Last Thursday night, over 200 people discovered the reality of homelessness at the Denver Rescue Mission’s annual banquet through Mike Yankoski’s, author of Under the Overpass and Zealous Love, personal account of living on the streets.
This year’s banquet was relevantly titled, Evening of Exploration as both speakers Mike and DRM’s graduate, BJ Swenson, shared their testimonies. Tamara Banks was the event’s emcee and was honored to introduce the incredible men with their remarkable stories.
Mike was up first to speak. When Mike was just kid he never had to face the reality of what it meant to go to bed hungry or not to have a comfy bed to sleep in. He also never thought that he should help anyone in need. That all changed when he was in high school and a few of friends introduced him to Christ. Mike finally realized that poverty was no longer an abstract idea, but it was a person – it was reality.
He started exploring what it looked like to respond to homelessness and poverty and this is where his journey began. A friend, Sam joined Mike in research and planning to prepare for their five-month journey of living on the streets. It started at the DRM’s Lawrence Street Shelter. For 30 days they lived among the homeless and New Life Program candidates. Mike was the cook alongside program candidate, Timothy. Through Timothy, Mike understood that Rescue Missions provide hope and redemption. Timothy would still be on the streets or even dead if it weren’t for the Mission.
I won’t ruin the rest of his story, but it’s worth mentioning that Mike emphasized we should have ‘active, real love.’ It’s about love that does not make anyone invisible – even man sleeping on the bench. It’s about making eye contact with someone, and maybe even talking to them over a burrito.
Following Mike, BJ Swenson, a New Life Program graduate, told his humbling story about what it means to run with a purpose. BJ began running away from himself for 15 years. In those years, he became an alcoholic and reliant on drugs, he strained his relationships and found himself homeless a few times. In 2009, he entered the New Life Program at The Crossing and there he found healing, peace and belonging through the message of Christ.
Today, BJ is no longer running from himself. He is now running with a purpose to prove that you can do anything through Christ. BJ has run three marathons and 9 half marathons. BJ says that he himself is not remarkable, but that he now has a remarkable story to share.
Thank you to both Mike and BJ for inspiring all of us with your words!