Homeless in Denver
By Kathy Barr
The first time seventeen-year-old Katie Morgan traveled to Denver with her youth group from the Southern Hills Church of Christ, it had a profound impact on her life. When she returned to Abilene, she was so affected with the plight of the homeless here that she now gives away food and water to some of those in our community in this situation. When the youth group went back to Denver last month, there was no question in Katie’s mind that she was going with them. More than fifty teens and approximately 11 adults, including youth group leader Steven Corbett, traveled to Denver in June to minister to homeless teens. The Southern Hills Church works with Matt and Nicole Wallace at the Lakewood Church of Christ’s Dry Bones Ministry, which ministers to about 300 of the homeless teens in Denver. Many of these young people feel compelled to leave home because of abuse or neglect. Matt and Nicole work on building relationships with them. Youth group members meet the teens where they spend time on the streets and under bridges, and get to know them and find out what their needs are. Matt and Nicole provide a daily lunch outside for those who are hungry. When the weather gets cold, the teens are given sweat shirts, blankets and sleeping bags. Recreational activities, such as playing pool and going bowling, are also a part of the program. Most importantly, when the opportunity presents itself, those on the street are taught about Jesus and invited to church. Matt and Nicole provide transportation to the teens who want to attend services. Maryann Caraway, 14, was also part of the group that traveled to Denver with the Southern Hills group. Maryann saw a world far different from the one she is used to. The fourteen-year-old said it surprised her that so many young people live on the streets. She was saddened that the government does not seem to care about the homeless. “The city just wants to get rid of them,” she said. It was upsetting to Maryann to find out that so little was actually being done to help these people who so desperately need help. The fact that the homeless live within sight of the affluent in Denver was disturbing to her as well. “We saw a squat – a homeless neighborhood right across the street from a rich neighborhood –they’re all over the place,” she said. Because this was Maryann’s first time to minister to the homeless she was, understandably, a little apprehensive. However, she quickly overcame her feelings of fear when she realized that the homeless teens had the same needs she did. She was glad she was in a position to help out. Fortunately for the many homeless teens in Denver, there are people, such as those connected to Dry Bones, who care and are working to make the teens’ lives better. As a result of the ministry, there are some real success stories. One individual who was profoundly influenced by the Dry Bones ministry was “Cheto” . The twenty-six year old man had been homeless since he was 14, and was part of a local gang. Gang members were often initiated into the group at the Platte River. When Cheto learned about Jesus and decided to be baptized, he wanted to start his new life in Christ at the same place where he had been initiated into the gang. Cheto decided to be baptized at the Platte River. Both Katie and Maryann’s lives were influenced by this trip. Maryann said she now realizes how blessed she is. She also realizes that homelessness is an issue that needs to be addressed. Katie said the trip helped her to grow spiritually. “I learned to see things through God’s eyes,” she said.
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