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Christ in the City 2018 Experience

JPII Newman Students & Staff in Denver

April 10, 2018

“Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

Christ in the City is an organization of Catholic missionaries; men and women who share God’s love with the homeless in Denver, Colorado.

Their goal is to end the brokenness and loneliness that these people face.

It’s a mission that starts with every day conversations; a chance to get to know each individual on a personal level.  They listen to their stories; assuring them they are cared for and that God has a plan for them.  They provide them with food, water, and small necessities.

Over spring break I was fortunate to have had the pleasure of making many new friends through my experience at Christ in the City:  people from UNO, UNK, missionaries of CIC, and the homeless.

In addition to those friendships, which I hope will last a lifetime, I grew in many ways.

This trip helped me step out of my comfort zone, embrace awkward times, and make the most of any situation. Personally, I sometimes struggle talking to complete strangers, homeless or not. Through this experience, I learned to overcome that.  There were moments of silence, which tended to be awkward.  But this experience showed me that God has meaning during the silence. He is helping the conversation grow and moving it in a direction that will lead to greater things. This experience showed me to continue to believe in myself and those around me… and to use the talents and abilities that God has blessed me with.  Through my homeless friends, I learned the importance of joy and positivity in every situation.  I also learned how the impact of a simple “hello” can make the difference in someone’s life and completely make their day.

This was an opportunity that truly impacted my life and will stay with me forever.

From the daily activities, to the moments of deep and constant prayer, to the street ministry, everything was a neat experience and helped me grow closer to God. I took part in many street walks over the week and met numerous individuals. Every day I met someone new with a different experience. Each of my homeless friends had a story to tell and just wanted to be heard. Some of my homeless friends had a difficult past filled with sorrow, tragedy, and sadness. They had to overcome difficult situations.

For example, one gentleman who went by “Crash” lost his father to alcohol abuse, his mother to a drunk driver, and his brother to a shooting.  Then his wife left him and took the kids.  After suffering this much loss, he still looked for the positive in everything.  At the end of the conversation, we gave him a couple water bottles and pairs of socks. He was beyond grateful and showed so much appreciation for the gift. This definitely moved me. Whenever most people receive socks at Christmas, they usually aren’t too happy.  But this man showed so much appreciation for this small gift and said that we completely made his day.

Then there was Arthur.  He was from the south.  Since arriving in Denver, he had trouble finding his way around the city. He would try to ask people for directions, but instead of hearing what he had to say, many people would ignore him or say, “Sorry, I don’t have any change.”  That was difficult to hear.  Instead of recognizing him as another human being, he received so much disrespect just for being homeless.

I also met a man named Jake.  Jake could be considered a success story. He was from Philadelphia and had been homeless for many years. However, he managed to become financially stable and found himself an apartment.  Jake was such a generous man that he even bought the other missionaries and me doughnuts. This was truly humbling…

Finally, meet Sid.  Sid talked about his family, his past life as a chef and musician, how he overcame addiction, and his search for an apartment.  Even though I was there to talk to Sid, the conversation turned, and he started asking questions about my life.  I thought it was quite neat to see his interest in my life. Then at the end of the conversation he thanked me for talking with him.  He said it made his day, and he was glad to have the company.

Another neat moment was at “Lunch in the Park”; a two-hour, weekly event that CIC hosts for the homeless population in Denver.  During this time, I was fortunate to be a food server.

Alex Downey & Johnny Murray serving “Lunch in the Park.”

I met many people and had the chance to put chips on their plate. Seeing how appreciative they were for a handful of chips was also incredibly humbling.

Christ in the City was a trip that really opened my eyes and my heart in many ways. I was reluctant at first, but after my experience, I would highly recommend it!

It provided insight… showing me how to appreciate life and make the most out of any situation. It taught me not to judge or assume as you never know what other people have gone through.

My homeless friends showed me Jesus in many ways, and I look forward to seeing all that I gained from this experience continue to grow in my heart in all that I do.

Johnny Murray | Senior, UNO & Parishioner, St. John Paul II Newman Center

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