Friday, August 26, 2016

City Highlight: Chicago

 Green Star Movement is one of CSM Chicago’s newest ministry partners. They are a non-profit in the city that inspires students and community members through public art. They use a method called bricolage to create murals in public spaces throughout the city. Recently Green Star movement was featured on NBC for the work they are doing; beautifying public spaces, especially on the city’s south and west sides. Not only do they create art for people to enjoy, but they also train students and community members in this particular art form. Green Star Movement was founded in 2005, and since then they have trained thousands of students in mural arts and have completed over sixty murals in public spaces such as schools, community centers, parks, and overpasses.

This summer, Green Star has been working on a mural under an overpass in the neighborhood of Woodlawn. Many of our groups and members of our staff got the opportunity to help with this particular project. Those that participated in the creation of this piece were humbled and amazed by the positive response of the community to the project. As the mural was being created, many passing would stop and thank the staff and volunteers for the work they were doing for the community. Often people driving by would stop to express their thanks or ask questions about the project. Regularly those same people would return to the project site later to volunteer their own time to help.

It would be easy to dismiss the work of Green Star Movement as simply a cool organization that is making some of the more run down parts of our city look prettier. But the impact is so much deeper than that! The projects done by Green Star Movement become catalysts for positive change in communities. Having beautiful art in public spaces helps reignite a sense of pride and hope in a community, which can then lead to other positive changes in a neighborhood as members strive to continue the work begun by Green Star Movement. Since the work on the project is done by volunteers, community members, and students, the projects become opportunities for people in the community to come together behind something positive. Lastly, it gives community members a space to be artistic and express themselves. This is especially important since often in poorer communities there are few opportunities for artistic expression, as funding for art classes is consistently cut in favor of other things.

Green Star Movement is making a powerful impact in some of the most downtrodden communities in our city. We here at CSM Chicago are excited that through our partnership with them we get to have a small part in the incredible work that is being done through this organization.

- Lauren Maniaci, Chicago City Director

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

City Highlight: Detroit

When I told people that I was going to be working in Detroit for the summer, I received a lot of mixed emotions; most people were encouraging and excited for me, but also gave me warnings. I was told by many to “stay safe,” “be extremely careful” and “don’t get shot.” It was a little nerve-racking walking into a city that I did not know- a city that has been given such a bad name, with those warnings in the back of my mind. Detroit was not my first choice for a place to spend a summer, but I knew that God had a plan and that I was following His will by coming here.

At first, taking in the sights was a bit rough. It was nothing like I was used to in Kansas. There are many buildings, both big and small, some extravagant, many abandoned. Yet between the perfection and the mess, there is art. Everywhere you go, there are colorful houses, massive murals and graffiti. A fence that we pass on the way back to the CSM housing site from our ministry sites is marked with graffiti that reads, “Obama for America, God for Detroit.”

I see God in this city everyday.

Each of our ministry sites are run by people with the most beautiful souls, full of love for this city. Getting to work with them everyday is a blessing, as I am constantly reminded of what it looks like to serve Christ. These people do not have glamorous jobs, and if anything, their jobs are the least desirable and least financially stable. But they have followed God’s leading. They serve day in and day out, serving their brothers and sisters in the city they all call home. They are in a food bank warehouse, sorting food to be shipped out to those who have none. They are in a hot garden all day, weeding and watering so that there will be food to give a starving community with no access to healthy and nutritious food. They are going out into the community and befriending those who want and need help with addiction. They do it because they believe in this city and are proud to be a part of it. They believe that God has a bright future for the city.

Detroit may not seem attractive to those on the outside looking in, but the people who live here see it as beautiful. They see it as home. This city still has hope. It still has passion. It still believes in a future.

Detroit is here to stay.

-Brandon Lay, 2016 Detroit City Host

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

City Highlight: Washington DC

Summer at CSM is always an adventure in the best possible way. You’d think that by my fourth summer with CSM, I’d stop being surprised by the amazing ways God shows up, both big and small. He is in all of our amazing hosts who are working so hard and learning so much, our groups who are learning so much about God and themselves and our ministry partners who are showing up every day to love the community well.

I really love this circle of ministry. The Directors pour into the hosts, who pour into the groups, who pour into the ministry partners, who pour into the community where the Directors live. It’s so wonderful to take a moment to step back and see the patterns of blessing that exist in these cycles of life.

More often than not, in the middle of the summer season, it is hard to create space to step back and see how God is moving in our city. There are so many tasks and things that pop up that need to be handled quickly, and it’s easy to lose perspective on the reason behind all of this work and why we do what we do. But it’s absolutely the most important thing. In Psalm 46:10 we’re told, “He says ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” Pausing to see how near God is to us is absolutely the most important thing we can do.

Group members: Seeing God at work in the community is more important than any actions that you take or words that you speak. If you tell everyone about God but they don’t see Him in you, you’ve missed out on the beautiful work of actually sharing the Gospel.

Hosts: If you miss the opportunity to rest in the Lord and take a moment for reflection, you’ll miss out on the amazing ways He is developing you into graceful, patient, flexible leaders.

Directors: If you don’t take the opportunity to pause your work and enjoy time with your groups, you’ll miss out on the joy of seeing these trips that you’ve been planning all year come to life.

Ministry Partners. We’re here for you. We come so that we can give you a bit of rest. Rest from running around after the kids that you love so much and show up for every day. Rest from making beds for our neighbors on the street who have a warm place to sleep because of your work. Rest from cooking countless meals for our hungry neighbors so you can enjoy time with them.

For all of us, wherever we are, let's pause. Let's take a moment of stillness and see that He IS God. This is beautiful, challenging, and something that is worthy of praise every day.

God is doing powerful things in DC through our neighbors, our groups, our ministry partners and our amazing team of hosts. Will you please pray for us to pause in a moment of stillness to look around and see that He is God and that He loves us more than the next tasks on our lists? May we pause to see that our groups and our partners are worth more than the work that they do, that they are beautiful and valued as they are, because they are made in God’s image. May we all earnestly seek to hear His word in the midst of everyday life and move towards being a tangible example of His love in the small and important interactions of friends, both new and old.

- Jess Fothergill, Washington DC City Director

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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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