A life committed to building God’s kingdom
Shirley Matthew did not have an idyllic upbringing.
She was raised by an alcoholic grandmother and was abused. By the time she was 19, she had two children.
People doubted she would amount to much, but thanks to God’s grace the St Kitts’ native was able to turn her life around.
Today the 47-year-old operates Caribbean Rose Ministry, a Christian outreach organisation that serves needy families and children in the community.
She has spoken to church congregations and at conferences around the Caribbean and will share her testimony in Bermuda next week, courtesy of Restoration House Ministries.
“I know what it is to be a person from humble beginnings,” Ms Matthew said.
“I grew up on a small island where everyone knew your business. I didn’t have a very pleasant upbringing because my grandmother was an alcoholic and she was the one that raised us because my mom had to go to another island to work.
“People would remember us sometimes as the children who lived with the drunken woman, so when you grow up in that type of atmosphere then you start to doubt that God could have a calling for you. When I looked at the circumstances of my life I didn’t feel like I had a way out.”
God made himself real to Ms Matthew in her late teens.
Although she did not regularly attend church, she had family members who did.
“I don’t know what came over me one day, I believe it was the Holy Spirit working in me. I was sitting on the steps and looking back on my life. I was thinking, I’m young, I have children, no husband, no good job — at that time. I had left home with no thought of education.
“I was sitting there and thinking, ‘What happened? How did I end up here?’ And I remember saying out loud to myself, ‘There must be something more to life than this. I wasn’t just created to have babies and that’s it. I think I’m going to church tomorrow and maybe when I get home I might be different’. I went to bed and that following Sunday I got up and went to church.”
She does not remember what message was preached or which hymns were sang. A soon as she got to the church, instead of sitting on the benches, she went straight up to the altar, knelt down and said, ‘God I’m here’.
“I told Him, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here but if you want me, take me’. I know God did what I asked,” she said.
Since then she has honoured her life commitment to building God’s kingdom.
Through Caribbean Rose Ministry, she offers Bible studies within the St Kitts’ prisons, and offers to pray with anyone sick in hospital. She also works with different helping agencies to find jobs for people out of work and to provide children and teens with educational support.
“I told someone the other day I want to be like a paper bag so that when I die you can just crumple me up because there was nothing left in me that could have been used up on Earth.”
Just over a year ago, she had a vision that she was to come to Bermuda. She did not know anyone who lived here, or even where it was on the map.
“I said to God, ‘If this is something I have to do and something that is to happen I’ll wait for you to reveal it to me’.”
Months later she met a woman in St Kitts who used to live on the Island. Not long after that, she was put in contact with Restoration House Ministries’ Eugenia Robinson through social media.
“We added each other on Facebook and started messaging back and forth,” Ms Matthew said.
“Then one day Eugenia told me she was organising this conference and asked me to help. We had been praying and encouraging each other for a while and then she invited me to come over to Bermuda. I hadn’t told her about my vision before then, but I still took some time to think about it.
“I told my team to pray and told her I would get back to her and eventually, by faith, I was able to say yes.
“In order to get to Bermuda I would have to go through the US and at the time I didn’t have a US visa.
“I said, ‘God if you want me in Bermuda at this time you have to make sure you get my visa’. We were talking and planning and doing all these things and I still didn’t have my visa. I finally got that last month.”
Ms Matthew said this was another powerful confirmation for her.
“Bermuda is a long way from St Kitts, so I really wanted God to order my steps. I don’t want to be anywhere just to look good, sound good or for people to hear me.
“I just want whatever God wants for me to say to be timely and relevant and what people need to hear. I didn’t want to come to Bermuda as a tourist. I wanted it to be the will of God.”
Her hope is that people will learn to tap into their God-given gifts and talents through her message, Unlocking the Treasures Within.
“My encouragement to others is this: God is able to take us from whatever situation in life you are at to where you want to be. All we have to do is commit ourselves to use all the treasures He has put in us for His glory.”
• Ms Matthew will speak at the First Church of God on Angle Street next Saturday at 9am. The event will open on Thursday at 7pm; a closing ceremony takes place Sunday at 4.30pm. Tickets are $55. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shirley Matthew’s biggest test of faith:
“Four years ago I was in a near tragic accident. I was a passenger on a bus which was hit by a vehicle travelling at about 90mph.
“This caused the bus to flip and roll over an embankment with us in it.
“According to medical friends I should be mentally stunted or crippled. I damaged every part of my body from my head to toe. I broke bones in almost every part of the right side of my body. I almost lost my eye and right foot.
“During that time I just had to trust the word of God and the promises He has made me. At one point the doctors said they needed to cut off my foot to save me, but I kept saying ‘God, I will not preach your word from a wheelchair. I want your word to be evident in my life’.
“I held on to God and His Word and really believed I would be healed. Now I’m walking with both of my legs. You wouldn’t even notice there was anything wrong unless I told you. That incident proved to me that I can always trust in God.”