All semester long, Matthew Hulst anticipated the day his friend would return from abroad, but he never expected the surprise their reunion would bring. After an overseas mission, Hulst’s friend returned to Bethel College reborn.
“He went for a semester and came back radically different,” Hulst said, “I wanted that.”
Since that pivotal moment in 2001, Hulst has dedicated his life to giving people around the world “a picture of the real God who loves them.” Hulst will draw on his experiences performing missions when he speaks in chapel next week.
Hulst, an Orange City native, put his education on hold in 2002 and joined Youth With A Mission, an international volunteer movement of Christians who seek “to know God and to make Him known,” according to the organization’s website.
After attending YWAM disciple training in Hawaii, Hulst began sharing the Gospel around the world. Guided by his belief that “God has such a bigger plan than just giving handouts,” Hulst has ministered in 24 countries, including Cambodia, Haiti and China. “He’s passionate about knowing people, learning their story and telling them about Jesus,” said Matthew’s mother Kay Hulst, an Orange City resident, “Whether it be someone in Orange City or someone far away, he wants them to know Jesus. That is the crux of Matt.”
Hulst said his biggest calling lies in northern India among Tibetan exiles. He has spoken to leaders who work directly with the Dalai Lama in attempt to find favor.
“They have very, very little knowledge of God,” he said, “but they are some of the nicest people in the world. They are so hospitable. The story of their culture is amazing.”
Hulst said he connects with people overseas by “serving community,” “sharing grace” and “respectfully engaging people.” At his home in Taiwan, he ministers by teaching English in a local coffee shop and playing sports with young men at a nearby university.
“He has an amazing ability to connect with people, to love them, to hear their story and to see them in a way Christ might see them,” said Dr. Tara Dekkers, an adjunct professor at Northwestern who suggested Hulst’s visit.
Between YWAM missions, Hulst found time to complete his education, and he graduated from Bethel in 2009.
“When he went back to school after all this, he had more of a purpose. He saw what was relevant,” Mrs. Hulst said.
Hulst said he realized that “the God of the Bible is still the God of today . . . Our God is huge – he’s so big – and he’s for us.”
Performing missions awakened Hulst, and students across campus have experienced similar transformations.
Amber Malone, a senior at NW who spent 10 weeks in India, attended church in a slum with two young girls whom she described as “like little sisters.”
“During worship services, they would sit on my lap, and I would see the joy on their faces. They were poor materialistically, but blessed when it came to happiness,” Malone said.
Daniel Unekis, an NW senior who traveled to Spain, said of his experience, “God has formed me into a more giving, servant-hearted person. My worldview has been rocked.”
NW senior Ansley Griess spent two months in Zimbabwe during last year’s Summer of Service. She said, “The most impacting thing was to see God in a different culture and realize that He is in fact the same everywhere. It was really cool to see people on the other side of the globe worship the same God.”
For students who are considering missions, Hulst offers a word of wisdom: “He uses the least of us. If you feel inadequate, great. He can use you. Just be available.”
Hulst will speak in chapel on Monday, Feb. 7, at 10:05 a.m.
“What you see onstage is Matt at home. He’s authentic,” said Mrs. Hulst, “He loves the Lord and he loves people. That’s Matt.”