Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Lessons From Outside the Box

Words to wrap around the end of a summer are always hard to come by. The simplest summary is shown numerically - 672 students & leaders from 15 states serving at 29 ministry sites, along with 8 hosts, to make up 119 days of service (so far!) at CSM Philadelphia in 2015 so far.  
Yet, the depth of that goes beyond the simple statistics.

Our team of hosts for the summer
The numbers discount the fact that the Lord taught us a lot about boxes this year.
Boxes are a
familiar thing in our world - moving boxes, cereal boxes, boxes to be packed with canned goods, boxes of cleaning supplies... Yet, the Lord was quick to remind us through this season that the world He created often doesn't fit neatly into straight lines and organized, black and white fixes. A box is man-made invention; nature prefers the crooked and the intertwined and the messy and the beauty of the in-between.
While there were countless stories of boxes being torn up, a new vision of the homeless population was a common conversation amongst groups, especially after serving with Hands of Hope. Here is a segment of an interview our apprentice Scott conducted with Hands of Hope's founder:

"While the issue of homelessness has not gone unnoticed, the treatment of it has simply been erratic. A homeless man named Lucio, 68, has been homeless in Philadelphia for the past three years. 


'We don’t really need the food all the time. The most difficult is to find a place that’ll really give you help and hear you out,' he says, 'It don’t do me any good at all if they isn’t gonna listen.' 

Such is the mission of Joetta Kieffer, the founder and heart behind Hands of Hope, a homeless outreach ministry in Philadelphia. The basis of her ministry rests in the idea that a connection and conversation is more helpful than a pamphlet.

She believes that everyone is deserving of an open ear to hear their voice. She becomes passionately indignant when the notion of inequality comes up in regards to the homeless population in Philadelphia. 


'They are no different than anyone else. Their circumstances are just different than where I’m at. That does not demote them as human beings,” she says, “we are created equal.'

The greatest issue, perhaps, is not necessarily that things are not being done, but that people are not willing to understand the issue on a holistic level. People are people, regardless of their circumstance, and deserve to be treated as such. The homeless of Philadelphia are passed by more than 2,000 people each day. The intention behind Hands of Hope is to send people out with the only goal of not being the 2,001stperson to walk by. 

'God loves them and does not see them any different, so why should we,' Kieffer says, 'We’re all the same when it comes down to it.'"

May we all continue to grow together in a commitment to not see things in boxes.
- Brittany Nyce, CSM Philadephia City Director


Thursday, August 27, 2015

5,871 Lives Interrupted


5,871 people joined in the work that God's doing through CSM this summer.

Hundreds of ministry partners were able to rely on CSM volunteers to provide critical services to their communities - summer camps, elderly assistance, homeless outreach, food distribution, urban gardening, Vacation Bible Schools AND SO MUCH MORE!

Over a hundred local restaurants received an influx of customers thanks to CSM groups intentionally eating dinners in the communities they are serving in. Many mom and pop shops have been able to keep their doors open because of this increase in business AND our groups get to devour pupusas, pho, tortas, and jerk chicken galore. It's a win-win!

11 cities across the nation experienced an outpouring of love from God's people as they served His people in His name.

We are grateful for each of the 5,871 individuals who sacrificed their time & finances and got out of their comfort zone to see how God could interrupt their lives by loving their neighbors. 

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Becoming Advocates for our Neighbors

At CSM sites around the country, we seek to engage the city in which God has placed us.  We strive to know its streets, its people, its history. The more we learn and the more we love, the more our hearts are broken by the injustices faced by many of the populations with whom we serve: the addicted, the disabled, the orphan, the impoverished, the homeless. In soup kitchens, shelters, after-school programs, and food pantries. On street corners, under bridges, and outside of shops and restaurants. 

We quickly find that many of the urban issues we encounter are steeped not only in stereotypes and prejudices, but in failed policies and governance. But progress is being made. Check out this article about how the federal government is working to decriminalize homelessness around the country, and advocate for similar advancements in your own city!

- Sarah Trax, CSM Chicago Associate City Director

Friday, August 14, 2015

Interrupted: Moses Timlin

CSM Chicago will be posting a blog series called "Interrupted: The Unexpected Movements of God Working Through CSM's Ministry".  If you have a story about how God interrupted your life through a CSM trip, please email it to alumni@csm.org!


Far too often, we view obedience to the Lord as merely an obligation. Obedience, however, is walking in freedom from whatever holds us back from our true identity in Christ. One of the loudest lies in our culture is that obedience to the Lord is something we do out of lack, rather than out of abundance. In God’s grace, he often chooses to speak loudly and interrupt this mindset. This was the case with Moses Timlin.

Over the past couple of years, the Lord has done an amazing work in Moses, and it all began when he was a leader in a college ministry at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). At the time, Moses was largely focused on the discipleship ministry he was leading college students in, and although he was aware of social problems, living out the gospel through the passionate pursuit of social justice was not a major cornerstone of his faith. It was around this time that a prayer team came to UIC to prophetically pray over people. A woman prophesied that Moses would soon be getting more involved in the pursuit of social justice. Something about this connected with Moses. Over the course of the year that followed, the Lord continued to confirm this idea in various ways.

Eventually, Moses came across CSM while planning a service trip for the college ministry. The vision of CSM resonated with Moses, and he realized that working as a city host would be a tremendous learning and growing opportunity for him. He decided to apply to be a city host at CSM Chicago, and on his shadowing CSM trip, he helped pass out food at a food pantry to patrons on the streets. This work was grueling, but he thought to himself that this, serving and blessing people freely and literally meeting their needs, was the joy of the Christian walk, and he wanted to be a part of it. He was offered a Chicago city hosting job for the summer 2013 season right after his senior year of college, and he felt that the Lord was telling him this was an amazing opportunity that he should not pass up, so he took it.

CSM training was a challenging experience for Moses. Even though he had grown up in Chicago, he was being made to think critically for the first time about issues such as poverty and white privilege. It was tense and emotional, and at times it felt like hopelessness. Moses came to terms, however, with the fact that even this season of discomfort was grace. He was being confronted with the reality of the brokenness of the world. This was not supposed to be easy or fun, and, though it was hard, the Lord was using this season to give Moses the desire to engage with these issues and to mobilize others to engage with them.

For every ounce of difficulty CSM training offered Moses, the actual process of hosting groups blessed him tenfold. He loved serving with different groups every week, carrying the presence of Jesus with them, and sharing with them in love and grace the reality of the injustices of the city. It was during this time that he grew in his walk with God and learned how to live in a way that gave life both to himself and others. Ultimately, through this process of engaging with the brokenness of the world with hope placed firmly in Christ and responding with love and grace, he grew to understand who we was.

Moses stepped out of his role as city host into a year-long Apprenticeship with CSM, which involved him serving 25 hours per week at a ministry site of his choosing. Moses chose to serve at an after-school program and ministry called Sunshine Gospel Ministry, which is in one of the poorer and more violent neighborhoods of Chicago. At Sunshine, he saw a great deal of what he had been learning about as a city host unfolding in practical ways before his eyes in the lives of the children and staff he was ministering to and with. During Moses’ Apprenticeship year, he helped out with the after-school program at Sunshine, progressively taking more and more autonomy in the ministry until he was teaching lessons to the children. The entire year was another massive growing and learning process. For Moses, working at Sunshine was like experiencing a slice of God’s kingdom. This was a place of hope in a broken neighborhood, and there was a deep focus on making sure all were known, loved, and understood.

Coming out of his Apprenticeship in the fall of 2014, Moses struggled with fear that his next move would make or break him. In his fear, the Lord interrupted him, essentially saying, “This is who you are. You can walk in the freedom of that, or you can see it as a burden.” God was telling Moses to use his newly understood identity as a child of God to direct his steps. Moses ended up taking a full time job with Sunshine as the director of the after-school program and summer camp. The Lord richly blessed his ministry during this time and continued to grow him. Now, going into the fall of 2015, Moses plans to return to UIC to pursue a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning. This is something that Moses would not have thought he would be doing just a few years ago. Moses hopes to use this degree to continue to bring God’s good kingdom to Earth by breaking chains and cycles that keep people held back and by empowering them to thrive in their identity in Christ.

God used CSM to lead Moses to see why the Lord created him, why He gave him certain passions, who He is as a Heavenly Father, that He is deeply good, and that we can usher in His kingdom on Earth now.  The Lord so profoundly interrupted Moses’ life and his expectations back in college when that woman prophesied over him, and He has continued to interrupt him since. Through Moses’ life, we can see that true obedience to the Lord is coming to an understanding of our identities as His children and walking in freedom in that. Allow God to interrupt your life and your expectations, for the Lord truly desires to bless you with an abundant life.



Thursday, August 06, 2015

6 Ways to Make Sure Your Mission Trip Has Long-Term Impact



If you served on a mission trip with CSM this summer - thank you! You not only were Jesus' hands and feet in the city, but you've also taken the first big step towards expanding your worldview of who God is and how He's moving. But, keep in mind that we weren't made to live on the mountaintop - it's when we return home to the valley that we can continue to grow. 

Here are a few tips to help you make sure that short-term trip has true long-term impact...

1. Serve!
Did serving on your mission trip stir something within you? Like a part of you is meant to keep doing this? Whether it's reaching out to your homeless neighbors back in your own community or writing a prayer tour of your own city - do something (consistently) to serve your neighbors!

2. Give!
It's as simple as "putting your money where your mouth is". If you were impacted by a ministry during your time serving, commit to giving back financially. Doesn't matter if it's $10/month or $1,000 one time - every bit counts.

Please do keep in mind that though every cent given makes an impact, it cannot replace relationships. The giving of treasures needs to be in both forms of money and time.

3. Learn!
Did you learn a fact during the prayer tour or at your ministry site that's stuck with you? Dig deeper! Sign up for that Public Policy class, seek out a mentor that has the same passion to fight human trafficking, or register for the College-Aged Urban Intensive (one week of digging into specific social justice issues). Whatever it is, don't let that emotion you felt about an injustice turn into apathy. Learn more, then do something.

4. Connect!
Reach out to like-minded people! Returning from such an intense experience can be really hard. Reach out to your group leader, fellow trip participants or other folks in your community that have a servant's heart. We love the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and all that they do to connect folks with the similar passion to see Jesus lifted up in communities across the globe. Attend their national conference or reach out to one of their member organizations!

5. Read!
There are tons of great reads out there to help you navigate your calling in God's Kingdom. We have a pretty decent list on our website of books (and more resources!). Ask your like-minded friends or mentor/group leader for some recommendations, too. Also, start following blogs of people who have voices that encourage you in this journey.

6. Pray!
Most important! Be in communion with the Lord about where He desires you to serve and how you can best be using your gifts that He's given you. Pray for those that touched your life and grew your faith. Seek direction in where you're headed vocationally. Ask for wisdom in stewarding the resources you've been given. You may not even be able to imagine where He'll lead you - but you'll never regret it.


Monday, August 03, 2015

July 2015 City Journal

It was a beautiful month of service in the city!


Be sure to check out this month's newsletter!

You'll find...

  • CSM Detroit City Highlight
  • Allowing Hope to Interrupt
  • Job Opportunities
  • Photo Contest
  • Fall Trip Deal




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