Matthews Shares Poetic Words of Hope
So begins the poem that Brenda Matthews shared with the youth at the final worship service on Friday night.
For Matthews, a poet, storyteller and preacher from Chicago, this was a return engagement. She was also a speaker at Charlotte 2005, San Jose 2007 and Columbus 2009.
“I am honored to be back,” said Matthews. “Some of these kids heard me when they were 10 and some are now grown. That’s a beautiful thing.”
Matthews began writing poetry at age 12 and believes in using her poems as a way to inspire young people to plant seeds of change. She started as a motivational speaker when she worked in social services and decided to combine her love for the two areas. Matthews has now been traveling around the country as a speaker for 20 years.
“Poetry is a way that I can identify with youth,” said Matthews. “It opens doors for discussions, gets their attention and makes them trust what I have to say.”
Matthews has been going to church all her life and uses her words as a way to express faith.
“When you think about it, the Bible is made up of poetry,” said Matthews. “The Bible has the voices of the oppressed but it also tells stories about victories. Poetry is a powerful tool that encourages people to use their voices as objects of change.”
Matthews used poetry, story and scripture to show the youth what it means to build bridges and practice reconciliation.
“I was trying to write a sermon but I thought, nah,” said Matthew. “I’m a storyteller.”
While she knows Mennonites do not baptize at birth, Matthews also focused on the importance of getting baptized.
“Nothing is ever perfect,” said Matthews. “It is time to be able to move forward in this kingdom. This is a hurting generation; there is so much brokenness. When (youth) begin to talk about how God has moved them through brokenness, that can help others overcome their own trials.”
Matthews finds so much value in her work, but it is not the praise of adults that matters most to her.
“It is hard to gauge how I’m doing,” said Matthews. “But when young people make the effort to come tell me, ‘Mama Brenda, you’ve done a good job,’ then I know that there’s value in what I do.”