What does hope sound like? What does it look like?
According to five homeless and formerly homeless Denverites, it looks like a group of “kids” approaching and it sounds like “hello.”
“They come out and they know everybody’s names; they remember what everybody’s ‘thing’ is,” shared Trish, a friend of Christ in the City. “Some of the stodgiest, crankiest, most irritating guys on the streets get all kinds of lit up when the Christ in the City kids come around. You have no idea how huge that is. There are lives being saved because somebody remembered somebody’s name, because one of the kids remembered somebody’s name at the right time on the right day.”
“Homeless But Human,” a documentary about the work and mission of Christ in the City, compellingly tells the story of the missionaries, staff, alumni and – most importantly – those they serve. More than a simple recounting, the documentary invites the audience into the experience of walking the streets, encountering the poor and accompanying them in their particular circumstances.
Produced by Abby Arnold and Macie Weaver, and filmed and edited by Martin Jernberg, the production is a product of a year of walking the streets, talking to missionaries, staff and the homeless and delving deeply into the mission of Christ in the City. The depths of Jernberg’s immersion into the life of Christ in the City are evident in the film, which is imbued with the spirit of compassionate, loving service to the poor that the missionaries offer day in and day out.
The film, like Christ in the City itself, strikes the viewers’ hearts differently than other films. Ivan, a volunteer interviewed for the documentary, summed this mystery factor up well, saying, “There is something special about Christ in the City that you really can’t explain. You just have to experience it in some fashion.”
It could be said that this mystery factor is a striving to live as Christ himself. “We’re not just trying to do something practical,” shared Fr. Daniel Cardó, S.C.V., the chaplain of Christ in the City and pastor of Holy Name Parish in Sheridan. “We’re not just trying to get numbers. We’re witnessing Christ coming to the city, first and foremost in the minds and hearts of the missionaries who very generously spend a year or two to be Christ in the city.”
In their effort to live and serve as Christ did, the missionaries show a profound love for the poor that they encounter, a love to which the homeless and formerly homeless featured in the documentary testify. “Just knowing that you guys love me and that you’re just there…it’s a great feeling,” said Mama Jerri, a long-time friend of Christ in the City. “It fills my heart. I thank the Big Guy every night for you guys. Every night before I go to bed, I say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for putting these kids in my life.’”
“It’s a generally tight-knit community,” shared Lucky, another friend of Christ in the City, describing the homeless community. “We generally don’t let outsiders in. And I’ve noticed that y’all have developed several relationships.” More than just a surface-level ‘hello,’ these relationships span much of human experience: joy and sorrow, success and suffering. Nevertheless, Lucky is intensely aware of the missionaries’ dedication and love. “There’s nobody else that would spend the time or energy, or if so, have the desire to do it like y’all do. And y’all actually care. Sometimes y’all can’t fix the situation, but you just let me get it off my chest. I’ve cried; I’ve laughed; everything, you know? I’ve showed more emotion in the past year than the 8 years I did in prison combined.”
It is into this very community that the missionaries enter each time they walk their street routes. Starting with a simple “hello,” they encounter the homeless, come to know them deeply and accompany them in the day-to-day experiences of the streets, sitting with them in their camps and on sidewalks, taking them for meals and coffee and even going with them to doctor’s appointments, court hearings and housing consultations.
There is much that can be said of Christ in the City, their mission, work and impact. “Homeless But Human” beautifully represents the mission and spirit of Christ in the City and their bold answer to a culture of commodity, a “throwaway culture,” as Pope Francis has put it: a culture of encounter in which each and every person may be seen, known, loved and served.
“I would love to touch a stranger’s life in the way that you all have touched my life,” shared Roy, a friend of Christ in the City, summing up the missionaries’ impact in his life. “Since I’ve met my friends, I don’t feel homeless. Their being there when I needed them, and even when I don’t ‘need,’ I know that their prayers are with me. And that just, it keeps me alive.”
To learn more about Christ in the City and to RSVP for the second showing of “Homeless But Human” on May 12 at 7 p.m. at the Regal UA Colorado Center Theater, visit https://christinthecity.org/documentary/.