“You ready?” I asked Ogre.
“Yup,” she replied with a smile on her dirty face. “I only let myself have one drink this morning so I would be sober while I speak.” I could tell she was proud of herself.
“Great! Let’s go!”
We were driving over an hour to introduce some ladies to Sox Place. Ogre had been coming to Sox Place off-and-on for ten years. She is a train rider – a traveler – if this was 100 years ago, she’d be called a hobo – a train hopper. If you’ve never experienced train riders, then, well, let’s just say they are dirty. They usually have mud and soot on their skin to the point that you don’t know if they are tan or just dirty. They smell like a mixture of a boy’s high school locker room after football practice and the bottom of a bar’s dumpster after an especially wild Friday night. And they never wash their clothes because, according to them, the dirt is what is preventing the fabric from completely falling apart. Ogre was no different, and she knew it.
In addition to being a traveler, Ogre proclaims to be a Christian, and I have no reason to doubt her. Sure, she has a problem with alcohol and she swears more than a poorly made R-rated action movie. However, she is constantly trying to live in a way that pleases God, even though she knows she fails in many ways.
So, here we were, on an hour-plus car ride. Train riders may not be pretty to look at, but they have some of the best stories. One in particular stood out to me, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it:
Being a good Southern girl, one Sunday Ogre decided she wanted to step into a church to hear “the Word.” She sat in the back, with her Bible, ready to be fed. But before the sermon even began, a deacon, in all his suit-and-tie glory, came up to Ogre and asked her to leave because she was “too dirty.”
I’ve heard many-a sermon on accepting people in the church and many-a story about how people aren’t, but to hear such a blatant story of unacceptance blew my mind. I was angry. How dare this man – who represented a church, who was supposed to represent Christianity, and, in that way, me, and ultimately represented Christ – show such the opposite of a Christ-like love? I could begin to feel a hatred for this man, whom I had never met.
As that day – and the days after – wore on, Ogre’s story stayed with me. I soon realized (with a nudge from the Holy Spirit, I’m sure) that I had no right to hold a grudge against this man. We all, including me, have Ogres in our lives – those people we’d rather not have in our church. We may not verbally tell them to leave, but we wish they would. And we don’t do anything that would make them think otherwise. Even the disciples had their Ogres.
Think of the Samaritan woman from John 4. She, also, was a dirty woman. She was a Samaritan (think Mudblood), a woman (gasp!), and an adulterer (dirty sinner!). Three strikes of dirtiness. The disciples knew it and wondered why Jesus was even talking to such a woman (v 27). But we all know the end of the story. Because Jesus displayed such compassion toward this woman, the whole town came to him (v 28-30).
Who are the Ogres and Women at the Well in your life? Who are the ones that deserve to be shown Christ-like love even though it is the last thing you want to do?
The young adult with too many body modifications?
The homosexual couple that holds hands on the back pew?
The parents whose children need some discipline?
The teen who wears too-short skirts?
The middle-aged man who wears a three piece suit and thinks everyone else should too?
The little old lady who always complains about the music?
My Ogre is the guy who tells people to leave because they are too dirty. I want to say, “If you don’t show Christ’s love to others, then you don’t deserve to feel Christ’s love through me.”
But, of course, that’s not true. Everyone deserves Christ’s compassionate love. As with the woman at the well, such love may result in remarkable things for the Kingdom!
It was a crisp, cool morning in Boulder, Colorado. I pedaled along the Boulder Creek Trail, soaking in the sights and sounds of an early spring morning. A breeze danced through the bare trees, causing the cracked and weathered branches to gently sway as I pedaled past. The drivetrain on my aluminum road bike hummed quietly as I crossed arched wooden bridges, observing the clear, rippling water beneath me.
I left the trail and rode past Pearl Street, watching as a few pedestrians peered at touristy kitsch through expansive store windows. I rolled into the littered alleyway between Pine and Spruce on Broadway, dismounting my bike as I coasted to a stop outside of the Boulder Carriage House – a tiny homeless day shelter that served the homeless and working poor of the city. I had been volunteering once a week during my free time as a student at CU-Boulder, serving healthy meals and providing necessities to those who needed it most.
Up until this point, I knew next to nothing about the homeless, or even homelessness in general. Like most Americans, I was completely oblivious to the relentless challenges that so many of our brethren face on a daily basis as they struggle to survive, often reiterating extremely narrow-sighted and ignorant stereotypes that far oversimplified the problems of homelessness. Months prior, I had read a book that had completely challenged my way of thinking. It was a little paperback book entitled The Irresistible Revolution. Author Shane Claiborne writes:
“…I think that’s what our world is desperately in need of – lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of the people behind the issues they are concerned about.”
These were the words that urged me to step away from my ignorance and inaction and step into a world that I had never previously dared to enter.
I learned invaluable lessons during the eighteen months that I worked as a volunteer at The Carriage House. I found out that individuals struggling to survive on the outskirts of society could not be condensed into neat little statistics to be analyzed. I met incredible people and heard amazing stories of perseverance and heartbreak, of hope and hopelessness. As I began to build relationships with the poor and marginalized of my city, I began to deeply understand things that I had only previously speculated about, and it broke my heart.
I began to realize how truly broken our world is, and that not one thing, save the Love of our Father, could ever provide a true solution to such a corrupted system.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Now, over two years later, I work for a homeless youth drop-in center where I share life with homeless and at-risk youth on a daily basis. We hear so many horrendously heart-breaking stories from our kids, and it causes me to truly weep over such seemingly irreparable brokenness. But over time, my heart can begin to become calloused because of the number of stories we hear and the incomprehensible magnitude of each one. As someone who works in the fields of non-profit and ministry, I have found that this is an extremely common occurrence. We are often forced to choose to either not let these horrible stories affect us, or to let our hearts break apart countless times each day, forcing us to pick up the pieces at each days’ end.
Over and over again, we are forced to choose to either merely serve the surface-level needs of our youth, such as food, clothing, and housing assistance, or to truly love each of our kids on a deeply spiritual and emotional level, allowing ourselves to be completely broken and vulnerable. Henri Nouwen describes it best:
“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
Compassion calls us to step beyond the borders of society, even completely erasing them in the process. Compassion urges us to love with reckless abandon as we attempt to reassemble the broken pieces of those we serve and so dearly love. It forces us to love with purpose and in action, not merely with words. It challenges us to allow ourselves to be as broken as the hearts of those we care for, and it can change everything.
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On Tuesday night, March 19th, Doyle spoke in Evergreen for Cub Scout Pack 119 about Sox Place and compassion. Rob Lantz, one of our board members, is the pack leader. Thanks, Pack 119, for having Doyle speak and for the socks you brought!
Can’t live with it; can’t live without it.
It can be painful and frustrating at times, but it’s gotta be done: Fundraising. We can’t do what we do without the financial support of the community.
As we mentioned in our most recent Newsletter, our Annual Fundraiser that was scheduled for February 21 has been canceled. But we have new, exciting fundraising opportunities in the making. Here are a few that you can get involved in right now:
Beginning the evening of Thursday, February 21st and ending the evening of Monday, February 25th, you will have the opportunity to participate in Sox Place’s first online auction. To view the auction items and to see how the auction works, click here. If you wish to participate in the auction, you will need to create an account by clicking on the Log In button in the top right corner of the link.
Our auction items include, but are not limited to:
While most of these items are local, we will be hosting more online auctions in the future with a variety of items.
Do you like Groupon or other discount sites? Would you like to get Groupon-like discounts that also helps out Sox Place? Check out SoRewarding. Here’s what to do:
1. Click on the link and sign up.
2. “Follow” Sox Place by searching for Sox Place in the search bar and clicking the orange “Join” button.
3. Regularly check out the discounts. When you find something you want, hit “buy,” then select Sox Place as the nonprofit you want a percentage of proceeds to go to (this will be on the left-hand side).
4. Tell all your friends, post on Facebook, etc.
5. If you are a merchant (or know one in the Denver area), you can post your discounts through SoRewarding and help out Sox Place even more!
FYI: SoRewarding is currently only in the Denver area, but they hope to expand.
We have used GivingFirst in the past, mainly to promote Colorado Gives Day, but did you know you can give throughout the year through GivingFirst? Why you might want to:
Madison joined the Sox Place staff in January as the Director of Arts and Media. Madison was born in Little Rock Arkansas and raised in small town called Searcy until she went to college in Jonesboro at Arkansas State University. She studied theatre and music and hopes to be able to help the kids at Sox Place find a creative outlet to help express themselves in healthy ways. Madison visited Sox Place in November 2012 and knew that’s where God wanted her to be.
Yesterday was my first day at Sox Place and I had the opportunity to talk to two young people. One was a guy from Austin, TX that was really big into the performing arts like me. We got to talk for at least an hour about theatre and what he wants to do with his life. It was so ironic because he is from around the same place I am and had actually lived in the city where I went to college for a while. I’m going to try and help him find some auditions and theatre work in Denver and the surrounding areas.
I also had the pleasure of talking to a girl who was probably around my age. I was wearing my “Jesus Loves Me” t-shirt and she commented on it and said that she liked it. She then informed me that she had just gone to church for the first time ever last Sunday. I was stunned. Where I grew up, you would have trouble finding one person who had never been to church. I asked her how she liked it and she said, “Everyone was really nice.” That works for me. I pray that because of those “nice” Christians that she will return and become more curious about the gospel and want to know God more personally.
by Shel Silverstein
What a strange wind it was today,
Whistlin’ and whilin’ and scurlin’ away
Like a worried old woman with so much to say.
What a strange wind it was today.
What a strange wind it was today.
Cool and clear from a sky not grey
And my hat stayed on but my head blew away—
What a strange wind it was today.
The weather in Denver can change in an instant. Winter days can be 70 and sunny or crazy winds and blowing snow. While this is a mere inconvenience to most, for a homeless kid, it is a battle.
On the streets, a good coat can mean the difference between a good night’s rest and a sleepless night. The difference between frost bite and warm fingers and toes. The difference between being wet and cold for days on end or warm and dry. The difference between sickness and wellness.
A couple weeks ago, we said that we were in need of winter clothes, and look what you, our donors, came up with! Thank you! You have made a difference!
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For more information and to keep updated on needed items, click here.
“Hey, what’s up; how are you?”
“TIRED and COLD.”
“What’s the deal? Didn’t get any sleep last night?”
“Naw, it was f#@^&% freezing last night. Do you guys have any blankets or sleeping bags?”
“Sorry, we’re all out.”
This is the unfortunate conversation I have several times a day as we are in fall, and winter is quickly approaching. Most of our kids sleep under bridges, on the side walk or a park, or wherever they pass out after walking all night so they don’t get busted for sleeping in public. This being the case, all they have for warmth is what the are carrying on their bodies and in their back packs. Winter stuff can get quite heavy and cumbersome, especially in the summer when it is not a necessity for survival. Most of our kids will pass on their blankets (never their sleeping bags!) and heavy winter clothes. Sometimes they forget to stock up on supplies before the frost hits, so they get stuck with nothing and freeze on the first cold night. We gave out just about everything warm we had after the first cold days this year. We have no sleeping bags, blankets, gloves, hoodies, backpacks, and no warm winter jackets. I feel as guilty as our kids for not being better prepared for the winter months, but… we need help!
If you have any stuff you’re not using that would help keep some kids warm, please consider donating it to us. Any camping gear is always extremely appreciated by our kids. Gloves, backpacks, sleeping bags, hoodies, and coats would help a ton! Thanks to all of you for your continued support, and for all the people that have donated warm stuff for these kids already this year!
A cool breeze danced across the dark, rippling waters of Puget Sound as I walked along the waterfront, stopping for a moment at Pier 59 to soak in the sights and sounds of the beautiful city of Seattle. Tourists bustled through Waterfront Park, stopping to browse the array of knick-knacks and trinkets that populated the tables of merchant tents. Enormous freight ships cruised slowly from the Port of Seattle against a majestic backdrop of the mist-covered Olympic Mountains. As I began walking to meet a few friends for a seafood lunch on pier 57, I crossed the path of several homeless men and young train riders. I flashed a quick smile at them as I walked by, observing their crudely made cardboard signs and chiseled crafts.
I had flown to Seattle for a greater portion of the week to be a groomsman for a friend’s wedding in the nearby suburb of Kent, Washington. This week away from Colorado also served as a welcome break from the busyness of life and work in Denver.
Over the course of the previous month, I had started to become frustrated with my position and responsibilities at Sox Place. Though I could say that I generally enjoyed my job, the last few weeks had begun to push me to the limits of my patience. I currently work as the director of the screen-printing shop at Sox Place, Sox Place Screen Printing, working to employ and teach job skills to the street youth of Denver. While my position certainly provides a sense of fulfillment and purpose, it also requires a significant amount of patience, understanding, and flexibility, much of which I do not always consciously (or willingly) practice. My current employee, Joe Joe, had been testing my patience, and training had been going pretty slowly, costing a fair amount of time and money to the company. And though I went to school for business management, I often feel severely inadequate and inexperienced when it comes to running a small business, especially when it involves a skill that I have never learned before.
Over the course of my trip in Seattle, I began to wonder what it would be like if I didn’t work at Sox Place. I tend to run away from circumstances that I find difficult, even for something as trivial as what I had been dealing with. My imagination wandered as I began to fabricate a life for myself in the port city that I was exploring, somehow justifying a move away from my home in Denver and my current job.
It seems silly, even foolish, that I had even thought about leaving even for a moment, but as God has been revealing to me, these tendencies are only a result of my humanness and the countless imperfections that come along with such a state of being. God has been pushing me towards seeking wisdom, and not simply understanding. He has been pushing me to grow from my mistakes, rather than allowing me to strive for constant perfection. He has especially been rather fond of using my unique position at Sox Place to humble me, even to the point of breaking.
Prior to my trip to the northwest, I had made an agreement to sell a scooter to Louis, one of the street youth who utilizes the services at Sox Place from time to time. He had become homeless through some unfortunate circumstances, but he had been working diligently to find a way off the streets for the past several months.
“All I need is a form of transportation to get to work,” Louis had explained to me earlier. “Even if it’s a cheap moped, that’s all I need to get this job back.”
Louis had actually been hired at a high-paying job, but his supervisor quickly fired him due to safety issues once he discovered that Louis had been riding his 20” BMX bike two and a half hours to a job in which he was required to operate heavy machinery. This caused Louis to quickly lose hope once again, spiraling into a continuum of constant negativity and hopelessness.
Prior to that, a family friend had given me a scooter to sell in order to help support me financially, but it required some work in order to get it up and running. The scooter sat in my apartment parking space for weeks since I hadn’t really had time to figure out how to have it repaired without spending too much money. As Louis and I were in the middle of this conversation, I quickly realized that I had found the perfect potential owner for my scratched up, broken down scooter.
After some negotiation, Louis became the proud owner of a well-used Strada Eurojet. Using his extensive mechanical background and little bit of elbow grease, he had the scooter up and running within a matter of days.
I remember his expression when he learned that I would be giving him a scooter. “The light at the end of the tunnel is so bright, I have to close my eyes to see,” Louis would say. And it was bright indeed. He had found a sliver of hope to hold onto, and that was all he needed to pull himself out of homelessness.
Every day I struggle to quench my pride. I have an extremely strong desire to know exactly how to do things, and how to do them well. In running the screen printing business, I have been forced to learn as I go and make an obscene amount of mistakes as a result. I was forced to start from scratch. I knew absolutely nothing about the industry upon being hired at Sox Place, and I was never given any formal training on how to screen print, use Photoshop, or any of the other necessary skills that are needed to operate such a business. And what’s more, I have never been trained to employ street youth and felons who have never successfully held a job before. On most days, this ocean of uncertainty can be a tall glass to swallow. Every single day I am reminded that I am not the one doing the work, but that He is working through me. I only have to be humble enough to allow Him to do the job.
I’ve come to learn that in working with the hopeless, the unlovable and the ignored; it only takes one small act to completely change the course of someone’s life. It also takes months (and more often than not, years or decades) of consistent, loving kindness, in order to even notice a discernible difference in the trajectory of a person’s existence. But despite the immense amount of things that I don’t know, especially in how to do well at my job, I do know how to love. I know how to love because He loved me first. He loves me more than any combination of artfully crafted words could ever convey, and it is because of Him that I can ever even attempt to stumble my way into loving another human being.
Louis now works full-time at a sign company and loves every minute of it. He rides his scooter to work every day.
He leads the humble in what is right,
And teaches the humble his way.
* * *
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding he established the heavens;
By his knowledge the deeps broke open,
And the clouds drop down the dew.
My son, do not lose sight of these –
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
And they will be life for your soul
And adornment for your neck.
* * *
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
And the one who gets understanding,
For the gain from her is better than
gain from silver
And her profit better than gold.
She is more precious that jewels,
And nothing you desire can compare
Fall is the season of change. We all know that to inspire change we must first work hard and be as consistent as possible and change is a natural part of our lives. Sox Place has now been open for more than 10 years! I know that if I asked Doyle, he would say that Sox Place has definitely changed over the past 10 years. We have grown; grown in our relationship with street kids, grown in our personal relationships with Christ, and grown Christ’s kingdom. Often people are afraid of change, it intimidates them and causes them anxiety. However, without a willingness to change and transform we can never progress. If we let our own fears get in the way, we are tentative to allow God to mold us and our ministry into the best possible form to change people’s lives.
As many people know, Sox Place has been looking for a new building for over a year now as our lease is coming to its end. It is very difficult to find a space for the type of service we provide to street kids and our community. It is easy for us to worry and to stress about this new chapter in Sox Place’s ministry, but God has shown us something totally different than that. Our staff is patient, and we know that Sox Place has been taken care of by God’s grace for over 10 years. We anticipate and await the changes that God has in store for this ministry. We know that to be the best possible demonstration of Christ’s love to people, things will not always be easy or necessarily make sense to us. We are ever evolving and ever changing. God is always consistent in his love for us as his children. God loves us and wants us to progress because of his continual love in our personal lives; we have that ability to do so. Pray for Sox Place in this season of change. Pray for strength for our staff and our leadership to follow God’s will always, even if it is not the easiest choice for us. Change is hard and it challenges every aspect of our lives, but without change we become stagnant in our ministry. God’s love is the focus and that never changes; it merely evolves to reach more people.