About Benjamin Monroell Edwards

I am the youth director at a transitional housing program in Denver, CO called Joshua Station. I live in Denver with my wife, Nicole, my daughter Emery and my dog Zero.

8th & Wyandot: The End of an Era

Nicole and I had no idea how much our lives would be changed the day we hauled the trailer full of our stuff into the Joshua Station parking lot. We had celebrated our one year wedding anniversary only three weeks before that day. Our idealism, spurred on largely by the works of Shane Claiborne, had swept us into the city of Denver with big dreams of how we were going to be a part of this revolution of love that everyone in our circle was talking about. “Denver will be our home for the next 3-5 years”. That was an exact quote from both of us. That day was 8 years, one dog, 2 children this side of heaven, the loss of one of our parents, the purchasing of one house, and too many friendships to count, ago.

I have been documenting this journey, offering reflections along the way. This effort has always (at least nearly always…like 7 years and 10 months give or take a few hours) been called 8th & Wyandot. The name simply comes from the closest intersection to Joshua Station. If you want to take a trip down memory lane with us, or if you have never read a single one of my reflections and you want to get a sense for what this journey has been like, you can find the whole archive HERE.

Last month I had a meeting with Amy (Director of Joshua Station) and Jeff (Executive Director of Mile High Ministries). Through genuine tears, Amy informed me that Joshua Station’s budget would no longer be able to continue providing for my position after this fiscal year (June 30). This place. The place were Daniel schooled me in basketball, Juan schooled me in FIFA ’09, Karen invited us into debate after debate about white privilege (she eventually won that, by the way), Diana introduced Nicole to the pampering experience of a manicure on Federal, we ate our first Tamale, and I first heard my wife utter the words “I’m Pregnant!” This place that has been our “home base” in Denver for 8 years. This place will no longer be “my place”.

This week has been hard. It has also been beautiful. Gifts from co-workers and JS families have reminded me of just how grateful I am for this little expression of light in our city. Parties have reminded me of how much I will miss seeing these people everyday. Meetings have reminded me of the necessary and difficult work that must continue after I am gone.

I will miss Joshua Station more than I could adequately express in this one blog. I have decided to share pictures of our first week and my last day at Joshua Station. Just know that packed into these pictures are so many memories, emotions, and gifts. Perhaps we could unpack some of that in a conversation. But for today, the pictures will have to be enough.

 

These are the pictures we took of our JS apartment the first week after we moved in sometime in May 2009.

 

 

This is the picture I took today of that same view. Things have certainly changed. Most notably, Daniel is no longer on that court with his basketball.

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8th & Wyandot: Your Gift to the World

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I had no idea that she was a poet. Writing was something she only did behind closed doors and she felt too shy to share it with any of us. Over the course of two or three years she had written dozens of poems—some for school, but most of them because it was her way to process the experiences of her life.

One day, perhaps by accident, one of our staff members caught a glimpse of her talent with words. Pretty soon everyone was reading the piece she had decided she was willing to share. You could tell that she was excited to finally have someone else read her work, and maybe a little nervous because of what we might have to say about it.

After repeating this a few times, one of our staff members decided we needed to ask her, and one of our boys, to create and perform a poem at an upcoming event. They were informed that it would give them a chance to perform, but even more than that, it would be an act of service that would benefit Joshua Station. They both jumped on board and prepared rigorously for the event. Something had come alive in them. Her secret hobby had become her gift to the world around her, and she felt the deep significance of that reality.

We all have gifts, skills, passions. In some circles these things get treated like nothing more than a personal experience, something that can serve to inflate our egos, and if we are really lucky, make us lots of money. But this misses the deeper invitation of life.

Our work, our art, our music, our writing, it all has the potential to be a gift to the world. The girl who wrote poetry in secret had no idea how much her words would touch the spirit of our staff, or tug on the hearts of the donors in attendance at the event where she performed. The great irony is that when we recognize the invitation to become a gift to the world, our work becomes overwhelmingly more fulfilling than if we ignore it. So what is your gift? How can you share it with the world around you?

 

This post is the most recent 8th & Wyandot reflection. To find it, as well as the entire 8th & Wyandot archive, Click Here.

8th & Wyandot: Keeping A Big World Small

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Last summer I took a few kids on a short hike less than an hour outside of Denver. The whole thing was a bit of a nuisance to me, to be honest. I had so much work that needed to get done that the thought of burning an entire morning on a hike seemed like a terrible waste.

The moment that turned this morning around for me happened on the drive into a beautiful foothill community when one of the kids, who had lived in Denver her entire life, said “This is the furthest away from Denver I have ever been!” Her statement was enough to make me pause. Most of the people who move to Denver come, at least in part, because of the accessibility of the mountains. “Everyone” has gone on at least a few hikes. But somehow she had fallen through some pretty big cracks in my assumptions during her 11 years of life.

The hike was a blast, partly because she kept noticing everything with such excitement that it caused me to remember how amazing the mountains really were. She noticed the flowers, the rocks, the trees, the chipmunks. Everything was new, and she soaked it all up.

It’s funny how I tend to resist the bigness of our world. I experience something breathtaking, like the mountains, and my brain immediately goes to work trying to make it all fit into the boxes of assumptions and awareness that already exist. After a while, hiking in the mountains feels no different than watching a movie.

This season invites us into an experience of new birth—to be born again. The thing with being born is that a child enters into the same world they have always been a part of, but have never seen. The invitation to be born again is often not an invitation into something outside of us or outside of the reality of our lives. It’s an invitation to take a second look, to dig a little deeper and allow ourselves to see all the familiar things with new eyes. Just like my experience of hiking with a first timer, I am invited to stand in awe of the breath taking nature of this life I have been living all along.

This post is the most recent 8th & Wyandot reflection. To find it, as well as the entire 8th & Wyandot archive, Click Here.

8th & Wyandot: Born Again

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You have no doubt noticed the birth happening all around you. The tiny blades of grass pushing their way out of the chilled soil, the baby ducks and geese following their mothers around in a scene that melts the hardest of hearts, the light of the sun continuing to grow in length out of the darkness of Winter, maybe even the renewed sense of energy and ambition within yourself as the new season invites you to participate. It’s as if everything is being born again.

When a family moves into Joshua Station, it can feel like they are coming from the depths of Winter. In most cases, life has not been easy. Struggle has been the daily reality as most ambition and motivation subside to make room for the pursuit of survival. So much within the life of the family has become dormant, enveloped by a season of darkness.

Story after story has confirmed for me an important movement within this journey.  The Winter, though marked with struggle and lacking so much of what we often think life should be about, acts as a womb. A womb out of which a new person, a new family, a new sense of life is born. Over and over again I have witnessed families experience this rebirth at Joshua Station. They are born again into a renewed vibrancy, an exciting motivation for life, a deeper ambition, a truly excited anticipation of what lies ahead.

As you begin to kick the ice off your shoes and allow the warmth of the sun to melt away the depths of your Winter, I pray that you too will notice all the ways you are being born again. I pray that you will be able to look back at that season of dormancy, struggle, and darkness that you have emerged out of with a deep appreciation for the preparation of growth it fostered.

 

This post is the most recent 8th & Wyandot reflection. To find it, as well as the entire 8th & Wyandot archive, Click Here.

8th & Wyandot: The Invitation of the Sacred

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Josh began weeping as soon as we pulled up to Joshua Station. He saw that greeting him at the office was not his mother, but the family who had agreed to care for him and his brother once his mother passed away—something that we all knew could happen any day. The consideration was even made that perhaps the boys shouldn’t go to camp this year. We knew they would be destroyed if she passed while they were gone. Ultimately their mother made the decision that they needed to live lives as close to normal as was possible, so they went.

Though she did eventually pass away, his mother was simply in the hospital receiving treatment when Josh and his brother came home from camp. This update did little to slow the river of tears that began to flow when he thought his worst fear had become a reality.

This moment, like the reality of everyday with Josh and his family, was an invitation into that sacred space where we connect with what it truly means to be human. Those of us who had gotten to know and love this family gathered around Josh and let him know that we were right there with him. We didn’t encourage him to stop crying. We didn’t tell him that his fears had not come true today, so cheer up. We sat with him in the fullness of his sorrow until he was ready to get into the car that would deliver him to his mother’s side.

Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is a powerful and miraculous story. But the part that most stands out is not the part where Lazarus walks out of the tomb. The part that most stands out and has become one of the most well known lines in Scripture, is “Jesus Wept”. Jesus could have said, “There’s no reason to cry. He will live again.” Instead he accepted the sacred invitation into the truly human experience of sorrow that so filled that moment.

To the best of our ability, we accepted the invitation Josh offered. It was an invitation to step into the sacred space of his vulnerability, his sorrow, his deepest fears. That moment, and the whole story of Josh’s family, still brings many of us to tears today. It was such a difficult season for those of us who knew them and knew the hard road they were traveling. It was painful. It was also beautiful. It was real. It was truly sacred.

This post is the most recent 8th & Wyandot reflection. To find it, as well as the entire 8th & Wyandot archive, Click Here.

8th & Wyandot: We Need It All

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Nicole and I were in Kansas when it happened. The entire community was in shock and then utterly undone. He was only 8 years old. This kind of tragedy never considers the fragility of those in its wake. Joshua Station had been turned into a house of mourning, overnight.

A few weeks ago we all celebrated with ear to ear smiles and lots of hugs as we sent her off to college. We were all so incredibly proud of her for putting in the hard work it took to get here. It almost overshadows the weight and pain of the valleys in her life—almost. Nevertheless, we are celebrating, because this moment deserves to be celebrated!

What makes Joshua Station what it is? Is it the “success stories” that make us all feel proud to be in this place? Is it the stories of extreme suffering and pain? Is it the stories that don’t go the way we hope after a family moves into a new house? The only answer that makes any sense is yes.

This is a place of transformation. Sometimes that transformation makes us feel warm and grateful. Sometimes it breaks us and causes us to weep. And sometimes it causes us to throw our fists into the wall in frustration. Without the stories of success, this place is without hope. Without the stories of hardship, this place is not honest. It all blends together in a messy and beautiful way to create the community that I have gotten to know over the course of eight years. It’s all a part of it. We need it all.

Of course this is true, not only for Joshua Station, but for each and every one of us.  We are not all success, nor are we all failure or utter defeat. We are all of it. We are often told to deny that fact, to strive for a perfection (at least of image) that simply doesn’t exist. This pursuit causes us to become distanced from the truth of who we are. We are all of it. We need it all. And it’s exactly when we embrace it all—bumps, bruises, and beauty marks alike—that transformation truly happens.

 

This post is the most recent 8th & Wyandot reflection. To find it, as well as the entire 8th & Wyandot archive, Click Here.

 

8th & Wyandot: You Only See Stars When It’s Dark

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Stephanie was showing everyone at Kids Club the painting she had made in school that week. She said that it had a deeper meaning than I was probably assuming. She explained, “It shows that the darkness is really hard sometimes, but it’s only when it’s dark that you see the stars.”

I knew that I had just sat at the feet of wisdom, once again personified by a 12 year old girl. I couldn’t articulate exactly why this was profound in that moment, but I spoke to Stephanie again a few weeks later to make sure she knew how much her painting had moved me.

You only see stars when it’s dark. We are terrified of darkness as a culture. This is literally true, as is proven by night-time satellite images of our country from space. This is also true at a deeper level—a symbolic level.

Darkness feels like a symbol for many things in my life—silence, contemplation, solitude, stillness. This probably only scratches the surface, but the image has been a powerful one. It is only when I allow myself to be in the physical darkness, to be silent, to practice contemplation, to be alone in solitude, to be still, that I begin to see the stars.

The stars remind us that our immediate reality, that feels like “all there is”, is actually a tiny piece of an enormous puzzle. They remind us that there is beauty hidden in plain sight—hidden by our obsession with “Light”. Light is physical light in the form of light bulbs that shield us from the natural world. It is also noise, never being alone, constantly moving, and resisting the deeper levels of consciousness contemplation invites us into.

We are terrified of the dark. But it is only when we embrace the darkness and allow our eyes to adjust that we begin to see the stars.

It is my prayer that Stephanie has invited you to see the stars—physically, as well as in the darkness of your inner life.


This post is the most recent 8th & Wyandot reflection. To find it, as well as the entire 8th & Wyandot archive, 
Click Here.