Fearful, insecure, untrustworthy, devious, manipulative, thief, liar. That would pretty much describe the person that was Walter Matthews before July 1996.
My days and nights revolved around how to get money to get high. Life—if you could call it that—had no meaning; I merely existed. From my late teens until 1996 (roughly twenty years), not a year went by that I was not incarcerated either for the whole year or parts of it. If not incarcerated, then I was in some drug program to keep from going to jail.
The worst part is that I had accepted this as a normal way of life. Going to jail was a way of life! There were actually times that I was glad to go. It was like a break, a safe haven, the health spa—a place to get my body prepared to do it all over again.
At some point (because I had just gotten too old to compete with the new breed) I decided I wanted to change my life. But I quickly figured out that changing my life was pretty much like changing clothes. If you don’t have something to change into, you’re stuck with what you have on.
I decided I wanted to change my life. But I quickly figured out that changing my life was pretty much like changing clothes. If you don’t have something to change into, you’re stuck with what you have on.
At one point I was so depressed and disgusted with myself, I started playing the “if game”. Like… If, I were to commit suicide how would I do it?
On July 16, 1996, while lying in a bed at a shelter and trying to figure out a new hustle, I remembered my grandmother and mother saying God answers prayers. So I said, “Okay, God, I want You to help me, but I need to know it is You helping me and not just things working out with You taking credit.”
Well, the next morning I went to an agency in Hempstead. My plan was to get them to find me housing. (With an address, I could apply for welfare and then I would be on my way again.) The counselor that I was speaking to was prepared to send me to the next county for housing when, quite by accident, her sleeve caught onto her rolodex and it fell open on the floor. When she placed the now-open rolodex on her desk, she glanced down at it and said, “I forgot all about this place. It’s right in Freeport.”
She called right away and had me speak to Pastor Keith. When he explained that it was a Christian program that believed in the power of God’s healing, I thought about my challenge to God the night before.
On July 17, 1996 I entered the New Life Dream Center for Men. Psalm 34:6 says, “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. I went on to graduate the Men’s Center and worked full time for the ministry. Little did I know the best was yet to come. God had a surprise for me.
He introduced me to a woman who was raising three boys (her grandchildren), two teens and one pre-teen. Over a cup of coffee we discussed me acting as a tutor/big brother. We now live in Tampa, Florida and the boys are all grown now, the youngest serving his country in the United States Air Force. And the Grandmother? Well, her name is now Mrs. Barbara Matthews.
God took me from the streets with nothing, cleaned me up, gave me a new set of clothes—a suit of spiritual armor; a beautiful and loving wife. We own a beautiful home in Florida. Ha, ha. God is so great and understanding, He even added a passage in the Bible just for people like me, people who mess up.
Just turn to Psalm 37:23&24: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” Satan, you lose!
— Walter M., 1996 Graduate