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!