Cornelius Matthews (pictured left) grew up in an abusive home where he never heard the words, “I love you.”
“It was a house, not a home,” he said.
He didn’t go to church and he made fun of those who believed in God. He later began using drugs and alcohol and ended up in prison for attempted second-degree murder. It was there that he turned to the God he once dismissed as imaginary and grew in his newfound Christian faith with the mentoring of Men of Valor.
Matthews told his story Tuesday at a Men of Valor breakfast at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville. More than 900 people attended, including state lawmakers, city officials and pastors. The Nashville-based prison ministry seeks to address recidivism with a faith-based approach that helps men recognize how God can transform lives. Men who go through the program have a less than 10 percent chance of returning to prison, group organizers say.
Men of Valor has a ministry inside prisons and also a one-year “aftercare” program to help men upon their release. To help with the transition, the group provides housing, clothing and food and assistance with getting a job. The goal is to prepare them to successfully live independently.
The group is working to expand the number of men it can house and is raising funds to complete construction of a campus called Valor Ridge that will house 90 men.
Matthews was discipled by Men of Valor while in prison and was drawn to the aftercare program because of its strict structure. He credits the group with helping him find peace and with landing a job. He also is an assistant house manager for the group. But it’s far more than a building, he says.
“It’s not a house, it’s a home,” he said.