An Easter People

“What you missionaries do is amazing. How do you do it?”

This is a question I hear often and one I’ve asked myself a few times as well.

Not only do I walk the streets of Denver on a daily basis, talking to the homeless, but I’ve also watched my friends on the street carry their crosses. Tom, who wants to get off the streets and start working, but still struggles with his addictions. Mark, who almost died after his kidney failed due to the drugs he took in the past. Tracy, Stephanie, and Jess, all victims of abusive relationships, trapped between violence and being lone women on the streets. David, my closest friend on the street, who lost his daughter in a car crash last October and has since turned to alcohol, violence, and despair to the point of suicide.
I’ve seen how dark the streets can be, how much suffering there is, and my heart has broken time and time again. How do I do it? What is my life right now?

Christ in the City missionaries are fond of the image of Our Lady and St. John at the foot of the Cross. It reminds us that it’s not our job to “fix” our friends, to carry their crosses; rather, that sometimes all we can do is to be there for them. But what do we say when they ask us: “how can God let me suffer like this? What is the point?”

This Easter season reminds us of the answer to these questions. I had to see my friends, people I have come to care about, suffer before I could truly grasp its meaning: Christ’s ministry did not end with the suffering at the Cross, but continued with the hope and promise of Easter. It is up to us (not just the missionaries, but you too, dear reader) to remind others that we can have faith in each other despite our past mistakes, that there is hope beyond suffering, that we can love and be loved despite our brokenness. Christ willingly suffered and so united our suffering with His. It is up to us to spread the Gospel, to let everyone know, “Lent is over. We are an Easter people. He is risen! Alleluia!”

Joe Lugue is a first-year missionary from Rancho Cordova, CA. He likes puppies, babies, Oxford commas and irony.

Seven Years of Trust

“My first impression was, “Wow… This man is definitely homeless.” His shoes were falling apart, his pants had huge holes, his sweatshirt was dirty, and his face was worn and old. He looked like your stereotypical homeless man.

After talking to him for a little while, I slowly began to see past his ragged exterior and realize how incredibly beautiful he is despite his appearance. Dan is a delightful, joyful person. He’s been on the streets now for seven years, but because of his faith, he isn’t angry with God. He’s actually quite the opposite. “They took everything from me, but they couldn’t take away my faith.”

There is so much I learned from this incredible man. Despite the sufferings and hardships, I know I can turn to the Lord for guidance. Always trusting in Him is something I learned before coming to Christ in the City. I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I left college, I didn’t have a job, I lived 8 hours from my family, and I was struggling with anxiety and depression. Finally, one day, I realized that He had always been there for me, but I had to make a decision to say “yes” to let Him help me. And after 19 years, I laid my past and my struggles at His feet. I said “yes” to God. Dan inspired me to renew my “yes” and realize that no matter the circumstances, I can always turn to God and place myself at His feet. By placing my trust in Him, I know I can overcome anything.

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 1.30.47 PMClaire is a first-year missionary from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. She loves Mama Mary, photography, and going to Target. Her goals include: to make a movie about the homeless population and become a Saint.

Under a Bridge

My best moments of the SEEK conference were spent under a highway bridge. A group of us missionaries went on street walks around San Antonio and one day, I met a guy named Quinton at a spot under a bridge. Quinton was different from the other homeless people we talked to around there. He allowed himself to be seen. This was the fast track to understanding who he was. Taking a few seconds to fully look into his gaze, I saw pain, sorrow, and suffering but also a man who wasn’t afraid to let himself be seen by another. Broken, but still open to the love of four strangers who just happened to stop by to talk.

“What are you kids doing standing here, still talking to me?”
Without thinking I replied, “we are friends, Quinton, we’re just hanging out.”
He held up his hand, “I can count the number of true friends I have on my right hand.”
“I am lucky to be one of them,” I don’t know what moved me to say this, but deep down I truly felt it.

As I continued to talk with him, he started saying, “He knows what I’ve done.” Quinton kept repeating this over and over again. “He knows what I’ve done.”
I didn’t really know what to say back to him but, “I have to admit, I’m right there with you, Quinton. It is so beyond me. How does God do it? God knows all the mistakes I’ve made and all the mistakes I am going to make. Yet He still loves me. All we can do is receive it.” I gave him the Litany of Trust and showed him my favorite line: “that Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me… Jesus, I trust in you.”
Not too long after, something happened that rarely ever happens with a friend on the street. Quinton said he didn’t want to live like that anymore. He wanted to get off the streets. He wanted to go to rehab. So quickly, I went into missionary mode, shuffling around important documents, as he handed me copies of his licenses and birth certificate- the things worth pure gold when you live on the streets. I called rehab, but they couldn’t take him until the next day. I told Quinton to go at 9am and offered to meet him and walk with him there. He wouldn’t let me because he didn’t want to bother us. But I reminded him, “you are not bothering us, Quinton. We’re friends, remember. “

I never saw Quinton after that day. I don’t know if he went to rehab, but I pray for him every day and hope I get to see him again one day. I don’t know how we became friends in 45 minutes or why God put him into my life. I don’t know how Jesus can jam so many people into my small and weak heart. But He lets it happen, and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for Quinton and for that time spent under a bridge.

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 4.25.28 PMEmily is a second-year missionary from San Antonio, Texas. She enjoys cat shirts, vintage things, dancing like nobody’s watching, and laughing at random times.

Yellow roses and ice cream

Yellow Roses and Ice Cream


By Makena Clawson

I can’t do much. And realizing this actually brings me peace.

I worry, wring my hands, pace around the room and eat ice cream when I’m stressed. (Mostly the ice cream one – I have my spoon in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter cup right now.)

Working with our friends experiencing homelessness can be stressful. Their burdens become our burdens, their pain becomes our pain. How do I sleep comfortably at night when so many of my friends are freezing on cold pavement or stuck on a mat at a shelter with someone an inch away on both sides?

Recently, I’ve been getting to know a young homeless woman who is pregnant. We work with multiple pregnant women, but this one is close to me in age and we’ve formed a close friendship ever since she trusted me enough to tell me she’s expecting.

I was working with this woman to get her into a temporary shelter while she looked for more permanent housing. She agreed, there was a place in the shelter and everything was lining up. But one small problem. She wanted to spend one last night on the street. I tried to convince her, but her mind was made.

This wasn’t any normal night, but happened to be the night the first big snow of the year was set to come in. My fellow missionaries were excited about the first snow and the office buzzed with talk of the airport canceling flights, all as my heart sank lower and lower.

Could I have tried harder to convince her to go inside tonight? Should we go downtown and look for her? What if it gets so cold and she loses the baby? What more could I have done?

These questions all swirled through my head like the first snowflakes hitting the ground. I was preoccupied all evening. Sure, I gave it over to God (or at least thought I did) and prayed for him to take care of her. But I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

As we filed into the chapel for night prayer, I looked up towards the altar and saw a large vase full of yellow roses. Yellow roses are significant because three years ago, someone told me about how they asked God for a sign their prayers for unborn children were effective and saw yellow roses as reassurance that their prayers were heard. Yellow roses had become a special sign for me too after praying for the unborn.

I fell to my knees and realized how selfish I’d been. This homeless friend and her unborn child belong to God, not me. She is his daughter and not mine. He loves her more than I ever could. Why had I been worried, anxious and stress eating instead of handing her over to him with trust and peace?

The yellow roses reminded me that he is taking care of her and her child. That she is in his hands and not mine. Maybe he’ll use me as an instrument in helping her occasionally, but she belongs to him.

I saw my friend the next day doing well. She is now in the shelter and there’s a yellow rose bush outside with blossoms still alive even after several snows.

Makena Clawson is a first-year missionary and recent graduate of Benedictine College. She wishes the whole world loved Jesus, speaking in Spanish, and Nancy Drew as much as she does.