My name is Rachel Ogden and I am a student at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I am originally from Huntsville and have fallen in love with this city since coming to school. My major is Chemistry and I will be applying to Auburn's pharmacy school next year.
I didn't begin to take my faith seriously until my freshman year in college. I was involved at church in high school, but no one ever questioned me about what I believed. My freshman year, I started attending a bible study that challenged certain aspects of my Catholic faith. As a result, I tried to figure out what I really believed about God. I started to search out answers to the questions I was being asked. The more I read scripture and the more I talked to priests and leaders of the faith, the more I was drawn back to the Catholic faith. Now a sophomore, I'm lucky enough to have had FOCUS come to my campus. FOCUS has given me the opportunity to explore my faith more and learn about how to share it with others. Through FOCUS missions, I have been given the chance to answer God's true call to love and serve those who most need it by going to Denver this summer. I will be working with Christ in the City missionaries to serve the homeless population there.
After living in Birmingham for a little over a year, I have spent some time serving the homeless here. I help out at the Firehouse Shelter once a month by serving a meal and getting to know the men there. When you recognize the value of a human being and show genuine interest in them, they are given a sense of dignity. We are often prevented from getting to know others by our prejudices and quick judgments. Each person has their own story, and when you take time to listen, you have the opportunity to show them Christ's love for us. It is incredible to see how God is different in each person.
One of my first evenings at the shelter, I was talking to a few of the guys. While I was talking, a man sitting next to me tapped me on the shoulder. He had a rather large textbook sitting open in front of him; part of me believed he wasn't actually reading it. Perhaps he couldn't read. Something seemed off about him. I was quick to assume that maybe he had a mental illness, or maybe he was intoxicated. Whatever it was, I was hesitant to speak to him. I preferred to talk to the men that seemed more "with it," but that's not why I was there. He asked me who I was and where I came from. I looked into his bloodshot eyes and saw such sadness. I told him a little bit about myself and that I was there to share a meal while getting to know everyone. After a few minutes of small talk, he opened up and started telling me about his teenage son. His tattooed face lit up when he started talking about how proud he was of him. He continued to speak to me, but it was hard for me to follow exactly what he was saying. I could tell all he needed was someone to listen to him. He told me about how he doesn't get to see his son that much. Then, he gave me some words of caution about how I shouldn't trust everyone and asked me a question I wasn't prepared for.
"Why do people do bad things?"
I could tell that he had a lot of pain in his life and it broke my heart. I didn't know what to say. He and I were from completely different places and had completely different stories, but for that one meal, we were brought together to share meaningful conversation. I'm glad I was there to listen to him, and show him God's love the best I knew how. Since the first evenings at the shelter, I have become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This May, I hope to be thrown even further out of my comfort zone by getting to know those in Denver who are the most misunderstood, ignored, and forgotten. This mission trip will expand my work at Firehouse Shelter to other parts of our country. I want the homeless in Denver to know that even though the world has beaten them down, they are of value and someone cares about them.
I will be working with Christ in the City, a service program in Denver that forms college age Catholic missionaries to serve the homeless with Christ's love. These college students devote their time to help people who have fallen through the cracks of society. The missionaries spend at least 5 days a week, on the streets, fostering relationships with the homeless while satisfying their material and spiritual needs. They act as a bridge to help people transition off the streets and live substance free.
With your spiritual and financial support, I will be able to go to Denver and serve alongside the Christ in the City missionaries. Thank you for your time and support in my mission.