parable of the plague

“flights will cease
airlines can’t afford
to have planes with open seats”

panic. will i be stranded
an American abroad

i always knew i was born to be bearlike
a wanderer
but am i now barred from my birth grounds?

with each Black body slain
my country has rejected me
fetishized and dissected me

yet. complex
our relationship

you are still my second mother
and i beg my adoptive mother to open
her doors
even tho i know her home is a burial ground
for my brothers

as if Black Death is a sacred rite
not a plague
and i’d rather die where my death is holy

than a land where people don’t know my name

so i bought a ticket
and was in chicago the next day

-from germany to the holy land
written by matthew charles

the last two years have worn long, exhaustive, and troubling as any apocalypse might. Yes, apocalypse. As defined by an apocalypse is “Any universal or widespread destruction or disaster.” Last year I was newlywed and my wife (a Canadian citizen) and I moved to the capital city of The Yukon, in the northernmost reaches of the continent, hoping to both duck the pandemic and give us space to recoup. To recover. I’d lost a lot in the year 2020. In addition to many relationships, and a job (because they were super duper racist), I’d lost a sense of self. The dual pandemics of COVID-19 and Racism stirred up a maelstrom in my life that I forreal almost did not survive. Like a candlewick burnt to its base, I neither had wick, nor reason to continue being alight. I find a deep poetic (in?)justice in this because last year I titled my debut poetry collection “You Can Not Burn The Sun” – it appears, glaringly, that I was not the sun because I was burnt the fuck out. In an as-of-yet unreleased Episode 2 of my podcast little did u know I tell Tiffany Hennes, my guest, that I was suffering from a nuclear burnout.

Like birds in migration I had a biological impulse that told me it was time to go. And so, I went. Fleeing like the disciples who were told by Jesus that upon rejection they were to kick the dust from their feet, as if to say, “from dust we come, and to dust you damn yourself; a relic- ruined by your refusal to accept Goodness when it came to you in body and speech.”

In October of 2021, a man shorter and rounder than I, a man who co-signed my displacement in 2020 came to me while I was in a group of friends. We were at a conference. He came with a smile and a “hey matthew” as if we were old friends. As if he’d forgotten that he’d made himself my enemy when he let and encouraged the org I’d slaved for over the course of 5 years to evict me from the housing they were providing me (in a county that had a moratorium on evictions because of COVID-19) all because I was telling them, in staff meetings, in the summer of 2020, how they were practicing systemic racism. What does love do in the face of it’s enemy? I thought to spit at his feet, so Dune-esque my invitation, “accept this gift of water you dead thing.”

As I learn more about the nuanced and manifaceted ways that adoption trauma can take hold in the lives, bodies, minds, and spirits of adopted persons- and this, all the more possibly gruesome when the adoption trauma is racialized as it is in the case of my and other transracial adoptees-I’m not surprised by my eviction and ejection from and by the ones who called me family. The other day I was working on a summary write up of book2 which is nearing completion, and Spirit guided my fingers to write this question, which I stumbled upon but now, can not forget, taken slightly out of context, “-examining intrafamilial violences that Black Bodies navigate when brought in to White families as objects of desire. What are the limits of desire that White Bodies have when it comes to the Black Body and Life?”
What are the limits of desire?

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor titled her 2016 book “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation”. Many White bodies are made uncomfortable by a hashtag, and they find entirely unfathomable Black Liberation. What they want for Black Bodies is the kind of Freedom® that is patented by America and offered as subjugation and relegation to second class citizenry for all Black Bodies be they born on Turtle Island, or Immigrants to it. This is evidenced by the rising wave and staunch opposition to Critical Race Theory that we’ve seen in America this last year. Most of CRT’s opponents don’t even know what CRT is, but they know what they’d found: a convenient dogwhistle. What they say is they don’t want CRT taught in schools, what they mean is they don’t want Americans to be critical of race. What does it mean to be uncritical of race in a nation state whose impetus for inception is the Doctrine of Discovery ( which racializes all non-white non Christians as savage and therefor unworthy of Sovereignty- our Bodies and ways of life worthy only of erasure ,subjugation, slavery, and theft for the sake of establishing global unified Christian Imperial domination?

This brings us back to the more recent past, again. October, 2021. I’m at a conference called ENAG. The Eastern North American Gathering. Here is where the Eastern NA branches of the org I worked for are gathering. One day a seminar is lead by the very man who executively decided to evict me. His seminar is called “Biblical Justice”. He doesn’t talk much. This elder White man speaks for about 5 minutes, and then pushes play on a 1 hour talk given by Voddie Baucham (he’s the Black male candace owens). Voddie’s talk centers on how “social justice” isn’t biblical. He condemns intersectionality, CRT, BLM, marxist analysis, and many other things. At one point in Voddie’s talk he exclaims, “people call me a coon! and a house nigger! but I don’t care!”

These words are denouncements that the Black community levies against each other when we feel a Black Body is more allegiant to the projects of Whiteness than to the freedom of Black Bodies, Minds, and Spirits. Of course this racist elder White man picks a self acknowledged house nigger to represent him. If you’re going to have a Black person speak, let it be someone who knows, and is proud that they’ve betrayed their people. In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. When the talk finished the old man ended by saying, “if you want to learn more things like this, we’re starting a School of Biblical Worldview, you can sign up at the table next to me.” 3/4 of the room got up and signed up. Left behind were most of the Black bodies in the room. By this point, I’d already decided to leave. The organization as a whole. The day before, actually. See, I’d left the Madison branch, but a year later I found myself flirting with joining a branch in Baltimore. The joining lasted all of one month. I had went to this seminar, run by a past abuser of mine not because I wanted to learn from him, or I was interested in anything that he might say in a seminar titled “Biblical Justice.”
No, I wanted to look my abuser in the face and for them to know they hadn’t destroyed me, or silenced me, as they’d hoped to. I went, for myself, as resistance.

Alicia Elliot writes in A Mind Spread Out On The Ground, “When I advocate for my right to forget about my (sexual) assault, I’m advocating for the same right my assaulter has been given. I’m advocating for people to believe me with the same blind faith that people believed my assaulter. I’m advocating for the right to move on with my life, the same way my assaulter gets to move on with his.”
I can not forget. But, I must move on.
A couple weeks later I would sit in a coffee shop with the leader of the Baltimore branch and tell her that I couldn’t do this anymore. She looked me in the eyes and understood. She proceeded to tell me a vision she had that she’d shared with national leadership of the org after she had heard the old racist white man’s seminar. “An alleyway abortion”, she said, “is what we do to our Black members.” I tried to conceal my visceral bodily reaction to this grotesque and true vision. For all their talk of being Pro-Life they are awfully comfortable with Black Death.

my body is a receipt

“you picked the wrong time of year to perform. Did you forget my body is a receipt?”, I write as part of a caption for a picture on Instagram on June 22nd 2021

Photo Cred: Zebadiah Potler

“you picked the wrong time of year to perform. Did you forget my body is a receipt?”, I write as part of a caption for a picture on Instagram on June 22nd 2021. I @ an org in Madison I used to be affiliated with until last summer.
I @ them because there’s an active protest that started last summer wherein many past members of that org (BIPOC and white allies) revoked the org’s right to use our images in any way shape or form specifically because of the org’s treatment of Black people.
I @ them because last summer they wrongfully evicted me from their house on Langdon – (which I was staying in because I came back to the states from Germany because of the pandemic & I had nowhere else to go) and when I asked the leader why they were wrongfully evicting me in a county that had a hold on evictions because we’re in a f*cking pandemic, he looked me in the eyes and said, “because you’re staying in our housing and you’re speaking out against us.”

All I said was that they were institutionally racist.
I @ them because on Juneteenth 2021 they posted a performatively anti-racist Juneteenth square with a lil caption just as performative as those black squares last summer, as if their ig ain’t as white as it is because we are still actively protesting them.
I @ them because while they’re posting performative shit on Juneteenth 2021 I was performing shit I wrote on Juneteenth at the Juneteenth FC Madison game.

The poem reads,

a dear friend messaged me on Facebook
“i stand with you brother.”
black skeptic i am, i reply to her
“so you’re coming to the protest?”

my question: a test i knew the answer to.
you stand with me in platitudes and know nothing of with-ness

you may be standing
but it certainly is not WITH me

and before you ask, yes, the poem is a real interaction I had with somebody that works within that org i @‘d in my caption on instagram on June 22nd 2021.

The caption sits under a photo of my freshly inked arm- a tattoo I got on June 8th 2020 of a poem (translated to english by Daniel Ladinsky) written by Hafiz
my then-all time favorite poem: The Sun Never Says

even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth

“you owe me”

look what happens with a love like that,
it lights the whole sky.

I got this poem tatted on me directly after leaving a meeting with the org I @‘d because I needed to remind myself to take the high road- even with racists. To not let myself be poisoned by the poisonous. Or caged by those who would imprison me like an animal in a zoo- calling me beautiful while simultaneously being the reason why I’m broken.
I say “broken” they say “tame” and that’s the difference between hearing it from the horse’s mouth and hearing it from their trainer’s.

Why Black pain so visible- so visceral- so very known of – and why white people still ain’t believe us enough to do anything about it?
I don’t want to be ‘appreciated’ if it’s prerequisite is me being palatable, tame, or safe. Those are just code words for “good nigger”.
And I been a “good nigger” too long.

Last summer I decided to try my hand at being the sun. why? because it lovingly sears and scalds and warms the earth and her waters- and you can not burn the sun.
Indeed- you can not burn the sun, but you can etch it’s ethos into your skin: an eternal receipt of the day your world changed.

A virtual roundtable wherein I was the featured guest
(+check out Raid.r podcast for an episode of “The Art Kid Speaks” ft. Me)

love yourself enough to leave

To quote Nas on NY State of Mind, “I don’t know how to start this shit.”
Last year was traumatizing and turbulent and did I mention traumatizing?
In January and February I was (almost singlehandedly) leading a team of 15 people aged 17-54 in Egypt and Cyprus. That experience caused tremendous burnout. When COVID hit the states I was in Germany and I flew back on the first flight I could before the travel ban took effect- actually, the day of. I went back to Madison and was staying in the housing of an organization I used to work with there. While there, around May, was when I got intimately accustomed to burnout- and accepting that I’d been going too hard for too long. And then! Ahmaud Arbery was killed. And then George Floyd was killed. And then Breonna Taylor. And then Jacob Blake in our Wisconsin background of Kenosha. I’m not a talker (despite being a poet) I’m a doer. And so I was in the streets, protesting, as well as writing and self publishing a book about my first hand experiences on the frontlines. I was also protesting within the organization I worked for- a “christian” missions organization. I laid out to them how systemically they too, were practicing racism. My reward? They evicted me from their housing. They held base wide meetings where they smeared and blasphemed my character. They gaslit me whenever I came to them. And they told everyone that they weren’t complacent when it came to anti-racism work- DESPITE me going to them 2-3 years prior and telling the base leader that the org needed anti racist training. The leader’s nonchalant response was, “Well, what you’ve got to understand is we’re a group of midwestern white people- we don’t know much about race.”- functionally- using the very problem as a justification for their lack of response, and implying that if only I understood the social situation I wouldn’t have any qualms with it. I reject that.
I spent 4 years with that org- a “christian” org- and thought I made friends and even developed familial ties with some of them. But when things got real- and I refused to be silent- they evicted me. In the middle of a global pandemic.
As Kendrick Lamar asks in Mortal Man, “when shit hits the fan is you still a fan?”
I found the answer was an overwhelming “no.”
Most of the people I thought I could rely on abandoned me and sided with the institution. Going into the late summer/early fall I was lead actor in a film called Trace The Line (but I signed an NDA so I can’t talk too much about that…hopefully y’all will see it one day, tho) and during those couple months my mental health declined significantly. I was still suffering from the encumbering burnout of my early 2020 excursion to Egypt and Cyprus- and jumping into the summer I still hadn’t healed from the months prior- and now I had spiritual abuse wounds and also wounds from activism- like being teargassed and maced (one night during the summer teargas wafted into our house- that’s how proximate my living conditions were to the protests of the summer). I was in survival mode. Just tryna do the things I had to. But I was in a BAD place. Most nights I’d take a full glass of whiskey to my room. The wounds were compiling and I had no space to process and/or heal them. And then, I got married October 24th. And moved to Yukon, Canada on October 27th. I died there. Not literally- but, for the first time all year I had space just to break down. To weep. To be hurt. And I was hurting, excruciatingly. I still am hurting. And that’s okay. It has to be. I haven’t posted on here for a long time because I didn’t know how to say anything. Like, I still don’t want to hurt that organization. Which is obviously a double standard cause they clearly didn’t give a flying fuck about me.
I remember I was in a meeting with their leadership team post-eviction and one of the leaders said, “Matthew, you know we love you, right?”
And I immediately retorted, “But you can see how evicting me for speaking out against racism in the middle of a global pandemic doesn’t communicate that you love me, right?”
And he shrugged.
If that is love then I don’t want to be loved by anyone ever!
During the winter I broke down like a car out of gas. Contemplating suicide. Wondering if I needed to be checked in to a psych ward. Damn near apostatizing. Cause if their god is the god I’d been serving for the past 4 years as I worked in that org then I didn’t want anything to do with God.

Part of what I realized is that by being in the org I betrayed myself. From the 2nd month of working in that org in 2016 I knew it was racist. But, even then I was in survival mode. I didn’t graduate High School. I didn’t want to be flipping burgers for minimum wage. I didn’t have a good job history. Where else could I go? So, I stayed. And endured a whole lot that I never should have allowed myself to go through.
One “fun” story is a dude who asked me why I was listening to “nigger music” when I was listening to Kendrick Lamar.

I wrote a poem that I published in You Can Not Burn The Sun (my book) called ” white love has not been enough” and in it I write,
“to truly care
requires love
or policy in the absence of love

and i need some policy
because white love has not been enough”

I’m coming to terms with how I put myself in a situation wherein I needed to be protected, and wasn’t. I relied on a broken and debased love when I should’ve demanded policy. I would literally avoid going to the main base of the org because I anticipated experiencing racism in the form of micro and macro aggressions.
I stayed. For 4 long years. And I betrayed myself in doing so. And the day when I decided to stop betraying myself- they painted me as the bad guy.
But do you want to know the funny thing? I knew that would happen. The night before I went to the organization I was at a true friend’s house and I told them that if I spoke up I’d be villianized. I anticipated assassination of character and I still went. Granted, I didn’t anticipate getting evicted. That one really sucked. But, more than my own self betrayal, the fact of the matter is I was betrayed by an org that exploited my labor for 4 years. By an org that wanted me to be a good little nigger, (lets call a spade a spade, ok?) obedient, and docile. By an org that named eviction as love.

I write this because I gotta tell my truth. I write this because I realized I have no desire to continue suffering woundings that come from self-betrayal. I write this cause fuck racism. I write this because it is liberating to know and tell our stories.
And so, my dear reader, I hope and pray that you can learn from my mistakes. Don’t betray yourself like I did. And don’t work for people who will betray you. If you see red flags call that shit out. If you see red flags and you call that shit out and they stay complacent- LEAVE. You owe them nothing. Love yourself enough to leave.
I’ll say it again, love yourself enough to leave.

USA | the burning house, and it’s tenets

“No one ever talks about the moment you found that you were white. Or the moment you found out you were black. That’s a profound revelation. The minute you find that out, something happens. You have to renegotiate everything.”


As a transracial adoptee who grew up in a white family and was raised in a small white town in Oregon state, I always knew that the color of my skin was different, but I never thought that meant anything about me or the world around me. That is, until I was about 7 or 8. I had two experiences that I’ll never forget- not so much for what they communicated about me- but because of what they communicated about Whiteness and the White world I was embraced by in some kind of barbed wire hug.

The first; as a child we attended church every Sunday. One day a family’s house burned down who attended our church and so our church decided that we’d build them a new house. My family went to the construction site and I was helping the young son of the burned down house. We were around the same age and his name was Micah. I didn’t really know Micah, but we weren’t at all on bad terms. Hell, we were 7. What kind of bad terms can 7 year olds even be on? And then- Micah looked over to me and snarled, “go get me a hammer, nigger.”

I went to my White mother immediately and told her what Micah said and she patted me on the back and said, “it’s okay. Go back to work, honey.” I learned then that Whiteness doesn’t know how to/or won’t validate the violation of Black bodies. That even when told about a violation, Whiteness sweeps it under the rug and prefers to go on with its comfortable reality. And this reality is so interesting as I look at it in context of what was happening around me: a White family’s house burned down and our White church said “we’ll rebuild it.” meanwhile after telling my White mother that a metaphorical house of mine was being burnt down right before her eyes she said “go back into the house.” Functionally & essentially, “Burn alive, for all I care.”

My second racial revelation happened while I was at recess. In my school, Fir Grove Elementary, 3rd and 5th graders shared the same recess. I was playing four square with some friends when all of a sudden a White girl ran up to me out of nowhere. I didn’t recognize her from my class , so I knew she must be in 5th grade. I found out later that her name was Hailey. “Do you know why you’re Black?”, she asked me. As an 8 year old I can freely admit I spent not one moment thinking about WHY my skin was black. Her question intrigued me, because it revealed to me that not only was I different- but! that there must be a reason for why, too. “No”, I replied. “Because God put you in a toaster and forgot to take you out”, she shot back, giggled, and ran away. I don’t think I ever saw her again. Again, I learned another important lesson about the world around me. I learned that Black bodies are easily forgotten by the God of White people. That my Black body, and Black life, is to be forever remembered by me and the world around me, as an afterthought to the God of White people.

Life lessons like that stick with you. They eat away at you. They disfigure and disorient you. And in my country, in the White communities I’ve traveled in, they’re reinforced. Perhaps that’s why this last summer was so traumatic and triggering to me. If you’ve read my debut poetry collection You Can Not Burn The Sun, you know a bit of what I’ll say. I blew the whistle on the systemic racism within a primarily White Christian missions organization I used to work for, and their response was to gaslight, disenfranchise, and evict me. I was living in housing they provided me because I had nowhere else to go (in a global pandemic- in Dane county where there was actually a hold on evictions because of the pandemic).

Again, I blew the whistle, saying, “you have been a fire to the house I live in.” And their response was, “then find a new house because we don’t want to hear about how we’ve burned you.” There was no ultimatum, but if there was, I think it would have been something like this: “stay silent, and bear the burns of this house or be excommunicated from us.” Because- kinda like Kanye said post-hurricane Katrina about Bush and Blackness, “the God of White people doesn’t care about Black people.”

It’s no wonder I apostatized at age 18 because I suspected God was a White supremacist. I’m 25 now, and somehow, a Christian. Spiritual abuse and trauma fucking sucks. Because it irons into your soul that not just people- but God- is ugly. As I continue my life, I have to intentionally conceive of a God who doesn’t just “love everybody.” No. My God must wake up in the morning to gospel music, Godself singing how Black bodies and lives don’t just matter to God- but how we are a priority to God. Because I can’t and I won’t worship a God who forgets me.

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Madison | i am who You say i am

The Inner

The last month has been hectic. COVID. lead actor in a film. George Floyd. Protests. Wrote a poetry book. Self published my poetry book. Articles started to get written about my activism and my art.

One day I was out with a friend who happens to be a crew member of the film I’m in, and she introduced me to her friend by saying, “this is Matthew he just self published a poetry book and he’s the lead actor in the film I was telling you about.”

Alarms went off inside of me as if I was a bank that was being robbed. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I wasn’t okay with being introduced like that.
Why? Well, one reason is that I didn’t want people to look at me differently.

Recently, an article came out called, “5 emerging leaders in Madison” and I was 1 of the 5.
When I read that article I thought to myself, “wow, THAT guy sounds awesome.”
But…THAT guy didn’t feel like it was me. I said everything they said that I said, so how come I felt like an imposter? A fraud?
“I’m not THAT big of a deal”, I’d tell myself, “I’m not really an emerging leader.”

How come I not only don’t like when other people see me for who I am? But I also feed myself a narrative that breeds imposter syndrome? Can’t I accept my own success as valid, and real?
“You can’t be as bright as they say you are”, I tell myself. Even tho I know that since my youth I’ve rigorously pursued developing myself so that one day I could shine. This double consciousness- at once permissive and restrictive of my shine- wars within me.

Where I come from people aren’t encouraged to shine, it’s almost as if we believe there’s not enough sky for all of us to be stars. But, I want to be more than a star- I want to be a sun.
Why must we let fear rob us of our bravery?
Pillage us of the treasures inside- leaving most of us so barren we can’t even imagine thinking highly of ourselves?
Most people don’t have articles written about them saying that their “voice is one that everyone should be listening to.” and so, I, more than most people in my life am confronted with this reality of other’s estimation of me. And it seems to be quite lofty.
I know what they say, “don’t believe the hype.”
But, rejecting the truth about yourself isn’t humility. It’s insecurity.

In writing my book, You Can Not Burn The Sun, SHINE is something I wanted to encourage myself to do. The sun IS bright. It IS seen most days. In fact, without it, none of us would be alive.
I want to cultivate the kind of courage to allow myself to shine. To be able to say, and believe, “my contributions to this world are important.”

To that end, I’m learning to be like the sun. From now on, if people tell me I shine brightly, I’ll say, “i am who You say i am”
because who better to tell you of your brightness than one who is warmed by your light?


Egypt | Imagine

Egypt; a land who’s treasure is hidden like the hair of the many women with Hijabs.
Getting to Egypt was an instant culture shock for us. . .

The Poem

we walked thru metal detectors
before we were allowed to enter
who would’ve thought
our holy spaces would need defenses

like, isn’t God enough?
but how can a people forgo a response when the trigger
from their trauma comes?

why can’t we mortals be the animals in noah’s story arc of floods?
You who call us Loved- protect us!
You say no weapon

formed against us will will prosper but
they are being formed!
and we are being taught to fear for the lives you’ve asked us to offer up

as sacrifices

remind us that tho our body
and indeed this building
may be
our spirits are being kept
like sheep by The Shepherd

The Story

Egypt; a land who’s treasure is hidden like the hair of the many women with Hijabs.
Getting to Egypt was an instant culture shock; the color of everything buildings, earth, and skin, different- all of it now a sandy tan. The 5x daily Call to Prayer blaring from loudspeakers in mosques nation wide, “Allahu Akbar”- vowels stretched beyond 1/4 notes making the Call almost songlike. When you heard the Call you could feel it in the air. It was like hypnosis-only, instead of our eyes being lulled to sleep it was the spirit of an entire nation. I’ve never felt anything like that before. None of my team had, either. How do you do ministry when legally, muslim converts to Christianity can and will be put to death- the very real tension of knowing that if we care about the life of the people we’re among it might be better for them if we don’t mention Jesus?
How do you do ministry when you have to operate in secret because if the government finds out what you’re doing you could get Blacklisted and kicked out of the country?
Or when Christians- and especially foreign Christians are not a welcomed sight? We were fortunate to spend most of our 2 Months in Egypt in a tourist hub called Hurghada on the eastern seaboard. Fortunate because it was far more tolerant of us than Cairo would have been. But still, we operated in secret. To the level that the Americans on our team were not permitted to tell people we were from the US because of a rising anti-american sentiment.
Our team felt repressed.
We had come to do ministry yet could not even speak the name of Jesus. This forced us to be more creative. We ran several week long kids camps and something I’ll never forget is that the 3rd camp we planned wasn’t able to happen. Why? Because the imam (head of a Mosque) of that area of the city didn’t permit the kids to come. We had run the camp in this area twice before and hadn’t run into this obstacle. The thing is, the community knew that our contact was Christian. At times parents would come to watch us. They would come not because they wanted to know more of Jesus- but because they wanted to be sure that we weren’t influencing their kids to convert. Under their watchful eye we never spoke the name of Jesus but we were able to teach Good things to the kids. Still, our camp was markedly, and unspokenly Christian. And as such, the community was forbid to come to it. That was hard for us! We had grown attached to these kids and thought that they as well had grown attached to us- groups would wait at the locked gate of the park we’d host the camp at and they would run to greet us when we arrived in our van.
We created a safe space for that group of kids. And safety was a key ingredient. Key, because many of these kids were being abused at home- many would come to the camp with bruises- marks of harsh home living. We came to see these camps as significant because at least we knew that when the kids were with us they were safe, and honored, and loved. So different was the culture that we created in the camps that it was like a dream to many of the kids. When you wake up from a dream you know it is not reality, no matter how beautiful and memorable the dream.
One day I was teaching on conflict resolution and I asked the kids, “when your friend makes you mad what do you do?”
Hands shot into the air, eager to answer my question.
I called on a boy named Mohammed, “I take a deep breath and count to 10”, he said, referring to a song that we had made and taught the kids. Surely, he had the right answer! And a good memory!
But, I looked at him and said, “I don’t want to hear the ‘right’ answer, or what you think I want to hear. I want to hear what you actually do”.
The kids laughed and whispered among themselves and Mohammed spoke again, “oh! Then we beat each other.”

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of lasting impact we had. All I know is that when the kids were with us we made them resolve conflict differently. We brought them into a different world. And sometimes different worlds are like languages- they seem inapplicable in places that aren’t fluent in that tongue. While we may have showed them the tongue of love, will they speak it outside of our Camp? I don’t know. But we showed them that there is more. And for kids, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is showing them that it is possible to imagine “more”. So, what did we accomplish in Egypt? We helped a group of kids learn to imagine. And that, is beautiful.

The Pictures

Germany | i want to be close

may the voice of the LORD warm my ear
may the dust of His feet
be kicked upon me, all my years

i want
to be
as the clothes to my body
i want
to be
as stars to the sky
i want
to be
as lovers
as friends

my Teacher
let us be huddled together

titled: huddled together

The Inner

Intercession is one of my favorite rhythms of life- it’s a time we set aside to literally hear from Father what’s on His heart, and as we hear, we boldly echo His prayers. While I was in Madison, Father would often encourage me to write and share poems during group intercession times, and rarely would I do what I was asked. I was afraid and insecure. What if people think I’m sharing this poem just because I want to be recognised as a good poet? Or worse, what if my community thinks I’m a bad poet? Do they even want to hear a poem from me? What if I’m not hearing Father right? What if this- What if that- What if- What if- What if?!
All I could think was “What if” and I allowed my fears to get the best of me. Effectively, I was silenced. And that’s griefworthy because what if I’d remembered? Remembered last fall when the Head Pastor of my church and I collaborated every month. He’d sent me the bible passages he was going to preach on and he gave me free reign to create a piece that would be shared on church on a Sunday. We did that every month over the fall. If only I’d remembered the trust my pastor placed in not only my creative ability but also the fear of the LORD within me that would seek to honor Father in whatever I shared with the congregation. After one service a woman came to me and told me how a piece I wrote helped her wrestle through some of her own theological struggles. I was touched, and honored. And I forgot.
Forgot in such a way that my mouth closed up the way a powerful river does when it is dammed up. I was dammed up. And in my dammage I felt like I couldn’t contribute to the spiritual life of my community. I couldn’t, because I wouldn’t, because I was afraid to.
When I came to Nuremberg two months ago I made a commitment to be myself, no matter what. I told myself that I wouldn’t test the water, I’d jump in. That commitment has been the single most redemptive choice I’ve made in my whole life. All encompassingly it’s had trickle down effect on the way I relate to everything from the jokes I make, to how I handle conflict, to prayer life, to how I carry myself. These days when I interned and God tells me to write a poem I pull out my phone and start writing. Sometimes the “What if’s” attack me, but when it happens- I do my best to remember. Remember who it is Father is, and who it is He has called me to be. A creative who powerfully communicates His Truth while displaying just how beautiful He is.
May I be closer to Him and His Truth than I am to fear and insecurities.

The Outer

DTS Started!! We have 31 students from 15 different nations!! Thanks to all of you who have partnered with me financially- my outreach (to as of yet not publicly announced locations. message me and Ill tell you) for the next 2 years has already been paid off! Yay God, and Thanks y’all!!

The Photos

We hosted a team from China. Put on a few workshops, and presented the Gospel to them.
One girl asked me, “Nobody back home is a Christian…why should I be one?”
and I had the honor of sharing with her just how GOOD our Father is.
This is my friend Malorie. She loves Betty White and me.

Caleb and I collaborating on a piece I wrote called Growth

Germany | take me Home

Once you’ve been uprooted once
it’s easy to forget
that all you need is Living Water
and the light of the Sun to bloom

I can be repotted into any soil
knowing that the plans of The Gardener are never foiled

He will have His harvest
He has come that Garden might become Kingdom
and harvest become choir of voices singing,
“when I was wilting you watered me
when I was growing you pruned
and tended me
and now I receive every ounce of goodness you intended me
You never left me
I’m thankful
Oh so thankful
for how you have befriended me”

Me, small seed that knows it must cling to soil
tightly as vines coil round a tree
if I am to grow here
I, in all things
must remember

The Gardener knows the soil and the seed
and it is Him
who planted me

The Gardener

The Inner

“Take me home”
I prayed, as the unmoving plane I’d been sitting in of for an hour that has a problem that the pilot says will be “probably solved” starts to rush down the runway.
When I said home, I meant Madison.
Lord said, “you still don’t get it, yet, do you?”
Right now, as I write this, I am flying home.

And that’s crazy.

Crazy because who am I but a kid from a small town in Oregon? A kid who didn’t even graduate High School.
A kid who up until 4 years ago didn’t actually have a firm understanding of what it meant to be or to have a home.

I made a mental note to myself in New York to journal, asking myself the questions, “How will they receive me? Will they pursue me? How will I react to their pursuit of me?”.
But honestly, I can’t answer those questions yet. Still, the fact that I’m asking them reveals my heart to myself.
I am most curious about how the relationships will go here. Curious of the new ones I’ll fashion. Curious of how they will be held together.
I once had a girlfriend I wrote a poem for and in it I said, “ I want you to come so close our hearts are like the snakes of the Caduceus tethered around the rod that is our God”.
We came together around shared faith. We believed in the same thing.
I think that it is what we believe in- and what we’re willing to do for those beliefs that cultivate a sense of Home.
I have a dear friend in Madison and we believe in Netflix, analyzing film, and trying to learn from things we’ve just seen.
Another playful friend believes in wine and card games.
A 3rd treasured friend of mine believes in beloved quality time and is willing to do almost anything to be with those she loves.
Those beliefs rubbed off on me.
I’ve become a wine drinking, card game playing, film watching, quality time savoring man, and as I fly Home, I’m excited.
Excited to find out what kind of Home awaits me, and how I will collaborate with them in cultivating a Home for everyone.

How will my new home rub off on me?

And how will I rub off on it?

The Outer

•I’ve moved to Nuremberg, Germany. And I’ll be here for the next 2 years.

•I’ve secured housing.

•working on starting the Visa process.

•This last week has been staff orientation. Good stuff.

•Staff Training for DTS starts August 26th

The Prayers

•Pray I start going to bed at a good time 😅. It’s a 7 hour time difference and my friends don’t wake up till late afternoon so I talk to them late into the night cause I miss them.

•There’s differences organizationally between Ywam Madison and Ywam Nuremberg and it’s an adjustment period for me

•Relational Adjustment. I’m in a new country and continent where I know nobody. I’m the outsider. They’ve made me welcome, but still, I’m the new kid.

•My family going thru some stuff. Please pray for them.

The Pictures

The literal only pic of me I’ve gotten the last 2 weeks haha

img_2645St. Lorenz church.


Madison | Worship Leader

I knew I was an Artist. But…a Worship Leader? What? I’m not musical! I just write poetry.


The Inner

September of last year I was at a conference in Minneapolis. The second day of the conference I was eating lunch by myself, happy and content, and a stranger came to me. He said, “I didn’t know why I was here, because I’m certainly not here for the conference. But when I saw you I knew that I was here to speak to you.”
He proceeded to tell me many things. When he left, I spent some time with Jesus and asked, “Are any of the things this strange man said true?”
To which Jesus replied, “I don’t want to tell you about these words. I want to instead inform you more of My calling on your life. My son, you were created to be creative. You are an Artist and I want you to learn how to stand in that call, strongly.
And not just an Artist- but a Worship Leader…this will be apparent soon”

I knew I was an Artist. But…a Worship Leader? What? I’m not musical! I just write poetry.
This bout with non-understanding launched a process wherein Father taught me how I’ve been limiting what worship truly is. He showed me how being a worship leader does not mean talented singer/song-writer, that worship, really, at it’s essence is this: “responding to God”.
And how my poetry in and of itself is Worship because through it, I am responding to God. And that if I learn what it is to use my Pieces to facilitate the movement of Spirit, I indeed can lead other’s into their own God-responses.

This revelation inspired me to go to my Pastor and offer him my creative services. He told me that he’d send me the bible verses he was preaching about, and I could write whatever I wanted, however he’d retain veto power.
Two Sundays later and my whole church was singing Song of Praise, a song I’d written.
At least once every month of the Fall I was sharing a piece during church in conjunction with the sermon.

Within all of this, too, is the story of God’s faithfulness to me. When I was 13 I lived in a hellhouse. As a result I was suicidal. At 1am I went into the kitchen to grab a butcher knife to slit my wrists- hoping I’d bleed out. As I placed the knife on my left wrist I heard a voice say, “if you don’t take your life, I will use your life to help countless others.”.
That was the first time I’d ever heard the voice of God, and nowhere near the last. When I was in Trinidad, 2 years later for a mission trip a Prophetess came to me, saying, “The Lord has some things He wants me to tell you.” So, I listened. She spoke of things I had not as of yet told anybody in my life. And then she spoke of the future I’d have, she said,
“you have the heart of David, and one day you will have words that can move mountains.”

Fast forward to today, and indeed. My words are incredibly powerful. A few weeks ago I was reading over one of the prophetic words that a friend had given me, “Poetry is a way for you to teach God’s values to the generations.”. And instantly, one specific Sunday at church came to mind. A woman had come to me and said that a poem (Titled: I Will Not Let You Live) I had shared during the service a few weeks prior had tremendously helped her wrestle through a serious theological issue (Malachi.Jacob I loved, Esau I hated). And that came from my poetry. So, from that one experience, there is a triple fulfillment of prophecy. And all being done in the context of me, increasingly taking up a mantle as somebody who leads people into responding to God.


The Outer

  • Leading Spark (arts elective in the Discipleship Training School)
  • Staffing at Phos House (YWAM Campus Ministry House)
  • Volunteering 2x a week at Vera Court- an after school program where I tutor kids.


A Photo

A bunch of artists got together 2 weeks and made Chinese dumplings. yay for bonding over food!



[Cover Photo is a portrait by Reyna Groff. Find more of her art on ig]

Chicago | National Poetry Slam

Being in Chicago this last week has been somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster.

[This not footage from NPS because I wanted yall to have the uncut version]



The Inner

Being in Chicago this last week has been somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. We arrived at 10:45pm, and one of my teammates and I were immediately dropped off at the “Rookie Slam”- the event that allows only NPS rookies to compete. It was awe-inspiring to be in a room with so many wordsmiths!
The next night, Wednesday, was my team’s first bout. I was nervous! And excited!
And I had yet to realize how emotionally unprepared I was for the evening.
My team had chosen me to be our closer, so I performed in slot 3 of round 4.
At the beginning of Round 4 I left the room, unease and a desire to get my mind right filled me like incense in a small room,  I felt in my spirit like I should add an intro line to my piece- A RISKY ASS MOVE BECAUSE WE’RE TIMED AT A MAX OF 3 MINUTES AND 10 SECONDS- AND THEN I FELT LIKE I SHOULD JUST DO A WHOLE DIFFERENT PIECE. AN UNPREPARED PIECE. A PIECE THAT WAS OVER 3 MINUTES AND 10 SECONDS.
And I couldn’t shake the feeling.
I told myself, “nah just do what you came here prepared to do”,
but my spirit grew louder, “Perform Good Twin Dichotomy and add that new intro line.” And I buckled, because the spirit wouldn’t leave me alone.
The MC of the night called out to my team, “Urban Spoken Word, who are you sending up?!?!”
Look. My team had no idea I’d called an audible 3.5 minutes before I’d went on stage. They thought they knew what I was gonna perform.
My performance itself was fine. But I was 40 seconds over the time limit, and as such I got deducted A LOT of points. Pre-deduction I had scored the highest on my team. However, Post-deduction I was blessed with the lowest score.
And then the MC announced the places of the bout.
My team took 4th, dead last.
I went to congratulate one of the poets from another team who I’d seen at the Rookie Slam, “Congrats dude!”
” Your piece was dope bro”, he said to me.
I told him how right before getting on stage I changed what piece I was gonna do, and in changing the piece, I made a decision to not be competing this bout, as it was score-suicide to intentionally do a piece 40 seconds over the time limit.
And he said back to me, “that’s okay bro, you did it for yourself, you can’t guilt yourself for that.”
And he was right.
But I was still an emotional trainwreck on the inside. I’d known that my team and I weren’t going to be able to compete and WIN at NPS, that we were there for the experience. But I was shook because why the heck did I just change my piece? Why did I commit score-suicide? How the crap did we come in last? And last but not least, maybe I ain’t worthy to be here? Maybe I’m just frontin’ and I ain’t ever been good- in fact probably my creative ceiling is mediocrity. Maybe I should quit writing because I can’t compete??!
I left that building swift as a sudden storm, without telling any of my teammates, and
caught the train back to our hotel.
I wanted to be alone. To get some emotional and physical distance from that huge L my team and I just took.
But I needed to talk to a friend. To be listened to, and heard. So I called one.
They helped me gain a better perspective on the evening.
I wasn’t foolish. I was courageous.
I did even know what Slam Poetry was until 2 months ago when I was invited to be on the Madison Team. Everybody else at Nationals had been preparing for the last 10 months to be here at Nationals. I was different. I was like a G-League player, called up to the NBA. I was courageous. Bold. Innocent, even, of the kind of work that went into being on a competitive team- and still I showed up.
To my doubts I say this,
“And though they may loom over me like Giants
I, like David, aligned with the Divine on a quest for self actualization
will build a House upon the same rock I slingshot at Godspeed
toward any giant who opposes me”


Thursday was our team’s final bout pre-semifinals (we ended up not making semi’s.)
and I was committed to showing up and showing out. I wanted to be recognized. So, that morning I went to a room of the hotel and reworked my piece. Originally the piece was about 4 min 30 seconds, and I could perform it fast enough to shave about 60 seconds off- which would still incur a time penalty. In the weeks leading up to NPS I had become fine with that because our team “wasn’t going to NPS to WIN, we were going for the experience”. But, fueled by the night before, I wanted to compete. I wanted to see how I’d do if I took the evening seriously and tried my best. So I shaved stuff out of my piece so it would be on time.
That night I was our team’s closer, and this time I was assured of the piece I was to do. I performed Affirmation II which is the only piece I tailor wrote for the National Poetry Slam.
I scored amazingly well. Out of 12 competitors that night, I was scored top 3, again head of my team, and this time, ahead of most of the competition.
When the MC announced the bout outcomes, my team placed 4th. And when I heard that, I didn’t have an existential crisis like the night before. I confidently knew that Wednesday and Thursday  I had done my best, and both nights what my “best” looked like was vastly different to the outside world. But I was conforming to the spirit that directed me, and that HAD to be enough. Enough for others, sure, but more than that- enough for me.
Before the MC ended the night, he made a point to call out a few poets who had lines he’d salivated over, and he started with me, he said, “Matthew!! That line.. and when they lost interest it felt like my value dropped off a cliff?!!  Hey! Everybody! Say, Yo Matthew”


“You belong here!”

“You belong here!”


And they’re right. I do.
Because I forfeited nothing but my limits to come here
and I belong here.



The Photos

My team: Tony, Julia, Me, F.J


Tony bout to burn down the stage because he spits hot fire

Stayed in a Hilton Hotel. Had a ballroom. I felt very out of place. But ALSO very valued.

They call this a Boutfit. What you wear to your bout. and 9/10 was one of my scores. FUEGO.






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