April 2014 Posts

Guest Post // Learning about hope and possibilities

Written by Valerie Cabrera, Public Relations Intern

I graduate from college in exactly 17 days. I don’t have a job lined up, I’ve got school debt up to my eyeballs, and I have no idea what I want to do with a writing *insert typical scoff here* major.

But still, it’s hard not to hope that I’m on the verge of something great. That I’m going to move to a new apartment in a big city and have brunch with interesting people at hip restaurants on Saturday mornings.

Lately, I’ve figured out that I have always taken it for granted that everyone has that feeling—a feeling of hope that a better future is in store for you.

Sometimes that hope isn’t unfounded. Sometimes you find a job and you get to keep it as long as you want. You get married to a really great person and walk your dog and buy a house. You get to complain about your husband not doing the dishes or your wife buying another pair of shoes. You roll your eyes at pointless work meetings and take your kids to church on Sundays.

These past five months as a Public Relations intern at Denver Rescue Mission though, I’ve learned that it’s not always like that.  Sometimes, somewhere along the way your path takes a slightly different turn.

On cold nights, as I waited at bus stops, I got to see guys in the New Life Program beam with happiness as they told me about their first “legitimate” job, how they’re getting it all back together. I got to talk to Tony, who recently had open-heart surgery and who’s simply grateful to wake up in the morning and see the blue Denver sky. I got to witness Tom, a Fort Collins Rescue Mission employee, welcome people into the shelter for a meal, like they were dear, old friends. I got to spend Saturday picking up trash next to Esteban, who loves zoos and misses his kids in Chicago.

Sometimes, I’ve learned, the kids get sick. Medical bills pile up. A job is lost. A legacy of alcoholism is inherited.

Sometimes it happens subtly, like plate tectonics; a slow, painful shifting of your world. You look around and realize that you’ve fallen off the edge of the continent and you’re drowning. You’re so ashamed you can’t look your kids in the eye, like Todd after 19 years of addictions.

Other times, it swallows you up like an avalanche.  You’re suddenly buried, and you’re cold, and you’re suffocating under ten feet of icy despair. You run away, and find yourself on a bus to anywhere, like Esteban did after his alcoholism spiraled out of control.

Being here these past five months I’ve had the privilege of being entrusted with the stories of people who thought they weren’t enough—for their families, for their friends, for God.

I’ve learned that it gets really hard to think about words like “hope” and “possibilities” in a motel, or on the side of the road, or in a shelter with 300 other strangers.

Since becoming an intern at the Mission, I’ve realized that sometimes homelessness is just. not. fair. And yet, at the same time, it is fair, because, here’s the thing:  it doesn’t discriminate.

It doesn’t care if you’re a college graduate. If you’ve worked in corporate America. If you’re a war veteran or a foster kid. It takes brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and it gobbles them down like a hungry dog.

And just like that, people never have that feeling of being on the verge of something great. A life of possibilities is closed off to them because it’s too dark in the room they’re in— whether that be a room of addictions, or perpetual poverty, or dismal health.

I like how Brad Meuli puts it, though. He says: “We show our program participants that God has a plan for them that extends far beyond their current circumstances.” Better yet, I like how Jeremiah 29:11 puts it: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Above all, however, I’ve found that I’ve grown to love the cause I was writing for, the hurting people of our society, our homeless and poor, and I feel so honored to have made even a small contribution to help Denver Rescue Mission change lives in the name of Christ.

interns snowshoeing

interns snowshoeing

 

Rachel’s Lens // Farm Trip!

I headed up to Harvest Farm this week to write a story and had the best time walking around, meeting the new animals and asking the staff a million questions. It baffles me that after a year and a half of working here, I can still learn something new about Denver Rescue Mission every single day.

The history, the programs, the day-to-day operations…this place is continually surprising and impressing me! I got to chat with Kelly Ballantyne, the Farm’s Garden Supervisor, for just a little bit. Stopping to pull weeds as we walked and talked, he showed me all the plants that are starting to come up.

9B9A8033We talked about the CSA members and all the different foods they will get and when I should come back to get everything in full bloom. At the end of our talk, he said, “Have you met the baby goats?” I hadn’t. So he showed me and I couldn’t resist including a picture!

9B9A8079I urge all of you to make a trip to the Farm this summer or fall to see all the amazing things it has to offer! It is such a special place, not only for visitors, but for the many men working on hard life change!

Sign up to serve a lunch meal at the Farm: serve.drmvolunteers.orggo to serve a meal and choose Northern Colorado – view May’s avaliablity to serve lunch at Harvest Farm.

 

 

Dignifying our neighbors

End Homelessness, Don’t Hide It, Denver… We could not agree more!

The Lawrence Street Shelter Community Center will meet the needs of the homeless population, providing a safe place from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. The courtyard will be heated and under surveillance. It will include showers and restrooms – so the homeless have a dignified place to wash up like you do!

The courtyard will also give Mission employees an opportunity to build and foster relationships with the guests, sharing information and resources with hopes to bring people back to self-sufficiency.

Did you know that the homeless are often victims? Drug dealers prey on them. People steal the little belongings they have. Some are even beat up. The new center will offer them a safe place.

Denver Rescue Mission doesn’t want to hide the homeless. In fact, we want to share their real stories…publicly. We have a huge responsibility to our community here in Denver to raise awareness about homelessness and the issues surrounding it. The last thing we want to do is hide people, away from the very community they need.

We want to give the homeless second chances. We want to help them rebuild their lives. We want to provide resources and opportunities for them to succeed. We want to dignify everyone. In fact, for 122 years we have been serving the men, women and families who could benefit from the Community Center. And for 122 years, we have had a community that rallies around each other – believing in second chances and hope.

Are you with us?

 

Rachel’s Lens // Easter!

It’s been a busy week here at the Mission!

I went up to Fort Collins Rescue Mission last night to photograph the Easter Banquet. What a sweet time it was!

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I’m headed out now for round two: our annual Easter Banquet at the Lawrence Street Shelter. We’ll be washing feet, serving up hot plates of delicious food, handing out new socks and shoes, and giving the kids Easter baskets.

This is by far my favorite holiday of the year; what a blessing to celebrate with so many people! Follow us throughout the day to see all the exciting activities on Facebook and Twitter!

On this land…

Last week, our Denver Rescue Mission family gathered in prayer to dedicate new land.

The sun was shining bright as we prayed, shovels dug new ground, we honored those who came before us on the land, and prayed some more.

“There have been a lot of people over the years who have prayed in this land, on this land, over this land,” Brad Meuli, President/CEO said.

IMG_2451 DedicationThis may be just a piece of land or eventually just a building to someone walking through the neighborhood, but to us it’s a place where we will minister to the tired, hungry, weak, and weary people of our community. Most important, our employees will serve the Lord here.

The new Administration and Education Building will begin construction soon and be complete by early 2015. Join us in prayer for the future of this place. And, check out this video from the dedication!

Letters of desperation and hope

Men and women enter the New Life Program every day. Some graduate and some don’t, and that’s just reality. However, just because someone doesn’t graduate the program doesn’t mean they or we have failed. They still gained new skills and experienced hope, and we learn that statistics can’t measure everything – in fact they are just numbers and at the Mission, we are about people. A few months ago, one of the Mission’s employees received a letter. It was from Joe, a man who participated but never graduated the program. In fact, he went back to prison – for five years. The letter wasn’t dim or dark, but hopeful. Joe may be a failure to the people he has let down, but seeds were planted during his time in the program that inspired him, that give him hope during this time. Letter from Joe

Joe’s prison-mate, Levy, talked to him about needing a place to go for his parole. Joe told him all about Harvest Farm and the New Life Program. While Joe’s next five years will be at this Colorado prison, he took time to see potential in another man and wanted to give him the same chance he was offered.

So, Levy wrote a letter to the Mission too. His letter – well, it made me cry a little. I felt his urgency and his brokenness. At thirty years old, he lost it all: family, friends, job, and joy. Now, he wants real change. He is tired and weary of doing life the same way: in and out of prison.

photo 3I sit here reading these letters and I can relate to the desperation for rescue. I was never in prison. I never lost my family. I never lost my job. But at one point in my life, I lost hope and joy. I cried out in desperation to God.

Psalm 40: 1-3  

I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God.

There are thousands of people and organizations that help the Mission care for our neighbors. When you give to the Mission, you help plant seeds and change lives. When I lost hope and joy there were people extending new life and hope in Christ for me.

Can we strive to be individuals who always see the potential in others? Can we be a community that plants the seed of hope in the hopeless among us? Can we love our neighbor the way Christ does?

How have you planted seeds in your community? Comment below!

Guest Blogger // Outside of my comfort zone

Written by Audrey Wheeler, Intern for the STAR Transitional Program Case Manager

After I came to Denver to do my social work practicum for the semester, I chose to serve at Denver Rescue Mission because I felt God was calling me to do something that was outside my comfort zone. I’d never experienced working with the homeless population before and felt like this would be a great opportunity for me to explore other aspects of social work.

So far, I’ve learned that homelessness is a growing problem and there isn’t adequate resources and services available for a large portion of the current homeless population. Working with the participants on my caseload over the past few months, I’ve learned that God can and will use anyone to make a difference in your life. Together, with everyone who works at The Crossing, they have been a true blessing to me.

Soon, I hope to go on to graduate school and earn my master’s degree in social work. Afterwards, I hope to continue working to make a difference in the lives of those around me and in the kingdom of God.

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About the STAR Transitional Program: It provides affordable transitional shelter for approximately 77 households. Individuals and families live at The Crossing, a Denver Rescue Mission transitional living facility. Program participants receive assistance and tools to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency while living in a healthy community.

Guest Blogger // What makes an awesome mentor

Written by Dani Neal, Mentor Coordinator

My Top 5 characteristics of an awesome mentor :

  1. Consistency: Our participants are in a constant state of flux, so consistency from a mentor can help provide a sense of normalcy.
  2. Servant’s heart: Loving people well is hard work and sometimes the best asset a mentor can have is putting their own objectives and goals aside and focusing solely on our participant, without reservation.
  3. Perseverance: Again, loving people like Jesus does is hard.  A mentor who doesn’t give up on our participants are an incredible asset.
  4. Flexibility: Gotta roll with it around here at Denver Rescue Mission! Every day brings something new in our world!
  5. Commitment: Even when life gets complicated, mentors who stay the course are my heroes.

Mentoring has the power to change lives. Period.

Mentoring is an incredible avenue to empower, encourage and support our participants where they are, with what they have. The funny thing is that most of our mentors end up drastically changed too. We are INCREDIBLY blessed to have countless mentors who exude the above characteristics. It’s very humbling and inspiring and I learn something new every day. Won’t you sign up to change lives, including your own? And if you already mentor – THANK YOU!

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Be a mentor and change a life: denverrescuemission.org/mentor

Guest Blogger // Joining God

Written by Murielle Wasby, Champa House Volunteer

Murielle finalAt the end of last summer, my husband and I moved to downtown Denver. After we settled in, I decided I wanted to get plugged into our local community in some way. I first heard about Denver Rescue Mission through our church, and then went online to see if there were any available volunteer opportunities near us. A need for childcare volunteers at Champa House caught my eye. After my first day, I knew that I wanted to come back. Within a few weeks of being with the kids and finding out a little bit more about the ministry, I decided that I wanted to volunteer regularly.

When I go to Champa House, I spend the three hours I’m there loving on those kids! We sing songs, play games, read books, learn about God’s creation, and do arts and crafts. In order to prepare the 3 to 5 year olds for school, we learn our alphabet, colors, shapes, and numbers. The best part of my day is the hugs from the kids each time I walk through the door. They’re happy to see me and they brighten my day.

Volunteering at Champa has also given me the opportunity to get to know the kids’ wonderful moms. Recently, my love for cooking has enabled me to get more involved with the moms by assisting and guiding them in preparing healthy, nutritious meals.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork/masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

For the past six months, joining God where He is at work at Denver Rescue Mission’s Champa House has been a great joy in my life.

It has been a wonderful experience to watch these children and their moms, with the aid and direction of the Champa House staff, be sculpted by God into the masterpiece that He wants them to become. I am so glad that God has given me the opportunity to contribute in some small way to His mission at Champa House.

 

Guest Blogger // We love our volunteers

Written by Jenn Darden, Short Term Volunteers Coordinator

When I first moved to Denver, I drove by “Jesus Saves” downtown. I, like everyone else, saw the line, and thought: “Wow. There is so much need in this city!” And growing up in a rural southern Missouri town, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated. But the thought crossed my mind on more than one occasion: “How would I be able to make a difference, or help in even a small way? I’m just one person.”

When I started thinking about that experience the other day, in preparation for this year’s people that are selflessly giving of their time to make a difference? Those who were initially hesitant, but came down to serve that first meal…or jumped in and got involved volunteering on a regular basis? And that’s when it dawned on me: Volunteers are an INSTRUMENTAL piece of the puzzle! We could not do what we do in ANY of our programs or facilities without them. (And I don’t just say that because I’m one of the volunteer coordinators!…honest!)

At Denver Rescue Mission we have the BEST volunteers! It’s because of our amazing volunteers that so many of our organization runs so well! And for that we could never show enough gratitude.

So whether you’re reading this and you volunteer with us on a regular basis, or you’ve never volunteered with us and you’re thinking about taking a chance and getting involved… Thank you!!!!

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