Shawn Sikkema, age 59, went from shepherding a mega church of 2500 members in one of the wealthiest parts of Aurora, Colorado, to being a shepherd of East Colfax Avenue, the poorest and most neglected community of “Old Aurora;” a place where addiction, prostitution, disability, and despair can be seen at every corner.
While many turn a blind eye to the crippling needs of Colfax Avenue, Sikkema sees this place as “ruggedly beautiful,” and has chosen to redirect his passion and love for Christ to this populace. Thus he began his ministry called “Jesus on Colfax,” a ministry that Christian Reformed Home Missions is humbled to partner with.
Sikkema and his wife, Diane, visit those living in motels and on the street; offering food, prayer, and blessings to anyone they encounter.
On a visit Sikkema made to the Radiant Inn, he encountered a man, who had that “weather-beaten” look that many people living on the streets have. Sikkema guessed the man was about 35, but it was hard to tell, given his dirt-covered skin and missing teeth.
He took the food that Sikkema offered him, but was reluctant to say much. All Sikkema managed to get out of him was that his mother had died three months ago, and sensing that the conversation wasn’t about to go much further, he was tempted to move on.
Just as he was about to turn away, however, he felt the Holy Spirit “slap him upside the head.” Sikkema was reminded that as followers of Christ, “our first calling is to a ministry of presence.” So that is what Sikkema continued to do, to simply be present with this nameless man.
The pattern continued with Sikkema and the man, the man refused to look Sikkema in the eye or tell him his name, but little by little he began to open up.
He was from Missouri, he told Sikkema. He lived alternately on the streets and in motels, often working for the motels in exchange for a couple nights in a room. He talked about how hard it was to call his dad and tell him that he was sleeping on the streets, again. He even told Sikkema one of his dreams; to own one of the motels on East Colfax.
The man shared more; he told Sikkema there had been a house fire when he was a kid and two siblings died in it. As a result of this misfortune, his parents divorced, and his mom then remarried. His step-dad was “not a nice man,” he said, and had sexually molested him as a child.
Sikkema asked if he could pray for the man, to help him release all the anger he was harboring toward his step-dad, and once more, Sikkema asked for his name. The man, now looking Sikkema in the eye, said, “It’s Craig.”
Sikkema prayed for Craig, that Jesus would help him to forgive his step-dad, and that his life would get to a better place. Sikkema thanked God that He knows Craig’s name, his hopes and dreams, who he is and what he’s been through.
All because someone took the time to be present with Craig, to learn his name and a little bit about his story, he is no longer nameless or faceless. Sikkema is helping Craig to see how God sees him, as loved and cared for.
As followers of Christ we have to remember to live in the here and now, to simply be present. If we are not still, if we ignore the tug of the Holy Spirit, we miss out on opportunities of great impact.
Through our partnership with Jesus on Colfax ministry, Home Missions hopes to be that same stable presence for Sikkema that he has been for Craig.
Please pray for those who call motels home, and who don’t know that they are cared for and loved so dearly by our Heavenly Father, who like the stars, calls us by name.