Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What's your dream?

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

If we all helped a little...

Many people in NY have been feeling the pinch of food prices, rent, and unemployment rates all rising. All across the city, many more people are looking for assistance than last year, while at the same time many food pantries and soup kitchens have been feeling the economic pinch as well as food prices have gone up and their food/pantry supplies have in some cases become bare.
The NY Daily News recently published an online article highlighting some organizations in Brooklyn that are feeling that are struggling more than others. One organization featured in the article is called Salt and Sea Mission, a mission that CSM groups have partnered with for the past couple of years. In the article, Pastor Debbie says "if everybody would help, just a little bit" it would make a big difference.
How much of a difference do you think it would make, if everyone helped their local pantries even a little? Are there ways you can get involved in helping yours?
-Noelle Sefton, CSM New York Co-City Director

Monday, December 29, 2008

CSM Chicago Ministry Highlight: Marquard Center

Father Manny is one of the most inspiring people that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. He oversees the Marquard Center run by the Franciscan Outreach Association. With a vision to know and to serve the homeless, the center provides many services to the poor and the hurting in Chicago.

At the center, free dinner is served every night to an average of 150 men, women, and children The tables are set when the guests enter with tablecloths and flowers and a warm cup of coffee for each adult. During dinner, case managers and other volunteers mingle with the guests who are sometimes just as eager for conversation as they are for food and shelter.

The case managers provide many resources such as help with housing, substance abuse programs, and mental health care. They also provide showers twice a week supplied with soap, shampoo, and towels. Marquard is the only drop off center for laundry in the city of Chicago, free to the homeless.

This is the heart of Marquard and the heart of Father Manny, who serves the poor daily. Our CSM volunteers have the opportunity to serve dinner here and interact with the guests, breaking stereotypes and judgments. Please pray for
Marquard and the clients as they struggle financially and discern if they can remain open this year.

-Julia Damon, CSM Chicago Associate City Director

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Friends

Wow, what a year. I now officially have a year of full time Associate Director under my belt! It is quite obvious that God has used this year in so many different ways. I honestly feel blessed to be part of such an amazing ministry serving the city and the groups that come to be a part of Center for Student Missions. This fall (after some major rest from the busy summer months) I have been able to do some personal volunteering. Every Tuesday morning I head over to the fellowship hall of Belmont Church to serve Breakfast and Lunch to around 150 of the homeless community. I use the term serve food loosely because God has given me the gift of gab, and I don’t know how much help I actually give the organization, but I do enjoy writing name tags and talking to all the guests!!
The organization is called Luke 14:12. It is one of the sites that we partner with and send groups to volunteer. It has been serving the community for over 20 years. Luke 14:12 provides a safe place away from the elements for people to come, sit, have some coffee and pastries and then a hot lunch. Groups come here to help in the kitchen with Kenny, the chef, as he likes to be called, who is also a member of the homeless community. The groups also play games with the guests.
Volunteering has been very rewarding for me because I have been able to establish relationships with the guests there. Like Jim, who kept to himself, but I ran into him at several of our ministry sites. Finally, after weeks of telling him “Good morning, Jim,” he finally began chatting. I found out that Jim is a very talented piano player and he loves the Eagles!
Now, when we have groups that come volunteer, I will feel comfortable sitting students in front of Jim and letting them know to talk about music. It is really great to know these people by name and for them to remember my name and sit and have conversations with them.
In this Christmas Season, I hope we can all remember the Beautiful Reason for the Season. The Love that we can show to each other can be the most amazing gift!

-Kristin Quarles, CSM Nashville City Director

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Be Known!

"Why is our congregation known all over the world today? It is because people see what we do: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick and the dying. Because they see, they believe."
– Mother Teresa

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unexpected Encounters

Greetings friends!

Although each year it seems to come more quickly, Christmas has arrived once again. All the familiar sights and sounds of the season are here – my tree is trimmed, Christmas songs are on the radio, and each time I walk into the store I hear the familiar tinkle of the Salvation Army red kettle bell ringer.

After leaving the office today I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items. As I quickly made my way across the parking lot, I nearly jogged past the festive bell ringer without a look. As I glanced over, though, I found myself doing a double take – it was an old friend whose contagious smile I would know anywhere. I made my way over to say hello and was greeted with a warm hug. This friend and I met in 2002 when I was a college student spending my first summer interning with CSM. He had been a client in drug and alcohol recovery at one of our ministry sites (a shelter and rehabilitation center for men). I’ve seen him periodically over the years, but it has been quite a while since our last meeting. I was so pleased with this opportunity to see that my old friend was doing well, and he was likewise anxious to hear about me and all his old CSM friends. Those kinds of connections never get old - what joy I found this afternoon in that unexpected encounter!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:8-14

I can only imagine that this group of shepherds didn’t expect to encounter a choir of angels on that quiet night. And they certainly didn’t expect to encounter a tiny baby in a manger - a messiah, a savior, a king.

Let us be watching and waiting this Christmas. In the midst of our busyness, may this season be filled with unexpected encounters. May we slow our steps long enough to encounter the King of Kings. May we be filled with great joy as we see his beauty, rejoice in his nearness and experience the riches of his kingdom.

-Megan Breed, CSM Houston Associate City Director

Monday, December 22, 2008

Justice for All

The guys at work and I have been reading through this book, With Justice for All by John Perkins. It's essentially about community development and living out the Gospel of Christ in our immediate communities...and challenging the Body to live in the midst of the desolation of our country, not just to look at it from the outside, in. Anyway, he's got some pretty powerful words and has really inspired me to be unafraid of the neighborhood that surrounds me and to look at my neighbors as simply human, like me.

What's really been intriguing for me though, is this idea that the Church has a call to the world. That we as the Church are called by Christ to work toward reconciliation and healing....we should not be relying on government or just good people. We are called as the Body to get our hands and feet dirty loving, feeding and clothing people. And we've got to turn our dreams and ideals into actual progress, sweat and hard work. For so long, I’ve been a dreamer. I mean that will never change, but I’ve only dreamed of ideas for reaching out to people and haven't really had any clue how to do it. And maybe I’ll never know exactly the most practical, realistic way to do anything for God's children. but, I know that when I wake up in the morning, I’m gonna go unlock the gate and walk to the train station down the street....and I’m going to smile at people and talk to them.....and maybe the next day see the same people and eventually maybe I’ll know someone well enough to invite them over for supper. and we'll share a meal together....ya know? It's just gotta start somewhere. Anyway, the following quote is by Howard Snyder, and Perkins quotes him in the book.....I think he's got a point. Read it through a couple times and really think about what that means for you personally. It's good stuff.

"Reconciliation with God must be demonstrated by genuine reconciliation within the Christian community and by a continuing ministry of reconciliation in the world. This means that in each local Christian assembly, reconciliation must be more than a theory and more than an invisible spiritual transaction. Reconciliation must be real and visible. Racial and economic exploitation and all forms of elitism must be challenged biblically. Unholy divisions of the body of Christ must be seen as sin and worldliness."

-Britani, CSM Los Angeles Fall 2009 City Host

Friday, December 19, 2008

City of Lights

New York City is a city of lights. I was reminded of this in the fall when I flew home at night (and circled around and around due the inevitable delays at the airport). Looking down on the city at night is breathtaking. The lights of the many bridges (I’m still not sure exactly how many there are in the entire city!), at Times Square, and the Empire State Building makes it seem like the whole city is lit up. I’m reminded now, as Christmas lights and decorations line the streets in Brooklyn, or light up the many trees at Rockefeller Center and Macys. However, I recently had a new glimpse of some other very bright lights in New York—our ministry sites. Each fall, we meet with all of the sites we partner with to thank them, bring some words of encouragement from the groups, and give a tithe donation from our groups during the year. It’s always a highlight of the fall.
However this year, as in many of your cities, NYC has been facing economic strain and we have noticed it the most with some of our sites. As food prices go up and there is less funding, there becomes less food and resources to supply the sites while many soup kitchens and pantries are seeing more people come for help. Amidst this struggle, many of the sites are rising to the occasion as a light of encouragement and strength to the people they serve.
While visiting our sites, one of these lights I saw was Sister Washington, from a soup kitchen we work with called We Care. They are connected to the Little Rock church in Brooklyn, and have been running the soup kitchen out of the church twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When Tracee and I came, they had been praying for provision for the soup kitchen as funding had to be cut for the soup kitchen. Sister Washington and the other volunteers had been supplying the soup kitchen and food pantry with their own money to make ends meet, and were just hoping for enough resources to host a Thanksgiving meal for the soup kitchen. Sister Washington embodied someone who is completely committed to her ministry and the people that it serves. In a city where change is inevitable and frequent, and pantry shelves are becoming barer while the line outside grows longer, she is a light shining forth.
I look at Sister Washington and others who are the reason CSM exists, to come alongside their ministries. It reminds me of a verse we shared on the prayer tour when I was a CSM host, “let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We then prayed that we would be a light to the city, which is my prayer for our groups and staff in NY!

-Noelle Sefton, CSM New York Co-City Director

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

One of my favorite parts of CSM is tithing. At the end of every year, Kristin and I distribute a portion of CSM-Nashville’s income from groups to our ministry
partners. But it’s not the monetary gift that makes this a joyful experience for me (although, let’s be honest, it does feel fantastic); it’s the opportunity to reconnect with the people at the ministry sites….many of whom we may not have seen since early this fall. These people breathe life into our ministry. They are the ones on the frontlines in this fight against poverty and injustice. It is their spirit and vision that reminds me why I do what I do. In them, I see God’s heart.
So many of us have people like this in their lives. People who inspire and challenge us. And yet, how many of us allow ourselves to get distracted by our own lives and lose focus on how important those relationships are?
We live in a world which tries to convince us that stuff connects us to other people; cell phones, internet, coffee shops, money, and most especially the gifts that we give.
During the holidays, it is easy spend most of our time focused on the material aspects of the season. So this Christmas, my holiday prayer is for us to remember and apply some of the lessons we learn from the multitude of Christmas movies. These are the same lessons we hope our volunteers learn during a CSM experience.
-We have no idea the impact our life has on others. (It’s a Wonderful Life)
-Greed can lead us to walk the earth invisible to those around us and alone. Monetary wealth does not make for a “rich” life. (A Christmas Carol or, my personal favorite, Scrooged)
-Don’t judge a person because they’re different from you. We all have a purpose. (Rudolph the Red–Nosed Reindeer)
Most importantly, we must remember that this is day of Jesus’ birth. Let’s celebrate by honoring Him through our actions, our words, and our relationships. Merry Christmas!

-Jes Williams, CSM Nashville City Director

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More People Living on the Streets of San Francisco

A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports that more and more people (specifically families) have been found to be living on the streets. With a spike in the unemployment rate, a global financial crisis and many factors that are hard enough to overcome, many people have begun seeking help from local soup kitchens and food pantries.

Learn how you can serve the growing homeless population of the San Francisco Bay Area with CSM!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

CSM New York Ministry Spotlight: St. Johns Bread and Life

During the summer, we had the opportunity to begin a new partnership with a wonderful organization. St. Johns Bread and Life was founded in 1982 and is located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. The mission of St. Johns Bread and Life is “to bring food to the poor and accompany them on their journey to wholeness by providing necessary services.” They seek to address the hunger and poverty issues in Brooklyn and Queens. They also provide over 1,000 meals every day. Our groups are able to help out by volunteering in their soup
kitchen and food pantry, as well as help out in other ways throughout their facility.
For more information:
What our groups have to say about St. John’s:
“Working with St. John’s was great. I really enjoyed helping out and talking with the people.”
“I think St. John’s inspired me because everyone was so nice and accepted people.”
“St. John’s was incredibly organized, efficient, and goal-oriented.”

Learn how you can serve with CSM in New York City!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Houston Hurricane Update

“In September, Hurricane Ike ravaged the Upper Texas Coast, causing horrible devastation and loss of life in Galveston and neighboring coastal communities. The impact for families and individuals who lost loved ones, homes, and significant property is immeasurable. CSM Houston, too, was not spared Ike’s wrath. Our housing site, Servants of Christ United Methodist Parish, was hit hard. The roof of the “Activity Center” (a.k.a., gym) which holds our staff housing, showers, and our food, was peeled back like a sardine can. Our three staff housing rooms on
the second floor were exposed to the full-force of the hurricane. Ceiling tiles and insulation rained down upon everything—along with 4 to 6 inches of water. It was amazing to survey the scene, a few days later, standing in broad daylight. I’ve never seen anything like it. We mustered some faithful friends and volunteers, and with help from SOC’s youth group, mucked out the rooms, saving what we could—hard wood furniture like bed frames and dressers.

At this point, the building has a new roof, but the church is still awaiting the insurance settlement before interior renovations can begin. There was also some roof and ceiling damage in the Children’s building, where our groups stay. We lost several of the mattresses in two of those rooms. We have not yet begun to replace the 14 mattresses and multiple couches and other pieces that we lost. The power is on in select portions of the Activity Center, so our groups are able to use the showers once again. We have been able to host all but one of our Fall groups onsite at SOC. We are grateful that Ike did not arrive mid-summer, which would have been much more devastating for our ministry. We should have time to get the staff housing back in order before the summer.

Overall, SOC’s four campuses sustained $1.5-2 million in damages. Their combined out of pocket expenses and deductibles are about $250K. Thankfully, volunteer hours count at $15/hr towards this deductible. Several of our CSM teams have helped to clean up and clear away debris in their various buildings. These efforts provide dual value for SOC. Another of our CSM teams helped to clean out a home in Nassau Bay which held over 3 ft. of water at the height of the storm surge. It is an amazing experience to scoop out all the material contents of a family’s home and dump it on the curb. We ripped out everything down to the studs.”

-Paul Randall, CSM Houston City Director

Thank you for your prayers and financial support! Our Houston site has been truly blessed to see God’s hand in orchestrating the post-hurricane clean up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Gifts That Fit the Times

Heartland Alliance Catalog Offers Gifts That Provide Hope for a Hurting World
Chicago, IL (November 18, 2008)- As many ponder holiday shopping lists this year, at a time when many people in our world are hurting, you can give a gift that offers hope and meaning to those struggling the most in this economic uncertainty.

For $15, you can buy a blanket and pillow for a refugee child to bring comfort and security to a child who possibly has never owned a single thing. For $75, your gift of a wellness checkup for a homeless newborn will give a new baby born into poverty a healthy start.

You can find these and other life-changing gifts in the new Hope for a Hurting World gift catalog from Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights. It’s a great answer for anyone looking to recapture the true spirit of the holidays in a meaningful way and make a statement in their gift-giving that provides both hope and inspiration.

For more than 120 years, Heartland Alliance has brought hope and healing to those in the most dire circumstances, providing programs and services that make a genuine difference to people in poverty and danger in Chicago and beyond. From trauma recovery and legal assistance to job training and affordable housing, Heartland Alliance’s efforts bring comfort to the suffering, security to the displaced, and opportunity to the disenfranchised.

By purchasing one or more of the tax-deductible gifts in the Hope for a Hurting World gift catalog, you will be partnering with Heartland Alliance to further its work with people in poverty, refugees and survivors of violence, and the lost and forgotten.

Here’s how it works: Check out the Hope for a Hurting World gift catalog online at Select gifts you want to purchase and make them in honor of your family, friends, and business associates, or as tributes to people you know who positively touch the lives of others every day.

For each gift, Heartland Alliance will send a beautiful card to your honoree with a personalized message from you. You can also make last-minute gifts online with an e-card sent through e-mail. Your gift will be life-changing to someone in great need.

The catalog responds to changing gift-giving habits in the U.S., with a recent survey by Harris Interactive showing that 84 percent of people surveyed would prefer to receive a gift that would benefit someone else rather than a traditional present. This season more than ever, as we enter a new year and new chapter of our history, honor your friends and loved ones with a gift that shows your support for the issues you care about. Consider a gift from the Heartland Alliance Hope for a Hurting World gift catalog:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Houston Residents Spend a Night Homeless to Raise Funds

Recently, the Houston-based non-profit SEARCH gathered willing residents to spend a night outside and raise funds for the city's homeless. It gave them a good taste of what it may be like for their neighbors that sleep outdoors every night. Check out the video...

Learn how you can serve with CSM in Houston!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cold Nights Ahead for Chicago Homeless

Many homeless individuals find shelter on Chicago's train system during the winter months. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, this may be coming to an end. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) will now be enforcing that passengers may not ride the trains continuously through the night. Many homeless individuals will be forced out into the cold. How can we respond to this? What can we do to partner with our homeless neighbors in solidarity?

Learn how you can serve with CSM in Chicago!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Must See Video - "Don't Walk By"

This coming January, The Rescue Alliance NYC has created an amazing campaign called Don't Walk By. The Don't Walk By campaign will send hundreds of volunteers out to the streets of Manhattan every Saturday in January with the goal of reaching every single person linving on the streets to help their physical and spiritual needs by supplying blankets, food, and even help with vocational and housing solutions.
Please be praying for the volunteers and the Rescue Alliance as they prepare for this outreach in January, and pray for the estimated 2,500 in Manhattan they will be seeking to reach; each one of them!

-Noelle Sefton, CSM New York Co-City Director

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Top 10 reasons to serve with CSM in Chicago around Easter time

10. Get in touch with your inner-artist! Color Easter eggs with homeless children.
9. Diversity. Come stay in one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the US.
8. Need. The need in Chicago is huge, but volunteers are few.
7. Good eats! Chicago is known for its fabulous food. Come try some of our tastiest ethnic restaurants.
6. Great conversation. Don't just serve a meal at a soup kitchen; offer the gift of companionship as you sit down and talk with a patron at a soup kitchen.
5. Party! Throw an Easter celebration for families at a homeless shelter.
4. Work hard. Food distribution centers in Chicago are seeing a 30% increase in food requests. Come sort food donations at GCFD, one of the nation's largest food banks.
3. Play hard! Chicago Public School students are on spring break and are looking for some new friends to play with!
2. Become an explorer! Spend some time exploring the city and learning about what life might be like for a runaway teen or immigrant family.
1. Sacrifice. Give of yourself as you remember Christ's ultimate gift to us.

CSM's Chicago site still has space available for groups who want to serve in the city around Easter time. Learn how YOU can register your group to serve with CSM in Chicago - email or call our Home Office (949-248-8200) today!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why do you serve with CSM Toronto?

"CSM is a place where young people can experience personally what God is trying to do in the live out His kingdom on this earth. This is done moment to moment through working directly with the marginalized and in group/personal time of reflection.

CSM does a wonderful job in educating people about urban issues and offering us as a solution to the widespread suffering right under our noses.

Toronto is a unique city filled with different flavors and different people. CSM challenges the discriminations we hold deep within ourselves we may not acknowledge. When we need to interact with people from different backgrounds and different cultures it teaches and challenges us to stretch our love and acceptance of others."

-Emily Chan, group leader

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Toronto!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Food Pantry Close to Shutting Doors

In these hard times, we're seeing more and more ministries and organizations taking a big hit. The NY Times recently had an article about a local food pantry that is close to shutting down. How are you able to help a local food pantry? Would you consider going the extra mile and collecting extra food to stock it's shelves?

Learn how you can serve in New York City with CSM!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Boy's Last Wish Blesses Homeless

This is a must-see video for all! A sweet, 11-yr old boy named Brendon was given 2 weeks to live and in his last breaths of life he decided to bless those less fortunate than himself. What an example for all!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into God's presence with singing!
Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from the CSM family!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Riff Raff in the Church

The ultimate example of love and sacrifice this world has is in Jesus. As His followers, we're called to love the "unlovable" and lost of this world. I stumbled upon this great blog post encouraging the Church to do just that - to love the "Riff Raff" of our congregations. Check it out!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Evident Changes

I recently received a letter from a leader at Sugarloaf UMC in Georgia. They were our first and biggest group from this past summer. They came the first week of June with 49 students and adults. They do a lot of training with their students before arriving and take the trip very seriously. The letter told me about how the youth group recently did a 40 hour famine where their students prayed over the places they went this summer for an hour each. She said “the changes in them are evident, and it so so clear that God is working in you and your ministry for His glory and we so appreciate the work you are doing”. Below is a letter from one of the students.

“Thank you for taking us in and opening our eyes to the world outside of our own. I felt the struggle of the people and the strength of God all around the city of Philadelphia. I saw hope in people I would normally avoid and now my concern for those such as the homeless has deepened so much. I met many great people in that city and the sense of satisfaction I got from helping them is tremendous. Thanks for everything, and I want to pray for you to be strong and keep doing what you do for that city. Your organization has helped many and changed me as well.”

-Krista Perry, CSM Philadelphia City Director

Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome from CSM's New President - Dan Reeve

Welcome to the Center for Student Missions. At CSM, we think two things are really important - students having a mission experience that helps them become missional leaders and local ministries that receive the support they need to make a lasting difference in the city and among those God brings there.

I've been working in urban ministry my entire life, and I know first hand how a student can make an impact in the city and how the city can impact a student's life. Urban and intercultural mission trips with CSM offer a remarkable time of training, service and transformation for your groups. We have the ministry partners that need you, the "host" to guide you through your time in the city and everything else you need taken care of so that you can take the time to serve and grow.

My staff and I welcome you to join us in a journey to the heart of the city as together we seek the "shalom" of the city for God's sake.

Dan Reeve

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moving Past Stereotypes

We stopped by to say hi to the director of the program. As we walked in Tex said, "I'm going to get out of your way, and go clean so I don't get into trouble." He seemed like a regular guy who had been taking a quick break at work. He introduced us to the intern that was hired for the program almost 2 months prior. We asked the intern what she and the organization did, she smiled and asked Tex for help since she was not completely sure of the answer. CSM works with this organization by having a weekly vacation Bible school in a low income area, so it was good to hear what else this organization did. After the intern gave a short answer Tex jumped in and explained how the organization helps those who are getting out of prison. "They help us get jobs, they teach us how to be on time to work, pay our bills, and get used to life outside of prison." I was struck by, but not shocked with his use of the word "us" in describing ex-convicts. He continued to tell us about success stories about people who had gone through the program, and said that he had already been through the program. He explained that he had been hired as a maintenance man for the building, and was very much enjoying life outside of prison. We asked him some questions and then he told us something that made my mouth drop. Tex said, "I'm 52 years old, and I've now been out of prison for 3 years. This is the longest amount of time I have been out of prison since I was a kid." My mouth about hit the floor, I was shocked. He seemed like a quiet unassuming guy who I would not have put in the category "life long criminal".

Tex and our ministry partner really showed me that the categories we put people in are just foolish. I was foolish to assume that I could look at a person and tell if they were a life long criminal. I would be just as foolish to not trust Tex, because of what I now know about his past. He's a guy who made some mistakes and even though he's been out of prison for 3 years now does not consider himself a success story. He wants to be able to find a job not with our ministry partner. He wants to be a role model for what kids in his neighborhood shouldn't do with the first 50 years of their life. He, like Paul, is willing to let his past failures shape who he is, and not to try and sweep them under a rug.

-Tim Reed, CSM Chicago Co-City Director

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prayer for Discontentment

May God bless us with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships
so that we may live deep within your heart
May God bless us with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people
so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace
May God bless us with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war
so that we may reach out your hand to comfort them and
to turn their pain into joy
And may God bless us with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world
so that we can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.
- A Franciscan Benediction

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

5 Things You Should Know About Homelessness

We ran across a fantastic blog dedicated to educating the public about homelessness. The author, Shannon Moriarty, has worked in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, North Carolina, and Boston. She has a great list of resources and insight into what we need to learn and DO to end homelessness in this nation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

NY City Schools Make the Grade

In a recent article by the NY Times, many of the city's schools have improved over the last year. The Bloomberg administration has begun handing out report cards - to schools! The Department of Education announced recently that 83% of those schools received and "A" or "B". Check out the article to learn more!

Friday, November 14, 2008

What Counts

"At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing - but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection."
-Mother Teresa

Learn how you can be God's hands and feet in the city with CSM!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Homeless Veteran a Nomad No More

This past week, our nation celebrated Veteran's Day. What you may not have seen on the nightly news is that countless men and women who have served this country are now living on the streets.
CNN ran an interesting article about one homeless veteran from New York City who has found his way home.

Learn how you can serve in the city with CSM!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Office of Urban Policy to Come?

If you're reading our blog, chances are that you care about the struggles of life in North American cities. Regardless of your political leanings, check out this article about Barack Obama's plans to create an Office of Urban Policy. Barack Obama started out as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, and it seems he hasn't lost his heart for poverty in America's cities. What do you think about Obama's plans?

-Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago Co-City Director

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekend of Purpose

"This past weekend, I went with my small group to CSM (hosted by Jon) and had a GREAT time. It's funny how I would fly across the ocean to another continent to serve the poor when there are enough poor to serve 20 minutes from home. The prayer tour of LA the first night really set the tone of the trip. The next day we served at the Midnight Missions at the crack of dawn. Later, we broke up in 2 groups and did a "meet a need" exercise in downtown LA. We were given $5 and had to meet someone's need with that amount. We met "BaBa", a man from florida who's an inspiring writer and musician who ended up on the streets. He had a lot to say and we ended up using our money to buy him apple juice and sat there to talk to him for about 45 mins. He had a lot to talk about. As crazy as some of his ideas were…it was great to sit and talk with him showing that we weren't embarrassed to be seen with him. My calling really is to be able to love the poor. Not really sure how that's going to play out…but I feel like God created me with that purpose."
-Gloria, CSM Trip Participant

Learn how you can serve in Los Angeles with CSM!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Homeless, Not Voteless

Our nation saw history happen this week - not only in the candidate chosen, but also in the number of citizens that exercised their right to vote. For many, it was a simple action - you register, check in, make your voice heard. Well what happens when you are homeless and don't have a permanent address? Life gets a lot more complicated. Check out this really interesting article by Medill Reports that talks about the individuals that helped empower homeless individuals this election season.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Los Angeles Conversations

I was looking on facebook tonight like I usually do reading the statuses of everybody and trying to see what they were up to and I came across one from one of the group leaders whose group I hosted this summer at CSM in Los Angeles. Her status said that she was remembering the people of San Julian Street and the kids at Wyvernwood. My heart sunk for two seconds as I too began to remember those people and those kids. I quickly rushed through the files on my computer to pull up pictures from this summer and as I began to look through them I began to pray for God to give me some sort of release or for a person to walk in that I could tell a story too. I was dying in that moment to share a story from this summer with someone. And then at that exact moment my friend and co-host Becky from this summer got on facebook chat and we began to catch up on our lives and then we reminisced about this summer and the people who we met and the stories that we heard and the smiles we saw and tears we cried. It was an answer to prayer right there in front of me and I was more than willing to accept.

In all of this I have realized the amount of joy something so small can bring. A simple conversation made my day so bright. As I sit here and think about it I am processing through the different things that happened this summer, and I have quickly determined that the things that rank as favorites in my mind are the conversations I had. Conversations with Sister Luz, Robert Jones at Midnight Mission, Pastor Greg at Lighthouse, Different group leaders and students, My co-hosts, My bosses, Darren, and everyone else. Those conversations were amazing and I am just now starting to realize the impact they are having on my life. I probably won't realize the full impact for years to come, maybe even the rest of my life.

However, here is what I have realized. Conversation is huge.....both parts of it, willingness to talk and be vulnerable, and willingness to take a time out and sit down and listen. Key words here are willingness, vulnerable, and listen. I learned this summer that the more vulnerable and real you are with people the deeper your relationship can go, the more both of you can learn, and the more God can work in the midst of your life. The things that have happened in our lives have happened for a reason and if we don't share them with those around us then we are not being vulnerable or real. I'm not saying that we share all of our deepest darkest secrets but vulnerability goes a long way. As does listening, like I said in my last post, people need to be listened to, they crave it. Everyone has a story they want to tell, but they are waiting for someone to sit down and listen. Unfortunately our country doesn't allow us the time to do that. Our country wants us to be constantly on the move. Doing that is the direct path to destruction and loneliness. Where have the days of endless meaningful or even meaningless conversations gone? EVERYONE WANTS TO BE HEARD!!

The last key word I mentioned was the word willing. How willing are we to do what God wants us to do? How willing are we to stand up for what we believe in? How willing are we to sit down and have a conversation?

I guess I'll leave you with....

Are you willing? What do you need to give up to be willing? What's getting in the way?

I need to give up (me) my selfish desires and reasons for doing what I do, I need to stop getting in the way of myself!!

-Peace Out,
Mandi, CSM Los Angeles City Host Summer 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Find Your Calcutta"

"Calcutta's are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta."
-Mother Theresa

What a beautiful quote...and so true. Pray for eyes to see the world as Christ does!

Check out an amazing sermon given at Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI) by Shane Claiborne, author of Irresistible Revolution, entitled "Find Your Calcutta".

Learn how you can serve in the city with CSM!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Taking it Home

Part of the reason we love CSM is that we get to serve alongside ministries
and people who are working to improve the lives of the urban poor. It’s exciting for us to be able to supply these organizations with manpower through the youth
groups who do trips with us.
However, serving the needs of the city is only part of CSM’s mission. We
also want to have an impact on the groups who are doing mission trips with us.
Most of the groups are from suburban and rural areas and have never been
exposed to the poverty and struggles of city life. We do our best to guide their time with us in a way that begins to awaken them to injustice in the world. We hope that groups will then take their experiences in the city home and get involved in serving the needs of their own communities.
We recently received a note from Mike Fitzpatrick, youth pastor of La Croix
UMC in Cape Giradeaux, MO whose group is doing just that:
“One of our students, Cori, was so moved by her experience in Chicago that she
decided that she wanted to do a VBS for kids in the poorer section of our town. So in less than three weeks, she organized everything, from lining up Bible story
teachers and volunteers, to developing a schedule, to getting small groups to
commit to provide food, to shopping for all the supplies, to getting her friends to do everything (games, crafts, etc.). She had anywhere from 12-20 kids attend each of the four days. I couldn't be more proud of her!”

-Tim and Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago City Directors

Friday, October 31, 2008

Neue Interview with Eric Bryant of Mosaic (Los Angeles)

Neue (an amazing website for all who have a heart for justice, ministry and sharing Christ) recently interviewed Eric Bryant of Mosaic, a dynamic church based in Los Angeles. The whole interview by Jeff Goins is spectacular, but check out this question (and answer it yourself as well!):

"How do you fulfill Isaiah 61 and Luke 4 in preaching good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, and setting the captives free on a practical level? What does that look like for you?

I included the story of Jesus interacting with his hometown in this passage in Peppermint-Filled Pinatas. Jesus was almost killed for sharing this message! The people did not like the idea of God’s blessing including others beyond themselves. Even in the Western church, we have slipped into that mindset, feeling like the church exists to meet our needs rather than being the church that meets the needs of the world (to borrow a phrase from our lead pastor, Erwin McManus).

For me and my family, we try to spend time with our neighbors, inviting them over for dinner or a movie. We try to spend time with people who are facing prison or were recently released from prison to help them truly discover life transformation. We try to serve people who are financially struggling by meeting practical needs like babysitting while the mother looks for a job. I have found incredibly fulfilling helping those in need by connecting them with others who are looking to meet needs. We can’t do it all on our own! We need to become churches that free people to be entrepreneurial in meeting the needs of others. We need to be willing to partner with others – even those with whom we may not agree – to make a significant difference."

Read the entire interview...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Under all these masks...

We invite you to read a beautiful reflection written by Ann Voskamp, an amazingly talented writer and recent CSM participant.

"He never told us his name, that night. It’s the way of the street. Concrete and asphalt and dark don’t require you come with a name, for the streets christen with names of their own. And anyways, names may be forgotten, but not a face like his, never his story, the one these streets lent him.

I’m trailing the youth from our fellowship down Yonge Street, the last of the light seeping out of the autumn gold of the trees. I dig my hands deeper into pockets and warm. The grey chill’s creeping in, up the wet pavement. It’s going to be a long, damp night out here.

A wild mane of graying hair, he’s standing, back to me, in front of the Yonge Street Mission front entrance. It’s him, his tribe, we’ve come to minister to, to be ministered to. Tonight’s not about what too often happens, us getting to where we’re going, walking wide of the crumpled hurt, looking the other way. Tonight’s about the street and its people, their stories. About us each finding Christ in the other. Before I reach the entrance, he steps out in front of me, walks towards our cluster of kids. His buddy stays in the shadows, swigging long out of a 1 litre pop bottle. I feel something inside tighten, twist."

Keep on reading...

Learn how you can serve the people of Toronto with CSM!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Awesome Experience in Nashville

“Six months ago I started working with these youth. It was not until this trip that I have felt that our youth have connected with each other, connected with me and connected with God. I have seen such growth in these people in such a short time that it has just been totally awesome. I don’t think that I have ever been on a trip that has changed the participants as much as this trip.”
~Tom, youth leader

Learn how you can serve in Nashville with CSM!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Missions at Home

Sometimes we have difficulty raising financial support for our ministry,because people don’t consider Chicago the “mission field”. Most people picture missionaries off in some remote jungle village overseas. This past week I was reminded exactly why we are engaged in missions here in North American urban centers.
In the past few months a group of Karen refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma) started attending our church. Many have spent the last 10 years confined to refugee camps in Thailand, but are now living legally in our neighborhood in Chicago. Tim and I began tutoring one family that is in particular need. Once a week we go to this family’s apartment to build relationships with them and help the kids with homework.
This is much easier said than done; the language barrier is quite difficult to overcome. The Karen alphabet and number systems are entirely different. It’s pretty hard to teach math when the kids can’t even identify the numbers. And you can’t explain concepts, because they don’t understand English well enough yet. As I found myself getting frustrated with the difficulty in communication, I realized that this is why we make it possible for groups to do mission trips in Chicago.
When people travel internationally to do short-term mission trips, they often are unable to communicate with people of that culture. While they provide much needed manpower to impoverished groups, mission teams miss out on the opportunity to build relationships and hear their stories.

-Tim and Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago City Directors

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Feed, give drink, visit!

“Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?”
Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”
Matthew 25:38-40 (The Message)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Families on the Streets

Many cities throughout the US have seen the number of homeless individuals and families has take a sharp increase recently. USA Today reports that more families with children are becoming homeless as the economic pressures rise.
"Local authorities say the number of families seeking help has risen in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and Washington."
How are you or your church rising to serve this growing need in our communities?

Learn how you can serve in urban areas with CSM!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Los Angeles Contrasts

Just last week I was taking our new LA city host, Britani Wade, on our prayer tour. We were both taken aback to see throngs of young, hip people pouring in and out of art galleries on one block and then just one block later, seeing people set up with make-shift shelters for a night of sleep on the streets. It turns out, a few others have noticed this contrast.

A former LA city host, Nenji Yilpet, who has been working with teens on Skid Row, forwarded me this poignant article. A reporter and friend of LAMP (Los Angeles Men's Place) writes about the blatant double standards for the rich and the poor who live on two sides of the same block in downtown LA.

God is calling us to take notice and to take action. I pray God is moving us in our cities, even when it is not a busy season for volunteering.


Learn how YOU can serve in Los Angeles with CSM!

Friday, October 17, 2008

CSM Explores Ministry Expansion into Denver

Ministries in Denver are in need of your group's support!
We are excited to announce that in the Spring of 2009, CSM will be exploring ministry expansion to Denver, CO. Nestled among the Rocky Mountains, Denver is home to many ministries and organizations serving the large homeless population, low-income families, and all "Denverites". We invite you to come serve the Lord and His people in Denver!
If you are a group leader that would be interested in serving with us in the "Mile High City" please call (949-248-8200) or email our Home Office.
Did you know....

  • Denver has 205 parks throughout the city (the most of any US city)

  • Over 15% of Denver families currently live in poverty (US average is 10%)

  • Denver is officially one mile high above sea-level

  • Every year Denver hosts The World's largest Rodeo

  • There are about 3,900 homeless individuals living in Denver (43%
    are women and children)

Check out a fantastic photo essay on homelessness in Denver here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


“Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."
– Matthew 5:16 (The Message)

Learn how you can SHINE in the city with CSM!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty

Today we're joining blogs all across the internet to raise awareness about poverty. What a perfect opportunity to share with you "Twenty Questions: Social Justice Quiz 2008" by Bill Quigley. If we as Christians, are called to have a heart for justice and to cry out on behalf of our neighbor who has not - should we not educate ourselves about what's happening? Here's a little dose of reality:
4. In how many of the more than 3,000 cities and counties in the US can a full-time worker who earns the minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment?

A: In no city or county in the entire USA can a full-time worker who earns minimum wage afford even a one-bedroom rental. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) urges renters not to pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. HUD also reports the fair market rent for each of the counties and cities in the US. Nationally, in order to rent a two-bedroom apartment, one full-time worker in 2008 must earn $17.32 per hour. In fact, 81 percent of renters live in cities where the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom rental is not even affordable with two minimum-wage jobs. Source: Out of Reach 2007-2008, April 7, 2008, National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

13. How many people does our government say are homeless in the US on any given day?

A: A total of 754,000 are homeless. About 338,000 homeless people are not in shelters (live on the streets, in cars or in abandoned buildings) and 415,000 are in shelters on any given night. The 2007 US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Report to Congress, page iii and 23. The population of San Francisco is about 739,000.

Keep reading...

Learn how YOU can serve in the city with CSM!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Loving our Homeless Neighbors

When you come to serve at CSM-LA, it is our hope that you do not just get to know the causes of homelessness and poverty, but that you get to know individual people who are affected here in our city. Yesterday's article is a very sad story about someone who was randomly victimized, but who is a person none the less. I was only heartened by the outcry of his community. Although, a person who was hurting, John Robert McGraham, was cared for by many people. I especially thought his sisters reflections teach us so much about how making an assumption about someone deciding to be homeless is not a fair way to treat anyone. I pray God shows us how to protect the rights and lives of more of our homeless neighbors.

CSM Los Angeles City Director

Monday, October 13, 2008

To many, homeless man was a loved one

So often, homeless men and women are over-looked, passed-by and forgotten. What would happen if you made a point to smile? To strike up a conversation? To take a moment from your day to connect with someone living on the streets? You would be giving them a glimpse of Jesus' love and compassion.
The LA Times recently wrote an article about John McGraham, a loved man whose life was taken recently. Though he didn't have a building to call home, he had neighbors, family and friends that miss him terribly.

Learn how you, too, can serve the city with CSM!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Words of Ephesians Comes to Life

Through all of the unexpected twists and turns, there was one central theme that God started to show me early on in the summer as I read Ephesians (specifically 3: 16-20)
Verse 20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.”
This was a reminder to me to keep God out of the small box that I sometimes try to put Him in; to what He could provide “realistically”. The truth is that He’s able to do immeasurably more! There was one week where about three of our key ministry sites either closed due to lack of supplies or because of new staff. That same day, two new sites contacted our office to start bringing volunteer groups. In a small little situation like that, God answered ... and bigger and quicker than I would have ever expected!

-Noelle, CSM New York Co-City Director

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Inspiration in Nashville

Clemmie Greenlee is a hero in Nashville. She stands up for injustice and gives a voice to the voiceless. Her son, Roderiquez, was murdered in 2003 and she has since pledged her life to making the community she calls home safer for those who live in it. USAToday recently posted a remarkable photo gallery of Clemmie as she does what she does best - love people. Check it out!

Learn how you can serve in Nashville with CSM!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Go Green!

So what’s the word on the street?
GO GREEN! At least that is what the word on the streets, here! Well, during this past week of CSM Toronto- I was able to take much from the green movement and apply it to all matters spiritual!
Now, please, before you get twisted up, this by no means has anything to do with a political campaign or any movement really; however, it has everything to do with spiritual matters and even so the campaign of Jesus Christ!
Some of you may be wondering, how does going green relate to God? For those of you not familiar with recycling or the “Canadian way”- there are several types of waste baskets; Compost, paper, plastic etc.
So for those non-recyclers, things that we assume are just waste, trash, garbage, or worthless we simply throw it away without a second thought! No big deal, eh?
This same thing could be said about the “waste” or failures in our lives, or even the things that don’t go according to “our” plan. We write it off as “trash” or something that God can’t or won’t use.
We might say things like, “How can God use me, when I am such a failure.” In that same way, CSMers are likely to say, “I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone on the streets” after working at a ministry site, or something like “I didn’t make an impact on anyone.” By the end of the trip, they might even say, “I didn’t change anyone’s life” or “I didn’t bring anyone to Christ!” We have heard it all!
In our small finite perspective, we can’t see that God can use those things that we are so quick to disregard, toss out or write off as waste.
What we don’t realize is that in all God’s infinite sovereignty, he is truly a recycler. I might even go so far to say that He is GREEN! Simply put, He takes our waste to create something green and full of life, like compost if you will! So those things that we have written off as useless, God has a plan for!
If you’re wondering what led to this whole idea of “recycling,” it was working at ministry site. In my eyes, I saw that we had dropped the ball. I felt as though, we didn’t give enough, do enough, work hard enough. Basically, I felt as though we were not enough. I saw that God couldn’t use it and I unfortunately wrote it off as a bad day at the ministry site!
The irony was that our task was to pick up “trash” in the Regent Park, Toronto’s oldest subsidized housing complexes. And yes of course, one of the bags was blue, specifically for recyclable items! We were there to pick up garbage- and interesting enough that was all that I could see.
I couldn’t see that getting our hands soiled in a garden started because of one’s vision and dream. I couldn’t see that we were cleaning what had been a place where she had wept and labored over her fallen child to violence. I couldn’t see how God was using us in the life of someone else. Me and my small limited perspective could only see garbage which we were there to pick up, however, God had plans of His own.
El Sed, the founder and visionary of the Peace Gardens busted forth with tears and gratitude as she told us how the weight of our actions truly touched her! Her radiance far outshined the flowers in that garden!
Somewhere in my personal dumpster, God allowed me to realize that He can use and do whatever He wants and my opinion doesn’t matter!
So for those of you down in the “dumps” take heart that God in all His sovereignty, has a plan for you and your trash! As John Piper says, “Don’t waste your life,” because God can “recycle” it and make something green, lush, thriving and full of life!
So friends and family- don’t waste anything! Go GREEN!
Peace and Abundant Joy,
Jessica, CSM Toronto City Host Summer 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Finding L.A.'s hidden homeless

The LA Times recently published a great article about Los Angeles' hidden homeless population. They also put together a fantastic audio slideshow.

Learn how you can serve the hidden homeless in Los Angeles with CSM!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Making an Impact

At the end of every trip, we have groups fill out evaluations of their experience in the city. We ask them to tell us something they’ve learned or a commitment they’ve made as a result of their trip. Here are some of responses from participants at CSM Chicago:

“I learned that beyond the glitz and fun - Michigan Ave is a seemingly endless array of problems that can only end with understanding.” (Student from Rose Park Reformed Church)
“I’ve learned that homeless does not always equal lazy.” (Student from Lindsey Wilson College)
“I plan on going back home and finding out more about the problems that are going on in my neighborhood and finding organizations that I may be able to get involved in.” (Student from Lindsey Wilson College)
“I’ve learned that even the little things you do help very much. I used to think that I couldn’t make a difference because I’m not rich. But this trip I have learned that this is not the case.” (Student from Lindsey Wilson College)
“I am going to try to not judge people so much.” (Student from Fifth Reformed Church)

Find out how you, too, can serve the people of Chicago with CSM!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Radical Love in the Neighborhood

The time has come for us to show some radical love in our neighborhoods. There needs to be a call to action for us Christians to get out and start serving God's people. Dr. J. Howard Olds, former senior pastor of Brentwood United Methodist Church in Brentwood, TN, delivered an amazing sermon to kick us out of our seats and into the streets!

Learn how you can serve the city with CSM!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

God of the City

"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
Jeremiah 29:7