Snow, snow, snow – oh yes, it’s really April 29th and we’re greeted with several inches of fresh snow.  The roads and drives are mostly clear – the pile up is on the vehicles and grass.  It’s fresh and beautiful and again reminds us of the wonder of God.  We’re out early – headed back to see Meghan at DenUM.  We’re divided into teams, some packaging diapers and wipes, some bagging rice from 50# bags, many working to move, sort and stock food items into their storefront area.  There are canned goods, boxed foods and they routinely get fresh foods from area donors.  While these tasks might seem somewhat menial – with only 6 paid employees at DenUM, volunteers are critical to keeping this operation running efficiently.  We’re thankful at being needed and feel blessed to help.

Next, we head into the classroom part of the building and break into small groups.  Megan is going to provide poverty awareness training.  We start with the game of LIFE.  We’re assigned a family unit that has recently come through the doors of DenUM; a single mother with a couple kids, a single dad with one child, a married couple with 5 kids, etc.  We’re provided the income, aid and expenses these families routinely have.  We’re required to try to work through a typical month of their life and how we might survive in their life.  Um, let me just say – it’s next to impossible. Next, we are going to do the Food Stamp experience.  We’re broken into 3 families of 4.  Each person is allowed $1.40 for a meal.  Yes, you read that right – one dollar and 40 cents.  Wow – combined, we have a whopping $5.60 to spend at the store for our ‘family’.  We bundle up and forge into the weather and cross the street go a local store.  Our ‘family’ must decide what to buy with our HUGE $5.60 and be able to feed all 4 members.  Sure, the cheaper stuff is low in nutrients and if anything even resembles healthy – it’s beyond our budget.  While our teams shopped and let me add, this wasn’t easy shopping; Jean was searching for some canned chili.  As she was trying to find her way – a lovely woman named Tammy offered to help.  A little conversation and within minutes Jean learns that Tammy and her husband are indeed homeless and there shopping on just a few dollars “for real”.  Tammy explains some of the finer points of shopping with so little.  She shares that they slept outside the nearby church last night, but are hoping to gain access inside to prepare her meal.  She shares that it’ll be likely they’ll be outside again tonight, but hope to find a place soon.  (remember that snowy weather and those cold temps?  Yup – outside!)  Group hugs and a few prayers later, we’re back to our education; one of our families decided on 2 cans of tuna, a box of macaroni and applesauce.  Another family decided on canned ravioli, a can of corn and a can of pears.  The last family decided on canned corn, canned tomatoes, a bag of rice – all piled on tortillas.  We made our way back to the center and prepared our food with only a microwave and few utensils and bowls.  (possibly like the situation our new friends face in random living arrangements…)  Water was the beverage of choice and necessity.  Quite an eye-opener for all.  Next, we start the Penny game.  We’re each assigned 10 pennies to start and there are numerous life events where we get to either take another penny or return a penny to the central pile.  Life events like school, race, family, gender and many other “privileges” are either added to or subtracted to our lives.  Again, quite an eye-opener and makes us all give pause to what allows us to be in the position we currently find ourselves.  We wrap our session with an open and frank exchange with Meghan about the statistics in and around Denver.  She is an engaging and enthusiastic force in the non-profit field.  She has a mission to help influence and hopefully help change the lives of those coming through their doors.  She was a blessing to meet and get to know.

We say our fond farewells and load into the beast.  We head back and have a meeting to discuss our experiences and talk about feedback for our trip.  We again load up and head out to a 6 PM church service.  We go to Arvada and go to Red Rocks church.  Wow, it was a rock concert, an inspiring revival, a service and sermon that moved each of us in different ways.  Chad was just an awesome spirit and he loves the work he’s blessed and called to do.  The young people, the diversity of the church was absolutely awe-inspiring.   Next, we head to olde town Arvada and find a local pizzeria.  We head back to our lodging and gather for prayer and devotions.  There are tears and hugs and words of thanksgiving and blessing for what we’ve been called to do, what we’ve been allowed to provide and who we’ve been blessed to meet along the way.

Day 4 as we depart:

We eat and pack and find our way out to our various modes of transportation home.  We’re happy and joyous at the time and shared experiences and almost sad at having to see it end.  Would we do it again?  ABSOLUTELY.  Would we share our experience with others?  IMMEDIATELY.  We’ve counted our blessings in being able to serve, relied on each other to help us know and thoroughly enjoyed each and every experience in our love of God.