trip back home. So, she gave me that goodie bag and that really kind of was like, okay, wow. Like, somebody is paying attention to me.


And he always says, maybe you said, I love you. First, he goes, But I love you most.


What did the process look like for both of you to go into missions?


Yeah, so I had when I was a little bit younger, maybe 12 or 13, I had surrendered to God, like I said, and told them that I was willing to be a missionary but didn’t think he would really want me for that.

And then my dad got a call from a friend of his who had moved to Alabama, and the friend said, “Hey, I just bought my wife and I tickets to go to Uganda and visit some missionary friends of ours and for our anniversary.”

And his friend’s wife said, “This is wonderful. It’s an amazing gift. Thank you so much. But I’m not getting on a plane and I’m not going to Africa.”

So, my dad’s friend asked him if he wanted to go, if my dad wanted to go, and my dad said, “Yes, I’ll go.”

And the friend said, “Don’t you want to pray about it?”

And my dad said, “No, I don’t want to pray about it. I want to go.” So, he went with his friend Vince, and they came here to Uganda and just visited different missionaries. They didn’t really have a mission trip planned or anything like that. It was just visiting friends. And each night after the day’s activities, he would kind of journal what happened that day in the form of a letter home.

But instead of mailing it, he just tucked it away in his suitcase. And when he returned home from his trip each night, he would read one of the letters to us as a family before we’d go to bed. So, by about the third or fourth night, the Lord was really working on my heart. I was really impressed.

Specifically, about the huge medical need in Uganda, and at that time I was already thinking about being a nurse, doing something medical, and then also the other thing that impressed me, he talked about a time in his trip where their car broke down. They were outside of a school. The headmaster for the school came out to see what was going on.

And when he found out that there were pastors there, he said, “Well, come preach to these kids.”

 So they were invited. They went and they preach to the kids in the school there. And that really impressed me. I thought, wow, I’m not gifted as a pastor. But in a country where people just invite you out of nowhere to preach to kids at a school, I could even do that.

I could be that kind of missionary. So, and then with the big medical needs and stuff, I thought, I can go there. I can use my nursing and medical stuff to reach people and I could also use that as a time to share Christ.


When we met, he’s like, “Have you ever thought about being a missionary?” Like, just in passing, barely friends, kind of thing. And I was like, “No, I haven’t. But if God wants me to marry one someday like that, he’ll change my heart.”

So, he heard, “yes.”

He lived knowing he was coming here. We made sure we paid off all debts. We didn’t have cell phone plans. We let them go, but like, we could still stay on the plane. But no contracts, no houses, because I told him also, when we got married, “I’m like, if you if you’re serious about Africa, then don’t ever buy me a house because I grow roots and build bubbles and you won’t get me to move. I won’t leave my bubble that I created.”

So, we never owned a house. We always rented, living intentionally for the day when God was like, “All right, you can be in Uganda now.”

So, he’s a planner. You’re a good planner with that like he knew that’s where he wanted to go. And he’s lived his life knowing that he wanted to be here.

For me, honestly, I thought it was like a college dream because I would hear the Bible majors like, “Oh, I’m going to do this for the Lord and I’m going to do this Lord.” So, yeah, I mean, and you do have dreams, but also you leave college, and you start a job.

You start life and reality sets in kind of and you, you thought you were going to do that, and things changed. So, I, I honestly thought he was just going to be a nurse in a hospital, and that was what we would do. And I’m like, yeah, that it’s nice that you talk about going to Africa, but I’m like, Lord, you got to change my heart if you really mean this.

And we had said before we got married that we would have our children stateside. Oh, that we would wait like three years before we started having kids.

Yeah. So, we waited three years to have kids, and then we had Nathaniel. And after having Nathaniel, he’s like, “All right, we’re almost done having kids. So, like, let’s be thinking about what mission we want to go with,” and just start thinking about Uganda.

And I was like, Lord, you must change my heart, because I really, really didn’t. Even though we were only renting, and at the time, we were housesitting when we had Nathaniel, I was like, I, I, yeah, I’ve already built my bubble in Calvert County, Maryland. Lord, you’re going to have to work on me with this one.

And I was praying about it because I know, like even coming here I had said yes but I was also even stubborn here. But that’s not a story.

Having a newborn, you sit around a lot because you’re just feeding kids all the time. I was watching American Idol. That was when it first came out.

And I like Simon because he tells it like it is sometimes too little, too harsh. But I like being honest and blunt, so I enjoyed watching it.

American Idol went to Uganda, of all places in the world. They were in Uganda, and I saw Simon and Ryan Seacrest, I think going around Uganda and like a lot of times they’d stop filming and like try to help someone just seeing things, seeing through their eyes, which sounds kind of funny, but seeing like the devastation and a lot of kids that just wanted to have attention and love.

And I was like, Lord, I can love on kids. I can share Jesus with these kids. And Simon Cowell…I want to write him a thank you letter to say thank you for the Lord using you in my life to want to go to Uganda. So that’s when I surrendered. I was like, Lord, I need to be there loving all those kids that they’re seeing and helping that help these people.

To hear the rest, go to 20:06

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