Category Archives: Reaching Out

Nowell Flood Update (and how you can help)

*This post originally began with song lyrics, then Benny woke me up this morning and told me I mixed the songs up and posted something I would never have posted if I weren’t so tired and had thought (and sang) through it completely. For those of you who read it, I apologize for the mistake! I make those a lot. ;)*

The flooding we’ve had here in Colorado this week has been terrifying. Unless you don’t have TV, or newspapers, or an internet connection (how are you reading this?) you have probably seen the pictures and videos of our scary spots. I say “our” because communities come together during tragedies.

My angle in the second picture is different, but if you look at the railing it will give you an idea of the water depth and the bike/walking path that is underwater. The third pic is the same bridge from the opposite side.

Boulder Bridge

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It’s difficult not to stay glued to the screen as devastation unfolds, hoping and praying those I love are safe. It’s frustrating being so close and not being able to get to those who need help. It’s maddening to read people’s rude comments on news stories and not turn into hurricane Niki, obliterating them for their stupidity and insensitivity. I’ve walked a fine line between faith and fury this week.

Our family lives in north central Denver. Our ministry, church, and part-time jobs are 25-35 minutes north and northwest of us in Boulder, Lafayette, and Longmont. Our house was not affected at all. We were never in any danger as the only major water near us is a big water park a block away. But, many people we love have been isolated and trapped, or dealing with flooded basements, or worrying about loved ones they can’t reach.

I cried today when we finally heard that our dear friends, Bob and Betty, (Our executive pastor and his wife/church secretary) were rescued after spending a day and night under a tarp on the side of the hill above their home as the floods raged below them. I am so grateful they are okay!

My friend Alyssa’s parents are trapped as well with her father needing medical attention. We just got news a few hours ago that the National Guard will be flying them out tomorrow.

Benny and I spent some time in Boulder today checking out the park where we host our Saturday meals and checking in with some of our street friends. Everyone we talked with seemed fine and we haven’t heard of any of our friends being missing. I hope we don’t. The rumors about the homeless being turned away at one of the emergency evacuation sites were true, but the situation was corrected pretty quickly with the Red Cross, the City of Boulder, and the site in question saying it never should have happened.

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Here’s the area of the park we host the meal. As you can see, it is fine. The creek isn’t very far away, but we think the worst is behind us and we’re going ahead with the meal tomorrow night. There are people who depend on us to be there EVERY week, but the food is only part of what we try to do.  Clean socks, encouragement, hope, listening, prayers, looking someone in the eye and speaking life into them…it’s what being a friend is about.

I’ve had moments when I was completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the need in my community. It’s paralyzing and makes me feel inadequate. I’ll bet you’ve been there too. Rather than holding on to those feelings, I started making a plan. Realistically I know I can only do so much, but my much with your much adds up to a lot of muchness. So how do we help?

Here are SEVEN ways to show compassion when disaster strikes your community:

  1. Donate bottles of water, bedding, and other needed items to evacuation sites.
  2. Donate food to your local food bank, and pet food to animal shelters. Their supplies run low during disasters.
  3. Check on your neighbors. They will appreciate it!
  4. Open your home to family and friends who are displaced. Ask others for help if feeding extra people is taxing on your family budget.
  5. Be the middle man. Don’t have stuff to donate? Collect stuff from others and drive it to the needed locations.
  6. Volunteer with cleanup efforts. The more people help, the faster your community will be back on its feet.
  7. Donate money, but don’t complain about the charities overseeing the work. If you don’t trust that your money is going to help those in need, then get off your ass and FIND one you trust. Help them – no excuses. Complaining (whether it’s founded or not) doesn’t absolve you from responsibility.

Here are a few don’ts for you:

  1. Don’t donate teddy bears and other crap lying around your house when charities need money, food, and supplies. That sounds harsh, but it happens. A lot.
  2. Don’t point the finger of blame on an agency when things don’t move quickly enough for you. The response time is NEVER fast enough when you are in the middle of an emergency.
  3. Don’t give up hope. There is ALWAYS hope, and it may come in ways that surprise you.
  4. Don’t get mad when you see stuff like this:

Colorful Colorado Waves

Several of my friends are posting pics like this on Facebook. They aren’t being disrespectful. We’re all trying to get through this and sometimes you just need a laugh. For some it is too soon for joking like this, but for others, it’s a much-needed tension breaker. If you want to get mad about something, let it be about the jerks who are posting that this flood is God’s judgment on Colorado. Before I get all caught up in that, let me bring this post to a proper close.

There are plenty of ways to help. SEVENS focuses on our street friends who have ALL been effected by the rain and flooding. If you want to help us help our friends by making a tax-deductible donation, click on the “DONATE” page button at the top of the page. To donate through PayPal, click on the yellow button on the side of the page. PayPal donations are NOT tax-deductible at this time. If you’re a local and have extra sleeping bags, coats, shoes or boots, bottled water, or ready-to-eat food you want to donate, let me know where I can meet you to pick them up. nikinowell@gmail dot com.

Thank you! 🙂


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Filed under Making a Difference, Niki, Reaching Out, Uncategorized

Tips on Goodie Bags for the Homeless

homeless bags

This picture has been floating around Facebook for a while now. Whoever made this bag had good intentions and a generous heart, and there are many versions of these bags being handed out all across the country. Over the past 6 years of running a homeless ministry, we’ve learned a few things about the needs of our street friends. We know what’s practical and what isn’t, so I’d like to help you improve on these goodie bags.

We call our version of these, SEVENS Packs. Ours include our contact information, a bottle of water, assorted snacks, a pair of new socks, and when we’ve received enough through donations, a gift card for a fast food meal and/or a $10 gift card to a grocery store.

Here are some tips for making your own goodie bags, no matter where you live.


If you don’t know what would be helpful to the needy people in your area, ask someone who does. The organizations who walk beside the homeless and hurting can tell you what the needs are, and what they have in surplus. This will save you time and money.


NEVER mix toiletries in with food items. The smell/taste of things like soap, deodorant, and toothpaste permeate everything else in the bag, and the food will not be edible. We once received a large donation of bags similar to this one and we had to throw all of the food items away.

Bars of soap are cheap, but they’re bulky and messy. Baby wipes are a better option for a quick clean up. Any place our street friends can access a shower will have soap, shampoo, etc. for them to use. Any toiletries should be put in a separate bag, and we suggest freezer bags instead of storage bags because of the thicker plastic. Suggested items:

  • Baby wipes/wet wipes
  • Lip balm
  • Lotion
  • Sunscreen


In general, our street friends do not have access to dental care other than teeth extraction, so we try to stick with easy to chew snacks instead of crunchy ones, though a variety is nice. They trade what they don’t like for items they do.

  • Fruit /applesauce/pudding cups (with or without a plastic spoon)
  • Chewy granola bars (Cereal bars tend to get crushed into mush)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Assorted crackers or cookies
  • Fruit snacks
  • Beef Jerky (this is a favorite even though it’s hard to chew)
  • Small bags of nuts or trail mix
  • Hard candy like peppermints or butterscotch
  • Bottled water

Misc. Gifts

It doesn’t have to be a holiday to give gifts. Some of the things on this list aren’t really gifts as much as possible needed items when you call the streets your home.

  • Travel coffee mugs from local gas stations that get them discounted coffee refills
  • New socks – When you travel everywhere by foot, clean, dry socks are a must.
  • $5-$10 gift cards to nearby restaurants or grocery stores
  • Travel size first aid kits

Winter Items

  • Hand warmers
  • Warm gloves (NOT the little knit ones that don’t keep anyone warm)
  • Beanies


  • Used items
  • Hotel shampoos & soaps
  • Religious Literature*

*A Note for my Christian Friends:

Homelessness does not equal Godlessness. PLEASE do not include religious literature. Your intentions are good, and your motivation sharing the love of Jesus, but don’t assume anything. Unless you have the time to build a relationship with someone, you don’t know what their story is and what role religion has played in it, both good and bad. Trust that God was on the streets long before you came into the picture, and faith conversations happen within the context of relationship.


Presentation is important. Look people in the eye. Smile. Offer your gift in love and without agenda.

You’re giving hope and help to someone who is walking through a dark time in their life.

That matters, and it tells them that they matter too.


Filed under homelessness, Hunger, Making a Difference, Reaching Out

Greeting Cards & Bubbles

I guest blogged on Sacred Margins last week with the following post. Be sure to check out their site when you’re done reading here!

So many nights I’ve cried out to God asking Him for reassurance that we’re still doing what He called us to do with our street ministry. The heartache and lack of respect are draining, but there’s also been a drop in financial support, and increased criticism. We’ve reached a rocky incline and I’ve found myself doubting my ability to keep going, wondering if I’m making a difference at all.

I spent last weekend in bed with the flu and had to miss our weekly meal in the park. I was too sick to care, but then my family brought this card home to me. My breath caught around the lump in my throat as the gesture sank into my heart. Somehow, my street friends had scrounged up a greeting card. The inside was filled with their names wishing me peace and love, get well soon, and angels all around me. I was stunned, and renewed. It reminded me of Galatians 6:9 which says,

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Don’t give up. I matter. Got it.

Most of us are not in the habit of reassuring each other of our significance, which makes it easier to believe the lie that we don’t matter. But the truth is who we are makes a difference even if we don’t see it and need to be reminded. Sometimes those reminders come in strange, unexpected ways.

A few years ago, I sat slumped at my desk, working on a writing project I didn’t think would matter to anyone but me. Lost in my melancholy mood, I sat there so long my screen saver popped up.

I love bubbles. I watched as they bumped and bounced, passing over or through each other, and sometimes sticking together for a bit.  Some moved faster than others, some stayed in one general area while others made their way to all corners of the screen. I thought to myself, we are just like those bubbles, confined to a certain space and have no control over who we bump into on our journey. Notice the words confined and control – good indicators of my mood. But then I watched something amazing happen. As the bubbles touched each other, they changed colors, and it struck me that we’re like that too. While there is constant motion in our lives, we are all changed by our interactions with others.

That’s true for you no matter who you are and what you do in this life. You are changing the people around you just by being you. That’s pretty significant. And it’s okay if you need reminders now and then. They may be as bizarre as a screen saver or as sweet as a greeting card, but they come when we need them, because we are loved, and we all matter. We need to say it and live it.

Who are the people you’re bumping up against today? Tell them they matter.

You just might be the reminder they need to keep going.

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Filed under Making a Difference, Niki, Reaching Out, SEVENS Partners

Update on Eddie

Sorry for the delay in an update, but I wanted to actually have new info. for you.

Benny has been to see Eddie twice, and he is SO discouraged and worried about his future. He is in Boulder County Jail and being held without bond due to the serious nature of the charges. Everything was confiscated as evidence, so we took him some reading glasses today. We’re having a Bible shipped to him tomorrow as it has to come directly from a bookseller. I’m learning all of the restrictions, and they are many. Benny is the only person that has been to see Eddie since his arrest, which is depressing. The good news is that he can receive mail. He needs all the love and encouragement he can get, so if you’re interested in sending him a card or note, please email me (nikinowell at gmail dot com) and I’ll give you the address. We’ve promised him we won’t forget about him, so we’d love some help keeping his spirits up.

The Daily Camera (the Boulder paper I don’t like) posted a new article today about him. You can read it here:

Everyone who knows Eddie is giving the same story: he’s a decent guy, non-violent, and pretty trustworthy. But, the road ahead is a long one. And though our judicial system is supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”, it appears to be just the opposite. Eddie is going to have to prove self-defense. Please pray for him and his family.

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Filed under Eddie, Niki, Reaching Out

Supper on the Pearl 3.5.11

I missed the meal tonight. One of these days all of our children will be healthy at the same time and our whole family will hang together with our street friends. Pete and I stayed home and he kicked my butt on every Wii game we played until I made him lay down and watch a movie. Meanwhile, Max was drawing a small crowd with his magic skills. He has a few tricks he’s gotten pretty good at, including a couple with cards.  The kid made $25 in an hour. I’m thinking he can buy his own cards and tricks now. 😉

About 30 street friends came for the meal, and our friends at The Journey Church provided sloppy joes, chips, snack cakes, fresh fruit, and drinks. (Thank you, friends!) Though I wasn’t there myself, I can tell you it was a beautiful picture of the parts of the body working together. Some of our friends were hands as they serve the meal, while others were the feet and walked around initiating conversations. It was a great night, and no one left hungry.

Interested in getting involved with Supper on the Pearl? We’re still looking for 2 churches or small groups to host the meal each month. For more information, visit our website for the meal guidelines or email me.

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Filed under Reaching Out, Supper on the Pearl

On the Road – Week One Update!

SEVENS trip 003Continuing from where Benny left off…Wednesday was our update visit at Westlink c of C, the home of our last church youth ministry job. Westlink has been good to us over the years and we’re so glad to still be partnering with them. It was nice to have dinner with old friends, update them on our work in Boulder, and have ice cream with Alyssa and Melissa afterward. We stayed with one of our best friends, Trevor Cox, for a few days. We were sad Brittany and Owen weren’t there, but we’ll get to see them at the end of the trip.

On Friday we stopped in Edmond, OK, to see our intern Brad. Then it was on to North Richland Hills to stay with our friends Jason and Cori Brown. On Saturday, the Legacy church of Christ had a give away day. It was HUGE! Cori and I arrived at the church around 6:30 a.m. and there were already a few hundred people in a line that snaked around the building. Here’s a picture I snapped of the gym before the doors opened. This was where most of the clothing was kept.

SEVENS trip 008

There were classrooms off the gym that held housewares, bedding, baby items, a shoe department, toys, food, and more. There was also a hot dog/donuts & coffee tent outside that served free refreshments to the crowd that gathered. A total of 3, 228 people (571 families) were served. What a  gift to those in need. 🙂

Sunday morning, Benny spoke to some of the adult classes about SEVENS, and after church Jason took us out for lunch. I’m not a big BBQ fan, but the Red Barn BBQ was AWESOME! We had a lazy afternoon hanging out with the Browns, then headed back up to the church for an area wide youth gathering in the evening. There were a bunch of Zenith kids there, and a few of our youth ministry friends. Afterward, a big group of us went to enjoy some pizza at The Original Joe’s Pasta N Pizza in Colleyville. The owners, Lee & Emma, are my friends on Facebook. They generously offered to donate a portion of their profits from ALL DAY Sunday AND this coming Wednesday, to SEVENS. THANK YOU LEE & EMMA!!! The day ended with Max and Zoe spending the night with our friends Jonathan and Rachel Moore, and the rest of us settled in at Chris and Lydia Robey’s house. It’s been a big blessing getting to stay with good friends on this trip!

Yesterday we had lunch at John and Jan Knox’s home. John is the preacher at the Granbury c of C, and my co-Head Counselor at Zenith. It was nice visiting and scheming about next summer. Pete woke up with a fever during the night, so he and I have had yet another lazy day lying around the house. Benny and Chris took the other kids to Ft. Worth for a youth minister’s lunch/meeting. Now we’re about to have company over for supper, so I’d better get off the computer.

I know this was long, so thanks for reading to the end. I’ll try to post every few days so the posts will be shorter. Thank you for your continued prayers for our travels! We love and appreciate all of you!


Filed under Niki, Reaching Out, SEVENS on the road

The Great SEVENS Tour!

From Benny-

Niki, the kids, and I are officially at the first stop of our 4 state, 11 city, SEVENS tour.  We will be gone until November the 3rd.  We will be updating our supporters, checking in with our SABBATH groups that worked with us this last summer, having a little family fun, and raising some much needed financial support.

I got up early Tuesday morning to finish packing the van and run some errands.  After scraping ice off the windshield and getting all the last minute details done, we were ready to leave…at 1:30pm.  Over the last few weeks, I took the back 2 seats out of our 15 passenger van that was donated by some members from the Northside church of Christ in San Antonio, TX.  I also built drawers and a hanging clothes rack to keep us organized on this long trip.

Our trip to Wichita went really well (9 hours with only 2 stops).  We got in late last night and are set to update our friends at the Westlink church of Christ tonight.  I had 4 really cool banners made for our informational display and had them shipped here, so Niki and I will get our display finished this afternoon.  Zoe gets to hang out with her favorite person in Wichita, Miss Danita.  I think they are going shopping.  Miss Danita knows how to show Zoe a great time.

During our “tour”, our daily family devotionals will come from Psalms and Proverbs.  We really want to focus on God and His love and care for us.  Life and ministry has felt very uncertain over the last few months because we lost almost three quarters of our support (economy, job changes, God calling supporters to mission work).  So I’m focusing us in on God and His care for 2 reasons.  1.  We need to be reminded of how God has come through in the past and how He’ll do it again.  2.  We need to keep God’s care for us  forefront in our minds and hearts so that this whole trip doesn’t become about raising money.  We truly want to bless these churches.

Our theme for this month is “SHOW UP!”  We will be encouraging these congregations to “Show UP” in the lives of the broken and hurting near them.  We’ll also be checking in with our SABBATH groups to see if they are “Showing Up” like they had promised.

Please pray for our family, spiritual protection, the hearts of those we are speaking to and for financial abundance.

Here are our Dates and stops.  Come and see us if we’re near you.

4 Sun. – Boulder Valley church of Christ a.m. service (Home)
5 Mon. – Preparing for the trip (Home)
6 Tues. – Drive to Wichita. (Cox)
7 Wed. – Westlink c of C, 6:15 p.m. (Cox)
8 Thur. – Hanging out in Wichita (Cox)
9 Fri. – Drive to Ft. Worth, TX with a stop in OKC for lunch with the intern. (Brown)
10 Sat. – Activities with the Legacy c of C. (Brown)
11 Sun – Legacy c of C in North Richland Hills,  a.m. classes and evening area wide teen event. (Robey)
12 Mon. – Open week (Robey)
13 Tue. – (Robey)
14 Wed. – (Robey)
15 Thur. – (Robey)
16 Fri. – (Bloecher)
17 Sat. – (Robey)
18 Sun. – Granbury c of C in the a.m., 10th & Broad in Wichita Falls in the p.m. (Carr)
19 Mon. – (Carr)
20 Tue. – (Carr)
21 Wed. – 10th & Broad, Wichita Falls (Carr)
22 Thur. – Drive to Temple, TX to see the Hartnagles and the Canyon Creek group from Belton.(Hartnagle)
23 Fri. – Drive to San Antonio and hang out with friends (Shough)
24 Sat. – (Pippert)
25 Sun. – Northside c of C in the a.m., small groups in the p.m. (Pippert)
26 Mon. – Tourist stuff in San Antonio (Pippert)
27 Tue. – Drive to Houston, outreach with Piercing the Darkness ministries in the p.m. (motel)
28 Wed. – Drive to Tulsa, OK with a stop in Grand Saline, TX (Herndon)
29 Thur. – Drive to Wichita, KS (Cox)
30 Fri. – (Cox)
31 Sat. – Hanging out in Wichita, Trunk or Treat at East Point c of C. (Cox)

1 Sun. – East Point c of C a.m. service (Cox)
2 Mon. – Drive back to Denver. Home sweet home.

On The Road and Lovin’ You,

-The Nowell’s-


Filed under Benny, Reaching Out, SEVENS Partners