Hope Posts

A New Home for 50,000 Honeybees

On April 30th, I drove back from Berthoud in the cold afternoon, parked our little company car in the mud and snow at Harvest Farm, and popped the trunk to unload about 50,000 honeybees into their new homes. In five months, we hope to have honey from these hives. One year I harvested 20 gallons. The year of the High Park fires, with most of the flowers dried up and withering in the heat, I harvested only two gallons. So, only time will tell what the season will bring.

Welcoming new bees to our farm is a practice of hope. Bees are incredible creatures, I can talk for hours about all the fascinating aspects of their lives. They’re democratic in their decision-making even though they have a queen. Their alarm pheromone smells like banana runts. (It’s true, look it up). Honey found in King Tut’s tomb is still edible. But, my favorite aspect of the honeybee’s life is its abundance. Like very few other creatures, bees work so hard producing their unique product that they provide an abundance to be harvested. It is the abundance built into the community of bees that gives me hope on the bitter cold day I introduce them to Harvest Farm, another community of abundance and hope.

 

Harvest Farm is a refuge for men struggling to make sense of life and recover from a time of self-destruction and disappointment. A vast majority need substance abuse counseling, some need to connect with fulfilling employment, some simply need a place to heal and re-orient after being homeless. We are also a working farm which provides us with lots of space and some incredible examples for describing the work our men do during their year-long stay, like the honeybee hive.

It takes as much of a community approach to work on staff at Harvest Farm as it does to succeed in its program. As individuals, we can’t help our men do what they have to do on our own. It often feels a bit like a beehive to be honest. There can be four or five staff in a room with one program participant where we are confronting, supporting, guiding and talking through all the messiness and complexity of their life. Because we need to rely on the community approach so much, it can be unpredictable. Humans are fallible, inconsistent, forgetful and have a whole host of unique weaknesses. At our best, we all are pulling in the same direction and the energy hums through our work. Other times, we struggle to understand one another, we disagree, withdraw, blame and get discouraged.

Yet, this is why the icon of the beehive is so important. A single honeybee is amazing and complex, but the abundance of the beehive is the accumulation of tens of thousands of bees at work. There will be dark times of fragmentation and isolation in all our lives. The beehive is an icon of the promise of abundance. If we can redouble our efforts to engage in community, we invite others to see that God has created abundance, not out of the work of one spectacular person, but out of the faithful and dogged work of many fallible individuals striving together.

The harvest is worth it.

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.

Staff Spotlight: Dan Dilley

Danielle Charbonneau Public Relations Intern

Each staff member at Denver Rescue Mission has a special blend of ingredients that make them uniquely capable of serving our community – personal experience, passions, tribulations, God-given wisdom. In an effort to recognize each other more often, we have decided to start spotlighting a team member we think our supporters will love as much as we do. This month’s spotlight is on Dan Dilley, chaplain at The Crossing.

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Dan Dilley was a bit out of his element when he first arrived in downtown Denver, coming from Blanca Colorado, a rural town outside Alamosa with a population of just over 400. First positioned as Volunteer Coordinator at the Lawrence Street Shelter, Dan was greeted by the downtown buzz of the infamous Triangle Park. His new job: a far cry from his former as a pastor at a small church.

While he said pastoring a small church “was a wonderful experience,” one that taught him to wear many hats, Dan was “stimulated to minister more.”

He found those ministering opportunities “by the truck load” at The Lawrence Street Shelter and was surprised that he really “enjoyed the energy of downtown.”  Moving put him closer to his family (2 kids and 6 grandkids) and being in the heart of the city was eye-opening.

“Going into the fire and the gunsmoke downtown was really good for me,” he said. “I was really able to learn some of the foundation of who the homeless are — where they come from. I was able to rub shoulders with them.”

Proximity, however, didn’t automatically equal discipleship: Dan said it was a process to work his way into the lives of those he encountered.

“Most of them wouldn’t give me the time of day,” he said. “I think they were asking, who is this guy and does he really care about us at all? There weren’t many opportunities to sit down in the Word at first. But these opportunities started to arise after I loved them and served them and made friends with them. I saw opportunities arise that would have never happened had I not done that first. That was a big lesson for me.”

Dan pursued the role of chaplain at The Crossing in 2012 where he got even more opportunities to disciple in a more consistent role.

“Now I’m really getting to do what God has stirred in my heart for years and years,” he said. “My favorite part is literally pastoring these guys, face to face, so that we can fellowship around the Word of God.”

Yet Dan admits the rule he learned at Lawrence Street still applies: One needs to truly embody the love of Jesus before they’ll be effective teaching the Word.

“I can beat you over the head with the Word of God as good as anyone can, but to just live our lives in front of people with a true compassion and a love of Christ…it goes so far to show that Jesus is real — that he’s not just some dead religion.” He said. “I have discovered that relationship evangelism is bigger than I ever knew it was.”

It’s that old adage: People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Dan clearly tries to live by this principle. The Mission is lucky to have him. And Dan feels lucky to have the Mission.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the Mission team,” said Dan. “I love the camaraderie of our team — a team where every person is as important and critical as the other – a team that loves the Lord and shares the love of Christ.”

 

 

 

Urban camping ban passed – What Now?

Written by: Brad Meuli, Denver Rescue Mission President

Since 1892, Denver Rescue Mission has seen changes in government officials, various ordinances that have affected how we can assist the homeless and tough economic periods of time.  But in the 120 years we have been in this city, we have not changed our chief goal – changing lives in the name of Christ. Our focus has remained the same; to help people become productive, self-sufficient citizens, leaving a life of desperation behind.

In the past few months, there have been protests, meetings and discussions regarding the urban camping ordinance. Last night, Denver City Council approved the homeless camping ban, thereby forbidding unauthorized camping on public and private property in Denver.

Intensity and emotion are two words that best describe the recent weeks leading up to the passage of this ordinance. Now that it has passed, our primary goal should be to join together as a community to serve homeless and low-income individuals and families. It’s more than making sure there are enough beds and services; it’s finding ways to assist the poor in their efforts to leave a life of poverty behind.

Whether you were for or against, disappointed or happy the ordinance passed, I ask that you take those feelings and move them into action. No one wants to see a man, woman or child sleep on a cold, hard sidewalk. Today, I would encourage you to decide what you will do with your feelings and passions. Let’s extend our hands in compassion by serving meals to the homeless, putting together a clothing drive, collecting canned food, or finding another way to make sure the poor and hungry are provided for.

At Denver Rescue Mission, you can become a mentor, help a refugee family acclimate to life in Denver, tutor a child at The Crossing, sort food and clothing, and serve meals. These are only a few of the many ways you can help.

Become a mentor!

In Metro Denver, there are approximately 40 organizations serving the homeless and low-income population. Take action! Do something that will create lasting change in our community.

Together we can change lives.

It is only by working together that we can make sure those who have little are given a second chance at a changed life. Denver Rescue Mission will be here continuing to make a difference. Join us!

Ways to get involved:

Volunteer

Donate

Host a Donation Drive

Become a Community Partner