Friday, June 30, 2006

Ministry of Listening

The ministry site that I go to most of the weeks is St. Francis Table. It is there that we as volunteers help prepare the meal as well as act as waiters and waitresses to wait on the cilents that come in. This week I saw one lady come in who was telling me her hands hurt. I gave her my sympathies and moved on because I had other work to do. As the dinner rush went on I noticed that this lady did not leave. She was talking to everyone who sat at her table - some were listening, others were not. When I was finished working and had my break I noticed that this lady was still at her table. I went up to her and started talking. I found out her name was Patricia and she had grown up in an orphanage. She continued to apologize for taking so long, but it was clear to me that she just needed someone to talk to and I was happy to lend an ear. When she left I felt bad. As she went outside and started walking, my heart went out to her. As I was feeling low I looked up and saw my group working hard at their jobs. I felt bad for Patricia who needed somone to talk to, but it made me feel good that there are places like St. Francis who are full of volunteers who are willing to help so that people can get a meal and so that people like Patricia can have someone to listen to them.
-Josh McClement, CSM Toronto City Host Summer 2006

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Reflecting on this Summer's First Group

This past week we had our first group of the summer come up. They were from Jacksonville, Florida. It was a challenging, yet amazing experience. We finally were put to the test of learning the streets of Toronto, as well as all of the information about the sites and the city. Thanks goodness for our handy staff manuals!
This week I had 12 people in my group, which was the largest, the other staff had 6. But it was awesome. We went to the Good Shepherd every morning, which is a shelter and drop-in. The kids in the group were able to step out of their comfort zones and talk to some of the men who come to the Good Shepherd. Some even talked to the same people everyday and were able to build relationships. By the end of the week, our group had become extremely close and had some sweet times. During the final challenge on Thursday night we had an encouragement circle. As we moved around the circle, one of the boys shared that he had grown up in a church and Christian family his entire life but had never had any interest in God or a relationship with him. He told us about the things he did with his friends on the weekends and how that was more important to him. Then he said that after this week with the group, he wanted to commit his life to Christ and be baptized when he got home. It was so cool. God does so many amazing things.
-Karleigh Heim,
Toronto CSM City Host Summer 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

Moving Beyond First Impressions

This past week we had two different groups, one was from Michigan and the other from Illinois. There were a few members of the teams with some misconceptions about the homeless. I would like to share a story about a member from the Illinois group and how this person was able to move past some of the barriers and step outside their comfort zone. This member went to a drop-in center every other day during the week they were in Toronto. On the first day they saw a guy who looked kinda '"shady" and began to give some mean looks and refused to talked to him. The next time they came to the drop-in some of the other team members were playing cards with the guy who looked "shady". This member decided that since the other group members were playing with him, that they too would attempt to go against the first impression and talk to this guy. Not too long into the conversation this team member realized how their first impression was incorrect and they began to have an incredible time simply getting to know this man. This member was stretched throughout the week and responded amazingly to experiencing God through different people.
-Holly Fledderjohann,
Toronto CSM City Host Summer 2006

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lessons of Humility

At the beginning of this summer, I was reading the book "Humility" by Andrew Murray. It convinced me that the #1 virtue is humility, because only with humility could God work through you and with God comes all good virtues. And so, I thought, this summer will be the perfect way to learn such a thing as humility. The weeks went by, and yes, God did use many situations and stories to break me down and to build in me a compassion for the folks I serve. Not only that, I have been trying to look at them as more significant than myself (Phillipians 2:3) and realizing that they may have things to teach me and ways to serve me no others could.
Now there is a struggle with an old virtue I seek very much and having the mind to be humble. The old virtue is to be authentic. Now sometimes I don't feel authentic while trying to be humble. With this inauthenticity comes barriers between people I interact with. I can't seem to connect well! So I decided to drop the faces and just act like myself. As I got to really connect with everybody, confidence built. With confidence, slight arrogance (an old lurking sin in my life) start appearing. What a battle!! It's so hard to keep balance, EH!? So how on earth is God going to humble me this summer? He always has His ways. This week, the potty got clogged and overflowed. Take a guess at who's assigned to clean the washroom? I had to suck it up and be a servant and do something I had no desire to do. God always has His ways. Keep it real. Keep it humble. They can come hand in hand.
-Lindsay Tsang, Toronto CSM City Host Summer 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Seminary on the Streets

I start at Fuller Theological Seminary in nine days. But for the last year, my seminary has been the streets, and my professors have included the homeless. Some have been my greatest teachers. Three people in particular have taught me the meaning of gratitude.

I first met Bruce & Sheri on a roasting hot summer day in the historic district of Philadelphia. The sun was blazing, and the temperature was soaring well over 100 degrees. As I walked down the sidewalk, I saw Bruce sitting on the sidewalk holding a cardboard sign that asked for money and food. His wife Sheri was across the street also hoping for generosity from tourists. It was already afternoon, yet their day’s accumulation had yet to be enough to buy any water, let alone food. Needless to say, they were both quite weak and dehydrated. As we ate Philly pretzels and chugged down water, our friendship began. Bruce, Sheri, and I hung out a lot that summer. As their trust in me grew, they opened up their lives to me. Bruce and Sheri were in their young thirties. Originally from York, Bruce lost his roofing job because he made an ethical stance to not join a union. They had recently moved to Philadelphia in hopes of finding more work. Bruce also was diagnosed with Leukemia. There were days when Bruce’s radiation therapy, coupled with the intense summer heat, caused him to be so weak that Sheri and I would have to carry him to an air-conditioned restaurant and feed him.

One night in August, I was helping take a CSM youth group around to feed and talk with the homeless. We had two meals left, and so I asked if we could visit Bruce and Sheri. When we arrived, Sheri had just finished meticulously laying out her cardboard and blanket for the night. She told me that Bruce had gotten lucky that day. He had waited with the other day laborers in line for a job. Unlike most days, today he was hired to help with roofing. As we talked with Sheri, Bruce suddenly appeared in the distance. He barely had enough energy to walk. Once he staggered to us, he collapsed onto his bed. Bruce had been roofing all day in the intense heat. He was burned bright red. The contractors only paid Bruce $20, so in order to save money, he decided to walk the five miles home instead of taking the bus. What can one say in the face of such suffering and injustice? Thankfully, Sheri interrupted the silence by asking us to pray for them. With his lasts words before falling asleep, Bruce prayed, "Lord, we will not worry about tomorrow. Thank you for helping Sheri and I make it through today."

I have discovered this kind of radical gratitude amongst numerous people who endure great suffering. For example, fast-forward eight months and across the country. I now found myself sitting on a park bench in Santa Monica, near the beach. I was observing how two different worlds—those with no home and those with multiple—could live so close together yet never see each other. As the homeless set up their beds for the night in the park, I looked across the street at the booming night life. Sports cars, jaguars, and Rolls Royces were pulling up to valet parkers. The night clubs had bouncers and lines out the door. While deep in thought, suddenly a rat ran by my foot. That was enough motivation for me to leave the park and cross the street…the invisible wall that separated these two worlds. As I walked down a busy shopping promenade, I noticed an elderly, Irish lady who, like Bruce, was holding a sign asking for help. Typically when people ask me for help, I’m down to my last dollar and already running late to my next appointment. But this particular night, I had the time, a friend had just given me some money with which to bless others, she seemed polite, and there was an inexpensive Irish restaurant (McDonalds) just next to her. Feeling confident, I approached her and asked if she wanted to get a late dinner together. "Oh no," she gently yet passionately responded. Seeing my confusion she continued, "I’ve been so thirsty, and so a few minutes ago I closed my eyes and prayed to God for some water. And when I opened my eyes look at what was at my feet!" I quickly lowered my eyes from her radiant smile to her feet. I could not believe my eyes! There must have been at least 20 water bottles in two grocery bags. "Do you want to celebrate God’s faithfulness with some ice cream?" I inquired. "Oh no! I can’t go anywhere. I haven’t finished thanking God yet."

I walked away humbled. I too quickly move from thanking God for providing my needs today to nervously praying that He’ll do the same with tomorrow’s challenges. I am slowly learning the wisdom Jesus taught in Matthew 6:34. "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

-Jason Porterfield, CSM LA City Host Spring 2006

Friday, June 02, 2006

I <3 NY

Check out a City Host's perspective on living and serving in New York City this summer...