Matthew Else and the Isle of Man
Matthew Else, the pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Peel, in the Isle of Man received his homecall on 18th May 2008 after a very short illness. His sudden death came as a great shock to his family, and his passing leaves a huge gap in the life and work of his church and its associated ministries.
Born in 1945 he began his pastoral work in 1969 when he and his wife Renee came to live in the Isle of Man. He was called to the pastorate of a Baptist Church in Douglas and a few years later he established Grace Baptist Church, Onchan, a few miles outside Douglas. Grace Baptist Church, Peel, which was in the west of the island, was an outreach work of the Onchan fellowship, and Matthew eventually became pastor of that church. There he served as their faithful pastor for over thirty years.
During these years Matthew stood firmly for the faith delivered to the saints. He was no stranger to controversy, and indeed, the local press often referred to him as ‘the controversial minister from Peel’. He was an outspoken opponent of the change in laws on abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia. He is remembered for his unwavering stand for biblical truth. When the film The Life of Brian and the show Jesus Christ Superstar came to the island many years ago, Matthew led his church in protests outside cinemas and theatres and was once arrested for handing out leaflets!
1n 1988 Pastor Else began an outreach ministry called ‘Spurgeon Publications’. He saw the need for clear, biblical teaching in an easily available format. This led to the small fellowship publishing individual sermons of C. H. Spurgeon. Initially the sermons were sent to just a handful of people, but by 2007 over 2,000 sermons were being despatched to people all over the world including prisoners on death row in America and Zambia and some living in small villages in the heart of Zimbabwe. Many attributed their salvation, humanly speaking, to this ministry.
A charity called Grace Third World Fund was established by Matthew in 1998. The origin of this came about during a visit to India in connection with Spurgeon Publications in 1997; Pastor Else met a young man whose vision it was to build an orphanage. He was also impressed by a severely disabled young boy named Babu. These two people had a major impact on Matthew, and by 2008,a two storey orphanage called Grace Children’s Home had been built and almost twenty children had been helped by life-changing, and in some cases life-saving, surgery. A young man, James Richardson, accompanied Matthew on one of his earlier visits to India in 1997, and accompanied him on his preaching tour. They stayed with a pastor in Rajahmundry in a rural area where many of the Indian people had never seen a white person before. Preaching meetings in the area were attended by about a thousand souls many of whom were so keen to hear the Word of God that they walked long distances from villages all around that area. Matthew also visited rural areas of Zimbabwe in 1999 where he witnessed the same kind of enthusiasm for the Word of God. Many young believers asked for Spurgeon’s sermons. Matthew was greatly saddened in the last few years because numerous sermons were returned from Zimbabwe marked ‘deceased’.
Timothy Babu, the young man Matthew met in 1997, and who now runs the Home for Grace World Fund, travelled from India for the first time in his life to speak at Pastor Else’s funeral service. He gave a moving tribute and spoke about the many people in India who would miss their ‘beloved chairman’. He himself felt that he had lost his ‘spiritual mentor’.
Matthew was also instrumental in establishing a church in South India. Money was raised through the auspices of Matthew’s own fellowship. In 2004 a chapel building was completed. Two years later the 1689 Confession of Faith was accepted as part of the church constitution. The church is called Grace Baptist Church, NG Palem. NG Palem is the name of the nearest village to the Grace Children’s Home. The letters N G stand for two words so long and difficult to pronounce that even Indian people don’t use them. So it is simply referred to as ‘NG Palem’. It is situated in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The people are mostly Hindu. Many from the outlying villages are now coming regularly to Lord’s Day services.
The church has had opposition from the village, particularly from the men folk. The church is attempting to overcome this by adult education groups to teach people to read and write in a friendly environment. It is reported that ‘evangelists’ come and preach, and people believe whatever wrong doctrines they are taught because they cannot check them out in the Bible for themselves. The church is using the Bible to teach the people to read! Some of them can now read newspapers and road signs, and the ultimate aim is obviously to enable them to read the Bible for themselves.
Although Matthew had a great love and passion for India and its people, his heart was with his ministry in Grace Baptist Church, Peel, with a membership of fifteen. (The church in Port Erin has a similar sized membership, about 15 – 20.)
Pastor Else was greatly loved by the children of the junior school. These held a special Memorial Service for him. Some gave moving tributes and described Pastor Else as always cheerful and said that he always spoke to them about Jesus!
Pastor Else often preached that Christians should live to be missed. This stalwart of the Christan faith will certainly be missed, not only by his family and friends on the Isle of Man, but by people all over the world. Along with the Apostle Paul he could say, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith’ (2 Tim. 4:7).
This article, with photographs, appeared in Reformation Today No. 225 (September-October 2008.
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