Denver Day 1
Brett and Hannah blog post
Hannah- Well, after 15 hours we finally made it yesterday. A drive that was supposed to take 12 hours took 15, and involved a slight detour into a ditch. What doesn’t kill our van Linda absolutely has made her stronger. We had a 6am wake up time, and the day began. Today we did our first street walk. We also enjoyed morning prayer, mass, a couple talks, chores, and a debrief. I am not sure how all the other Headlighters are feeling, but for me, today was an amazing day. The full time missionaries who live at Christ in the City are all very welcoming, and taught us a little bit about their friends on the street. When they do their street walks, they all go on different routes and make relationships with people experiencing homelessness. They call them their friends.
Learning about the mission and vision of Christ in the City has been very helpful to understanding the work they do. Their motto is to know, love, and serve. They essentially believe that many of their friends need to be acknowledged, loved, and consistently recognized as a beloved child of God. I met two friends during my street walk, and was instantly drawn into the relationship that the missionaries have formed with their friends. They have earned their trust, and tried to let them know that they truly care about them. I think that it must be really tough to not be able to “fix” these injustices and instead have to walk with them in their struggles. They cry when they cry, laugh with them, go see them in the hospital, and everything in between. They pray with them and for them.
Overall, our first full day here has been enlightening, challenging and full of prayer and laughter. I’ve often believed the key to growth is being uncomfortable, and every time we walk up to a friend we haven’t met before, we are a little bit uncomfortable, but opening ourselves up to what God is trying to teach us. I believe this week will be full of loving God and loving his people, and I am very excited for what it all brings.
“GUYS, GUYS, GUYS, GUYS!!!!!” – the famous, almost last, words shouted by one of our drivers as our van, Linda, careened off into the central ditch on I90 amidst one of the worst whiteouts ever experienced by the passengers. Those four words followed by one of the calmest exits onto a slick, snowy path in between freeways set the tone for what has been an unreal start to my first experience with a Headlights spring break trip. As I’m sitting in the middle of a hallway while a fellow Headlighter duets with one of our host missionaries from Christ in the City on the guitar while others enthusiastically sing songs of worship and channel only the most comfortable coffee lounge scene, I can’t help but reflect on how powerful today has been.
One of the biggest ways that missionaries at Christ in the City minister to the homeless in Denver is through street walks. Today, I had the opportunity to encounter the poor with Hannah, an almost two-year CITC vet who was able connect with our friends on the street in such an natural and easy-going way that gave our troupe the confidence to step up and be vulnerable with those we met. To that extent, I think the best way to dive into what I, and many others on this trip, experienced would be best illustrated through the contrasting encounters I had with two amazing women: Mamma J, and Therese. Mamma J is a legend with the CITC missionaries and she’s the only friend on the street with whom there’s a general acceptance that you will have to break the rule of no hugs. As we strolled up to her and struck up a conversation, I immediately felt at ease with her exuberant and talkative personality. Today, Mamma J was stoked about some new glasses she would be wearing later this week She was also on her way to get her nicotine fix, but thus is the life encountered on the streets. It was amazing to see how someone could be so joyful while being faced with such hardships.
On the flipside, however, was our interaction with Therese. An apparent 70 year old who did not look a day over 55, she wore dazzling black and silver studs in both ears and rocked the most vibrant shade of red lipstick. We could see her patiently waiting for the bus, and Hannah decided to strike up a conversation with a simple, “Hi, how are you doing today?”
Before the words even left Hannah’s lips, Therese’s eyes began to well up with tears as she responded, “Well, not good.”
Therese was originally from the beaches of Florida, and as she explained, had been “living a blessed life.” I found myself emotional when she recounted how she lost her son to the war in Afghanistan and revealed that he was her last close relative that she had. Unfortunately, Therese found our she had cancer and that was what lead her to come to Denver. Treatment costs buried her in debt and a carjacking while she withdrew money at the bank took away most of her last possessions.
Therese’s story may or may not be unique, but the feeling of helplessness as she poured out her story to us and said, “It means a lot that you stopped to talk to me. After a while, I start to feel invisible.” Talk about tearing out your heartstrings.
As we learned in one of our morning lessons, sometimes all you can do is take on the sufferings that our friends in the street experience and give those struggles up to God. Matthew 11:29-30 says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
While us Headlighters in Denver could never amount to anything close to what Christ did when he died on the cross for us, we can at the very least lift up the homeless, restore some of their dignity, and provide them an outlet to begin to feel whole again.
Continue to pray for us, the Christ in the City missionaries, and all those who we serve and will serve.
Your friend in Christ,