Posts by Robert Bogan

Robert's Bio

Robert Bogan

Robert "Robo" is the Mission's Writer and Photographer. He graduated from Cedarville University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, a nickname which he often forgets isn’t his real name, and an internship where he met his wife. After working for an international mission organization in Charlotte, NC for four years, God asked them to move 1,500 miles to Denver, CO. Now Robo works for Denver Rescue Mission as the Writer/Editor/Photographer, and loves being a part of this ministry.

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.

A Beautiful Cloudy Day

My wife woke up the other morning and opened the window exclaiming, “Oh, what a beautiful, cloudy day!”

Since Colorado gets nearly 300 days of sunshine a year—even though that’s technically kind of a myth—I could see what she meant. It’s not often that we get an overcast day. Even in the winter, the sky can be a brilliant blue with warm sun taking the edge off the biting cold.

Regardless, her comment made me laugh. “Only someone from up-state New York would say something like that,” I replied.

Now it was her turn to laugh. The weather around her parents’ house in up-state New York is often gloomy, especially this time of year. The gray shadow of rolling clouds is something my wife grew up with, so today reminded her of home. And as she put it, “The cloudy days make you appreciate the sunny ones.”

All I can think of when I look out my office window at the gray wall hiding the Front Range is how many people have to struggle in this cold outside on the street. Thousands of people have to face Denver’s winters alone. While I’m looking forward to a soft blanket of snow and snowboarding in the mountains, I also know this time of year brings more struggles to people in need than most other times of the year.

Thankfully, our homeless neighbors are not without options. The Mission’s Lawrence Street Community Center offers people a safe, drug- and alcohol-free place to be during the day and warm meals among other services. And men experiencing homelessness can find shelter each night in our 315 beds and about 300 additional mats at the emergency overflow location.

Denver Rescue Mission :: Lawrence Street Community Center

Denver Rescue Mission :: Lawrence Street Community Center

In fact, we serve nearly 1,000 unique individuals at the community center every day with meals, laundry services, restrooms and an encouraging environment.

So, as the snow flies and we bundle up against the cold, take a moment on a beautiful, cloudy day to remember those who are struggling to get back on their feet. And remember the staff and program participants at Denver Rescue Mission as well. We rely on supporters like you to help provide life-saving services to people in need. Without all of your love, faith, volunteer hours, donations and continuous encouragement, we wouldn’t be able to open warm and welcoming arms to the most vulnerable people in our city. Thank you for making it all possible.

Giving A Meal

A large part of my job as the Writer/Photographer is to write the monthly newsletter for Denver Rescue Mission and Fort Collins Rescue Mission. With the title “Changing Lives,” we always try to have the newsletter feature someone whose life has been positively affected by the work we do.

And, honestly, the stories aren’t that hard to find. With all the work we do here, you don’t have to search far to find someone with a story to share, whether it’s one of our staff members, guests, program participants, volunteers, or even donors.

A few weeks ago, I was working on just such a story for the October Fort Collins Rescue Mission “Changing Lives” newsletter. The woman sharing her story was Dawn (you can read it here).

I finished interviewing her and taking a few portraits at around 3:30 p.m., picked up my wife from a local coffee shop, then headed back home to Denver. The drive from Fort Collins to Denver is nice, and my wife and I love spending time together in the car, so it was great that it worked out that she had an appointment in Fort Collins the same day I did.

On the way home, we stopped at a Qdoba for dinner, and what followed was an ironic twist of fate.

I stepped into the line to order my food and noted that the man in front of me was wearing an Ohio State polo shirt. My parents live in Ohio, so I thought momentarily about striking up a conversation with a fellow Ohio transplant. But I’m naturally a little shy and introverted, so I decided against it. I had spent enough energy in my interview and photo shoot with Dawn that afternoon.

But as I was eyeing this guy’s shirt, he must have glanced at the Fort Collins Rescue Mission stitched onto the left side of my black Mission polo. I could almost feel him staring at me while I pretended to inspect the menu. I hoped the line would move so that he could step forward and stop looking at me.

“So, what is Fort Collins Rescue Mission?” his voice broke the awkward silence filling the short distance between us.

Grateful that he wasn’t just staring at me anymore, I began to explain how Fort Collins Rescue Mission is owned and operated by Denver Rescue Mission. I went on to describe the Steps to Success Program, the shelter for men and women available at Fort Collins Rescue Mission, and how the Mission was able to increase its work in Northern Colorado by adding the Mission to the existing work of Harvest Farm.

As I described the programs and services we offer in Denver, he started nodding and acting like he already knew what I was talking about. I said as much, and he explained that he is a Denver Rescue Mission donor already.

Surprised, I thanked him for supporting the work we do, and we chatted a little while longer. His name was Chris, and as it turned out, the Ohio State shirt was from his wife. She was from Cleveland.

Finally, our burritos made it to the cashier. Since we’d been talking so much, she asked if our order was all together.

“No, they’re separate,” I said quickly.

But as I pulled out my wallet, Chris quickly handed his credit card back to the cashier and told her to pay for mine as well.

In a small way, Chris gave me an example of how our guests must feel when they receive a meal from the Mission. He was already donating to the Mission, providing meals, shelter and more to people in need, and here he was giving me a meal as well.

I’m grateful for supporters like Chris. Because of people like him, I’ve seen people’s lives completely turned around. I’ve met so many drug addicts and people suffering who have been completely transformed by the power of Jesus in their lives. And it’s only possible because of Chris and other donors like him.

So thank you for the meal a few weeks ago, Chris. But more than that, thank you for joining the Mission in helping rescue people from the struggles of being homeless.

Robo and Chris

Chris and I snapped a pic after our chance encounter at Qdoba

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 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.