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!