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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When we drove up to his dilapidated house, Wing-Nut was outside with several friends, all of them drinking, carrying on. Half drunk, Wing-Nut walks up to my car and my two little girls, Eisley and Emery, give him high-fives and smile at him––and their smiles! Man! They don’t know anything about alcohol, or what people should or should not be doing. They don’t care. They just love people. Love waving at them. Smiling at them. Trying to get their attention to show them pictures they’ve drawn. Their love has no conditions. It’s beautiful and convicting. It’s a glimpse of the love Jesus spoke of––the kind of love that disarms, that shines into darkness, the kind of love that destroys barriers. Who says you can’t bring your kids to the streets?
ZoomInfo
Camera

iPhone 5

ISO

160

Aperture

f/2.4

Exposure

1/20th

Focal Length

4mm

When we drove up to his dilapidated house, Wing-Nut was outside with several friends, all of them drinking, carrying on. Half drunk, Wing-Nut walks up to my car and my two little girls, Eisley and Emery, give him high-fives and smile at him––and their smiles! Man! They don’t know anything about alcohol, or what people should or should not be doing. They don’t care. They just love people. Love waving at them. Smiling at them. Trying to get their attention to show them pictures they’ve drawn. Their love has no conditions. It’s beautiful and convicting. It’s a glimpse of the love Jesus spoke of––the kind of love that disarms, that shines into darkness, the kind of love that destroys barriers. 

Who says you can’t bring your kids to the streets?

Stories Still Breathing premieres Sunday, July 13th at 9PM! 

The first episode will feature Regina. If you have a heart, her film will probably make you cry. You’ll at least get teary eyed. If you do not cry or get teary eyed, you’re most likely not a human.

Here’s the beautiful part of Regina’s story––it’s her testimony. It’s the evidence of God working in her life. 

So stoked to share this film with you guys!

Last week I gave you guys the teaser trailer. Now I’m giving you guys the OFFICIAL TRAILER! 

How exciting is this?

I can’t believe we are only two weeks away from airing the first episode. Stay tuned, friends! And share this video. A hundred times over. 

Here’s a trailer for my upcoming film series, Stories Still Breathing.

This film series is four months in the making. Months of shooting and editing and losing sleep and re-editing and re-shooting––you get the idea. It was a lot of work.

But here’s the beauty of the entire process––it gave me the opportunity to build genuine friendships with the fifteen men and women featured in the films. They invited me into their stories––intimate stories, hard stories, stories they’d never shared with anyone. Ministry happened. Their stories reminded me that God is alive, that He’s present and working. That there is no story He can’t change. 

A mosquito bit me.

Donald lives in the woods near a small river. Some of you know this because I’ve told you about Donald before––but what I’ve never told you about is the mosquitos. Let’s talk about the mosquitos. The size of them. The amount of them. How they work together to terrorize, little vampires floating around your face, biting, sucking, completely disregarding your flailing arms.

They are legion. 

This is a photograph of me slapping myself. That’s what these mosquitos make you do––slap yourself. When you’re at Donald’s camp, the mosquitos turn you mad, really, and you’ll find yourself dancing, spinning, slapping your own face, digging in your ears and––well, you get the idea.

Let’s get Donald some bug spray. I know we just got Donald some McDonald gift cards (watch the video here––https://vimeo.com/97499297), and that was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

But the mosquitos don’t care about McDonald’s. They will suck the McDonald’s out of Donald. Brutal!

We love Donald. Jesus loves Donald. Slowly Donald is realizing this. It’s little things like this that serve to remind Donald of those things.

After several months of planning and gathering McDonald’s gift cards for Donald, we finally made our way out to his camp to surprise him. 

This was fun––a lot of fun. Trekking through mud, through overgrown brush, ducking and spinning our way through low hanging limbs, seeing the flags hanging from trees––I love this. I love that I get to do this. There are a million reasons why I love doing these sort of things, many of them spiritual, rooted in love for Jesus and people––but the bottom line is that this sort of thing is fun.

Which makes me think that living for Jesus can be an adventure. Exciting. Full of crazy moments. Weird, maybe, taking you different places, sending you different people, cool people. 

So this is the video of Donald. And the story of Donald. Watch it, then go live it. 

Goodnight Harley

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Harley, one of my best friends over the last five years, has passed away. When I met Harley in the winter of 2009, he was a weird homeless guy who refused to wear pants, but he quickly became a part of my family. 

Two years ago I began having nightmares about Harley dying. Each morning when I would wake up, I would call Harley to make sure he was okay, to make sure he was breathing and laughing and being goofy. He always answered. 

About six months ago I wrote down the nightmare. I had no idea it would come true so quickly. 

I called the nightmare Whiteness. 

Whiteness

There he is.

Rolling between white walls, over the top of white squares of cold tile, his left arm hanging limply from the bed––everything so stale, so antiseptic, the smell of cleaner irritating my nose, twirling into my head.

His body writhes. White coats lean in with concern.

I shouldn’t be here.

Through a cracked door I see a bedraggled man kneeling at the side of an unresponsive woman.

Death has a smell, a cold scent of things having stopped.

I turn and search for––I see him, there, surrounded by white coats pushing him into a room.

We are watching him, they say.

I step into the room and see feet. Emerging from a stiff blanket, extending past the metal frame of the bed, bent outwards––they are too loose, too dis––

The feet shake violently.

Two white coats walk in smiling, having just shared some inside joke, some moment, both obviously inconvenienced. They push buttons on machines. Administer something into the IV. They are gone.

I hear them laughing outside the door.

Shivering with fear, I pray jumbled prayers hoping they scare death away, but all I hear is laughter, laughter.

White coats, do you understand?

I look back at his feet, at the trails of dirt trekking up his left heal, at his toenails crumbling like rocks from a mountain, falling, falling, his ankles purple, swollen. They appear detached from his feet, a separate body part.

He’s at the bottom of the sea.

Drowning, each breath a gargle, his chest rising up some ladder before falling abruptly, too abruptly––it’s not supposed to do that, is it?

White coats are back. They huddle.

What is that coming from his mouth? Saliva. No, it’s too thick, too coagulated, too––I see the pursed lips of a white coat. I see chins rubbed.

Cough. Gargle. Rise. Fall.

A laser of sunlight cuts through the hallway, splitting the white in two. The sun is never aware of my pain, always shining, falling into a kaleidoscopic explosion, so inconsiderate. 

HIs jaw dangles from his head like an old ornament. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Beep––I’m laughing with him on a park bench downtown. An explosion of lines emerge from his smiling eyes as he tells me the story of how one winter he refused to wear pants. He convinced the world that pants hurt his knees. People believed. Sympathized.

We are laughing because it is all so absurd, so ridiculous. We are alive, blood in our veins––Beep.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Dangle.

You’re asleep when the shine of your cell phone illuminates the room, ring, ring, ring, your cell phone says, and the clock reads 2:35 AM, and you know––you know because none of it adds up––late night, phone call, unfamiliar number––you know, and you consider running, jumping into your car and driving in the opposite direction, away, anywhere away, down the interstate to the airport, deciding you’ll fly to another place, to another time, and you’re telling yourself the moment will disappear, somehow it will go away––

Wait, he’s going to be okay. He’s only forty two, has six children that love and miss him. He has so much time! He is strong, a manly man, and he’s teaching me to be a man, teaching me what it all means, teaching me––

He had an idea. Yes, an idea. He told me about it yesterday. He’s going to make candles from scratch, pouring wax into molds he would create from found objects on the street. Homeless candles, he was going to call them.

This will help him make money, get off the street, get his wife and kids back––the idea! Candle making! Genius!

So there’s the candle making waiting for him, and there’s no way he would leave that opportunity, leave everything that opportunity means––money, the chance to recapture the hearts of his family––so yes, he will be okay.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

The LCD screen speaks, faster, faster, too fast, slower, slow. White coats hurry in and gather around, but I’m caught in some blur, some other dimension, so much white, so much movement.

A tear trickles down his left cheek, breaking away from a pool of water in his left eye.

Life.

No! Do something! Put those things on his chest! Jump him back to life! Stick him with something––all this medicine, these needles, this education, this money, this technology, these machines––hook him up to the machines! Are you even a doctor? This man is only forty two, and he was teaching me. Do you understand? He was going to start a candle business!

Lay hands on this man! Call the chaplain, the nuns––the beep slows, slows, slower, slower, no, no, move line! Create mountains! Create waves!

His body shakes and everything ends, and I can almost hear him floating above the hospital bed, rising above the city, the world drawn for him, up into the atmosphere, watching me as I slide into the whiteness of the hallway.

How Regina Lives: The Visual Story

Outside of downtown Texarkana sits a hotel in total disrepair. If you were to drive by, you would mistake it for a condemned building, long ago shut down, forgotten, awaiting demolition.

People live in this hotel. 

Three weeks ago my friend Regina invited me to her room at the hotel. As soon as she opens the door, I feel something sting my lungs. It feels as though the odor of the room crawls into my mouth and slowly moves down my throat, exploding into my lungs. I have to step back outside for a second––the smell, it’s mildew, mold, something strong, something wet and stagnate. It’s the smell of unmoving things, unmoving water that has slowly soaked it’s way into every piece of wood, every curling piece of paint that hangs to the wall. 

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“Do you pay to live here?” I ask Regina. She nods her head. “How much?”
“300 a month,” she says. “Plus a little extra for electricity.”
She takes a seat on the bed and takes a deep breath. in the corner I see some sort of breathing machine. Next to it sits a can of oxygen. 
“What’s this for?” I ask. 
“I don’t breathe well,” she says.
“Because of this room?”
She nods. “That’s what the doctors say.”
I try to take a deep breath but I can’t. Something is lodged in my throat––the odor, the burn, it doesn’t feel right. It’s like swallow a pill that is far too big. I feel as though I’m choking.

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Standing at the foot of her bed, I see brown stains covering the walls. In the corners of the room, where the ceiling and walls intersect, pieces of the roof are peeling away. The walls appear soggy, logged with water, and I know that if I touch them, they will be soft. I imagine applying pressure to the walls, easily puncturing the wood, and watching as water spills out. I imagine her room being under the sea, water pressing in from every side. Though I am breathing, I feel as thought I may drown.

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“When it rains, the roof leaks,” she says, inhaling deeply. “Rain activates the mold.”
“Activates the mold?” I ask.
“It flares up, makes it strong.”
I imagine rain being like gasoline, adding fuel to the mold in the walls until the odor burns out of control. My wife and I love the rain. It’s peaceful. We will lay in bed and listen to the sounds of water cascading off our window into puddles in our driveway. My little girls will stand at the glass door and smile at how the water weighs the world down. But for Regina, the rain is hell.

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The Twenty Second of April

The early morning sun lasers through closed blinds. I am awake and alive––thank you God! I get dressed quickly, skipping the shower, skipping the mirror––my hair is fine, it’s fine!––skipping breakfast, skipping everything because I’m ready to go, ready to get out, excited to see people. Ready to see friends. 

I call Leon. “Leon, I have too much to do today, would you like to do it all with me? Yes, he says, I’ll roll with you. Leon spent years homeless, has only recently gotten off the streets. So he knows what’s up. I pick him up and we go visit Harley. For about 48 hours this past weekend I thought Harley was dead. We knock on Harley’s door. He answers. He’s not wearing a shirt. A tube dangles from his stomach. His throat is swollen from the cancer he refuses to treat. His skin is greying, and I feel that I should rescue this man from himself––this Harley who spent years living in the woods, making candles, laughing with me, refusing to wear pants even on the coldest days because he said it hurt his knees––but I know I can’t rescue him. I know he’s made up his mind. He’s dying. It’s over. 

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"I want to die with all my parts" he says, and Leon laughs. I don’t really get the joke, though, so I just stand in the doorway and look at the cancer in his throat––and I swear I see it spread, the little cancerous particles move from his throat into his head, expanding, hardening, establishing cancerous colonies, cities, taking over his body. I know that one day I will arrive at Harley’s apartment on 7th Street and he will not answer the door, and I will smell something I should not smell––the smell of blood having stopped flowing, of skin sinking. I expect this to happen soon. 

Before I leave, I pray for Harley. Leon and Harley bow their heads, and I realize I have no idea what to say to God. I stammer through words. I am praying for healing, praying for God’s will, praying for everything I can think of. Give him peace, God, I say, establish your presence in this place, I say, because Harley has strange beliefs about God. We have had a million discussions about God, and still the beliefs are strange. So I pray for those to go away, fly away, and for the truth of Jesus to establish itself in Harley’s heart.

Next Leon and I go to Regina’s room. Regina lives in an old hotel that is falling apart. 

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The photographs look bad, but they don’t capture the reality of Regina’s home. Mold crawls along the walls, emitting an odor that crawls into your mouth and establishes itself in your throat, and then you begin to cough, and cough, and you feel like you may be dying, like you may have come into contact with some sort of plague. There is no running water. Regina has a bucket. A bucket. She takes her bucket outside and fills it up with water and, yes, now she can use the bathroom. Her apartment is worse than sleeping in a tent. Worse than homelessness. It is killing her. The mold, the odor, the black plague that is no doubt hiding in the walls, the asbestos, the whatever else that is surely lurking in her room, waiting to attack her. 

"Let’s go," Leon and I say to Regina. So we go. We are in the car, we are riding, talking, doing what friends do. 

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Together we visit several other people. I watch as Leon and Regina minister to each other and to the people we meet with. They encourage people, lift them up, offer to pray for them. It’s beautiful. We visit a tent community in the woods. We visit friends on State line. We visit Central Mall and my laughter echoes through the entire length of the mall as I watch Leon and Regina sit in the massage chairs.

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Leon keeps telling the chair to stop messing with his booty. He’s saying this out loud, and I cannot stop laughing. His entire belly is shaking, his eyes popping out of his head, and he’s saying whoo, whoo, whoo, leave the booty alone! Regina just smiles. A big smile. A beautiful smile. I should marry this chair, she laughs. She’s had men problems. Lots of men problems, and this chair, she says, will be nice to her, massage her every night. Everyone is laughing. We are always laughing. I love these people. They are my best friends.

We eat lunch with my family––my mom, nieces, nephew, and my wife and two little girls. We eat chicken. Regina is done with her food before Leon and I have even started. It’s awesome. We get cookies. We walk around the mall. We do whatever. 

And then it’s over. Leon and I drop Regina off at her room. I drop Leon off. And I am driving home, the clock not yet at 1:30, and all I can do is thank Jesus for community, for His presence, for His promises, and beg Him to establish Himself in the lives at the camps, on the streets, wandering, waiting for what’s next.