Matthew slumped in his cell. He was on suicide watch, feeling the weight of everything his crime had cost him: family, possessions, career. He couldn’t fathom how he had reached such a low point. Suddenly, he heard God speaking to him: “Do I have your attention now?”
“And He did,” Matthew said.
When Matthew was a child, his family’s public persona was vastly different from the reality of their private life.
“On the outside, we were a happy family with nothing wrong,” he remembered. “Yet, behind closed doors, I had a workaholic, anger-driven, closet-drinking father, a mother who was bipolar, schizophrenic, depressed, and suicidal, and a sister who was a control freak, demanding, straight-A student. As for me, I was the pin cushion everyone poked at.”
Matthew struggled in school and felt like he consistently failed his father. Their relationship was rocky and included physical and verbal abuse. He learned to hide in his closet for safety. “Living in a household that did not nurture good understanding of relationships assisted my desire to close off from the rest of the world,” he said.
Church became another escape for Matthew. At church, “no one spoke of our problems or emotions and instead acted as if everything was amazing,” he recalled. Although he busied himself with many church-related activities, his relationship with Christ was superficial.
In addition to the abuse from his father, he also endured sexual abuse from others, and when he was twelve, he discovered his mother after her suicide attempt. All this trauma led to a lifelong struggle with depression and addictions to sex and alcohol.
At twenty, still dealing with his addictions, he decided to enlist in the Marines. “It is kind of ironic that I ran not to the Father, who loved me and had great plans, but instead to a group of men who could be more harsh and demanding than my [earthly] ,” Matthew admitted.
Throughout his military career, Matthew’s alcoholism held a steady grip on him, but he managed to keep it a secret. Then, he received an interesting assignment.
“Don’t ever say God doesn’t have a sense of humor, because He put an alcoholic as a substance abuse control officer (SACO) who worked in the adjoining office with the chaplain!” Matthew said. “This turned into a year and a half of in-depth work with substance abuse counselors, and none of them knew I was an alcoholic. But I gave my heart to helping others overcome their struggles.”
Despite this new opportunity, he was unable to address his own addiction.
“I saw the real mentality the military has towards any weakness,” he explained. “Anyone who was an alcoholic, depressed, suicidal, or suffering from anything or any addiction was a burden, a joke, worthless.”
Nevertheless, Matthew’s life appeared to be on the right track. His daughter, whose mother was a Wiccan, showed interest in Christianity, so he began bringing her to church while he was home from his former station in Japan. He started taking college classes and excelled in them, planning to use his degree to become a chaplain.
“This is when my life should have changed its focus,” he stated. “It is the point in which everything could have changed.”
But after heading back to Japan, his addictions overtook him, eventually leading to his crime. Upon the discovery, he was asked to meet with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“Instead of going, I began walking with all intentions of going to what is known as the Suicide Cliffs in Okinawa,” Matthew said. “The next thing I know, I am in a cell on suicide watch with one pair of drawers and a suicide blanket, and the guard hands me a Bible.”
After detoxing from all the alcohol in his system, Matthew decided to begin reading the Bible.
“I had been running for so long,” he said. “Yet, as the psalmist writes, ‘Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?’ (Psalm 139:7). In that cell, when I read those words, I began to see how God had been trying to get my attention.”
That day, Matthew gave his life to Christ and dedicated his time to serving Him by ministering to others.
“This new journey . . . is nothing like I expected, and He is using me in some unique ways,” Matthew said. “Six months after I arrived [at this facility], I found myself appointed as the music director, and for five years, I have filled this position. It has been a true blessing.”
Matthew decided to continue his college courses, working toward a master’s degree in theological studies. In 2017, he signed up as a Crossroads student.
“Crossroads allows me the opportunity to reflect on the foundation of what it means to be a believer,” he said. “If a new believer were to ask for a correspondence course or for a way to grow, then I want to point them to something trustworthy. This is something I have found within Crossroads. It is relational. It isn’t just about your answers. It is about your thoughts, opinions, convictions, and heart. [Crossroads] gives hope to those who need it the most.”
Matthew said he prays for Crossroads and its staff and volunteers often, grateful for the mentorship program and the Bible studies, which he uses to lead discussions with others around him.
“There are days where a simple question asked in a lesson can lead to a four-hour discussion among some of us here,” he said. “These are not ‘filler’ conversations to pass the time but deep, thought-provoking discussions that can take days to digest.”
Most of all, Matthew is grateful to God for redeeming his life and giving him a new mission.
“This is the verse in which I try to live each and every day, by the grace of God: ‘Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love’ (1 Corinthians 16:13–14, ESV),” he shared.
Will you join Crossroads in giving hope to those who need it the most? Learn more about becoming a Crossroads mentor.