Thursday, November 27, 2008

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into God's presence with singing!
Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from the CSM family!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Riff Raff in the Church

The ultimate example of love and sacrifice this world has is in Jesus. As His followers, we're called to love the "unlovable" and lost of this world. I stumbled upon this great blog post encouraging the Church to do just that - to love the "Riff Raff" of our congregations. Check it out!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Evident Changes

I recently received a letter from a leader at Sugarloaf UMC in Georgia. They were our first and biggest group from this past summer. They came the first week of June with 49 students and adults. They do a lot of training with their students before arriving and take the trip very seriously. The letter told me about how the youth group recently did a 40 hour famine where their students prayed over the places they went this summer for an hour each. She said “the changes in them are evident, and it so so clear that God is working in you and your ministry for His glory and we so appreciate the work you are doing”. Below is a letter from one of the students.

“Thank you for taking us in and opening our eyes to the world outside of our own. I felt the struggle of the people and the strength of God all around the city of Philadelphia. I saw hope in people I would normally avoid and now my concern for those such as the homeless has deepened so much. I met many great people in that city and the sense of satisfaction I got from helping them is tremendous. Thanks for everything, and I want to pray for you to be strong and keep doing what you do for that city. Your organization has helped many and changed me as well.”

-Krista Perry, CSM Philadelphia City Director

Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome from CSM's New President - Dan Reeve

Welcome to the Center for Student Missions. At CSM, we think two things are really important - students having a mission experience that helps them become missional leaders and local ministries that receive the support they need to make a lasting difference in the city and among those God brings there.

I've been working in urban ministry my entire life, and I know first hand how a student can make an impact in the city and how the city can impact a student's life. Urban and intercultural mission trips with CSM offer a remarkable time of training, service and transformation for your groups. We have the ministry partners that need you, the "host" to guide you through your time in the city and everything else you need taken care of so that you can take the time to serve and grow.

My staff and I welcome you to join us in a journey to the heart of the city as together we seek the "shalom" of the city for God's sake.

Dan Reeve

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moving Past Stereotypes

We stopped by to say hi to the director of the program. As we walked in Tex said, "I'm going to get out of your way, and go clean so I don't get into trouble." He seemed like a regular guy who had been taking a quick break at work. He introduced us to the intern that was hired for the program almost 2 months prior. We asked the intern what she and the organization did, she smiled and asked Tex for help since she was not completely sure of the answer. CSM works with this organization by having a weekly vacation Bible school in a low income area, so it was good to hear what else this organization did. After the intern gave a short answer Tex jumped in and explained how the organization helps those who are getting out of prison. "They help us get jobs, they teach us how to be on time to work, pay our bills, and get used to life outside of prison." I was struck by, but not shocked with his use of the word "us" in describing ex-convicts. He continued to tell us about success stories about people who had gone through the program, and said that he had already been through the program. He explained that he had been hired as a maintenance man for the building, and was very much enjoying life outside of prison. We asked him some questions and then he told us something that made my mouth drop. Tex said, "I'm 52 years old, and I've now been out of prison for 3 years. This is the longest amount of time I have been out of prison since I was a kid." My mouth about hit the floor, I was shocked. He seemed like a quiet unassuming guy who I would not have put in the category "life long criminal".

Tex and our ministry partner really showed me that the categories we put people in are just foolish. I was foolish to assume that I could look at a person and tell if they were a life long criminal. I would be just as foolish to not trust Tex, because of what I now know about his past. He's a guy who made some mistakes and even though he's been out of prison for 3 years now does not consider himself a success story. He wants to be able to find a job not with our ministry partner. He wants to be a role model for what kids in his neighborhood shouldn't do with the first 50 years of their life. He, like Paul, is willing to let his past failures shape who he is, and not to try and sweep them under a rug.

-Tim Reed, CSM Chicago Co-City Director

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prayer for Discontentment

May God bless us with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships
so that we may live deep within your heart
May God bless us with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people
so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace
May God bless us with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war
so that we may reach out your hand to comfort them and
to turn their pain into joy
And may God bless us with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world
so that we can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.
- A Franciscan Benediction

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

5 Things You Should Know About Homelessness

We ran across a fantastic blog dedicated to educating the public about homelessness. The author, Shannon Moriarty, has worked in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, North Carolina, and Boston. She has a great list of resources and insight into what we need to learn and DO to end homelessness in this nation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

NY City Schools Make the Grade

In a recent article by the NY Times, many of the city's schools have improved over the last year. The Bloomberg administration has begun handing out report cards - to schools! The Department of Education announced recently that 83% of those schools received and "A" or "B". Check out the article to learn more!

Friday, November 14, 2008

What Counts

"At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing - but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection."
-Mother Teresa

Learn how you can be God's hands and feet in the city with CSM!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Homeless Veteran a Nomad No More

This past week, our nation celebrated Veteran's Day. What you may not have seen on the nightly news is that countless men and women who have served this country are now living on the streets.
CNN ran an interesting article about one homeless veteran from New York City who has found his way home.

Learn how you can serve in the city with CSM!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Office of Urban Policy to Come?

If you're reading our blog, chances are that you care about the struggles of life in North American cities. Regardless of your political leanings, check out this article about Barack Obama's plans to create an Office of Urban Policy. Barack Obama started out as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, and it seems he hasn't lost his heart for poverty in America's cities. What do you think about Obama's plans?

-Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago Co-City Director

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekend of Purpose

"This past weekend, I went with my small group to CSM (hosted by Jon) and had a GREAT time. It's funny how I would fly across the ocean to another continent to serve the poor when there are enough poor to serve 20 minutes from home. The prayer tour of LA the first night really set the tone of the trip. The next day we served at the Midnight Missions at the crack of dawn. Later, we broke up in 2 groups and did a "meet a need" exercise in downtown LA. We were given $5 and had to meet someone's need with that amount. We met "BaBa", a man from florida who's an inspiring writer and musician who ended up on the streets. He had a lot to say and we ended up using our money to buy him apple juice and sat there to talk to him for about 45 mins. He had a lot to talk about. As crazy as some of his ideas were…it was great to sit and talk with him showing that we weren't embarrassed to be seen with him. My calling really is to be able to love the poor. Not really sure how that's going to play out…but I feel like God created me with that purpose."
-Gloria, CSM Trip Participant

Learn how you can serve in Los Angeles with CSM!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Homeless, Not Voteless

Our nation saw history happen this week - not only in the candidate chosen, but also in the number of citizens that exercised their right to vote. For many, it was a simple action - you register, check in, make your voice heard. Well what happens when you are homeless and don't have a permanent address? Life gets a lot more complicated. Check out this really interesting article by Medill Reports that talks about the individuals that helped empower homeless individuals this election season.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Los Angeles Conversations

I was looking on facebook tonight like I usually do reading the statuses of everybody and trying to see what they were up to and I came across one from one of the group leaders whose group I hosted this summer at CSM in Los Angeles. Her status said that she was remembering the people of San Julian Street and the kids at Wyvernwood. My heart sunk for two seconds as I too began to remember those people and those kids. I quickly rushed through the files on my computer to pull up pictures from this summer and as I began to look through them I began to pray for God to give me some sort of release or for a person to walk in that I could tell a story too. I was dying in that moment to share a story from this summer with someone. And then at that exact moment my friend and co-host Becky from this summer got on facebook chat and we began to catch up on our lives and then we reminisced about this summer and the people who we met and the stories that we heard and the smiles we saw and tears we cried. It was an answer to prayer right there in front of me and I was more than willing to accept.

In all of this I have realized the amount of joy something so small can bring. A simple conversation made my day so bright. As I sit here and think about it I am processing through the different things that happened this summer, and I have quickly determined that the things that rank as favorites in my mind are the conversations I had. Conversations with Sister Luz, Robert Jones at Midnight Mission, Pastor Greg at Lighthouse, Different group leaders and students, My co-hosts, My bosses, Darren, and everyone else. Those conversations were amazing and I am just now starting to realize the impact they are having on my life. I probably won't realize the full impact for years to come, maybe even the rest of my life.

However, here is what I have realized. Conversation is huge.....both parts of it, willingness to talk and be vulnerable, and willingness to take a time out and sit down and listen. Key words here are willingness, vulnerable, and listen. I learned this summer that the more vulnerable and real you are with people the deeper your relationship can go, the more both of you can learn, and the more God can work in the midst of your life. The things that have happened in our lives have happened for a reason and if we don't share them with those around us then we are not being vulnerable or real. I'm not saying that we share all of our deepest darkest secrets but vulnerability goes a long way. As does listening, like I said in my last post, people need to be listened to, they crave it. Everyone has a story they want to tell, but they are waiting for someone to sit down and listen. Unfortunately our country doesn't allow us the time to do that. Our country wants us to be constantly on the move. Doing that is the direct path to destruction and loneliness. Where have the days of endless meaningful or even meaningless conversations gone? EVERYONE WANTS TO BE HEARD!!

The last key word I mentioned was the word willing. How willing are we to do what God wants us to do? How willing are we to stand up for what we believe in? How willing are we to sit down and have a conversation?

I guess I'll leave you with....

Are you willing? What do you need to give up to be willing? What's getting in the way?

I need to give up (me) my selfish desires and reasons for doing what I do, I need to stop getting in the way of myself!!

-Peace Out,
Mandi, CSM Los Angeles City Host Summer 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Find Your Calcutta"

"Calcutta's are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta."
-Mother Theresa

What a beautiful quote...and so true. Pray for eyes to see the world as Christ does!

Check out an amazing sermon given at Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI) by Shane Claiborne, author of Irresistible Revolution, entitled "Find Your Calcutta".

Learn how you can serve in the city with CSM!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Taking it Home

Part of the reason we love CSM is that we get to serve alongside ministries
and people who are working to improve the lives of the urban poor. It’s exciting for us to be able to supply these organizations with manpower through the youth
groups who do trips with us.
However, serving the needs of the city is only part of CSM’s mission. We
also want to have an impact on the groups who are doing mission trips with us.
Most of the groups are from suburban and rural areas and have never been
exposed to the poverty and struggles of city life. We do our best to guide their time with us in a way that begins to awaken them to injustice in the world. We hope that groups will then take their experiences in the city home and get involved in serving the needs of their own communities.
We recently received a note from Mike Fitzpatrick, youth pastor of La Croix
UMC in Cape Giradeaux, MO whose group is doing just that:
“One of our students, Cori, was so moved by her experience in Chicago that she
decided that she wanted to do a VBS for kids in the poorer section of our town. So in less than three weeks, she organized everything, from lining up Bible story
teachers and volunteers, to developing a schedule, to getting small groups to
commit to provide food, to shopping for all the supplies, to getting her friends to do everything (games, crafts, etc.). She had anywhere from 12-20 kids attend each of the four days. I couldn't be more proud of her!”

-Tim and Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago City Directors