I said, in my previous blog post, that I was going to post more about my experience with the Denver Rescue Mission. What better time to do that then the day before I leave on another trip when I should be packing or going to bed? I'm not sure I can think of one!
We were only there for two short days, but they impacted all of us. I'm not sure I can adequately put into words the effect that this experience had on me. But I will definitely try.
Let me start by telling you the basics - what we did while we were there. As soon as we got there, which was around 10, we got to work getting ready for lunch. Some of us chopped fruits and vegetables for fruit salads and lettuce salads. Some of us made lemonade or cut pork and potatoes. Some of us sorted bread and desserts. Some of us rolled silverware into napkins. Some of us also spent time in the laundry room folding sheets. But we kept working and moving doing stuff to get ready for lunch. Then we got everything in place so that we could begin serving when 12:00 rolled around. As soon as it did, we opened the doors and began ushering people in to eat.
When lunch started, I was in charge of handing out silverware and using a clicker to count how many people came in. We served five at a time, so I'd pick up five pieces of silverware and hand them out as the people walked in, and then I'd click the clicker 5 times. This gave me a great opportunity to chat with the people as they entered. We didn't really have time to talk about much, but we'd talk about the weather, or the food, or how it was important to have a clicker to keep track of numbers. We served more than a hundred people each day, I think the second day had more with around 170. The other people working there said that they were slow days, that they usually had over 200 people coming in for lunch.
When lunch was over, we'd clean up and then go back to working on other things. The first day we were there, they got a huge donation of food so I spent a lot of time sorting bread. We'd separate them into categories such as sandwich bread, french bread, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, etc. and then we'd stack them on pallets against the wall. At one point I said that I was surrounded by more bread than I'd ever seen in one place in my life. Our second day we went out and got a tour of the neighborhood and picked up garbage.
It was surprising to me how much of the work we did surrounded food. We were always chopping and mixing and sorting and slicing and getting stuff ready for the different meals. But then I guess that makes sense, that if they feed 150-200 people three times a day, that a lot of work would go in to preparing the food. And it was good food. We would make sack lunches everyday, but when we were at the Mission we were given the option to eat there for lunch. Both days I chose that option, and I was pleasantly surprised with the food. It was good, considering how much of it they made everyday. If we didn't eat our sack lunch, we had the option of taking it across the street to Triangle Park and sharing it with the people who were over there.
Denver Rescue Mission also has a residential drug rehabilitation program as part of its ministries and we worked alongside of the men in this program in our daily duties. It was amazing, and eye opening, to hear the stories of these guys, what they had gone through, often times how they had almost died, and then how they had ended up at the mission and how they were working to turn their lives around and what their dreams and hopes were now. One guy I got to know quite well said that he hoped to be a youth pastor in a church, so that he could work with kids who were the age he was when he fell into drug abuse. It was awesome to hear these stories of resurrection and redemption, and I hope that these guys continue on the path toward new life.
One thing that hit me after seeing the people that the Mission serves is how alike we were. Many of them had good jobs and families and friends before something unpredictable happened, before circumstances in their life took a turn for the worse and they were unable to cope or to recover from them, and then they ended up homeless and living in Denver. It's like that quote, "There but for the grace of God go I." As I looked around at all of those various faces and people, I realized that I was lucky to be on the other side of that crate of silverware. I was fortunate to be the one handing it out. But I could very easily be on the other side, as the one receiving it. Life is unpredictable. You never know when you might get thrown a curveball.
It's like I said before, I don't think I can adequately put into words the effect that those two days had, and continues to have, on me. Those experiences continue to weigh on my heart, and continue to make me ponder and pray about a lot of things. I'm not sure what this means for my journey, but it will be interesting to find out.