May 2017 Posts

Are You Happy?

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“Maybe this is a stupid question,” a young woman said timidly. “But I was wondering, how are you doing now and are you happy?” The question came during an afternoon class at Mountain View High School in Loveland, Colorado, after about 40 minutes of New Life Program participants Ben and Jaime sharing their stories of what brought them to the Mission.

For Ben, experiences when he was a child and the influence of drug addicts in his life led him to choose the same lifestyle. But after 30 years of violence and dealing drugs, Ben realized it was time to change. He read a message from his mother to the class—something she had written to him, pleading for him to stop his drug-ridden lifestyle. She spoke about how the kind and gentle boy she knew had been overcome by someone angry and willing to steal from his own family just to get high. It was an emotional letter, one that Ben keeps as a reminder of how far he’s come.

Jaime had a different experience. Coerced into a gang at just 11 years old, most of his childhood was spent dealing drugs, fighting and committing crimes. He described what it was like to watch friends die, to watch other friends turn their backs on him, to get shot, and to spend time in prison.

The tattoos across his face were a pretty clear indication of the type of life he’d lived in just 24 years, but the smile on his face showed something changing underneath. With all the weight of their stories hanging heavy in the air, the question from this student was fitting.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” Ben answered. “I have nothing, but I have everything.”

Jaime chimed in next. “Prison didn’t teach me anything. When I got out, I didn’t know what to do so I went back to dealing drugs,” he explained. “At the Farm, I’m learning how to deal with the struggles in my life instead of running from them.”

The visit was part of a regular community service opportunity for men in the New Life Program at Harvest Farm. As these men experience change in their lives, they are given the opportunity to give back and share their story with students during a critical time in their lives. “If even one of you gets something out of us being here today, it’s worth it,” Ben said.

This was the first time Jaime had shared his story with kids, but he says he wants to do it again. He’s glad that his negative experiences can be used to positively influence someone’s life as he learns from his past and builds a new future.

For more information about our New Life Program at Harvest Farm, visit HarvestFarm.net.

When Seeking Help Is The Smart Thing To Do

Many people shy away from counseling; they think that if they seek help with their lives that others will label them as “crazy”. In fact, the exact opposite is true! Scripture tells us that:

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.  –Proverbs 1:5

and

Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. –Proverbs 19:20

In other words, asking for help is the smart thing to do! Seeking input from others as we go through the seasons of our lives is an important part of becoming – and staying – mentally fit.

Not everyone needs to see a professional counselor. But if you or someone you know is feeling depressed, having difficulties in relationships or struggling in some way, a visit to your pastor, a chat with good friend or talking to a professional can make a world of difference. And, like a cavity in your tooth, if you handle things sooner rather than later, the problem will stay small and be more easily resolved.

However bleak the present may appear we can always have hope for better times ahead. That is one gospel promise that we see played out daily here at Denver Rescue Mission.

mental health awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we acknowledge that mental health is an important component of overall health and wholeness. The STAR Transitional Program Counseling Department sees its mission enfolded in the Mission’s overall mission statement: we “meet people at their physical and spiritual points of need” to address their unique challenges. This includes helping them with life issues and problems like depression and anxiety as well as in their relationships with themselves, with others and with God.

In our Counseling Department we support people on their way to becoming self-sufficient. We meet with each person or family in the program and see how we can help them individually with their mental and emotional challenges.

Through workshops, individual sessions, groups for teen girls and teen boys, and play therapy for children, we have the joy of watching participants grow and flourish in their relationships with God and with others. Along the way, we also help future professionals get the real-life experience they need to hone their skills through our intern program. In the future, we hope to add to our list of services by introducing group counseling as well as support groups for those who need extra encouragement.

Our counseling department is a place where our guests and program participants can find help, hope and healing as the Holy Spirit continues to form them into the image of Christ. And we are so grateful to serve this community in need.

To learn more about how you can help #breakthestigma around mental health and get involved in your own way, visit www.nami.org.

125 Years Strong: Lon Gregg

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In an effort to highlight the Mission’s 125 Years of Changing Lives, we wanted to spotlight a very special employee. Lon Gregg started at Denver Rescue Mission in 1989. He is the Mission’s Spiritual Director and has been here for almost 28 years.

Lon had a huge role in creating what is now called the New Life Program. Years ago he spent some time at a Rescue Mission in Chicago when he needed help with his own addiction and getting his life back on track. Lon has a huge heart to serve those experiencing homelessness, and we wanted to ask him a few questions.

How does it feel to be Denver Rescue Mission’s longest standing employee?

“Standing” is the key word. I’m thankful to God for the health to be still active in this great work. I’m glad every (or, almost every) day to get up and come to work here

Can you share what brought you to work at Denver Rescue Mission?

After leaving a pastoral position in a church, I worked for several years in a condo management company. My wife Janet saw a position listed in the newspaper for a couple to be houseparents at a new program at the Mission in an apartment building on Champa Street. By the time we answered the ad, the concept had changed, and they were instead looking for someone as director of the Lawrence Street Shelter. I thought I could be more useful working in a ministry than on condos, so I applied, and began at the Mission in August 1989.

What has changed the most since your first year?

Mostly, size. There were somewhere between 8 and 22 people on staff when I began and we had only two operations, the Lawrence Street Mission and Harvest Farm. (Champa House was not yet open.) In Denver, everything that’s now housed in the Ministry Outreach Center, The Crossing, and the Admin and Education Building all took place in the confines of the Lawrence Street Shelter. Things were cramped, and things have mushroomed!

Is there a particular person who has helped you grow in your career or influenced you in your ministry?

This may sound like an overly pious answer, but I think my years in getting to know Jesus better has had the most effect on my career in ministry. I have only very imperfectly followed the Savior, but His life (past and present) has impacted me most deeply.

What is the strangest thing that’s ever happened at the Mission?

Many strange things have happened! The sitar music outside the walls of our downtown facility comes to mind. I was in my office at the corner of 23rd and Lawrence one day around lunchtime and heard loud Indian music coming through the air conditioner. (There was no window in the office in those days.) Investigating, I found a Hare Krishna van parked at “Triangle Park” across the street, loudspeakers blaring. The van was manned by folks in orange robes, handing out sandwiches to the needy folks gathered across the street. I remember thinking later with pride that our message, the “Jesus saves” sign, had hung outside that same corner for so long. We had a message to proclaim, underlined by years of commitment, telling the world that our Christian faith was concerned about our needy neighbors, a faith that was determined to do something about it for the long run.

What is one of your best memories at the Mission?

My best memories are transformed lives. Some years ago I led a small group of New Life Program participants in a discipleship program. One of the young men, a heroin addict with a lengthy criminal record, graduated and has now gone on to be a leader and evangelist in his church. He has maintained this strong testimony for Christ for a number of years. He holds promise of being a Christian leader in his home (he is now married with a child), and in his community, and maybe beyond, for a lifetime. Stories like this bring great joy; what more could one want in life?

We’re so grateful to have Lon at the Mission. He is a calming presence who makes an impact every day by encouraging our program participants and other staff members to find strength in our Lord and Savior. Here’s to another 28+ years, Lon!

Faces of The Mission :: Julie

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She ordered a traditional macchiato. We ordered lattes, as is our custom. By “our” I mean Jennifer Fitzgerald and I. We’re both Community Relations Coordinators at Denver Rescue Mission. Jennifer works more directly with our guests, while I work more closely with our Next Step members.

This is my first day meeting Julie. I’ve seen her around, hanging out in our courtyard and eating meals in our cafeteria, but I’ve never spoken with her, and for that reason, I feel a bit nervous. It’s odd to walk up to a stranger and ask them if I can hear their story and take their picture. It’s easier to just go about my day, working my nine to five. But if I only did that, something is lost—a voice, most notably. But also, the opportunity to connect and to learn goes by the wayside and instead two people just go about their daily routine, never knowing what the person has to say.

“Embrace your faith, if you have any” begins Julie. We are at a coffee shop in the Ballpark neighborhood; a cool breeze, coupled with the clamor of nearby traffic, dances through the patio where we sit. “Anyone can be, in a blink of an eye, homeless…” she continues, and so her story begins.

 “[Being homeless,] I’ve never seen hysteria and violence as I have on this scale, and I’ve been subjected to a lot when I was younger… Sometimes just because we are born of blood does not mean that is necessarily our family. I was never told the truth of my life. I don’t talk to my father. My mother passed away when I was 32 and she suffered at the hands of my father. Mother was ahead of her time, she pushed me to the point of liberating myself independently away from my toxic family…I lived with mother [for a while] and we were kind of poor. Father was in and out of adultery, doing horrible things, getting other women pregnant. Mother had the babies at home all by herself, and my mother used to tell me ‘your father’s not right.’ My mother used to abuse me, but I loved my mother. I saw through it for some reason and I never forgave my mother because there was nothing to forgive; she just tried to be the best mother that she could with what we had. I don’t know that there ever has to be a time where I forgive father for what he’s done and destroying mother. Maybe, maybe not, but I don’t think so. I’ve reconciled with him in my own soul… I’m not too ashamed, and I really should have a lot of shame for the way I’ve been treated and for tons of embarrassment, but the human soul, and my new found religion, gave me a tree of love in my heart and life that I knew nothing about…and my father concealed this from me…”

How did you end up homeless?

“I had my near death experience when I was 29…I was seeing a counselor at the time, I was on my medication, sadness medication. I took a whole bunch of pills, I told my son goodbye and I said to God ‘if you’re really real then you know what to do.’ I ingested pills. I went to my bed to lay down and I kissed my son goodbye forever and I prayed for an angel to come and rescue him.

I’m a recovering alcoholic; I drink occasionally when I want to, but the need to wake up every day with that craving is insidious, it’s horrible. I just want to be me, I just want to be humbly me…”

What’s the best, most exciting event that’s ever happened to you?

“Kindness and compassion and realness and sincerity rocks; it lives, it really lives! There’s real people that don’t lie to you like my father did all the time, good people who are willing to give me a break after everything I’ve been subjected to, people who forgive…people are really kind.

When I get off the street I want to be in a cool little apartment with my studies, all my books around me, with cool intellectual friends to replace what I’m missing.”

What would you say would help the most on the street?

“For people to kind of look out for one another, because you know what some people out here are really bad, evil. When you see an opportunity to lift someone, interject; I’m very shy, it’s hard for me.”

Faces of The Mission is a blog series written by Jordan Smith, a Community Relations Coordinator at the Lawrence Street Community Center, offering insights and real life stories from people experiencing homelessness and hardships.