It’s weird to say that I’ve received so much from Christ in the City. I don’t think an organization is any better than the people who compose it, but my sense of gratitude expands beyond any specific person or group that has served under our banner.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that I was supposed to offer something to the organization. When I was serving the poor in the Andes of Peru, I was asked by my superiors to move to Denver to direct the male missionary formation of Christ in the City. If anything, it seemed like my mission was getting “easier”. With all of the prosperity of the U.S. compared to the third world, how hard could it be to be homeless on the streets of Denver?
Well, it turned out to be harder than I ever expected. It’s on the streets of Denver that I truly understood the inspired words, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” In getting to know the reality of the streets, the homeless themselves have told me over and over, “Nobody starves in Denver,” but still they are unsatisfied. They have told me that the most draining aspect of living on the streets are the glances or comments that make you feel “less than a person.” And as they struggle to find relationships to satisfy them, they realize that not just any relationship will do. They want a relationship that’s pure and unconditional.
But I’ve also found that the homeless aren’t the only ones who suffer through this. Having encountered and accompanied numerous missionaries and volunteers, it seems like so many people are starving. In the end, the homeless don’t seem much different from anyone else who wants true friendship. It’s amazing to think that a whole society of people can be lonely and living side-by-side, and yet I’ve seen the most subtle and dramatic proof that it’s happening in our midst.
I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to be at the service of those who most suffer. This has always drawn me to be close to the poor, who suffer in the most visible way. What I am convicted of now is that the world will always be drawn to isolation as long as it isolates itself from Christ. Perhaps the gratitude I feel towards Christ in the City is actually direct to a single person after all: our namesake and inspiration for this mission; the One who has shared with us His Spirit and preserved us in faithfulness despite weaknesses and limitations; the One who gives us strength to confront this messy and lonely world despite how small we are.
I am the recipient of what God has given to Christ in the City, and I am all the more convicted of the power of encounter and communion. Though the fruits I see and experience are silent and unquantifiable, I continue to be astounded with what God borne through our humble “yes”. It is an honor to share in this mission… to share in His mission.
Phil is a consecrated layman in the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. He joined Christ in the City staff as the Director of Homeless Outreach in 2015 and currently serves as one of our Directors of Spiritual Formation. He enjoys Chipotle, praying to Jesus, and a good day of skiing.