We departed Helena at approximately 6:00am, with a prayer to embrace the immersion to which we were going to be experiencing. We arrived earlier than expected at 9:00am, we then visited the mission and had the opportunity to meet with the De La Salle Blackfeet School president, Brother Dale. Then the group arrived at mass wherein Fr Ed Kohler was the celebrant. There we instantly were exposed to the inimitable love of the Blackfeet people who said a gracious blessing over us and welcomed us with open and humble hearts. Seeing the sacrificial love of Christ so vividly in their lives made us feel welcome to Browning. Such a welcome also enabled us to witness and correct some collective non-native perspectives on the residents of Browning in that they are a loving and joyous people who are welcome to visitors of good will. After some bonding over submarine sandwiches we ventured to the school and received informative presentations and an orientation. After getting our groceries we were met with more welcoming locals in the parking lot who expressed gracious words for our being here. Later at the mission, we were sullen to have learned that the Buffalo Jump that we usually tour had been closed due to recent desecration from a past immersion school, so we did some contemplative outdoor time at the Two Medicine River which runs along the mission property in lieu of the usual outing. Brother Dale, Sister Pat, other school personnel, and other visiting students all hosted us for a lovely dinner of fellowship. We needed the night with a lighthearted dancing competition and evening prayer, wherein we reflected on how we could be open to God’s will and serve humbly and effectively for the coming school week for which we are every excited.
Conor A. Coutts
Wednesday March 8, 2017
Happy International Women’s day!
Wednesday morning we woke up refreshed and ready to go. We piled in the car heading toward the one and only Homeboy industries. If you are unfamiliar with Homeboy industries, it’s an organization started by Father Greg Boyle. They hire specifically those who have had a criminal record and are emerced in the gang culture. When we arrived, we had some time before our tour so we sat and enjoyed some delicious coffee and pastries at Homeboy bakery. Soon after, it was time for the thought of the day. Father Greg Boyle made some announcements and then handed the microphone off to Brittany to talk about international women’s day. Some of the women at Homeboy shared a story of a women in their life who they look up to. From there, Carlos and Sam gave us a short testimony of their life prior to Homeboy industries and how grateful they are to be working for such a great company. Carlos explained how he was involved in a gang and sold drugs and now he works for Homeboy with ex-gang members from rival gangs and on his way to getting a college degree. As they shared we continued on their tour around the facility explaining everything that they offer to the Homeboy’s and Homegirl’s. We visited the office where they remove tattoo’s.
For lunch we walked over to the Homegirl Café where you are served a delicious brunch with a side of sass. We enjoyed a delicious meal ranging from chillataquila to pancakes.
When we got back from the screen printing company, it was nap/reflection time in the courtyard.
Mikayla and Rachel
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!
Better late than ever we have arrived! East L.A. we love your culture and community, but we can do without the California traffic! We started our journey with authentic Mexican food at Yeya’s (can only be said with a sassy Ya-Ya!). Right off the bat we immersed ourselves immediately into the culture and joined our host families for the very first night! Each family took in 2-4 of us Carroll kids and provided shelter, food, and a loving Latino environment. Some of us were welcomed into the household with Arroz Con Leche, which is a rice milk hot drink/pudding, some went shopping, others watched movies, but one thing in common between each household was that there was conversation. The language barrier was very real. However; it forced us to realize that being communion with others does not necessarily require in depth conversation. There was a realization of appreciation for one’s physical presence and efforts to laugh and translate. Despite having a language barrier, the emotions of excitement, willingness, and genuine kindness were very apparent between us and our host families.
Our first full day in L.A. was spent at Delores Mission School. The children began their day in prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, reflections of the weekend, and a schedule for the week. Each of us were joined a classroom, and we spent half of the day learning with students and assisting the teachers. Papers were graded, math problems were solved, reading took place, and of course there was recess (still our favorite subject). Most of us echoed the excitement and strange reality to time travel back to elementary school and junior high. Also, a great talk with Vice President Melissa brought to our attention some of the struggles that she sees throughout the school and community. The education of these children is effected by home environment, gang violence, and the uncertainty of their futures. Melissa displayed compassion and brought wisdom to our conversation. Her goal to educate and create strong community members is lived through the teachers at the school. Melissa helped shed light on the challenges the children face and explained how strongly Delores Mission is involved in these children’s lives. For example, the teachers will walk the children home if a parent is unable to or if it unsafe for the child to walk alone.
After school we served with Impacto, which is an afterschool program offered for the children at Delores Mission. We joined in snack time, helped the kids finish homework, played games outside until the sun went down. Many of us appreciated being kids again and found that a lot of relationships can be built around good, clean fun!
After a full day with the kiddos, we broke off and went to our host families. Each family had prepared a meal for each of us. Tostadas, taquitos, enchiladas, and pupusa have been engraved into our daily diets and there is no complaining here! Each family displayed such generosity, excitement, and joy to share a meal with us and matched our level of appreciation. It is a rare occasion that we are welcomed into a strangers home with such hospitality and grace. It is a blessing that these four families said yes to expanding their family time and we are so very grateful for their actions.
Molly-Kate and Katie
Saturday Morning. An early wake up. So early, that many members were disoriented. Without the sun being up, the phone tree wasn’t able to grow and metaphorically photosynthesize. At 5:30 however, other headlighteers picked up the slack and began making calls of their own with varying levels of joy ranging from songs to confusion to apologies. All in all, everyone was excited and raring to go. The gang clambered into the cars. Six in one and six in the other. Sleep crept back in on some members almost immediately, and sickness overtook others, but as we breathed in the Idaho air, the whole crew was ready. In both “mom rockets” a game of questions was held. Everyone was asked their favorite superpower, who their confirmation sponsor would be if it could only be a member of the current Carroll student body, the best conversation they’d had this week and why, what their dream job would be, what would they do if money wasn’t an issue, how they’d met each person in the car, and many more. For many of these questions, there was a silence that filled the car. Each person had to think and was forced to examine just what these individual questions meant to them as we broached these subjects of personal faith and hopes and dreams. How God is active in our lives and what does he want from us. Are we being called down the right path and with the right people and how would we know. As the questions and answers flowed back and forth, the conversation heated up, and the bonding tightened. The jams were cranked and “Polaroid” by Imagine Dragons emerged as the unofficial theme song of the trip. Breakfast consisted largely of the numerous snacks in the cars and lunch was Jimmy Johns in Ogden, Utah. We enjoyed the fabulous food and people of Ogden before hitting the road and shuffling the cars once again. We met up with a beautiful family of two brothers and their kids and wives. They had so much love within them. Even the little ones who couldn’t speak. They touched us to a point that for many of us later that night, they were the high point of our long car ride. We really felt blessed to be around them and share our meal with them.
We hit the grand state of Utah late in the day. Known for its Mormons, beehives, and Jazz. We showed up to mass five minutes before starting. The perfect amount of time for every vanmate to relieve themselves in the Parish bathrooms. The mass and sunset upon conclusion were both absolutely gorgeous. If there was a moment for many of us where we saw God that day, it was in that moment. The mass was done flawlessly with the priest bringing up a killer Lenten homily, and the parishioners being so nice to us and offering us books to take with us from their tiny tow. When we left the church is when we saw it. A gorgeous array of reds and oranges splayed across the sky and each cloud sprayed with bright pink hues. The peace and feeling of wonder at the grandeur of God’s goodness that many of us felt in that moment was one many of us wouldn’t forget. We made our way to the local shopping mart and happened upon some chicken and pasta with some salad fixings for our dinner in Bryan Head. Bryan Head was a beautiful ski resort tucked into the side of a mountain with a spacious condo with too many TVs. The meal was incredible with very touching centerpieces and very lively “happys and crappys”. These happys and their following crappys really touched on the day for us and the moments we shared. It allowed us to live in solidarity with each other. Learning what each of the people on the trip valued in their day. Where they found joy, and where they moments of desolation. Those who did not cook the dishes, washed them, and those who did cook the dishes, lounged in the living room after dinner. We had our daily recap of where we saw Jesus and readied our bodies for the night and the day ahead. After all, we had gotten lost on our way to our room. Who knew what misadventures tomorrow might hold? And what did today really mean for us? For most, it was an excellent beginning to our trip, an affirmation that we’d made the right choice in coming, and a hint at what God had in store for us in the future.
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 roar of 5:30 am alarms and the painful chill of negative 28 degrees greeted us on day four in Browning. However, despite the cold or the temptation of “just 5 more minutes” we were eager to return to the school. The highlights- Mountains and Rap.
After a fierce game of basketball and another brutal loss for us immersion students, we dispersed to our classes. While Sav and Krista took on 4th, Courtenay and Connor joined 5th, and Zef and Sari braved 7th, Alex and I put on our gansta faces as we joined the 6th graders for an epic rap battle. The class was assigned a poetry assignment, where they had to design a rap about their friend using similes and metaphors. However, instead of the typical roasting seen in rap battles, this 6th grade showdown consisted of compliments. The assignment was engaging, genius, and fun……the catch? Alex and I had to perform the example rap for the ENTIRE 6th grade class! Now, let’s make something clear- when the real Slim Shady is asked to stand it ain’t us. However, despite our internal dread to rap to a bunch of 6th graders, we pulled through and the students went wild!! The room filled with Ooooooohhhhhhsss, gasps, and laughs as we “busted” our rhymes. This lyrical performance written by none other than the amazing Dan Thies is as follows:
Fallon: Oki, hola, Ciao and how do you do
I’m loving your red kicks, them’s some sassy shoes
Oh and have I told you, you look nice today
Wearing your khakis and flannel in a classy way
Ya Well you may know this
Many call you the Freshest
And more say you’re the big fish
In this infinite sea
Alex: Oh hey there Ms. Machado
How did I ever not know
That you can make the words flow
Like salmon of Capastrano
And here I stand so humbled by your lyric masterpiece
You’re more talented and kind than our language can unleash
And girl I seen you ball’n
Your shots are always fall’n
Curry and James be call’n
Because they know you bring the heat
After our “attempt” to be the next Chance the Rapper, the students followed suit and went above and beyond. Compliments were thrown, and “mics” were dropped as the students slammed their notebooks to the floor after their epic performances!! I was completely blown away by their talent and as smiles reached ear to ear and laughter filled the air I was reminded that joy can only be received by letting go. This reflection of surrender continued as we left the classrooms and headed towards the mountains.
After hiding for three days behind darkness and cloud cover, the Glacier mountains finally showed their faces and we seized the opportunity. We drove in silence as a row of towering white peaks challenged the sky to our left and an ocean of blues and pinks huddled against a full moon to our right. A winter stillness captivated the vast open as we drove nestled between sky and mountain. Looking back, I can’t help but ponder- how frequently have I been in this situation? Surrounded by beauty, and yet I choose the road. So often, God offers us little sunsets or mountains in our days, our weeks, and our lives and yet, instead of taking the trail less traveled, we choose the road designed by the world; we choose comfort. On “comfort” road, we can safely glance at the plans God placed around us, such as that beautiful sunset, but we choose to keep driving because we fear the unknown. However, after spitting rhymes and beholding God’s beautiful creation, I realized that only by letting go to this “unknown” can joy ever truly be received. Rapping was a huge detour from “My Plan” and way outside my comfort zone, but through my surrender I met joy, laughter, and 11 smiling students eager to learn. Overall, life should be more than just a glance at the mountains, but an adventure through them. Because, in the end, His plan is ALWAYS way more beautiful than we could ever possibly dream.