Thousands of fans stream toward Coors Field for a Colorado Rockies baseball game on this Saturday night in downtown Denver. I make my way through the crowd to the corner of 16th Street Mall (a mile-long pedestrian walkway with shops and cafés) and Arapahoe Street, four blocks from Coors Field, where most visitors would love to spend an evening enjoying Italian cuisine or sipping coffee.
Less than 50 yards away are nearly 50 street kids who hang out here. Some on skateboards attempt tricks on various steps, handrails and curbs. Nearly all of the youth know each other, but pockets of closer friendships exist within the group.
They all know Doyle Robinson, an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary, and seem to have let him into their world. Several youth give Robinson a hug as we arrive downtown. Nearly five years ago, Robinson began ministering to these Denver teens and college-age adults by giving out socks, drinks or whatever snacks he had from his minivan.
From the darkness of his troubled adolescence in Arkansas, Doyle Robinson found the light: He would draw upon his own pain to help troubled teens. From his early days handing out tube socks to homeless kids on the 16th Street Mall, Robinson’s vision has grown to include Sox Place, a converted downtown auto shop that’s now Denver’s only daytime drop-in youth center, where kids can find a warm bowl of soup, a quiet place to crash, easy camaraderie and the occasional punk concert. And if they’re seeking spiritual guidance, Robinson — an ordained minister with the Assembly of God — can offer that, too. But he prefers action to words, showing the power of faith rather than preaching it.
He was terrified. At any moment they could leap forward, press a screwdriver to his throat and mug him — in front of God and the whole world. In fact, the way they were glowering at him, they could do much worse.
“Hi,” Doyle Robinson offered. “How you doin’?”