Friday, October 31, 2008

Neue Interview with Eric Bryant of Mosaic (Los Angeles)

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

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

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

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

Read the entire interview...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Under all these masks...

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

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

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

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

Keep on reading...

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Awesome Experience in Nashville

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

Learn how you can serve in Nashville with CSM!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Missions at Home

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

-Tim and Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago City Directors

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Feed, give drink, visit!

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Families on the Streets

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

Learn how you can serve in urban areas with CSM!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Los Angeles Contrasts

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

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

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


Learn how YOU can serve in Los Angeles with CSM!

Friday, October 17, 2008

CSM Explores Ministry Expansion into Denver

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

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

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

  • Denver is officially one mile high above sea-level

  • Every year Denver hosts The World's largest Rodeo

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

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008


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

Learn how you can SHINE in the city with CSM!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty

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

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

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

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

Keep reading...

Learn how YOU can serve in the city with CSM!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Loving our Homeless Neighbors

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

CSM Los Angeles City Director

Monday, October 13, 2008

To many, homeless man was a loved one

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

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

Friday, October 10, 2008

Words of Ephesians Comes to Life

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

-Noelle, CSM New York Co-City Director

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Inspiration in Nashville

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

Learn how you can serve in Nashville with CSM!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Go Green!

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

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Finding L.A.'s hidden homeless

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

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

Monday, October 06, 2008

Making an Impact

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

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

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

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Radical Love in the Neighborhood

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

Learn how you can serve the city with CSM!