My name is Dr. Carol Matthews, and I am seeking restorative justice ministry training at the Christian Leaders Institute (CLI). I live in Southern California, in the USA. I have been educated in different areas, where I previously worked in my professional life. As an adult and single parent, I returned to college when my daughter was in elementary school. I earned an Associate’s degree at age 30, a Bachelor of Science at 36, an MBA at 45, an MA at 59 in ministry (my passion). Finally, after seven LONG years, I earned a doctorate in Public Administration at age 63. I am a bi-vocational ministry leader.
My Early Years
I was born to an immigrant Jamaican father and Caucasian mother in the 1950s when being bi-racial was not well accepted. My father mainly raised me in a Seventh Day Adventist home, where we read the Bible daily and had family worship regularly. Going to the church was not a personal choice but rather a requirement.
Because of difficulties in my family life, I ended up in foster care in high school. There all of the basic Christian training went out of the window. Later, I returned to live with a close friend of our family, where I started attending church again. They strongly encouraged me to get baptized when I was 16, and so I did. I began serving by teaching youth, ushering, singing in the choir, and singing with a female quartet. I was doing all the Christian work expected of me, but I had not yet found God for myself.
Struggles and New Direction
Many years later, I was told that I would be “put out” of the church for divorcing. However, the powers that be did not know I had a biblical rationale for doing so. I did not feel compelled to share the painful details. At that point in my life, I was in survival mode and placed my church life aside. The only exception was taking my young daughter to sabbath school each week. That too soon died out, and I was back in the world. I lived how I chose, which, unfortunately, did not include a godly life.
In the early 80s, I woke up and realized that God and His word are not the same as “religion” and the earthly authorities with their human-made rules. I found a Bible-teaching non-denominational church and began my walk with Jesus as an adult. As my personal walk began, including Bible Studies and personal studies, I asked questions and understood what God wanted and expected from me. It was at this point, I accepted Him into my life and began my faith journey.
Speak, Lord, for thy Servant is Listening.
One day, I was alone at work. I stood and began worshiping Him and felt the presence of God in the room with me. I felt so close to God. So, I chose to serve in the prayer-room after weekly alter calls. I also taught young adults the Bible and helped guide new believers for one year. I increased studying to the point I felt lead to begin seminary. Unfortunately, later, I had a misstep and became discouraged, once again, and began to backslide.
Thereafter, my life changed because of two near-death experiences that occurred close together because of my poor life choices. I prayed as I had never prayed before, “God, please get me out of this mess that I got myself into, and I will serve you forever!” In fact, God did answer that fervent prayer, and I served him faithfully since that period of my life. I felt compelled to get re-baptized, and my walk has been consistent ever since. As Samuel said, I, too, said, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10, NIV).
Called to Ministry
In 2011, I began serving the Lord through outreach ministries. I finally formerly began ministry studies in 2014 and graduated in October 2016 with a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry and Leadership. In 2017, I formalized my ministry to seek donations to do a greater work for the Lord. I founded Bestowing Hope Ministries as an outreach ministry. Our focus is on prison ministry, serving the local homeless population, and helping senior citizens in need. As the Lord provides the resources needed to do more work in the areas of need, we are planning to expand, such as college scholarships for at-risk youth.
In the USA, we have the freedom to serve the Lord and worship how we see fit without persecution. I believe that is why we sometimes take it for granted, unlike other places in the world where people have to worship in secret. My spiritual dream would be that everyone, anywhere, could worship the Lord freely and get to know Him so that all could be saved. Personally, my deepest desire is to be able to die without fear or regret. I hope to achieve this with God’s help and by living my life for him.
Restorative Justice Ministry Training at CLI
I am seeking more ministry training from CLI (Learn more about Studying the Bible, Click Here) to become more knowledgeable in the area of restorative justice. Prison ministry is my passion. If it was not for God’s grace, I could have been a “lifer,” so I am called to help those incarcerated seek God’s face. For those who do not yet realize their need for Jesus, I am there to help them get to know Him as their Lord and personal Savior. My Christian Leaders Institute dream and my mission are Matthew 28:19-20. Because of Jesus’ words: “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few”(Matthew 9:37, NIV). I am called to as His disciple among those who are least likely to know Him.
In conclusion, the reason this type of no cost formal education is helpful to me is that I want to learn more. However, I cannot afford the cost of state education at this time, which may not even teach the primary area of my interest, restorative justice. My prayer is that I learn what can benefit those I come in contact with and make them want what I have, Jesus!