2015 Posts

One Man’s Trash…

“Excuse me, sir,” I heard the man call after me as my wife and I left my local grocery store.

I turned to my left to see who called out to me, and was greeted by a short, stocky man wearing a large backpack stretched across his broad shoulders. His light brown beard was thick and unkempt, and his long, oily hair was tucked neatly underneath a baseball cap. Glasses perched gently on his nose. His name was Jay.

“How are you tonight?” I replied once I realized he was indeed talking to me.

He explained that he was trying to get a hotel room for the night before the cold weather blew in. He needed cash.

With debit and credit cards these days, I find myself short on cash often. I explained as much, and Jay nodded in understanding.

I asked him if he’d heard of Denver Rescue Mission. He said he had, but it’s a shelter for men only. He needed a place to stay with his young daughter. The shelter wasn’t a good solution for them both. He expressed concern about exposing his daughter to the dangers of substance abuse so prevalent on the streets. This time it was my turn to nod.

“You want to see something amazing,” he asked as we were about to part ways.

As I hesitated to reply, he explained that he had found a very early copy of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. My wife used to work at a library, so she was immediately intrigued.

We moved away from the middle of the parking lot to a location with better light, and the man began to unpack his treasure.

“You’re going to laugh when you see how I have this thing protected,” he said smiling.

He pulled out a small bundle wrapped in two Chick-fil-A French fry containers. Inside the small bundle, the book was wrapped in a small plastic bag and the plastic wrapper from a package of socks or underwear. He was right. I burst out laughing when he explained it was the best thing he had to keep the book dry and clean. But I was impressed by his ingenuity.

He gently unfolded the plastic and revealed the tattered but well preserved book. It was bound in sheep skin and still had its original potato skin pages just inside the cover.

As he gently flipped through the pages, it was obvious that this was actually something special. He explained how he was hoping to find someone to purchase the book.

We sat there for several minutes admiring the old book. Jay explained that he used to be an English teacher.

At one point, he was describing his experience being homeless and how a woman had spit on him. The shame of it sat heavy on his shoulders.

“I’m just a worthless piece of garbage,” he said.

I looked him in the eye and told him he was wrong. Surprised by my sudden stern attitude, he tilted his head slightly as if asking a question.

“You are not worthless,” I said gently.

His shoulders relaxed and an understanding smile spread across his face.

“Thank you,” he said sincerely. “I know. It’s just so easy to start thinking those kinds of things about yourself.”

Before we parted ways, we gave him a watertight plastic bag to help protect his book. It wasn’t enough really, but the time we took to chat with him was encouraging.

As he walked away I couldn’t help laughing again. A valuable piece of history tucked neatly away inside underwear packaging and French fry boxes. You can’t find a better metaphor than that.

On the outside, our homeless friends and neighbors, like Jay, look like trash. They look worthless. And some of them have started to believe that lie about themselves.

But the truth is, just like that book Jay found, they are hidden treasures. They are valuable, not because of the packaging they come in, but because of “the content of their character” as Martin Luther King Jr once said.

Jay is a father trying to keep his little daughter’s world from falling apart. As far as she knows, her and daddy are just staying in hotels a lot right now. But that can’t last forever.

That’s why we’re here. Although Jay and his daughter can’t stay at the Lawrence Street Shelter, they know they can get a warm meal if they need it. And Jay is on the waiting list for our STAR transitional program, where he and his daughter can get back on their feet again. I look forward to seeing them across the street at The Crossing someday soon.

But in the meantime, I pray each night for this man with a treasure hidden in his backpack. I pray that they stay warm and dry each night. And I pray that God would watch over them. They are His children, just like the rest of us—a treasure hidden under filthy rags.

The Lawrence Street Community Center Will Open

Brad_Meuli

Brad Meuli President/CEO

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for praying with us! We recently learned that Judge Mullins has reconsidered his ruling on the opening of the Lawrence Street Community Center and we are authorized to push ahead with opening once construction is complete. Together with the City of Denver, we are thankful for this opportunity and pleased that we will be able to serve anyone who comes to us for help at this new facility. That’s what we believe it is all about, loving and serving our brothers and sisters.

Again, a huge thank you to all who have been supportive in so many ways!  We could not do this work without the community behind us! 

We are hoping to open very soon! Construction is nearly complete. Stay tuned for details!

 

Update: Lawrence Street Community Center

Brad_Meuli

Brad Meuli President/CEO

Yesterday, we received some startling news from the courts regarding the suit the Ballpark Neighborhood has filed against The City and County of Denver, the Board of Adjustments for Zoning Appeals for the City and County of Denver, and Denver Rescue Mission.  The ruling by District Court judge, R. Michael Mullins, who is responsible for this decision, was that the previous order of the Board of Adjustments be reversed. This has the effect, for zoning reasons, of not allowing us to operate the soon to be completed Lawrence Street Community Center (LSCC).

I am shocked and dismayed by this ruling. Why? Because it is the poor and needy people we serve who are most impacted. To me this decision is about dignity and respect. I believe there are hundreds of thousands of caring citizens in the greater Denver area who believe, like I do, that individuals and families trying to make their way out of poverty should be able to have a place where they might be able to use a restroom, get a drink of water, take a shower, do laundry, sit in a safe place free from drug predators, and even charge their cell phones so that they can continue to look for work. A place where compassionate and willing people provide respect and care for all people no matter their station in life.  A place where they can be connected to services so that they can become productive self-sufficient citizens. Are these not basic human dignity issues and should we not do all we can to help those who are struggling?

How do I know that this is important to our community? Because we, at Denver Rescue Mission, have been helping hundreds of thousands of people for the last 123 years and we would not be here today without our community’s support. This last year alone, we provided over 600,000 meals and 300,000 nights of shelter.  Homelessness is not going away, but we can help people change their lives one person at a time. At Denver Rescue Mission, we believe people matter, and no matter how this decision regarding the LSCC is finally resolved, we are going to keep on doing just what we have been doing — providing human dignity and respect to the poor but most importantly, HOPE for the future. As a faith-based ministry, we are praying that God will move peoples’ hearts to cry out for justice for the poor.

 

 

 

The Legacy We Leave

Cheery but tearful goodbyes are pretty common around here as people graduate programs and move on with their lives. Just this week, we said goodbye to at least three interns who spent their few short weeks of summer helping people in need get their lives back on track.

One of these interns worked just down the hall in our PR department. More than a couple times he was very helpful in getting photos of special events this summer. In the short time we had to get to know him, he quickly endeared himself to just about everyone here. Krumm has served at the Mission as an intern for three years now. And as he returns to school this fall, his absence at the Mission will be felt once again. That’s part of his legacy here at the Mission.

Another staff member I’ve grown to respect is also moving on and will be pastoring a church soon. It’s a great opportunity, and we’re all glad for him. But we’ll miss him too.

Ron and Pauline

Ron and Pauline served as missionaries to West Africa for more than 40 years.

I guess I’m just a little nostalgic today. Yesterday, I learned that a good friend from my previous job just passed away this week. Ron Sonius was like a substitute grandparent to me. During my first internship after college, Ron and his wife Pauline allowed me to stay in their home while I interned at SIM USA, an international mission organization based in Charlotte, NC.

With 40 years of missionary experience in Ghana and Liberia, Ron was always full of stories. Stories like the time he put his car up on blocks, took the tire off one wheel and used a piece of wood to lock the gas pedal in place to a certain speed. He then proceeded to link that rotating wheel hub to a generator so he could power his tools and finish building a school house in a remote area of West Africa.

When I met Ron, he was in his later years, but he was still as mischievous and feisty as ever.

When I met Ron, he was in his later years, but he was still as mischievous and feisty as ever. And he was always quick with a joke, even after a stroke left him less than quick on his feet.

Whenever I would ask him how he was, he would reply with a laugh, “Well, I’m here, but I’m not all there.”

It’s people like Ron who speak volumes into our lives even over a short period of time, and as I came in early today for breakfast at The Crossing, I’m reminded of the power God has given each of us to speak into the lives of other people.

Just this morning, I passed by Frank, the first person I ever interviewed for our monthly Mission newsletter (featured in January 2015). Still ripe with sarcasm, Frank’s always good for a laugh if you don’t take yourself too seriously. As we chatted, I learned that he’s got a job moving cars from the train yard to dealerships around the area. It’s good to see him enjoying work and life.

And then inside I saw Mitch, a New Life Program participant. He was pouring a cup of coffee and bouncing to the music on the Christian radio station that was playing in the background.

“You’re not having a good day at all, are you?” I asked Mitch sarcastically.

“Today’s my day off. I’m heading up to the clinic to get some medicine, and maybe on the bus I can find someone to talk to about Jesus.”

“Hey brother,” came his usual reply. “Today’s my day off. I’m heading up to the clinic to get some medicine, and maybe on the bus I can find someone to talk to about Jesus.”

My mind froze for a second. That right there is why we do what we do. It’s why we struggle through life with the men and women who come to us for help. It’s why I stop and talk to guys like Frank and Mitch when I see them, to ask them how they are doing. And it’s the legacy we leave behind with every life we help change here at Denver Rescue Mission.

So if you’ve been a part of that work through an internship, volunteering, supporting the Mission financially, or simply investing into the lives of staff like my friend Ron did with me, thank you. You will never know how important your legacy is in the lives of the people you touch every day.

Trusting God With New Places & New Choices

As someone who just moved to Denver 39 days ago, there’s a lot to take in. My husband and I set off for Denver after living in Chicago for six years. Chicago is a great city and will always have a special place in my heart, but now that we’re here, I can honestly say that nothing beats Denver’s beautiful mountains and laid-back culture.

Chicago to Denver

One of my favorite parts of living here? I can breathe fresh air! It’s amazing to beable to step outside of the city atmosphere on any given day and get back to nature. Now, I just need to work on my Denverite lingo… cue “14ers” “LoHi” “RiNo” and “century rides.” I’m learning, Denver, just give me time!

New vocabulary aside, we’ve found a pretty incredible home here. What’s made it feel even more like home is my position at Denver Rescue Mission. Hunting for jobs in Denver while still living in Chicago was a tough gig. I was passed up by dozens of potential employers because I lived so far away, and we didn’t have the means to pay for a flight for interviews. Luckily, Denver Rescue Mission is rooted in faith and they kept this in mind when hiring me. After a few video interviews with our PR Director, Alexxa Gagner, and VP of Development, Griff Freyschlag, they offered me the PR Coordinator position. I was beyond thrilled. Alexxa and Griff had faith that I was the right fit for the position even without having the chance to meet me in person. They had to trust that God was putting me in the right place at the right time.

But recognizing when God is speaking to us and actually listening to his direction isn’t always easy to do.  I’ve lived 25 of my 28 years on this earth on a wandering path. As we learned recently in our Relationship Training Workshop at the Mission, sometimes people go through life “Sliding, Not Deciding”. I was the ultimate slider. I would find myself “sliding” into all sorts of negative situations without really thinking about the consequences. I never really defined what I stood for, the values I held close to my heart or what I wanted out of life.Trust in God

Little did I know, about four years ago God was doing some intensive work on my hardened heart. I had a constant void in my life before finding Christ. Now that He’s by my side, I’m learning to trust Him when I encounter tough decisions or new experiences—like moving to Denver and starting a new job. This didn’t happen overnight, and as a newer Christian, it’s still something I have to work at constantly. Sometimes we slip back into our old ways and think we’ve got it all under control when, in reality, that’s so far from the truth. For me, the important thing is understanding that we can choose God in even the smallest moments of our life, and this helps prevent us from sliding in unwanted directions.

I look forward to experiencing an even closer relationship with Christ while working at Denver Rescue Mission and serving those in need. With one slip, every single one of us could lose a job, suffer relationship problems or battle with silent addictions. We can’t forget how close we all are in this vast span of humanity, and in God’s eyes. I feel so encouraged and inspired to hear stories of how active God is at the Mission. I look forward to learning from and growing with our incredible guests, program participants and staff and create relationships that last a lifetime.

He created us to trust in Him. So, here we go God! Take the reins on my new Denver adventure!