Friday, May 30, 2008

City of (homeless) children

Chicago is in the midst of a tough debate. It is looking to spend over $100 million in creating a Children's Museum on one hand, but on the other it continues to have over 10,000 homeless children. Homeless advocates wish the city would invest in these kid's lives rather than spend such a whopping amount of money on something that would most likely benefit privileged children. Read more about it in a recent Chicago Tribune article...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We <3 Volunteers!!

Volunteering has become somewhat of a phenomenon these days. Of all the fads to come - we say hooray to helping others. Our prayer though is that it transforms from a fad (temporary, fleeting, based on emotions) to a lifestyle (permanent, passion-driven). Here are some fun facts about today's volunteers and benefits of giving a few hours of your time:
-The estimated dollar value of volunteer time in 2006 was $18.77 per hour(Source: National Philanthropic Trust). Imagine how much you're saving that organization/ministry each time you help out - it adds up!!
-Young people volunteered at twice the rate of adults with 55% of young people volunteering, compared with only 29% of adults. (Source: Corp. for National and Community Service)
-Volunteering enhances employability. Volunteering provides the side benefit of a valuable work experience. It is a real opportunity to provide invaluable help while broadening your network of potential references and employers. (
-A youth who has a parent who volunteers is nearly three times more likely to volunteer on a regular basis. (Source: Corp. for National and Community Service)
-Volunteering helps you to discover what color your parachute is. “Discovering the color of your parachute” is the process of exploring your vocational strengths and interests. For those entering the workforce or exploring a career change, volunteering is an excellent opportunity to field-test your interests and discover new abilities. (

Learn how you can volunteer with CSM!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

US Christians urged to cancel church services and help poor

Christians in the US should close their churches and channel their energies into helping the poor.

This is the message from the campaign 'Faith in Action', a resource developed by Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision, church communication resources provider, Outreach, Inc., and Christian communications company, Zondervan.

The call comes along with the news that two-thirds of American surveyed in a new poll say their churches are doing enough to help the poor despite the latest United States Census Bureau statistics showing consistent year-to-year increases in the numbers of Americans living in poverty.

This, combined with poverty indicators such as rising food stamp usage, points to increased demand for a complacent church to do more to help the poor, say Christian campaigners.

Continue reading the article from Ekklesia...

Learn how your group can serve in urban ministry with CSM...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Homeless Vets

While 11% of the general population are veterans, a whopping 25% (every 1 in 4) of the homeless population in the United States are veterans! As we remember those who have served this country, please be praying for and seeking ways to serve these men and women. Check out this CNN article for more information...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Young People in Action

The St Vincent Day Home, located in the heart of Oakland, CA, is one of CSM San Fran Bay Area’s most popular ministry sites. Since 1911, the Day Home has provided “offers comprehensive child development programs and family services.” ( Groups help in a multitude of ways – playing with children, organizing donations and whatever is needed! Below is an excerpt from their Spring 2008 Newsletter.

Young People in Action

The Day Home was visited recently by a group from Center for Student Missions, a national organization that provides urban mission and service experiences to youth. After their visit, we received a lovely booklet of thanks from the young adults that come to visit and volunteer with us. But truly, all thanks go to them – their smiling faces and interaction with the children add so much to the rich tapestry that is the Day Home.

Here are a few excerpts from the Center for Student Missions students and staff:
“Saint Vincent’s was an excellent experience – I think this was the favorite part of the trip.”
“The kids were so cute and awesome and I believe that your organization will do a lot of good in these kids’ lives.”
“Thank you guys for showing love and compassion to every child you meet. You guys have a huge influence on their lives. Thank you so much for your commitment to what you do. You are awesome.”
“Thanks so much for having us! I loved the positive environment and how friendly you all were. Your kids there are happy and playful. Thanks for giving me this amazing experience.”
“The kids are awesome and fun to be with. Keep this program going!”
“Your children are incredibly sweet and loving and your support for them will lead them on the path to successful, fulfilling lives. Special things are going on at your day care, so keep it up!”

To our friends from Center for Student Missions, we think you are awesome, too!

Learn how you, too, can serve the kids at St Vincent’s Day Home! Check out CSM’s San Francisco Bay Area page!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The worst part of the job...

Despite all the things about my job that thrill and excite me, there is definitely one part of my job that frustrates me to no end. Its inevitable - groups ALWAYS leave. Honestly? I hate that. Especially with the college teams; because since they are my age, I always seem to connect as almost more of a member of their group than as a leader. But trust me, there is no better position to be in than to see groups arrive at our housing site as strangers or simply team members, and to leave as great friends. The groups that come through CSM often literally shed blood, sweat, and tears alongside each other, and even though I hate watching them go at the end of a week of working in the city right there with them, I love knowing that they go home with such a strong support system to continue to process the week. Just yesterday I was logged into my Facebook account (ha) and found myself browsing pictures of one of my past groups as they were eating dinner and hanging out together a month after their trip. Not that we as CSM can take credit for the fact that they started the trip as little more than group members from a campus ministry back home, and got back on the church van resembling family members, but it’s definitely the nature of the week. CSM New York is not a flashy touristing trip. Rather, it’s a unique view of the city that allows you to literally see the dirt and grime of the Big Apple, and directly have a hang impacting what I like to call "the hope factor." We see a lot of pain, hurting, and community at the street level and while walking through the more upscale areas, and it’s unavoidable that you will leave a changed person. And the only people who truly understand what you saw and are continuing to process, are the people who were standing right alongside you the entire time.
- Katie Filkins, CSM New York City Host Spring 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Police Getting Personal

Laguna Beach, CA is a small community right outside of Los Angeles that is taking a unique approach to the homeless plight in their city. Getting to know people on a personal level is very time consuming, but usually the most effective and informative way. Check out this recent LA Times article!

-Rachel Hamilton, CSM LA City Director

Learn how you can serve the people of Los Angeles with CSM.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Divine Appointment in Toronto

"Well, I wanted to share who I had my divine appointment with you. While we were at Booth ( This is one of the ministry sites in Toronto that work with participants who are mentally ill) I got the chance to spend some time with a girl named Rachel. I met her on the first afternoon we were there. I'm not sure why I was drawn to her work station, but there was just something about her. Our conversation varied from topic to topic and about 15 minutes into the conversation I looked down and realized she had prominent scars all over her arms. I didn't notice these at first because I was so intent upon what she was saying, but after I spotted them it struck a chord in me and I knew I was talking with this girl for a reason. As we continued to work side by side she noticed a burn mark on my arm and inquired about it. I explained it to her, and then she said, "Yeah, I have scars, too. I even had to have surgery." I wasn't going to inquire unless she opened the door to talk about them, and when she said that, I thought, "Okay God, give me the words." As gently as possible I asked her what happened.
She said, "Well, I don't want to scare you."
I said something like, "Whether you want to talk is up to you, but I want you to know that I'm here to don't know me very well, but, not much scares me anymore."
She then proceeded to put down what she was doing and say, "Well, I did them to myself."
That hit me like a ton of bricks in the chest. Not because it scared me (because it didn't) but because I have gone through very similar circumstances in my life. I was totally able to identify with her and I was able to talk with her about it. The only logical explanation for that is God. I completely believe that he placed her in my path specifically. Not only for her sake - but definitely for mine as well. It was an awesome experience, but it also shook me up a bit at the same time.
When I returned from the trip I shared that story with a close friend of mine that I've been having ongoing discussions about self injury with. She got this huge grin and said, "I have something to confess, but don't be mad. The whole time you were on your tip I was praying that God would be poking you and stretching you. That He would completely throw something or someone in your path." My jaw dropped. God is amazing."

-Anonymous trip participant

Friday, May 16, 2008

Spring Break Groups Go Above and Beyond in Houston

When is the last time you played Freeze Tag? You probably have forgotten how exhausting it is! I certainly had forgotten when I suggested it to a group of 25 or so kids at one of our new ministry sites. In less than 30 minutes, I was bent over double, gasping for breath, while my new little friends ran circles around me. The smiles and laughter as we chased and tagged and chased and tagged were infectious. All 10 or so of our college group were “IT” and there were no end of quarry to chase. Just when we tagged someone, two of their friends would swoop in to un-freeze them. Later we threw Frisbees, played on the jungle gym, and a touch football game broke out. The kids could have played all day. Thankfully for our lungs and knees, rain chased us inside after an hour and a half. There, we joined up with those who had chosen crafts and board games. Laughter and fun continued all afternoon. It was the perfect beginning to a ministry site which we hope to develop in the summer months ahead.
Ujima, Inc. began as the outreach of a local church responding to the needs of young people in a low-income apartment complex. Now they have grown to become a stand-alone non-profit which operates programs for children, families and seniors in several Section 8 Housing complexes (Government-subsidized but privately-owned housing). We have connected with the kids’ program at Gulf Coast Arms, an apartment complex with 540 residents, of which about 270 are children. Nearly all of the families are single-parent. When we met with the Ujima staff, they emphasized that these kids are VERY high-energy, with not much to do. That was an understatement. They typically have up to 90 kids, aged 5-18, in their after school program, which is operated by one or two staff persons and an occasional volunteer. For Spring Break, their program lasted most of the day. So when we met with them and suggested bringing groups of 10-15 volunteers, their eyes lit up with wonder, excitement and relief!
The day after our first visit, a second group from Friends University rolled into the apartment complex. Before they could get out of the van, kids were flooding into the parking lot, “Are you here to play with us?!?” That day there were about 50 kids playing in the field and playground by the apartment office. Word of mouth had evidently spread the news of our visit. The apartment manager (not the Ujima staffer) approached the group leader and offered a gift to each of the volunteers. She said, “no one ever plays with these kids.” She is grateful for the work that Ujima is doing, but sees their constant need for more. The college group felt uncomfortable accepting the gift cards offered by the apartment manager and collectively decided to give them to CSM to purchase balls, games and crafts for our future Ujima visits.
Over all, March was marked by our groups canvassing the City of Houston with God’s love. To make these experiences possible for our participants, it takes a great team of people. I am especially grateful for Megan, my Associate Director, Adrienne, our spring Host intern, and several returning and volunteer hosts who helped us usher the groups through the city and build bridges to our ministry site partners. Britani Wade, Cherie Farinola, Meg Asby, Jesse Fullen, Sol Edwards, Greg Pennington—our Vice President, and Bonnie Miller, who is a CSM Board member, all gave generously of their time and leadership to help to host groups.

-Paul Randall, CSM Houston City Director

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Humble Scrubbing

At Salt and Sea Mission, we always assist with the morning worship service before handing out food for the food pantry. Then students need to be prepared to hand out clothes, visit with the dozens of regular attenders, clean the kitchen, sort and repack food, or whatever else the mission's pastor needs.

The other day at Salt and Sea, however, really challenged me to continually ensure that my "servant's heart" is in check: I stood in front of Pastor Debbe (trying desperately not to laugh) as she demonstrated how to scrub two HUGE marble staircases and the landings/doorways that accompanied them with.... get this.... BRILLO PADS. Like, those little two inch square metal scrubbers with the pink soap in the middle. I mean, when I asked if there was anything we could do to help in the next 20-30 minutes before we left, I certainly didn't mean crawl on our hands and knees on an old grimy staircase in Coney Island and scrub every little crevice with a tool barely bigger than a toothbrush!!

Again, trying not to laugh, I organized my "troops" (a hard-working, loving group of high school upperclassman from Morweena, Canada) and explained the task that we had been given. They all kind of stared at me blankly before glancing over at the staircase and doorways behind them, before looking back at me like I was absolutely insane. Then we all laughed together and got to work.

Barely half an hour later, we had swept, scrubbed (ahem - remember? Brillo Pads?), rinsed, and mopped 2 marble staircases and their related doorways and landings, before calling it quits. We pretty much laughed about it all day, but felt good about our job well done.

It wasn't until the next night at debrief (after the second half of our group had volunteered there the following morning), that I truly began to realize that it wasn't about cleaning stairs with Brillo Pads. It was about a group of Canadian teenagers willing to humble themselves down to the point of selfless service, and truly showing the owner/patrons of Salt and See Mission TRUE acts of servant-hood by being more than willing to kneel down into the grimy stairs of a beach ministry - AND with a smile on their face, nonetheless. Cause you know what? If Pastor Debbe had asked Christ to lather up a Brillo Pad and join us on those grubby stairs caked with the dirt and grime of the world, I have no doubt he would sweated, scrubbed, and laughed right alongside us.

-Katie Filkins, CSM New York City Host Spring 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

China Earthquake Update

As many of you have already heard, there was a 7.9 earthquake in China Monday morning (their afternoon). It was a big enough earthquake that people in Shanghai (a city 1000 miles away) felt it. Imagine an earthquake happening in Denver, CO and people in Los Angeles feeling it. Currently, Yahoo! reports that there have been a count of 12,000 deaths and rising. Many kids were still in school when this happened, and many got caught inside buildings as they collapsed around and on top of them.

I think this is an important time for us as believers to come together and pray for the people of China. They are facing a great crisis, and need international help. I know for many of you, this may seem like a far away place, with no relevance to your life, but to bring it a little closer to home I would like to tell you about some of my family that is out there right now. My great aunt's family lives in Chengdu, a metropolitan city just 60 miles from the epicenter. Her family, and many like hers slept on the street last night, and will do again tonight because they are too afraid to go back inside buildings. Early yesterday morning (at night in China), my mom, who was in Shanghai at the time of the earthquake, flew to Chengdu to help aid these people in whatever she could.

Thanks in advance for your prayers. Your prayers for salvation and hope in a situation that can only described as heart-wrenching. Prayers for peace and love and joy when those things seem absent. And your prayers for calmness in spite of the fears and anger.

Thanks again!
CSM Los Angeles Scheduler

CSM Staff 's Family Members Affected By Earthquake in China

The world has been shocked these last few days by the destruction caused by a massive earthquake in China. Jonathan Liu, CSM Los Angeles' Scheduler, has family members in China and has graciously been updating us as to how we can be praying and helping the situation at hand. Jonathan's father, Jesse Liu, is currently visiting in Shanghai and was recently interviewed by a family member who is a news reporter out of San Diego. Check out this video to learn more and how you can help.

Houses for Toronto's Homeless

Homelessness can never be solved with one easy solution. We, as people, are complicated beings (in every beautiful sense of the word)! When we find ourselves down and out, it's not as easy as waving a magic wand and everything gets fixed. It takes time, love, commitment, CHRIST to fix a broken life.

An organization called Streets to Homes from Toronto does have an interesting take on bringing people into permanent shelter. They look at the WHOLE person and address each complicated issue that may hinder that individual from success. Take a look at this article that discusses their take on how to bring homeless people home.

Want to learn how you can serve the people of Toronto? Visit our CSM Toronto page!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Modern Day Slavery in San Francisco

Human trafficking in simple terms is modern day slavery. There are people from all over the world that are deceived into thinking that there is a great job opportunity, only to find out that they are forced into a life of labor, domestic servitude, or prostitution with no pay. Some researchers say that there is a new victim of trafficking every 60 seconds. The problem is devastating most of the major cities in the U.S. and overseas. This San Francisco Chronicle article summarizes information specific to San Francisco and some of the efforts that have been made to stop this epidemic. As Christ followers we need to take great care of the communities we live in, as Jeremiah 29:7 states: "As people of faith we are called by God to pray and work for the SHALOM of the city - it's health, welfare and prosperity." Let's make ourselves aware of what is going on in the world around us and how we can help those people who are living a life as a slave.

-Lisa Trump, CSM San Francisco Bay Area Associate City Director

Friday, May 09, 2008

Do U C What I C? - A Preference for the Poor

Check out this really interesting
blog post (and following discussion) about God's heart for the poor among us. Do you as a Christian struggle with reaching out in practical ways to the poor and oppressed? In what ways does your church show love and compassion to the "least of these"?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spring Update from Nashville

One of our ministry sites is Feed the Children. It is a food bank where our groups go to fill and prepare hygiene and food boxes. It's a great work project for the groups, and they usually have a great time working and goofing off together and feeling like they have impacted someone's life...where ever they may be. Sometimes, when you're used to working in a relational ministry, not getting to see the people impacted by your service is a little bit of a bummer. That's why we jumped at the chance to be volunteers at Feed the Children's Big Event. Not only was it an honor to be called and asked to provide the volunteers, it was an awesome chance to get all the churches participating with CSM that week to work together; something we don't really get the chance to do. So, we gathered all our groups at Titan's Stadium lined up ready to deliver the boxes that other groups worked so hard to put together. The groups walked along with the people and carried the boxes for them as well as incredibly heavy 12 packs of Gatorade. They worked non-stop all day with a sunburn to show for it and several sore muscles. These students gave everything they had working the line that wrapped around the stadium packing people's vehicles.
One of the coolest things that I saw during that day was when a mother of 3 children with one on the way had her car break down. The kicker was that she didn't speak any English. It just so happened that 2 of our students were very fluent in Spanish and not only did they check on her, entertain her children, and find her a mechanic, they stayed there with her the whole time to make sure that she felt comfortable. It was great to see God working in these kids.

Just a little idea of how the set up of the event went. This is a small piece of the all day line of Nashville people we had the chance to meet and hang out with.

Heck yes this is me with one of the Oak Ridge Boys. We're Nashville! When we have events, we have them big. We bring out the stars!!

My Heart's on Fire

-Kristin Quarles, CSM Nashville Associate City Director

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Life Lessons from Houston

A group from St. Martin's Episcopal Church was serving at the Beacon downtown in Houston. This ministry is a day center that provides a variety services to the homeless. Some of the kids were working in the clothing distribution area along with some other volunteers. One of the more confident youth decided that he should strike up some conversation with one of the more attractive volunteers. Interesting enough, from talking with her, he found out some very impressive information. This lady was the wife of a relief pitcher for the Florida Marlins who had come to town for her husband's game against the Houston Astro's. She told the student that wherever she travels with her husband, she finds a place to volunteer during her stay. This kid took a step back upon hearing her story. He noted that this was not something she "had" to do by any means, yet she wanted to give back because she was able. This was encouraging to the entire group as they realized how easy it is to plug in and serve wherever they go.

Who knew the MLB would be incorporated into a weekend mission trip?!

-Adrienne, CSM Houston Spring 2008 City Host

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Why Me?

Life is unfair. Why can't I get what I want? If I only had... I need... Why me?

Sound familiar?

I think we all get that way from time to time. I catch myself saying it all the time. But, as much as I say it, do I realize what God has given me? Can I even begin to count my blessings? There's a hymn that says, "Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God has done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done."

It's easy to get caught in the "me" game. When I have to do something I don't like, or when I see my friends getting ahead of me, I sometimes think, if I could only have that I would be happy. But I don't think that I have taken all the different blessings I have had in my life.

Yesterday, I went to volunteer at the SAY YES! Program at Central City Community Church. A friend of mine works there , and I thought it would be good chance for me to see what's happening in the city. Central City Community Church is a church located within Skid Row, and their SAY Yes! Program is a program designed to help disadvantaged children after school.

As I showed up, I saw a group of kids eating snacks and goofing around. Afterwards they sang some songs, and then had some free-time. Honestly, I felt a little awkward, because I just went from an environment of calm and computers to chaos and people. I didn't know what to do. But as free-time started, I was watching a few boys play, and looked up to see a small boy crying. He got into a fight with another boy and was walking my direction. When he got close, he stood right next to me and decided to stop. My heart broke and I gave him a big hug. He grabbed my hand and stood there for a good long time.

I eventually got pulled away to start tutoring. I was helping out the 4th and 5th graders. I got assigned to help a girl named Tatianna. Her homework was to write a page about sharks. It wasn't too hard, and we finished it relatively quickly. Afterwards, we got to read a book, which was really fun. I was really proud of her for doing her work so well and having a good attitude. When she was in front of the rest of the kids she didn't seem like someone who would want to listen, but when we sat down she did well.

After dinner, we took the kids home, and Tati lives in a SRO Hotel. SROs are Single room occupancy hotels that are scattered throughout Skid Row. Basically, people pay for a single room with no bathroom or kitchen. Her whole family lives in one room. Some of the floors are old, and the place looks like it might fall apart at any moment. The SRO that she stays at is one of the most violent places to live in Skid Row. Kids grow up there learning to fight and be angry with the world. When we were walking to the car to drive them home a man was on the street screaming at another man. He was cursing at him saying he wanted his money back. Other people were yelling back at him, telling him not to swear because kids were walking around, but this man didn't seem to care. He was angry; kids or no kids. After we dropped the kids off at the SRO, I was standing at the entrance waiting for the rest of the volunteers to come down, and this same man walked in to go to his room.

What an environment for a kid to grow up in. Where violence and anger is all around you, where in the stairways poop just sits in the corner, where drunks, or worse, drug addicts high on ... something are stumbling around.

These kids try to live.
to grow up into adults.
to ... play.

Life IS unfair.

But not like you think.

Please help me pray for these kids. Pray for their families. And pray that God will CONTINUE His work in the city. (Note: I have heard many people say that they want to bring God to Skid Row, when the reality is God is IN Skid Row working daily)

Do you want to partner with me to fight injustice, poverty, and helplessness? Email me about ways you can help.

-Jonathan Liu, CSM Los Angeles Scheduler

Monday, May 05, 2008

CSM New York Ministry Preview - God's Love We Deliver

CSM New York partners with some amazing organizations throughout the five different boroughs. Check out this great video from God's Love We Deliver as they celebrate 20 years of serving their community.

Find out how you can serve at God's Love We Deliver with CSM New York City!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Housing First in Washington DC

400 of Washington DC's "most vulnerable" homeless individuals will be given housing by Oct 1. A recent Washington Post article describes the District's first step in a major effort to provide housing to over 2,500 individuals by 2014.
Do you think this is a good idea? What other solutions do you think there are when it comes to helping homeless people get off the streets?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

National Day of Prayer

Being that today is the National Day of Prayer - we invite you to join us in lifting up our cities to our Father above. There are countless joys we praise can praise Him for and needs we can bring before His throne.
Please pray for the people of, our staff in and the groups serving the following cities:
Chicago ~ Houston ~ Los Angeles ~ Nashville ~ New York City ~ Philadelphia ~ San Francisco Bay Area ~ Toronto ~ Washington DC