Denise Conway lives in Farmington, New Mexico. It’s in the Four Corners area. Some call it a “border town” because it borders the Navajo Nation’s reservation. Thirty percent of the American Indians who live there live below the federal poverty line. Denise knows a lot of them, especially those who she calls her “street friends,” or simply “the community.” Denise works with others in Farmington to share Christ’s love and compassion with many of those experiencing homelessness. ““They’re people too,” she said at the Shine Bright Peace and Justice Storytelling event on May 13th.
She was shining bright, encouraging us with some long term stories of transformation. She said that sometimes it seems like “no one ever gets off the street…but sometimes people do.” She told the story of Clyde whom she had known for years. His ups and downs had been heartbreaking. His “ornery” personality made her want to give up on him sometimes. His addiction got him into a lot of trouble. Most recently it landed him in jail where it seems the system actually worked for someone. He was released on probation and has maintained his sobriety for 14 months. Denise said, “Everyone had given up on him … but it’s still difficult. The cops are on me all the time. They want me to mess up.”
Denise also said, “jail solves nothing.” Many of her “street friends” have been in and out of jail many times with nothing but trauma. The experience does not transform their lives. But she offers an alternative hope. She shared several beautiful stories of patiently loving, building trust, and including these people in her church even if they never decide to change their lives. She told their story of two brothers who ave their lives to Christ but decided to keep living on the streets.
“The first five years I didn’t see too many victories,” Denise shared. Five years?! That’s a lot of love and patience! God bless her in this and the other work she is passionate about.
God bless Julie Weatherford’s work with 350.org in Riverside, CA and Ben White’s work with the South Jersey Mutual Aid Compassion Team in Pennsauken and Camden, NJ. There stories are on the youtube video linked below along with Denise’s. the next Shine Bright Storytelling Event in September 9th (we’re taking off for July), but you can always shine bright by posting on our public Facebook group.