My Westwood

Honoring God. Loving People. Stories at Westwood.

Serving God While Serving Time—Matt Moeller's Story

Published October 12, 2016

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"When you are in prison, there’s nothing else that can be taken away from you. You’ve lost everything."

Matt Moeller’s journey to faith in Jesus began in an unlikely place—prison. Matt is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for second-degree murder.

The story of how Matt got there began when he was in high school. He ran with what he calls a “rough crowd”. He got involved in drugs and made destructive choices. The most destructive choice he made during that time was to be involved in a murder.

In 2003, Matt was sentenced to prison for his crime in Lino Lakes. He was 17. “I was completely over my head. This young kid who made a terrible, stupid mistake. It was the lowest I’d ever been,” he recalled.

Enter Westwood member Bill Naegle. Bill was doing business with Matt’s grandmother. During one of their meetings, she broke down and shared the news of her grandson’s recent sentencing.

“I had visited prisoners years ago in California and learned how appreciative they were of our time spent together, knowing that someone actually cared about them, and the importance of faith. When Matt’s grandmother talked about what happened to Matt, I was nudged to contact him,” Bill recalled.

Bill wrote Matt a letter and sent him a Bible. Matt was moved to write him a thank you. And so their journey began. After exchanging several letters, Bill came to visit Matt in prison. Their first visit was a bit awkward and intimidating for each of them. But they both say it was the start of something good.

“When you are in prison, there’s nothing else that can be taken away from you. You’ve lost everything. And here was someone coming and speaking life. He brought joy. I was attracted to that,” Matt explained.

In 2010, Matt met a “lifer” in prison named Joe. Despite his sentence, Joe carried himself with such happiness. “I thought, how can you be happy all the time? You are never getting out of this place. Joe shared Christ with me. It was very powerful because I’d never heard that from another prisoner. I began to do a Bible study small group with Joe and got involved in a prison fellowship program. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”

"Here was someone coming and speaking life. He brought joy. I was attracted to that."

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 10.37.52 AMMatt decided to enroll in a 12-month Bible study program that the prison offered called Interchange Freedom Initiative (IFI). He attended classes half of the day and studied more at night. He graduated from the group and got accepted to be part of the transformational leadership group that provides one-on-one mentorship to other prisoners. “I now get to pour back into others who are learning about Christ,” Matt said.

"People in prison are hungry for the Lord. And hungry for hope... Don’t give up on them."


Because of his faith, Matt gained hope in a dark place. “Being here in prison isn’t my final resting place. I have a purpose. That took me a lot of years to learn. My life has a mission: to teach the guys here about Jesus. That gives me a purpose right here and now.”

"Being here in prison isn’t my final resting place. I have a purpose... My life has a mission: to teach the guys here about Jesus. That gives me a purpose right here
and now.
"


All these years, Bill continued to meet with Matt monthly or bi-monthly. “It is powerful how God comes alongside us in the most difficult moments in life and reveals His love. God has filled Matt with the knowledge of His will and a desire to better understand his purpose in life. Matt’s heart is filled now with joy, peace and gratefulness. It just shows what God can do when you are willing to pray, spend time with Him, be watchful, and be thankful,” said Bill.

"When a heart is opened to God, God provides and empowers you to do amazing things."

In the last 13 years, Bill has witnessed a profound change in Matt. “When a heart is opened to God, God provides and empowers you to do amazing things. When I talk to Matt, patience, kindness, gentleness, compassion, and love bubble over in his words.”
Westwood’s pastors have also come to visit Matt in prison, offering encouragement and support. Pastor Brian Suter said, “I will not forget the first time that I met Matt on a visit to Stillwater prison with Bill and Pastor Joel. Being with him was so encouraging and left me filled up with hope not just for him, but for me and all of life. Each time that I have been able to spend time with Matt that feeling is the same. He is teaching me what it means to live every day in service to Christ and His Kingdom.”

Matt wanted to share his story in hopes that others will be encouraged in their journey. He wants people to know that no matter what choices they have made in the past, God wants to give them a second chance to make things right. He also wants to bring awareness to misconceptions others may have about prisoners. “People in prison are hungry for the Lord. And hungry for hope. They can reintegrate into society. Don’t give up on them.”

As far as the future goes, Matt is taking it one day at a time. He realizes he still has a lot of time left to serve. He’s confident the years in prison aren't being wasted. Matt has a heart to continue to give back by sharing his story with at risk youth. “I want to let them know that kind of life isn’t worth living,” he said, “and to point them to the hope that is found in Christ.”