Philbrick anxious to work with FBC youth

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By Panzi Blackwell

He will be a first-time speaker at the first 2010 Lenten Luncheon next Wednesday at noon at First Christian Church in Vandalia. It will be an opportunity to meet him as he shares his faith with the community in the spirit of this reverent Easter season.

He may be referred to as “the new kid on the block,” but Matt Philbrick, the new minister of youth at the First Baptist Church in Vandalia, is not new to his chosen work with youth, something he feels that was not just of his choosing, but also of the Lord’s calling.

Matt and his wife, Jennifer (“Jenn”), display the same enthusiasm, dedication and willingness to follow his calling to work with youth.

Matt is looking forward to getting to know the kids, to be a friend and counselor, as well as an activity, works and spiritual leader for them.

Jenn is right beside him as his helper and supporter. An extra bonus is the presence of their almost-3-year-old daughter, Olivia, who is a friendly, lively little bundle of sunshine, and her little playmate, “Bella,” a miniature Doberman pinscher.

Matt and Jenn’s youthful and fresh appearance and personalities belie the maturity and sincerity involved in their spiritual life, Biblical knowledge and understanding, and dedication in following God’s will. They both feel led in their move to Vandalia and the opportunity to serve as youth minister.

They have next-door-neighbor-type personalities in that they are down-to-earth, open and friendly. Although at present their dining area is small, it holds a large, long table with chairs, an unspoken indication and invitation to share their home with others, especially the youth to whom they minister. Meet the “new kids on the block” Matt and Jenn Philbrick, and Olivia.

The Move to Vandalia….

…seemed God-inspired from the beginning. Their first official Sunday at the church was on Jan. 3, but they had visited and spoke with the people of the church previously, on Dec. 13, 2009.

Matt shares how his ministry began to lead them to this point in time and place.

It seems that once God got Matt’s attention as a young boy, He kept Matt in His mind through the years and kept nudging to keep Matt’s attention on Him.

“I began, officially, being a youth pastor after my first year of college, about nine years ago,” he said. “I was saved when I was 6 years old. I felt the call to the ministry when I was in junior high school, but didn’t really respond to the call until I was a senior in high school.”

“But it took a pretty severe car accident to really get me focused and to be ready to go for Him.” Matt said. “I was a senior in high school when I was in the accident, and that was a wake-up call.

“I said, ‘OK, God, I know I need to go into the ministry, and really start focusing on that.’ I lost my spleen, had a couple of broken ribs and had a brain injury, but everything healed.”

So Matt began focusing on the preparation for his calling to the ministry. He attended the Hannibal-LaGrange College in Hannibal, Mo.

Jenn said that they grew up in church and were faithful attendees and workers, but felt they had reached a plateau, “That God wasn’t really using us anymore and thought maybe He was calling us away.”

The inspirational story of how Matt and Jenn were led by God to Vandalia through His guidance, and how He used the late George Peck’s interest in the First Baptist Church’s search for a youth minister, will be a part of Matt’s talk at the Lenten Luncheon.

Jenn faced a real problem in leaving family and friends, and her job, but again, God made the way smooth for the transition and they both shared how happy they are to be here.

Jenn expressed that she has been made to feel so at home here, that everyone has been so friendly and helpful. “I feel, ‘I’m at home,’” she said.

“It was good that Matt came first,” Jenn said, “Because that way, when we brought Olivia, it was to a settled home.”

Getting to Know Matt, Jenn and Olivia

Matt is from Dixon, “the hometown of Ronald Reagan – that’s the only claim to fame we have,” he said. Jenn lived in Sterling, just 15 minutes away. They met as kids in a church.

“We grew up together,” Jenn said.

Matt has a delightful sense of humor. He said that he played soccer all his life, but loves sports of all kinds. The sports channel is his favorite on TV.

Spending time with his family is first and foremost, and very important to him.

“And I play golf. (Pastor) Robert (Weaver) and I have that in common,” he said, with a laugh. “He’s a lot better player than I am.”

Jenn’s favorite hobby is to read and read and read. She likes Terri Blackstock, among other Christian authors, as well as other varied, non-graphic, fiction stories. She also likes the Internet and checked out the local library on it. She said that she is excited about Evans Public Library because it has so many books. She admits she was a “city girl,” and likes canned vegetables from the store better than fresh vegetables.

Olivia loves music, singing, Play-Doh and TV (“Spongebob” and “Hannah Montana”).

“She is an outside girl,” Jenn shared, “When it is cold outside, it is hard, because she wants to be outside all the time.” Olivia is going through a “don’t want to eat” stage, but she loves eating cherry tomatoes whole, and she also likes ice cream.

The Plans

Matt said he wants to get to know the kids by doing little things with them.

“We want to start in the ‘getting-to-know’ stage, like taking a couple of them at a time out to lunch or dinner, different things like that, getting to know the personalities. We’re going to try to do different things, just fun stuff.

“Where my heart is, is trying to do mission stuff in the town of Vandalia, or connected-to-the-church-type things. Not fundraisers, but things that are free, serving people and showing them that God is the only way. More mission work in Vandalia,” Matt said.

A mission trip for the youth is planned. Jenn is happy that she will get to go on a mission trip, for the first time.

“For our summer mission trip, we are going to go to Birmingham, Ala., and staying at Samford University,” Matt said. “We are going to do inner-city work and things like that,” he said. “We are hoping for more kids to come in.”

Matt feels he will enjoy working with the youth, in Vandalia, and with Robert Weaver.

Get Acquainted …

…with the Philbrick family at the Lenten Luncheon next Wednesday at noon at the First Christian Church…and you will have met new friends.