March 2014 Posts

Rachel’s Lens // Being Trusted

My job requires a lot of driving, talking, asking, walking, crouching, finding…mostly just moving around and using brain space in general. I’m tired from conversation and activity at the end of most work days.

But I have this two-three day window each month, between assignments, where I sit at my desk most of the day. I organize, I work through ongoing projects, I clean my office, I update photo catalogs. These are the days that I catch up on everything that doesn’t get priority over interviews and photo shoots. This week was that sweet spot.

Yesterday, I printed off paper after paper, shuffling and stapling. I got into a rhythm and as soon as I missed a beat, a wave of nostalgia rushed over me. My first job ever was over 17 years ago, printing and shuffling and stapling papers for my dad’s business. I would stand for hours, creating packets for new homeowners. I swear, at nine years old, I could have told you everything expect when you buy a new home because I read so much about it that year.

But I valued that job so much. I remember feeling like a big kid, like I could be trusted with something. It was my first taste of real responsibility. I felt like that again yesterday. I felt trusted with this job, even the paper filing part of it. Mentally, I went back over all the stories I’ve heard in the year and a half I’ve been here. I was so humbled to be trusted with people’s experiences, struggles, heartache. And so excited to remember the success at the end of these stories. The poignant moments of true life change.

I am so grateful to be trusted. And grateful to be reminded that the small things, like three days of down time, prepare me for the big days.

rachels lens final


Rachel’s Lens // It’s more than just meals and beds

I got to do something awesome this week. Sure, it meant waking up at 3:30 a.m. Sure, I thought I was going to fall asleep standing up. Sure, I had lunch at 9:30 a.m…but it was still great!

I can’t give too many details away, but I basically spent the whole day observing the kitchen at our Lawrence Street Shelter. I was blown away by the amount of work it is to operate that building.

Look at the numbers:

  • 775 meals a day to the hungry and hurting in our city.
  • 315 beds provided each night to men that have nowhere else to go.
  • 42 program candidates who are working to overcome struggle and live a life of self-sufficiency.

All those numbers add up to A LOT of hard work. And the people down there serve our community with a smile on their face. They overlook the early mornings, the hours on their feet and the last-minute changes to the menu. I walked away from my day downtown with a few thoughts:

1. I have immense respect and appreciation for my co-laborers in Christ. They do something that I am simply not cut out for and they do so with a great attitude.

2. The men trying to battle addiction and strongholds in their life have an enviable level of strength. I choked back tears multiple times on Wednesday hearing their stories.

3. The Lord is doing a mighty work at the shelter and I so appreciate all of you who support us by donating or by volunteering. We couldn’t do what we do without you!


Don, a program candidate at the shelter, sorting a massive load of donations

Guest Blogger // Addicts are people – Even role models

Written by, Sarah James, student at Xavier University

photo 1 To say the week I spent at Harvest Farm was phenomenal is an extreme understatement.  It was inspiring, life-changing, thought-provoking, and so much more.  The people I met, the things I did, and the experiences I had will definitely impact me for the rest of my life.

I lost track of how many times one of the guys asked the question, “So why did you voluntarily choose to come here for Spring Break, when you could be on a beach somewhere or doing something actually fun?”  The simple answer is that I’ve participated in three different trips with Xavier University’s Alternative Breaks program, and the “normal” Spring Break thing has never really interested me.  Scooping cow poop, sloshing through mud, and hanging out with a bunch of men in recovery genuinely sounds way more fun to me than throwing my money away on clothes, restaurants, parties, etc. that I may or may not remember thirty years down the road.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I came to Harvest Farm—I always try to go into things with an open mind.  I was intrigued by the Farm’s mission because the issue of substance abuse has always been very close to me; it has affected some very important relationships in my life and I really wanted to try to understand those people better.  I was also a little bit nervous about what I was going to experience when I got to the Farm: What if the guys didn’t want to talk to me? What if they scared me?  I kept reminding myself that stepping outside my comfort zone would be a rewarding experience in the end.

Boy, did I underestimate how true that would be! I learned so much that week, not only about substance abuse, but mostly about life in general.   I expected to find wounded, recovering alcoholics and addicts trying to cope with their lives and move on.  But what I really found were just people—role models, actually.  The guys on the Farm are so incredibly strong, and wise, and full of life.  They taught me that it’s never too late to turn your life around and start believing in yourself.  That a little bit of positive energy goes a long way.  That hope is always present no matter how dismal things may seem.  I learned the most not from sitting down and begging the guys to tell me their whole life story; rather, what impacted me the most was just hanging out with them and sharing our time together and enjoying the blessings of life.

I could go on and on about my experience at Harvest Farm.  But what most impressed me was the honesty and love and hope shared by everyone there.  Harvest Farm is a place where brokenness becomes giftedness; the atmosphere of mutual support and authenticity is incredible.  My Spring Break was impactful, rewarding, and FUN!  Harvest Farm is a truly awesome and inspiring place, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience it.

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Xavier University students including Sarah spent there Spring Break volunteering at the Mission’s Harvest Farm. To learn more about how you can spend your Spring Break at the Farm visit our Short-Term Service Trips or email Heather for more information.

Guest Blogger // Celebrating a Champion

Written by Joe Bermingham (Denver Rescue Mission Youth Coordinator)

I am glad that I was out of town when I heard the news that Champ Bailey was cut from the Denver Broncos. No one likes to see a grown man cry.

I moved here from Buffalo the same year Champ got traded from the Washington Redskins and I’ve been a fan ever since. I got bored with teams that refused to throw passes anywhere near Champ because of fear that it would be intercepted or deflected. But, despite all of Champ’s All Pro prowess and future hall of fame status, there’s more I will miss of him. Champ Bailey is a great person!

I work with homeless kids at Denver Rescue Mission. I will miss the times that Champ came out to be with our kids.  Most people don’t know that Champ liked to come to the Mission when there were no cameras or press. He is a humble man. He just wanted to encourage our kids and families. He would come to birthday parties, holiday events, or just for the fun of it. He probably got cramps from autographing photos and jerseys.  We have a big “24” jersey in our Denver Broncos Youth Center and will cherish it for a long time. Thank you Champ…we love you and will miss you!

Joe and Champ

Joe and Champ


Rachel’s Lens // Glenn

Last week, I shared a photo and my excitement that spring is coming!!

Then, in classic Colorado fashion, it snowed on Tuesday. I wanted to go see what was going on down at our shelter, so I walked around with my coworker Brandon to see if there were people stranded outside. I took some photos, hoping to encourage people to head inside. Thankfully, the streets were mostly empty as local shelters opened during the day to provide a warm place for the homeless.

Just as we were walking back into the shelter, Brandon asked Glenn if we could take his photo. Glenn obliged and with a very sweet disposition, thanked me. This was striking to me because I’m usually the one profusely thanking my subjects.

I’m not usually photographing people in their most dignified state. I’m not surprised at all when people ask me not to take their photo. But Glenn seemed happy, appreciative. He was definitely a bright spot in an otherwise very dreary day.


Guest Blogger // When transformation begins and life comes back

Written by Amy Fletcher, Champa House Program Director

One of the greatest joys of my job at Champa House is the fact that I get to be witness to transformation.  I am allowed the great privilege of watching broken, angry girls transform into courageous, forgiving women.  The process is work.  Very hard work. I see tears, attitudes, questions upon questions, and the ever-present temptation to quit.  However, when a woman chooses to have the courage to stick with the process, even though she cannot immediately see the outcome, transformation begins and life comes back.

Joy, our most recent graduate, is a beautiful picture of the transformation I am talking about.  She came to Champa House as a bitter, confused, angry shadow of a girl.  There was no joy in her, only pain.  Throughout her year in Champa House, Joy fully applied herself to the program.  She engaged in life skills classes, counseling, relapse prevention group, in depth Bible studies, budgeting, conflict management and relationship skills.  Joy fully surrendered her life to Christ and the  transformation He needed to do in her.  Joy graduated Champa House women’s  program on February 28th.  She graduated as a beautiful, gracious, confident woman.  She graduated as someone who fully grew into her name:  JOY.

Joy with Amy (right, Champa House Program Director)

Joy with Amy (right, Champa House Program Director)

Joy (left) with Yolanda, her Chaplain

Joy (left) with Yolanda, her Chaplain

Joy with women living at Champa House

Joy with women living at Champa House

Guest Blogger // Helping Women Heal

Written by Anne Kirkner,  The SAVA Center Staff

The SAVA Center started running a group at Fort Collins Rescue Mission after speaking with April Kenney, the women’s program director. She is always looking to connect the women in her program to community resources. When we talked about a partnership between our agencies, it was clear to me how much April cares about the women at the Mission and how hard she works to find new programming. We decided a weekly educational process group about interpersonal violence and power would be the best fit for the women.

We know that homeless women experience disproportionately high rates of interpersonal violence- sexual, physical, emotional, verbal, and financial abuse- in their lifetimes. Being without stable housing makes it incredibly difficult to find safety and stability in one’s life. It is also impossible to begin to heal from trauma when your housing situation is in flux.

I initially reached out to April to make our services accessible to women experiencing homelessness as it is often hard for them to come to our offices.  As an advocacy group, we want to make our programs and resources accessible.

Many of the women I met at the Mission have already done tremendous work in healing from trauma and are managing to balance caring for and connecting with family, finding jobs, and saving money all at the same time. These tasks demand enormous amounts of focus and patience- traits I have witnessed in every woman I’ve met at the Mission.

Each week our group focuses on looking at the roots of violence and hurting and locating ourselves and our own struggles in the bigger picture. Sessions include topics like self-care and coping recognizing signs of abuse; power and control in society; the roots of oppression in society; the role of media; and how to start making a difference in our lives and our communities. This deeper look at where violence comes from is the focus of many of SAVA’s educational programs. We encourage people to gain this knowledge and adopt their own critical lens of the power dynamics around them. We believe this is how change happens.

Each week I am struck by the wisdom and resilience of every person in the room. I walk away having learned something new each time. And I’m really grateful SAVA and the Mission has started this partnership. We hope it is one that lasts a long time.

be brave with your lifephoto via

Rachel’s Lens // Spring is coming!!

I’m at home to celebrate yet another sister of mine who is getting married. BUT. Spring is coming. And I’m pumped about it.