Thursday, September 16, 2010

Colorado

As some of you know, we were told in July that Jeremy no longer has a job. The church that he was employed by had to do budget cuts and his position was one of the positions that got cut. This gave us a little free time in our schedule. We decided to go and visit some of our friends, Benny and Niki Nowell, that live in Boulder, Colorado. They have a ministry called Sevens Ministry. During the summer, they have a program called Sabbath. During Sabbath, youth groups participate in a week long program where they learn how to do what Sevens does and take it back to their own town and do it there. Jeremy and I got to participate in Sabbath.


During the first part of the week, you spend time learning how to slow down and listen to God. For some people this is very hard. I found it very relaxing. With four young children very close in age, I rarely slow down. 


We started off on Sunday going to Chautauqua Park. Here we were to go up onto the "mountain" and spend some alone time with God. Here is the main path heading up towards the "mountain".
Since it started raining, Jeremy and I looked for a place where we could stay fairly dry. We found a wooded area to hang out in on the side of the mountain. This is the view looking out of the trees.
Chautauqua Park has some beautiful scenery, as does most of Colorado.
The next day we spent the day at Mount Evans. This was another day where we were learning how to stop, relax, slow down, enjoy God's presence...you get the picture. Here is a picture of our view as we drove to the top.
In this picture, you can see the road we were on. This is what we saw as we drove higher. Notice there isn't a guardrail? Yep...you could plummet to your death if you weren't careful. The higher we drove, the more narrow the road became and still no guardrail.
We stopped at about 12,000 feet elevation for awhile. It was so beautiful and about 50 degrees in July! You can see there is still snow on the top of the ridge.
This pond was beautiful! It looked so glassy and still when the wind wasn't blowing. I took some of the pictures on my phone, so they are a little smaller than the ones we took with the camera.
Then the clouds started rolling in and the wind picked up and it started to rain. The rain was very cold!
I took this picture because I thought it was pretty. This rock and flower were placed by God right beside where I was sitting at the pond. God is an amazing creator!
Look how cool the clouds look as the rain started to come in. You could no longer see the top of the ridge. The clouds covered it. 
While we were hanging out at this pond, four college guys ran past us. I didn't think too much of it. They ran to the other side of the pond. As I looked to the other side of the pond, they were stripping down to their boxers. Well, 3 of them had on boxers. The fourth one was wearing some sort of bikini underwear that tied on the side. They jumped into the very cold water and swam across. Only 3 of them made it. The fourth one decided he wasn't going to swim all the way across so he got back out and gathered up their clothes. I can't say that I blame him. It was 50 degrees outside! Once they made it across the pond to our side, they ran right past us and got in their car and drove off to get the other guy. I have to say it was something I did not expect to see that day, or any other day. There were some Mennonite women and female teenagers there that day too. I am pretty sure they were in shock at the "mother nature" they saw!


After being at 12,000 feet elevation for a few hours, it was time for us to drive a little further. We drove up to about 14,000 feet elevation. When I said the road got more narrow as we drove higher, I wasn't joking. It seemed to be only wide enough for one car at a time as we got closer to the top. This sign was up at the top. Pretty funny, because on this day, we could not see for miles...you see exactly what I saw...clouds! The rain had let up a little, but not much. And it was about 10 degrees colder at that elevation.
I don't remember what this building was, but it was up at the top. I pretty much got out of the car to go to the bathroom and take a few pictures. I mostly remember it being really cold and cold rain hitting me and only being able to see clouds. I do remember feeling weird at the elevation. I felt dizzy. So, I was perfectly fine getting back into the car and sitting.
Here is the elevation sign. I think this is a pretty cool picture with all the clouds in the background.
I was standing at the building that I talked about two pictures ago when I took this picture. You can barely see part of the mountain in the clouds on the other side of the parking lot.
As soon as I got in the car, I fell asleep. I was glad I was not responsible for driving. It was quite odd. It was as if I was drugged or something because I absolutely could not stay awake until we got below a certain elevation. Then it was as if I was magically awoken. Very weird! I guess when your body is used to the low elevation of Texas, it is affected in a weird way by very high elevations. This is a pretty cool picture of the clouds on the mountains as we descended.
Next stop on our trip...Pearl Street Mall. Jeremy took this picture from the top floor of the parking garage. The Pearl Street Mall is about 4 blocks long. It is a pretty cool place to hang out. Not only are there stores to shop in...
But there are animals for kids to climb on. Here is a porcupine. There were other animals and rocks and even a fountain that had "jumping" water. I guess I didn't take a picture of the fountain. Everyday that we went to The Pearl Street Mall, there were kids playing in the fountain and climbing on the animals.
Another thing that is cool about The Pearl Street Mall are the street performers. Street performers are not homeless people. They are people who perform their own act for a tip from their audience. This is how they make a living. Jeremy and I walked by the bronze cowboy one day and did not realize he was real until he moved. He was pretty cool to watch. Sometimes he would just stand there and only move his eyes! I took this picture with my phone from a distance because I did not have any cash to give him. If you stand there and watch their performance, the respectful thing for you to do is give them some money. They are providing you with a service. They are entertaining you. I apologize for it being so small. 
On Thursday and Friday of Sabbath, Sevens has a picnic by the courthouse for anyone who is hungry. You don't have to be homeless to come and eat. Benny and Niki do not advertise that they are feeding the homeless. Before the picnic, we walked up and down the Pearl Street Mall telling their street friends and street performers that if they are hungry, we were going to have a picnic by the courthouse. Why do they do it this way? If they say they are feeding the homeless, then the Health Department wants to get involved and try to tell them that they cannot feed the homeless. But if they say they are having a picnic, nobody can really do anything about it. Honestly, that is all they are doing...having a picnic and they happened to bring alot of food so they can share. Some of the street performers come to eat, too. 


If you have never been to Boulder, Colorado, and have never visited the Pearl Street Mall, I would recommend you go when you get a chance. Words cannot really express the cool atmosphere. I was able to capture a video of this group of street performers. They have even cut a CD. They are called Barefoot Surrender. Jeremy and I went to their concert the next night and actually bought one of their CDs. They came to the picnic on Friday. I tried to cut the hula hoop girl out of the video. She is actually not part of their act. She and her husband had recently moved to Boulder and I guess she was working on an act and decided to do it where Barefoot Surrender was performing. I love their look! It goes perfectly with their music!
video
Next, we have Mouse. She is seven years old. Her mom home schools her. In the winter, her dad works at a ski lift. Well, we all know there is not enough snow, even in Colorado to be able to ski year round. So, in the months when he isn't working at the ski lift, he is also a street performer. He and Mouse have been performing together since she was a little over a year old. She now has her own act. We did not get to see her dad perform, but we were able to enjoy her performance. Now you can enjoy it too! We were also able to talk to her mom alot. That was very enjoyable as well.
video
A river runs through it...oh wait...that's a movie. But a river/creek does run through the park in Boulder. There were several people tubing down it. It did look very relaxing.
Also in the park, behind the library is a labyrinth. Jeremy took the picture and the rest of our group was standing off to the side. To the groups right, there was a nice landing where you could conveniently get into the river. I love how green the grass is! It rained just about every day. Mostly in the afternoon, but it didn't last too long. It was nice.
This is the trail that is on the other side of the labyrinth. People hike on it and ride their bikes on it. It is also patrolled by police on bike. Sometimes homeless people can be seen on the trail or off to the side of the trail. We did not see any this day. We did see some squats. What is a squat you ask? A squat is what homeless people call the spot where they stay/sleep. We did not go too far back the trail. The further back you went, the more likely you were to come across a homeless person who might be doing drugs. It gets pretty wooded and the path narrows the further back you go.
On Wednesday, we took a turf tour of Denver, Colorado. A turf tour is where you get a tour of the area where homeless people hang out. Denver has a river walk. But if you've ever been to San Antonio, Texas, you might kind of laugh at what Denver calls their river walk. Don't get me wrong, it was pretty in some places, but you can't compare it to San Antonio's river walk.


At one point along the river walk, Benny took us down into one of the tunnels that is along the river walk. We didn't go in too far. Maybe about 10 feet. Benny was shining his flashlight on some of the graffiti on the side of the tunnel and telling us about it. This tunnel was very wide. Later on, we went about a mile into one that was less than half the circumference of this one. There was water flowing out of it. The water was about 4 inches deep. In order to keep our feet dry, we had to walk with our feet spread as wide as we could. Talk about a hip opener! Even then, it sometimes wasn't wide enough. One of my shoes ended up getting wet. Let me tell you, that water was COLD! Homeless people actually live in the tunnels. The smaller one that we went in, the further back you went, the more likely you would come across someone who was high or had some major mental health problems. Sadly, some of the people living in there never come out of the tunnels. What do they eat? They eat whatever they find in the tunnels. Or they might be lucky enough to have a friend who will bring them food to eat. Also the further back you go, the darker it is. We went far enough in to be in complete darkness. Could you imagine never seeing light? Think about it in a spiritual sense too. Living in a dark spiritual place, not knowing Jesus, being hopeless, always high on drugs...sounds so depressing. But believe it or not, people actually live like that. Those are some of the people that Sevens is reaching out to. 
This doesn't look like much, but to someone, this is where they sleep. It is their squat. It is under a bridge directly underneath railroad tracks. We all know how loud trains are. Imagine laying there and trying to go to sleep with one driving directly over your head. It is incredibly loud! Denver has done alot to block off areas where the homeless can get under the bridges. They do not want them around in sight. There are even signs posted with a phone number for you to call so you can report one if you see them. Sad. As you can see, Denver didn't do such a good job at blocking off this area under the bridge. Someone was able to still get through the metal bars to make themselves a place to sleep. Right next to this bridge were $700,000 condos. I am positive the people living in those condos have no clue that someone was sleeping under the bridge right below their expensive exquisite condo. If they knew, would they even care enough to do anything to help the person? What would you do if you knew?
The brown cement you see have stairs going up to the bridge...do you see the green stuff growing on the flat part of the cement? Do you know what it is? Any guesses?
Marijuana. Yes, marijuana grows along the river walk in downtown Denver, Colorado. What? Why? Someone dumped their stash there and it started to grow. There is quite a bit growing there as you can see.
If you were walking along and saw this scene what would you think? Would you know that it was someone's squat? There were a couple of pillows there. Someone sleeps there. After getting a turf tour, you start to notice things like that. Most people wouldn't think twice about it. In fact, just down below in the grass, a woman was playing with her dog. She had no clue that she was that close to where a homeless person sleeps. Talk about an eye opener.
Take a look at this. Just looks like trash, huh? Think again. It is someone's food. It was right around the corner from the previous picture. They weren't around when we were there, but they would be coming back I imagine. They had cinnamon rolls and some bread. It looks like they had already consumed the sodas.
There is an REI store along the river walk. I was standing outside the store when I took this picture. Beautiful! They use the river for customers and probably employees to test out their products.
And another shot from right outside the REI store. More rapids. There were alot of people enjoying the water that day. There was even a nice grassy "beach" area with people laying out and catching some sun rays. Although, after hearing Benny tell us stories on the turf tour, I would not want to get in that water. Homeless people put their needles in the water. There were so many people in that water that day, I guarantee that if they knew what all was in that water, they would NOT be in there.
Denver had some construction going on. The project they were working on was not going to be completed for quite some time. There was a group of ladies that decided to make the area more attractive and they crocheted flowers on the chain link fence. I thought it looked pretty cool. I guess they thought flowers would make it prettier and since they couldn't really plant any, they went with the next best thing. Way to go ladies!
Next along our trip with Sevens was Sox Place. Sox Place was started by a man named Doyle. He got named "Sox" because he would take socks to the homeless in Denver. When you live on the street, you can receive a street name. But you cannot give yourself a street name. They have a whole ritual that they go through to "prove" themselves and it involves fighting, in order to receive a street name. Although, Doyle didn't have to fight for his street name, it was just given to him. Socks are one of the best things you can give a homeless person. A pair of nice clean socks is very important to them. Their feet are their mode of transportation so it is important for them to take good care of their feet. And when you live on the street, it isn't very easy to wash your clothes. It is easier to just get a new pair of socks. 


Sox Place is located in downtown Denver, Colorado. Sox Place is open for a few hours a day and they always have a warm meal for those who choose to stop by. At Sox Place, there are computers to use, t.v.s to watch, movies to watch, and couches to sit or even nap on. It is a safe place where the younger homeless can go and hang out, be out of the weather, and feel safe for a few hours a day. I really enjoyed my time at Sox Place. I enjoyed talking to the people there. I also shot some pool with some of them. 
There was a dry-erase board in the back of the room. I was reading the things written on it and this was one of the things written on it. I thought it was really funny and creative so I just had to take a picture of it.
I am not sure who painted this picture, but it was painted on the wall. It took up the whole wall! I didn't capture the whole painting.
On our way back to Texas, we stopped at the Historical sight of The Ludlow Massacre. It is in Ludlow, Colorado. The sight is literally in the middle of nowhere. The Ludlow Massacre was a horrible tragic massacre between the coal miners and the National Guard. You can read about it here. Lots of women and children died. It is very sad. I think Wikipedia can explain it way better than I can. 
This is the monument for all the women and children that were massacred. I think there were 11 children total. And they were all about 6 years and younger. So sad!
This is the front side of the monument. The above picture was the backside of the monument.
I have to say, it was almost eerily quiet there. So, if you are ever passing through that way, you should stop and check it out. Look for our names in the guest book :) When we were walking back to our car, another family was stopping to visit. The grandma that was with them was alive during that time and remembers how horrible it was. I don't know that she was involved, but she remembers hearing about it. It happened in 1914.

I apologize for such a long blog. Frankly, I get bored with reading long posts unless they are really interesting. So I hope that is not the case with you. But, I also don't like splitting up one event into more than one post. 

2 comments:

  1. hi, i stumbled on your blog searching for "barefoot surrender" to download...i read your story. i have been homeless by choice, travelling and living outside before. i just thought you were really cool to have written about seeing these signs of homeless people without judging or being mean....you seem like a very nice person. some people love to take advantage of a chance to put others down to make themselves look or feel superior....i dont know what im trying to say really...basically it just sounded real nice what you wrote and what your freinds were doing helping feed people.....you guys are REAL christians.......

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