Anastasis students gets some truly incredible learning experiences. Our students have served at The Crossing Denver Rescue Mission throughout the year and we’ve built a relationship with some of the chaplains who serve and homeless being served by the programs at the Crossing. This week instead of our students making the journey downtown, they came to us. What an awesome thing for those who our kids have served to come and serve/minister to us.
Chaplain Danny took his time to come and give our students some insight into what the program at the Crossing looks like from the inside. While our students have served meals and gotten to know some of the staff and residents, they haven’t really had the opportunity to get the inside track about all that the program entails. Accompanying Chaplain Danny were men who are making their way through the program.
Each of the program participants stood up to share their story and background with our students. They all began the same way, “I’m not really a public speaker…I’m a little nervous.”
I’m here to tell you, whether they know it or not, these men ARE public speakers!
The stories they shared were humbling. I think that as kids who only know life in the upper-middle class suburbs, it can be easy to assume that they are far removed from a life of homelessness. As the stories unfolded, the students became more and more aware of just how delicate the balance really is. That they aren’t nearly as far removed as they might have imagined. We heard from men who had good paying jobs who went from a nice house and family to a life of poverty. We heard stories about men who felt depressed and defeated when they lost their job and turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. We heard from former boxer, DC Barker who was a champion, very successful as an athlete, had traveled all over the world and met all kinds of people, had lots of money, and who had a wife he loved more than life. When his wife died, he fell into a downward spiral that included some drug and alcohol abuse to make him forget what he was missing. We heard from a 23 year old who lived a life very similar to the lives that our students have. He was a student with good grades, a high school athlete, popular, friends with everyone, upper-middle class family, parents in the medical profession. As a sophomore in high school everything changed for him. He wanted to be liked and accepted by everyone and as a result fell in with some kids who influenced him in very negative ways. He owned his part in the decisions but told the kids how hard he found it to stand up and say “no” to whatever poor decision was being made. “I wanted to be liked.” This need for acceptance from everyone led to drug and alcohol abuse and time in jail. He was homeless at 18.
The testimonies from these men was powerful, but the real blessing came in sharing a meal with them. In the casual setting, eating together, the conversation flowed. Laughter was shared, stories passed, words of wisdom offered. Something happens when you break bread together. All pretense fades away and suddenly everyone is on equal ground. DC Barker had the kids in stitches as he told boxing stories, places he has traveled, and sandwiches that Elvis taught him to make. Robert passed on words of wisdom he had recently learned, “instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.” 23 year old Michael talked about his upbringing and encouraged the kids to stay focused and pay attention to those that they surround themselves with.
This is learning that looks a lot like life. This kind of learning changes hearts and attitudes toward others. This kind of learning leads to compassion, understanding, relationship and action. I can’t think of a curriculum company around that can teach what our students learned yesterday.
A few words of reflection from students:
I really enjoyed hearing all of their stories, but I think that Michael’s story impacted me the most. The fact that he was a little younger made him easy to relate to. It really got me thinking when he said that all his trouble started when he started hanging out with the wrong group of friends. This has been on my heart a lot lately, especially going into high school. His story really encourages me to be intentional about hanging out with the right kind of people.
After listening to the stories of Robert, Matthew, Michael, DC, and Danny, I feel a strange peace inside of me. I expected them all to feel sorry for themselves and almost complain about their past life. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome of the discussion. All of them said their stories not with sorrow but almost as if they were talking about a different person, an old them if you will. As DC stated, “the trigger that helped me to go up was my past.” That was really refreshing to hear. Something else that intrigued me was how they were so passionate about their faith. They were constantly relating everything in their life to God. This made their faith look childlike which, in my opinion, is extremely spiritually rewarding. This makes me want my faith to look this way and I know that if I stay focused I, eventually, will.