parable of the plague

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

panic. will i be stranded
here?
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 dictionary.com 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 (https://doctrineofdiscovery.org/what-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.

Congo |Courage and Belief

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.”

searching_for_god_by_jojoesart-d82e2qq

 

 

The Inner

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.

The Outer

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.

 

 

The Photos

WhereIsNoahTanzania
Our Congo Team! Minus Noah. [Left to Right: Emily, Jake, Me, Kelly, Ashley]

TeamBushPlaneCongo
Bush Plane Selfie! Flying to Buta ft Kelly, Jake, Emily, and Ashley

SkyviewOfCongo
Views from the window. DRC is so beautiful!
WaterClosetCongo
WC. Water Closet. Aka Squatty Potty

SquattyPottyStanceTanzania
Nathan (in tanzania) demonstrating Squatty Potty stance for your viewing pleasure

MatthewStoryCongo
Mana (our translator, to my left) and I teaching outside

TeamTeachCongo
Ashley, Mana, Jake, and Emily teaching the children

NatureCongo
Lovely

KellyAshleyCongo
Kelly and Ashley with some of the women that served us

WalkingCongo
Going for a walk in Buta

SweepDirtCongo
poem coming below about this. . .

EmilyPlayCongo
Emily in the evening playing with the village kids

WomenCongo
Group pic with mostly ladies and Mana

LittleGirlCongo
Every time I go to Africa I come back wanting to have a daughter..do you see why?

MatthewandManaCongo
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.

NativesPosterCongo
Some of the participants looking over the posters, desiring to embed truth into their lives.

 

23659971_2016190885074855_1168917310_o
Our local outreach team! I’m behind the camera… smile!

LocalOutreachInCongo
Local Outreach in action..Im a terrible photographer

BridgeCongo
But sometimes I take pretentious photos of bridges in attempts to be artsy. LOOK AT ME ALL CREATIVE AND STUFF.

HappierThanILookCongo
I’m happier than I look, I promise

OpenAirCongo
We went to the market and preached the Gospel of Jesus. It was lit.

OpenAir2Congo
Leaving the market in a Congo line. . .

GraduationCongo
70 people graduated from our seminar! Woooo!!

Raphael&MatthewCongo
Raphael and I, one of the graduates, an elder who warmed my heart.

KellyAshleyMatthewGoofyCOngo
Sometimes ya gotta make goofy faces

Matthew&Ashley&CongoleseCongo
And sometimes you pray over sick babies

AshleyAndMatthewRBeautifulInCongo
And sometimes you take pictures at graduation because the villagers are so persistent and they won’t let you not do it haha

PapaMamaJustineCongo
And sometimes you meet elders who earnestly seek Yahweh and His truth and a life centered on it

NoSmilesInCongo
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.

 

 

 

The P.S.

A post on Tanzania will be coming soon. . .
Share this with your friends, your church, and your mama!

 

 

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