I am sitting in my “office” on East Colfax Avenue in the heart of old Aurora. My “office”, as you might expect, is a coffee shop that I use to meet people and work out of as we develop our “Jesus on Colfax” ministry. It is called Coffee Canaan and is run by a delightful lady named Tina. She is from Ethiopia and is a believer. She sits in her shop and prays for the people and challenges of this area. When I told her my story she told me to feel free to use her coffee shop as an office. So I do! Diane and I had a chance to worship at her church a couple of months ago and were touched by that Ethiopian congregation
It has been a couple of months since I sent an update so I want to give you a brief snapshot of what we are doing. I continue to spend 3-4 days a week in this area, joined at least part of the time by Diane. There are numerous stories to share, but maybe the most important thing to underscore is this. Diane and I have really fallen in love with the area and its people, and in love with the beautiful diversity and even the great needs that exist here. Our sense of call from Jesus to serve here and even, hopefully, to move here, grows deeper by the day. While we continue to view this year as a season of testing that call, we feel a deep nudge from the Spirit to make serving this area a central focus of the next chapter of our lives.
We came here “looking for Jesus”. We are finding him present and at work in a wide variety of people and groups. A few weeks ago Diane and I had a chance to sit with 4 young Nepali men, ages 18-24. Lucy Bruser works with Restoration Outreach Programs, one of our friends and partners in the area. Her work is with refugee and immigrant groups and she is leading a discipleship group for these young men who come out of one of the Nepali churches in the area. Diane and I were so impressed with these young men. They are on fire for Jesus and want to impact not only their people but the broader community for Jesus. We saw Jesus there.
We see Jesus in the work of Mean Streets Ministry. They are out most Monday evenings, knocking on the hotel doors along East Colfax, bringing food and offering prayer and resources for the folks living there, many of whom are trapped in both poverty and addictions. This past Monday I was out with Mean Street along with our middle daughter Spenser. One of the people we talked to was an older lady named Emma. She lives with her husband in one of the hotels. They have lived in the hotel for 8 years. She talked about her fears living there and about their hopes for getting into some low-income housing. The fears are real as much danger exists in these settings. When Spenser asked her if she knew Jesus she said yes. We got to talk for awhile–she seemed lonely–and then prayed with and for her. We saw Jesus there in the 15 minutes we had with Emma. We also see in those hotels the sometimes desperate needs that exist, needs that call for love, resources and wisdom in learning how to bring genuine help. Pray for Emma, her husband and those who call the hotels home, whether for a night or for years.
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at Aurora Central High School, the biggest school in the area, often referred to as “the ghetto school”. I am a part of a mentoring program with seniors who are on the verge of not graduating. We are trying to nudge them over the finish line. It is hard to explain the combination I see in these students. At times, almost heroic resiliency in the face of overwhelming odds. At other times, the painful reality of poverty and massive family breakdown which leaves kids with few doorways or models of how to move beyond the world they are in. Later that day I spent time with a man named Pete, just out of prison after 6 years incarcerated. He is a believer and has to start his life over. I listened to his story and am trying to connect him to resources that will give him a leg up on that process. Like many ex-cons, he needs to stay away from his addictions and old friends to have a chance to succeed in this world.
A lot of what we are doing right now is simply trying to connect with people, love and help where we can, learn the community and its needs. We see Jesus at work and join in as we can. During this we continue to pray for his direction on what he would call us to specifically invest in. But we are feeling the joy of following Jesus around in this community and are excited to see where he leads in it.
I could go on with story after story, but hope that will give you a bit of a taste of this world we are spending much of our time in. We are grateful for all the interest and prayers for us on this journey and ask that you continue praying for us. Here are some specifics you can be praying for:
1. Pray for clarity for Diane and I as we move forward. There is much to do but we realize that at some point we will need to focus on what we can best bring. Pray that God reveals that to us.
2. Pray for the wide needs of the community and for the people and groups who serve Jesus here. Ask God to move in a powerful way.
3. Pray for some permanent space for me to work out of in the community. Part of what is developing is the possibility of some partnerships with other ministries so I am trying to be thoughtful about the kind of space I find. It may need to accommodate several ministries.
4. Pray for the people who are on the farthest edge of the community. This includes the homeless and those in hotels. Pray for kids who are in the system in one way or another–child welfare, abuse and gangs. Pray for the light of Jesus and also the light of practical help to come into their lives. Pray for hope in these darkest corners where life can seem hopeless.
5. Pray for us as we contemplate moving into the community. We will have decisions to make about our current house as a part of that process and are not certain about the timing of all that.
6. Pray for the financial resources we need to move forward in this. Thanks to those of you who have given already. We are a little less than a quarter of a way to our goal of raising $40,000 for the rest of this year. If you would like to give, details are at the end of the email.
In the middle of all that, other pieces of our life continue to move on. We have two daughters (Shea and Daviah) getting married this summer and are very excited about that. I am slowly developing my coaching/counseling practice at the same time as I give the bulk of my time to “Jesus on Colfax”. I am also working on a book project about my journey over the last couple of years, moving out of ministry at EHCC and into our new chapter in ministry.
In all that we would say that life is good and so is God. We are enjoying the chapter we are in.
My goal, by the way, is to get into a routine of sending out an update once a month or so. Thanks for all the interest you have shown in our life. We love you all.