Greetings to all of you from my “office” here on East Colfax, the coffee shop that I work out of. I thought you might get a kick out of the picture I am sending along with this email. If you don’t understand it, find someone who has watched The Lion King:) It reflects some common perceptions of Colfax Ave.
Before I dive into an update, let me begin by saying thanks to all of you for your prayers and support as we continue our journey here along East Colfax. It means a tremendous amount to us to know that we are not doing this alone.
We came to East Colfax with the strong sense that Jesus was already at work here and that our job was to find those places where people were serving in his name and support them. That has been a delightful journey and we have met many incredible people who are loving people in the name of Jesus. In fact, Tina, who owns my “office” was telling me a couple of stories last week of praying for folks who wandered into her coffee shop and leading them to Jesus.
We also have had the sense that we need to be open to the specific work Jesus might call us to do in this community. Many of you have been praying with us for clarity. While we have a wide range of things we continue to be interested in, we have an increasing sense that a major part of the coming year for us will be to invest in the motel/homeless population.
I have told you a bit about this part of the population, but just a few more words to help you understand that world: There are around 25 motels in the area we consider to be a part of our ministry area. Built in the 1940’s and 50’s, they now house people who are just one step away from being on the street. Quite a few live semi-permanently in them, while others are very transient. The house the poor and include people struggling with a wide range of issues–spiritual lostness, addiction, mental health, family breakdown, violence, etc. They also house those just out of prison as well as gang members.
Because of our partnership with Mean Street Ministries, we are already in and out of 5 or 6 of the motels on Monday nights, but we see the need to both deepen the relationships in those motels and also the need to develop connections into the other motels. Even in this impoverished community, they are the overlooked and ignored.
We are viewing ourselves as missionaries and pastors to the people who live there. Our goal is to love people in the name of Jesus, point them to him, care for them and do whatever we can to steer them in the direction of things that will genuinely help them. In fact, the title I gave myself a couple of months ago makes perfect sense in this context. I call myself an “Urban Missionary Pastor” with “Jesus on Colfax Ministries”.
Right now we are trying to figure out the best pathways to connect in these motels. I am about a quarter of the way through my goal of talking to the managers of each of the motels to get their sense of the needs and also a sense of their openness for folks coming in to help. I am getting an education! I can see already that relationships with the managers will be important for us to have the kind of access we want.
Here is what we need prayer for right now as we focus more closely on this:
1. Pray that God will open the right doorways to get deeper access into the motels.
2. Pray for a clear and workable strategy for us. We have some creative ideas that we are praying through right now. Pray that God confirms some of the “how” of this. As that gets clear, we will let you know what that looks like and even how you might be a part of our journey.
3. Thank God for good partners we already have–Mean Street, Restoration Outreach Programs and a variety of churches that we have some connection with. They are also involved in connecting with this population. Many of them have good resources that we will be able to steer people to.
4. Pray for space for us to live in and work out of in the community.
5. Pray for the people who live in the motels that Jesus would seem real to them, that they would have their basic needs met and that there would be freedom from addictions and a long list of other struggles. Pray for change in their lives.
6. Pray for financial provision for us. Again, if you would like to support us financially, information will be at the end of the email.
7. Even as we focus on the motels, I would add another request. I love mentoring young men, and after doing some of that at Aurora Central High School, I have made it a personal goal to look for a chance to invest in mentoring 10-12 young men in this community in the coming year. I have no idea how to connect with them, but if you pray, God will make a way!
Let me close with a quick story that will highlight the need. Last week I stopped at a motel along the strip, one even more rundown than the rest. I met the manager, whose name is Maria. I asked some basic questions and came to understand that there were a lot of needs in the 22 rooms of “her people” living there. She was very touched and excited when I asked about potentially bringing in some people to love and serve them.
When I asked her if I could pray for her, she broke down and told me her own story. Her husband had been killed just outside the motel a few years earlier, leaving her with 3 kids to raise and no family around to rely on. She wept while I prayed for her. I left with a promise to return and a clear reminder of just how hard life can be here, even for those who manage the motels. So pray for Maria and for a way to serve her and “her people”.
On the family front, we are excited that our daughter Shea got married a couple of weeks ago to a wonderful young man by the name of Sean Hensley. So we are celebrating with them!
Stay tuned and we will keep you updated.