Denver Headlights 2022: Day 5
Today was the last day of our mission trip to Denver. While we’re all a little sad to be leaving this place behind, I think I can safely say that we won’t forget the experiences we’ve had. It has truly been a blessing to serve with the missionaries at Christ in the City, sharing in their communal prayer and daily life and encountering the homeless with them.
We began the day, as usual, with morning prayer and breakfast, and then headed back out to the streets for a morning of street ministry. After staying up until 2:30 Wednesday night playing games, the 5 hours of sleep we got was very welcome by comparison. After breakfast, I headed to Park Avenue with Colleen, James, and Felicia.
One of the things that I’ve been reflecting on this week and that I was particularly struck by in my interactions today is how much more human so many of our friends on the street are than us. While they may be poor in their material circumstances, they are certainly not poor spiritually. Many of these people have a deep faith and understanding of purpose that is truly remarkable.
One man that we met this morning, Marshall, made some truly insightful comments as he reflected on his past and the circumstances he was in. He told us how it was difficult for him to readjust to having his own place to stay (he had recently been taken into housing but had gone back to the streets), and talked about how society misunderstands the homeless because of their appearance. He also shared with us that he was still trying to realize his own value, which I found very profound, given that Christ in the City’s whole mission revolves around restoring the full human dignity and self-worth of the homeless. Although he didn’t put it this way, Marshall believed that people need to learn to understand each other by looking at the world in each other’s shoes, and that sometimes we need to believe we are worthy in order to be worthy. In his own words, “Sometimes you have to pretend you’re a cowboy, that you won the West, but you didn’t win the whole world.”
Later in the morning, we came across Shari and Paul, a married couple living in a tent near Benedict Park. It was definitely heartbreaking to see the conditions that they lived in, and it was difficult to have a conversation with someone when all we could see was a hand reaching out of a pile of tarps. However, their witness was truly inspiring, the fact that they had chosen to live together and stick out for each other even in the harsh living conditions of homelessness. Paul, an ex-convict, had developed an addiction and was still on parole, making it hard for him to get out of his condition, and his wife, although she could have easily made her way out of her homeless situation on her own, had chosen to stay with him even through this. It was also really beautiful and heartwarming when Shari recognized Colleen’s voice through the tent, even though they had only become acquainted a week earlier.
In the afternoon, we listened to a talk on how we can each find our own Calcutta after returning home from this mission trip, and translate the experiences we have had here into a new way of approaching the way we live in our own communities, families, college campuses, and cities. We then had adoration and mass at Our Lady of Carmel, and returned to the house to eat dinner.
Tonight was also my night to do night ministry. While some of the other students went to St. John Vianney to visit our seminarians from the Diocese of Helena, Fatima and I went with a group of students and missionaries to 16th street, where we walked down the mall at night looking for people to talk to. We encountered one young man named Gerald who was playing an amazing drum solo on a couple of buckets to make money, and we also spoke to his friend who was trying to sell a bike. We also met a woman named Nick who had just been let out of prison and was looking for a place to stay, and were able to direct her to some other resources, and a friend of hers, Jacob, who was a street preacher for the Scum of the Earth Church and offered some insightful comments on the Cross after telling us in tears how his wife had cheated on him and how important faithfulness and the dignity of women was to him.
As I look back on the experiences we have all had this week, I feel so blessed and glad that I made the choice to come here to Denver for my spring break, and to make a beautiful yes to God by that decision. I am so blessed to have come with such an amazing group of people, and to have met so many other amazing people here, and I could not have imagined this week going any other way. I hope God has brought some good about by our presence here, and that he will continue to work in our hearts and in the hearts of all those whom we served. Perhaps some of us may even find ourselves back here sometime in the future. This trip has really pushed me to see things differently and to better understand my brothers and sisters on the street, and to approach community and relationship with others in an entirely new light, and I pray God continues to work with these new beginnings.
peace in Christ,
The final day of the our mission was by far the most impactful for me.
The street walk today was in downtown Denver. We first encountered a duo known on the streets as Irish and Chino. Their optimism, friendship, and desire to better the community in spite of their circumstances were both heart warming and inspiring. Additionally, Chino was a very talented artist and drew some pretty hilarious caricatures of our group. We later helped an elderly homeless man walk to the hospital. Along the way, we offered to pray for him and, on the verge of tears, he sang a beautiful gospel rendition of the Our Father in thanksgiving for the prayers.
I also had the opportunity to do night ministry in Boulder. Although it was a nice part of town, there were still homeless. We were able to buy coffee and a tuna melt for one man and converse with him for around an hour.
Sorry for posting so late. We had some interesting experiences on the drive back from Denver this weekend. When we made it to Cheyenne on Saturday, it turned out that Wyoming was closed due to road conditions and weather, so we ended up taking an extra day to get home to Helena. We had to drive back to Denver and cut across to Salt Lake City, spending the night Saturday at a Super 8 in Price, Utah. While this was an exhausting experience, the drive back was still full of blessings, as we had lots of extra bonding time and great car conversations, and a beautiful drive through the Rockies of Colorado. Thanks be to God for bringing us back safely! – Chris