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July 8th, 2010
10:33 AM ET

On the frontlines of faith

Editor's note: CNN All-Platform Journalist Jim Spellman filed this post on one of the people he interviewed for his recent report on Denver's homeless youth.

Drop by "Sox Place" in downtown Denver most days and you'll find several dozen young homeless people eating lunch, working on computers or relaxing while watching a movie. What you won't find is any outward signs that the non-profit drop-in center is run by an ordained minister of deep personal faith.

His name is Doyle Robinson. The kids on the street gave him his street name of "Sox" after Robinson spent several years passing out clean socks to homeless people in Denver. Robinson is a minister ordained in the Assemblies of God, a Protestant denomination of over 60 million people worldwide.

So why isn't Robinson's faith on display?

"If your faith isn't real it's very apparent," he says.  "It comes across fake, it comes across empty and shallow. If your faith is real you live it on a daily basis."

Robinson, 55, has a long goatee, rides a Harley and wears the same T-shirts and sneakers as many of the homeless teenagers he helps. His work is not glamorous and neither are the people he serves. 

"It's my faith that drives me," he says, "It's very clear throughout the Bible that we are supposed to take care of the poor, the homeless, the orphans, the widows. We are supposed to be the ones doing welfare."

Many of the young homeless people who come to Sox Place fled homes where they were abused physically, emotionally and sexually. Robinson says the experiences leave them damaged and hurt. Besides a hot meal and, yes, a clean pair of socks, his goal is to provide them with a safe place, a refuge from their life on the street.

"I love them right where they are, right for who they are. I don't try to change them. If they want to change we're here for them, if they don't want to change we're still going to love them. We're still going to care about them," he says.

In the era of the mega-church, Robinson's humble storefront may seem a little out of step.

"This is what we're supposed to be doing. We're not supposed to be building multimillion dollar facilities. God never said to do that," according to Robinson.  "When Jesus was on Earth he said, 'Guys, I'm leaving, I'm putting you in charge.' He said feed the hungry. It's not a suggestion."

Robinson admits that the job takes a personal toll, but his own faith gives him the strength he needs.

"Getting your heart broke is part of it. Is it enjoyable? No. I wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning just weeping because my heart is broken because we love them so much," he says.

"But shake my faith in God? No, absolutely not. Bless his heart, if Jesus walked into Denver, where would he go? Who would he hang out with? He would come to Sox Place, he would go where the hurting people are."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Culture & Science • Faith

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Lynn

    This man was my youth pastor 30 years ago. I can tell you that he "walks the walk and talks the talk". He was such an inspiration to me then and still challenges me to show the love of Jesus.

    July 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  2. Jan McMillan

    I think your thoughts about helping people rather than building fancy big churches is spot on! I do have one question for you. We know that many of the homeless youth are gay teens running away from families and communities that don't accept them. Do you try to convince them that they can "change" or do you affirm them as God made them and support them as they are? If you do try to change them, as many fundamentalists and evangelicals do, then I could not support your ministry. But good for you if you support them "just as they are"!

    July 9, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
    • jone

      why don't you make the sacrifice of helping homeless youth, and then you can run it whatever way you want. i say this regardless of whether he thinks the way you want him to

      July 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  3. Andreas

    Mr. Robinson,

    God bless you and your ministry. You are a trully Christian living like genuine Christian. You do it to the least of our brothers and sisters, you it for Jesus, the son of the most High, our Lord and Saviour.

    Brother in Christ,
    Andreas

    July 9, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  4. holiday

    I would like to say as one of the young adults homeless on the streets of denver for years Sox was and is a safe place a home so to speak and absolutely a family i lived in a tent on the platte and though tthat was all there was for me in the world and then doyle loved me and loved us all you can sit back and literally see love coming out of him like steam off pavement watching him love and feeling his love was a huge part of me realizing there was more for me now i have my own place and at the end of the month i will complete my training as an addictions counselor and i pray i will be able to use that training to help sox help people i feel you all are missing the point the point is that god is love and sox gives us love and in doing so gives us god it is amazing work he does and he does it on a wing and a prayer financially instead of fussing about church buildings and theology dig in to your heart your schedule or your wallet and find a place in your town like sox place, if your blessed enough to have one, and help.

    July 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  5. Quiet Observer

    Typo correction:
    If a building enables ministry, this is undeniably good, but we also should be be careful NOT to waste God's money on our comfort.

    July 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
    • chip

      i agree. we already live in the most comfortable country in history. some sacrifice, for those who claim to treasure Jesus, is way more than possible.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  6. Quiet Observer

    Praise God for working through Mr. Robinson's kind actions. I think Sox would understand what I mean by that.

    On mega-churches and their infrastructure:
    I am sure the the Isrealites thought they were honoring God when they built a golden calf. Similarly, (we) Americans tend to think our shiny new ultra-buildings do so as well. Maybe god would rather us be out in the world instead walled up in a garden. I assure you nothing (physical) you think matters now will even make sense when you meet God. The good thing about God is that he is in control, and I personally wouldn't have it any other way. If a building enables ministry, this is undeniably good, but we also should be be careful to waste God's money on our comfort. It's interesting that defenders of mega-church's mega-structures seem obsessed with obtaining wealth, I don't recall Jesus ever really concerning himself with such banality.

    "If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people he gives it to."
    -Old Irish Proverb

    July 8, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • another survivor

      I love your Irish proverb. You just made my day. Thank you.

      July 8, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  7. D Zent

    Wow – the people who think God cares about some multi-million-dollar building must be, or work for, the contractors who hang these piles of millstones around the modern Church's neck.

    Buildings are man's doing. People are God's. Take care of God's creation. Skip the buildings.

    July 8, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
    • For Fun

      The love expressed and the ministry dispensed is truly of God. However this whole fixation on buildings and things amazes me. People say buildings are evil and a waste, but God Himself had some pretty fancy building plans put in the Bible. Rather than making a rule that says "nothing fancy and absolutely no new cars" why not seek a heart faith.

      July 8, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  8. Rudy

    Action talk lauder; WALK THE TALK! Turn the LOGOS into RHEMA by obeying our Lord.

    July 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  9. Kalhoun

    I like when a guy does the right thing. It's not a matter of jesus or god or religion. It's about caring for your fellow man. Good on ya, Doyle Robinson.

    July 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • jersey

      "its my faith that drives me." for him, it's definitely about God.

      July 10, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  10. Grace

    Praise GOD! This is what means to follow the image of Christ!

    July 8, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  11. BigNick

    This man walks the walk. He is very blessed now and forever more.

    July 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  12. AK GIRL

    Finally, someone who is truly living out the gospel and living the type of life that the rest of the world can not condemn. This man is an inspiration and if more "Christians" believed as he did this world would be a better place.

    July 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  13. EBinKC

    This is what Christianity is, the real thing that draws people to God. I hope and pray that more of us live like this. What a difference we can make in the world.

    July 8, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  14. Shameless

    Being a current student a a catholic university, I am speechless.

    July 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Let me just add a quote from Ronald Reagan. "If we ever
      forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be
      a nation gone under." I truly believe this is why the
      United States of America is in the shape we are in
      today.. Most people have forgotten that we are one
      nation under God! Let us as Christians stand up and
      remind people of this!! We can all pray...............

      July 9, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  15. Shane Hutson

    I haven't felt this much hope in 20 years. There will come a day when time doesn't matter and one by one mankind will pass before our judge. Doyle Robinson, the angels will sing songs of salvation as you walk into the gates of heaven. God help that I should one day be such a man.

    July 8, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  16. Goreczky

    Its about time.

    July 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  17. Becca Sharpe

    Keep it up Doyle Robinson!
    I like it! I like it a lot! 🙂

    July 8, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  18. Nathaniel Molden

    Mr. Robinson I agree with what you said about taking care of the poor, thats what His Word says. But I beg the differ concerning the comment you made about multi million dollar facilities. In my humble belief we will build and buy multi million dollar facilities for His glory. These facilities will house and provide jobs and also provide programs that will teach God's children who are homeless how by faith the Lord will provide both naturally and spiritually for their lives. His word says that " the wealth of the wicked is layed up for the just" we, as believers are the just my friend and the just shall live by faith. Seek God for your inheritance and wait patiently for as His word teaches us in Psalms 40. Its all about souls and we must teach the death, burial, and resurrection which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Be encouraged brother and may the Lord bless you and use you for His glory in JESUS name!!! AMEN!!!

    July 8, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • helen

      as someone who has seen preachers dilute their preaching to gain followership to pay for their buildings, i say we've got to be very careful about ministries using costly buildings. the pope wanted to finish the basilica, so he sent out indulgence salesman, and managed to make martin luther mad enough about it to start a reformation. if Jesus had little concern for a temple, i question his glory being shown by purchasing costly facilities.

      July 8, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
    • EBinKC

      As Christians, we are not to store up treasures on earth, we are not to hoard wealth in the last days, we are not to indulge ourselves at the expense of the poor. There is so much greed and lust and idolatry in the Church today, and this turns people away from the One True God. Read the Gospels and see how often Jesus preaches on money and what He says to do with it. Doyle Robinson and others like him are living closer to Jesus than most of the professing Christians in America. We must love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John).
      Hold on to the good.

      July 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • Rudy

      Love your God with all of yours and love your neighboor and others as much as you love your self. Basically, it is not about what you do that pleases God's heart, but what is your motivation behind your action. Build a big building for God's glory and honor if its from your heart with the right motivation as God knows your heart! At the end if our faith build up base on the wrong foundation; appearently it will fall down and otherway arround.

      July 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
    • D Zent

      God could care less about a building. God cares about you helping people in the very way that Robinson does. The building is window dressing – it will never come face to face with it's Creator. But you will, and God's going to want to know why you used the mega-mortgage as an excuse not to help those in need when they needed it, and instead opted to make a rich building contractor even richer. American Christianity has become a capitalist parody in this regard. Robinson is totally correct when he says that if Christ came to town, he'd be hanging out at Sox's place, and not in the air-conditioned, well-appointed board rooms of the mega-churches.

      July 8, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
    • Mimi Leigh

      Do you think the lost, poor, unwanted, unreached want to go to the mega church and sit and listen the word of God there? Put ourselves in their shoes, they feel being rejected and I believe everyone who is inside will stare at them. They might want to come but sometimes the act of most Christian will offend and hurt them. When God comes to the earth He will find the lost, poor, unwanted, and unreached. He will sit at the open wall earth with the green grasses flooring and the blue sky ceiling, so everyone can come and will come to Him.
      Don’t take the advantages from serving the least of the people. Do you think you feel good after doing it and God will reward you? If there is no love then forget it! God’s hand is not too short to reach, to cover, to protect, and to love them. He wants His people serving the least of the people and it is our task and duty as a Christian and lets Him and Holy Spirit changes their life. Everyone can be a Good Samaritan but if there is no love then it's useless. Everything to safe and to love the least of our brethrens and everything is for the kingdom of God not for us.
      What ever we do must be for the glory of God, if the mega church can be the glory of God, why not? The purpose must be for righteous! Never ever steal the Glory of God!
      Let’s full fill Matthew 25:31-46 together hands in hands and thanks Mr. Robinson for being so generous and God loves you so much!

      God Bless You all.

      July 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
    • another survivor

      If his "glory" is shown through material things, you must worship the devil. Jesus threw out the money changers, because money had no place in his temple. To that note, it is that exact idea that scares people like me away from churches like yours. Mr. Sox here, I would hang with and listen too anytime. That is because he does not act above me. He is not self-righteous. He is humble. You can not be humble and have a million dollar church. You do not know who the just is, only God can decide, per your own religion, there for you are a blasphemer by calling yourself the just. How can you pretend to know who is and is not just? Do you know the sins of all of men's hearts? Is it because you read your book and ride into your big beautiful building? I have read your book. I am not Christian, and I have read your book. I have walked the halls of your temples. I am still not a Christian. I would not listen to a Christian like you, even if my soul depended upon it. Mr. Sox, THAT is another story. He does not put upon airs, and pretend he is just. He does not have a big fancy church and claim a material thing represents his heavenly father's glory.

      Sir your Father's Glory can not be seen upon this earth, your father's glory can only be seen by the heart. Until you learn this, you will forever be one of those hollow Christians, Mr. Sox warned against.

      July 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Nathaniel Molden is absolutely right. Why would the poor want you to make more homeless shelters, more soup kitchens, more free clinics, when you could use the money to build really nice buildings of worship?

      For I was hungry, and you invited me to a multi-million dollar building to pray. I was thirsty, and you invited me to your multi-million dollar building to pray. I was a stranger and you invited me ... to your multi-million dollar building to pray. I needed clothes and you offered ... to let me pray at your multi-million dollar building, once I found some decent clothes so I would not offend your well-dressed parishioners. I was sick and you invited me to your multi-million dollar building to pray, as long as I was not carrying anything contagious.

      Of course, I could have used some of those multi-millions to give me food, shelter, water, clothes, and medicine, but at least I can come to your multi-million dollar building to pray.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:22 am |
  19. survivedthestreets

    I am 38. I lived on the streets as a kid. In and out of juvie and children shelters. Went to prison for 2 years.
    The only reason I recovered and made something of my life, was due to finding hope in the world through people being kind to me when I was at my lowest. My kids have never struggled or feared as I did. It is sad and it should be a crime that kids still live like this when we have CEOs and politicians who live as if they are royalty. It makes me sick.

    July 8, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • another survivor

      I too survived. My children have no idea how lucky they are. For this, I am grateful. It is so hard to explain to others that they too should be grateful, for all they own could be taken in a moment. What really matters is family, and I'm sure you understand, most of the street kids never even had that. It is so sad to see other young people, living through the hell I lived through. I am one of the few that made it out. No one ever told me how to go to college, get a GED, or anything. I had to figure it out myself. If someone would show these kids a way, may be they too can make it out before turning to crime, getting shot up, pimped out, or disposed of by society. If someone was there and would say, "Hey man, take this test and you can go to college. That's it pass one test and your in." (GED) Kids don't believe it. I didn't anyway, I thought no way is it as easy as passing a test. I thought it was too simple. There had to be a catch, ever kid thinks like this on the street, what are you going to take form me to give me this thing. It isn't like that though, it really isn't. Someone has to gain their trust and show them, look no one wants anything from you, just do this for yourself, and you WILL have a better life. Congrats by the way on getting out. I thought I was the only one...never met another that did. Most of my "street family" is dead. I was the sole survivor.

      July 8, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  20. sheetiron

    Amen. Too many Christians think that taking care of and providin for the poor, hungry, homeless, and those in need is only a ministry of a select "called" few. This is highly unscriptual. Whle there may be some who are clled to miniser to the poor in a more full time sese, this is a duty of every person who calls themselves a Christian. Remember Matthew 25:31-36

    July 8, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • sheetiron

      *Matthew 25:31-46

      When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
      Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

      July 8, 2010 at 11:19 am |
    • Reality

      But did the historical Jesus really utter Matt 25: 31-46? He did not according to many historic Jesus exegetes. For example,

      Gerd Luedemann

      This concluding text of Jesus' eschatological discourse fits Matthaean theology seamlessly. After the paraenesis in 24.32-25.30 the judgment by the Son of Man is depicted in a great painting. The judgment is of all human beings, but Matthew has his community in particular in view: cf. 13.37-43,49-50. In view of this similarity we must seriously consider whether the whole passage should be regarded as a Matthaean construction.

      John P. Meier- professor at Notre Dame

      When commenting on the use of phylake (prison) in Matt 11:2, Meier [Marginal Jew II,198] notes that "the whole passage depicting the last judgment is either a Matthean creation or heavily redacted by Matthew."

      July 8, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
    • sheetiron

      The Bible says he said it, therefore he said. You may find this contradictory and insane, but that's your affair.

      July 8, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • C Reighton

      You do realize that peer-reviewed articles are probably LESS reliable than a 2k year-old scribble on papyrus? There is more but-kissing and posturing in those journals than a celebrity gossip magazine, trend here, trend there, the popular ones get the money, the ones with the money to do flashy studies get published, etc. etc. etc.

      July 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • Reality

      sheetiron et al,

      One more time:

      think about the logic (or lack thereof).
      “I believe the Bible is inspired.” “Why?” “Because it says so.” Would your
      anyone let that logic pass if it came from the followers of any other book
      or person? “I believe x is inspired because x says so.” Fill in the blanks:
      x=Pat Robertson
      x=the ayatolloah Sistani (sp?)
      x=David Koresh
      x=the Koran
      x=sheetiron

      more “logic”?

      “I believe there is One God Jehovah because He is revealed in the infallible
      Bible. I believe the Bible is infallible because it is the Word of the One God Jehovah.”

      July 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
    • sheetiron

      and your point being...

      July 8, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
    • sheetiron

      I stand by my original statement. The Bible say that Jesus said it. Therefore, he said it. The Holy Bible being the Holy Spirit inspired, inerrant, infallible, incorruptible, authoritative Living Word of God, and THE Absolute Truth is something that I refuse to negotiate on. I will not meet someone in the middle, I will not give ground. That is the truth and there is no discussion on the matter.

      July 8, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Actually, I find sheetiron's honesty to be quite refreshing. He makes absolutely no effort to pretend he's anyrthing other than a fanatic. It's true because he says it's true, and he refuses to negotiate!

      I love it. He makes no effort whatsoever to appear like a rational person.

      July 9, 2010 at 1:17 am |
    • sheetiron

      Almost correct. Its not so much because I say its correct, its because the Bible says correct.

      July 9, 2010 at 6:08 am |
    • ztnarf

      Because one has been a witness to the truth, how would that individual be able to negotiate and compromise? God created us in his image to worship, love and have fellowship with him. It is not as if we need to talk about it and make up our own rules and guidelines for worship.

      July 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @sheetiron

      You said, "The Bible says he said it, therefore he said. You may find this contradictory and insane, but that's your affair."

      The King James also says there was a talking snake, fruit that imparts knowledge, a global flood which required gathering of 2 of every animal, a tower to heaven, a virgin birth and resurection of the dead. None of those things happened either.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Michael Wong

      You said, "Actually, I find sheetiron's honesty to be quite refreshing. He makes absolutely no effort to pretend he's anyrthing other than a fanatic. It's true because he says it's true, and he refuses to negotiate!

      I love it. He makes no effort whatsoever to appear like a rational person."

      So, we should praise him for this? LOL.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Reality

      Circular logic is all the fundies have.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
    • sheetiron

      You are right David, the Bible also says that there was a talking snake, fruit that imparts knowledge, a great flood, virgin birth, ressurection of the dead, etc, etc. Which means that these things happened. You may claim that they didnt happen, but the Word of God says that they happened which makes your claim that they didnt happen, incorrect by default.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
    • sheetiron

      David, your claim the "circular logic" is all that "the fundies" as you call us have is incorrect. We have the Power of the Holy Spirit made manifest in our lives.

      July 12, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
    • Sue

      I believe Harry Potter is the Ultimate Truth. I believe it because the HP books say so. I have 7 against your one. Does it matter that they were written by a human being ? Well if it doesn't matter to you, it doesn't matter to me. Prove me wrong. The books SAY SO !!!!

      July 13, 2010 at 8:40 am |
    • Jim

      Let us remember that most of those in the "quest" for the "historical Jesus" are far from exegetes or using honest criterion for making their decisions. Funk, Crossan and many others are finding what they originally set out to find (a wnadering sage for example) and uses criterion so laughable that it fails the test of a high school course on judging evidence (the Jesus Seminar for example).

      When one must begin with the assumption that there WAS a "Q" (of which there is no actual evidence for) and NOW how do we parse what came from Q (a document that is as far as the evidence shows is a myth) so we can discover what Jesus, "really said?"

      Too often we find what we are looking for to begin with (on every side of an issue). Opinion is opinion, facts are facts, contexts are the key and loaded criteria like loaded dice get us the result we desire not the result that is honest.

      Grace and Peace,
      Jim

      July 13, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • Dawn

      @Sheetiron:
      "The Holy Bible being the Holy Spirit inspired, inerrant, infallible, incorruptible, authoritative Living Word of God, and THE Absolute Truth is something that I refuse to negotiate on. I will not meet someone in the middle, I will not give ground. That is the truth and there is no discussion on the matter."

      What about all of those parts of the bible that contradict the other parts of the bible?
      If it's all true, I should probably go throw some rocks at my kid... he's making a mess again!

      July 13, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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