Stories Still Breathing Episode Eight: Scott

A friend introduced me to Scott. I was told he had lived a wild life and had stories to tell––crazy stories that I wouldn’t believe. “I’ve heard everything,” I told my friend. When you’ve been wandering the streets as long as I have, you’re rarely surprised at what you hear. Life is stranger than fiction, more harsh, less forgiving, and with fewer of the ambiguous or happy endings. People exist inside stories that are most often characterized by the word struggle. 

I picked Scott up and we spent a few hours sitting at the Waffle House talking. He was an articulate man, completely aware of why he was living life on the street, completely honest about his daily struggles with drugs and alcohol. Very few people are honest with their struggles. Scott knew. He feared what would happen if he continued. 
"I’m not sure there’s much God can do for me," he said. I hear this a lot. This comes from a place of honesty, though. People on the street look at their lives, scanning through the chapters of their story, and they see the pain they’ve caused, the bad choices they’ve made, and they struggle to understand how God could love them. 

One of my favorite things to do is to share the truth with them. 

A few weeks after the making of his film, Scott called me to tell me he was moving on to Austin. He was trying to get into a rehab program there. I could see the fear in his eyes, the weight of his addiction oppressing him.

"You’re in a good place," I told him, because he was tired. Tired of trying to cover up the pain with drugs and alcohol. Tired of the life he’d been living.

Stories Still Breathing Episode Seven: Jimmy Lee

When I met Jimmy Lee, he was someone different. The words he spoke were different, his eyes were different, the way he moved was different, the way he interacted with people was different. He looked heavier, not physically, but emotionally, mentally, as if he was carrying around far too much weight in his head. He was not the same person you see in the film.

Jail was home. If not there, the streets. Tents. Abandoned buildings. 

He would come into the day shelter I operated and it would look as though he had just done something he wasn’t supposed to do. You could read him, see the words on his face, in his actions. When I would ask what he’d been up to, he would shake his head and smile. “Nothing,” he’d say, but I knew, and I think he knew that I knew. 

On occasion, the cops would contact me regarding the whereabouts of Jimmy Lee. “I have no idea,” I would say, which was always the truth because he was never in one place very long. 

And then I didn’t see him for nearly a year. 

The next time I saw him, something had changed. I gave him a hug and told him he looked good. “You look better,” I said. He smiled and pointed upwards. “Everything is different,” he said. 

He told me how God had changed his life. He thanked me for loving him and believing in him, and he told me about how other people had loved and encouraged him––people like Theresa O’Keefe and Cody Howard, both from Church Under the Bridge. 

A few months ago I had the privilege of being a groomsman in Jimmy Lee’s wedding. It was one of the coolest moments in my life. 

Friends, God is actively restoring lives. On the streets and every other place. Jimmy Lee is proof.

Stories Still Breathing Episode Six: Daisy

We see other people and think, they are okay! things are fine! But there are cracks everywhere. Cracks in the system. In cities and neighborhoods and homes. Cracks in places there should be no cracks––in families and churches. People fall into these cracks, into the bottomless pit of brokenness, and the problem is that they don’t look any different. You never really know unless you stop and listen, unless you are intentional about seeking them out, loving on them, inviting them into your life. 

What a travesty! That people keep falling and falling and falling because we are unwilling to stop and say, I love you. There’s a God exist that loves you. Come! Come with me! Let’s live life together! 

The gospel is that important, isn’t it? Important enough that we would abandon everything if it meant transmitting the Gospel like some plague all the way around the world, like some terminal disease that people catch and it swallows them up? Shouldn’t we be willing to abandon everything if it meant those people––the people falling into the cracks––if it meant them finally understanding the Gospel because we stopped and said something, because we stopped and said come on! come on! 

As I filmed Daisy telling her story, I wondered how someone could fall so deeply without being seen, without being noticed, without someone stopping and saying, come on, come on! 

People say, we can only do so much! we can only go so far! I say, do more! Go further! Love harder! Be more graceful and merciful! If it means someone hears the gospel and believes, do whatever it takes! Give up everything! If it means keeping someone from falling into the never ending holes of society, move mountains, start fundraisers, sell your car and buy a cheaper one and use the leftover money, do whatever––and here’s why; because people matter more. More than the material world. More than our possessions and our jobs and our cars and houses. 

After making Daisy’s film, I spent the week with her and her boyfriend. We ate a lot of food and laughed a lot. We talked about Jesus and how difficult life was. We ate some more and we talked about our dreams and they told me they wanted to move to Tennessee. 

I did nothing special. I am nothing special. There is no system I followed. There is no bible study I taught. I do not have a degree in counseling. I just love people. I go looking for them on street corners and in the woods and I love them and I share the Gospel with them and I pray with them and sometimes they believe and it changes them, and sometimes they don’t––but that doesn’t change anything for me. I keep going, keep preaching, keep praying, keep giving, because I know there is a bottom. And when they hit that bottom, I want to be there. I want to be standing there so I can hold them and cry with them and then together we can talk about Jesus. 

I want to meet people at the bottom. 

The bottom is dirty. Terrifying. It’s prostitution. It’s drugs. It’s addicts. It’s gritting teeth. It’s busted knees. It’s broken needles and cut wrist and murder and hate and it may be in jail on the other end of some terrible, terrible crime. It’s dirty hotels. It’s STDs and rape and disgusting. But it’s where many people end up, and it’s where many are forgotten. 

It’s where we should be standing. It’s where the Harvest is. 

Stories Still Breathing Episode Five: Luni

Starting in 2011 through 2012, I threw parties. They were huge parties, usually in a small park tucked between two buildings in downtown Texarkana. I called them Celebrations.

At least once a month I would throw a celebration. The week leading up to the party, I would spend hours roaming the streets, handing out invitations in homeless camps, soup kitchens, shelters––anywhere I knew people in need would be. The parties were for them. 

We would have a band playing live music. There would be a grill with hamburgers and steaks. There would be clothes and hygiene kits and jackets and blankets and shoes. Hundreds of people came. Needs were provided. The gospel was transmitted through new friendships that were popping up all over the park. It was beautiful, it was right. 

That’s where I met Luni. 

He was going through the food line one day. He looked cool. He’s always looked cool. He carries himself with confidence. He smiles and nods, and you think, I want to be friends with that guy! He’s neat! To be around him means to be cool! Luni draws people in. He’s that type of dude. A cool dude.

Sitting down with him to make this film, it was beautiful hearing how instead of trusting in the streets, he’s been trusting in Jesus. And I can see it. Every Saturday he’s at Church Under the Bridge, and usually he’s counseling folks, encouraging them, holding them accountable. I’ve been there, he tells people. I know. Trust in the Lord, just trust in the Lord.

Friends, the Lord is moving. He is restoring lives. Luni is proof. Never forget. 

If you’d like to contact Luni, please email me at storiesstillbreathing@gmail.com. Send him a message. Encourage him. Tell him how his story changed you. 

Episode Four: Melony

Melony is quiet. Though I’ve known her for several years, it wasn’t until we sat down to make this film that I got to know her. 

There’s a lot you don’t know. There’s a lot I don’t know. You see someone on the street and you assume––based on what you’ve seen or read or heard about––you assume things. But you never really know. You don’t know where people came from, what they’ve struggled with, struggled against. 

I didn’t know Melony. 

I didn’t know about the loneliness. I didn’t know about her father. I didn’t know about the pain. 

One of the beautiful things about Melony is that she recognized that her story was still going, that her life is far from finished, that God is in absolute control. She has an almost child-like faith. It’s beautiful. 

If you’d like to help Melony, please email me at storiesstillbreathing@gmail.com. She needs help. Financial help. She needs friends. She needs people who will pray for her and love her and embrace and her make her a part of their lives. 

Episode Three: Alicia

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Several months ago my wife and I took Alicia and her husband, Jimmie Lee, out for dinner. We laughed. We ate good food. We told stories. It was a great time with great fiends. A few days later, when I saw Alicia again, she handed me a custom cross she had made. It had all of our names on it––Chad, Marjorie, Eisley, Emery, and Copeland. It was colorful. Neat. We loved it. We hung it up above our fridge.

That’s Alicia––thoughtful, giving, creative. She’s always looking for ways to help even though she has very little to give. She wants to take care of people. Love on them. 

Alicia said something in her video that was beautiful because of its simplicity––something that kept rolling around in my head for weeks after filming.

"I trust that He’s going to get me through it."

I kept wondering––do I trust that He’s going to get me through it? 

Watch Alicia’s story. Go to her Facebook page––https://www.facebook.com/dianne.mathis.750––and add her as a friend. And check out some of the cool stuff she’s selling. Send her a message. Get to know her. I promise that she will encourage you. 

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Stories Still Breathing episode four is next Sunday, August 3rd at 9PM. Tune in to watch Melanie––you don’t want to miss it!

Episode Two: KELVIN

I met Kelvin at Church Under the Bridge one morning after service ended. He told me his girlfriend was pregnant and had a bad cold. He was nervous, looking around as if he was hiding from someone. 

"Yeah, if you got any medicine, that would be nice, that would be great," he said, and I told him I would get his girlfriend medicine. That’s how our friendship started––a $5 box of cold medicine. 

For several weeks, this is what our friendship amounted to––him asking me for things. Candles. More medicine for the girlfriend. Food and water. Clothes. Blankets. It was as if he was testing me––are you for real? do you really care? what’s the catch? 

And then one day he called and he needed more than just things. He needed time away, time with a friend. So we hung out. Went to eat at Waffle House. Talked about life––about girls and God and what it all meant. He asked about Jesus and I told him the beauty of what the Gospel meant for him. 

Three weeks after the making of this film, Kelvin got arrested and taken back to Georgia where he is currently serving time. 

Pray for Kelvin. 

If you’d like to support the making of Stories Still Breathing by sponsoring a short film, please email me at storiesstillbreathing@gmail.com. 

After watching all of my films and reading all of my blog post, you should go check out www.silvermoononbroad.com and see what they have going on. It’s the perfect venue for any event––weddings, meetings, concerts, film showings, birthdays, break-dancing competitions––whatever. At least go like them on Facebook and thank them for helping make episodes one and two of Stories Still Breathing possible!

Tune in next Sunday, July 27th at 9pm to catch Episode Three of Stories Still Breathing!

Episode One: REGINA

A huge THANK YOU to The Historic Silvermoon on Broad for making episode one possible! I’ve traveled all over the country and spent time in some of the coolest cities in America, and I can say without a doubt that The Silvermoon is one of the coolest collection of buildings I’ve ever set foot in. Planning an event? Call them. Do not have that event in your backyard. The Silvermoon is affordable and a lot cooler than your backyard. 

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Regina and I have been friends for nearly six years––but there have always been large blocks of time when Regina will disappear. She’ll stop answering my calls, stop returning text messages. This has been the nature of our friendship since we met.

"It’s drugs," she told me recently. "When I get caught in the drugs, I go away, hide from everyone. Especially people who love me. I don’t want to see you, hear what you have to say––I just––I know I’m doing wrong, I know people love me, and I can’t take it. So I run."

Four months ago I saw Regina again. She was struggling. Contemplating suicide. She felt disconnected from her own life, as if she were floating above her own body. So my wife Marjorie and I invited her into our lives. Took her on our Monday night dates. Cooked her dinner. We did nothing spectacular––just spent time with her. Regina is easy to spend time with. She’s hilarious. Very smiley. And she’s up for anything. A few months ago I convinced her to sit in a massage chair at the mall and it may have been the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. Her face! That’s Regina. 

But she still has days. Days when the world darkens and she feels like she is being swallowed up. Days when it feels as though the world has given up on her. And that’s why Regina and I are such good friends––because I have those days. 

People like Regina and me need constant prayer. We need encouragement. We need people around us to remind us of who we are in Christ. 

Today Regina is doing good. She’s hurting from several lingering medical issues, and she’s lonely since she has no way to leave her house because walking hurts her back, but she’s in constantly fellowship with the Lord.

If you’d like to help Regina, please send me an email at thechadmatthews@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to let you know what her needs are. 

Tune in next week!

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Introducing the OFFICIAL Stories Still Breathing trailer! How exciting is this?

I can’t believe we are only a little over two weeks away before these films begin to air. I sincerely believe these films will change the way people see homelessness. Why? Because the stories are bigger than this idea of homelessness––they are stories of restoration, stories of hope and dreams and faith in the darkest moments. 

In that sense, these stories represent the story of what it means to be human. 

Episode One drops RIGHT here on Sunday, July 13th at 9PM. If you don’t catch it here, you’ll probably see it on Twitter or Facebook or any other place videos are posted.

Love you guys.

Chad