Thursday, April 23, 2015

Not For Sale


I remember learning about slavery as a child – sitting in a classroom full of middle-class children and listening to our teacher describe 18th-century slavery in America.  Horrified by the stories of such inhumane treatment, I couldn’t understand why so few people had stood up for justice.  Nor could I wrap my head around a movement where money and greed had so gruesomely caused people to regard God’s most precious creations as nothing more than mere possessions.  Obviously, I was appalled by those buying, selling, and mistreating slaves – but I was equally disturbed by those who were against the slave trade but didn’t do anything about it.  In their choice to remain inactive, motionless and apathetic, these people sinned - not by what they did do but by what they didn’t do.

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.” –James 4:17, NIV

As a little girl sitting in class, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “If slavery still existed today, I would be different than those people.  If I were free, I would stand up for those who weren’t.”  What I didn’t know as an elementary school student was that slavery did still exist.  While I sat in my little classroom listening to my teacher speak about a topic said to be in the past, I hadn’t the faintest clue that slavery was actually happening all around the globe.  And it’s still happening today, at an even more disturbing level.  Over the years, slavery has simply adopted a different exterior, but the interior remains unchanged – pure, horrific human bondage.  I was once a little girl who vowed I would have stood up for the slaves, and now as an adult, I have a real opportunity to stand up for their justice – and so do you.

*                *                *                *                *

I’ve been a CSM City Host in the Bay Area since February.  Every week during our prayer tour, we drive through an area of downtown San Francisco littered with X-rated bars, strip clubs, and other establishments selling sex.  Every time I drive by these businesses, I know that the women do not want to be there.  It’s modern-day slavery, and far too many people are oblivious to what is happening.  When slaves were kidnapped from Africa and violently thrown onto boats in the 1700s, the mistreatment was blatant and undeniable.  Nowadays, slavery operates under a more underhanded guise, but it’s just as gruesome beneath the surface.  Emotional manipulation, looming threats, subtle brainwashing – these are the weapons coercing people to become slaves today. 

Tragically, sex slavery is booming throughout the world, generating roughly $32 billion globally (SFgate.com).  No countries are exempt from the corruption; first world and developing countries alike are buying and selling women (and sometimes men as well).  In America, a country that identifies itself as the “Land of the Free”, victims are both trafficked locally and brought in from other nations. 

According to an article published by SFgate.com, San Francisco is one of the top cities in the United States for child sex trafficking.  Various factors contribute to this misfortune.
 “The Bay Area has become a magnet for such exploitation. It's a diverse, affluent area that has been an early adopter when it comes to technology and globalization. It's a global hub for travel - both business and leisure - and well-connected to communities all over the world, thanks to the large number of immigrants who live here.

Our freewheeling culture may be one of the factors in why such exploitation goes undetected. There is general laissez-faire attitude toward the activities in massage parlors and other adult-oriented establishments that human traffickers can use to their advantage. And it's not just about sex. Cheap labor for everything from construction to pedicures to landscaping is sought and received with few questions asked”.ˡ

It is possible that the general population does not realize that many women working in strip clubs, massage parlors with “happy endings,” and other similar establishments are not there by choice.  Many have been manipulated and coerced by pimps to work in these places and are threatened if they try to leave.  Often, traffickers will threaten to kill a woman’s family if she attempts to get out.  Men are also tricked into working without pay, being offered seemingly good jobs that turn out to actually be slave labor.  When they try to stop laboring, they receive the same threats.  Fear and manipulation keep the victims in bondage. 

Though the facts about trafficking may seem daunting, the end result is not hopeless.  The first step we must take in the fight against human slavery is awareness.  We cannot win a battle if people do not recognize that we are in a war; therefore, we must start by educating people about what is happening.  Fortunately, there are countless organizations working against human trafficking, specifically in the Bay Area (such as Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition, The Sage Project, and San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking).  In May 2015, Freedom Summit will take place at Levi’s Stadium, the new location for the San Francisco 49ers.  The summit will educate people on how to work towards ending human trafficking.  The theme of the event is “NOT IN OUR TOWN!”, a slogan that makes me proud to be serving in the Bay Area.

Obviously, there is not a quick fix to end trafficking, but I believe organizations and events that promote awareness are a good place to start.  Making gradual moves towards justice is far better than bowing down to hopelessness.  I know I can’t save the world, but I can be the person I said I would be when I was a little girl – someone who stood up and did something instead of turning a blind eye to the issue.  Being a part of CSM Bay Area provides a great platform to let people know that the sex trade is a very real problem in America.  Though our prayer tour provides only a brief glimpse of the red-light district in San Francisco, it still introduces every group to the fact that sex trafficking is actually happening in our own backyard.  I’ll never forget one of my group leaders commenting, “I just had no idea…no idea about the amount of establishments selling sex in the U.S.  I can’t believe it.”  I pray that the eye-opening truth will spur our visitors to learn more about the sex trade and eventually take action within their own communities.

As I conclude, allow me to direct you to avideo. It’s perhaps the most poignant demonstration against the human trafficking issue I’ve seen. Bay Area local, Mickey Cho (along with vocal assistance from Hanna Baek), created the song entitled “Not for Sale”² to promote awareness about trafficking around the globe.  Its haunting lyrics will undoubtedly leave you wanting to get more involved in the movement against slavery.  Let’s spread the word and fight for freedom.  

- Caitlin Scudder, CSM San Francisco Bay Area Spring 2015 City Host


¹“Human trafficking a blight in progressive Bay Area.” SFgate.com. SF Gate, 31 May 2014. Web. 27 March 2015.

²Cho, M. and Hanna Baek. (2014, July 14).  Abolition Summit 2013: Not for Sale by Mickey Cho.  Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxUErxE1pak.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Interrupted: Kyle Antinore


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!

Kyle Antinore
CSM Washington DC Associate City Director
As humans, we are constantly entering into new experiences, some that carry extreme weight and many that are of little consequence. There are times when the events that we imagine will have an immense impact on us actually do not end up meaning much at all in the grand scheme of our lives. Perhaps one of the most beautiful phenomena of the human experience, however, is when we willfully go into situations expecting them not to amount to much, only to have them not only cause us to experience paradigm shifts, but change our plans in a radical and fundamental way. When Kyle Antinore came on a trip to CSMWashington, D.C., in 2012 as an assistant group leader, he was expecting nothing more than a fun, week-long service experience. What he got was a divine interruption of his expectations and a more transformative experience than he could have ever imagined.

In the spring of 2012, Kyle Antinore was approached by people from his high school alma mater to be a chaperone on a middle school missions trip to CSM Washington, D.C. He was a sophomore at a community college in New Jersey, where he grew up, and he was pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice. After college, he planned on trying to get into the criminal justice field and perhaps going to a police academy. Not only did he have his career planned, he even had the next few months of his life planned, as he had three classes left towards attaining his degree and wanted to complete them in the summer of 2012. He had a job at a deli that was practically full time. Kyle had his future fairly planned out, especially for someone his age, and, although he passionately loved the Lord, his plans did not involve ministry in any capacity. In addition, although he had a heart for the homeless and impoverished in a city called Camden, New Jersey (a few minutes away from his hometown), partially because his parents ran a ministry for the impoverished there, this passion for the inner city was not generalized to all cities. Washington, D.C. was completely off his radar. If anything, Kyle was going on the CSM trip to be of service, and he expected simply to be a role model for the middle school boys, bond with them, and help keep them in line. With all of that established, one-hundred percent of Kyle’s expectations were completely interrupted that week.

On the first night of his trip, his group was taken on a prayer tour that exposed them to the unique challenges faced by many in the city, and God was already working on Kyle’s heart by the end of this prayer tour. He came from a family background of many people who didn't know the Lord and had always felt a burden for them. God impressed on him that He was just as passionate and burdened for the unsaved in this city, as Kyle was for his own unsaved family members. As Kyle looked out over Washington, D.C., he felt a newly broken heart for the hundreds of thousands of broken people in the city. Throughout the week and with every experience Kyle had, God reinforced the things he was instilling in Kyle’s heart, and he felt himself changing.

On the last day of his trip, the director of CSM Washington, D.C., approached Kyle and asked him to be a city host for the summer of 2012, giving him a few days to think about it. As Kyle already had summer plans and also had a fairly consistent job, it was something he knew he had to think and pray about. He committed the idea to prayer and asked his parents and his former youth pastor to do the same, and within hours he got a call from his deli employer letting him go from his job. It was then that he knew God was very clearly and assertively calling him to the city host position. After only about a day, he took the job. After a summer of hosting, he was offered a job as the Associate City Director for CSM Washington, D.C., and he accepted it, going against the grain of the plans he had set out for himself. Kyle has been working for three years as the Associate City Director, and, at 22, he is the youngest director in the organization. Now, as a testament to how God has caused these things to come full circle in his life, CSM Philadelphia is in talks to become ministry partners with Seeds of Hope, which is the homeless, ex-convict, drug-addict, and prostitution ministry that Kyle’s parents run in Camden, New Jersey.

Kyle entered into his week-long CSM trip with no expectation of how fundamentally it would change him and no particular passion for Washington, D.C. He came out of it with a completely new passion and direction in life. He had so many plans and expectations for his life, and within a week, God called him to abandon his expectations. Let us allow his story to cause us to examine ourselves. There is nothing wrong with making plans, but remember that we serve a God who is in the habit of interrupting lives and calling us to abandon expectations in the most beautiful ways. God interrupted Kyle’s expectations; leave space for Him to give you the privilege of interrupting yours.

            

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Helping Hands and Listening Ears


Philadelphia currently maintains a population of roughly 1.5 million people, making it the 5th largest city in the United States. There are approximately 3,000 homeless individuals that are living in shelters across the city, but on any given night of the week, there could be 300 – 500 people sleeping outside in the city as well. Homelessness is a strongly stigmatized circumstance, but CSM Philadelphia is partnering with ministries across the city to fight that.  

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 2,001st person 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.” 

Come join CSM Philadelphia and Joetta as they work on homelessness one conversation at a time. 

- Scott Lasley, CSM Philadelphia Apprentice

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Trying to Bring Boston Home


We’re facing a crisis in Boston.

Last October our largest Homeless Shelter was forced to close when the bridge to the island where it’s located was found to be unsafe for travel.

When they shut the bridge, we lost over 700 shelter beds and 57% of our substance abuse treatment beds  in the city (read some personal accounts and a bit about how we’re trying to cope here) just in time for winter. We’ve had record snowfall this year with significantly fewer resources for our brothers and sisters in need. 

Just last summer we were able to tell our teams that our city has a 93% sheltered rate for our unhoused community.  We had enough beds for everyone and only 193 people slept on the street every night, usually due to past traumatic experiences in a shelter, fear or mental instability. Now we’re months behind schedule on the new facility and are in desperate need of your prayers.

Check out this article from The Boston Globe that has a video of the Southampton Shelter – which was supposed to open this month – and please join me in praying for my brothers and sisters on the street, Mayor Walsh, The Boston Public Health Commission and all of the construction workers who are trying to complete this project. We need these beds back now! 

- Jess Fothergill, CSM Boston Associate City Director 

Friday, March 27, 2015

March 2015 City Journal


In there, you'll find...
  • New York City Highlight
  • Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty
  • BIG NEWS about our Urban Intensive!
  • We're hiring!


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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty


The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the wealthiest regions in the United States, with the highest per capita income in the country among large metropolitan areas (bea.gov).  It also boasts a hunger rate among residents that is almost ten percent higher than that of the nation as a whole (one in four residents in San Francisco experience hunger annually compared to one in six nationally). The Bay Area exemplifies a wealth disparity far too prevalent in our nation. Students who come to the city will see that the very rich and the very poor often live only a few blocks apart. Food insecurity is rampant in the area despite San Francisco’s proximity to the Central Valley, the hub of California agriculture, only 200 miles east. For decades, the West Oakland community has been a food desert, an urban area where it is difficult to purchase fresh nutritious food, thus forcing residents with limited access to transportation to purchase food at the numerous liquor stores and convenience stores in their area, which offer much less healthy options. (peoplesgrocery.org).

Food security is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization as the availability, access, utilization, and stability of food. It exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences (foa.org).  Limited access to nutritious food is one of the significant ways that inequality plays out in the Bay Area. There are many barriers to food security in the city, including unemployment, physical or mental disability, poverty, racial inequality, and the recent price surges in the housing market. Many of those who benefit from food assistance in the Bay Area are working families struggling to make ends meet. Almost half are children, who are less likely to succeed academically and more likely to drop out before completing high school.  A growing number are seniors experiencing mobility and health issues, struggling to live on a fixed income. Those suffering from hunger are truly the poor and oppressed, the sick and the lonely; God’s chosen people.


The Center for Student Missions is committed to following God’s mandate to do good works through our faith (James 2:14-17) by working to end chronic hunger in the Bay Area. We have the opportunity in this region to affect change in real and tangible ways. Student groups serving the city may partner with the SF Marin Food Bank or Alameda County Food Bank, which rely on thousands of hours of volunteer support to bring a combined 46 million pounds of food, 60% of which is fresh produce, to the residents of San Francisco, Marin, and Alameda counties every year. The food banks also provide home delivered groceries and support brown bag pantries specifically for seniors. Many of our partner ministry sites are supported by food from the food banks, including the homebound hot meal program and the kitchen and grocery center at Project Open Hand, the St. Vincent de Paul Society free meal dining room, the dining room and rehabilitation center at City Team International, and the senior meals program at the Salvation Army. Along with working to serve and uplift “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40), students serving at these sites will have the opportunity to learn more about the causes and consequences of hunger in the Bay Area, get to know staff and volunteers working to bring God’s Kingdom to earth, and to meet and learn from those fixed in a daily struggle against hunger. Chronic hunger is often an issue that goes unseen. Yet in this country, we allowed 133 billion pounds of food to go to waste in 2010 (npr.org). With a little intention and diligence, Christians can make a huge impact on the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those made in the image of God.

- Mary, CSM San Francisco Bay Area Spring 2015 City Host


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