Monday, March 31, 2008

CSM-LA Ministers to New Neighborhood

Moving to a new neighborhood in Los Angeles can feel like moving to a whole new city, even if you are only going 5 miles away. This is how it has felt for us living in South LA for the last three months. God has given us opportunity to get to know our neighbors, serve them and listen. The hardest part is how so much of our own city doesn't take the time to find out all the tough things going on in South LA.

Please pray that the groups serving with CSM-LA and all the staff will continue to have hope and to be a good neighbor in our new community. Please read this article and you can see a little of what is like for people living in our neighborhood.

Rachel Hamilton
City Director, Los Angeles

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Farewell from Mark Harmon

Dear Friends,
As I sat in the back of church this past Sunday, I noticed Fridah. She was sitting on her daddy’s lap, playing with a microphone. I couldn’t help but smile. I thought back to over a year ago when I first heard about her. Tim, now her daddy, had gone on a mission trip to a farm in Zambia. Our church partners with this farm and we’ve sent several teams to work there. I was blessed to be able to go in Feb. 2005. Anyway, back to Tim. He had gone over with a group in the summer of 2006 and worked on the farm for several weeks. Tim and his team arrived at the farm the same day as Fridah, July 28, 2006. As Tim tells it, he was awakened in the wee hours of the morning of August 5 and God told him not to leave Zambia without Fridah. As Tim would tell you, that pronouncement has many problems associated with it. First of all, Tim’s kids are late teens and he and his wife have been looking forward to being empty nesters. Second, the Zambian government doesn’t go easy on folks from out of the country who are trying to adopt. Third, there was still some of Fridah’s family in the picture in Zambia. Those are just three of the most noticeable hurdles that come to mind right now. In what is a testimony to God’s faithfulness to Tim and in another way, Tim’s faithfulness to God, after many trials, tribulations, starts and stops, Tim was able to bring Fridah home June 12, 2007! The story, in its entirety, is way too powerful for me to try to do justice to in this short letter. This is all just a prelude to what I was thinking this morning.
I looked over at Fridah and thought, "Wow, how different her life is now from what it was a couple of years ago." She was living in poverty in Zambia with very few prospects of the kind of life that we in America have. Her mother had died and her remaining family thought it best that she be taken to the orphanage at the farm. It is also amazing to me how God’s timing is so perfect. Tim and his group arrived at the farm on the same day as Fridah! Not a coincidence. What astounds me at a deeper level is how God has gone to such great lengths to bring us into His family and care for us in a similar way. I had to sit back and just say thank you, knowing that God had replicated in Fridah’s adoption a process that He has carried out millions of times with those of us that know Him and call Him, Abba…Father.
I am grateful to God that I’m part of His family. I am also grateful for the brothers and sisters that he has let me get to know better over the years here in DC. That is why there is a bitter sweetness in this letter. I want you all to know that I am leaving CSM and DC to take a job in Nashville, TN working with young adults with special needs that are aging out of the Tennessee school system and need another avenue for hope and fulfillment in their lives. While I will miss DC, CSM, my church, and my extended family in the city, I am excited about the challenge and opportunity I see in this new venture. God has slowly been preparing me for a change, and though I may have balked at the suggestion that I look at something else for awhile, I now see His hand in the preparation, just like I see it in the events of Fridah’s new life in Fairfax.
Some of you have supported me for more years than I've been with CSM and some of you have supported me as a result of a CSM connection. I feel that I have been blessed so much by you and wanted to share this news with you so that you can pray with me for the new chapters that await me and CSM-DC.
I remain as always,
Alive and Grateful,
Mark, CSM DC City Director

CSM is grateful to Mark Harmon for over 28 years of service to the city of Washington DC (14 of them with CSM), the groups that came to serve, the staff he mentored and his heart for people. We wish him the best as he sets off on this new chapter of being Jesus' hands and feet in Nashville.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

CSM NY Update: Loving the City

As overwhelmed as I was during my first week or two, I am so incredibly thankful that this is my first time in New York City.

Despite the fact that it has always been my dream to see Rockefeller Center at Christmas, be in Times Square on New Years, see a show on Broadway, skate in Central Park, and otherwise enjoy the cliche "touristy" parts of the Big Apple, I love that the city I know and love now, includes the parts of the city most people ignore.

I love wandering 149th in the Bronx with my delicious piece of Hawaiian pizza being called "blondie" and being asked if I'm lost....

I love the sense of time travel (haha ;) when you go below ground in midtown and come above ground in Harlem.

I love the continuity of working with the same ministry sites all of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

I love packing food in a warehouse before lunch and loving on kids after lunch.

I love giving the alcoholic on the corner my undivided attention - even if only for a few minutes.

I love being surrounded by excited, passionate students alllll day.

I love teaching English to Chinese factory workers who spend their only day off trying to make a better life for themselves.

I love smiling at every person who comes through a soup kitchen line in midtown, Brooklyn, or the East Village.

I love praying for people in the poorest part of the city RIGHT before praying for those in the wealthiest part.

I LOVE the "underground" culture of the MTA.

And above all, I love having my dream job right after college, and being able to share my love for students and youth, while sharing my PASSION for service and urban life with them.

Yup, as all out exhausted as I am, its pretty much all amazing.

-Katie, CSM NY City Host Spring 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Being Homeless in Winter

It's hard to be homeless anywhere. But in the thick of winter, it's even harder to be homeless in Chicago. Frigid temperatures and brutal wind chills make the nights unbearable for those with no place to stay. A recent article shows how the homeless in Chicago have found both shelter and community in the lobbies of police departments in the city.

Police in all major cities are known for their sometimes inhumane treatment of the poor. The police force in Chicago is notorious for corruption. It's a breath of fresh air to hear how our police are showing compassion and welcoming the poor off the streets. Although spring is well underway in most cities, the bitterness of winter persists here. People are still struggling through the night to survive, and sometimes they don't make it. This sad story just came out this month.

Please pray for those without shelter tonight; pray for their safety and protection. And pray that more would be done to address the needs of the homeless in Chicago.

-Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago Co-City Director

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Windy City Facts

Here are some interesting tidbits about the great city of Chicago:

  • Chicago was founded by Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, a black man from Haiti.

  • After the great Chicago fire of 1871, England sent thousands of books to help Chicago rebuild it's library.  Chicago had no libraries at that time.

  • We live in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood. It is the city's most diverse neighborhood with 50% of residents having been born in another country.

  • Chicago's Western Avenue is the world's longest street.

  • Chicago Public Schools have 408,601 students.  Over 10,000 of them are considered homeless.

  • 84.9% of Chicago Public School students are being raised in a low income home.

-Tim & Kelly Reed, Chicago City Directors

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SF Update: Being Uninsured in the City

We have an ongoing joke at CSM, which is "calling in sick!" We are only staffed enough for everyone to do their part and nothing less; however, I was becoming ill. Because of our light-hosting schedule, I was lucky. I only had to host one group, and then rest and attempt to recover as the other girls continued to host. My illness began with a cough that grew into body aches, fatigue, and shortness of breath. I was unable to sleep at night, due to coughing and trouble breathing. I awoke one morning to find my voice had escaped me. It was on vacation for several days!
Now, this is where my adventure begins…On Friday morning, day eleven, I decided to visit the doctor, it was about time! BJ, my brother, was kind enough to do extensive research on clinics in San Francisco. He called clinics, trying to find information for me, his dear sister, since I was voiceless. I decided on the Tom Waddell Heath Center in the Public Health Building. I was told to arrive by 8 am to being the enrollment process. I walked to the Public Health Building, about a 15-minute walk, stood in the cold until the clinic opened around 8:15 am. At that point, I received a number. My number was called and I reported to a Nurse, who took my vitals and asked for my symptoms. I then returned to the waiting room again. Next, I was called to the registration center. At this point I was to explain my insurance, residential, and financial status to see if I was eligible for the City of San Francisco's free services. (It may be hard for some of you to believe, but yes, I am considered below the poverty line!) I was approved and back to the waiting room I went.
The morning was nearing 9 am and the clinic was getting full. I proceeded to a room where I waited for the doctor. The doctor then gave me an examination and found wheezing in my right lung. He gave me a breathing treatment, and sent me to San Francisco General Hospital for a chest x-ray as a precautionary check for Pneumonia. I called Shelby, one of my roommates, for a ride. We arrived at SF General around 10:30 am. I proceeded to x-ray, where the intake nurse asked me for my doctor's order. I did not have it. She said, "We can not take an x-ray without the doctor's order!" What was I to do? They wanted me to go back across town and pick up the doctor's order or to call the clinic and get them to fax over a copy. I persisted in calling the clinic; the phone continued to go unanswered for about 45 minutes. The hospital did not have any other numbers for the clinic. Shelby and I trekked back across town to the Waddell Clinic. Upon arrival I was able to draw the attention of a nurse who pulled my record. She wrote out another order for an x-ray, and sent me back to the General Hospital. Once back to the x-ray department, I was told to register with the hospital, so I proceeded to wait in yet another line. I finally was registered and able to get my x-ray. I was then told to go back to the Waddell clinic in several hours for my results. By this time, I was exhausted! I went back to the Waddell Clinic and waited to see a doctor.
Finally, the results were in, I was Pneumonia free! The doctor was unsure as to what I had but came to the conclusion I had a common cold, and then caught a viral infection that resulted in laryngitis. He sent me on my way with cough syrup, cough drops, and a note to rest. Wow! What a day.
-Lindsey, SF Bay Area City Host Spring 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Changing the World: One Day at a Time

Homelessness and poverty are difficult things to look at. Especially when you look into the face of a child who has grown up in the midst of skid row. It is easy to feel helpless. It seems that the government doesn't know what exactly to do either about these children either.

But in the sadness and hopelessness we have found that loving on these kids can bring hope, joy, and happiness into a young life. This LA Times article shows that sometimes a little planning, a little difference in the government, and a lot of love can make one day different in a young boy's life.

-Jonathan Liu, CSM Los Angeles City Scheduler

Friday, March 14, 2008

Homelessness in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently posted an in-depth collection of articles and resources on homelessness in their city. This are wonderful resources for any groups getting ready to serve with CSM in Philadelphia!
Just a little preview - here's a great quote by Philadelphia's new mayor (Michael Nutter) on neighborhood opposition:

"There has to be a general understanding with citizens of the city that leper colonies went away a long time ago. These are fellow Philadelphians who need help. These are somebody's niece or nephew; somebody's parents; somebody's son or daughter. These are human beings who need help."

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

You'll also find photo galleries, videos and discussions. Want to learn how you can serve in Philadelphia? Visit our website!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Unusual Signs about Homelessness

Awhile back we blogged about an art project done by a graphic designer in Toronto - posting signs to raise awareness about Toronto's homeless population. Below is a video found on YouTube showcasing the same project.

Want to learn how your group can serve in Toronto? Visit our website to find out more!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Update from Chicago: Disparity in Prison Terms

There is a huge disparity between the sentences for those arrested for offenses related to powder cocaine (the drug of choice for privileged, suburbanites - majority Caucasian) and those arrested for crack cocaine (popular amongst lower class, inner city residents - majority African-American). African-Americans are disproportionately sentenced to longer jail terms under the current standard. The new ruling seeks to address the racially disproportionate statistics in this area.

It's interesting. Portions of the African-American community support the government's attempts to right what seems to be a racial injustice. Others want to maintain the stiffer penalties for crack, because the drug is wreaking havoc on inner-city communities. Groups who come to Chicago are likely hear about this issue in our new prayer tours this summer.

-Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago Co-City Director

Read the full Chicago Tribune article...

Want to learn how you can serve in Chicago? Visit our website!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Forgotten

Poem by Brittany (CSM-Los Angeles trip participant)

The days are lonely and the nights are cold
This life I’m living is getting old
The streets are my only comfort and where I lay
Deliver me from this nightmare is what I pray
People look down on me for how I appear
It hurts to know that I am someone that they fear
I am a person, an individual, and have feelings too
Can’t you see I was once like you?
I had dreams, goals, and lived life to the fullest each day
Until everything went down the drain and I couldn’t find my way
This life has made me realize how cold hearted people can be
Many choose to just walk away and ignore me
They act like I am invisible and that I’m not there
Bless those who take the time to show that they care
I wish people would understand that it’s not all about material things
and money
Having God in your life is most important and going to the place that
overflows with milk and honey
Bless those who are poor on earth
For God loves them and knows how much they are worth

Learn how you can serve the people of Los Angeles!