Monday October 17, 2016

Experiencing God Through the Poor and Suffering

By Abby Dawes

“Have we forgotten we belong to one another”

This is a quote from Mother Teresa that the Christ in the City missionaries literally wore on their back every day while serving the homeless in Denver, Colorado. I was blessed with the opportunity to join this organization over the summer and learned what it means to belong to those around me, to strangers on the street, and to God. Christ in the City is a non-profit organization who serves the poor, not with material things, but with time, love and attention. While experiencing formation ourselves that was deeply rooted in communal and individual prayer, we were sent out onto the streets of Denver to seek out the lost and lowly, the people of society whom are overlooked time and time again, but who all the more, deserve respect and love.

 

A story that sticks out to me with such clarity, and which I would like to share with you today was with a friend on the street whom I met close to the end of my time in Denver. His name was Jeff and he was a healthy man in his early thirties who recently became homeless. He was struggling with alcoholism and had a lot of family issues he was trying to sort out. Early on in the conversation he revealed to us that he was Catholic, but had not been to mass in over twenty years. After this he went on and expressed his desire to see his family, especially his parents who happened to work downtown just a couple of blocks away. On and on he went, being so open and vulnerable with these two strangers he had recently met. I was humbled to be able to listen to this man who had so much to say. My fellow missionary walking with me this day,  had been especially engaged with Jeff. He saw this man, saw his worth, saw his need, and wanted to bring him back to God. So when Jeff expressed his desire to go to confession, my fellow missionary did not hesitate to offer to walk him to a nearby church that was offering confession. And off we went.

 

That day I witnessed a child of God basking in His mercy through the sacrament of confession and filled with life while receiving the Eucharist. An experience I will never forget. I only saw Jeff a couple of times after this day. That was the hardest part about the ministry, the uncertainty of how the rest of his life will play out. I do not know if he will ever go back to church, and I do not know if he will ever pray again, but I do know that on that day, he accepted God into his life. He knew where and how to receive love and mercy, despite being away from the Church for so long. I believe that God will do amazing things with that “yes” from Jeff and will continue to wait for His son to return again.

 

This experience challenged me in all the right ways. It pushed me to look past my comforts, desires, and myself in order to serve the needs presented to me. Most importantly, it taught me I am nothing without God. I can perform no good works and spread no love without first accepting God into my life to work through me. Men and women on the streets of Denver were not drawn to me as the person I am, but as the person in whom God loved them through. To allow God to work through the small conversations and the gentle smiles, these little experiences turned into channels of mercy, comfort and love from the Holy and Almighty Creator. Being used as an instrument for God is the most freeing and rewarding work one can do. It is work that changes lives and brings more joy than one could ever imagine.  

 Edited by Lindsey Bronder and Ben Swick

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