“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2:9
Good morning or evening friends around the world! I want to tell you a ministry story this morning. I have been thinking about it since breakfast. It was even busier this morning because my wife and kids had to leave at 6:30 a.m. My wife teaches at the same school our kids attend, and that is a huge blessing. I am usually up by 4 or 5 a.m., so I was ready to rock. In any case, I am finally in my cozy den in the basement and I am excited to tell you this story!
I will never forget the night that God showed me that verse in action, particularly the part about calling people out of darkness. I had only believed in Jesus for about a year, and that Spring Break in 1997 I signed up for a mission trip to minister in the inner city of Denver.
I grew up in Littleton, Colorado just down the street from the Capitol in Denver. We lived in a little brick house real close to Santa Fe and Littleton Blvd and on the other side was Federal Blvd. It was a great place to grow up in the 80s! It was a mix of safe and tough, kind of like a city suburb. I lived there from 1981 to 1991.
Growing up we always heard about the violent crimes happening up and down Colfax Avenue in Denver. Colfax Avenue is Colorado’s Main street. It runs all the way from Golden out West in the foothills all the way east to Aurora. It has a long history and I recommend looking it up someday. Colorado history is pretty cool!
Our parents would always tell us to stay away from Colfax. They knew we rode our bikes everywhere and they knew we went all the way to the Capitol sometimes. Well, the Capitol is right on Colfax. We would go to 7-11 in Littleton to get snacks, then we would ride up to Denver. We saw a lot of crazy things. There are homeless people everywhere in City Park and drug users openly sticking needles in their arms in broad daylight. I once saw a man passed out (or dead) in City Park with a needle hanging out of his arm. The other homeless guys were laughing and mocking him as the ambulance came to get him. He was only about a hundred yards from the Capitol. Yes, very rough and dangerous area.
We did most of our ministry in City Park right across the street from the Capitol and the surrounding neighborhoods around Colfax. The old five points neighborhood is right next to the Capitol. Up and down Colfax in that whole area people can find just about any vice they want. There are gang members fighting for territory, prostitutes walking the block, and homeless people and drug addicts wandering around. It is a horrible sight, and there are plenty of opportunities to help people and share the Gospel.
I hope you enjoyed that little tour! I love my State, my City, and my Country! Colorado is one of the best places to live in the United States. Every city has crime and problems. That is a product of the fall. Colorado is a beautiful state though, and our ski resorts are top notch! Denver is a cool city with a good laid back vibe, and there are plenty of great things to do. You just have to be careful like in any city. When we are down there for ministry, we go into the darkness looking for the lost on purpose. Don’t do that if you are just a tourist. You could get hurt. Most of the homeless people carry knives down in D-Town. Be aware, be smart, and do not ever be naive, ever. That’s what I learned growing up around these streets!
So, now you have an idea of what the area is like that my ministry story took place in. The Spring Break trip was part of the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry I was involved with at the University of Northern Colorado. It was the first time I had ever done any Christian ministry work, let alone street ministry. We worked with Crusade’s inner city outreach called “Here’s Life Inner City” in conjunction with the local church off Colfax called “Church in the City.” There were students from all over the country and we all met at the church. We stayed there for a week doing some of the most incredible street ministry I have ever been honored to be a part of! We also worked with another inner city ministry called “Christ’s Body Ministries” that we still support today! They are awesome. Check out my “Great Ministries” page for details!
Church in the City moved locations, but this was the old location we stayed at:
Every night we would go out around midnight to minister on the streets of Colfax. I was loving it! Here I was out in the middle of the night on the street my parents and the news had warned me about my whole life. It was pitch black, very late, and very gritty.
One night we split into teams. There were about four or five people in each team. The girls in the group were never alone and we always made sure we were together. Don’t be naive as you minister to people. Watch out for each other. Some people do like to attack Christians–we know this.
I was with four other guys and we decided after praying that we would head over to the road bridges over by Speer Blvd. That is just down the street from the Capitol over by the Pepsi Center where the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche play. There are always homeless over there. It is real close to the Denver Rescue Mission.
We walked down the embankment and up the other side to talk to the guys under the bridge. There were several men all stuffed tight under this one section right by the road. It smelled awful, like urine and liquor, and it was dark. It didn’t matter, Jesus says to love them anyway. We introduced ourselves, told them we were serving Jesus, and asked them if they wanted some food and clothes.
They were very happy to see us and received us well. We fed them and gave them warm clothes (Spring Break in Denver is usually freezing), and began sharing the Gospel. As we finished, a Native American man in the back got very angry and started trying to crawl towards us. He was deep at the back under the bridge stuffed in the corner. He started cussing and telling us to leave, but his homeless buddies started laughing at him and told him to pipe down as they held him back.
He finally calmed down, and we continued to minister. We prayed for them and talked with them, and it was awesome! I was in the city at night serving the Lord and I felt alive! It was the city I grew up loving, and now I was deep in it!
Before we left, we asked if anybody would like to go home and told them we could help get them back home. Everyone was quiet, then a voice that had been quiet the whole time spoke up and said softly, “I do.”
He crawled out from under the bridge and walked over to us. He was a tall white guy about mid 30s and he looked like he had been through it all. He told us he was from Ohio and he wanted to go back home to his family. We took him back to the church, gave him more fresh clothing, money, and packed him food, then we drove straight to the bus station. We bought him a one way ticket back home to Ohio, and that night that man was not homeless anymore!
God called him right out of that darkness and it was a great honor to be a part of it! He took us straight into the heart of darkness that night, and He cut through it with His Glorious Light! He pulled that man out from under that dark nasty bridge, and I will never ever forget that! Glory to Jesus!
I still pray for that man, and I often wonder what he is doing today. I hope and pray he is doing great and living victoriously in Christ now! That is the kind of redemption Jesus is all about!
What darkness would you like Jesus to pull you out of today? Whatever it is, I guarantee you, He can and will rescue you from it! I have witnessed it and experienced it myself! Even on the streets of Denver in the pitch black Colfax night!
Grace and Peace to you all!