Chicago | National Poetry Slam

Being in Chicago this last week has been somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S3I5PT6w2c&t=27s

[This not footage from NPS because I wanted yall to have the uncut version]

 

 

The Inner

Being in Chicago this last week has been somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. We arrived at 10:45pm, and one of my teammates and I were immediately dropped off at the “Rookie Slam”- the event that allows only NPS rookies to compete. It was awe-inspiring to be in a room with so many wordsmiths!
The next night, Wednesday, was my team’s first bout. I was nervous! And excited!
And I had yet to realize how emotionally unprepared I was for the evening.
My team had chosen me to be our closer, so I performed in slot 3 of round 4.
At the beginning of Round 4 I left the room, unease and a desire to get my mind right filled me like incense in a small room,  I felt in my spirit like I should add an intro line to my piece- A RISKY ASS MOVE BECAUSE WE’RE TIMED AT A MAX OF 3 MINUTES AND 10 SECONDS- AND THEN I FELT LIKE I SHOULD JUST DO A WHOLE DIFFERENT PIECE. AN UNPREPARED PIECE. A PIECE THAT WAS OVER 3 MINUTES AND 10 SECONDS.
And I couldn’t shake the feeling.
I told myself, “nah just do what you came here prepared to do”,
but my spirit grew louder, “Perform Good Twin Dichotomy and add that new intro line.” And I buckled, because the spirit wouldn’t leave me alone.
The MC of the night called out to my team, “Urban Spoken Word, who are you sending up?!?!”
“MAAATTTTTHEEWWW”
Look. My team had no idea I’d called an audible 3.5 minutes before I’d went on stage. They thought they knew what I was gonna perform.
WELP. GUESS NOT.
My performance itself was fine. But I was 40 seconds over the time limit, and as such I got deducted A LOT of points. Pre-deduction I had scored the highest on my team. However, Post-deduction I was blessed with the lowest score.
And then the MC announced the places of the bout.
My team took 4th, dead last.
I went to congratulate one of the poets from another team who I’d seen at the Rookie Slam, “Congrats dude!”
” Your piece was dope bro”, he said to me.
I told him how right before getting on stage I changed what piece I was gonna do, and in changing the piece, I made a decision to not be competing this bout, as it was score-suicide to intentionally do a piece 40 seconds over the time limit.
And he said back to me, “that’s okay bro, you did it for yourself, you can’t guilt yourself for that.”
And he was right.
But I was still an emotional trainwreck on the inside. I’d known that my team and I weren’t going to be able to compete and WIN at NPS, that we were there for the experience. But I was shook because why the heck did I just change my piece? Why did I commit score-suicide? How the crap did we come in last? And last but not least, maybe I ain’t worthy to be here? Maybe I’m just frontin’ and I ain’t ever been good- in fact probably my creative ceiling is mediocrity. Maybe I should quit writing because I can’t compete??!
I left that building swift as a sudden storm, without telling any of my teammates, and
caught the train back to our hotel.
I wanted to be alone. To get some emotional and physical distance from that huge L my team and I just took.
But I needed to talk to a friend. To be listened to, and heard. So I called one.
They helped me gain a better perspective on the evening.
I wasn’t foolish. I was courageous.
I did even know what Slam Poetry was until 2 months ago when I was invited to be on the Madison Team. Everybody else at Nationals had been preparing for the last 10 months to be here at Nationals. I was different. I was like a G-League player, called up to the NBA. I was courageous. Bold. Innocent, even, of the kind of work that went into being on a competitive team- and still I showed up.
To my doubts I say this,
“And though they may loom over me like Giants
I, like David, aligned with the Divine on a quest for self actualization
will build a House upon the same rock I slingshot at Godspeed
toward any giant who opposes me”

NEXT NIGHT.

Thursday was our team’s final bout pre-semifinals (we ended up not making semi’s.)
and I was committed to showing up and showing out. I wanted to be recognized. So, that morning I went to a room of the hotel and reworked my piece. Originally the piece was about 4 min 30 seconds, and I could perform it fast enough to shave about 60 seconds off- which would still incur a time penalty. In the weeks leading up to NPS I had become fine with that because our team “wasn’t going to NPS to WIN, we were going for the experience”. But, fueled by the night before, I wanted to compete. I wanted to see how I’d do if I took the evening seriously and tried my best. So I shaved stuff out of my piece so it would be on time.
That night I was our team’s closer, and this time I was assured of the piece I was to do. I performed Affirmation II which is the only piece I tailor wrote for the National Poetry Slam.
I scored amazingly well. Out of 12 competitors that night, I was scored top 3, again head of my team, and this time, ahead of most of the competition.
When the MC announced the bout outcomes, my team placed 4th. And when I heard that, I didn’t have an existential crisis like the night before. I confidently knew that Wednesday and Thursday  I had done my best, and both nights what my “best” looked like was vastly different to the outside world. But I was conforming to the spirit that directed me, and that HAD to be enough. Enough for others, sure, but more than that- enough for me.
Before the MC ended the night, he made a point to call out a few poets who had lines he’d salivated over, and he started with me, he said, “Matthew!! That line.. and when they lost interest it felt like my value dropped off a cliff?!!  Hey! Everybody! Say, Yo Matthew”

“YO MATTHEW”

“You belong here!”

“You belong here!”

 

And they’re right. I do.
Because I forfeited nothing but my limits to come here
and I belong here.

 

 

The Photos

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My team: Tony, Julia, Me, F.J

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EVEN GOT A LANYARD.

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Tony bout to burn down the stage because he spits hot fire

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Stayed in a Hilton Hotel. Had a ballroom. I felt very out of place. But ALSO very valued.

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They call this a Boutfit. What you wear to your bout. and 9/10 was one of my scores. FUEGO.

 

 

 

 

 

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Congo |Courage and Belief

I can not do in or through you
that which you are afraid to complete
And this is why I said,
“Not in fear, but in courage and belief.”

searching_for_god_by_jojoesart-d82e2qq

 

 

The Inner

I realized that I’ve inhabited a space of fear when it comes to dwelling in my identity in Christ. My identity as a person of God.
I’ve been afraid to proclaim Him, His goodness, and His Kingdom, and so I silenced myself.
I’ve been afraid to attempt to glorify Him with outright action out of fear I’d be silenced by others.
And perfect love has no fear in it so I was confronted with the awareness that I needed to re-examine and revolutionize my motivation so that I could love more like Him.
Not in fear. But in courage. And belief. Because apparently, loving in any other way muzzles the Most High.
In essence I was paralyzed.  And Father urged me into understanding with equal parts urgency as tenderness, saying “not in fear, but in courage and belief.”. He spoke to me of Luke 15, of 1 John, and of Sonship. This truth that as children of His we are called to be motivated by love, and not fear. Ratified by relationship. Love is eternal. And Fear will one day fade, as will our motivation if it is fueled, and left as fumes by fear.
The DRC was an exercise in being courageous, and walking in belief. Throughout my month in DRC I taught 2 four hour teachings in our 2 week seminar and preached every sunday at church, and God not only encouraged me to share my life stories- dispersing them throughout the teachings- but He freed me to share, by revealing more of His perspective on my life, and from this revelation conviction was birthed within me. I came to see more and more how much Christ has saved me, and not just saved, but transformed me. And if transformed, then empowered. Empowered to usher in His kingdom with just as much courage and belief as Christ.
And so here I sit, an empowered individual in Christ, reconciled to truth, seeking to establish His Kingdom, making known His glorious goodness, with equal parts urgency as tenderness, in courage and belief.

The Outer

During our month in DRC there was an elder man named Raphael (The cover pic of this post is him and I) who captured my heart. Obviously aged a bit, but this Pastor had a fire within him. One day after a morning of teaching the seminar I was at our house talking with a teammate and Raphael came to our house. He spoke Lingala, the tribal language so I had to call Mana (our translator) over so that we could communicate.
Raphael asked me to pray for him because he felt that in his old age he had lost some of the boldness of his youth. And I was touched because God had been speaking to me of boldness, courage and belief, and the crux of what He said was that boldness stems from conviction, and conviction from belief. So I ministered to Raphael, telling him what He had first told me and I then prayed for him.
Afterward Raphael left our house with a smile and inspiration to grow.
One week later it was the weekend, and in order to graduate from a BELT seminar you have to do local outreach, so our YWAM team split up onto different local outreach teams with the Congolese people. Ashley and I traveled with the group that had Raphael and they taught about the Greatness of God (His nature, qualities of His which just are). On that team Raphael taught, and granted we had no translator so I couldn’t understand a single word he said ( 4 hours of not understanding what was happening around me haha) I saw the fire with which he spoke, the conviction, the belief. The time that we had met up in prayer yielded a harvest of boldness for Raphael and I praise God for that. When we debriefed the local outreach, many of the seminar participants reported back that the people they had ministered to said they had never heard the Gospel taught in such a way, and that if more teachings like ours were brought to them, they would want to give their lives to Christ.
And I began to see a picture of multiplication.
Of spiritual empowerment. We came, we taught, and they learned. And now they have the teachings so that they can go, they can teach, and those they teach can learn. And the cycle can continue in ever generative cycles creating more and more understanding of God.
Being able to be a part of this Congo outreach was indelible to my spiritual foundations and many more things happened that I don’t have space to write about here. Ask me bout em.

 

 

The Photos

WhereIsNoahTanzania
Our Congo Team! Minus Noah. [Left to Right: Emily, Jake, Me, Kelly, Ashley]

TeamBushPlaneCongo
Bush Plane Selfie! Flying to Buta ft Kelly, Jake, Emily, and Ashley

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Views from the window. DRC is so beautiful!
WaterClosetCongo
WC. Water Closet. Aka Squatty Potty

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Nathan (in tanzania) demonstrating Squatty Potty stance for your viewing pleasure

MatthewStoryCongo
Mana (our translator, to my left) and I teaching outside

TeamTeachCongo
Ashley, Mana, Jake, and Emily teaching the children

NatureCongo
Lovely

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Kelly and Ashley with some of the women that served us

WalkingCongo
Going for a walk in Buta

SweepDirtCongo
poem coming below about this. . .

EmilyPlayCongo
Emily in the evening playing with the village kids

WomenCongo
Group pic with mostly ladies and Mana

LittleGirlCongo
Every time I go to Africa I come back wanting to have a daughter..do you see why?

MatthewandManaCongo
Me teaching the destructiveness of sin. Our teachings interact with the posters behind Mana (our translator) and I. But you cant see my poster cause we in front of it.

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Some of the participants looking over the posters, desiring to embed truth into their lives.

 

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Our local outreach team! I’m behind the camera… smile!

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Local Outreach in action..Im a terrible photographer

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But sometimes I take pretentious photos of bridges in attempts to be artsy. LOOK AT ME ALL CREATIVE AND STUFF.

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I’m happier than I look, I promise

OpenAirCongo
We went to the market and preached the Gospel of Jesus. It was lit.

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Leaving the market in a Congo line. . .

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70 people graduated from our seminar! Woooo!!

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Raphael and I, one of the graduates, an elder who warmed my heart.

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Sometimes ya gotta make goofy faces

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And sometimes you pray over sick babies

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And sometimes you take pictures at graduation because the villagers are so persistent and they won’t let you not do it haha

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And sometimes you meet elders who earnestly seek Yahweh and His truth and a life centered on it

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And sometimes you leave a nation that has captured your heart and you’re happy for all that God has accomplished in and through you and your team, but the locals are sad and dont smile for the picture.
But they don’t smile becaues Congolese people dont ever smile for pictures not because they are sad haha.

 

 

 

The P.S.

A post on Tanzania will be coming soon. . .
Share this with your friends, your church, and your mama!

 

 

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