Matthew Downs dreamed of becoming a film director. That was his passion coming out of high school in Michigan. A “lifelong” Christian, high school for Matt was the only time he “wavered” in his walk with Christ.
“I really started taking my faith seriously toward the middle of high school. I was still a mixed bag throughout high school, though, leading a semi-double life—most of my friends were not believers and I went back-and-forth between living for Christ and living like a worldly teenager,” Matt confesses.
Once graduated, Matt’s attention turned to a Christian college that offered a film program. He found one in the Los Angeles area.
“I had no idea Biola University existed, much less had any interest in applying there,” he says. “I knew I needed to go to a Christian school or it would be tough, given what I surrounded myself with in high school.”
Matt readily admits that moving across the country to a place he had never been, knowing no one, and attending Biola were unlikely answers to many people’s prayers for him—but it changed the trajectory of his life.
“I lost interest in film very quickly and became a Bible major; and I’ve never looked back!”
During his college years, Matt’s relationship with the Lord “really took off.”
“As I gained more and more biblical knowledge and became close friends with other serious believers, walking with Jesus became everything to me. I started realizing that this was going to change my life; that is, I was going to serve Him in ministry for the rest of my life.”
Enter another life-changing event: meeting Brittney.
“I came to know about The Salvation Army through Brittney. Her parents are exemplary officers in the Western Territory. They were overseeing the creation and construction of the Kroc Center in Phoenix when we were dating,” Matt explains.
When Brittney graduated, she moved to Phoenix to teach at a school right next to the Kroc property. After a year of a long-distance relationship until his graduation, Matt moved out to Phoenix and started working at the Army’s corps community center that was becoming the future Kroc site.
“As I worked for the Army, I appreciated the mission to meet real human needs and tell people the Gospel at the same time.”
His involvement in the corps naturally led to soldiership and a growing ministry among the youth.
“I really enjoyed serving and working with the youth in our community—many of whom were on the path to a destructive lifestyle and would not learn biblical truth were it not for God using our ministry in their lives.”
Today Matt is the Congregational Life Manager at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Phoenix. He and his wife, Brittney, are raising their three children who, Matt realizes, will be approaching the teen years where he had been before his love for Christ caught fire.
As for his dreams of becoming a film director—well, it came true, sort of. Matt is “directing” teens toward a closer relationship with God. Especially those, like him at one time, who are living what he calls a “double life.”
“Cut the ties with those holding you back and start over,” he advises. “Surround yourself with other followers of Christ and devote yourself to getting to know God better.”
That’s a wrap!
—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor, National Publications