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; 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. . .
we walked thru metal detectors before we were allowed to enter church 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 defenseless our spirits are being kept like sheep by The Shepherd
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.
Lately, I’ve felt a call to be more. But I’ve been afraid. To which God graciously responded, “But don’t you know that snowflakes were made to be caught?”
I am that made-to-be-caught Snowflake, and so are you!
Read on to see more of what I’ve been learning!
“But don’t you know that snowflakes were made to be caught? And we’re the only ones who’re afraid as we fall”
I wrote this piece inspired by a speaker at a conference who said, “Good theology makes for good art”. And I began to ponder this and question if my art-by that definition- is good or bad?
I started asking myself, “Why is theology so important in art?”
Well, the answer is simple. Even in my pieces that aren’t as explicitly Christian as the one above, my study of God (theology) informs them. The way I tell stories, my commitment to excellence, my desire to connect with the listener, it’s all inspired by how I see God interacting with the world. Inspired by this revelation I wanted to create a piece of “good art”, and knowing that I needed to create one to present to Spark [art elective in the DTS which I co-lead], I thought about what I’d been seeing to be true of God lately. The truth of it is this: that He calls us higher than we can soar alone, our wings are weak in comparison to the winds that whip us into submission- He calls us deeper than we can reach without Him- He the breath in our oxygen tank that enables us to continually go deeper. What is a scuba diver capable of without breath? He calls us to be stronger than we can imagine absent His influence on our lives, and so I wrote a piece about this. I spent 36 hours locked away in my room writing, feeling the pulse of the heart of God, how persistently He calls us, and how strongly His desire for us to answer this call.
“Come to me! I’ve come down to you that I might raise you up with me! Arise, mighty valiant warrior!”, He calls us just like He called Gideon.
This year I have been called to Radiance. To shine; a light among darkness, and moreso than ever before.
I am intimidated by this. Afraid. But like the snowflake I speak of “We’re the only one’s who are afraid as we fall”. God, in His faithfulness is going to catch me. He- the oxygen in my tank, the strength in my wings, the courage behind my conviction.
This year is going to be an exercise in abiding in the truth that I am made to be caught, and that He calls us to nothing wherein His presence is not. He is with me.
A couple Mondays ago I experienced a minor crisis, I was left alone to teach the first night of Spark. Due to poor weather the rest of my team was unable to come and I was stressed because it was a very sudden change that I was unprepared for.
In my franticity God told me to go outside in just my socks.
But it had been snowing all day! WHY WOULD YOU HAVE ME DO THAT?!?!
I didn’t understand why He asked me to do it, so I questioned Him and He told me that I wouldn’t understand until I did it. Fine. I submitted and went outside barefoot and stood in the snow.
You know how when you wash fruit you’re allegedly supposed to do it with cold water because cold water allegedly shocks the fruit or something? Yeah well I was fruit standing in the cold snow shocked clean of my worries as I so clearly heard His comforting voice say to me, “I am closer than the cold on your feet.”
I walked back in, eased and comforted into confidence and faith. He is with me.
Long story short, the night went fine and fluid. Less structured than what was planned, but from the lemons came lemonade. Yum. And amidst my fall, He caught me.
The winter DTS is off to a booming start, I am co-leading Spark which is the art elective and I’m so excited to be involved with these students! 7 girls who are all excellent creatives and all learning to intertwine their faith with their creativity! It’s so delightful to watch their process of integration!!
I am living at the Phos House [YWAM Madison’s campus ministry house] and this year I am not staffing there, just living, which is nice as I feel more free to engage relationally with the students. But I am leading a friday morning Small Group! The year is off to a great start!
Last year I was a student in the BSN and this year I am staffing the BSN (Bible School for the Nations)!! Woo!!! Just got the news like 5 minutes ago, y’all, I’m so excited.
This is a poem I wrote for a friend of mine and she turned it into this!
Bobby Buckets aka Matthew Charles with the clean fade
Kimono goodbye pics are the sauciest
[Hiro and Mayumi departed from YWAM Madison back to Japan!]
Hiro’s last night in Madison. Pic ft Manuel, me, and Hiro @ The Decent Dane
My nephew Wes and I in Saint Louis
My sister Rebecca and I in Saint Louis!
My good friend Timia who I met in South Africa during DTS outreach 2 years ago came to visit me in Madison! We had a great time catching up! Love you, friend!
Mike and Maya’s [MFB] Wedding reception! I got to give a speech!!
I am looking to establish a creative presence online through instagram and facebook, sharing my poems, and in order to effectively do that I need an iphone 7 [For the excellent camera it boasts]. In the next couple of months I am hoping to be able to purchase or have somebody donate to me an iphone 7.
I have been very tired, and lacking energy lately. Please pray for endurance and a desire in me to see Christ’s strength revealed through my weakness.
Spark is off to a great start! You can pray for the students as each day they are being discipled, encouraged, strengthened, and reformed, that they would continue to press in fervently, receiving all that Father has in store for them!
I’ve got some creative projects I’m working on and need people to come alongside of me. Please pray that the right people partner with me and catch the vision and do so at a relatively low financial price to myself LOL.
Relationships in Phos House to continue to be strengthened and delve into new areas of intimacy, that we can truly be a Christ-like community.
Pray that God reveals Himself to me in powerful ways and I am faithful to continue to seek conviction and conformation to the image He made me to, as I am studying in prep for BSN
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I can not do in or through you
that which you are afraid to complete
And this is why I said,
“Not in fear, but in courage and belief.”
I realized that I’ve inhabited a space of fear when it comes to dwelling in my identity in Christ. My identity as a person of God.
I’ve been afraid to proclaim Him, His goodness, and His Kingdom, and so I silenced myself.
I’ve been afraid to attempt to glorify Him with outright action out of fear I’d be silenced by others.
And perfect love has no fear in it so I was confronted with the awareness that I needed to re-examine and revolutionize my motivation so that I could love more like Him.
Not in fear. But in courage. And belief. Because apparently, loving in any other way muzzles the Most High.
In essence I was paralyzed. And Father urged me into understanding with equal parts urgency as tenderness, saying “not in fear, but in courage and belief.”. He spoke to me of Luke 15, of 1 John, and of Sonship. This truth that as children of His we are called to be motivated by love, and not fear. Ratified by relationship. Love is eternal. And Fear will one day fade, as will our motivation if it is fueled, and left as fumes by fear.
The DRC was an exercise in being courageous, and walking in belief. Throughout my month in DRC I taught 2 four hour teachings in our 2 week seminar and preached every sunday at church, and God not only encouraged me to share my life stories- dispersing them throughout the teachings- but He freed me to share, by revealing more of His perspective on my life, and from this revelation conviction was birthed within me. I came to see more and more how much Christ has saved me, and not just saved, but transformed me. And if transformed, then empowered. Empowered to usher in His kingdom with just as much courage and belief as Christ.
And so here I sit, an empowered individual in Christ, reconciled to truth, seeking to establish His Kingdom, making known His glorious goodness, with equal parts urgency as tenderness, in courage and belief.
During our month in DRC there was an elder man named Raphael (The cover pic of this post is him and I) who captured my heart. Obviously aged a bit, but this Pastor had a fire within him. One day after a morning of teaching the seminar I was at our house talking with a teammate and Raphael came to our house. He spoke Lingala, the tribal language so I had to call Mana (our translator) over so that we could communicate.
Raphael asked me to pray for him because he felt that in his old age he had lost some of the boldness of his youth. And I was touched because God had been speaking to me of boldness, courage and belief, and the crux of what He said was that boldness stems from conviction, and conviction from belief. So I ministered to Raphael, telling him what He had first told me and I then prayed for him.
Afterward Raphael left our house with a smile and inspiration to grow.
One week later it was the weekend, and in order to graduate from a BELT seminar you have to do local outreach, so our YWAM team split up onto different local outreach teams with the Congolese people. Ashley and I traveled with the group that had Raphael and they taught about the Greatness of God (His nature, qualities of His which just are). On that team Raphael taught, and granted we had no translator so I couldn’t understand a single word he said ( 4 hours of not understanding what was happening around me haha) I saw the fire with which he spoke, the conviction, the belief. The time that we had met up in prayer yielded a harvest of boldness for Raphael and I praise God for that. When we debriefed the local outreach, many of the seminar participants reported back that the people they had ministered to said they had never heard the Gospel taught in such a way, and that if more teachings like ours were brought to them, they would want to give their lives to Christ.
And I began to see a picture of multiplication.
Of spiritual empowerment. We came, we taught, and they learned. And now they have the teachings so that they can go, they can teach, and those they teach can learn. And the cycle can continue in ever generative cycles creating more and more understanding of God.
Being able to be a part of this Congo outreach was indelible to my spiritual foundations and many more things happened that I don’t have space to write about here. Ask me bout em.
Our Congo Team! Minus Noah. [Left to Right: Emily, Jake, Me, Kelly, Ashley]
Bush Plane Selfie! Flying to Buta ft Kelly, Jake, Emily, and Ashley
Views from the window. DRC is so beautiful!
WC. Water Closet. Aka Squatty Potty
Nathan (in tanzania) demonstrating Squatty Potty stance for your viewing pleasure
Mana (our translator, to my left) and I teaching outside
Ashley, Mana, Jake, and Emily teaching the children
Kelly and Ashley with some of the women that served us
Going for a walk in Buta
poem coming below about this. . .
Emily in the evening playing with the village kids
Group pic with mostly ladies and Mana
Every time I go to Africa I come back wanting to have a daughter..do you see why?
Me teaching the destructiveness of sin. Our teachings interact with the posters behind Mana (our translator) and I. But you cant see my poster cause we in front of it.
Some of the participants looking over the posters, desiring to embed truth into their lives.
Our local outreach team! I’m behind the camera… smile!
Local Outreach in action..Im a terrible photographer
But sometimes I take pretentious photos of bridges in attempts to be artsy. LOOK AT ME ALL CREATIVE AND STUFF.
I’m happier than I look, I promise
We went to the market and preached the Gospel of Jesus. It was lit.
Leaving the market in a Congo line. . .
70 people graduated from our seminar! Woooo!!
Raphael and I, one of the graduates, an elder who warmed my heart.
Sometimes ya gotta make goofy faces
And sometimes you pray over sick babies
And sometimes you take pictures at graduation because the villagers are so persistent and they won’t let you not do it haha
And sometimes you meet elders who earnestly seek Yahweh and His truth and a life centered on it
And sometimes you leave a nation that has captured your heart and you’re happy for all that God has accomplished in and through you and your team, but the locals are sad and dont smile for the picture.
But they don’t smile becaues Congolese people dont ever smile for pictures not because they are sad haha.
A post on Tanzania will be coming soon. . .
Share this with your friends, your church, and your mama!