June 2013 Posts

Rachel’s Lens // Bright and Tidy: Fort Collins Rescue Mission

Written by Rachel Greiman, Writer/Photographer

Fort Collins Rescue Mission had their first open house yesterday morning. I got to go check out the facility, along with 50 other people from the local community.

The Mission opened its doors at 10 a.m. and staff members gave tours of the men’s and women’s rooms, as well as the kitchen, dining and common areas. The Mission has made HUGE strides since Denver Rescue Mission acquired the building last winter. Through generous donations and hard work, the place is really coming together. There were innumerable repairs to make and it’s impressive to see how far it’s come.

team prayer before the open house begins

I remember going up the first time and seeing flickering bulbs and leaky pipes, but hearing enthusiasm in the voices of the new staff. Now, the rooms are bright and tidy with new mattresses and the kitchen is fully equipped, constantly turning out delicious food. The staff is still enthusiastic, now implementing a Steps to Success program and offering classes and counseling.

 

the new and improved men's room

I’m so excited about the work going on in Fort Collins and also very appreciative of the community getting involved. Running a homeless shelter is no easy task and a supportive network of businesses and people in the Fort Collins area will be crucial to fulfilling our mission of Changing Lives in the Name of Christ. Thank you to all of you who attended!

Want to be part of the change? www.FortCollinsRescueMission.org

Happy Father’s Day!!

Written By Danielle Charbonneau Public Relations Intern

Happy Father’s Day from Denver Rescue Mission!

One of the most beautiful things we see here at the Mission is when a father, after having been separated from his kids, begins to reestablish connection. Sometimes the separation is physical, others just emotional; sometimes it is caused by addiction, other times by divorce, jail or homelessness.  Regardless of the circumstances, each and every story of reunion is profoundly heart-warming. In honor of Father’s Day, we’d like to share one of those stories with you. LaJosh Castille has been working diligently to have his kids back in his life, and to be the father he’s always wanted to be. This is his story:

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LaJosh Vincente Castille grew up in a loving church family in Five Points as the middle child of three. His mom and dad were very spiritual and active members of the church; his grandmothers shook their fingers at him and told him to “stay in church son.”

He had a natural curiosity about religion, spirituality and the world — in his youth he studied Judaism and explored world religions. He called himself a “truth seeker” and was teased by his older brother’s friends for always carrying around a backpack full of books. To this day, a close friend still calls him “The Professor.”

“I just always had that ambition to learn and teach and be an educator. To be educated means so much more than to have a degree,” he said.

“The word educate actually comes from the Latin root word ‘educe,’” he continued, his inner professor coming out. “It means to bring out, or draw out. A person who is educated knows how to embody what they’ve learned.”

And this seemed to be exactly LaJosh’s problem: Even though he had a clear propensity for learning, he couldn’t quite seem to apply his knowledge. When he graduated from high school, his intellect alone couldn’t push him to reach his full potential. Instead, he landed a job at Home Depot, where he was working when he became a father. Struggling to stay afloat, he got another job as a restroom attendant in a nightclub, wearing a suit and handing out cologne and mints in the men’s room. When that “started to get dangerous,” and Home Depot laid him off, LaJosh became jobless…then homeless.

He couch-hopped at first, staying with his mom on occasion and with friends on others. But when that got old, he found a spot in a city stairwell and another at Union Station. He would wake up early in the morning, take a shower at the St. Francis homeless resource center, visit his kids at their mother’s and look for work. He even enrolled in school and started taking classes full-time at ITT Technical College in Criminal Justice.

“No one could tell I was homeless,” LaJosh said. “I still dressed nice, would go to the library, had a resume and was looking for work.”

He would take his kids to his classes and on his job hunt with him.

“It was a lot like the Pursuit of Happyness,” he said laughing.

But after three years of living homeless, with a few temporary jobs spotted throughout, LaJosh grew weary of the lifestyle and needed an escape. He started drinking with some of his fellow street friends.

“We drank vodka and Wild Turkey — it became a social thing. We had our little spot where we’d meet up. The older guys would pass down their wisdom…tell us how we didn’t want to end up like them,” he remembered.

Drinking made the rut harder to crawl out of. He thought of his kids and knew he had to do something.

“It was all about my kids,” he said.

So he joined the New Life Program in April of 2012 and began to learn more about God and, as a result,  himself: “You seek Christ, but actually Christ is always in you,” he said. “You learn who He is so you can learn who you are.”

Since joining the program LaJosh sees his kids regularly. His son, now 15, is interested in going into the Marine Academy and his daughter wants to be a ballerina. LaJosh is a proud papa — he lights up when he talks about his beautiful children, whom he carries a picture of at all times. He said he’s teaching his son the lessons he’s learned — about what it takes to be a man and how to love God and others. For his daughter, he says he’s trying to become the type of man he’d want her to marry one day.

“A daughter usually goes for someone like her father,” he said. “I want to show her what a man looks like.”

Now LaJosh has the capability to be the father — and teacher — he’s always wanted to be.

“I know I’m a teacher by birth,” he said. “But I had to teach myself first.”

 

Rachel’s Lens // Brownies and Barbers

Written by, Rachel Greiman, Writer/Photographer

My mom and sister are in town this week which means that I’m very happy and very exhausted. See, my mom is one of those awesome people that makes you wake up and run every morning, but then buys you delicious, rich coffee and hands you a homemade brownie for breakfast. So, I’m semi-exercised yet caloried-up each morning, which makes for an interesting day at work. But with as much running around as I’ve been doing all week, the extra sugar is probably good fuel.

It’s been an energetic week to say the least. This week I’ve been taking photos for our newsletter, of past program graduates for upcoming Mission events and the regular ol’ Instagram shots. My favorite shoot was yesterday when we interviewed Don, a program graduate from Harvest Farm. He now works at a local barber shop and is going to be a featured speaker at our “Evening of Exploration” event this fall.

I got to see his barber skills in motion when I asked to snap a couple of photos of him and he instantly demanded that Ryan, my coworker, jump in his chair for a much-needed beard trim. (Ryan was one of the Rescue Riders who rode 900 miles from Denver to Phoenix on a bike as part of Break the Cycle: 900 Miles Against Hunger. The man was in desperate need of a shave!) We laughed through the whole thing and I must say, Don made Ryan look like a real human again. Kudos!

Break the Cycle // Day 10 // 900 Miles for 20,000 Meals

Downhill to Phoenix!

It was the second to last day of our ride to fight against hunger and it was a beautiful and challenging ride!  Brad, Josh, Brian, and Ryan started the ride out at 5:00 a.m. to beat the heat of a day of riding in Arizona in June. We had an extremely long climb that spanned over 30 miles and a gain of roughly 3,500 feet of elevation. We were extremely grateful for our unsung heroes of the trip, Kyle and Pierce who have been graciously supporting us throughout the days, keeping us safe, well fed, and hydrated during our long days on the road.  Without them, we could not have made it through some of our most challenging days, like today!

I am looking back on our journey and I can’t believe that it is almost over. We had long days on the saddle, however, this trip went by really fast. We all miss our families and friends; however, we have all really enjoyed bonding on this journey with each other as well as the many wonderful and interesting people that we have met along the way.

Our focus has remained on the fact that we are doing this for the people that we serve at Denver Rescue Mission who are in need and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. We are grateful for the fact that we are in a position to serve Jesus in such a unique way.  I will miss our morning bible verse and prayer as well as the camaraderie that has been cultivated during this ride.

Thank you to everyone who has been following us up to this point.  Today, we are finishing our last day riding. Thank you for your prayers as we complete our journey at the Biltmore in Phoenix, AZ.

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Break the Cycle stretches so much further than the 900-mile road. Our hearts and minds will be focused on those who come to the Mission for food, shelter, clothing, and life-changing programs. Our goal is to provide 20,000 meals to the hurting and homeless in our community!

Support us here: www.DenverRescueMission.org/Bike

 

Break the Cycle // Day 9 // This too shall pass

Written by Kyle Petrie, DRM employee

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was filled with infinite challenges: aggressive drivers, unseasonable heat, poor road conditions due to construction, and inconsistent shoulders on miles of roadway. Those conditions forced us to make some serious adjustments along the way.

But as with so many things in life, we learned that “this too shall pass”. This morning we left our hotel with a full accompaniment of riders: the four normal riders and both support staff being able to ride as well. Due to some last minute logistical changes, I had moved from full time rider to full time support staff just before the ride began in Denver over a week ago. But, my hope was to get a few days of riding in as long as it worked out.  Not only was today a good day for me to ride, but we were also able to add Pierce O’Farrill to the group going from Flagstaff through Sedona, and on to Cottonwood, AZ.

The six of us ride 50 miles of some of the most beautiful landscape that Arizona has to offer–nearly all of it downhill! The day of challenges yesterday quickly became a memory that faded with each turn along the tree lined roads of Oak Creek Canyon and the majesty of morning sunlight hitting the red rocks that towered above us for miles and miles.

The trip is beginning to wind down. There are just two more days of riding and this will be my last opportunity to blog from the road. There have been many challenges, a few frustrations, and more than a few things that didn’t go as planned.  On the other hand, there have also been so many times that we’ve been inspired by our teammates, our colleagues working hard in Denver, people we’ve met along the journey, and the people we serve each day at the Mission to keep pedaling.

The work done at Denver Rescue Mission is vital; thank you for supporting the many programs we offer at our facilities all over Colorado: Harvest Farm in Wellington, Fort Collins Rescue Mission, and Lawrence Street, The Crossing, and Champa House in Denver.

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Break the Cycle stretches so much further than the 900-mile road. Our hearts and minds will be focused on those who come to the Mission for food, shelter, clothing, and life-changing programs. Our goal is to provide 20,000 meals to the hurting and homeless in our community!

Support us here: www.DenverRescueMission.org/Bike

 

Break the Cycle // Day 8 // Rider’s Block

Written by Josh Geppelt, Director of Lawrence Street Shelter

As I sat in my hotel room yesterday evening, thinking about what to write, I struggled a bit with writer’s block. You know, starting and then erasing, trying a few different ways of saying the same thing, etc. Much like my attempts to capture today’s adventure and life lessons in a few short paragraphs, our trip today seemed to have many things going against it: Rider’s Block.

Our hope was to accomplish 96 miles yesterday: from Kayenta to Cameron, AZ most of which was downhill. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, easier said then done. We faced many challenges that kept setting us back from completing our goal, and that caused us to make several on-the-fly adjustments. Road construction, heavy tuck traffic, a disappearing shoulder and flat tires were all aspects of our day that required adjustment.

As I think about the journey of life that we are all on, its easy to assume that we can each write our own stories: that we can look ahead in life and somehow control how things will go. Much like we didn’t start our day assuming that we would not finish the full 96 miles; the men, women and families at we serve at the Denver Rescue Mission didn’t wake up one day and decide that they would be homeless. Rather, through a series of life events – some that could probably have been avoided, and others that could not have – they ended up living on the street, in their car or in facilities similar to ours.

We all attempt to write our own stories – and more often than not end up with the same result: things ending up completely different then what we planned. The encouragement to each of us is to lean into the times in life that we experience “writer’s block”, or I our case today “rider’s block”, and trust that God has better story prepared for us. Sure, many things will not go as we have planned – but when God authors our stories, we can trust the end result will be far better.

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Break the Cycle stretches so much further than the 900-mile road. Our hearts and minds will be focused on those who come to the Mission for food, shelter, clothing, and life-changing programs. Our goal is to provide 20,000 meals to the hurting and homeless in our community!

Support us here: www.DenverRescueMission.org/Bike

 

Rachel’s Lens // Coffee Shop Thoughts

Written by, Rachel Greiman, Writer/Photographer

I type this to you from an adorable little coffee shop in Seattle. I arrived last night to spend a weekend with dear friends from college that I haven’t seen in years. I’m happy for the break from normal life.  A day to sit and drink coffee writing about whatever comes to mind.

And what comes to mind today is expectations. I think we all have expectations of ourselves and of other people that can be either inspiring or crippling. I was hyper aware of what everyone wanted or expected me to be like growing up. I didn’t always meet those expectations, but I was aware of them. Sometimes what other people wanted dictated my decisions – that still happens.

Then there were expectations that pushed me and helped me grow. My parents always wanted me to give 100% effort to whatever I was doing, even if I wasn’t the smartest, fastest or most skilled person. That has stayed with me and I will do anything just to show that I’m trying. I remember having professors that expected me to complete an insane amount of work, which seemed absurd at the time. Now I look back and realize that those assignments prepared me for the working world. My husband holds me to a standard of grace and generosity that is far beyond my natural inclinations. But it’s his expectation that pushes me, challenging me each day to be better than the day before.

When I hear the stories of the people in the Mission’s programs, they often begin with failed expectations and end with inspiring ones. Whatever drove someone into our program can be the very thing that motivates them through it. How amazing is it that they can have a place with cheerleaders (in the form of chaplains, case managers, other program participants and staff, etc.) surrounding them? How incredible to have realistic, achievable goals laid out and a road to get them there?

My hope and prayer is that I (and you) can  re-evaluate the expectations that I have for the people in my life because of what I see each day at Denver Rescue Mission. The people we love need to be celebrated and encouraged. The more grace we find for ourselves, the more we can have for others.

Break the Cycle // Day 7 // The Longest Mile, In Perspective

Written by Brian Newman, Harvest Farm (fellow rider) -- Eating Big!

Yesterday was the longest day of the our trip at 124 miles and of actual riding and over 12 hours on the road.

We left our hotel at 5 am for a pre-dawn start at the edge of Farmington and headed towards Kayenta AZ. Our journey was hampered by 7 flat tires before lunch, but we were treated to a beautiful sunrise and amazing rock formations. We crossed from New Mexico into Arizona and rolled through some of the most amazing landscape in the nation. The stars of the day were Kyle and Pierce as our support crew, cheering section and much needed water station attendants.

The Desert Southwest has a way of making me feel very small and vulnerable. The wide open spaces, sparse vegetation and blowing sand, all baking under the bright sun, have a way of putting life into perspective.

We rode though this desert for a day, Christ walked in the wilderness for 40 days. We were awed by the majesty of rock, sand and sky, God created it all for us. We felt tested by our ride today, but there are many people who struggle simply to get enough to eat and find a place to stay for the night.

We volunteered for this trip to raise awareness and support for hungry people in our communities.  Our longest mile becomes much more bearable with that in mind.

I am so tired right now I can’t see straight so I am signing off. Continue to follow us and support Denver Rescue Mission’s goal of 20,000 meals.

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Break the Cycle stretches so much further than the 900-mile road. Our hearts and minds will be focused on those who come to the Mission for food, shelter, clothing, and life-changing programs. Our goal is to provide 20,000 meals to the hurting and homeless in our community!

Support us here: www.DenverRescueMission.org/Bike

Staff Highlight // Jonnell Ashley

Written By Danielle Charbonneau Public Relations Intern

This month I am pleased to present Jonnell Ashley as our staff highlight. His INCREDIBLE, powerful testimony puts in to perspective why Denver Rescue Mission is here.

I hope you are as moved by his words as I was. And I should note that it is the perfect time to recognize Jonnell as he will be joining the team at The Crossing as a new Chaplain on June 10th. Thank you Jonnell for being so open, honest and wonderful!

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1) Tell me about your journey.

I was born here in Denver, Colo. On May 1st, 1974; my mother was married to a very abusive, alcoholic, and drug addictive man better known as my father. She worked very hard to support our family because my father was always out of work.

I remember when I was a little boy about 4 years old. My mother taught me and my twin brother how to place a chair by the counter top in the kitchen, and climb up the cabinets to the top to retrieve a key to her freedom. My father would lock my mother in a room in the house anytime she was not working. He would tell her that he would harm her and us children if she ever got out or told anyone. So we would have to let her out after he left and lock her back in the room when we heard him coming home at night. We would be frantically climbing up the cabinets to place the key back in place. I remember hearing my mother yelling in a scared voice for us to hurry and not to fall and hurt ourselves.

When I was seven or eight years old  my mom divorced my dad. My mom started dating and her boyfriend protected us for awhile until he started abusing my mom.

Things continued to get worse. My mom needed babysitters, so she got my older male cousin to watch us at night while she worked. He began to molest me and my brother and threatened to kill us if we ever told. I remember praying to the Lord as a child that this all would stop. He stopped with me right away, but I later found out that with my brother it continued until the age of 14.

I started to drink at 14. My mother would supply our alcohol habits by purchasing it for us. She had been through so much, I think that she was a bit detached from reality. Her philosophy was that she would rather have us do it in the house rather than anywhere else.

My adulthood wasn’t any better: I was a drug dealer and was hanging around the wrong crowd of people. I was upset that things didn’t work out with the mother of my second child, so I started smoking crack cocaine. I was 22 years-old had three children, was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine. Then I finally hit rock bottom: I was homeless.

Fast forward a few years, I was in front of a mirror weeping. This is when I heard the scripture in “James” about how a man looks at himself in the mirror, walks away and forgets what he looks like. I looked at myself and began to weep because my left eye was blood shot red, I was skinny and about 150 pounds, and I had lost everything I loved in my life. This is when I asked the Lord to save me from my sinful life.

After conversations with my brother, a minister, I found my way to a church where I gave my life to the Lord at the altar that day August 12, 2004.

Then I joined Denver Rescue Mission’s New Life Program.

God healed all the broken relationships that I had created in my life and restored me to a place of peace in my life. I graduated September 17th, 2005 and one week later I married my beautiful wife Lyzette. He gave me full custody of two of my children and joint custody of my third child. I am now a Deacon, and at the Colorado Christian Fellowship Church in Aurora, CO.

I’m currently in college at “Grand Canyon University” towards receiving a B.S. in Christian Studies; and was blessed nearly six years ago to return to the Denver Rescue Mission. God is real and He’s full of mercy and grace for us all. I am a living, walking, breathing, and redeemed testimony.

2) What are a few of the defining moments in your life?

When I found Christ, married my beautiful wife Lyzette September 24, 2005, and when I gained employment at the DRM.

3) Tell me about your family.

I have four girls 19, 17, 16, and 16. Two boys 25, and 23 years old. We’re a blended family that the Lord has blessed to work tremendously together as one! I have three girls, and Lyzette has two boys and 1 girl. All my girls the Lord has blessed to live with me at one point or another. Only one lives apart from me now in Florida, but I see her in the summers and on holiday’s.

4) What are your hopes/fears/feelings moving into this new role?

I hope to continue to bless men in a mighty way through the Lord divine power as they transition into their new lives. My only fear is not being excepted by my peers due to the road I’ve traveled to reach Chaplaincy; however, the Lord has deemed me worthy to answer this call, so I pray everyone is ready for me at the Crossing…

Watch Jonnell’s video here.

Break the Cycle // Day 6 // Strength and Hope

Written by Ryan Wickstrom, Special Events Manager

It has been an amazing journey so far.  I was just thinking today as we were eating breakfast about the fact that we have actually rode our bikes from the Lawrence Street Shelter in Denver all the way to Farmington, NM, and we are only half of the way to our final destination in Phoenix. We have had a blast so far, everyone has remained healthy and there has been a great amount of encouragement on the road from people through the state of Colorado and now in New Mexico.

It makes me think about how people relate to taking action and doing something about helping people in need.  It gives me a lot of strength and hope.

I am grateful for all of the people who have participated in this ride against hunger, from my fellow riders, to our wonderful support team (Kyle Petrie, Tanner Cogsdil, and now Pierce O’Farril), to our team at Denver Rescue Mission, and most of all, the support of our constituents through prayer and financial support. God has been with us.  We have been covered with much prayer from our friends, family, and people who just want to support the efforts of the Mission and we really appreciate it!

We look forward to the second half of our trip beginning tomorrow from Farmington to Cayenta, AZ.  Please continue to pray for our safety and endurance!

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Break the Cycle stretches so much further than the 900-mile road. Our hearts and minds will be focused on those who come to the Mission for food, shelter, clothing, and life-changing programs. Our goal is to provide 20,000 meals to the hurting and homeless in our community!

Support us here: www.DenverRescueMission.org/Bike