Day 2 Denver 2016
The First Encounter Monday March 7
By Mariah Schell and Ashley Maes
After a long day of travel and a good night’s rest, the Denvarians were ready for whatever the Lord had to show us today alongside our fellow missionaries here at Christ in the City. We woke up bright and early to start the day off in prayer, with mass celebrated at 7am in a renovated convent that now houses the CIC missionaries who have committed to a year of service here in Denver. If your question is, “how did a group of sleep-deprived college kids stay awake through a mass that early in the morning?” Well, the answer would be… not very easily. In fact, some of us may have closed our eyes and “prayed” for a while before snapping out of it again with the sounds of the original hardwood floors and pews creaking with every movement.
Our nerves were running high as we wondered what our first day would look like. We had very little information about what we would be doing, but the missionaries came to our rescue with (quite a few) slideshow presentations letting us know what we were getting into. We learned more about CIC, which has only been in Denver for 6 years, the “do’s and don’ts” of street ministry and how to have a meaningful conversation with the homeless we would inevitably encounter on our street walks. There were several groups that split up throughout the downtown Denver area; a few to the Capitol district, Speer Park and a couple to the 16th Street walking mall. Ashley and I were in one of the 16th street groups and our very first encounter was a surprising one. We approached a group of men who were sitting under a ledge getting shelter from the rain just off 16th street. They were immediately happy to see us and started chatting us up about their travels, hobbies and hometowns. In case you didn’t think this world is small enough, one of the men was originally from Butte, MT. That hit us Montana kids pretty hard, especially hearing his story about how he ended up as a homeless man in Denver, CO. Our eyes and hearts were immediately opened to the reality of poverty and to the individuals who are experiencing it.
Our second and final encounter, lasting two hours, was found on the walking mall itself. We approached two men, who had only been in Denver for 3 days so far. Jay was only 19 years old and a five-year traveller, while Matt was 28 and a ten-year traveller. They were sitting on a cement wall, their belongings only filling a backpack and small duffle bag. They didn’t hesitate to answer our questions and tell us their life stories, sometimes even telling us deep personal experiences without our prompting. There was never a break in the conversation, and you could see the gratitude in their eyes throughout the two-hour encounter. Most of the people that Christ in the City missionaries and volunteers encounter just want to be known and loved for who they are, instead of ignored or scowled at by normal people who pass them by on the streets. As our friend Jay told us, “It would make all the difference to us if more people like you would just stop and get to know us. We actually have personalities.”
Overall, the Denvarian Saints had an amazing first day in Denver. We had many stories to share at our group discussion and also some reflection time about what we saw. We spent time in silence and prayer after a day full of conversation with the impoverished citizens on the margins of Denver. At the end of the day, even though we may be in very different situations then they are, if we take the time to get to know them, we find out that a lot of us share some of the same struggles.