Garbage to Gold: A Personal Testimony from Matt Freeman, Pastor Dude

25 years ago almost to the day my life, as I knew it, changed forever. The news media blasted out my story and exposed my sin. Guilt. Shame. Overwhelming despair. It was public and it was messy.  But the way God has transformed this dark season of my life has been miraculous and redemptive. Truly, God turns garbage to gold. 

Matt Freeman_Florida newspaper article and accident_December 1992.jpg

I am coming up on the 25-year mark of when I hit rock bottom. This tragic “anniversary” coincides with my birthday and also with the celebration of Christmas. Kind of a weird mix of darkness and light.   Gratefully, God does not waste pain and His light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5).  We are seeing the lives of the formerly homeless change by the greatness of the light of Christ shining at Community First! (CF!) and way beyond. 


Please consider investing and supporting the unique ministry unfolding in and through The Gathering at Community First! (CF!). 


Here are a two practical ways to personally connect with what God is doing at The Gathering as a Christ-centered mission to the disabled, chronically homeless:

1). Take 175 seconds to watch this brief story laying out a powerful, personal account of how God weaves and works EVERYTHING together for good.

2). Please join us in investing in several life-giving year-end opportunities that will empower the people of Austin and beyond into a lifestyle of following Christ alongside the homeless and formerly homeless. There are currently 181 folks who now call CF! home.  Formerly homeless sounds infinitely better than homeless!  By the end of 2018, CF! will be fully occupied and the leadership of Mobile Loaves & Fishes will prayerfully set sights on the next phase of development at CF! – an additional 24 acres adjacent to CF! that will lift 400 more brothers and sisters off the streets and into a safe, supportive loving place to call home.  

We need your gifts as we invest a sizable chunk of our budget into the ministry at CF!   You can donate by clicking here.  We are thrilled to pay your investment forward to carry out on a handful of life-changing endeavors, including lifting more folks off the streets by purchasing RVs, treating neighbors at CF! to two Gospel-driven weekend retreats in February 2018 at Camp Buckner, purchasing needed audio-visual equipment for the new sanctuary and MUCH MORE.  Your investment will change lives. The Gathering is 100% donor-funded through generous, tax-deductible gifts. 

Merry Christmas!  Thank you for caring for the under resourced and broken.  And thanks be to Jesus, the One whom the Scripture says, “… will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

10 Ways

We thank God for the opportunities to create and develop a Christ-centered mission at Community First! Village. Here are 10 ways God has faithfully shown up to build the mission:

1. We planned and pulled off the first ever men's retreat (Walk to Siloam) at Camp Buckner, in February 2017. There were 55 men, both CF! residents and volunteers, at this incredibly transformative 3-day retreat. Two of our men were baptized! We are planning the Walk to Siloam for men again (February 1-4, 2018), and a similar 3-day retreat for the women of Community First! that we are calling the Walk to Samaria (February 22-25, 2018).

2. God has provided 1,555 volunteers (to date) to serve at Community First! with The Gathering. This number includes a significant amount of folks outside the faith. The consistent feedback: The Gathering is "a place where I sense the love of God and the care of Jesus."

3. Celebrated with 325 guests as part of our Easter Sunrise Service, including many who do not regularly attend a church and are not yet believers. The sunrise service on Easter continues to be a special tradition at CF! and we are looking forward to Easter Sunday on April 1, 2018.

                                                             2017 Easter Sunrise Service at CF! Village

                                                             2017 Easter Sunrise Service at CF! Village

4. Life Groups (small groups with a missional focus) started up in Spring 2017 as a follow up to our Easter service. We launched with five Life Groups and are asking God to raise up more facilitators and shepherds to multiply this vital ministry.

5. Strengthened The Gathering staff team by hiring a part-time ministry assistant (welcome, Jamie Hatcher) and are in the process of bringing on a lead worshipper.

6. The Lord has enabled The Gathering to invest $92,000 since our inception (March 2015) back into the life and ministry of CF! This includes the purchase of two RV's and audio/video components needed for the soon-to-be-opened sanctuary and hospitality center that we are calling "Unity Hall."

                                                                       Welcome home, Charles and "Sadie!"

                                                                       Welcome home, Charles and "Sadie!"

7. Collaborated with a ministry partner, Austin Ridge Bible Church, and distributed 82 backpacks filled with new school supplies to two area Manor ISD schools. Our friends from CF! personally delivered them. Awesome!

                                                                     Loving our neighbors at Decker Elementary

                                                                     Loving our neighbors at Decker Elementary

8. Hosted the first-ever wedding at Community First! Congratulations Kenneth and Angie!

                                                    The bride, groom, and the Pastor Dude at The Community First! Village

                                                    The bride, groom, and the Pastor Dude at The Community First! Village

9. The doors to "Unity Hall" will open in a few weeks, and this will be our permanent place of worship and community events, as well as the headquarters for Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

10. The current population at CF! is 183 neighbors. The hope is to have 250 disabled, chronically homeless brothers and sisters living in a safe, supportive, affordable and Christ-centered community. We are witnessing the miracle of transformation as our friends are lifted off the streets and settle into a community they can call home. Please take 2 minutes to watch JR's story below.

What is The Gathering, anyway?

The Gathering is a Christ-centered mission at Community First! Village (CF!). We are a unique expression of the body of Christ. Our desire is create a life-giving mission that launches a wave of dynamic Christ followers from CF! and beyond. We do this by creating 3 ministry environments...

  • KNOW Jesus personally... by believing everyone matters to God
  • GROW spiritually... through valuing progress, not perfection
  • SERVE people passionately... in living out the conviction "it's not about me"

We believe God is building something eternally significant at CF! This is true: anyone who comes to God openly and honestly WILL experience life change. Please thank God with us for the transformation our friend Mike has experienced... it's a miracle! Take 110 seconds and watch this!


Thank you for caring for and investing in a life-giving kingdom endeavor!