Monday, June 30, 2008

Want a cookie?!

The past 4 weeks at CSM Houston, hundreds of people of all ages have passed through the doors (although most were high energy junior high). Every week, a few groups get a chance to serve at the Harbor Light Salvation Army. It is a men’s shelter for those that are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions as well as a daily meal service and shelter for those on the streets. One man that is always there when CSM volunteers arrive is named David. David's story consists of attempting to go through the program at Harbor Light 6 different times. He has battled addictions for most of his life and has been welcomed into the program again to overcome his obstacles. Currently David is in charge of the kitchen which is where our group mainly serves. Over the summer he has gained an interest in our CSM groups asking questions about what we do and why we serve. All of the interns have grown accustomed to chatting with him every time they get to visit there. The best part about David is he wants to return the favor of our service by handing us not one but four boxes of cookies every time we come.
As much as I don't "need" to eat any more cookies, for David, it's always nice to be reminded of what he has shared with us by seeing multiple boxes left over around our housing site. We mostly went to Harbor Light today!

-Adrienne, CSM Houston City Host Summer 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Homeless Make Themselves Visible: March in D.C. Protests Shift of Shelters, Services to Fringe Areas

Asking for spare change is easier.

Bumming a smoke is less gut-wrenching.

Standing in traffic, trying to catch the gaze of drivers who fiddle with their radio buttons to avoid looking into the eyes of a homeless person, is less intimidating than standing up for yourself. Which is what Xavier J. Bannister was doing yesterday in asking for a place in a neighborhood he considers his own as much as those who own property there.

"I don't know if I made a difference today. I got some dirty looks. That was hard," said Bannister, 31, who marched along H Street in Washington, trying to get the downtown lunch crowd to see him. "But at least I let my voice be heard. And some people honked their horns and waved."

Keep reading Washington Post article...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

No Rest for the Weary

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." - Matthew 11:28-29

I've been learning a lot recently about weariness recently. Partially because I'm learning what it means to be training at CSM in the summer; partially because I'm starting a new work-out regiment. But I'm learning what it means to try to find rest.

And recently, when I begin to think of rest, I am reminded about a message I heard Dan speak a few months ago. He was explaining that when we wrestle with God sometimes it is ok to just relax and rest in His arms and let Him hold us.

There's something sweet about that image. Something comforting. Something... relaxing.

I think a lot of times we wrestle with God, and that's a good thing. We grapple with Him about our futures, about our present, sometimes about our past. We hold on tight for the things we ask Him about. We grip his arms and hands demanding peace and rest and energy.

Or... we can relax

Let His hands hold us up in the moment of His grace.
Let His arms embrace us and shelter us from fear.
Let His voice calm us into peace and rest.

I saw something the other night, as I was at the Hamilton's house for game 3. Janie fell down as she was running across the living room. She didn't hit anything, but I think it scared her more than anything else. And she started to cry. I've seen this a ... few times... and every time it's very similar, either Jeff or Rachel picks her up and starts to speak soothing words to her. Usually, (though sometimes not always) she calms down, and all is right with the world again. Sometimes, she's really worked up and it's hard for her to calm down as quickly, but Jeff or Rachel keep talking to her. Calm, relaxing words of comfort.

Can I begin to relax in God's arms today? Can I listen to His still, quiet voice of reason? Can I just let His hands keep me safe? Can I calm down from the day-in and day-outs of life and allow God to just speak to me? What does quiet sound like? What does comfort feel like?

Where... is my rest?

-Jon Liu, CSM Los Angeles Scheduler

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

San Francisco Food Bank Receives First Truckload of Tomatoes in Huge Donation From SK Foods

To help replenish diminishing supplies at our state's food banks, SK Foods is donating more than 82,000 cases of 15 oz. canned diced tomatoes--close to one million cans--to food banks throughout California. Deliveries to food banks began Thursday morning, June 5, with a truck dropping off approximately 2,800 cases of tomatoes to the San Francisco Food Bank.

The SK Foods donation constitutes one of the five largest food bank donations in the state's history, according to Bill Foltz, food solicitor for Second Harvest Food Bank, who is helping to coordinate distribution of the diced tomatoes. "It's a great product and has such versatility to it. This outstanding donation comes at a time when our food banks are scrambling desperately for donations," explained Foltz.
Keep on reading...

Learn how you can serve with CSM in the San Francisco Bay Area!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bad Habits

Even though it’s early in the summer as far as CSM goes, I think I’d already gotten into a bad habit…
You see, our daily schedule starts at 8 or so in the morning, and we’re finished once the group debriefs at the end of the night. Every week, the visiting group is offered a night off to explore the city or do something fun. While they are off, so are the city hosts! This past Tuesday was one of those nights for us.
I decided to go for a run around the city. (Yes, I hit the ‘Rocky steps’!) When I came back, the rest of the group was out to dinner, so I decided to stay in and get some things done. When my stomach reminded me it was time for dinner, I hopped in my car and went cruising around University City (Chestnut, Walnut and Market streets) to see what the food venue was like. I found a Chili’s Restaurant (my favorite ) and got my food to go. I also decided to attempt to stop by a Rite Aid to pick up a prescription I’m supposed to have before I leave for Mexico in a week. I parked my car on Market Street and started to walk to the Rite Aid.
Then it happened. I saw a man sitting in a wheelchair on the side of the road. He looked pretty content where he was, and I figured that he lived nearby. As I started walking by, he murmured something to me. Thinking I had parked the wrong way or something, I went over to him. His words were fairly garbled, but the Lord made sure I could understand what he was saying. He asked me if I could push him to the corner. I had no problems with this, and so I started to push him in the direction he was pointing. Perhaps he was tired, or maybe he didn’t know where he was. Regardless, I started to push his chair down the road. It was no easy task, and I felt like I was pushing the chair through mud. He told me that he lived on the corner of the street and that he just needed to get there. I kept pushing and tried to get him off of the road and onto the sidewalk.
All of a sudden, a man calls over to me from across the street. He says, ‘You’re helping him get back to his home?’ After he walks over he says, ‘Ah, his battery must have died! (to the man in the chair) Hey brother, I live right down the street from you. You know me. I’ll bring you back to your home.’ He looked over at me, shook my hand, and thanked me for giving it a shot. Then he asked the man where the brakes were on the wheelchair. (explaining the slow-go I was having…duh Tim!) After releasing them, they wheeled off in the right direction.
So, what’s the bad habit I’d acquired? I assumed that there is ‘time off’ from this experience. God could get my attention anytime during hosting hours, but once the groups are on their own, it would be just my time to relax and take a break from these revelations. God doesn’t take nights off, and neither should we. Upon further reflection, I had some interesting thoughts.
How often do our batteries run low? It may be a rough week at work or school. Some event in our life may be causing us to stress out often. Before we know it, we’re caught on the side of the road, unable to make it any further. The same could happen in our Christian lives. We may backslide, or simply have doubts which cause us to get off the path and delay our travel Home. Sometimes, the help of a passerby or a neighbor is exactly what we need to help us continue our journey. The electric wheelchair was run by a battery, but when that failed, the chair still rolled. (easily, too…if you released the brakes! ) God provides ways for us to get moving in the right direction.
When I arrived at the Rite Aid, it was closed. It’s no mistake, however, that I stopped where I did, when I did. Praise be to God for revealing Himself to me in the little things on my ‘night off’! I never got that man’s name, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. He’ll probably never know the way God used him to teach me that night. I didn’t get the prescription I needed, but God gave me a free dose of medicine for the soul. If and when your battery is low or dies, don’t be afraid to seek someone to push you in the right direction. 

-Tim, CSM Philly City Host Summer 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008


Ever looked into the eyes of a homeless person?
Ever gazed in your mirror?
Walked down the street and watched someone eat out of a trashcan?
Ever felt broken inside?
Seen an earthquake rattle a building?

Ever gazed into the eyes of a genuine caring Mom?
Ever watched an artist paint on a canvas?
Ever seen a child with a milk mustache?
Ever watched the wind flow through the trees?
Ever done ballet?

Ever experienced grace?

I've been thinking a lot lately about grace and bout what grace truly looks like. I mean sometimes I get really focused on me and I think about how things make me feel. Sometimes I don't like that food, or I don't think things feel good to me and I just get really wrapped up in "me." There are days when I feel arrogant and prideful but I think about how I really have no rights over anyone else. Sure I wasn't born on the streets and I didn't face that injustice, I had my own injustices, but that doesn't make me better than anyone else. I dunno sometimes I just think I get wrapped up in me and forget that the grace of God surpasses all.

God's grace overcomes me, as well as every other person in the world. God's grace is something that everyone can receive if they choose to, it wasn't just for the rich, the poor, or the middle class it was for all. In recognizing grace we have to recognize that we sin and that God's grace can cover that sin. I'm not saying get lost in sin and let it keep going on, but recognize that sin, and understand what it really means to seek forgiveness and turn from that sin. I think when we realize that we can begin to understand grace. But grace is so much more. Grace is learning that there is a padded cushion under us, and when we fall we won't just crash and never get up. God is there to help us up.

-Amanda, CSM Los Angeles City Host Summer 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Learning to be grateful

“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives--the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections--that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let us not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

--Henri Nouwen

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My heart broke this weekend

I spent this past weekend as a homeless person living on the streets of downtown Toronto. The experience was part of my training with CSM, and the five interns partnered with the summer interns and workers from Evergreen Ministries, which is part of the larger Yonge Street Mission. Evergreen does this experience annually and encourage all of their staff to participate - this summer was CSM's first go-around.
Friday afternoon our city director took us to Double Take, a community thrift shop, to buy a homeless outfit for each of the CSM interns. I ended up buying an old, dingy baseball cap, a oversized white tshirt, black exercise pants, and some really old black tennis shoes. Once we got back to our housing site and changed, the five of us played in the dirt in the parking lot and a nearby park to make ourselves look more believably homeless. We then drove downtown to Evergreen Ministries.
After an orientation and what to do/what not to do, we (the CSM interns and Evergreen staff) were split into groups. Every six hours during the day, all of us would meet back at Evergreen (we weren't allowed to go inside again) to switch groups. The smallest daytime group was 2, the largest was 3. Jennifer and I were paired with Steve, the only male intern at Evergreen. We started at 6pm, and were to meet the rest of the larger group at midnight to look for places to sleep. Since all we were allowed to carry was 50 cents for an emergency phone call, we needed to figure out how to make money so that we could eat for the night.
Jennifer, Steve, and I decided to panhandle. If you don't know, panhandle basically means to sit on a corner or a street and beg for money ("Can you spare any change?"). Most of the time, you use a hat or a cup for passers-by to donate money into. We first decided to try our luck on Church and Wellesley, which is Toronto's gay village. I hoped that my natural good looks and southern charm could score some major cash (haha). Well…it didn't. In fact, the only thing I got after about 45 minutes was a pass for a subway ride. Steve didn't make any money either, but Jennifer got $5 from a transvestite! We then decided to move on to Bay Street (the financial heart of Toronto) and try our luck there. Absolutely no luck for me or Steve, but Jennifer ended up getting $100 from a man smoking outside of Red Lobster who identified his own children in Jennifer. After her streak of luck, we met up with Shannon and Victoria from Evergreen and made our way over to Chinatown on Spadina Avenue to eat dinner!
We met with our larger group at midnight, and broke into two groups of about 8 to look for a place to sleep for the night. Initially my group decided to walk through "Boystown" to experience what some of the darker aspects of the city are. "Boystown" is a part of downtown Toronto that is hidden from site because it is where young guys (about 13-21ish) who live on the street prostitute themselves to older men to make a living. Most of them will tell you that they aren't gay, but that this is the only way for them to make money outside of drugs. We didn't really see much going on, so we decided to duck into a hotel lobby to take a rest. My roommate Jake found an empty lounge upstairs, so our group crashed there until about 2am when we were asked to leave. We ended up walking across town to sleep on the campus of the University of Toronto for about 4 hours.
Saturday was a day full of walking. One thing most people don't realize about being homeless is how long the day seems when you have absolutely nothing to do. Fortunately, we learned the tricks of the trade from a few street kids, and ended up eating all of our meals for free on Saturday. For breakfast we ate at a soup kitchen at St. Stephens-in-the-field Church, for lunch we ate at a community barbeque for the homeless sponsored by a local church, and for dinner we went to a drop-in shelter at St. Peter's Anglican Church. Saturday night we enjoyed a free, outdoors fiddle concert at Dundas Square until we found a small park to all sleep at near the Women's College Hospital. Apparently during the night, another homeless man joined our group and slept next to me and I never realized it! I guess he felt safer sleeping in a group of strangers rather than sleeping by himself on the streets.
Our experience ended this morning (Sunday) at 9am with breakfast at Evergreen. Our city directors were waiting to greet us and hear all of our stories.
I knew that this was going to be a tough weekend, and I knew that I'd learn a lot about street life. My heart completely broke for street people because of how lonely, humiliating, and dehumanizing being homeless really is. While I was panhandling, hardly anyone would look at me, give me money, or at least say "I'm sorry." On a few occassions, people walking their dogs actually tightened their leashes so that even their dogs couldn't acknowledge me. At one point, a group of people stopped to have a ten minute conversation right in front of me without once looking down at me. It's really embarrassing and shameful-feeling to have to beg. I couldn't bring myself to actually look people in the eye and ask for money. When you're homeless, you lose all dignity and self-respect. It's such a tragedy.
I'm really glad I got to experience homelessness, if even for only 39 hours. The experience has really opened my eyes to the extent at which people are forced to live because of family, financial, personal, social, or medical problems. I've learned that each person on the street - no matter their circumstance - deserves respect and appreciation simply because they are another person. Although I probably won't give out money to every street person I meet, I will definitely acknowledge their existence with a "hello" or "God bless you." They deserve at least that much.
- Jason Horrell, CSM Toronto Summer 2008 City Host

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big Bill

My group served at St. John's Hospice on Monday morning. We had somewhere in and around 327 men come to the shelter that day for a meal. (I think most of them just wanted to get out of the heat!) Before all of the men came, I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with a man who referred to himself as Big Bill. He was a fairly big man, hence the name, but was as friendly as he was large. I talked to him about the basics and discovered yet another person thrashing the stereotypes of a homeless man.

Big Bill traveled from Georgia after he was laid off from his job. He got hooked up with a ministry called Traveler's Aid, and through a network of missions, ended up at St. John's. He is currently looking for work so that he can get back on his feet. Big Bill didn't really make any bad decisions to get in his position. The jobs simply aren't available in his manufacturing and factory line of work. He says that the places he used to work for found cheaper labor overseas. Big Bill is well educated, but his field is getting smaller and smaller in the US. He goes over to an employment agency nearby and answers different ads. One thing I found to be interesting was that he has been offered jobs outside the city, but lacks the transportation to get there. The focus right now is getting a job where he can take public transportation so he can save up for a car. Then, a whole new world of opportunities is opened to him!

The one thing that stuck out to me about Big Bill was that he recognized the fact that his situation wasn't ideal. He knows it's a process to move out of where he's at right now. At the employment agency, he told the man he wasn't above washing dishes, if that's what it took for him to get a job. The man told him that he was overqualified for that kind of job and that they wouldn't have enough time to train him to do it the way they wanted. Yes, training. For washing dishes. (What?!)

The truth remains that people without a home are still people. As we finished up lunch and got ready to work, Big Bill told me he had a few interviews lined up for this week. I look at Big Bill and I am humbled by the way he is willing to accept a lowly position washing dishes in order to start working his way back onto his feet. Talk about swallowing one's pride. It's safe to say that Big Bill got his name not only because of his physical size, but the size of his character, his heart, and his determination to get back on track with life.

-Tim, CSM Philly City Host Summer 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Radical Love In A Risky World: “Radical Love In The Neighborhood”

by Dr. J. Howard Olds

One of my most meaningful opportunities for ministry came to me in Crestwood, Kentucky where I served for nine years as a member of the Community Rescue Squad, as well as pastor of the Methodist church. A little group of volunteers, trained as EMT’s, provided this community service. When we inquired about our legal liability, we were informed that we were protected by the Good Samaritan Law. Since then, I’ve discovered most states and many countries have a Good Samaritan Law. The Good Samaritan Law, in essence, protects from blame those who choose to aid others who are injured or ill. In Canada, it’s a requirement.

Keep reading...

Want to experience radical love?? Serve with CSM in the city!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Butterfly Infestations and other ways God reveals his blessings...

The place that we are living in is an old Methodist church. Our room has no windows and a fruit fly problem. The bathrooms are downstairs and the showers are itty-bitty and a little scary. I know it is really not that bad a place to live, however, not only do we have a fruit fly problem, but I have seen more roaches that I want to admit crawling around my bed and the other girl's beds as well. I am going to let you in on a little secret: I have seen 1 live roach in my entire life. I freaked out and screamed for my dad to come save me!...Needless to say, I HATE cockroaches!!! So living in a room where killing a roach is a common occurance doesn't sit well with me. I had gotten over my initial fear after a few days, but still, no one likes the sight of a roach...or the sound...blech.
I mentioned my fear and loathing of the little devils during a Wednesday morning staff prayer meeting, saying "I am really trying to get used to them, but they're just SO UGLY!! I mean, it would be different if it was a BUTTERFLY infestation or something..." So we prayed that I would be able to deal with the nasty things. A night later that week, I walked into my room, and there I found my butterfly infestation! Dozens of the most adorable construction paper butterflies were hanging from the ceiling from ribbons, each one decorated. I not only have a very thoughtful and creative Associate City Director (thanks Megan!) but I also have a God who cares about the little stuff that gets to me. I saw the love of God in a flock of paper butterflies (I didn't mention that our director bought 3 huge packages of roach poison and I haven't seen one since...another blessing :) But not only in that. I see God working in such little ways as my kids for the week talking to a homeless person for the first time and actually enjoying it. Or in them sharing how much fun it was to play with the clients at an Alzheimer's facility. So God is in the "little" things, and I found that His love for us manifests itself in so many small ways. We just have to keep our eyes open to notice, and hopefully stay open to Him using us to share His love in the lives of others.

-Emily, CSM Houston City Host Summer 2008

Learn how you can serve in Houston with CSM!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Adventures in Los Angeles

Wow I don't even know where to begin but I guess I could start by telling you that I really like the city. I guess sometimes when you get so caught up in wanting to go to other parts of the world outside of the US, you forget how much need there is in the city. Tonight we shadowed a group and went on what we call the "Prayer Tour." As we are driving through Skid Row, on one of the streets there is a party going on. There are people listening to music and dancing in the streets. Then we drive a few blocks away and an LA Lakers game is just getting out, and people are partying and dancing in the streets so to speak. Two vastly different groups of people both rejoicing, but for different reasons. One group will find it's bed on a sidewalk as the rain drizzles down their faces. The other in a nice warm bed with a couple of pillows and blankets. One will beg for food, the other will walk to their refrigerator and have whatever they desire.

Still Jesus would have been in the midst of both groups. One of the questions we ask our groups to think about at CSM is where would Jesus be standing? Would he be standing with the poor or with the rich? Or would he be somewhere in the middle. Jesus did not come only to save the poor, nor did he come only to save the rich. So we think of Jesus standing in the middle. I guess for me that's a new concept so to speak, I think of Jesus hanging out with the poor and the outcasts (which he definitely did), but he also spent time questioning the rich and trying to help them understand his Father's way.

I wonder sometimes if I could look at my entire life how many times I have stood on the rich side? How many times have I stood on the poor side? How many times have I stood in the middle? If I'm truly attempting to be like Jesus wouldn't I be standing in the middle? How can I stand in the middle?

Think about that for a minute....I mean it's definitely a hard one to process.

Some other things I am learning are.....

I am more of a processor than I realize. I can be really extroverted, but sometimes I just need time to think about what I have seen or what is going on.

I love Nicaraguan & Indian food!!!

I don't like that there is not much grass in LA, but I'm told that there is more in Northern California.

Today I learned what a "Smog Check" is.

The pigeons out here are black with red feet and red eyes (weird)

Lastly, I have a lot of things to remember this summer, but with God all things are possible.

God is in the midst of it all, and He sees the big picture more than I can, so trusting Him is the way to go. I hope you enjoyed reading, you can look forward to more stories soon!!

-Amanda, CSM Los Angeles City Host Summer 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008


It was a cool, clear Monday night in Philly. We gathered with our visiting group, Sugarloaf United Methodist, on the Art Museum steps (affectionately referred to as the ‘Rocky’ steps). They are a group of about 50 high school underclassmen and leaders that have traveled all the way from Atlanta, GA to serve with CSM for the week. At the end of each day, they gather together as a whole to debrief the entire day that was. This includes singing worship songs, discussing moments from their day, and sharing stories of things that touched them or challenged them. As the music played and the kids shared, I started to take in my surroundings.

One of the noticeable features in the city skyline is the Amtrak building. This building is rather triangular shaped and lights up at night. In the past week, we have seen the building light up in a random flashing pattern. We were told that it occasionally is lit in the shape of the Phillies’ symbol. On this night in particular, it was in the shape of a question mark. My mind immediately jumps to the Riddler from Batman for some reason. Why in the world would there be a question mark that size on the side of a building? I suppose they put it there to get people talking, but my interest was definitely peaked.

Just to the left of the question mark building was another one with a scrolling text along the top. I happened to glance up at the different messages as they went across the rooftop…

“… so you don’t have to wait on hold”

“Philadelphia welcomes the Society of Technical Communication”

… and then the time would flash after every message or so. In the midst of the worship, praise, and telling of God’s work in the day, God really put prayer and quiet time with Him on my heart.

Let’s focus on the question mark. Each and every one of us has questions in our lives. It can be something like ‘How are we going to make it to the end of the month?’ to ‘What am I going to have for dinner tonight?’ to ‘Why do I feel this way?’ These questions range in complexity and importance, but they are all questions regardless. Some of us don’t know why we have these questions in our lives, similarly to how I don’t know why the question mark is on the side of the building. We just acknowledge the fact that they’re there, and do our best to figure out why.

If we only knew the answers, life would be so much easier, right? Well, what if we knew the one who knows all the answers? This is where God comes in to the picture! He knows the answers to all our questions. Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to know who knows the answers but choose not to ask?

“Philadelphia welcomes the Society of Technical Communication”

Prayer is alive and well in Philadelphia. I am humbled by the fact that people at these ministry sites are so devoted to prayer. I’ve had people come up to us on the streets and just ask for prayer…without even giving their name. The beauty of our relationship with God is that it doesn’t have to be technical communication! We have access to God anytime, anywhere, and for any reason. Just as Philadelphia welcomes the society, we should welcome communication with God into our daily lives.

“… so you don’t have to wait on hold”

We serve a God who is merciful to us and answers prayer. If we seek, it shall be revealed to us. If we knock, the door will be opened. God will answer the prayers of our hearts according to His will. Our job is to give all our doubts and fears up to the One who holds the answers. How marvelous is it that God loves us so much that he would listen to each of us when we pray!

Just as the time flashed between these messages, the time in our lives is certainly not standing still. Even as you read this, time has passed from when you started. There is no better time to start seeking Christ’s guidance in our lives than the present! Take the time right now to give Him the giant question mark in your life.

-Tim, CSM Philly City Host Summer 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Today, I didn't really know what I was doing until I woke up (which is a nice change of pace). We just finished training, and our groups aren't coming in until tomorrow evening. So, the hosts called me up and told me they were gonna hang out at the beach this afternoon. Hang out at the beach and work on my tan? Why not? Sounds like fun.

I ran some quick errands, and headed out to the beach to meet up with them (they decided to get out there around 11, I caught up with them around 1).

We did some quick swimming, then we mostly lay there and talked about stuff. It was a pretty chill afternoon. Around 5pm, some of the hosts decided to start heading back and since it was getting late, so did I. Apparently, one of our hosts is... not as dark as some of us from So. Cal. so she got pretty badly burned. It was actually pretty heartbreaking to see. This is her first REAL bad sunburn and she was actually so bad that she was dizzy and could barely move around.

At one point I stood there debating if we should drive her to the hospital and wait in the ER for like 7 hours for the doctors to tell me that there was nothing they could do and she needed water, sleep, and painkillers. (And sometimes they recommend aloe). At least in the ER I'm getting someone's professional opinion about what little we could do. I felt helpless. Sunburn is one of those things that make you feel alone. It hurts so bad that talking to others is difficult. You can't move, so you feel helpless. And worst of all, nobody can touch you, so you can't get comforted.

As I stood there watching her wrestle with her new found pain, I couldn't help but to think of the couple of times I had been through that. (yes today I'm slightly sunburned, but not NEARLY that bad). I wanted to tell her that everything would be ok. Her body would heal itself. The pain, though almost too much to think through, would eventually fade. And before long, the whole memory would be a story she told others to ward them away from the California sun.

But watching her eyes, and her pain, I couldn't say it. I felt like I couldn't ignore the pain she was going though, because it was real. genuine. consuming.

And I thought to myself. Is this how God feels sometimes when we struggle with our lives? Does He watch us go through our pain and want to tell us: "Everything is going to be ok." "With time, your body will heal itself." "The pain you feel, though almost to think through, will eventually fade." and "Before long, this whole memory will become part of the story of your life."

He's seen more than we can, He knows so much more, and He wants to be there for us... but maybe He allows us to experience pain because it is real and genuine. And with that timing He allows us to heal. He sits with us as we cry. He's quiet as we try to lay down for rest. He nurtures us when we need something. And He smiles at us when we look at His face.

-Jon Liu, CSM Los Angeles Scheduler

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Frontlines of Urban Ministry in DC

Everything is going well here in D.C. Friday was our last day of
training. This past week, we visited some of our ministry sites and
concentrated on learning directions here in the city. I feel fairly
confident with the directions...I'm just ready for the groups to start
coming, so that I can put into practice the things I've been learning.
I'm ready to jump right in there, make mistakes and learn from them.

I have a couple stories from this past week... Friday morning we got
up early and went to Charlie's Place (It's a ministry that serves
breakfast and gives out clothing to the homeless, the majority of the
attendees were men however) We were at Charlie's Place by 6am, and I
helped out in the kitchen with preparing some food, and doing some
general housekeeping (cleaning dishes and shelfs, etc...) I then went
out to the dining room and served grits, and then the meal. There were
all types of men there, from many backgrounds. It was a real eye
opening experience, I stepped back and just observed as the men were
lining up to get their meal. I was thinking about how as a man it must
be hard to be at such a low point, that they are without a home and
taking a number to get their meal for the day. I was also thinking
about how the Lord loves each and every person who was in Charlie's
Place that day, and how God treasures and sees worth in each one of
them as much as He does in me.

-Sarah, CSM Washington DC City Host Summer 2008

Monday, June 09, 2008

A NY Reality

Being from LA, 9/11 really didn't mean that much to me. I was a freshman when it happened, it couldn't have been more then a couple weeks into the semester. I believe it was the first late start we had when my mom woke me up and told me a plane crashed into a ny building. at first i thought she was talking about a movie she was watching and i was like, that's great. when i saw it i couldn't believe it. i remember i was playing football that year and i was like, 'what's the point of playing football when things like this are happening around the world?' i told my coaches there were some things i had to figure out and i didn't go to practice that week. i even missed one of the games. i also went to a couple prayer meetings. but that was the extent of my reaction to the event.

Being in NY now it is completely different. Every time i've gone down to the wtc site my heart beat slows and i almost seem to stop breathing. to think of the devastation, the lives lost, and the countless number of lives that were affected both with deaths and jobs. it's unbelievable. 7 years and we are still struggling to recover. there's a fire station right across from the site, and the last time we were down there one of its doors was up. i hadn't seen this happen on my previous visits and what i saw was a private memorial to their fallen comrades. This is the reality they live in. Whenever they leave that station they will see this memorial. Every time they look across the street i'm sure they think of their friends they have lost.

There's a church that's a couple blocks away called St. Paul's. In the aftermath of 9/11, caring people from throughout the nation who wanted to help stayed in the church. This church is real old and it is said that George Washington used to attend it back when the capitol was in NY. anyway, inside it's basically a giant memorial to 9/11 with a bunch of stations set up. one is of a bunch of origami. i hadn't known this before, but one of my kids read that the origami was from Japanese school children. this caught me by surprise for as i'm sure you can recall the actions carried out by America during WWII. Furthermore, in the church there's a giant banner that reads "Oklahoma loves you" and has the signatures of many. I hadn't realized the significance of this before, but this group was from Oklahoma and one of my kids was reminding me of the Oklahoma city bombings. While i was going on my strike against football i'm glad other people were actually extending a sympathetic hand.

-Josh, CSM New York City Host Summer 2008

Friday, June 06, 2008

China Earthquake Update

I have been getting updates from my parents, and they are doing well. My mom traveled to and from ChengDu safely, and she is now back in Shanghai. They both will be coming back to the states on the 16th of June. However, having witnessed some of the destruction first hand, my mom has told me some pretty horrible stories about what the earthquake has done. People are STILL living in tents even today. Most people are so afraid of going back in doors that to get their belongings from their homes, they run inside and run right back out, making 6 or 7 trips just to get a few basic supplies.

Even with great tragedy, we can be thankful that God is still moving in these affected areas. Thousands have come to know the Lord, and many people express a sense of peace despite the devastation all around them. However, even with people accepting Christ, they are still in need of very physical needs. Hundreds of people still need tents to sleep in, and even the simple things are now being realized. (For instance, mosquito nets are vital now that you have that many people staying outdoors for such a long time). Even tasks like getting people bowls and utensils to eat with have become a larger problem than most people could ever expect. Long term goals of psychiatric counseling and school re-construction are almost being put on back burner in light of the growing immediate needs of people. However those DO need to get addressed soon.

Thanks for your prayers and support, it means a lot to me.

Jonathan Liu, CSM Los Angeles Scheduler

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cool Organization in Oakland!

We love hearing how people are able to use their unique gifts and passions to serve others. Check out this video to see how this organization is revitalizing a neighborhood in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area!

Learn how you can serve with CSM in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Life Lessons from the Street

When you think of homeless people, what are some of the things you think? Perhaps it’s that they are all drug users. Maybe they have an alcohol problem. Or it could even be that they are too lazy to do anything about their situation. Sit back and grab hold of something. The story I’m about to tell you is going to blast all of those stereotypes away!
Let me start by explaining our ministry with Hands of Hope. This ministry is run by a woman named Joetta. Assisted by a cane, she ministers to the homeless not through a shelter, not through a soup kitchen, but she meets them right where they are; on the streets. Affectionately known as ‘Ma’ by many of the homeless, Joetta leads groups to different locations where she knows homeless people ‘hang out’. Each group brings packed lunches of peanut butter and jelly, fruit and water. Groups also hand out toiletry kits with soap, shampoo, and sometimes a pair of socks and underwear. Most of the people are more than happy to spend some time sitting and talking with you. Some would rather not be bothered. If you’re fortunate, they’ll open up about their story. The ministry is not focused on treating the homeless like a zoo, however, where people come just to observe, learn and leave. The hope is that we will sit down with the people and just talk (or in most cases, listen!) for a while.
Allow me to introduce my new friend Ali. (Yes, like the famous boxer!) Try and imagine this scene. We’re just outside of Center City, so the area is fairly busy and clean. We’re at an area where three streets intersect. A wall of a juvenile delinquency center provides shelter for about half a dozen people. Ali was one of these people, and I sat down next to where he was camped. I offered him the lunch and the toiletry kit soon after introducing myself. (In retrospect, I wish I would have held on to them longer or not even had them to give because it probably appeared as though it was the only reason I was there!) I’m not sure how the conversation got started, but soon I was finding out more and more about Ali.
He told me to guess how old he was. I view this as a very dangerous question regardless of who I’m talking with, so I cautiously decided to go with mid-40s. He cocked his head back and laughed. He took his hat off and said, ‘I’m 53 years old’. I wouldn’t be complaining if I was his age and looked like he did. He began to tell me about the homeless in the area. Some people did fit into the stereotypes. Ali said he was not on drugs nor did he drink. As the conversation went on and on, I believed this more and more. He said that many people lose their minds out on the street. He knew of one man who was asking for a light for a cigarette for his friend. When Ali took a bit too long to get it out, the man quieted his friend and told him to be patient. What makes this situation crazy? Ali could only actually see one of them.
I asked him what a normal day was for him. He said he gets up around 4 in the morning, and goes to the subway to report for his job. He sells the newspaper down there for a while. He then goes to one of the local churches and showers, changes his clothes, and gets ready for the day. One thing Ali was very adamant about was the fact that he was no different than most people walking the streets. He showers, keeps his head shaved, has a job, and just takes care of himself. Ali said that there are some people he knows about that just do not take care of themselves whatsoever. He doesn’t understand how they can’t smell themselves. He joked that one man always had a frown on his face, and that it must be because he constantly smells himself and can’t escape it! After preparing for his day, he goes to the library and reads. On certain days in the paper, he can find free movie passes for screenings, and so he takes advantage of them. (He was talking to me about the most recent Harold and Kumar movie.)
Ali has a fantastic sense of humor, something which I’m sure prevents him from making friends with invisible people. I asked him if there was any trouble around here for him. He told me that sometimes people will come around and throw things at them and run away, but it’s nothing too severe. He takes it in stride and even finds reason to joke about it. One time in particular, a bunch of kids ran up and threw hoagie rolls at him. He caught one, turned to the kid and asked ,’Well, are you going to throw the meat and cheese? Where’s the meat and cheese?!’ The kid thought it was humorous and ran off with his friends. I marveled at the fact that he could make light of such a degrading thing.
Ali didn’t go too deeply into how he became homeless. He has no kids and no wife that he talked about. He said that he had just made a few bad decisions and temporarily found himself where he is now. One thing just snowballed into another and it was too much at once. I asked if I could pray with him, and he agreed. We joined hands and I thanked God for providing me with Ali’s example and the fact that he was an example for others on the streets as well.
After rejoining the group, I came to learn a few more things about Ali that I didn’t know before I talked with him. First, he’s a Muslim. That blew my mind as he openly allowed me to pray over and with him without showing any contempt. Secondly, he looked out for and cared for the girl that was living next to him. She was a drug addict, but Ali just did what he could to make sure she was okay. Not once did that fact come up in our conversation. He was not boastful, nor did he include it as part of his daily routine. I also learned that the building they were propped up against was being torn down for a new art museum. Who knows how long they will be able to live there. Ali never mentioned that either. He was content with what he had today and not worried about tomorrow. I learned about as much about his character with these three facts as I did by talking with him.
There are good people living on the streets. Many have just hit rock bottom in their lives and are trying to find a way out. Not all homeless are disgruntled. (I hadn’t laughed as much as I did with Ali since I arrived in Philly!) It was so encouraging to see that God provides for people even when materialistically, it would suggest otherwise. Jesus came and died for all sinners. That includes those who are Muslim, or of any other religion. His openness to allow me to pray with him humbled me into thinking how many times I’ve had a closed mind and therefore closed the door to witness or learn from another.
I mentioned to Ali that the trees around him were probably awesome in the autumn with all of the changing colors. He said, ‘Yeah, they sure are. I don’t intend to be around here next autumn to see them though.’ Ali has a plan. He doesn’t intend on being homeless for much longer. I know people who live under a roof whose lives are nowhere near as organized and put together as Ali’s. All the praise goes to God, who uses people like Ali to remind us to be open to His will, not to boast in our works done for others, and to be worry free, knowing that God will provide for tomorrow.

-Tim, CSM Philly City Host Summer 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Here died a homeless person

Everyone deserves respect, right? No matter where you come from, how much money you have, whether you live in a house or on the street - you are a person. Ian Brennan (a music producer from the San Fran Bay Area) feels that way as well. He has gone out of his way to befriend homeless individuals and has found that people in the homeless community do not receive the due respect they deserve when they pass away. He's proposing that the city post plaques in honor of those that have died on the streets. It's a pretty controversial idea! Many in the city don't want a reminder that in the exact spot their standing, an individual died. Brennan argues that it raises awareness and "humanizes" the face of homelessness. Check out this article from the LA Times...

Learn how you can serve in the San Fran Bay Area with CSM!

Monday, June 02, 2008

"A Prayer"

For the heart to work among the poor, God this I ask.
For the courage to stand for what is right, God this I ask.
For the spirit to lead those who come, God this I ask.
For the perseverance to continue working when I am tired, God this I ask.
For the rest that I will lack, God this I ask.
For the strength to make a difference, God this I ask.
Gracious and loving God, grant me the ability to see the unseen.

The ability to hear the unheard.
The ability to love the unlovely.
The ability to befriend the friendless.
The ability to understand the misunderstood.
The ability to serve the underserved.
The ability to feed the unfed.
The ability to comfort the uncomfortable.

Allow me to see Your light in the darkness, Your grace in the mistakes, and Your love in the hatred.

I pray that I may be their servant, that I may be as Christ to them.
I pray that I might have the grace to let them be my servant too.
For we are all pilgrims on a journey,
We are brothers and sisters on the road,
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.
Help me to weep when they are weeping; when they laugh, I will laugh too.
Help us share both joy and sorrow, until we've seen the journey through.

God of all, I pray that your love may shine through me on those I meet.
I pray that I see you on the street.

-Jason Horrell, CSM Toronto City Host Summer 2008