A friendly, get-to-know you dinner to welcome NCU’s new Campus Pastor, that’s all it was intended to be. Little did Melissa and Matthew Stock ’92 know that this informal dinner with Troy Dean in August 2010 would be the opportunity God would use to knock on their hearts and place a new calling for their life.
Melissa, an NCU adjunct professor and music director for the past 10 years and Matthew, a co-owner of Wipf and Stock Publishers in Eugene, fell in love with Cambodia during their first trip with students from the University in 2011, led by Dean. Their passion for the victims of human trafficking led them to return on year later with the NCU mission team in May 2012. Five months after their second visit, they announced plans to leave their jobs, sell their Eugene home and relocate to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
NCU: In a total of twenty-seven months the two of you go from a ‘welcome to Eugene’ dinner with Pastor Troy to saying yes to a job offer as project managers with a non-profit organization in a third-world country. Tell me about that.
Matthew: Melissa and I had talked for years about wanting to do a mission trip together. But nothing ever felt right, until the dinner with Troy. He told us about his previous work in Cambodia. We left dinner, took one look at each other and immediately knew. This was the mission opportunity we had both been waiting for. We didn’t hesitate to sign up as staff chaperons for NCU’s May 2011 mission trip.
NCU: It was a life-changing trip. Tell me about some of those moments when you experience God breaking your hearts.
Melissa: Oh, there were so many. The entire 3-week trip was so life changing.
I specifically remember the moment we walked into a safe house/restoration center. Sixty girls, none over the age of 18, were there. They had experienced horrific things and yet each was filled with such joy and hope. Everything changed for me. We returned home and asked ourselves what can we do different so that we can bless others, here (Unites States) or elsewhere.
NCU: You’re going to be working with a nonprofit organization. What is it and how did you connect with them?
Matthew: Born of a church in Australia, this nonprofit provides essential skills and vocational training for young girls rescued from human trafficking. The girls are taught hospitality courses and the art of cake baking and decorating at a world-class standard. They graduate and are employed, earning a fair wage. These cakes are renowned for their creativity and artistry, and have even graced the covers of newspapers and magazines. From cupcakes to multi-tiered mega creations, they are highly sought after for weddings and celebrations all over Phnom Penh.
Melissa: As for how we connected? My love for baking has me on the computer Googling cupcakes everywhere I go. Cambodia was no different. I stumbled across the bakery, saw the pictures of their beautiful creations and knew we had to make a visit.
Knowing that we enjoy meeting people and connecting with their stories, Pastor Troy encouraged Matthew and I to break away from the group and meet with other organizations and non-profits and discover a personal experience in Cambodia. Our visit provided an instant connection. We communicated (with the directors) long after our return home, receiving regular e-mail messages of prayer requests. That’s how it happened, you know. One prayer request e-mail mentioned the need for a couple to serve as project managers to open a training center in Siem Reap.
NCU: When you read the e-mail, did you know right away? Did you want it to be you?
Melissa: My initial thought was, this would be so amazing, I know we could do this! But, we can’t leave here. We have family, jobs a home. I really didn’t think it would be us.
Matthew: But the seed was planted in my heart as soon as she told me. I kept asking why not? Why not us? When we returned to Cambodia in 2012 we spent some time with the directors of the Phnom Penh center. Lots of hypothetical questions were asked. What would it take? What skills are you looking for?
As conversations continued, even after our return home, we became more and more excited. God was calling us to change our lives. We no longer wanted to live to achieve professional successful. We’re striving to be significant. Answering God’s call to move to Cambodia provides us the opportunity.
NCU: February 2013 you’re off to Cambodia. What exactly will you be doing?
Melissa: We’ll be serving as project managers for a new bakery and training center in Siem Reap. On a day to day basis, aside from the training and work skills the students are learning in order to graduate, we’ll play games with the rescued girls. We’ll provide English lessons, lead daily worship, Bible studies, and of course baking and decorating lessons.
Matthew: This is clearly what God has called us to do. We’re so excited to be part of this ministry.
Melissa and Matthew arrived safe and sound to Cambodia this past February. They found a physical location for their new training center and have begun their ministry work in Cambodia. For the safety of Melissa, Matthew and the rescued girls, the name of the nonprofit and training center has been omitted from this website posting. For more information on the Stocks and their ministry in Cambodia, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.