Wednesday, May 25, 2016

City Highlight: Nashville


“Love your neighbor, y’all!” These signs have been popping up all over our neighborhood and across the city. They are part of Room in the Inn's campaign to encourage simple acts of kindness. This effort coincides with the city of Nashville's campaign called “The Big Payback", a yearly call to rally around community nonprofits. It’s mostly known as a time when nonprofits raise funds that help them continue their work. This year, Room in the Inn wanted to shift the focus from themselves, back once more to this city.

The campaign encouraged our community to perform simple acts of kindness, volunteer their time, and to give back financially. These acts of kindness weren’t always giving tangible gifts, but focused on connecting with people around us. Room in the Inn urged people to listen to others and not try to “fix” them, to pray for our homeless community, to make eye contact, and to talk to strangers. These things sometimes go against our natural instinct, but all point us towards what we are shown by
Christ. Jesus spent his days with those who were seen as the outsiders, the ones who didn’t fit, yet we sometimes cringe at or fear those whom we deem different. It isn’t comfortable or always easy to talk to someone that we have labeled as an outsider in our own minds, but once we decide that we are all human, things change. A simple smile and a hello can make the world feel like it is spinning a little slower. It can make us feel human again. It makes us feel connected. We all have desires to know and be known, but our fear keeps us from engaging with each other and getting to this place.

My work with CSM has only strengthened my desire to engage with my community, my neighbors, and strangers around me. I long not only to have my needs met by being known, but I long to know others so that in turn they understand that satisfaction. And in this place of understanding, I pray that we are connecting to more than just that moment, but also to the One who created us with these desires in the first place. So, say hello to the people around you, and don’t forget to love your neighbor, y’all!

- Miranda Burr, Nashville Associate City Director

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

City Highlight: New York City

Walking through NYC on any given day, I’ll see people wearing their mess on the outside. Image bearers of God who are panhandling, mentally unstable, lying on sidewalks or subway trains, and at times, drinking their pain away. I am consistently reminded of the brokenness we live in and the ultimate sacrifice God made to restore us to Himself in Jesus.

I am also reminded of the dignity that He bestows on each of us. Though we are made from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7), He has made us in His image and His Word reveals that we are caretakers of the earth. However, when we treat each other as less than image bearers with dignity and worth bestowed by the Lord Himself, we are at the very least insulting our Creator.

As God continues to sanctify us, let us be mindful of our words and actions. Words can be powerful just as powerful as actual and they can easily separate us from those we are called to love. As we speak, are we lifting up or tearing down at the cost of others? Are we a bold testament to the love of Christ or are we denying Him with our actions? Jesus teaches His followers parable after parable about humility, about the last being first and the lowest being brought to the head of the table, which is a powerful reminder of where our sinful hearts tend to run to.

CSM NYC has had the privilege of serving alongside organizations such as NYC Relief, NYC Rescue Mission, St. Paul’s House and others, who understand this and desire to see people realizing their full humanity in Christ. Through holistic ministry, they are helping to restore the dignity that was never lost, but misplaced for some time. As followers of Christ, we are called to toil for the Gospel, the true restoration of man to God, however, we cannot separate the Gospel from justice, mercy and love, we cannot expect to see lives change in the Gospel without acknowledging one another's full humanity and working for the good of others as Jesus did.

- Liz Koenig, NYC Associate Director

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Can We Tawk?

It's very rare that I encounter a person who models so many of the attributes that I value in a leader, but recently I met one such individual while visiting Tijuana to prepare for our Mexico pilot launch. During my time there, I met with Naomi, the leader of a very tiny church in the "the Dumps", the former landfill area of the city. Naomi is a 26 year old Pentecostal pastor who has lived in this community for only five months. Her congregation is small and it meets in a tiny, broken down building that they call a "Templo".

Naomi told me about how she arrived at the Dumps. With literally the biggest smile I had seen since entering Tijuana, she explained to me that she had been learning with another pastor for the past three years, while serving as an evangelist in another city. She was then assigned by her association of churches to the Templo. After hearing part of her story, she took me to see her church and her home. When I stepped inside the Templo, I was shocked at how run down and neglected the building was. There simply were not enough people to take care of the place. She then showed me her “house.” It sits behind the church on a concrete slab. What I saw was a shack that has holes in the walls, an outhouse as a restroom, and a lone shower sitting on top, trying to keep the rain from coming through the roof. She briefly told of how the first rain destroyed all of her personal belongings.

Naomi, Pastor of
Templo Evangelico Pentecostal Filadelphia
She only spoke briefly about her home and the physical state of her church building, though; Naomi was more intent on sharing about her ministry. She spoke of focusing her ministry on the drug addicts that lived in the community of shacks and broken down shanties. She talked about how she had tried to reach out to the children in the Dumps and engage them with a long-term view of development, not just handouts; but the children have come to expect a handout and are not interested otherwise. She talked about how she holds regular prayer meetings with the 10 parishioners that make up the core of her congregation, pleading to God to give her favor in this forgotten corner of Tijuana.

Let's summarize: Naomi is a single, young woman, living alone in a dangerous shack, serving a completely forgotten community. She spends time trying to help people who are addicted to drugs, with no partner, no support to speak of, and a goal to transform that community, all by herself. And you know what? She believes that with the Holy Spirit, she will! She is one of my new “sheroes”. I always try to look for needs AND assets in a community, but the truth is that Naomi is actually the only asset I could find in the abandoned garbage dump of Tijuana.

She reminded me that I have not always been willing to step out and take risks to follow my calling. She role-modeled for me what it’s like to be cleansed of cynicism so that we can share our life, wholly, with the often forgotten where God has sent us. When she initially told me what she did, I never would have imagined the living conditions she was in, or how impossible her mission was, because in the three hours before our visit to her church and her home she never once complained. Naomi only spoke of her calling and her plan and her excitement. I, on the other hand, have spent quite a bit of my day “whining” about my noisy neighbors, the rude kids that hang in my alley, how often I feel tired from my work (which is, incidentally, so easy comparatively speaking) and how badly I needed my last vacation because, after all, it had been over a year since I got a break.

Now, I’m not really feeling guilty by Naomi’s example. I’m not even feeling sorry for her situation - though I am a little angry that someone assigned her to this mission without a whole lot of backing. What I am experiencing is a refreshed reminder of what is important to me - what I value.

There are two things I want you to consider: First, reflect on what is really important to you and then ask, what am I doing about it? How am I living my life to work out those values? Second, is there anyone who wants to go fix that shack? It needs a new, simple roof, work on the exterior sheeting and the interior walls. It’s not a complicated job, but would you please ask yourself if you could give a few days to come to the garbage dump and empower one of the few assets that is making a genuine difference to the often forgotten in the community? If you’re interested reply back to me and we’ll work it out. Come as a small team and we’ll house, feed and support you. Together, let’s help Naomi. Thanks for Tawkin’!


- Dan Reeve, CSM President




If you or someone you know would be interested in helping to repair Naomi's home, please email dan@csm.org.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

City Highlight: Houston

There is something to be said about the way God orchestrates our trips here at CSM. We can spend months and months planning a trip, but our work and plans don't make the trip; it's God. He never ceases to amaze me with the way He can pull a week together and make it so much more than I could have ever imagined.  As we entered into our first season together as a staff, we were eager to see how God would put the details of our Spring trips together, and He did not disappoint.

One month before our Spring season started, I found myself in a very nervous pace around the office, thinking "we have a full spring of groups ready to serve in our city, but I don't have a host to accommodate their trips". At that time, I did what I should always to when I become overwhelmed and I went to His word. God quickly showed me this: "do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God" (Philippians 4:6). In that moment, a peace came over me. It was as if God was saying "do you really think I can't handle this?" I realized this Spring is His, our Summer is His, and every time between, before, and after is His. So why am I worried? Needles to say God, provided us with the host we needed through the tireless work of our support staff and the directors in other cities who so graciously sent us the help we needed.

As we begin to transition out of the Spring season and begin prepping for our Summer, I ask that we would be remembered in your prayers. We are very excited for the ways the Lord is going to work in both the lives of our staff and the groups that come to Houston to serve with us during this season. Please join me in praying for the city. I love this city and I pray for it daily. I pray for the staff we will be hiring for the summer, that their hearts and minds will be prepared for what God has planned for them this summer. I pray for the groups that are coming to serve with us, that they would be ready and willing to be the hands and feet. And I pray for my fellow Directors and Associate Directors all around the country who put their heart and soul into what they do in their cities each season. I ask you to please consider praying with us so we can help make a positive Christ centered impact in our cities each year.

Jason McMinn- CSM Houston City Director

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Friday, February 26, 2016

City Highlight: Denver

Three miles - thats a fairly significant distance; most would drive rather than walk that far. I think its safe to say that someone three miles away from me is not my neighbor. Neighbors are the nice people that live next door who you wave to when you are both leaving your homes at the same time. They are the people you make small talk with while picking up your mail. If youre lucky, you may have over-achiever neighbors who will bring you cookies every now and again. Your neighbors generally look similar to you, share some of your beliefs, and are in relatively the same place in society.

However, it is clear through the parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus has a different definition of neighbor; a true, loving, and Godly definition.  In this story, the neighbor is not the Priest of the Levite, who most likely share similar dress, beliefs, and societal prominence as the injured man. Rather, it’s the Samaritan, a man whose nature and upbringing place him in opposition to the injured man, which ends up being his neighbor. In this, Christ opens up a whole new realm of neighbors. Our neighbors are all of those that we show mercy to and so we can have as many neighbors choose. Neighbors are no longer bound by location, race, and financial status, but by the mercy that flows from us.

The poorest neighborhood in Denver, the Sun Valley, is three miles from our housing site and is where our newest ministry partner Hope in Our City has decided that their neighbors are.  Hope in Our City has sought to be a part of the large refugee community, with the goal of showing them compassion and love. We are so excited about their passion to help their neighbors intangible ways that will not only relieve immediate needs, but help to equip their neighbors in the future:

“Our strategy is to develop the skills of vulnerable individuals in the six specific areas of language, employment, education, life-skills, citizenship and spiritual development. We believe these are the BIG 6 to engagement.  An individual bettering themselves in these 6 areas will lead to a better community, which leads to a stronger city, which leads to a healthier nation and ultimately a world filled with hope today and for all eternity through belief in Jesus" (www.hopeinourcity.org)

I think we can admire Hope in Our Citys approach to being neighbors. Instead of living life and caring for just those we daily encounter, we can expand neighborliness to whoever we choose. We can seek out those that God wants us to have compassion on and realize that there are no boundaries to who we can love except our own capacity and desire to love. We can seek to love as Christ loves us and to allow His love to pour out and to reach those who have no neighbors.

- Josh Frase, CSM Denver Apprentice

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Join CSM in Tijuana!


Tacos and tourists. PiƱatas and pan dulce.

Tijuana, Mexico conjures up many colorful images. The city across the United States border has a unique personality, much thanks to owning the title "Most Visited Border City" in the globe.

The city receives nearly 300,000 daily visitors crossing from the United States. And though many who visit make a quick trip across the border to walk around downtown, do some shopping and grab some authentic Mexican food - not many venture into the heart of the city and experience the true Tijuana.

Recently, CSM connected with some tijuanenses doing some amazing Kingdom-work among the 1.7 million people in their city. Sara and Kevin Neff are the directors of Lily of the Valley Orphanage in the Playas de Tijuana neighborhood. They invited us to come visit their home, meet the children that call them "Mama" and "Papa", and to visit the real Tijuana with them.

That first trip opened our eyes to the great needs that exist just across the border from us. Many families and individuals living in the surrounding area experience extreme poverty. The Neffs see the brokenness in the children sent to them on a daily basis. They see it as they partner with the local church and ministries to address major issues like hunger, abuse, homelessness and more.

It was also an extremely encouraging to see local leaders rising up to the call of Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (NIV) They seek to serve Jesus by serving their neighbor - no matter how hard that call is. And that is exactly what CSM is all about. Real partnerships with local leaders serving Christ by serving their neighbors.

We invite you to join us in this great work happening in Tijuana! We will be offering one week of service in Tijuana this summer (July 24-30, 2016).

Would your team be interested in serving with us? Please call 267-928-2620 or email registration@csm.org to learn more.