Emmanuel God With Us

6a00d8341bffb053ef00e5537421818833-500wiO come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel. The first verse of the popular Christmas carol is perhaps one of the most theologically loaded carols we will come to sing this year. The King of Kings, and Creator of Creation has come; he has come as a humble and gentle baby. Come to ransom the captive, ransom the lost and the broken. He came to reconcile us back to the father. No other person in all of history had such a mission such power and yet such humility. Let us think of the baby this Christmas the baby that transformed the world the baby that would ultimately lay his life down for us. It is a celebration of the nativity.

The events of the past weekend have me thinking about Christmas in a different Light. I am reminded of just how powerful the truth of the coming King is! More so than festivities, cookies and carols. Perhaps now more than ever we need a reminder that God is with us!

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Brian Kennedy

A 2012 Give! RAP story (indygive.com/SRM)

Brian Kennedy has struggled all his life with depression in one form or another.  Looking back now, he can see that it was the reason he held 35 jobs in 30 years and one of the main reasons for his divorce.  He spent many years living in his car, and although that made going to work every day difficult he never considered himself to be homeless until he had to sell the car.  Brian had been homeless many months in Colorado Springs and had exhausted his stay at the homeless shelter.   He received a preliminary acceptance for one supportive housing program which was withdrawn after the program learned that his ex-wife had left an apartment owing the landlord.  He was hospitalized for mental health care once in November and once in December as things seemed to fall apart.

Brian was introduced to Housing First Pikes Peak through the Resource Advocate Program.  While things moved slowly, he was finally approved to enter the Housing First Program.  He moved in to his apartment late January and is happy and making progress in recovery.  He is enjoying the privacy of his own home, the quiet, the warmth and dryness and the base from which to make progress in his life.  Brian is very self-sufficient.  When his Advocate said “Now we need to do ….” He confronted her and reminded her that he needed to stand on his own.

Brian is standing quite well on his own at this point in time.  Being housed has given him the freedom to bake treats for the staff at RAP and to pursue photography.  Some of his work is actually hanging in the RAP offices.  He is looking forward to selling some of the art he creates.

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Steve Moon

A 2012 Give! RAP story (indygive.com/srm)

Steve is a West Point graduate who exited the US Army after 12 years of service due to not advancing in rank in the prescribed amount of time.  He suffers many diagnosed health issues and had exhausted his unemployment benefits and had been unable to secure new employment to maintain his housing.  He is not a typical client in that he was accustomed to an upper middle class lifestyle and the specter of living outside frightened him to his core.  Due to his health issues, he felt unable to eat meals in free kitchens.  Through the summer, his Resource Advocate assisted him in applying for social security, veteran’s benefits and public assistance.  He successfully negotiated with his landlord to remain in his apartment for several months, but the time came when an eviction notice was going to come.  At that time he and his Advocate worked intensely with the local VA and he was able to enter Crawford House just days before the eviction was anticipated.  He worked with RAP to get a referral for free storage of what was left of his personal belongings.  Soon Steve learned that he had been chosen to receive a HUD-VASH voucher for housing and came in to RAP in better spirits and more confident than he had been in months.  Shortly after receiving his housing, he was awarded Social Security Disability and now maintains a “normal” life complete with being an Active Volunteer at the Open Bible Medical Clinic (free clinic).

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So what is RAP?

The next few weeks I will be sharing stores From the Resource Advocate Program (RAP). Here at the Mission we are participants in the 2012 Give! campaign (indygive.com/SRM) which is one of the ways we raise the necessary funds for the program.

After you read these stores if you would like to help out you can go to indygive.com/SRM and donate!

So here is a explanation of RAP from the Director of the Program Sarah Stacy.

Background:  The Resource Advocate Program is a program like no other in this area.  In major metropolitan areas what we do would be called “Homeless Pre-treatment” or would be part of the work done in homeless day centers.  RAP is a program that is geared toward helping those who have been chronically homeless (as opposed to situational homelessness) and who often lack the ability to access established services in our community on their own.  RAP began in Colorado Springs as part of The Collaborative, an organization funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and when funding for that program ran out, the Springs Rescue Mission took over the program (October 1, 2010).

Our Purpose:  The purpose of the Resource Advocate Program (RAP) is to provide compassionate human connection to the homeless, mentally ill and addicted that empowers them to set out on an achievable path to self-sufficiency.

Our Vision:  Our vision is that the homeless will find a place of safety:  first in our offices and in relationship with Advocates and later in a permanent home as they achieve the level of self-sufficiency appropriate for them.  Recovery from homelessness is a unique path for each individual that will be discovered through relationship, active case management and mentoring, and connecting to resources that provide income, healthy lifestyle and on-going support.

What we believe:  We believe that recovery from homelessness is possible, even for the chronically homeless who are mentally ill or substance abusing.  We believe that one of the main reasons people become chronically homeless is disaffiliation, or a lack of supportive relationships.  We believe that people who have been chronically homeless are much more likely to achieve success in leaving homelessness if they have experienced the strengthening of six life themes and so our program activities are geared to strengthen these life themes:

  • Spiritual Life Theme[1]
  • Self-Insight Life Theme[2]
  • Security Life Theme[3]
  • Self-Awareness[4]
  • People Support[5]
  • Suppression[6]

The Advocates and volunteers at RAP come to truly love our guests.  What that means is that sometimes we need to be gentle and encouraging with them and sometimes we have to really light a fire under them to get things accomplished.  They don’t look “pretty”, they are dirty (it’s hard to get cleaned up when you live outside) and the behaviors that they have learned in order to survive on the streets are not welcome in most office settings.  Here, we start with what one Advocate has termed the “Catalyst of Coffee” – no pressure to meet with an Advocate – just come in, have a hot beverage with us and learn to know that we are trustworthy.  Advocates understand that when you live on the street, all your time and energy have to go into survival.  Walk to the Mission to get a hot cup of coffee and maybe a donut in the morning, walk a couple of miles to get a warm lunch at the soup kitchen, walk some more to borrow a towel and line up for a shower if you’ve managed to carry your toiletries around all day without losing them and then get to the Mission for dinner before you hunker down into your sleeping back for the night.

And because we understand what that survival process is like, we begin with the basics.  Advocates look for ways that are as unique as our guests are to make sure that there is opportunity for change and growth, and that means focusing first on whether or not someone has enough to eat, enough clothing and footwear to keep from freezing, immediate medical attention for problems that are likely to escalate and experience relative security in their current situation.

These are the stories of some of the “RAP lambs”.  These men and women will touch your heart as you see that these are some of the most courageous, persevering and strong human beings in the world.  They survive where I couldn’t … and many of them are my heroes.

[1]Persons with a high evidence of the Spiritual theme believe in God, pray regularly, read the Bible and describe themselves as born again Christians.

[2] Persons are high on the self-insight theme when they can make accurate descriptions of themselves, both in terms of their strengths and their weaknesses.  Being able to describe one’s self is necessary in order to begin to make changes.

[3] When the security theme is strong, persons feel safe.  They have people that they can access, possessions that are important to them.  The stronger the security theme is in a person’s life, the greater their ability to take risks.

[4] Persons who have high self-awareness are in touch with their own emotions.  They are able to name and experience emotions.  Low self-awareness can result in marked lack of motivation.

[5] Persons who are high on the people-support theme have others who care about them and who they can call on for support and information.  Low people support indicates no connections to others who will come alongside to help.

[6] Persons who are high on the suppression theme are able to block out or not acknowledge the pain and difficulty of their current situations to some degree.  They don’t dwell on their discomfort.  When the suppression theme is low, people seem overwhelmed with their situation and highly negative.

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We have to let you go…

Hey all, I wanted to share a post from a colleague of mine. Ben Robb is the Development Manager here at Springs Rescue Mission and is passionate about caring for needy families. Here is his post, I think you will like it!

– David 

“We have to let you go …”

What would you do if you and your spouse both lost your jobs today?

I suppose you’d feel stressed. You’d pray, perhaps. You’d certainly spruce up the resumes.

And then you’d call people. People you trust. People who care about you, want the best for you, would watch for new opportunities and mention your name.

You’d activate your network … And you’d probably be just fine.

Positive relationships are easy to take for granted–building them comes naturally to most of us. But imagine if all your friends were living below the poverty line. Imagine that many of them were looking for work, too. Imagine that they all lived in small apartments, that none of them had a spare bedroom.

Then what would you do if you and your spouse both lost your jobs?

Imagining life with a different set of relationships makes it easier to see why approximately 800 single mothers are currently living with their children in their cars in the Pikes Peak Region, doesn’t it?

You may have read Sarah’s story in our recent newsletter (if not, get caught up here)–until recently, she was one of those homeless single mothers. She’s also Springs Rescue Mission’s first participant in a new program we’re calling the Family Mentor Alliance. Here’s the concept in a nutshell: 

What we’re doing to help

Homeless families have a short-term need: shelter. We’re currently in the process of developing a safe place specifically for families with children–more on this in another post.

Homeless families have two primary long term needs if they are to avoid ending up on the streets (or in their cars) again–education and relationships.

We seek to meet their long term needs through the Family Mentor Alliance by matching them in a mentoring relationship with members of a local congregation. Our goal for all of the families we work with is self-reliance. 

When I met Sarah, she was several months into her time in the family Mentor Alliance and was preparing to move out of transitional housing and into her own place. Committing to a rent payment for the first time in years, she was understandably stressed about the move. But her mentors were helping her.

Honest help doesn’t always feel good. Sarah told me about arguing with these folks because the place she originally picked out was over budget. Together, they adjusted expectations and found something smaller, something sustainable. She told me about crying in her living room because her mentors were pushing her not to try to squeeze all of her stuff into the new space, which was smaller than her transitional housing, too.

These guys fought. They cried. They built real relationships–long term relationships. And Sarah has finally  gained some positive momentum for herself and her children.

Why this matters to me

Sarah’s mentors are faithfully walking her through a wonderful spiritual curriculum and investing in her family in numerous ways. But it’s the everyday stuff that makes all the difference in the long run. It’s the positive relationships that matter.

I’ve worked for a few different non-profits over the last 11 years. Some of them have had a difficult time quantifying their long term outcomes. In my experience, the reason has been that the organization didn’t build long term relationships. They might talk about reaching an inordinate number of hurting people (reach is a media term), but they haven’t invested the months or years that it takes to walk people through the meaningful and sometimes mundane decisions that actually get lives back on track. And there’s nothing more important.

Why it should matter to you, too

You give money to non-profits every year. If you’re funding folks whose aim it is to get lives back on track, make sure they develop long term relationships with the people they’re helping, whether it’s through counseling, casework, or education. There’s no substitute for long term, positive relationships.

If you want to help a family, a neighbor, a coworker, or the guy panhandling on your street corner, develop the relationship. There’s no substitute for you.

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Imago Dei- Image of God

Imago Dei – Image of God

Recently I was walking downtown with my wife and I saw something that reinforced a personal belief of mine. We are all created in the image of God!

Last Thanksgiving I met Lee at the annual Springs Rescue Mission Thanksgiving meal; I was taking pictures for the missions Facebook page and asked if I could take his. Lee’s friend joked that I needed to be careful because Lee’s Image would break my camera. We all laughed and I was able to take that perfect shot of Lee’s face with a half smile.

In January, I met Lee again, this time on the street. Lee looked considerably different, he had a walker and life on the street seemed to take its toll in just a few short cold months. I approached Lee and asked him what happened? Why was he using a walker? At this time it was clear that he was seriously hurt. Lee told me that about three weeks prior he was sleeping in an alley when a truck ran over him breaking his hip. Lee ended up spending 5 hours in the alley in pain unable to move until a trash truck noticed him during its early morning round.

The hospital did a good job of patching him up, yet given the fact that he is homeless and won’t be able to pay for his care he did not receive the recovery time he needed. In the months since, Thanksgiving when Lee and I first meet we have developed a relationship. I buy him a meal and we talk about his time on the street, his problem with the bottle, and his love of freedom that homeless life allows him. I truly want him to come off the street but I don’t think he is willing to give it up.

Lee has traveled all around the country and likes Colorado Springs best; he even has a daughter that went on to graduate from college. When asked why he is on the street and not with his family he will give any number of reasons. At times I have tried to reason with him only to notice that it is in vain because of his lack of sobriety in the moment.

The other day my wife and I were at a intersection downtown and were waiting for the light to turn so we could cross the street, with traffic speeding by I noticed Lee on the opposite corner step beginning to cross with his walker. Suddenly I saw a red sedan driving down the street, the driver noticed Lee and sped up, honking his horn. The reason he sped up honking his horn is a mystery to me, perhaps he was trying to scare Lee so much that he would not cross the street in traffic like that again. Or the driver thought that Lee was not injured at all only using the walker to gain sympathy hoping that Lee would speed up. Whatever the reason the driver of the sedan did not give a homeless man the curtsey of safely walking across the street. Upon realizing what was happing I stepped into the street and started waving my hands in the air in order to get the driver to slow down. Upon seeing me he changed his driving behavior and indeed slowed. Lee was able to finish crossing the street and laughed at the whole ordeal as if it was nothing.

At the same time this was taking place there was an occupy protest occurring on the street corner that we were standing at. One of the signs the protestors was waving stated, “the fact that homelessness exists is a crime.” I think that fact that the protesters were witnesses to the same ordeal and did nothing is a crime.

Too often people will use the plight of the homeless as a banner for their own agenda, yet when it comes to actually helping, the homeless are suddenly invisible.

The creation account in Genesis stated that we are created in the image of God. In Latin this is refereed to Imago Dei “Image of God.” People of all cultures and nations always have things in common. Sometimes they are good commonalties and other times they are bad. Unfortunately it seems that the barriers of personhood that we place on others who are impoverished, disagreeable in appearance, or have other socially unacceptable standards prevent people from acknowledging the ‘Imago Dei” and thereby offering the most basic elements of courtesy.

It can be hard to see the Image of God in those that may intimidate or scare us. It may be difficult to see the Image of God in the life of a homeless man or the mentally ill. When this is the case I have an exercise that I try to discipline myself with. Sometimes when I see an individual who appears to have been subject to a life of sin and pain, I try to envision them as an innocent child full of energy and expectation. Imagine Lee as a curious little boy and it becomes easer to get past the years of street and alcoholic living.

When we take it upon ourselves to look past the exterior of the individual and notice the “Imago Dei,” that yes they indeed were made in the image of God just as we were, then it is no longer an option to offer care, relationship, and love but we are indeed compelled too.

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Why Here, Why Now?

 Have you ever stood in the middle of a forest on a hike or sat in a coffee shop and asked yourself the question why?

I know that opens a lot of doors but really what are the things in life that have you puzzled. Not trivial questions like why driveways are where people park and parkways where people drive?

No; the really deep questions, like why is there suffering in the world? And can the action of one individual really help make a difference?

Have you ever asked yourself the question of why you were born? Why were you born where you were born? Why were you born in this age of history? Does that ever make you think of things you want to do in life? Were you born for a purpose? If so, then what? If not, then what are you to do with your life?

If you reside in the United States you live in the most affluent, and most influential, country ever known. In America the freedoms are endless and the potential is set only by the intentional application of the individual. Conversely it is this affluence and freedom that can provide so much good for humanity.

Why is there homeless? Why is there hunger? Why is there addiction? Why is there human trafficking? Why is there poverty?

Why is Colorado leading the nation in child poverty since 2002…. when there is a average median income of $56,456 in 2010?

1 John 3:17 says that: “If somebody that has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can the love of God’s love be in that person?” (NLT)

Is the answer to “Why Here? Why Now?” because we don’t have the love of God in us?

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