My mother’s voice haunts me as I make my way around the motels of East Colfax; so too, my father’s kindness.I was in my teens, an age when you notice that your parents are making choices about how they use their time, energy and money. They do one thing, rather than another.I noticed this: My mom was the most committed follower of Jesus I knew (a category she would still lead in if alive). But, her involvement in our church was as small as she could get away with. She went to the 2 services on Sunday, but had no involvement in “Ladies Aid” or “Women’s Missionary Union” or other activities in our country church.Instead, she spent herself on incredibly broken people, all outside the church. Anything she could do to bless them–love, food, attention–she did. Any chance she had to speak to them of Jesus, she did. My dad supported her, growing extra vegetables, letting others pump gas out of our tank, making food runs, opening his home, displaying deep kindness.
One day I asked: “You love Jesus deeply, why aren’t you more involved at church?”She replied: “All those people at church have someone to take care of them; all the people we minister to have no-one to take care of them.” 45 years later, on East Colfax, those words haunt me. Oh, I might argue a few points–serving in this world involves both giving and receiving, there are (a few) others who serve them. But mostly her words are truer than true. In any setting there are folks who have hardly anyone who cares for them. Ignored, overlooked, forgotten, they exist in the shadows.In many ways, they are our flock here along East Colfax.
For 25 years I pastored a church in the suburbs of Denver, a mini mega-church success story. We reached many who were far from God and also from church. But I burned out and when I came back, it became clear that it was time for a new chapter. The church hired the best consulting firm in the country to find my successor. It was a great opportunity, a church with a great facility in a growing community and a long track record of impact. I heard that the consulting firm had never had so many hits on a church job; pastors were lining up to take my old job.But when I came to
East Colfax, especially to the motels and the poor, pastors were not lining up. No good salary, no hot band, no rocking children’s programs, no cool videos, no high-end strategic plans, no multi-million dollar buildings. None of the things that make churches so attractive to pastors.Here, just the poor, the lost and the broken.As much as anything I want to say this: I am my mother’s son; I am proud of that and hope that in some small way Diane and I can live out her legacy by caring for this forgotten flock.I am also my father’s son. Less out front than my mom, his kindness often delivered the goods.One story: My mom had befriended Mrs. Brown.** Married to an alcoholic, my mom showed her the love of Jesus.
One night, her husband drunk, she escaped her home in town and made her way to our little farm-house, 10 miles in the country, seeking shelter. Mr. Brown** followed her, coming to get his woman back, drunk and carrying a gun.If alive, I was very young. But here are the murky details: While my mom, Mrs. Brown and the children huddled upstairs, my dad faced down a drunk guy with a gun. All in the name of Jesus; just doing the best he could in a hard situation.I guess things turned out ok, as we all lived through it.That story is now our story. We are grateful to be here. After years of ministering where everyone wants to be, we are now where few want to be.It is good, and right, and beautiful. I am grateful for Diane, who is here with me. Also for Tim and Patty and Nathan and Christine who join us. And for others who live and love here where people often have no-one, far from church and proper society. My name is Shawn Sikkema. I am the son of John and Christina Sikkema and prouder of that than you could imagine.
**Names changed to protect identity