When people think of homelessness, they often think of people standing on the side of the road, begging for a few dollars. Many of the men enrolled in Next Step break this stigma. However, because of unfortunate events, they are now experiencing homelessness.

Michael is just one example of the type of situations Next Step was designed to help.

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"I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do"

Ephesians 1:17-18 (The Message)

 

 

Nearly every Sunday morning at 10:30 A.M. you can find Michael sitting in chapel service at the Lawrence Street Shelter. It’s not required, he chooses to go, and he sits in the same seat every week—the one on the second row, two chairs from the left.

On this Sunday, with about 15 minutes remaining in the service, Michael, for no particular reason, turned around and looked behind him. There were 14 other people in the service; the usual crowd—Tim, Terry, John (who usually shows up a few minutes late), and Larry (who occasionally leaves a tad early so he can get a good spot in line for lunch). There were three guys in the very back, not strangers, but also not a part of the regular crowd. They were young guys, probably no more than 28 years old. They were laying against the wall, sleeping.

Michael, noticing that these three young men were not awake, got up out of his seat and walked to the back of the room. He walks with a gentle confidence, and that’s how one might describe his personality as well; his presence is soothing and calm. For many of the guys in Next Step, he’s a role model and a mentor. He knelt down beside one of the sleeping guys, “Excuse me, sir,” he whispered. “There’s no sleeping in here during worship time.”

The guys opened their eyes and sat up. Michael walked to his seat in the second row, he opened his worn Bible and followed along with the pastor for the rest of the service.

After chapel was over, Michael sat down with us and we asked him about why it was important to wake the men up.

“You know, before I became homeless, I used to drive by here,” he said. “I kind of looked down on the homeless, but since I’ve become homeless … I’ve learned to see people, no matter their situation, for who they are. When I saw those guys, I saw me. There was a time when I turned my back on God, when I was asleep, so to speak. It wasn’t that long ago. I … I messed up; I stopped being obedient to God and I got into a little trouble. That’s what sent me to jail for six months and, after they released me, the first place they told me to go was to the Mission.”

When Michael first arrived here, he was nervous. He’d never been homeless before, never stayed in a shelter. “This was a brand new world for me, a brand new world,” he said. “I didn’t know where I was going to go. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but they told me about this place and there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t have three meals to eat and a roof over my head. Whether or not it looks like it, God is working, He is moving in this place.”

Michael talks about God often; every other word that he speaks is about how Jesus is moving in his life or what God is teaching him. His faith is remarkable, not mundane or passionless. He really believes that God is working, and his recent experiences have affirmed that to him. “The moment I experienced hope was in jail,” he said. “That’s where God first started answering my prayers. Then, he brought me here, the Lawrence Street Shelter. For a while, I lost sight of who God is, but He’s opened my eyes. I’ve found grace at the Mission. It’s my opinion that grace is the opportunity to come together and pick back up where I failed; I feel like I’m doing that here.”

Michael’s first day at the Mission was the same day he learned about Next Step. He expressed interest to a staff member about this transitional service and that same day he was enrolled in Next Step and given a bed at the Lawrence Street Shelter. Next Step is a community in which each member is assigned a case worker and a community involvement supervisor. Michael talked about his first interaction with his case worker.

“The guy who did my intake was named Austin. I told him my story; I was just feeling a bit down, and you know what that man said? One of the first things he said to me was ‘can we pray?’ That was the most uplifting thing I could have heard. I even called my family members and told them that. That’s just not something I’m used to, it’s uncommon for someone to want to pray with you, you know?”

Soon after their first meeting, Austin and Michael sat down again and worked on building a resume. Looking for a job was something Michael had reservations about, not because he didn’t want to work; Michael has worked nearly his entire life. But now, things were a bit different. When he went to apply for jobs, the employer would see that he’d been sentenced to prison, and that he’d only recently been released.

“I was in a state of depression after jail,” he said. “I guess I was afraid. I was afraid at how people would look at me, and I was afraid of getting turned down for a job because of what people might think. I was just scared of being rejected. I just wanted acceptance.”

Austin and Michael worked together, sending his resume out to different businesses that had job postings. It was Monday morning when he got his first call back. They scheduled an interview with him and a week later, Michael was sitting in an office, answering questions and talking to the interviewer about his story.

“I went in right away and told them I was a felon,” he said, “and you know what? They accepted me, they gave me the job! You know, people often look at situations like mine as an ending, but this is just a start for me. I know it sounds strange, but I really am blessed. God has opened my eyes here.”

Michael is currently working toward saving money and locating housing. He hopes to be moved out and renting an apartment by the end of the year. “I know my time at Denver Rescue Mission is nearly up,” he said, “but this place has been such a blessing to me. I see the love that they have for people and the services they give; it’s truly a blessing. That’s why I tell people I’m a blessed man, because this has been such a great help.”

Letter from the CEO

When I first arrived at Denver Rescue Mission over 19 years ago, people asked me, “What is your vision for the Mission?” After some careful thought, my response was, “I think that is the wrong question. I think the question should be: What is God’s vision for the Mission? And how do we get on board with what God is doing?”

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Michael's story was featured in the August 2018 issue of Changing Lives titled “Eyes Wide Open”

Also in this issue:

  • Special Thanks to Wilderness Aware
  • Hit a Home Run Against Hunger Update
  • Jeremy Hubbard, a FOX31 News anchor, on Why Denver Rescue Mission Matters
  • Letter from the CEO
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