May 2013 Posts

Staff Post // (Ab)Normal

Written by, Josh Littlejohn Volunteer Coordinator, Lawrence Street Shelter

Part of my job involves giving tours of Jesus SavesDenver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter.  I start my tours off with: “Homelessness, poverty, mental illness, addiction, hard times…these things don’t have a favorite flavor they like to pick on.” Last week, I was reminded of that.

I swore to myself that I would never let what I see every day at Lawrence Street Shelter be “normal” for me. Or, that I would never let what I see at work each and every day be “just another day on the job.” Seeing this brokenness in the world isn’t supposed to be normal, is it?

In fact, I swore that if I ever got to that point, I’d hand in my two-week notice and find somewhere else easier to work. However, I was humbled last week when I saw more women, children and new faces in for lunch. In fact, Chef Josh and I agreed, that there were more new faces than “regulars.”

It’s days like this past Sunday that are hard, weighty and make me wonder, “Is this the normal?”

Then I remembered what I say to all the groups that come in to learn more about Denver Rescue Mission: Homelessness. Poverty. Mental illness. Addiction. Hard times. Divorce. Domestic Violence. They do not have a favorite person they like to pick on. These things shouldn’t be our normal.

Our normal and God’s normal are different. When we see abnormal – God sees perfection. When God set out in the process of creation, He did so with the intent that everything would bring Him glory. That it would all be perfect, whole and complete; that all of creation would be a reflection of His character. That was what God intended for ‘normal.’

Instead, last week I saw the opposite. When sin came into the world, these things: mental illness, addiction, poverty, among others became part of our world.

God’s solution to sin’s ‘new normal’ of disease, disobedience, addiction was the sacrifice of His Son. That was abnormal. We are called to be abnormal with Jesus, if we hope to make a dent in the sin of this world.

As I watched new face upon new face pour into the dining hall for lunch I felt something deep in my spirit say, “Josh, I love them.” God was reminding me that in the midst of sin’s “new normal,” He was doing something abnormal. He loved them, regardless of their circumstances. We, too, are called to unconditionally love one another.

If we continue to do what we’re supposed to do, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we too will be abnormal. We too will love unconditionally. We too will lay down everything so that we can break the cycle of normalcy that sin has set as the standard in our world today.

So, as I was humbled today in accepting this as the new normal in the world, I was quickly reminded that Jesus is still here in the midst of it all. It is only through His love and sacrifice that things are restored to what God intended: perfection and wholeness.

Jesus’ love gets us there. All it takes for us is to be okay with being abnormal.

Leave us your feedback and comments – we’d love to hear from you!

Rachel’s Lens // “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Written by, Rachel Greiman, Writer/Photographer

The first event I ever shot for Denver Rescue Mission was the winter graduation ceremony (you can read it here). I remember feeling a little nervous and overwhelmed, but so encouraged by all of our graduates. There was cheering and tears all around.

Well today was my first spring ceremony and it did not disappoint. In the prayer with the graduates before the ceremony began, Brad Meuli (CEO and President) said, “Today is one of the best days we have at Denver Rescue Mission.” And you could feel the palpable happiness in the room. We see a lot of hard stuff, but it makes the good stuff that much better.

Denver Rescue Mission celebrated 11 GED graduates

One of the speakers was Don, a former program participant and current coworker of mine at Denver Rescue Mission. I’ve known him for months, shared meals with him and interacted with him on a daily basis. I feel like I know him fairly well. But to hear the details of his story were incredible. I found myself coughing to choke back tears the whole time.

The other speaker was a local worship leader who has a story similar to a lot of our program participants. He rejoices in almost eight years of sobriety and encouraged our participants and graduates that they, too, can achieve their goals and the lives they seek. I was honored to sit with and photograph such strong individuals who have overcome so much.

The second speaker talked about how all of us are at a different point in our stories. Today we celebrated some really significant events, but communally acknowledged that some people are still in the thick of it, enduring some hard times. And that is the miracle of Denver Rescue Mission. The community is here to celebrate, lift up, guide, and encourage people at any stage of life, at any point in their story.

I’m reminded of the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” It was incredible to see people come up victorious today.

Now choose life :: Champa House

Written by, Robbin Brown, Education Coordinator at Champa House

“…Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

This is one my favorite scriptures, and it came to life last year. I’m the Education Coordinator at Denver Rescue Mission’s Champa House.  My role is to educate single mothers, assist women earning their GED, teach life skills, and help these women navigate through a career development course. The goal of Life Skills, Education and Career (LEC) is to identify a woman’s personal, academic and vocational potential and how to develop the skills she needs to reach them.

The New Life Program is a life-transforming process. Women come to us broken down by life ready to learn how to choose life, not only for themselves, but for their children too.

Choosing life can take on many different forms, but one that I have seen these women choose is the life that Deuteronomy talks about. The scripture says, “The Lord is your life.” Some of these women come from the deepest, darkest trials. Some have had their children permanently removed from their care because of drug addiction. Some have given up everything for “love” only to find out the man they gave their heart to didn’t really want it. Some have had it all by our world’s standards and lost it in a moment. Before they chose life, they had to completely humble themselves and reach out for help. By taking that brave step, they chose life.

What does choosing life look like? A woman having her five children removed from her custody due to drug addition, enters the New Life Program and graduates from Champa House with a full-time job as a Dental Assistant.  Women who once found 100 percent of their worth in what one man tells them realized that their true worth is found in God. Women who thought their lives were over because of their choices realize that God really does work all things, yes all things, for good to those who are called according to His purpose. Mothers who at one time weren’t sure they even wanted their children begin to see their children in a whole new way and become some of the best mothers I know. Broken relationships in families are restored. Healing happens in ways that can’t be explained and second chances happen.  Choosing life doesn’t mean that nothing hard ever happens or that your children will suddenly never have to face tough times. When you choose life, when you choose the Lord your God and listen to His voice and hold fast to Him, you finally have something to live for.

As I watch these women day after day choose life, I have to ask myself, “What I am choosing?” The scripture is clear that we are all given a choice. Life or death? Until we hold fast to our Heavenly Father, we will never truly live. What does my life reflect? I am thankful for the lessons I have learned from the ladies here at Champa House. I am reminded daily of what choosing life really means. Now I ask you, are you really living? How are you choosing life today?

the beautiful ladies of Champa House

 

Rachel’s Lens // “I’m new to this”

Written by, Rachel Greiman, Writer/Photographer

I was very, very sick this week. This post may reflect that in its length.

I’m extremely excited for June’s issue of our Changing Lives Newsletter. Without giving too much away, below is a sneak preview.

I’ve spent most of the week running around and having some very interesting conversations…can’t wait to fill you all in next month. :)

Intern Post // More than 26 miles, More than 520 meals

Written by, Natalie Ziemba, Intern

For George and I, running the Colfax Marathon is more than 26 miles. We set a goal of $1,000 to donate to Denver Rescue Mission. As interns at the Mission, we see the life change that happens, but we also see the great need in our community. Raising $1,000 means 520 meals will be provided to the homeless, but it’s also more than meals. It’s about hope!

In conversation, I asked George why he was motivated to run the marathon as a fundraiser, “Well Ziemba, when people come to Denver Rescue Mission, we try to give them everything they need. They get a place to sleep, a warm meal, but more than that…we give them hope.”

Which is absolutely true, and the value of hope can never be underestimated. In fact, I think hope is essential for daily survival. Denver Rescue Mission provides all kinds of services to address temporary and chronic homelessness, striving to meet the physical needs of the homeless population in Denver (which, at the last count, topped 12,000 people on any given night).

For George, a native from Africa, the reality of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in Denver was completely unexpected. He always tells me that his friends and family back in Africa can’t fathom problems like that in a place like America. In the land of plenty, how can people go without basic needs?

For me, the reality has been there all along. I have had plenty of opportunities to go on mission trips and volunteer my free time to help out in my community, and I always knew that homelessness was a huge and persistent problem. But what could I possibly do about it?

Take action. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away; something must be done. We have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to leave our community better than we found it.  We can all do this. Running a marathon is certainly a challenge, but so is changing the world.

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

This is a call for you and me to invest our lives to do things that have eternal significance. Providing meals might solve a temporary problem, but instilling hope is eternal.  Please join us to make this a reality!

To support Natalie and George, click here.

The runners // George and Natalie