PC: KSB

Evangelicals embracing diversity – it’s a thing

Live in harmony with one another…If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  -Romans 12:16a, 18, ESV

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. -Psalm 119:13-15, NIV

PC: KSB

PC: KSB


Norma took the stage, her voice shaking as she shared her story.

Through pauses and tears, she told the group about growing up as a migrant worker, not fitting in with her Texan friends because of her Floridian accent, and experiencing microaggressions because of her brown skin. She joined the church in Denver, thinking it a safe place, but still did not fit in. Her stories of regularly being tailed while grocery shopping, for example, are not believed.

This she shared on stage in front of the church itself. Norma pleaded to be believed and understood, said her Latina sisters there felt the same way, and called for unity. Being in a white space can be exhausting when that means people cannot relate to you, or when they question your experiences.


Our church is actually very multicultural,

especially for an evangelical church – that’s why I love it and why I want to share about it with you today. The worship team is equal parts black and white with one or two Asian or Latinx musicians completing the group. Mixed race children zigzag around the aisles after church while their parents mingle.

Yet many people in our community still feel as if they cannot fully be themselves or be known and believed.

We are working on it. We have a diversity committee. We, an evangelical church in a predominantly white denomination, are an example in our intention to be racially inclusive. Though we are still imperfect, the attempts are showing results.

The diversity committee is about two years old, and I have heard women of color say that it has been helpful. The committee is part of the reason why we recently had an untold story event where people of color were able to share some of these microaggressions they experience, and it is why we had a service dedicated to discussing racial diversity.

The space last Sunday allowed for testimony, listening, and lots of applause. The speakers were honest. The message was about unity. You can watch all of the service here. In addition to testimonies, one of the older men who leads worship explained the history of Negro spirituals and shared one.


Unity is important, but we need to dig deeper into what that means.

Harmony, too, is necessary. We do not need to put aside our differences to get along; we need to put aside our division.

A song is made stronger by its different, cohesive sounds – the harmonies. We, as disciples of Christ, need also to embrace who we are and build each other up using our unique gifts. If we try to fit in or suppress the parts of us that have caused us trouble because they stand out, we hurt ourselves and the Body of Christ. We suppress the Spirit within our bodies by suppressing how God made us to be.

Some of those gifts from God are our identity and our very appearance. We are God’s beloved children, designed according to his specifications, just as the Tabernacle was designed with physical measurements for utmost holiness and beauty. Let me share some examples of these gifts:

  • For Sho, it means her dark skin and bald head, her understanding nature and loving spirit. All of that is intentional. She is tall for a reason. She is black for a reason. She is strong, lovely, wise, and holy.
  • For Fabian, it means his ability to speak both Spanish and English, his passion to care for his students and to fight for their best interests, his athleticism and his servant’s heart. He is American for a reason. He is Hispanic for a reason. He is in Colorado for a reason. He is considerate, kind, and intelligent.
  • For Lee, it means his Dragon Ball Z-esc hair, his endless knowledge of everything that exists, and the way he interacts with people. He is Korean for a reason. He is white for a reason. He gets caught on subjects that fascinate him for a reason. He is encouraging, dedicated, and thoughtful.
  • For Djeffrey, it means his big, welcoming eyes and bright smile, his energy, his commitment, his voice, and his body that was made for dancing. He is Haitian for a reason. He is a man for a reason. He is black for a reason. Regardless of how he does his hair or how much energy he has on a particular day, he is serious about people, crazy about Jesus, compassionate, and giving.
  • For me, it means my light skin, my ability to shift between cultures and build relationships, my short stature, and my voice. I am white for a reason. I always seem to be the one who doesn’t quite fit in the crowd, and that positioning is for a reason. I am inviting, knowledgeable, hospitable, and beloved.

David, a Korean-American man who shared his testimony last Sunday, recapped a story where a friend told him not to be “that Asian guy.” He initially agreed with his friend and then thought about it later with curiosity. A woman who shared her story told of the teen girls around her also being told not to act their race.

“Don’t act black,” or “don’t be that Asian guy” is like saying “don’t be the way God made you to be.” It is spitting in the face of God! It is also racist.

God made you in your skin and placed you with your kin for a reason. If you are black, God smiles upon you. If you are Native American, he sees you. If you are Latinx, he is proud of you. If you are Asian, he knows your innermost thoughts and desires. If you are white, he loves you too.


I am proud of my morning church for its efforts to be racially inclusive.

Some ways we can continue to improve are to incorporate Spanish songs into our worship to benefit our large Hispanic population and add some Korean, French, and Creole songs as well. We sing a little bit of Gospel and have recently learned a couple spirituals, but the majority of the worship is still CCM, aka white Christian music. As a white attender, I think we are doing pretty decently, but I know we can definitely push ourselves more for the love of our Body, who is Christ.

Although our church is multiracial and the people on stage represent that, most of the elders themselves are white, and they are all men. Adding more people of color to our leadership (and women, but I have intentionally left gender out of this because that is a different story at our church) will change the way our church is run so that we can grow more harmonious and united and reflective of Heaven.

To other Christians who may be reading this, and church leaders especially, consider taking our model as an example for how to grow your church in the glory of God, and share with me how you have harnessed the strength that comes from the diversity of God’s Kingdom!

Peace.

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PC: KSB

Why I shaved my head

Last August, just before the solar eclipse that crossed the entire nation, I shaved my head as a sign of mourning the sins of racial and social class inequality in the United States.  I had in mind the way poor people in this country are treated on structural levels, for example.

The way black teenagers have to fear for their lives when knocking to ask for directions to school and it’s not an isolated incident or unfounded fear; the way black and white men are given vastly different court sentences; the way the KKK was allowed to riot in Charlottesville this summer, a century after the Jim Crow Era; the way low income families are ripped out of their decades-old trailer homes to make space for expensive, new developments, because the Denver owners lusted for more money; the sin of gentrification – the list goes on.

At the time, I was reading the Biblical book of Amos, which references a solar eclipse and the shaving of heads because of the nation’s sins of injustice and inequity, similar to the ones I mentioned above. God convicted me as I read this timely passage, so as a prophetic move, I went to the hairdresser and asked her to shave curly locks, which are such a part of what I perceive to be my beauty and identity.

As much as we may often be going for style, women’s hair is not merely a part of our bodies or attire; it is symbolic. From owning your afro during the Harlem Renaissance to going natural as a black woman in the American workplace today, many women can identify with this.

Today I stumbled across this article from the New York Times. It discusses the politics of hair and references gun control activist Emma Gonzalez as well as the fierce warrior women in Black Panther, both with their buzzed heads, and it’s worth a quick read. So is the book of Amos, which remains relevant to the USA.

A few passages stand out:

There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
    and detest the one who tells the truth.

You levy a straw tax on the poor
    and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
    you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
    you will not drink their wine.

For I know how many are your offenses
    and how great your sins.

There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
    and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
    for the times are evil.

Seek good, not evil,
    that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
    just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
    maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
    on the remnant of Joseph.”

-Amos 5:10-15, NIV

After referencing much doom and punishment, Amos 8:3-10 (NIV) continues:

 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”

Hear this, you who trample the needy
    and do away with the poor of the land,

saying,

“When will the New Moon be over
    that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
    that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure,
    boosting the price
    and cheating with dishonest scales,
buying the poor with silver
    and the needy for a pair of sandals,
    selling even the sweepings with the wheat.

The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.

“Will not the land tremble for this,
    and all who live in it mourn?
The whole land will rise like the Nile;
    it will be stirred up and then sink
    like the river of Egypt.

“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,

I will make the sun go down at noon
    and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your religious festivals into mourning
    and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
    and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
    and the end of it like a bitter day.”

Solar Eclipse, August 2017 PC: KSB

Solar Eclipse, August 2017 PC: KSB

God does leave space for repentance; the nation can change. Then there can be hope.

But since August, things have only gotten worse here: established immigrants expelled and new ones not accepted, violating God’s welcoming way of treating foreigners throughout the Old Testament; low and even middle income families in a bind with insurance (I currently have none and my family had to move to a co-op type of plan in order to maintain any); the continuation of the urban camping ban in Denver, which prevents many homeless people from covering themselves in the night; and so forth.

My curls are growing back, a sign of beauty and life. But will America also grow in righteousness (justice) or love?

 

cockroach. PC: KSB

Open letter to cockroaches

Of all the bugs with which I’ve shared a home, cockroaches are certainly not the worst. We have the German kind, so they’re really more like beetles, and they don’t seem to do anything except be everywhere, so it’s not that bad. I honestly find it amusing at points, though also a bit annoying. Because I am frustrated with certain things, I have crafted a letter to the king of the cockroach clan that resides in my apartment complex. Please enjoy and share this if you have similar issues with the cockroach community.

Dear Mr. Cockroach,

How art thou, O ruler of my apartment? I don’t know why I think of you as a mister, but I do. Evidently there are enough women in your bunch to multiply your offspring in this humble domain you have chosen to be your kingdom. That’s fine; babies are good, but I do have a couple things I’d like to discuss with you for the mutual benefit of Apartment 301 and the building as a whole.

  1. You reign in this apartment, in this whole building in fact, but you don’t pay rent. Do you know the cost of living these days? Since you use the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room more than I do and repose in the living room and bed room as well, I think it’s only fair that you do your part. With the amount of roaches in your clan, it really shouldn’t be that expensive. So please, I know you’re the king, but you have to think of the good of your people (meaning us four actual humans) in your apartment kingdom. Thanks.
  2. I don’t mind sharing with you. I really don’t. I like to think of myself as a friendly and hospitable person. But when you walk all over me (literally when I’m on the couch and you’re walking across my body), that’s too much. Let me maintain some dignity, and don’t abuse this relationship. I need some respect.
  3. This respect implies privacy as well. I’ve learned to close my eyes when you decide to sleep on the wall a yard from my face. I know you won’t hurt me. But when you are on the toilet seat and I need to use the loo, that’s unacceptable. I would appreciate space in my bedroom, though I’ve learned to share, but I absolutely need the privacy of a free toilet seat when I need to relieve myself. Just go on the wall. It’s only a few feet away. Don’t claim my chance to have a throne just because you’re king.
  4. And please stop entering the fridge to eat our food. It only ends up killing you anyway.

Thank you for hearing my complaints, O Mr. Cockroach, and considering my words. You know where to find me to discuss these matters further. Thank you again.

Sincerely,

Katelyn Skye Bennett (Skye)

Ten things I love about Denver

While I’m not a native Coloradan, I lived in Denver during a life-changing summer two years ago. Now I am back for a bit, and I am so happy. Here are ten things I love about this city, culminating with number 10.

  1. Public transportation.

    Riding the bus is inexpensive and provides the opportunity to people watch, rest from a fulfilling day or observe the city itself through discolored windows. I feel independent when I take the RTD, and I learn about social dynamics by observing where people sit and how they speak to each other. If you’re from a city, you can probably relate.

  2. Sunshine.

    If I could define Denver in a word, I would say yellow. Yellow defines the feel of the summer sun on my skin, the invisible color of the air, the feeling I have while living here – due in part to the serotonin-boosting sunshine. As John Denver croons, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Even his name reinforces how the sun connects to this Coloradan city!

  3. Mountains.

    The Rockies awe me with their majesty, the majesty that reflects their Creator. Although I behold them daily, they have not lost their splendor. They always provide me with some metaphor, and they draw me closer to God. In this city, they also help me find my way since I can always know which way is west. As a directionally challenged person, I appreciate that.

    Denver blog view from LFS office

    The view from my office, PC: KSB

  4. My internship.

    I could write blogs upon blogs about my internship. I work with refugees who are resettling in the United States, and I love showing up to work every morning. My coworkers are caring, relational, hard-working and fun, and I relish being surrounded by their many languages. I hear a lot of Arabic in particular, and one of the case managers is teaching me Kiswahili since I am on my way to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is my second time interning here, and each time I’ve been thrown into learning and doing. I could go on forever about how amazing my internship is, but I’ll move on from describing my amazing weekdays to the event that makes my weekends so fabulous.

  5. Jazz in the Park.

    For ten consecutive Sundays each summer, thousands of people gather in City Park to hear live jazz and consume cuisine from the food trucks. Elderly couples and children dance together by the gazebo, and families hold picnics by the algae-covered lake. Whether chatting with friends or vibing to the music alone, I love the atmosphere.

    Denver blog leaving Jazz in the Park

    Leaving Jazz in the Park, PC: KSB

  6. Old friends.

    Since I lived here two years ago, I have been able to reconnect with people whom I met during a formative time in my life. I have enjoyed catching up with old friends, having fun in community and being near people who can build me up in my faith. These friends vary in age from children to people more than twice my age, and some even call me family.

  7. Walking.

    I appreciate the calf muscles I have been able to sustain by walking; I like feeling strong. While walking is obviously a good way to travel from place to place, exercise or release stress, it is also conducive to exploring. Immersing oneself in Denver’s shops and neighborhoods is easier by foot than by car since it allows for more spontaneity and closeness to the details that characterize Denver. What you discover will depend on where you walk and how open you keep your eyes and heart.

    Denver blog Izzy and me at Juneteenth 2016

    Izzy and I at the Juneteenth Festival, PC: KSB

  8. Festivals every weekend.

    There’s always something to do in the city. With many of these events free and public transportation so easily accessible, Denverites have no reason to be bored. Although I am a bit of a homebody, I also find it healthy to get out of the apartment and explore. I particularly enjoy the cultural festivals such as the one in Five Points celebrating Juneteenth Independence Day. Participating with friends makes the deal even better.

  9. 16th Street Mall.

    Street musicians fill the air with sweet melodies, and public pianos beckon from the center of every block; it is basically the dream. The street is always crowded, which makes it a great place to observe or potentially make connections. (I once met a man who works for the Denver Voice, the homeless newspaper based in my building, while heading toward the movie theater there.) For consumers, 16th Street Mall is the place to satisfy physical hunger, find any item one may desire or simply browse the windows. The mall bus is free and can take you closer to your destination if you’re not in the mood to walk.

    Denver blog 16th St Mall

    A group of activists on 16th Street Mall, PC: KSB

  10. Diversity of people.

    This plays into almost all my previous points in some way. Living with a family of another race and nationality, learning about my friends’ religions in a setting where we all respect each other and can make civil and genuine conversation, appreciating global cultures daily through my friends’ food and the city’s festivals, the buzz during Pridefest when rainbow flags decorated all of Colfax and hundreds of thousands of people from around the country came to celebrate – I do not experience most of these things in my wealthy, white suburban college town, but in Denver I am surrounded by diversity of all forms.

    I am learning so much in this city, and I am thriving off the diversity in which I live. Even if you do not live in a city, I encourage you to seek this out. A trip to Denver won’t hurt either.

What are some things you love about Denver? Comment below!

PC: KSB

The Bus Fight

Denver,
Summer 2014.

White man on a bus.
Black youth—my age—as well.

Fight.
Words, words of hate.
“N*****,” they both called each other.

I’d never seen anything like it;
I’d never seen such hate.

The white man wouldn’t listen,
Wouldn’t heed a word.
I wanted to tell the black man that he wouldn’t make any progress,
But I held back
>out of fear of the fight
>and because I didn’t want the man to have to be submitted to a white voice
>again.

Help doesn’t always mean stepping in for others.

They wanted to take it on to the street.
“Colfax and—” what crossroad?
Broadway was my stop.

They wanted to fight out of rage
(the white man had started it over literally nothing),
But they were both scared.
I think one got off a stop before me, one after.

I hurried away for fear that I’d be caught in a brawl.

Denver,
Summer 2014.

I witnessed the results
Of a racist history, alive today.

I hadn’t known the divide was so real, still real,
And while I never saw another bus fight, I saw
>discriminatory housing laws causing segregation
>gentrification of the remaining black neighborhoods
>homelessness in men now out of the (broken) criminal justice system
>fear of poor, minority males
>poverty mere yards from wealth.

White man on a bus.
Black youth—my age—as well.
Hate and fear.

An Evening in My Neighborhood (Denver)

We swung and smiled in the evening light, laughter littering the peaceful playground like the golden light peering over the elementary school and around the buildings downtown.

~~~

I live across from an elementary school, and since it is summer, my friends and I have free reign of the playground. We have enjoyed a couple evenings on the slide, monkey bars, and swings recently, sharing the child-like fun as well as our life stories.

However, I spent today alone. I slept in, my body needing the twelve hours of undisturbed rest. After waking, I consumed lunch, penned several entries and lists in my journal, and cleaned for hours upon end while listening to some of my favorite bands, FM Static and Children 18:3. Exhausted, I made an easy dinner and planned to email several friends. But because I had been inside all day, the sunshine and cooling temperatures attracted me more than the indoors and my laptop.

I decided to have some time with Jesus. Although I had been alone all day, I had necessarily cooped myself inside while cleaning and had listened to punk and alternative rock rather than praying, processing, or observing in solitude. I now desired the quiet outdoors of a Denver evening. Barefoot as usual, I set out on a walk.

After strolling down one block, I longed for more solitude, so ambled down another block. Turning right, I walked two blocks over. Through the trees and cars lining the sidewalk, I attempted to observe several groups hanging out on porches. Two were entirely composed of blacks, and another was Mexican. After noting the homogenous groups, I wondered what minority groups thought when all whites hung out together. A squirrel that was climbing someone’s car caused me to grin in the midst of my more serious thoughts. Then I returned towards home.

A block and a half up, the grassy elementary school park and its swings drew me. I perched on a swing, rocking ever so slightly, and observed my surroundings.

I noticed that the building in which my friends and I live is one large unit; up close, I usually only notice the red door and the blue doorframe of the community room and the numbers, windows, and doors of the apartments. From afar, I wondered what others thought of the Issachar Center, the unit we live in. Its architecture is similar to that of one or two other houses nearby, but does my summer home look richer than the rest of the neighborhood? I hoped not.

Children’s laughter and chatter rang from one of the smaller playgrounds behind the school, mingling with the Spanish they exchanged with their mothers. A young teenager attempted to skateboard on the pavement to my right — to the west, towards the mountains that the elementary school blocked.

The sky faded into a medium cornflower blue above my head with a lighter blue color rimming the houses and city buildings on the skyline, and thriving grass filled my immediate area.

A father and two children entered to my left, on the east side. The girl and her father played catch while the boy perched on his bike. When I asked the child later, he replied that he was having fun. Other groups of girls came and went from the play area.

Four black boys joined me on the swings. Glad that they were not shying away from me, I welcomed them, and they greeted me back. They began doing small acrobatic feats and playfully threatening to knock into each other from the swings. The oldest boy, who appeared to be about twelve or thirteen years old, introduced himself and asked my name and age.

I considered leaving to email my friends from school, but the desire to stay in the peaceful outdoors won. Being outside and observing was worthwhile, I decided. I was content.

I swung higher and listened to the boys laugh and chat, occasionally adding a comment. I smiled and laughed with them. The two oldest swung to my right, and two younger boys, aged nine and five, swung to my left. I helped to spin and push the youngest boy.

The younger boys and I chatted about our names and why we were named them. The five year old responded that he was named Ezekiel because his daddy named him that. I asked him if he knew that there is an Ezekiel in the Bible, and he said yes. The nine year old added that his name is in the Bible, too.

I explained that my name, Skye, also comes from the Bible. “It comes from Psalms. Do you know about the Psalms?” I queried. Ezekiel nodded. I continued, “My name comes from Psalm 19:1, which says ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.'”

I hung around for a few more minutes, standing on the swings like Ezekiel, before leaving. The oldest two boys had left the swing set a couple minutes after I had begun to help push Ezekiel, and I never caught the fourth boy’s name.

I left through gate by the community garden, and as I jogged back home, I heard one of the boys call across the lawn, “Bye, Skye!” I waved towards the voice and smiled to myself.

The Turf Tour: Learning about Homeless Youth in Denver

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has a material possession and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18, NIV).

~~~

Strung lights dazzle over the street. A hidden speaker emits haunting music, adding to the aura that leaves pedestrians in a daze. Wealth oozes out of the restaurants, fancy clothing stores, and expensive pet shops. The river flows a road away and a level down. Welcome to Larimer Street.

Across the intersection and down a level from the roads, athletes bike and run on beige sidewalks lining the river. Tall grass forms a median in the river, and green trees further beautify the landscape. We walk along the sidewalk, in the hot sun for a few minutes, in the shade of a bridge next. Here we pause.

Denverites travel past us, oblivious to their heavy surroundings. Like me, they see only the open sky, the lush beauty of the landscape, the cream sidewalk beneath their feet. We do not look up until instructed.

“Look at the bridges. What do you see?” one guide queries.

“Bars,” I answer, probing the architecture with my eyes.

“Why do you think those bars are there?” she replies.

“To keep people out,” someone responds, seeing the alcoves at the top of the bridge blocked by rusted iron rods. We stand there in silent realization of our surroundings.

The beautiful city of Denver houses both the haves and the have-nots. The haves live in apartments renting at $750, $900, or $2,000 per month. They may live in lofts and houses selling for $250,000 and $500,000 respectively. The have-nots live in bridges and alcoves hidden from the haves. They see but remain unseen. And now the city is removing what little “housing” the have-nots used by barring bridges and banning camping. It is also eliminating hang outs by barring tunnels.

I have not talked to the city officials about this, but I am curious about how they would explain all these bars. We discuss this as we continue on our turf tour. Some people suggest that the city would say the bars are a health precaution. They do not want people entering the tunnel because then they will use drugs or get sick from the unsanitary water.

I am not satisfied.

My eyes have been opened to a world beneath my feet. We walk over homeless youth daily, both figuratively and literally, oblivious to our fellow humans.

We know when we stride past homeless men and women on the streets. Unwilling to give from our abundance and scared that they will hurt us, we glance away without a hello. We do not pause to consider how they have become homeless. We do not stop to ask for their story. Instead we fear, judge, and walk past them like the priest and Levite did to the man who had been mugged in the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10 in the Bible). We never think that the white male in a suit could quite feasibly be a criminal and that the shaggy, worn individual with plastic bags could become a trusted friend with a wealth of lessons to teach us.

The Holy Spirit causes me to twinge when I walk past these homeless people because I know I am being selfish, prideful, and fearful by ignoring them. That alone could become a blog topic. However, most people — myself included — have no idea that they live across from or above the hidden homes of homeless teens. This ignorance is a separate, massive problem.

Most of us complain when our stomachs grumble in the least and talk about going out for Mexican food or pizza as if it is nothing; the unseen homeless people may go without any food for a day. And we do not even realize they are beneath the bridges on which we walk, just around the corners by the highways on which we travel to work, and on the intersections we cross daily as we bus or walk to the store or home.

We sleep on our comfortable mattresses in our comfortable rooms, safe from the outdoor elements, uninterrupted in our sleep. They squat in grassy corners outside, tucked in bridges where no one would think to look, and on wooden slats far into wet, dark tunnels. Even the messiest middle class families sleep inside on some form of comfortable material, but the homeless youth often sleep on hard, dirty, rocky earth.

Our mattresses are dry and our clothes and sheets are washed frequently. Their pillows are soggy and their beds are hard. Most Denverites and citizens of the United States can purchase new things when their old ones form a hole, fade a color shade, or go out of style. However, the homeless youth’s pillows are soggy and their clothing is in disrepair.

Our group walks by the grass and the river in silent contemplation of what we have seen. Reaching another bridge, I admire the white, rocky ground next to the sidewalk. It looks pretty to me. A moment later, one guide speaks and points out the very ground I had noticed. What he says shocks me and almost makes me ashamed of myself.

“Do you see how lush the grass is out there? But here there are rocks so that no one can sleep here under the bridge,” he says, adding, “The rocks are cemented in so you can’t even move them around to make a space to sleep.” The guide expounds upon how uncomfortable it would be to sleep under a bridge like that and how the homeless are being continually kicked out of places they formerly could have slept.

My view of an attractive city came from a middle class perspective rather than a practical one. What I had perceived as beauty was actually a prong in the side of our guides’ homeless friends.

The tour ends. We have seen bars and bridges, a youth who just shot up, tunnels and utter physical darkness like we had never experienced before. We have heard of injustice and about the crafty expulsion of homeless teens in Denver; I am sure it is the same in cities around the United States. We have also heard stories of hope and have had our hearts burdened.

The tour guides leave, and we split up to go home, explore, or chill in the city. How should we go about life now?

Since our hearts our heavy, one person suggests seeing a movie that night. Some of us put the turf tour out of our mind as we find our way home, figuring out the bus system and resting on our beds from a long day. At dinner several of us reflect on the sights we have seen, the actions of our cities, and on our homeless and poor friends. The compassion we felt earlier transitions into advocacy as we discuss what we can do about this new knowledge and understanding.

I do not want to grow a one sided view — that of the underprivileged and misrepresented. I realize that learning about their situation is crucial and that they receive much injustice. However, as any good journalist should do with his or her writing and as Proverb 18:13, 15 and especially verse 17 imply, I want to hear all sides of the story first: theirs, those of the middle and upper class, and the city’s. Then I will be able to move forward more wisely, as aware of all sides of the story as possible.

This is where I stand now. I have been in Denver in my summer city immersion experience for one week and have already had the beginnings of an eye opening behind the scenes tour. I am sure I will continue to learn about people’s back stories, thoughts, and reasoning throughout my eight weeks here. I also hope to love people practically from a well informed standpoint, keeping the Gospel as my motivation and Jesus as my teacher.

What are you doing to do to help the needy now, and how will you receive what they have to say?

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“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son (Jesus Christ) as an atoning sacrifice for our since. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

“We know that we live in him and he in us because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us to that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10-19, NIV).