There are few things more ordinary than encountering Christ. Few are blessed with burning bushes or angelic annunciations. While there is nothing wrong with waiting for such grandiose revelations of divinity, in doing so we often run the risk of missing the fact that “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk. 17:21). In our expectation that God manifest Himself in the miraculous, we can overlook his true dwelling place: the normal, the pedestrian, the simple.
This was a lesson we all learned well during this last week with Christ in the City. The work we did was not spectacular, and the changes we effected are not tangible, yet as we came into contact with those we were servicing, we came face-to-face with Jesus. Several of us met people this week who exemplified Christ-like joy, peace, and wisdom to an incredible degree (in fact, a handful of our patrons quoted scripture with the ease of biblical scholars). Indeed, I would say most of us left our conversations more impacted than they. Based on our experience, there is no doubt that as we enter into communion with those discarded by society, we enter into relationship with the Almighty. “As you did to one of the least of these my, brothers, you did to me” (Matt. 25:40). Beneath the grime and knotted hair of the homeless truly hides the smiling face of Jesus.
We came to understand the unassuming nature of God’s self-disclosure during a hike that took place later in the week as well. The quiet beauty of nature juxtaposed with the chaos of Denver was breathtaking (even despite the fact that we weren’t in Big Sky Country). Though impressive, the views we enjoyed never demanded our appreciation. The Creator was present in the mountain air and the dense forestry, but such things are often taken for granted or ignored. As with the homeless, nature contains and conceals God in plain sight.
Since these examples mean nothing if we are unable to pinpoint the foundational practice in identifying God in the ordinary, I would like to posit such a cornerstone: humility. If we only allow God to speak to us in specific (i.e. magnificent) ways, then we put God in a box—a great expression of pride. “And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in a cloak” (1 Kg. 20:4). On the other hand, when we are willing to become broken bread and poured-out wine, we allow ourselves to come into contact with God. Therefore, I believe that we are all thankful for the opportunity that Christ in the City has blessed us with—namely, the opportunity to humbly serve and thereby experience God. May this lesson—taught by trees and those on the streets—be one that sticks with us long after this week.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018:
Rose Labadini, Allison Gilbert
Tuesday night, after the last blog post was written, we had karaoke with everyone at Christ in the City. Many laughs were exchanged, and the grand finale included our very own Faith, Sarah, Layne, and Reed! They killed a rendition of Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band. It was a lot of fun!
Fast forward to this morning, in which we woke up and went to Mass. It was great! Father John (a Capuchin priest from India) gave a homily about our dedication to our faith. He then went on to describe how we should, as stated in the first reading, pass on God’s laws to our children and our children’s children. He ended his homily with a statement about how we should not be afraid to have a boat load of children (not just yet… don’t worry mom, it’s not that kind of trip ☺ -Rose), in which uncomfortable laughter ensued.
Later Wednesday afternoon, we went to Lunch in the Park, which is a “feed” for the homeless population of Denver. It allows Christ in the City missionaries and mission troops to reconnect with our homeless friends that we had previously made as well as others that we were meeting for the first time. We were given the opportunity to engage in conversation with our friends while serving them a meal.
Allison: At Lunch in the Park, I spoke to two older men and friends, Bart and Steve. They emphasized the ungratefulness that many privileged people face. Despite the limitless opportunities that numerous families are given, we still find ways to complain about the small belongings that we lack. Steve has been living on the streets of Denver for 34 years, which has given him such great insights on the selfishness frequently exhibited by U.S. citizens. In our group discussions following the street walks, we talked about the difference between fulfilling physical and spiritual needs of our homeless friends. We are enabled to assist in initially providing physical needs (food, drink, clothing) to an extent, as it is often necessary before meeting other needs. We were made aware of our homeless friends’ need for relationships with others and a search for a deeper truth.
Rose: I spoke to Mark, Sam, and Frank and learned quite a bit about each of their lives. Mark spoke about how he’d moved around the US quite a bit and how he really fell in love with Denver, he and I became fast friends and he asked if he would see me at the feed next week and I had to sadly decline. Frank gave me insight on how suffering is good for people so that they don’t get caught up in material things. He and I spoke about Jesus and how His love is all we need, and we can get closer to him by serving others. Sam and I spoke about his life and how he loved Denver and his previous profession as a set designer and costumer, which is something I related to having a slight background in technical theater, and it was amazing to see his face light up, because someone was talking to him. You could tell by his eyes that not many people had spoken to him recently, but he had the most gentle eyes I have ever seen on a person. It was amazing to be able to connect with these men today, as well as serving those who I did not get to meet by name, but have a shared love for.
Today has been quite the swirl of emotions and experiences. Yesterday’s street walk was pretty slow, the wind drove our friends off of the street so we were not able to have many conversations. That was not the case today. Emma led my group on a walk through Capitol North and we must have had at least eight conversations. The most surprising aspect was the spectrum of homelessness that we experienced. I came into this trip with an ill-founded, preconceived notion that homelessness was stationary, and that most of them were put into their situations based on self-inflicted vices. As it turns out this could not be further from the truth. Many of these individuals were forced to the streets as a result of unavoidable circumstances. One of the most insightful conversations was with a man named Zachary. To give a quick overview: he has three college degrees, a passion for invention and a serious heroin habit. I was amazed that this man could be so intelligent and so cognizant of his addiction, but still be so powerless towards making a change. As we came to find out, his mother had also been a heroin addict, making him very predisposed to follow in her footsteps. Ultimately, I realized that there was nothing of physical or financial nature which would lead to his change. The only way that I could impact his life was though relationship and prayer. This realization was exceptionally difficult for me to come to grips with.
One of the primary themes today (and for this whole trip) has been the healing power of relationships. It reminds me of the old adage of giving a man a fish. To give a friend on the street a dollar may help get them through the day, but developing a real relationship can change someone’s life. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. It takes time and patience to develop these relationships, and sometimes they do not actually result in change. Claire told me the story of a young homeless who was contemplating terminating her pregnancy. The missionaries spent months trying to convince her otherwise and helping her in every possible way. Ultimately, despite their best efforts the woman still chose an abortion. This story really opened my eyes to the fortitude and faith the missionaries possess. Instances like these are why we must spend so much time in prayer asking for strength and guidance.
Perhaps my greatest epiphany was that loneliness and lack of relationship does not just impact the homeless, it is an epidemic which ravages even the most well off in our society. During the talk on community today, one of the missionaries shared a quote from Mother Theresa which said that loneliness is the greatest form of poverty in western society. This made me realize that while I may not have the opportunity to work with the homeless on a daily basis, there are those who I come into contact with regularly who are struggling with an equally real form of poverty. I only hope that I can come back from this trip and live my life in a way which is representative of this realization.
In short, this experience has been amazing thus far. I look forward to the remainder to the week!
As I write this post, I am listening to the missionaries practice singing for Karaoke tonight. The best part, is that they are singing Hamilton, which makes me love this trip even more! Since we walked into the doors of Christ in the City, we have been welcomed by strangers from Nebraska, Pittsburg, Florida, Texas, and many other states. It is through their presence and the events of today that I think Tuesday has taught me about vulnerability and the need to waste time with others.
I woke up this morning ready to participate in making breakfast. Bright and early, we started fixing food for the masses. It was nerve racking knowing that I am not the best cook (I have burnt chocolate chips in the microwave). However, these people all trusted in me with making a meal. I was not alone and as we jammed to music, it was easy to open up and try new things. Need me to cook hash browns? Sure. Need me to grate the potatoes. Alright. Need me to wash dishes? I got that! It was easy to be vulnerable and not have to worry about messing up or making a mistake. With the schedule of waking up early and fixing a meal for 70 plus people, I definitely was pulled out of my comfort zone.
After mass, we prepared for street ministry. I was with Madeline who introduced us to all her friends. However, as we walked through the library everyone was apparently out and about soaking in the sun. Denver is known as having at least 300 days of sunshine (don’t quote me on that), and sure did we get sunshine today! After a blustering first day of street ministry, there were many new friends to meet on the streets. The one that stuck with me the most today was Mike. Mike was an older gentleman who had a great relationship with another man on the streets. They even called themselves brothers. After a disappointing walk through the library, these men made our days bright and shared their story. Mike has three daughters that he put through college even though he was now broke due to the expense of tuition. He felt that this sacrifice was necessary and he talks highly with pure fatherly proudness in his eyes. Unfortunately, Mike’s wife died about six years ago from cancer, and for anyone who has lost someone, they can understand his pain. As he told his story, he teared up, warning myself and the others that we needed to be careful when it comes to cancer. He still tries to support the cancer research foundation through donations whenever he can. It was his tears that hit me. This man, who I did not know before today, was completely and willingly vulnerable with us. As I look back, there are times that I was never vulnerable with my own friends. I learned a lot from Mike and his vulnerability.
We also had a community building talk today. To build a community, we must get to know one another, and a way to do this is through wasting time together. When it comes to my life, I sometimes lack in this. As I look forward to going off to graduate school, I am also aware of the little, but precious time I have to get to know others and build relationships. Even today, as I tried to get a little bit of study time, there was always a new person, whether missionary, Carroll student, or a student from one of the other schools, who interrupted me (thank goodness!) and forced me to “waste time” with them. I am thankful for the interruptions and the push to not always being concerned with the future.
I meant to not write a novel, but oh well! It is only Tuesday, and with tired eyes and physical exhaustion setting in, I am excited for the days to come. Be vulnerable, uncomfortable, and waste time together!
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,
By: Anna, Andrew, and Bret
Hey y’all. Today started off a little rough, I was super tired after four full days of adventure and friendly conversation, so I mobbed into morning prayer a little late (at least I made it). After prayer, instead of having mass, we ate a quick breakfast and headed out for street ministry. My group went to Speer Blvd. and began our time at Father Woody’s day shelter. Woody’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner to our friends experiencing homelessness and informs them about events where they can receive other services. Outside of Woody’s I had a brief conversation with Country, who showed me his sick bike he had built from the ground up with parts he had found himself, but he rode off so he could grab his friend and come back to get food. Inside I met Terry and a woman whose name I could not hear. I was jealous of the woman because she had driven trucks for years and had traveled all over the country, unlike myself, but of all the states she had seen Montana was her favorite, just like myself. After meeting with a few more folks and having a wonderful meal, our group decided to head to a nearby park.
Once we entered the park we split up. Deidre and I encountered a man named Chuck. He was new to town, had only been homeless for a few years, and was very new to the Denver area. We offered him a sack lunch we received from the people at Woody’s and the look on his face was unbelievable. It was easy to see Chuck had been drinking by the way he talked and the half empty vodka bottle sitting next to him, but something about my conversation with him was more real than any of the other friends I had met this week. I could easily see myself reflected in the stories he was telling us. Like many, Chuck had regrets and it was clear his past choices were weighing him down. He was so lost and confused about where he was and how he ended up in such a state. We told him about lunch in the park and about Woody’s; I will never forget the way his face lit up. He was to taken back that we wanted to help him out and better his situation because he was used to people walking by and not even acknowledging him. It broke my heart that a group of kids from Montana had to travel eleven hours to make this man feel like a human who mattered.
As much sadness and regret as there are in the streets of Denver, one would be surprised by the amount of joy. Many of these people have the opportunities to work and make money but value their freedom too much to follow through on their work. It is not the case with everyone, that is obvious, but many of the people I encountered on previous days especially my friend Paul believed God was on their side and had put them exactly where He thought they were needed the most.
I cannot believe today is Friday already. I would love to stay here, but I am also ready to return home (plus I paid too much to Carroll to miss too much school). I have made so many amazing bonds with other Carroll students, with people from the other groups at Christ in the City, and especially with my friends in the street. I will never forget the feelings, friendships, and good times shared on this trip. Christ in the City has truly changed my life.
Wow. What an incredible journey this week has been. Today I was doing street ministry in the Capitol Hill area. I had the pleasure of talking to so many wonderful friends on the streets. There was one friend, Brent, that I had met previously on Tuesday. He is a friend of Christ in the City. Him and his other friends hang out on the same street every day. I loved being able to see him again and talk to him even more. Today we ended up falling into discussion about God. Brent started asking me where I saw God in the world, where I saw Jesus, and what I feel I was made for. I answered these questions without thinking too hard about them, but then Brent told me his answers. He said that he finds God in his heart, that he dwells in him. He said he feels that his purpose is to make people smile and laugh (he certainly succeeds in that). As I left the streets today I had to choke back my tears. These people have become my friends.
I have been able to see my own wounds in the wounds of my friends and they have brought me immense healing. Their strength astounds me and their happiness lights up my life, but walking with them in their suffering shows me the true meaning of Christ in the City’s motto, “Love until it hurts.” This comes from a quote of Mother Teresa that says, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” This is one of the sayings that helped me define and deal with my week here. Not only did I experience this love, but if there wasn’t this quote to explain it then I would have been incredibly lost. I hate the fact that I am having to pack up and leave all of my new friends on the street tomorrow. These new friends of mine are incredibly beautiful. They have brought me to an encounter with the Crucified Lord. His people are beautiful and there is no other way that I would have rather spent my spring break then encountering his people on the streets.
One of the missionaries, Dillon, asked us where we saw Christ this week. To be honest I was beyond stumped at first. I had seen Christ everywhere and at the same time nowhere. This week was incredibly hard for me as I felt as if I had been kicked on my butt repeatedly with the outright dehumanization that my friends on the streets had experienced. I suffered with them. I loved until it hurt. I sat in adoration with this question and I realized that I saw Christ in and through the kinship of his people. I saw him through every experience I had. There is no definitive moment that I can think of where Jesus jumped out at me making his presence abundantly known. He was present throughout my encounters. He was with me as I learned how to love his people. As we head out tomorrow I am sad to leave my friends on the streets, but I know I can carry them with me and be with them through prayer.
Andrew M Roozen
So, first of all, I am sorry for making such a promising photo look so bad. Only Andrew can make a photo with two beauty’s look awful. So, I apologize to Anna and Bret. Now to the week. Since I am the last one who will be blogging for Headlights Denver I’ll try and put my week into words. When I first signed up on headlights (due to an extremely smart person I talked with about) I was dead set on Chicago, but the Lord had called me to Denver. All I have to say is the Lord knows more than I do. This week was a true blessing. It all started at 5 am on Sunday when I got out of my bed packed and left to get gas station coffee. When we left, we need gas and leave it to Andrew to mess up opening a gas tank. The trip over was beautiful. Seeing what God created not only in Montana but also in Wyoming and Colorado. When we arrive at CIC we all had one thing on our minds. FOOD!! The next day was filled with training and trying to get an idea of how to approach and talk with our future friends. That afternoon, we set out. Now, you are all probably thinking that Andrew can never shut up, I am always talking and sometime talk way too much. This may come as a shock to a lot of people that I was really hesitant to go and talk. Finally, something that has the ability to shut Andrew up. But to my parents distained that did not last long. The next day I went to a food line that has been a thing for over a hundred years at a local church. (Churches in Denver are beautiful) At this line I met Paul and his dog Belle. Paul was a true American Hero. Served in Vietnam from 1963 to 1970 on the USS Coral Sea. Paul left the Navy and entered school in California where he graduated from undergrad and graduated from Stanford graduate school in English. This was the first places where I truly saw what God was all about. Paul was 100 percent happy. He told me he does not have any bitterness because he is a part of Gods plan and he trust that God does everting for a reason. WOW. He has nothing but the stuff on his back and he is a happy with no complaints. Stop reading for a second and ask yourself if you are 100 percent happy?? With what is going on back home for me, seeing what material things can do to people this really struck me to my core. I was amazed that a vet, college grad, and grad school grad who is living on the streets can be 100 percent happy. For it show that you don’t need everything we think we need to be happy and that Gods plans will show you the way to glory.
The next day was a day full of ironies. We had lunch in the park where CIC goes and feeds anyone who is there. Another thing that amazed me was how GREATFUL these people are. So, this was the International Day of Women and there was a protest at the State Capital overlooking the park were the food was being served. Now, I don’t want to be hard or mean about this day for women but it struck me that a far greater unjust was how we as people treat the poor. My heart was torn because I feel so strongly about equality but the Lord was telling me through these people that while being informed about all this is nice the true measure of my soul is how I have treated the poor. I came into this ignoring the poor and thinking that they are lazy, drunks, and uneducated. Boy, was I wrong. These people are just as much human as you or I are. We are all created in God’s hands and sent out to do his work. I truly open my eyes about the injustice that our countries have for the poor.
After a long few days of great work we got a day off. We went for a hike with the entire squad of 30 or so people. The guy who lead the hike as awesome. He loved to talk about baseball. So, me and him jabber on about the M’s and the Rockies and games we saw and didn’t see. After the hike, we went and visits our old Carroll alumni and the Seminary. This place, you could just feel the Holy Spirit and God’s love everywhere you went. The chapel was full of color, the statues of Mary and Joseph popped with color. After about 1000 photos that I took we decided that we should invade a Mexican restaurant with our old Campus Ministry friend, the one and only Katy Murray. So, funny story that last time I saw her I told her for the second time was leaving Carrol for a second time. Turns out the good Lord had other plans. It was a blessing to see Katy again, we talked about how disappointed we were with our WSU Cougars (Go Cougs) and the many different protest that Denver had.
The last day is today and Friday. WOW a week flew by like Forrest Gump running like the wind. This is where this experience really hit me. Another man name Paul was sitting in the park when Abra Casey, Pablo and I walked up started to talk with him. We talked for 2.5 hours. We covered a lot of stuff. The most striking thing that was said that he knew for sure that there was a God. Abra, being the thinker and the smart one of the group ask “Well how do you know?” Paul replied with five or six different near death experience he had that made his see how GOD works. Since its late and this story is better told in person I want to end you with the last thing he said that made my day and I think Abra’s as well. Paul said “thank you guys for doing things. I will never forget you”. At that point, I wanted to cry because I saw how powerful God is.
Andrew M Roozen
Gavin and Abra
Hey guys! Today was a definite change of pace from the previous three. Sort of like a sequel that goes in a totally different direction from the previous movies. The Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull of the trip, if you will. Whereas the week up to today was mainly composed of activities centered around interacting with the homeless friends of Denver, today was mainly focused on fun experiences and camaraderie with the Carroll squad. The day started out in the same way as always: sharing a groggy stare of solidarity with Ben Dulaney in despair of the fact that our alarm had once again gone off at 6:15. After stumbling down to morning prayer, we once again attended mass with the nuns down the street. The highlights of the mass included sharing the Eucharist with friends and watching Andrew Roozen suffer a crash landing into an unoccupied pew due to an unfortunately-placed kneeler pad. After returning to CIC Headquarters, enjoying some breakfast, and watching Abra Casey learn how to throw a football for the first time at 19 years old, we headed out for a hike in Pence Park. We snapped a picture of the entire Carroll team (along with some dude named from Florida named Tarkan, who was apparently confused about the concept of the picture). The hike was beautiful, and we got to eat a quick lunch at the top with a view of Denver in the distance. Once we made it back to CIC, we shared a much-needed group nap and made our way St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.
Hey fam! For the record, I’m pretty sure Gav didn’t actually get out of bed before 6:15, I’ve thrown a football before today, and the “group nap” was Gavin falling asleep on the couch while the rest of us hung out and enjoyed one another’s company.
Anyway- the seminary. It was incredible.
We were greeted upon arrival by Carroll’s own Ned Scheidecker (class of 2011). He was a killer tour guide and explained the history of the seminary, the symbolism in the architecture, and the importance of just about everything in the absolutely beautiful Christ the King chapel. Not only did we get to spend time with Ned, but we were also joined by alumni Tyler Frohlich, Matthew Christiaens, and Codi Krueger. Our time with the Carroll seminarians was short, but we spent the better part of the afternoon walking around St. John Vianney’s and hearing about all the fun facts Ned could share.
We finished our tour and started to head out right around rush hour, so it was pretty clear that if we were going to eat, we needed to find a place close by and ready to seat 18 hangry people. The options were slim. Somehow, we found the equivalent to a Mexican Applebee’s (Gavin wanted to call it Albertobee’s), and it wasn’t long before we were seated, served, and well fed. By far the highlight from dinner was getting to meet us with previous campus minister Katie Murray who currently works in the Denver with The Augustine Institute. Most of us haven’t seen Katie since she left last January, so all of us who knew her were beyond excited to see her again.
After dinner, we loaded up in our three soccer mom cars once again and returned to headquarters just long enough to throw on sweatshirts and grab a couple of bucks so that we could turn around and walk to an awesome little ice cream shop half a mile away. Little Man’s Ice cream served us well with delicious flavors such as purple cow, salted caramel peanut butter cup, earl grey, vegan rocky road, and a strawberry molasses sorbet. Needless to say, there was a flavor for everyone and the whole trip was entirely successful.
The day in its entirety was perfect for both fellowship and faith. It was a day to enjoy the city of Denver and get recharged for a long day tomorrow full of serving and visiting with the friends we’ve been meeting on the streets.
Oh hey PS we collaborated to make a killer comic.
(joke by Gav and sketch by Abe) here you go:
By: Simi & Rose
Hey all, this is Simi and Rose and we’re going to share our journey with you! After sleeping for a couple or so hours (Denver is too fun to sleep in for), we woke up bright and early for morning prayer with a beautiful service at mass. After that, we had a quick breakfast with incredible people and prepped for “Lunch in the Park.” This event took place at Capitol Hill where dozens of homeless came and visited with us for the afternoon, while having a nice lunch provided by Christ in the City. We both helped with different events for the lunch and had our own little blessings along the way. Afterwards, we had a meaningful conversation about what is truly means to be “happy,” so we advise you to ponder a bit on that word. What does happiness mean to you? Then, we did street ministry at night which was pretty exciting for some of us. Here’s a taste of our experiences today—
Simi: Heyyy everyone! Today started off pretty awesome for me with morning prayer and mass at this beautiful cathedral with nuns. One of the many amazing things about this headlights trip is that we experience prayer in so many different ways. From just thinking about all our blessings throughout this trip, to praying in the chapel—it’s all a form of prayer. One of my biggest blessings this trip has been being able to serve others in the most sincere way, which is establishing a deep, spiritual human connection. Today, I realized that establishing this type of connection isn’t so difficult as it may seem to be. For example, “Lunch in the Park” allowed me to meet a new person every few minutes which was a blessing. I met a woman named Teevey who had such a blossoming, high spirit who was always smiling, despite all the hardships and difficulties in life she faced. These little moments can amount to even deeper connections. It was an afternoon to remember for sure. Moving onto night ministry, one word: A D V E N T U R E. Diving in a little deeper, my group and I ran into a homeless friend of mine again that I saw on the streets two days ago. His name was Neil (“Sloth”). When I saw him, he was under the influence of alcohol, weed and many other drugs, combined. Unfortunately, he was not able to hold a solid conversation. Later on, we ran into this girl that was about 19 years old and was homeless with barely any food supplies and was enthusiastic to see we had snacks for her if she wanted any. Soon enough, “Sloth” came down the street, all drugged up, and engaged in irritable behavior which annoyed the girl and her boyfriend—which resulted in a fight. For someone who has never seen a fight like this, abrupt out of nowhere on the street, it was quite interesting to see how the groups of homeless people tried to deal with people they did not like. It turns out that the homeless have their own system of who can hang with them and who cannot—similar to how we choose to associate ourselves with certain people in our lives. All in all, this trip has provided me with so much knowledge on people, prayer and the endless possibilities of how we can help lift each other by serving. I hope everyone has an opportunity in their lifetime to go on a service trip as astounding as this one.
Rose: Hola amigos! My day was started by T-swizzle’s “Our Song” blasting in the stage area where we were sleeping. After a groggy but faith filled morning prayer we marched down the block to a nearby church and gained the ‘spiritual nutrients’ needed for the day. When I arrived to the Lunch in the Park I was greeted by a cordial shirtless man who helped to unload the car, sadly I forgot to ask him what his name was. After we, as well as all the other people, set up the lunch our friends got in line for a delectable hot meal of mac n cheese, salad (which was not the didn’t know what to do till a mission worker told me to just go socialize. I LOVE socializing so I was very excited to go make new buddies! Tio Willy and Venessa were the first people that I got to speak to. Much like me, Tio Willy has many siblings and loved telling me about his life growing up! Venessa told me multiple times to trust in God as the “Only man you can ALWAYS trust”. They were so sweet and Tio Willy blessed me before they left. After I left I was supposed to collect the trash but I got distracted by Mark’s shiny purple shoes! I couldn’t just walk by so I asked him about them and found out that he was such an incredible man! He is a heroin addict, a loving father, and an eager husband. He wishes more than anything to get off of heroin so that he can see his two babies grow and be there for them as well as win back his wife. He had love pouring out of his heart and was holding tight to God! I was so moved by his faith and Agape love! Also, I met Robert AGAIN! He is genuinely my friend, and he is going to teach me street smarts next time I come! God bless, America!
Greetings! #Day 2 – This is Ben and Kelsey blogging again and this time we are in Denver (not Chicago)! Today started with Mass and immediately going straight into street ministry for the morning. After lunch, we had an in depth talk about prayer, followed by some debriefing of the street ministry, free time (a.k.a shower time because when you sleep with 40 other people it’s a necessity), a delicious Ritz cracker and chicken casserole dinner (so much better that it sounds) and an epic game of Dodge Sock (Dodgeball game with sock balls – no money = no actual balls). We finished the day with prayer as a community with Christ in the City!
In the Eyes of Our Friends
Year two at CIC (Christ in The City) and things are still cray cray in Denva! The good kind of cray!! Full of the holy spirit kind of cray!! It’s fair to say that at this point in my service immersion experiences “the uncomfortable” is no stranger. It’s less about learning how to “push against my comfort zone” and going even more deeper in leaning into the shoes of “the other”. What this means for me is truly entering into the reality of are friends on the street, learning how to take on their realities with love through listening and conversation. As they talk about their lives (or don’t talk about anything) I learn so much about the story they are trying to tell in their action and words… if people are willing to stop, listen, and recognize they have a story at all.
Today we walked around Capitol Hill in the middle of downtown Denver. As we started walking in our street ministry route, Dillion and I walking in front of the group both made quick eye contact with a man who was sitting alone. This connection drew us in and we approached him to start a conversation. As we introduced ourselves he stood up and became more engaged. We quickly learned that he was from Ethiopia, his accent was thick and it was obvious that our conversation might be a little challenging, to say the least. He talked to us about his life, about his family back home. He talked about love continuously throughout our conversation and how he longs to have healthy relationships. He also talked about the loss of all his teeth and how he would smile if he had dentures so he could share more love. Taryn from our group then told him “Well, you smile with your eyes!”… As cliché as this might sound, it was so true with this man. This man, who society would think would be so miserable, and unhappy, and not full of life… was full of more life than ever expected.
Even though for half of the conversation we could not fully understand what he was saying at all, what Taryn said was so true. It didn’t matter that we had a little bit of a language barrier, it didn’t matter that I had to strain to listen to this man speak – his eyes told the whole story. His eyes smiled and completely captivated you while speaking. When you looked into this man’s eyes you knew that God was there. There was no doubt in my bones that I was staring into the eyes of Christ. And as he looked back at each of us, it was this moving experience, almost to tears. The joy and love that radiated out from just his eyes as he spoke about his life, it challenged me to want to examine my “inner tabernacle”. The eyes are like windows to the soul, even though we struggled to hear through words, everything was communicated through his eyes and how powerful that gaze of love can be in both connecting and challenging those who are beholding the gaze!
Dodge sock, rosaries, late night dance parties and prayer have all been major parts of this week so far, but the moment that I will never forget was the first time I engaged with the homeless by myself. Standing alone, my group engaged in other conversations, I quickly realized that the hardest part of meeting with the homeless was the first step. I would have to engage with people that live in a totally different reality from my own. I would have to force myself to sit amongst prostitutes, alcoholics and drug addicts tweaked out on meth or cocaine. These people could be dangerous and seek only to manipulate me, but there was a reason that I was here. There was a reason for God to put me on this last-minute trip to Denver, Colorado and to meet with these people in their reality. I sat down at a table and tried to introduce myself. It felt awkward. Why on earth would these people want to talk to me? I sat before them in a nice winter jacket, a nice haircut and an unblemished face. Yet they engaged. Soon after introducing myself these people sought me out to engage in conversation. We talked about everything from why there are homeless in Denver to stories about our lives. One guy even told me that he did cocaine with Robin Williams in 2003. Was he telling the truth? Maybe. Was it an interesting story? No doubt. Meeting these people in their own world is not just eye opening, but has changed my perspective on the homeless. These people become lonely no different than we do. Much of what they seek is to be acknowledged and accepted. If we can give them the dignity they deserve we can see how little we truly differ from them.
Today was our first day here in Denver! We’re staying with a missionary group called Christ in the City. We woke up early and had morning prayer together in the chapel. Then we all carpooled over to St. Catherine of Sienna Church for Mass. It was great to be able to pray together and center our day around Jesus.
After a few talks and some training on ministry with Christ in the City, we got to go on our first street walk of the week! Christ in the City’s mission is to walk around and talk to people who live on the streets, restoring their dignity. A simple conversation or smile can go a long way for people who are often neglected and overlooked.
Joc’s experience: While walking 16th street mall in downtown Denver, we encountered a young man named Austin. After talking with him for a little, he began to open up and share some personal stories from his past with us. The most impactful moment talking with Austin was when he expressed his gratitude for life and for the people who stopped to talk to him. He told us it was nice to have conversation with others and to be the center of attention instead of laughed at, ignored, or forgotten which commonly happens. This was my first experience walking the streets and really talking to and interacting with people I normally wouldn’t. It was great to have the opportunity to talk to others and be able to pray with people.
Sav’s experience: This is my second time coming for spring break to work with Christ in the City. I got assigned to walk around Capitol Hill. Within three feet of walking down the street, our group was approached by a man named Randy. He was asking where the nearest Wendy’s was. We got to talking and he started opening up about his current situation and some of his memories from the past. He said he lost his wife and that is one of the reasons he is not close to Christ right now. When we asked what made him smile and brought joy to his day, he couldn’t think of anything. It was pretty chilly outside so we all walked over to McDonalds together. Randy bought himself something to eat and also bought our group leader a large coffee. This shows how giving this man was even though he had so little. Near the end of our conversation, we were all laughing together. Randy told us that he thought of something that made him smile. He said that seeing us and knowing the work that we do helping others, made him happy.
Today’s homily was the perfect beginning of our service this week. Matthew 25 says, “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” We were able to see Jesus in everyone we encountered on the streets today. We are both excited to continue meeting new people and to learn how to truly love until it hurts.
Peace and love,
The flock of Sigls
(Savanna and Jocelyn)
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.