Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Black Belts of the Heart

     “You gotta come see this! The warehouse just received 240 bags of clothing. Looks like a lot of school stuff!”
     So a few of us who spend our days in the Springs Rescue Mission admin building took a break to walk across the parking lot to the warehouse dock. Once there, we realized we’d have to carefully pick our path into the warehouse through a veritable mountain of full bags. The report was accurate: a lot of school clothing (and a lot more to go with it). Spot on timing for a school year that’s just starting.
     By the time we walked into the warehouse, its staff and volunteers had already begun to totally focus their efforts on processing the sizeable donation.  When other Mission personnel saw the scene, the reaction was pretty much the same: to stop dead in their tracks, say “Wow!” under their breath, and thank God.  
     But 240 bags? Which giant corporation had sent out the word to its employees that they needed to bring clothing suitable for students?
     It turns out the benefactors were the students, staff and families of Universal Kempo Karate Schools Association in our area. Their international school association challenges its member schools to give back to their communities at least once a year. It is a charge the Universal community takes to heart, as demonstrated in the Pikes Peak region by their annual drives to benefit their homeless and hungry right here.
     Years ago my son Ben and I were an active part of the local Universal family.  I know from firsthand experience that the local schools are filled with people who take at least as much care in teaching students the disciplines of sound character as teaching them the proper way to break bricks. Students are constantly reminded of the importance of respecting others, and to take care of those who might be at a disadvantage in life.
     It was refreshing the other day to see their very generous and practical demonstration of the delicate art of being neighbors. Kudos to our local Universal Kempo Karate Schools Association, from its founder Grand Master Martin T. Buell to its beginning students, for taking care to pursue black belts of the heart as they improve their martial arts finesse. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Miracle Music

Sometimes you just need to settle back, turn up the volume, and listen to your favorite tunes for awhile.  The right music can clear your head, soothe your heart, and help you cope with the day. At least that’s what it can do for Jason. (Me too, for that matter.)

When Jason first came in to the Resource Advocate Program at Springs Rescue Mission, he was angry and bitter. Kathy, his advocate, assisted him in applying for food stamps. But during that interview Jason learned that there would be a delay in his receiving the assistance. That set Jason off. He immediately wanted to give up. He didn’t care anymore, he told Kathy. He wasn’t about to make the phone call to get his final check from a recent employer.

Then Jason launched into a litany of hate. He hated the government. He hated the homeless community. He hated Colorado Springs. He hated the shelter where he was staying. He hated God. He even hated his mother (who doesn’t do meth on Sundays because she’s “religious”) for putting him in foster care at age 10.  Kathy knew she needed to redirect the conversation, and gently asked Jason what it would take to help him feel better. 

Jason softened a bit. He was quick to reply that listening to music was one of a very few things that could help him calm down and relax. The problem was that there was no real way for him to listen to music when he really needed to. So while Kathy was encouraging Jason to hang in there, she was also praying God would provide something to show his love for Jason. 

Later that day, someone like you dropped off an iPod at the Mission in hope that it would get to someone who really needed it. Kathy was able to give that iPod to Jason as a new-to-him way to access music. And since that event, Kathy has noticed the difference in Jason. He’s more open to conversation, and so more open to receive the help he needs to stabilize and move forward.

Miracle music has a beauty all its own.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Key for Mike

Note: Mike has been featured in a couple of Light on Las Vegas Street blogs since January. I thought you might appreciate this update on Mike from my colleague Sarah Stacy, 

the Director of Spring Rescue Mission's 

Resource Advocate Program.

Early last fall, the Resource Advocate team at Springs Rescue Mission met Michael. Camper, drug addict, felon, and very quiet man.  What was notable about Mike at that time was that nothing about him was particularly remarkable.  He was never loud, attention-drawing or even looking for help.  He camped with a rowdy crowd and it’s possible that their general boisterousness accentuated his quietness.
             Mike's life changed in early January when he woke up in his tent with a foot so swollen he couldn’t put on shoes. Somehow he made the four-mile-plus trek to the homeless health clinic to learn that toes on both feet were frostbitten. He spent a little time in the hospital to make sure there was no infection and right away made his way to RAP to figure things out with his advocate.  As if this wasn’t trial enough, less than two weeks later his daughter was killed in an auto accident that left his youngest granddaughter on life support.
            “Until Miss Susie, no one ever cared about me." Mike’s advocate did work hard to make sure he had clean dry socks every day, a special pan to soak his feet, and some privacy in an unused office for that laborious task. How do you sit and soak in warm water when you live in a tent in the dead of winter?  Susie was with Mike when he got the news that his daughter had been killed, and she was there to listen to his pain through the process of hitchhiking to Denver on weekends to visit his precious granddaughter, Angel.  But there was another team of angels who came to Mike.  
             Lisa and Tim are faithful volunteers in Supportive Family Services who offered him prayer on February 23rd, and he accepted their offer and came to understand and accept the offer of his Heavenly Father for redemption and a new life. “I never knew it was that simple and that I didn’t have to earn it” Mike says frequently. Life certainly hasn’t become perfect for Mike since receiving Jesus, but he has been clean and sober, even through making the decision recommended by medical staff that he withdraw life support from his granddaughter who gently passed the next day. Still he has persevered. He has turned to God’s Word on an MP3 player for growth and encouragement. He has led one campmate to receive the Lord.
 And yesterday, he walked into my office, put the key to the first housing he's had in years on my desk, and simply said "Thanks." 
The key – maybe it really came long before the physical key to an apartment was in his hand.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Food, Fire and Flying Golf Balls

My personal record for length of a golf drive is 312 yards with a gentle breeze at my back under otherwise normal conditions. Once.

My new friend "Golf Pro Greg" Stafford can hit a drive that distance once every 15 seconds or so for an hour without really breaking a sweat. That’s why he’s got his eye on 300 such drives in one hour this Friday evening. That would be one 300+ yard drive every 12 seconds.

(Did I mention that I have one such drive in my spotty 41-year history of playing golf? Just wanted to make sure.)

Greg is dedicating his effort this Friday to raise awareness and funds for Springs Rescue Mission. We need that help now, as the fires in the area have diminished the flow of food and other resources into the Mission warehouse. But the bottom line is that our food shelves in the warehouse are pretty much bare between the needed diversion of resources to fire fighters and survivors just days ago and the regular traffic of neighbors in need of food boxes and hot meals at Samaritan’s Kitchen.

The funds raised at will help restore the supply of food we need for regular distribution. Greg Stafford is deflecting a lot of the attention he could get as he attempts to regain his Guinness world record for most 300+ yard drives in one hour. If you could manage a $10 or $20 donation (maybe more) sometime in the next 72 hours on, you could be a hero to our neighbors in need (700+ families each month) as you help us feed them. Just go there and give one of the suggested amounts, or just check the “other” box and give what you can.

That’s what I’m doing. I hope you can join me.

(Ok, so Greg hits a 300+ yard drive about every 12 seconds, and I hit one every 41 years whether I need to or not. Do the math…)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Drought Dodging

 Colorado’s Pikes Peak Region held its collective breath as the winter months reluctantly gave way to spring on the calendar. Overall, the area had again fallen way short on precipitation. Weather forecasters weren’t waiting for a hot summer stretch of weather to talk about drought. Drought was already a front-burner topic of conversation in February. It seemed that there had been no winter respite from it this year.

Then it snowed; late and not a lot, but enough to notice. And it snowed again, and again; rarely enough to overwhelm anyone with the thought that the drought was over, but enough to take courage that the moisture deficit wasn’t completely taking over. In recent weeks, it’s even rained. Sometimes it seems like the sky is spitting and nothing more. But a few times we’ve enjoyed those gentle hours-long soaking showers, and days where the ground may not have puddles forming but stayed wet all day.

No one’s saying the drought’s over, but there is hope.

Another kind of drought is a frequent visitor to rescue missions every year. It runs roughly from Easter to mid-September. It is during those months when the food on shelves in mission warehouses quickly becomes sparse and sometimes stays that way until the holiday season. Sometimes financial donations dry up, too, during these months.

Rescue missions do different things to cope with the season of drought.  This year, we are blessed with a variety of friends who are using their talents and community roles to stem the impact of the drought. Our local baseball team, the Colorado Springs SkySox, is using the stadium front gate as a collection point for food and more at every home game.  The Broadmoor is coordinating a benefit golf tournament to be held in a few weeks. A friend of the Mission is using his car wash business as a catalyst for a benefit event not long from now. And a local golf pro, Greg Stafford, is using a world record attempt for most 300-yard drives in an hour to raise funds for the Mission this summer (check out sometime soon for details). That’s just the beginning of friends who are stepping up to help Springs Rescue Mission dodge the drought this year.

No one’s saying the drought’s over, but there is hope.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Waiting for the Call

One hour away from Springs Rescue Mission at a Denver hospital today, a precious one-year-old is on life support. A medical team there is waiting for the call from one of our neighbors – the grandfather of the child – to unhook the machines that are keeping her body alive.

Goodbyes have already been said. Preemptive tears have already been spilled. The pros and cons of one more visit have been weighed. Dave, the grandfather, could say volumes to his granddaughter with one more encounter. But how long do you keep going with a series of “just one more visit”? Dave has made a remarkable decision for someone who seems to have so little to hold onto: to let go of the baby for whom he’d someday hoped to build a safe and sound home.

It was a dream of sorts. Dave knew that the odds were stacked against them. Yet this year he took tangible steps forward to overcome those odds – receiving medical care that indicated he planned on sticking around for awhile, for instance. Maybe long enough to raise grandchildren. He took a serious look at housing and childcare options. He began thinking about jobs that would welcome his work experience.

Dave was expecting challenges in those areas. What he didn’t expect was a sudden and brutal traffic mishap that took his daughter a few weeks ago, and today will take his granddaughter. Homeless or housed, rich or poor, you never expect such things. Sometimes life itself levels the playing field in ways you never wanted.

Dave has not felt in control of his life for years now. The irony of doctors and nurses waiting for his phone call is not lost on him.Yet there is something sacred about Dave’s day today. His friends at the Mission and on the streets know it. He will manage a painful and loving call, and a choice few around him will hold him close in their hearts.

They will pray Dave makes a fresh decision to walk toward healing, and that he shows up at our door again tomorrow.