Run, reverend, run

Preacher’s foot crusade to fight homelessness makes multiple metro-Denver stops

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For more than a dozen years, the Rev. David Warren of Open Door Ministries was telling a little white lie of sorts.

“Ninteen years ago, when I was starting Open Door Ministries, I drove to 106 churches in six days to share the vision for this ministry. I called it `Walk the City,’ even though I was driving,” he said. “I got the idea from Mayor Wellington Webb, who had ‘walked the city’ during his campaign. I wore a suit and tennis shoes like he had done.”

He met many pastors and called it a great experience.

But then, as part of the ministry’s ongoing fundraising efforts in light of continued growth, ODM — as Warren calls it — started hosting an annual 5K race. And this year, Warren — a runner himself — has decided to run an even more literal outreach.

“I’ve always been a runner,” Warrend said, and “the idea of running back to 100 churches came to me.”

Spreading the word 100 times over

Run for the Door 5K has helped Denver’s homeless population for seven years. And now this year, Warren has upped the challenge of raising awareness.

Warren recently wrapped up running 100 miles to 100 churches to raise awareness of the May 28 run at Cheesman Park — and to raise $100,000 in funding to fight homelessness.

“I thank the churches for helping over the years,” Warren said. “I share a little of what ODM does for those who don’t know. I read a story of a changed life. I advertise the 5K.”

Warren started his runs May 14 and finished Monday after visiting churches all over the metro area, including regionally in Thornton, Westminster, Broomfield, Lakewood and Arvada. Along the way, Warren shared with parishioners and preachers alike the many success stories of the people who have been helped by one of the 17 different Open Door Ministries operating throughout urban Denver.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful,” he said. “I’ve been at new churches and met staff and pastors I never knew before. Most importantly, I’m sharing stories with them of real lives that have been transformed.”

Real people, real success stories

One story Warren likes to tell is of a young woman named Carina, who came from a broken home and spent more than a decade in the ODM children’s and youth programs, only to graduate valedictorian of her high school class, be honored with the Hero Award by Jeffco Schools Foundation and receive a full ride to Grinnell College in Iowa.

“There is nothing quite like watching God transform lives,” Warren said. “Carina is just finishing up her freshman year … and we are excited to see her this summer.”

Another story is of Shirley, an Esther House resident who came from the street addicted to drugs and alcohol.

“This program really helped me,” Shirley said. “It put God back in my life and it showed me love, gave me peace of mind … and loving friends. This program has really brought me closer to God.”

Now, Shirley said she’s clean and sober and doing her own good deeds, while attending computer class and going to school for her GED.

“God has really blessed me,” she said.

Finding blessings every step of the way

As for blessings, Warren considers running almost as much a consecration as the work of his ministry. He does not, however, enjoy competition and “races” only once a year — during ODM’s Run for the Door 5K.

“I love to run for many reasons, but the main reason is the stress relief of it,” he said. “It’s time to be alone. Sometimes I think, but other times I turn off my brain, which is wonderful. I love the challenge of pushing myself.”

Warren said he also loves the peacefulness of the running water as he trots along the Platte Valley Trail near his home.

“Running by the water and near the trees is peaceful, and reminds me of my old cross-country days,” he said.

Running, of course, also gives Warren time to reflect on the scriptures of the Bible and the parallels of running and spirituality.

“The writers of the Scripture often used running as an illustration of the Christian or spiritual life,” he said, referring to Hebrews 12:1-2, which reads “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

That, in essence, is what running — and the Run for the Door 5K — is all about, Warren said.

“Running is time to put everything aside,” he said. “Set your eyes on a goal and go for it.”

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