Homelessness In Fort Collins Posts

Phillip Tello’s Story of Transformation

Below is an excerpt of Harvest Farm graduate Phillip Tello’s story which he recounted at an event on October 6, 2018. We hope his story encourages you as we work together to provide opportunity for our neighbors who struggle with homelessness and poverty. 

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“When I was 27, I was introduced to crystal meth. The first time I used meth I was instantly addicted. It was like someone put batteries inside of me and turned me back on. My depression was gone, I felt energized, and my drunken state vanished. I falsely believed that God had put this drug in my life to cure me of my alcoholism. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Once I was in the trap of addiction to meth, everything went downhill. I lost my job, my apartment, and my dignity. I lived for meth and nothing else.  I struggled with this addiction for close to 12 years. My mind played games with me that horrified me and drove me to insanity.  My only solution was to take my own life.  How I overcame that is nothing short of a miracle.  God was with me in this desperate moment and He showed me a new way.  God changed the direction of my life.

I needed a safe haven to rebuild myself and I found it at Denver Rescue Mission, where I became a candidate to join the New Life Program at Harvest Farm. I believed in my heart that the Farm would be the place where I would be safe, the place where I would heal, the place where God would take the shattered pieces of my life and put them back together.  This home turned out to be everything and more than what I had expected.  It was the most amazing place in the world to me, a vast open space where I could get away and be with God, or be with the animals, or build relationships with other guys that were in the process of healing like me.

I discovered that I wanted to go to school and study to become a nurse. I began a transformative journey into making this happen by joining Front Range Community College. At the beginning, school was hard for me because of the self-defeatist belief system that I had about myself that needed to be dismantled.

Now, as I think about the person that I am becoming, I must admit that my self-image has been completely transformed.  Four years ago, I began this journey of leading a new life and self-realization. Then, I did not have much to start with. I was insecure, fearful, and didn’t have a direction in life. When I decided to become a nurse, I was propped up on the shoulders of the Harvest Farm giants that showed me the way to lead a disciplined life that is fruitful and pleasing to the Lord.

It is my dream to become a nurse and I will achieve that dream because I believe that God has set me up to do so. He put people in my life to create a luminous pathway in the right direction.  At Harvest Farm, I have built the foundation that continues to bear fruit in my work and dedication at accomplishing my goals. I am no longer insecure, fearful, and without direction. I have overcome, and I am thriving!”

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.

More Than Just A Homeless Shelter

Have you ever been down Jefferson Street in Fort Collins? If so, then you’ve undoubtedly seen our building. You know, it’s the one with the facade that resembles The Alamo. While passing by, you may have asked yourself, “What goes on inside those walls?”

Sure, you’ve probably seen the line of people gathered outside with all of their worldly possessions in tow. But what happens once they enter?

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Fort Collins Rescue Mission is primarily known for providing vital services like overnight shelter and meals for people in need. However, the Mission is so much more than that. Inside our facility, we offer compassion, kindness and hope as well as provide opportunities for men and women to get back on their feet through life-changing programs and spiritual guidance.

We believe everyone who comes through our doors deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. One of Jesus’ most interesting teachings is that our commitment to him can be measured by how we treat other people, especially those who have been rejected by society for one reason or another. Whether someone is experiencing homelessness as a result of being laid off, undergoing a divorce, seeking escape from domestic violence, suffering from financial burden, or being released from prison, they can turn to Fort Collins Rescue Mission for help. A hearty meal, a hot shower and a place to lay their head — we are here to meet them at their physical point-of-need.

A Step in the Right Direction
Moreover, we go beyond just offering a meal and bed for the evening; we also meet people at their spiritual point-of-need. Fort Collins Rescue Mission offers a short-term, faith-based, transitional program for those seeking life change called Steps to Success. Through the program, we provide opportunities for adult men and women to become productive, self-sufficient citizens. Our Steps to Success program is three to nine-months-long and combines one-on-one case management, life-skills workshops, work therapy and spiritual engagement. Once completed, individuals will have what they need to successfully re-enter society.

Case Management
Having lost everything, some people come to us with literally nothing but the clothes on their back. Sometimes what’s missing includes essential documents like a birth certificate and social security card. When you lack these critical pieces of information, it’s impossible to secure employment, among other things. That’s where our case managers can help. Each program participant receives comprehensive case management to help them gain access to necessary services, including housing resources, mental health care providers, educational opportunities, and beyond.

Steps to Success Program

Training for Success
Additionally, we provide a variety of life-skills classes that impart the tools necessary for individuals to become independent and self-sustaining. For example, we offer workshops that emphasize things like developing critical thinking skills, letting go of destructive habits, learning to build positive relationships and how to set healthy boundaries. We also focus on setting goals, employment readiness, developing budgets and more. These trainings help build confidence and self-esteem and provide the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to tackle life’s challenges.

Taking Pride in Work
Another critical component of the program is called Work Therapy, which teaches responsibility and accountability. Participants engage in daily assignments which can include helping in the kitchen, lending a hand with facility maintenance or assisting with operations. These small chores provide opportunities for “small wins” and allow participants to feel a sense of pride for meeting goals and accomplishing daily tasks.

Spiritual Guidance
Perhaps the most important element of the program is the spiritual factor. Every evening, volunteers from local churches lead on-site chapel service. They offer guests words of encouragement and deliver powerful messages of forgiveness, peace and love. They shine a light in midst of darkness. They are a beacon of hope. Similarly, our staff host routine group bible studies. By spending time in the Word and learning about the power of God’s love, participants discover greater meaning and purpose for their lives. They also have opportunities to develop relationships and build supportive community networks by attending local church services and participating in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Finishing Proud
Upon graduating the program, participants have a new perspective, a reinvigorated sense of purpose and are surrounded by strong community support. These are all key to sustained success as they transition into their new life beyond our walls. The old saying is true: If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. But teach that man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.

Interested in learning more about how we’re “Changing lives in the name of Christ”?

Visit us at our OPEN HOUSE at 316 Jefferson Street on Thursday, May 5, 2016 from 11am – 1 pm. Click here to learn more. See you there!

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College Students Trade Beach Towels for Lasting Experiences at Harvest Farm

March has never been my favorite month. Everything is brown, it’s windy, sometimes we get lots of snow, and all the fun holidays are over. It’s like this 30-day holding period before the real signs of spring and renewal start to show up. I’ve always just muddled through it with a grim determination to survive until the color comes back and the wind goes away. Then, I started working for Harvest Farm as their Northern Colorado Volunteer Coordinator and everything changed. Now, March is one of my favorite months of the year. Why? College students. Wonderful, inquisitive, hard-working, kind, amazing college students!

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Alternative Spring Break students and a New Life Program participant work together in the Harvest Farm green house

Harvest Farm offers Alternative Spring Break opportunities for dozens of students from universities all over the U.S. Instead of hitting the beaches, these students volunteer their time to live on the Farm for a week during their Spring Break. And they’re awesome! Every year I can’t wait to meet them. This year we got to host Vanderbilt University, Xavier University, Iowa State University, and University of California San Diego.

The student groups bring energy and fun to the Farm. They come with open minds and hearts, ready to learn and interact. They ask questions. Their perspectives are challenged. Stereotypes are shattered. Some of them even change career paths. Why is that? What is it about the Farm that is life-changing for these young adults? I could say it’s our unique program or the actual volunteer work they’re doing, but as great as our program may be, that’s not what makes people re-asses their lives. Honestly, it’s the men in our New Life Program that changes things.

We have 72 men living with us on the Farm who are working to turn their lives around in our long-term New Life Program. These men come from all walks of life, some come to us directly out of prison, and others have experienced chronic homelessness and addiction. Students have open dialogue with these men and talk to someone they might otherwise never speak with. It’s about sharing stories and learning from one another. At the end of their week, I debrief with each group of students. Without fail, they tell me how our New Life Program participants have changed their lives.

One student volunteer said, “I had expected that we would be helping the men and learning more about addiction and homelessness, and experiencing a bit of how it feels to be in that position. We helped them, yes, but they helped us as well.  The Farm was a place which helped everyone – even us – to discover [more] about ourselves.”

 

Students from Xavier University pitch in at the Farm

Students from Xavier University pitch in at the Farm

Alternative Spring Break groups bring something to our participants as well. These groups give our men the chance to share their personal journey with people who want to learn from and understand them. Getting to interact with people when they’re sober, in an environment that feels safe allows something cool to happen. Suddenly, our men have purpose. They’re teaching people how to do things like milk cows, build fences, and start a garden. They’re gaining confidence and starting to feel that they have value and something to offer.

Another student said it well: “One day at lunch, Tim asked me what my favorite part of this trip had been.  My answer was, ‘getting to know you all!’ He looked a bit shocked or confused with my answer.  So I asked him, ‘Were you expecting me to say something else?’  He responded, ‘I thought you were going to say the animals…’ I could tell by his facial expression he was pleasantly surprised with my answer.  I was telling Tim the honest truth; my favorite part of my time at Harvest Farm was simply getting to know the guys. Their laughter and silliness was contagious. Their stories and life experiences were captivating. Their determination for sobriety was inspiring.”

And something must have clicked for Tim. I can safely say he felt special. I wonder when the last time was that he felt special. I wonder when the last time was that someone considered it fun getting to know him. I wonder how many of our men believe, when they first get to Harvest Farm, that they are not worthy of being known and that they have nothing to offer anyone. When, in reality, they offer so much.

Simply put, Alternative Spring Break is about so much more than students volunteering. It’s about connection, and seeing the beauty in the brokenness that we all carry inside us. It’s about understanding, accomplishment, laughter, learning, and hope. We get some work done, sure, but the real “work” is in the lives of the students and the men as they interact with and impact each other.

One of our New Life Program graduates said “We so desperately seek to redeem ourselves that our souls spontaneously connect.” How beautiful is that? Yes, it’s about souls connecting and the healing that comes from that. March is now a really great month for me. I will continue to welcome fresh faces, open minds and willing hearts and I will be blessed by their time with us.

To learn more about our 2017 Alternative Spring Break program at Harvest Farm, contact me, Heather Pulley, at hpulley@denrescue.org.

Shedding The Past & Breathing New Life at The Farm

Early August will mark my 12th year of working here at Harvest Farm. I’ve held four different positions during my time here, and I’ve seen this place and its people from almost every angle. We have had our share of tragedies, death and heartbreak. We have learned together how to push through these dark times and come out on the other end of our grief wounded but still whole. And we have also had a myriad of encounters with the miraculous, where spirits are visibly moved, hearts and souls are healed, and lives are renewed.

 

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J’s Way  
Even after all this time on the farm, I am still always awed when I get the privilege of witnessing a participant graduate from our program. Just last week, I sat among the rest of the farm body, both staff and participants, as well as numerous other supporters and watched yet another man I’ll call “J” launch into a new life. When I first met J, on the first day he stepped on to this property, I could tell he was going to be one of our tougher participants. Shaved head, bulging arms, dark and intense eyes, and even a tattoo on his face the size of a baby’s hand. He was simply a scary dude. And that is exactly what J wanted to be, because he knew that if he could look tough enough, intimidating enough, no one would get close to him and he could be left alone. He wanted nothing to do with other people. He certainly did not want to be loved; love was too hard to accept, too hard to trust, and he learned early on in his life that love made a person vulnerable to pain and abandonment.

We made him rethink that.

Shedding It All 

In his 14 months here at the farm, he gradually shed it all. During his graduation speech, with his once estranged mother sitting front and center, teary eyed and joyful, he listed the names of people he had known during his time here who had helped and cared for him. He spoke of staff members, participants he had known, his boss, mentor, and the countless other members of the community who had come out to support him. After each name, J said the three words I couldn’t ever imagine coming out of his mouth the day I first met him: He said, “I love you.” And perhaps more importantly, those people said “I love you” right back to him, and he accepted their love.

 

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J (right) with his New Life Program chaplain, Jason Bryant, on graduation day.

Nothing Is Permanent
As one of our staff members wisely remarked during the graduation ceremony, nothing is permanent. No despair is too deep to swim out of, as long as there is a hand to grab onto that can help pull you out of it. No darkness it too dark, no life is beyond repair. I believe this; I know this. That tattoo on his face? It’s gone. Not a trace of it remains. One of J’s goals during his time here was to remove that mark from his face so that he would no longer be immediately judged as someone he no longer was, and he did it. It was a long, painful process, but he was determined, and the tattoo is gone. The old mark of the old life has disappeared. Nothing is permanent. Change is not only possible, but attainable and within our grasp if we only take the opportunities we are given.

 

To learn more about the New Life Program at Harvest Farm and read more stories of lives changed, visit www.HarvestFarm.net.

Seeing // Harvest Farm

9B9A6844Last week, my parents drove out here from Michigan to help us celebrate my daughter’s 6th birthday—and spoil her rotten. It is always good to see them, especially as they’re both getting up in years, and I want my daughter to spend as much time with her grandma and grandpa as possible. They always enjoy their time here in Northern Colorado (who wouldn’t?), and there are specific activities that they have developed into traditions for their visits. We always have cinnamon French toast at Silver Grill, see the Clydesdales at Budweiser, walk the dog around City Park, make a pot roast, mom cleans the windows, and dusts everything in sight, and dad takes long naps in the backyard hammock. And we always make a point to visit Harvest Farm.

Every day at Harvest Farm begins with a time of fellowship in our dining hall. Staff members and participants gather together for hot coffee, announcements, prayer requests, a song or two, and a brief devotion at the beginning of the day so we can start the morning with some positive momentum as a community united in purpose. At least that’s the goal. It depends on what I bring to it, what we bring to it and how we see it.

I have been working at Harvest Farm for almost 12 years now. This is still hard for me to believe, for numerous reasons. I’ve attended these morning meetings the entire time, almost every day for well over a decade. I hate to admit it, but after a while it is easy to lose appreciation for these shared times. It becomes just a thing we do. Like many of us, I simply get complacent and accustomed to it all. 

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And then my parents came. We parked the cars down at the office and then the three of us walked the quarter mile up to the dining hall. The morning was beautiful and mild, and the jersey cows licked my mom’s elbow when she walked up to pet old Annie behind her ear. A few program participants biked past us and yelled, “Morning, Rhoda!” as they headed up. Dad commented on how nice the barns and calves looked.

When we reached the dining hall and walked in the door, we were immediately greeted by a few of my colleagues who have met my folks before—Sterner, Seth, Kelly, Bender—and my parents beamed. The kitchen crew was cleaning up after breakfast, wiping down the counters and mopping the floor. A few participants, complete strangers to my parents, came up to us, introduced themselves and welcomed my parents to the farm. One of them offered my mom some coffee.

We had some announcements to make, fielded some prayer requests and sang a song together. A colleague gave a brilliant talk. Right in the middle of it, I realized how unique it is that we get to start our day this way together. I began to look at this time not through my own tired eyes but through the eyes of my parents. They aren’t here every day like I am, and they are new to all the magnificent craziness we call Harvest Farm. I looked around the room and was immediately reminded of how blessed we all are to have this farm work to do. I think that’s called gratitude—not taking our blessings lightly and giving thanks for what we have and even for what we don’t have.

As a manager, I get caught up in looking for what’s wrong with this place, what needs fixing and what looks shabby. I actually seek out the flaws. Too often, my eyes focus on the weeds, not the grass. Too often I see the car that won’t run anymore, not the other 14 that run smoothly. And too often I see the man who relapsed, not the one who is thriving. I think many of us are guilty of this myopia, sometimes simply because we just get used to it. But this is why we need to refresh our vision from time to time, to try and see through the eyes of another and snap us out of our complacency. And this is not limited to Harvest Farm or a rehabilitation setting. How are we seeing our spouses, children, homes, or ourselves? How often do we simply surrender and let boredom win? It is absolutely unbelievable how easy it is to become lazy in our thinking and in our habits. Way too easy, and I am guilty as charged.

After devotions, we all dispersed and everyone headed to their respective work therapy assignments. My parents mingled a bit and then had to say hello to Bender’s animals—the calves, Vinny the donkey, the new pup Barney—and we headed back to the cars. As my parents always have, they kept asking questions, and I knew all the answers. How many guys do you have here? (72) You still have bees? (Yep) How’s Newman doing? (Insane) Is it always so windy up here? (Yep) And I am not bored by my answers. Thank God, I’m not bored—I am proud. As my dad stepped into his car, he took one last look around and said, “You’ve got an awesome place here, Junior.” 

And I agree with him.

An Example to Follow

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Brad Rhoda, Operations Manager at Harvest Farm

Recently, I’ve been filling in for the Harvest Farm Kitchen Supervisor who has been out of the office with an illness. I am not known for my culinary excellence, so these past few weeks have been an interesting experience for me, especially in terms of time management—I still have my regular job to do. On the flip side, however, despite the challenges of running a full-service kitchen for an extended period of time, I’ve had the great pleasure of working more closely with the participants who work in our kitchen, learning more about their stories, working with them as they prepare 3 meals a day for 72 participants. I also get to rub shoulders with some of our amazing volunteers, many of whom I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never met before. 

Heather is one of these volunteers. I had seen her before in our kitchen but never took the time to say hello, to introduce myself, using that all-too-common, but horribly lame excuse of not having enough time. Someone else can say hello to her.  She’ll forget my name anyway, and I’ll forget hers.  I’m too busy. What’s the point?

Ah, stupidity…

But now that I’m the temporary Kitchen Supervisor, I had no choice but to meet her. There she was, cutting vegetables and laughing with the rest of the kitchen crew, obviously enjoying herself, and the guys obviously enjoying her help, her mere presence. And then here I come, running ragged old Rhoda, working on my third cup of coffee in an hour, wondering how we’re get through the day and serve three creative, healthy meals for a demanding room of program participants who have been busting their butts all day. When I vocalize my concern to my kitchen crew, which now includes our volunteer Heather, she looks up from slicing bell peppers and says this:  “We’re good.”  Nods her head at me, smiles. “We’ve got it.” The guys near her, washing dishes, prepping some beef, putting together a salad, all nod in casual agreement. I begin to wonder what I’m fussing about.

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Heather in the kitchen with Harvest Farm participants.

Later that day, after lunch is served (burgers—made with beef reared and raised by guys in the agriculture department) and we get to catch our breath, I sit down with Heather and thank her for her help. It turns out that she comes to the Farm every Tuesday and Wednesday for a few hours to help out with lunch and whatever else we might need. When I ask her why she chose to volunteer here at the Farm, her face gets slightly more serious and pensive. She tells me that she used to be friends with a young man named Ben who years ago spent some time here at Harvest Farm. He left the program early, but did very well for quite a while, making good and true friends along the way, using his skills and talents to enhance the lives of everyone he met. Heather was one of those people whose life was enhanced by knowing Ben. Then, sadly, for no discernable reason (the calling card of addiction), Ben chose to use again, after a long and successful stretch of sobriety. Heroin, his old drug of choice, the reason why he came to the Farm in the first place all those years ago. He overdosed, and now he’s dead. There’s no other way to say it; there’s nothing delicate or romantic about it.

But now listen to this:  Instead of sinking into her sorrow, instead of being pulled under by the tragedy of Ben’s passing, Heather chose to act. Or, perhaps more accurately, she chose to react against despair, against hopelessness, against the now empty space that used to be occupied by Ben. After his passing, she learned that Ben had once been a participant of Harvest Farm, and she learned how much this place and these people meant to him. She decided that in order to honor Ben and his memory, she wanted to give back to the place that gave life back to Ben, her friend. She chose to serve, in a kitchen at a farm for recovering addicts of all places, and has taken courage instead of forfeiting to passivity.

When she finishes telling me this story of why she is giving her time to the kitchen at Harvest Farm, my jaw has officially dropped and I’ve knocked back two more cups of coffee.  What an example to follow. Not only for the men in our program, who faced countless tragedies in their own lives, but for all of us. For me. Because this is what we’re around for, isn’t it?  To help each other out, to give of what we can when we can? To create antidotes for despair?  Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us, whether we’re drug addicts, doctors, pastors, or temporary Kitchen Supervisors.

And just like that, Heather’s story still fresh in my ears, I realize that I don’t have to run the entire kitchen by myself. Why? Because I have people around me who will do it with me, with gratitude, with a smile, and with a hope that death might not be the end of something but rather a beginning of something.  What a concept. Thanks Heather.

 

Giving and Receiving

Frank's daughter, Frank and Bob (a Mission chaplain)

Katie (Frank’s daughter), Frank, Bob (Farm Chapain)

I was reminded of the importance of giving and receiving because of Frank – the man in the middle.

Frank graduated in January from the New Life Program at Harvest Farm, but his first exposure to The Farm was more than a decade ago when his brother came through the Program and graduated in 1999. During that time, Frank cared for and supported his brother, Mike, through his difficult recovery as well as the transition back into society.

Fast forward a few years and the roles reversed. Frank needed the support from his brother who was now 15 years sober and there to guide him through. Frank graduated the program at the Farm and we got to see two brothers healthy, sober and happy.

Working at The Farm reminds me that I am often unaware how much I am wrapped in this spectrum of giving and receiving. I desire to be the giver in my relationships, but my marriage has taught me I can’t hold too tightly to that role. If I do, I not only deny myself of a crucial aspect of my life, but I deny my wife the opportunity to help, support and care for me in my own times of vulnerability, weakness and struggle. I need to apply this to my work at Harvest Farm too. If I work as though I am invulnerable and without needs, I become less effective and helpful to the men I am trying to serve and more miserable in the serving.

There are those who mostly receive in our society. Perhaps the most egregious are those who have received so much—even from the womb—yet don’t recognize the gifts they have been given in safe families, patient teachers, coaches, employers, and societal advantages. To borrow from David Foster Wallace, they feel justified in living life stuck inside their “skull-sized kingdom.” Their lives are marked by endless and empty consuming. And to be honest, I can fall into this category as well.

It is often those I serve that remind me that I have failed to recognize what I have received.

At some point in our life we all will be receivers as we age, fall sick, or get injured. I believe those moments do not need to be sad or horrible. Rather, if we live life awake to the double blessing of giving—perhaps even without pity but in joy—to those who are broken and in need, and if we allow ourselves to be broken and gratefully accept the kindness and care of others, we truly acknowledge the fullness of our existence. That is what I saw in the image of those two brothers—fullness. A picture of knowing and being known. What a blessing to work in such a place.

The PR Desk: The Journey

A few Fridays ago, I sat among 100 people to honor and celebrate Jeremiah. Jeremiah once sacrificed his family, his children and his well-being for drugs. His home was raided three times. During one of the raids, his son was taken away from him. The cry Jeremiah heard from his son that night is a cry that he would never forget.

His addiction cost him everything.

He tried to fight for his son, but the courts said Jeremiah was an unfit father and that he’d never see his son again.

A few years and other treatments later, Jeremiah found himself at Harvest Farm looking not only to find sobriety, but to change his heart. He sat there in Chaplain Jason’s office staring at a poster that highlighted all the people in the Bible that screwed up badly, yet God redeemed them. Jeremiah found hope in that poster.

A poster. A poster gave hope.

Don’t underestimate the power you hold to help change the course of someone’s life just like the poster Jason had in his office. That poster changed Jeremiah’s journey and restored relationships.

His father and sister drove 600 miles to celebrate Jeremiah and all that he has done. They got their son and brother back. And when Jeremiah rectifies a few more things from his past, he will be able to see his son – a son he was told he will never see again.

Encourage someone on their journey. Give them hope. Love them well.

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Jeremiah

First Time On The Farm

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As I drove through Northern Colorado on our way to Harvest Farm, I couldn’t help but have a comforting sense of home. The fields, corn, cattle, and small-town feel remind me of where I grew up in Ohio. But then I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the mountains looming in the distance and realized: I’m not in Kansas—or Ohio rather—anymore.

A few weeks ago, I asked a New Life Program candidate, who was planning on going to the Farm, “What makes someone want or need to go to the Farm for the Program instead of staying at The Crossing or at Fort Collins Rescue Mission?” He explained that it can be a wide range of reasons. Some guys need the seclusion from society that the Farm offers to get past whatever addictions they might be facing. Others have failed programs before or relapsed and the Farm exists as a deeper level of training and rehabilitation for them. And some simply volunteer for the opportunity because of their life experience on a farm or because the secluded atmosphere is going to help them best recover.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. As I pulled into the driveway, I was once again overcome by that familiar sense of belonging. Harvest Farm looked like a permanent snapshot of a fall festival near my parent’s home. It was refreshing.

After lunch, I spent most of the afternoon learning about the Farm and meeting guys in the Program. I was impressed at the wide variety of work therapy options available to the men in the program. When you think of Harvest Farm, you might think it’s mostly planting crops, raising chickens, and milking cows each morning. And that does happen. But there’s also a mechanic shop, fences to mend, goats, a small clothing and food distribution center called Mom’s Closet, and a full kitchen. The opportunities for the guys in the Program to learn new skills and have the satisfaction of working hard are endless.

I ended up spending a little extra time with two guys in particular—Scott and Scottie. I even helped them corral a calf or two while I was taking photos. Scottie said he’s done farm work before, and you can tell he’s knowledgeable and comfortable in his role here. Scott on the other hand says he’s never done this kind of work. He really enjoys learning, and when he’s done with the Program, he’s thinking about getting a job on a farm so he can work hard and earn a living.

Scott has never been on a Farm before, but he loves the work, the atmosphere and the opportunity he's found at Harvest Farm.

Scott has never been on a Farm before, but he loves the work, the atmosphere and the opportunity he’s found at Harvest Farm.

Scottie's experience on a farm comes in handy to teach and help out at Harvest Farm.

Scottie’s experience on a farm comes in handy to teach and help out at Harvest Farm.

The guys in the Program often impress me with their perseverance and tenacity. These guys have been through some of life’s most difficult situations, yet here they are fighting for a chance at a future. They’ve made some of the worst decisions possible, but they’re not giving up. Though some of our guys look tough and maybe a little rough around the edges, most of them are just happy for a chance to make a better life. And I’m grateful to be a part of it and to encourage and cheer them on.

To learn more about Harvest Farm, visit harvestfarm.net or click here to volunteer now.