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*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.
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.
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:
- Donate bottles of water, bedding, and other needed items to evacuation sites.
- Donate food to your local food bank, and pet food to animal shelters. Their supplies run low during disasters.
- Check on your neighbors. They will appreciate it!
- Open your home to family and friends who are displaced. Ask others for help if feeding extra people is taxing on your family budget.
- Be the middle man. Don’t have stuff to donate? Collect stuff from others and drive it to the needed locations.
- Volunteer with cleanup efforts. The more people help, the faster your community will be back on its feet.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t give up hope. There is ALWAYS hope, and it may come in ways that surprise you.
- Don’t get mad when you see stuff like this:
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! 🙂
I think it was yesterday (not 3 months ago) that I sat down to announce our summer interns. Sorry, I got busy and never finished that post. They were great by the way! Our fabulous 2010 interns were :
Austin Holt, from Granbury, TX, a Senior at Abilene Christian University. Don’t panic, that’s just one of our street friends “tattooing” his face with a black Sharpie. It really freaked his mom out.
Jorden Lemons, from Wichita Falls, TX, a recent graduate of Oklahoma Christian University. She was so great, we decided to keep her! Jorden is currently raising financial support to work with SEVENS full-time.
Jordan Jacobs, from Denver, CO, a high school senior and friend of the family. Yes, that’s him in the snow in July. We were so happy to have Jordan with us for a second summer. I don’t think I’m going to let him move away. Ever.
We also had some wonderful volunteers:
Jordan’s whole family was part of the SEVENS team this summer. His sister Mikayla helped us out with childcare on Thursdays and Fridays when we had our SABBATH groups here, and his parents, Charles and Kimberly cooked our Friday evening feasts.
Karianne Larson, another local high schooler, helped us our with our first SABBATH group of the summer.
Our nephew, Clay Skrapits, visited from Texas and volunteered with us during our last group of the summer.
The awesome people at the Boulder Valley Church of Christ hosted us in their building all summer long, and provided our SABBATH meals on the second Saturday of each month.
The Journey Church provided meals on the first Saturdays of each month.
Thank you to everyone who gave generously of themselves to make SEVENS a strong presence on the streets of Boulder this summer! We really couldn’t have done it without you! I’d also like to thank the 5 youth groups that participated in our summer program, SABBATH:
Westlink church of Christ from Wichita, KS. (Nick Miller)
Grapevine church of Christ, from North Richland Hills, TX (Russell Frantz)
Granbury church of Christ from Granbury, TX (Chris Robey)
South Main church of Christ from Weatherford, TX (Cody Chumbley)
Boulder Valley church of Christ from Boulder, CO (Caleb Cox)
I’m really getting to know Ronin and Gretchen. Ronin is about 40 years old and Gretchen is 23-ish. They are a couple that has been camping up in Nederland all winter and plan to stay in Boulder for the summer. This is good news because Ronin is 3 months sober and I believe I can help him continue with that. When he’s sober he makes good decisions and is a better partner for Gretchen. Saturday night Ronin gave me a book about different types of shelters. Kind of a random gift but then I remembered, the previous week, we had a conversation about cool tree houses. What an awesome gift!
I got to spend some time with Vince. He’s a huge black guy with a kind face and a servant heart. He’s the one who takes care of other street folks. A perfect example; when Danny is drinking Vince lays off the sauce, a little, so he can watch out for Danny who gets loud and mouthy when drunk. I noticed that Vince is looking and sounding weary. I’m trying to figure out a way to encourage him and give him some hope.
We are out there lovin’ on folks and being the church. It’s fun and frustrating.
– Satan continues to attack
our hearts with chaos & discouragement. We need your prayers to continue to focus on the task God has set in front of us.
-Continue to pray for our financial support. We are still hitting the streets with purpose and passion trusting that the money will come in.
– Texas Trip April 23-30
I’m no longer speaking at the West Freeway Church of Christ. But we are still coming to the DFW area. I’d like to be able to speak/fund raise at a church Sunday the 25th. If you can help out with that let me know.
Tomorrow our family will be gathering with some of our friends to celebrate the marriage of Tonya and Mickey. Tonya and I met 5 years ago when we were working with Dry Bones, and I met Mickey through Tonya about 2 years ago. Tonya and I have walked through some hard stuff together and I am privileged to watch her grow and change as Christ works in her. She’d be quick to tell you how much she loves God and is thankful for what He’s done for her. She’s a generous person and when she loves you, she REALLY loves you. I’m glad to call her my friend. I haven’t known Mickey quite as long as I’ve known Tonya, but he’s a good guy and part of our family too. He helped us out last summer by speaking to a few of our SABBATH groups, and answering questions about life on the streets.
Tonya and Mickey have both been through hell, but they’ve found healing through Christ and happiness with each other. We are cheering them on, and look forward to seeing what God does next in their lives. Please keep them in your prayers.
Our friends at Dry Bones made these two videos where Tonya and Mickey share a bit of their stories and what Dry Bones means to them. Just showing up and taking the time to listen and get to know them, has made all the difference in their lives.
It has been a crazy, amazing, sad, funny, incredibly challenging, spiritually uplifting time for the Nowells and SEVENS. God has been telling me we’re in a learning curve and my response is to look heavenward and sigh back, “No kidding.” So here I am, learning, doing, praying, and knowing that it took us a few years to get here, but we’re right where we’re supposed to be.
We’ve made a lot friends on the streets, and they are starting to look for us, call us, and ask us to pray for them…or just ask for stuff. We even added a 3rd phone to our cell plan that’s designated as the SEVENS phone. Benny has gained the respect of some of the “leaders” on the streets as well as the drug dealers and some of the older homeless. It is rare to walk the Pearl Street Mall and not have someone stop us to talk. If we sit, people find us. It seems to me that Benny attracts the hurting like flies to honey. He’s a street pastor and word is getting around. He’s there far more than I am, so it’s interesting to watch him and how people respond to him when I am around. He’s such a good father. Not just to our kids, but to everyone who needs one. He lifts people up…sometimes literally. lol This is two of the boys from the Granbury group last summer.
When we first started SEVENS, I prayed and asked God to give me His eyes when I look at our friends on the streets. He answered my prayer and one-upped me. He gave me lots of tears as well and I have grieved deeply. There have been a few times I’ve had to walk away from a group and get control of myself so I don’t burst into tears and make a situation awkward for everyone there. This has happened to me more than once. I was having a conversation with a guy and was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion about his story. I couldn’t walk away, so I swallowed hard and saved my tears for the drive home. My heart ached for the walls I felt around his heart and his lack of real and lasting love in his life.
Last summer while one of our SABBATH groups was here, I was observing a circle of hippies trying to pass along their worldly wisdom to some of my youth group kids. I say “my” because if you’re with me and I’m responsible at all for you – you’re mine. I’m the Momma – that’s just the way it is. One of the hippie guys was checking out a few of the girls. I moved into protective mode and placed myself between him and my girls and started a conversation with them all. My eyes burned with tears of frustration at satan’s lie of sex=love. I know that is what was on his mind, but instead of being angry with him, I was filled with compassion at his neediness and his grasping for affection. Nothing inappropriate happened, but I could feel the sexual tension in the air and it grieved me. Kids on the streets do whatever they have to do to get their needs met, and sex is currency. Add hippies and the “free love” mindset into the mix and, well, it changes the way I pray for them.
We are excited about hosting 6 groups for SABBATH this summer. Two of our best friends were the first to bring their youth groups last summer to experience a week with us on a “break away” (we prefer not to call it a retreat) and on the streets. The teens and adults that participated were awesome! (The above picture is some of the group from Wichita with our friends at hippie camp.) We were encouraged knowing that what we do translates to others, and that we offered them a life-transforming experience. I’ll be sharing individual stories and pictures from SABBATH 2008 in the coming weeks as I play catch up on my websites and dream about what SABBATH 2009 will hold. If you’re interested in a future SABBATH trip or interning with us during the summer, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information. We’re working on adding a page for each of those purposes.
As always, your prayers and support are greatly appreciated!