New Life Program Posts

Shrinking But Still Growing :: An Update From Harvest Farm

This past November, our beloved Garden Supervisor Kelly Ballantyne resigned from Harvest Farm so that he and his family could pursue some new and interesting opportunities up in Alaska. During Kelly’s time here, our garden took on a life of its own and became one of the most integral aspects of our operation. We were able to grow abundant amounts of fresh produce not only for our kitchen that feeds our New Life Program participants, but for other partners in the Wellington and Fort Collins area as well as for the local food bank. Most importantly, we offered our garden participants good work, work that had value with a tangible goal in mind: feeding hungry people.

Now, however, we do not have the Garden Supervisor position at the farm. When word of this got out, my phone began to ring off the hook. Friends and allies of the farm came out of the woodwork, wondering what they could do to keep our garden afloat. We had offers of donations, both of money and time, in the hopes that we could keep the garden open.

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Of course, I loved the garden as much as anyone, if not more. I had seen firsthand the benefits of our garden program, witnessed lives of men transformed as they scraped out the soil from beneath their fingernails after a long day of weeding. But, without someone staffing it, things needed to change and we had a choice: Either keep on moaning or get creative.

We chose to get creative.

Led by our Agriculture Supervisor, Brian Newman, and our Maintenance Supervisor, Ben Bender, we reduced our allotted garden acreage by almost 2/3, consolidating growing space to a more manageable scale. We planted our now unusable garden spaces with perennial native grass for our Jersey cows to graze, and they don’t seem too chagrined with the new arrangement. Newman started reading up on greenhouse growing and immediately enlisted the help of local volunteers to start seeds in the greenhouse that are flourishing as I write this. We built a new mobile hoop and we are able to supply farm fresh produce—Swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce and more–to our kitchen every day to feed our New Life Program participants, staff, guests and volunteers. The garlic is sprouting, the tomatoes and peppers are thriving in the greenhouse, and every day all of our seedlings and sprouts are tended to by the men in our Agriculture Department.

 

So, while it’s true that we can’t do what we did the past few years with Kelly here, we haven’t stopped our passionate pursuit of growing healthy and delicious food at Harvest Farm.

There is opportunity in every event if we choose to get creative. Sometimes, complaining is easier than taking action, because there is nothing to lose when we complain, except perhaps our capacity to hope. If the felon is convinced that he will never get a job due to his criminal record, then he will probably be right. If the addict believes that grace and healing can never come to him as a result of his past behavior, he will probably be right.

But at this Farm, I’ve seen numerous felons get jobs and countless addicts find freedom and wholeness. How? By refusing to despair, by maintaining focus and determination, and by viewing every event as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.

So, if you’re ever in the Wellington area and want to see a farm abounding in opportunities and grace, swing on into the dining hall around lunch time and we’ll show you what we’re all about. We’ll be here, still growing.

To learn more about Harvest Farm and the work we do every day, visit www.HarvestFarm.net.

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.

The transformative process of Work Therapy at Denver Rescue Mission

Oct. 10, 2008 is the date I graduated from the New Life Program at Harvest Farm.

This date is important to me because it is the anniversary of my new life, freedom, and happiness. The anniversary of my sobriety is June of 2007 which is also when I joined the New Life Program. It is meaningful, but not nearly as important to me. I feel that rehab wasn’t the start of anything; it was more like the end of a nightmare. Before entering the New Life Program at Harvest Farm I had been in two other “sober living programs.” The first program I attended was 60 days long and consisted of a lot of group therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous and DUI classes, (I attended this specific program twice, so I guess you could say I was in 3 programs.) The second program focused on mental health disorders and how they affect addiction. I don’t think these programs were inconsequential, but they definitely did not give me what I needed to change my life. What I did need to help change my life was a realization that I could change it, for the better.

When a person gets used to doing the same thing (good or bad) every day it is very hard to get out of that cycle. It’s like that job that you hate but you keep going to because you’re afraid to quit because you don’t know how to do anything else. Being an addict is a job in itself, except you lose money. It takes all of your time, burns you out, makes you angry, and ruins your relationships.  I came to Harvest Farm needing something to replace the monotonous, destructive, disastrous work that my addiction had become and work is exactly what I got.

Josh Dickinson

Starting my journey to sobriety back in 2008 at Harvest Farm’s New Life Program.

Work Therapy was one of the highlights of my time at Harvest Farm and every day I see it change the mentality of the men who come into the New Life Program at Harvest Farm. After getting sober at Harvest Farm, I was actually hired as the Work Therapy Supervisor. In this role, I am charged with figuring out how the men who are assigned to work with me can be utilized to benefit their program and Harvest Farm. Every man has different skills; some have been doing the same job every day for 25 years and don’t know that life is not about work, others have barely lifted a finger to do anything and they don’t know that work can be fun. It’s incredible to work alongside such a diverse group of guys trying to change their lives for the better.

Me (back row second from the right) and fellow staff members at Harvest Farm

Me (back row; second from the right) and fellow staff members at Harvest Farm.

At Denver Rescue Mission, our goal is to help New Life Program participants understand that becoming a productive, self-sufficient person can be enjoyable. The program provides education, life skills training, and spiritual and emotional counseling, which sets a strong foundation for a self-sufficient life.

Even after graduation, many New Life Program graduates participate in our Post-Graduate Program, which provides further mentoring, accountability, counseling, and financial assistance. Graduates also mentor others, as well as volunteer for the Mission. Just like me – these graduates get a chance to inspire other men and help them towards sobriety.

October 10 has come and gone and I celebrated eight years of being a New Life Program graduate. I’m proud to say that life doesn’t feel like “work” any more.

Harvest Farm Fall Festival Bridges Family Fun and Addiction Awareness

The leaves are changing color and the smell of autumn is in the air.  That means it’s time for family fun at Harvest Farm’s 14th Annual Fall Festival & Corn Maze!

While there are other corn mazes to choose from, Harvest Farm’s Fall Festival & Corn Maze offers so much more than just twists and turns.  In fact, the event serves to advance Denver Rescue Mission’s sission statement in several ways.

First, it promotes “productive, self-sufficient citizenship” by involving the New Life Program participants in the preparation and operation of the festival. For example, the men use their God-given talents and trade skills like carpentry, electrical work and welding to construct nearly all of the festival grounds. Others in our program have artistic talents which are channeled into the design and creativity of the attractions. Because everything is meticulously hand-crafted with love, it sets our festival apart from the commercial, pre-fabricated feel of other fall festivals.


Additionally, the men assist with the festival operations by staffing the attractions. From greeting guests as they enter the corn maze to preparing hand-popped kettle corn, the men are a critical part of the event.

 

By providing opportunities for our men to engage with festival guests, they have a chance to shatter guests’ stereotypes of what it means to be an “addict” or “homeless”. With these interactions, our men begin to realize these terms are simply labels; it does not define who they are as person. Through hard work and positive reactions from festival guests, they gain a sense of self-worth and pride. For many, this is a new and welcomed feeling.

The Fall Festival also provides a chance for the community to learn about how Harvest Farm is “changing lives in the name of Christ.” Taking turns as hay wagon tour guides, our program participants explain to guests the unique opportunities for life change through the New Life Program. They share personal stories of obstacles they’ve faced, challenges they’ve overcome and their hopes for the future. This aspect makes our Festival so unique and truly sets us apart from the competition.

Attending the Fall Festival means guests are directly supporting the New Life Program and helping once broken men turn their lives around. Proceeds from ticket purchases, concessions and merchandise sales are reinvested into the program to ensure it thrives for years to come.

Not only does the Fall Festival & Corn Maze provide opportunities for fall time family fun, it supports a great cause.  We hope you’ll join us this October!  For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit: www.harvestfarm.net/fall-festival.

 

 

Finding joy in the Father

My son and daughter, Roman and Abigail, were born in June two years ago, and spent the next 2 months in the intensive care unit at Saint Joe’s; that’s where I spent Father’s Day 2014. They gave me a bottle of root beer in a foam coozie that said “Happy Father’s Day” and I remember thinking how surreal it was to see those words apply to me. God had given me two new things that belonged to Him that He expected me to take care of.

Roman is an introvert (like his daddy) and Abigail is an extrovert (like her mommy). Most mornings I’m up around 5:30 because Roman starts crying. He and I sit on the couch for the next hour. We don’t actually interact a whole lot during that time, but that time is meaningful to him. When he doesn’t get that time, he’s off.

Abigail on the other hand is a force; everything she does she does with her whole heart. She is usually the instigator of the arguments with her brother. She also gives me her full attention during story time. She pays so much attention to detail; I think she’s going to be one of those people who edits Wikipedia.

Chris Rutledge Family

My wife and I constantly see God’s perspective when we raise our kids. One day we were taking our kids to the park and Roman didn’t want to leave the house. He was having a blast playing with a toy he’d played with a million times before. I picked him up to put him in the stroller and he threw a temper tantrum and thrashed in my arms. I said to him, “Dude, you’re going to have so much more fun playing at the park than with that toy. Trust me and let me put you in the stroller!” I probably got more upset with him than I should have. I don’t blame him, really; he had a good thing going with that toy. What more could I possibly have to offer him that would be better? I realized later how often my Creator says the same thing to me. I resist change when I’m comfortable, even when I know it’s God’s will that I change. I empathize with God; it must be so frustrating parenting me.

In his book “The Weight of Glory” C.S. Lewis said, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I get chills every time I read that. I imagine that’s how the disciples felt when Jesus told them, “Follow me and I’ll teach you how to fish for people.” God designed us to do something specific, and until we do that thing, we feel unfulfilled. Things just don’t feel right. God tries to take me somewhere he’s so excited for me to go. He knows I’ll enjoy it immensely. But I tend to kick and scream and reach for the toy that I’m so consumed with. I reject His plan for my life.

Chris and New Life Program GraduateThe largest part of my job as a Chaplain here at Denver Rescue Mission is talking with men in our New Life Program about what it looks like to live a life free from addiction. After seven years of working with them, I’ve realized how similar we are. A lot of us are dads and still working on what it means to be a father. Food, shopping, relationships, money, power; when boiled down, the desire for these things comes from the same place as a desire for heroin, alcohol, marijuana, and crack. There are a myriad of ways I can make myself happy without God’s help. Those ways of course lead to nothing but death, but in the impulsive moment they feel pretty good.

Jesus knows the desires of my heart. Many of those are desires I can’t identify with words. I stumble upon them after I’ve sinned, then submit myself to God’s will. Weeks after that, in my quiet time alone with God, I’ll realize how happy that submission to His will has made me.

In Luke 11:11-13 Jesus said, “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”