Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year, New Beginnings

Here are a few resolutions some of our trip participants made this past year:
From Chicago
“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!”

From Houston
When I get home, I commit to…
"Not letting my stereotypes rise up again, and I will remember to pray for the organizations at work in Houston. Also, I will remember the passion that was re-instilled to teach in the inner-city."
"Living life closer to God. Mission trips bring me closer to God and I can do that anytime."
"Hearing people’s stories and not judging before I get the whole story, not just what I see."

From Nashville

When I get home, I commit to…
“Starting a ministry similar to Isaiah 58 – the mobile feeding ministry”

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

A beautiful message from our dear urban church partner, Brooklyn Tabernacle...

Merry Christmas from your friends at CSM!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Loving on the City

It has been over 6 years since I had my first experience with CSM as a Junior at Olivet Nazarene University. Hard to believe! After signing up to be placed on a team, I expected to go on what I thought a typical mission trip...somewhere overseas. I remember being shocked and scared to be placed on the team going to San Francisco, because I knew so little about the city and the issues faced there. However, when the preparation for the trip came I became excited and felt affirmed; I knew I was going on that exact mission trip for a reason but I didn’t know why. What I ended up experiencing in those 5 or 6 short days was what I felt like I’d been searching for at school in finding a major or direction in life– something that I truly felt excited and passionate about. I remember it felt like a door opening– and I wasn’t sure how or why but loving the people I encountered and learning about the issues of the city and the people in it made something click.
I still think back to this experience in my life, as it challenges me to tap into that excitement and passion for what I was doing. In approaching my third year in NYC as a CSM director, sometimes I forget that calling that God put on my heart, and the passion that He initially put there. This year has been the most challenging year in many ways, and I am so thankful that God, on several occasions, put me in a place where I was able to get a renewed love for what I’m here for and who I am here to love.
Whether it was being able to volunteer at a Saturday site I normally wouldn’t be able to, or meeting new people through sites, my church, and my community, God has been challenging me with a renewed balance of appreciating CSM and the city, and seeing Him at work throughout all of it.
One example that made me really sit back and think was something that happened this summer, during probably the most stressful week of the summer. One of our former staff mailed a letter to give to Angel, a young man who sold candy at an intersection close to the church. I had never met Angel before but knew that some of our former staff had, and had gotten to know and love him. I finally met Angel that day, and actually got to meet the young man who exuded such joy amidst a challenging life. His joy for life encouraged me, and made me wonder how many people are so easily walked past when my blinders are on, in the stress of what the job and every day life can mean. Although
I haven’t seen Angel for a few weeks, whenever I pass the intersection he stands at I’m reminded of this lesson God’s been showing me in this wonderful city.

-Noelle Sefton, CSM New York Co-City Director

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Love Lessons From A New Mom

Loving someone means being inconvenience for their benefit.
It means watching them fall again and again, knowing when to pick them up and when to encourage him/her to get up on their own.
It means showing them beautiful things in their world they never knew existed.
It means allowing them to grow at their own pace, even when you may want it to go faster.
It means being excited when they learn the littlest thing, even when it seems elementary to you.
It means remembering they are a gift from God, even when you’re having a bad day
These concepts seem so easy when I am looking at my little one, Elijah. He is this joyful, excited, fresh little spirit exploring his new life. It only makes sense to love him with the amount of grace and selflessness love requires.
God is challenging me with the fact that this type of love is not for babies alone. This love is for all. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35
To be honest, I am selfish with my life. I don’t want to share it with people who are going to clutter it up with their “baggage”. I would prefer putting up boundaries and loving them when it is convenient to me. It’s just easier.
But I believe God has given me Elijah as an opportunity to relearn how to love. He is showing me that my life is not mine, but His.
That I should receive opportunities to love others as a gift, rather than a burden.
This may sound so simple. Many of you may have learned this lesson years ago. I thought I had too. But we all have those people in our lives who have let us down or not lived up to our expectations. The people we love conditionally.
And so my prayer for each of us is that God would give us opportunities to relearn what it means to love and that we would be good students.

-Jes Williams, CSM Nashville City Director

Monday, December 21, 2009

Vancouver Olympic Homeless Displacements Spark Innovation's Shannon Moriarty reports on a handful of creative Vancouver residents preparing their city for the influx of Olympic visitors. Though many homeless are being displaced because of the games, these individuals are trying to capitalized on the incoming dollars to shape a brighter future for their displaced neighbors.

Check out the article...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Growing Authentic Community in Denver

It seems like community is a buzz word these days. I hear so many people talk about I it and I’ve even been a part of “community groups” through church. Talking about it is the easy part, actually building community is another thing altogether.
I have recently been challenged to consider how to take our groups to the next level while they are with us. We teach our students about social justice while they are visiting Denver’s low-income communities. I want to motivate students to tackle tough questions and consider how they can do more than just serve a week with CSM.
What is the value of community gardens and could they be part of the answer to social justice issues? This is one question CSM Denver groups will be asking and answering this next year.
Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) has been instrumental in assisting low income to moderate income neighborhoods in starting and maintaining community gardens.
“Through the gardens, participants assume responsibility to improve their community, initiate a sense of pride in their surroundings, and improve their nutritional status through healthy, fresh food.”
There are over 90 gardens throughout the Denver metro area that DUG either operates or assists. One thing that I really value about DUG is the importance of ownership that they instill in urban communities. And, by beautifying a neighborhood through a garden it gives the community a reason to be proud of where they live and the desire to keep it that way. There are 19 gardens that were started by DUG but do not need assistance anymore because the community is making it happen on their own.
True community looks out for the needs of our neighbors. The average household on Food Stamps receives $228 a month. Sometimes it is difficult for families with low income to afford healthy fruits and veggies.
My experience from working at a food bank is that inexpensive food is many times unhealthy and even junk food. The option for a family to be part of a community garden means that they have healthy options freely available to them.
Community gardening is just one small piece to fighting social justice issues, but the benefits it offers to any neighborhood are definitely worth the effort it takes.

Benefits to Community Gardens
*Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
*Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
*Stimulates Social Interaction
*Encourages Self-Reliance
*Beautifies Neighborhoods
*Produces Nutritious Food
*Reduces Family Food Budgets
*Conserves Resources
*Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
*Reduces Crime
*Preserves Green Space
*Creates income opportunities and economic development
*Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
*Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections

-Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver Founder and City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Denver!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Conspire with us this Christmas!

Inspired to make a difference this Christmas! Check out CSM's Christmas catalog - gifts to redeem, restore and renew urban centers throughout North America!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Handing Out Hope in Philly

As I was looking back on the summer here at CSM Philly I felt that there was a void and that we missed something. We had some great groups that learned all about the city, themselves, and how to serve others but there was a richness that was missing. The thing that was missing was Joetta & Roy from Hands of Hope ministry.
We have worked with Hands of Hope ministry from the start of CSM Philly in 2002. It has impacted the groups in some deep ways. Hands of Hope Ministry was founded by Joetta and she is and has always been the only employee. Her job is to minister to the people who live on the streets and at times be nothing more than a friend or a hug. The closest thing Hands of Hope has as a second employee is Roy. When I think of Roy my heart fills with joy.

Roy lives on the streets and, in my view, is an urban prophet. When the groups serve with Hands of Hope they make bag lunches and travel around the city handing out lunches but more importantly they talk and pray with the folks on the street. Our first stop is always Roy and Roy blows them away. They approach Roy a little scared and hoping he will receive the lunch they have prepared for him but they end up getting more from Roy than they could ever give him. Roy gives them a challenging sermon and blows their stereotypes of homeless people out of the water. I always get the question “Why is Roy homeless?” and I always say, “I am not sure how he became homeless but I am sure if he really wanted to get off the streets he could but he sees this as a ministry and challenges people’s faith and changes the way they stereotype homeless people.

Over the past year Joetta has experienced one hardship after another and was unable to take our groups out to Hand of Hope. Groups missed out on one of the most challenging and impacting ministries that we work with. This past October, we were getting all our tithe appointments together and got cool little gum-ball machines as gifts to give to the volunteer coordinators. To our surprise we were able to get ahold of Joetta and set up a meeting with her.

In the past, we have always taken Joetta out to lunch and have Roy join us, when he can. So on a Friday in October we pulled up to TGIF to have lunch with Roy and Joetta. As we sat around the table with them it felt like a family reunion. Joetta and Roy have both impacted my life in ways they will never know and to be able to fellowship with them again filled a void in my heart. When we got to the time to present Joetta with a gift and donation she was so surprised. She said “I didn’t think I would be getting any of this stuff this year because I didn’t take out any groups this summer”. I told her “One summer of not taking groups doesn’t change our relationship at all, we are here to come along side you and help you through these tough times.”

At that point I knew why I worked for CSM and how they care so much for the people in the city. A couple of weeks ago a group got to serve alongside Hands of Hope with Joetta and Roy had a sermon ready for them.

-Justin Perry, CSM Philadelphia City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Philadelphia!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Good Tidings from E-Charity

Many people have used Craig's List as a tool to get sell or buy something needed. However last Christmas, a girl from Queens had the idea of using Craig's List in a different way, after her family was in a tight financial spot. What they found was that people they didn't even know cared enough to help her family have a good Christmas:
Good Tidings from E-Charity
-Noelle Sefton, CSM New York Co-City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in New York City!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

History of Skid Row

From the beginning, Los Angeles was always a city of dreams and wonder. Many people moved to this great metropolis with hopes of bettering their lives: seeking fame, fortune, or just a change of pace. This article is an interesting look at how Skid Row came to be what we know it today. Why it has always been an area known for drifters & vagrants. And why it has recently become an area the city needs to focus on restoring, and not ignoring.

-Jonathan Liu, CSM Los Angeles Scheduler

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM on Skid Row in Los Angeles!

Monday, December 07, 2009

News from Denver: First Year in Review

This year we hosted 293 students and leaders through CSM Denver! It was a successful and fruitful year for us and I am continually grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness. He provided time and time again for our needs granting us wonderful groups and leading us to incredible ministry sites.
We have currently partnered with over 20 ministries, churches and social service organizations through out the metro area. CSM values relational ministry where our connections continue throughout the years.
It has been a joy to begin these relationships this year. I have been blown away by the incredible ministries and people serving Denver. The quality of services given to those in need is exceptional and compassion is overflowing. One of the most encouraging things to me is the amount of people who have worked for their ministry for many, many years. Usually the non profit world sees high turnover, but that isn’t the case here in Denver. Mary has been volunteer coordinator for the Salvation Army for over 15 years, Peter has served breakfast to the homeless for over 10 years, Betsy has been the “interim” director at Broadway Assistance Center for over 12 years and John has been ministering to chronically homeless individuals through a coffee house for over 35 years! These are only a few of the amazing people I have the pleasure of working with and learning from. This year has definitely shown its share of challenges, but the blessings have far out-weighed the trials. I can’t wait to see what 2010 holds for us!
-Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver Founder and City Director

Friday, December 04, 2009

CNN Video: NFL's $45 million man helps Skid Row teen's college dream

Many times, kids on Skid Row are not given the same chances or opportunities as the rest of the nation. But, in the case of Kenneth, he is realizing that with some hard work & the love of some people, he has a chance to make it into college, and from there, the sky's the limit.
-Jonathan Liu, CSM Los Angeles Scheduler

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM on Skid Row in Los Angeles...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Giving Back

So we are in the holiday spiral…past Thanksgiving, on our way to Christmas, the season to spend with friends and family, eat lots of food, and participate in this time of giving. I wanted to share a pretty cool story of giving back that has been happening here in Nashville:
One of the sites that we are able to work with is called Campus for Human Development. They offer a wonderful program called the Odyssey program that helps men who are living on the street gain a foothold on life including classes to overcome addictions, support, an apartment, job, and, the part we help with, Monday night family dinners.
Throughout the year, this program has been giving back to their community. They have spent time “to get down and dirty” as they “reach outside [themselves] and into the community.” These outreaches include volunteering as crossing guards at Nashville’s Walk In Their Shoes. They spent time making care bags full of toiletries for a neighborhood town that was hit by tornadoes. A group of 15 traveled to Second Harvest Food Bank to spend hours sorting frozen food that will be handed out to those in need in the community. Lastly, some of the Odyssey men traveled to a local retreat center where they pulled weeds, tackled yard work, and sorted recyclables.
You always hear the phrase “it’s better to give than to receive,” but this story helps me realize that in a whole new way. The Odyssey program is somewhere that the students that come serve in Nashville go to give of themselves. However, when we serve others, we can forget the gifts, talents, and abilities that they have to give because we are focused on our own service.
This group of men and their story helped me to remember that all people have worth and the ability to give.
-Kristin Quarles, CSM Nashville Associate City Director

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

Shane Claiborne recently published an article called "What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?" in Esquire Magazine. That's right. Esquire. Funny pairing you may think? Shane is a member of the Christian Community Development Association, author of Irresistible Revolution, Jesus for President and many other gripping books encouraging today's church to think differently about how Jesus calls us to live. Esquire is a men's magazine, has received award after award over the years and is a pop culture icon.

The combination seems kind of hilarious. And awesome.

Check out what Shane had to say to the Esquire audience...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Real Religion

Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
– James 1:27 (The Message)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Mystery of Evangelism through Children in Urban Ministry

My small group at church studied Isaiah 55: we found some very familiar phrases, but the more we dug into the passage, we came up against the fact the God is a mystery. “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”
The topic for the month of October was all about one of our churches core values:
We seek to share God by proclaiming God’s great love and compassion for us all, as shown through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The connection seems obvious enough to this passage: “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” The chapter seems to talk about a party that God is throwing. Why wouldn’t we invite everyone we could think to invite? It even goes on to say that nations as yet unknown to us will come running to us. I find that it is still not easy to talk to strangers or even to friends about how God satisfies my every need. I am starting to believe that sharing God with others, Evangelism, is also a mystery.
To try to explain how I see this mystery, please let me explain a little bit about the ministry that I run and how Center for Student Missions is seeking to share Christ here in the Los Angeles Area. Groups come to South LA with CSM– to serve for a weekend or a week. They come with the intent to share God’s great love with those they meet in the city. CSM facilitates this by setting up a series of ministry experiences, service opportunities and cultural experiences. Even if a group comes from a neighboring city, they are sure to learn something new about an area of town that they don’t normally frequent. My hope is that even though groups come with the desire to serve others, to improve the life of someone else, that they might see how much their life can be impacted by meeting someone new, letting Christ be revealed to them in someone unlikely.
I really enjoy providing an opportunity for people to have their idea of caring for others turned on its head. I have seen whole churches changed as a Junior High youth group comes home with a new view of the needy in their own community.
However, in some ways, I can be just like the groups that come to serve. I am doing my job because I have the idea that I can make peoples’ lives better. In many ways, I put a high value on what I have to offer people with my Occidental College education, my great social skills, and my experience leading students. I know that every one of us comes to a place where we run out of our own abilities, where we hit a wall and need to cry out for help. And I know I have had a few of those: didn’t get accepted to my first choice school for college, moved to a new school and city in 4th grade and didn’t find it easy to make friends. But nothing has challenged me like having my own kids, specifically having a newborn. I had no skill set that I could fall back on. If some people get natural skills for raising an infant, I did not have those. Amazingly, mysteriously, it has been in raising children that I have seen how much I have to learn from those I work with and minister to.
I have many stories I could tell of how people I might have previously thought of as the ones I would be reaching out to are the ones who gave me some of the best insights on parenting. Instead I want to share a little story of how I saw God ministering more powerfully through my children than through me. Just a few weeks back, I was taking one of my new staff to see an amazing ministry in Pasadena, the Walter Hoving Home, a home for women coming off the street. I interned at the WHH in 2001 with the LA Urban Project – this is where I really felt a call to urban ministry. Whenever I come back to visit the ladies at the home, I am remembered and greeted almost like a rock star at the Home. Or at least, I feel like I am really contributing something great just by hanging out. While we had a great time sharing lunch with the women of the WHH, I actually spent most of the time trying to make sure my two girls ate something for lunch and didn’t go into any areas where they weren’t permitted. Pre-kids, I would have probably been networking and sharing stories, making people feel at ease. By contrast, this scene was a little crazy and I didn’t hear much of the tour that my staff member was getting. I do remember showing Jane, my three-year-old daughter, the kid’s room. Women who stay here need to make sure their kids have other care while they are completing the 18-month program. Occasionally, a woman’s kids will get to visit for the weekend. Then the mom and her kids will stay in a special room during the visit. Jane could see that this was a special place and we got to talk about how these women need some extra help right now, but that they are going to be with their kids soon. (Believe it or not, this is a familiar story line to her. Her favorite show is on Nick Jr. and it is called the WonderPets. Three small animals go around the world rescuing baby animals and each episode ends as the baby is reunited with the parent.) At the end of our visit, my girls were trying to chase each other around the school area of the home. I was able to briefly say good bye to two women who had been participants in the program eight years ago when I was an intern. They were back in the program. They asked me to come back and visit soon. I know that they meant me and my kids. Jane and Cate were a positive reminder to these women of what they were working for. I praise God for the joy that my daughters can bring.
For all the ways that I try to have control over what people see about me, what they see about the job that I am doing, and even what people see in me of Jesus, it is God’s mysterious work that He shall accomplish what He sets out to do. When we reach the end of our ability, he is still there to make the rain come and the seed grow. I cannot stand here and share God’s thoughts because they truly are not like ours. I am encouraged that his words are powerful and that he is near enough that we can seek him and find him.
-Rachel Hamilton, CSM Los Angeles City Director

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eight Words to Live By

Almighty God,
Eight words thunder in our souls: Without you, we can’t. Without us, you won’t
You have chosen to do your work through your people.
We have been called to communicate your love by caring for the spiritually and physically poor and hungry of the world.
You press our hearts next to the heartbeat of those caught in the syndrome of poverty and those millions who feel hunger gnaw at them day and night.
Help us respond to their cries as individuals and as participants in united efforts to care for those who suffer.
Motivate us by the memory of your generosity to us, but also by the bracing truth that we cannot continue to grow in grace without obeying your command to feed the hungry and care for the poor.
Today, begin a spiritual awakening among believers that sweeps across the world and results in a mighty outpouring of resources to meet the magnitude of the need.
And Lord, begin with me.
- Lloyd John Ogilvie

Friday, November 13, 2009


William* was one of the first homeless guys I met this summer. It was during staff training and we were at Salvation Army under the bridge. I actually was talking to another guy when William asked if he knew me. I had not met him before so I said no, introduced myself and then introduced one of the other hosts who was beside me. It just so happened to be one of the boys and William instantly made fun of me for introducing him and not letting “the man be a man and a southern gentlemen.” Well, this somehow led to William making fun of me and me putting up with it…which really was my way in with a lot of the homeless…apparently I’m really easy to make fun of.

William ended up being one of my favorite friends this summer. He was always polite, always cared about how I was doing and how my groups were doing. He would gladly talk with any kid I sent his way as long as I spent a good chunk of time talking with him as well. It was kinda our deal, and it worked about wonderfully. William and his buddies referred to each other as family. This group welcomed me in as part of their family and really did look out for me.

Today my awesome roommate (and CSM New York City host) Jessica and I were eating lunch together in the student union. We both just kinda looked at each other and sighed. Eating our granola bars and peanut butter apples was not as satisfying as soup kitchen food with friends like William. We aren’t sure what we are doing at school this year except that God is going to use it somehow. But today we both just kinda missed our summer homes and friends like William.
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville City Host Summer 2009
*name changed

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Being Missional in Urban America

Urban ministry is not clean or neat. It is messy. And wonderful. As Seth Barnes points out in a recent article, urban ministry is necessary and God's doing amazing things in cities throughout this earth. Here's an excerpt...
"Some have latched onto the Bible's evident concern for the needy whom we find in such abundance in our cities and have used it to fashion a theology of works. A theology of works is a hollow religious shell - furious activity without any specific end. Jesus defines a theology of love which finds a constant production of fruit as its natural outcome. Many of us have either embraced works or else embraced a fundamentally academic interest in love. Love is by definition active and practical. It does not exist in the abstract and only flourishes in adversity - the kind of adversity you find running amuck in our inner cities."

Read the whole article!

Serve with CSM in the city!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Paul Borthwick: "The Gospel Goes Forward"

The Gospel Goes Forward from Paul Borthwick on Vimeo.

What an encouragement Paul is to the church as we seek to be Jesus' hands and feet here on earth! Learn more about Paul's ministry in equipping the saints for service...

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM!

Monday, November 09, 2009

CSM Interns Dive into Urban Ministry Head First!

After finishing their summer 2009 internships with CSM, some of our Los Angeles City Hosts have gone onto:
-leading sports for an underserved elementary school in Huntington Park, less than two miles away from CSM-LA headquarters.
-interning with Door of Hope in Glendale to provide transitional housing for homeless women and their families.
-pursuing a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Seminary.
-working with CSM’s home office to handle group registrations for all ten CSM cities.
-fulfilling a commitment to teach English in Colombia and bring many into urban service in Bogota.
"I believe God is doing a great work to take young adults from prayerful contemplation of God’s heart for the poor and moving them into practical service. Seeing so many work alongside me in Los Ange-les is an added joy." - Rachel, CSM LA City Director

Interested in serving with CSM as a City Host either this spring or summer? Learn more!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Breaking the Cycle of Crime

Overcoming your past is sometimes a scary, unimaginable feat - especially for those who may have a record or previous addictions. A recent article from Canada shows us that though it can be hard, it's not impossible! Especially when a community surrounds and loves on an individual.

Learn how YOU can do just that by serving with CSM!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Houston Continues to Welcome New Neighbors

Houston is quite famous for it's southern charm and hospitality - no wonder since it's welcomed over a million strangers seeking a new home. Though these new immigrants and refugees (from as close as New Orleans and as far away as China) have been welcomed with open arms, the city has realized they have much to learn about their new neighbors.
Check out a recent report from NPR:
Greener Houston Grapples With Diversity And Sprawl

Serve with CSM in Houston!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Modern day slavery happens in your own backyard

Even though the forum already happened, here's a great video clip from the Not For Sale Campaign:

Modern day slavery happens in the cities we serve in, the suburbs surrounding them and in rural areas across the United States of America. Learn more on Not For Sale's website!

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in the city!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nashville Participants Respond to Urban Ministry

“I could make so many excuses to protect my comfort and not serve and love, and that the homeless are people just like us who need to be loved.”

“Maurice and Larry [at Samaritan Ministries] thanks for giving me the experience to talk to you because you guys really opened the door for me to actually find God…and I thank you for that.”
“John and Charlie…I want to thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for letting us just sit down and talk to you.”

“Starting a ministry similar to Isaiah 58– the mobile feeding ministry”

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Nashville!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

HIV/AIDS in Washington DC

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has hit our nation's capitol hard. With 1 in 20 residents being infected, funding and resources for patients is extremely limited. Check out a recent video piece by the Washington Post that helps shed light on the current situation!

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Washington DC!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Food Bank Usage Soars in Canada

A recent article from the Canadian Press, shows that inadequate employment insurance (EI) benefits is causing a significant increase in people utilizing soup kitchens and food pantries.
"A recent Salvation Army report said the demand for its food banks across Canada has increased during the recession, while donations had dropped."
A good reminder that we need to continue donating to such important organizations!

Have you donated recently? Where to?

Learn how you can serve at similar organizations with CSM in Toronto!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Storing Wisdom

Yesterday, I was hanging out in Bicentennial Park in downtown Nashville just listening to music and reading Proverbs. Pretty chill. I was reading Proverbs intentionally because I have read Ecclesiastes through several times this summer and have made Solomon my new life-hero; I wanted to read more about wisdom and the Proverbs are definitely chock full of those! I was encouraged by several verses, particularly those in Proverbs 3 and I wrote them down for good measure.

After my leisurely devotion time, I began to head back to my group. I was walking through the park, my big ole headphones serenading me with my favorite tunes, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a man sitting on a bench. We exchanged pleasantries and he introduced himself to me as John. We talked for a minute or two about the weather and such when he paused the conversation and said, "Heather, let me tell you something...".

He proceeded to tell me about how he grew up, how his mom was an alcoholic and he didn't really have a father figure around, but when he was young, an elderly neighbor took him under his wing and taught him to respect others and seek wisdom and understanding. He attributed his zeal and passion for life to this mentor and friend he respected so much! He told me how this gentleman taught him to work hard and respect those in authority, to be slow to anger and rich in love for others. John carried the wisdom that his mentor had instilled within him throughout his life. He told me that holding on to that wisdom had kept him safe, kept him out of bad situations and also allowed him to complete any task he put his hand to. He then quoted some verses from Proverbs - several of which I had just read minutes earlier!

I was really taken back by this. "Wow, you really remind me of Solomon", I said, "You are very wise". He presented me with a knowing, gentle smile and reached in to his pocket and took out his wallet. He explained how he had taken up a new hobby of making jewelry and selling it on the street. He then reached into his wallet and pulled out a small charm, took my hand, and placed a small, silver cross in my palm. "Here", he said. "This charm is for you. I don't have a chain for you to put it on, but I trust that you will find one. I want you to have this charm as a reminder to take wisdom and understanding with you wherever you go." I thanked him for the encouragement and told him I hoped to see him again soon. He simply smiled and said his goodbyes and we went our separate ways.

When I returned to the group, I told them my story and read them the verse that inspired it all:

"My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commandments in your heart, for they will give you a long and satisfying life. Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will gain a good reputation.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will direct your paths." - Proverbs 3: 1-5

When I walked the group back through the park, John was already gone. But I have his charm and his story with me (I'm still on the hunt for a chain though!) as a reminder to keep wisdom and understanding close to my heart.
-Heather Strange, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Welcome to the neigborhood!

The LA Times just published a good article that can help us at CSM LA look at the neighborhood we are living in - from a historical perspective and with an eye to see how some small changes may make a big difference. Most descriptive sentence of this piece: "Researchers concluded recently that the neighborhood is a food "desert" where it is nearly impossible for many families to buy fresh fruit and vegetables."

We're so excited that just one grocery store brought in 120 salaried jobs and that is just the start!

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Los Angeles!

Monday, October 05, 2009

NYC Trip Reflection: Sunset Park Ministry

During our mission trip to New York City we worked in a wide variety of different ministries. We spent one morning in the basement of a church in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn that ministers to the homeless. We did not meet any homeless people there, but we did meet Pastor Larry (a different Pastor Larry) and his wife Pastor Margie. They are an amazing and dedicated couple of great faith who do a tremendous amount of good with very limited resources. They offer very practical assistance to the homeless. Ten months of the year (not in July and August) they offer bathrooms, showers and clean clothes to anyone needing them. They also serve hot meals and bag lunches to anyone who asks. They accept donations of used clothing and used almost anything else to support their ministry.

We spent the morning helping Margie sort two entire rooms of donations to prepare for the September opening. We organized boxes of men’s pants, sweatshirts, blankets, plastic tablecloths to put on the sidewalk, bags of all kinds and a couple of folding carts suitable for carrying one’s possessions. We are talking basic survival here. A church volunteer spent that entire morning filling hundreds of small bottles with soap and shampoo for the showers. There will be many customers. There is a washer and dryer in the basement as well as the bathrooms and showers. Clients can leave their dirty clothes and replace them with clean ones.

If the discards are salvageable they are washed and offered to someone else the next week. Donated household goods not usable by those without houses are sold on an ongoing “garage sale” table just outside the church door. The proceeds help support the ministry. We worked hard all morning and felt we accomplished something. But it was only one day.

Larry and Margie are there every day, living the Gospel. At the end of our work time we prayed together. They had never had any Episcopalians volunteer before. I hope we won’t be the last.

-CSM New York Trip Participant

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in New York City!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Processing the City

This is the city I fell in love with.

And honestly, it was not so much the city itself that I fell for. It was the people, the part I got to play in others lives, the lessons God taught me, the community I lived in, the way I saw Jesus moving. The city represents something new in my life.
Now I find myself in the process of processing. This summer has immersed itself into my life and my way of thinking. I see people on the corners holding signs and I think of JR who was a giant of a man and would fly a blank piece of cardboard so the police could not take him in for flying a sign “It’s not a sign if nothings on it”
I keep asking myself why am I doing things? What is the point? Am I being obedient?
Sometimes the answers to those questions awaken me. Sometimes they excite me. And sometimes they slap me in the face.
The process of processing is slowly happening in my life and well, I’m not real sure how to word it because I don’t quite get it myself yet.
But, I do know that God is moving and sovereign and has a lot in store for myself and the people I met this summer: staff, hosts, homeless, and youth. I am astounded by how well He knows me and my needs. This morning I ran into a lady from the church I grew up in. We chatted a moment about what God was doing and then prayed together. Then, I had a question for one of the other hosts and they asked me how I was and then challenged me with some stuff we had talked about this summer.
So whatever you are trying to process through right now just know that He knows your needs. Seek Him and He is so ready to encourage you and love on you.
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Friday, September 25, 2009

Short-term Trips, Year-round Presence

Because CSM is here year-round, when our ministry partners have a need, they
know they can pick up the phone and call us for help. Recently, Uptown Baptist Soup Kitchen had a volunteer group cancel on them same-day. Their volunteer coordinator called us right away to see if one of our groups could help out. After rearranging some schedules, we were able to send a CSM group to volunteer for dinner that evening. A few days later, we received the following note from the volunteer coordinator:
“Thanks for sending John and his group from Michigan at the last minute this past Monday! God really used you and this team to bless us. At 3pm, one team of 8 volunteers called and said they had to cancel. Then, as I was talking to the Michigan team you sent, my other group of 7 came in, but there were only 2 of the 7! I felt like God had everything in control, and he used you all to bring the blessing to us.”
It’s at times like this and through notes like this one that we realize how much our ministry partners trust us and what a difference our groups make to them. We personally live in the city and serve here in order to best maintain relationships with ministries like Uptown Baptist. Thank you for your continued support that allows us to be a part of both
short-term and long-term change in Chicago!
-Tim & Kelly Reed, CSM Chicago Co-City Directors

Learn how YOU can...
team with City Directors like Tim and Kelly through financial or prayer support!
serve with CSM in Chicago and make a difference at ministry sites just like Uptown Baptist!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NYC Trip Reflection

The following is a trip reflection written by a great CSM group leader. This was an all adult group that served this past summer with CSM in New York City. Big thank you to them for allowing us to share their story! We'll share more reflections from this group later on as well.

The mission trip in August enabled us to see what life is like for those who live and work in New York City. We intentionally focused on those in any sort of need. I was inspired by the faith, the hope and the love of the leaders of each of the ministries we visited. We saw how one or two people had begun a feeding ministry and how their little mustard seed of faith in action had become a giant tree offering food and other support regularly to many people. Like Jesus, they had responded to the needs of the people around them.

One ministry is sponsored by Pastor Larry. He offers dialogue and communication with non-Christian immigrants so that they can learn about Christianity, but he does not proselytize. He establishes contacts by offering English language instruction and other useful services. He wants to reach out in love to others who have a different faith so that they can know more about us and we about them, in a non-threatening way. He walked his talk; he used his living room as a space to welcome people.

Mission trips allow transformation to take place. The eight of us who went have been transformed by what we experienced: by what we saw, heard and did. We want to share some of our experiences with you in hopes that you also may be transformed. It is the same as Jesus sharing the Good News with his disciples, and through the ages this Gospel has been passed on to us.
-Margaret, CSM Trip Leader

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in New York City!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CSM DC Ministry Highlight: DC Central Kitchen

CSM Washington DC has the awesome opportunity of serving with a variety of outstanding ministries throughout that community. One that stands out for it's continued commitment to the people of our nation's capitol is the DC Central Kitchen. For 20 years they have been serving delicious, nutritious food to their neighbors.
Check out a recent article about the faithfulness of this ministry!
Learn how YOU can partner with CSM in Washington DC and serve in ministries like the DC Central Kitchen!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Contrast and Continuity

I love seeing how everything in God's plan works together and turns out.
Proverbs 27:17 "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
Today Austin’s and my group had a neat opportunity to see contrast and continuity all at the same time.
This morning they started serving at Adult Day Services talking and spending time with senior citizens. They were amazed at the stories and wisdom that these people shared with them and at how fun it was to just be with them.
Then in the afternoon they got to serve at a Boys and Girls Club and hang out with the 6-7 year old class.
It went from quiet and structured to loud and chaotic. There was such a contrast in the age grouping and the volume and the energy that it almost seemed like we were serving in two completely different ways.
But the continuity was there. Both places needed us to just be present and spend time with the people. In both cases we were not there to teach or bestow wisdom or do anything "special." We were there to be taught - whether it was the wisdom of the guests at Adult Day or the childlike innocence and abandon that the kids exhibit at Boys and Girls Club.
It's easy to look at situations we are in as new each time. But today it was a good reminder to see that God gives us the tools to start conversations, connect, and love on people no matter where we are. We have to be willing to adapt and be flexible but He is our constant and doesn't make us start over every time. No matter where we are or who we are with, we have so much to learn.
Psalm 71:18 "And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation."
1 Timothy 4:12 "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My New Friend Daniel

I was at Harbor Light Salvation Army which is a drug and rehab center for men. They enter into 4 or 12 month programs and then they can either leave or go into the veterans program. They also have rooms for homeless men so that for 7 days out of 2 months, men can stay in the facility free of charge. They also provide a meal, free of charge, every night to men on the streets. Two days ago, while sitting at Harbor Light, watching the men pile in and my group working hard at serving, I saw a young man who looked as though he was in his mid-20's and could not have been homeless for long. My adult leader from my group this week talked me into going over and finding out his story. I was slightly hesitant, but I did and don't regret it.
I went over to him, found out his name was Daniel and that he had only been homeless for a couple of weeks. He told me that he was in the army, came back with an alcohol addiction and then entered into the Star of Hope Men's program that is here in Houston. He had done so well in the program that they had hired him on after he had finished the program. He was a security guard making $15 an hour and dressing very sharply. He was very happy with where he was at, but one night several weeks ago, he went out and had some drinks and came into work drunk. They gave him a breathalizer test and fired him on the spot. He went home without a job and his girlfriend kicked him out within the next couple of days.
He said that this isn't the first time he has been homeless, he said like 2-3 other times before as well, but didn't tell me what for. He left there and a couple of days later met up with a buddy who was begging him to go to a bar with him. Daniel reluctantly agreed but knew he couldn't go into the bar looking the way he did and carrying everything he owned in a bag, but his friend didn't seem to understand. They walked up to the bar and the bouncer stopped Daniel from going in. As he ashamedly walked away, a girl called him a loser. He was so affected by this because he then saw himself as lower than a human being.
I told Daniel, as he was explaining to me the shame and lowered status he felt, that I was no better than him. He disagreed with me and I explained that although I may have a better circumstance than he, I am no better. I am a sinner just as he is and I mess up just like he did. We are all human beings and though status in the social world may be different, we as human beings are all made in the same image - that of our Heavenly Father. He said he was a believer and we talked about how he was depressed and didn't want to follow God but how he had just recently come to the conclusion that God is still good.
It was awesome to hear his story and how he came to the conclusion that despite all of his trials and struggles of being homeless...GOD IS GOOD!!! It is SO true. I thank God for the experience He gave me to meet Daniel.
He asked me to pray for him and I told him I would and that I would even pray for him right then. He was hesitant and then joyfully said "Yes, please".
-Jeni Ellis, CSM Houston Summer 2009 City Host

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Number of Homeless Students Skyrocket in 2009

We've been hearing the statistics all over - the number of homeless kids in the US has skyrocketed this year. The NY Times just put out a fantastic article that truly puts a face on these statistics and brings this issue home.

Learn how YOU can serve our homeless neighbors with CSM!

Monday, September 14, 2009


This past week at CSM Toronto I was able to see the culmination of a summer of talking to one particular man. I was very blessed to be at St. Francis Table (a restaurant for the less fortunate) this entire summer. Since I was there nearly every day, I was able to talk to some of the regular customers on a daily basis. There is one man Jid (Gheed) that I purposefully talked to every time. When I first met Jid he did not speak much louder than a whisper, and everything he did say was very short. I realized he is a very kind man, but he is also very timid and is having many difficulties in life.
Over time Jid told me little bits of his story and his personality began showing through in the small things he did share. He told me of a classical radio station that he enjoyed, and made sure that I had listened to it the next time I saw him. We were able to make jokes with one another about him wearing a wool sweater in the middle of summer. Jid even began asking for me if I was working in the back and he had not yet seen me that day; I felt honoured that he would do that. It saddens me that I will not be able to chat with Jid once I leave Toronto, but I also believe that this friendship we have built will have some lasting impact on both of our lives.
-Kristine Brereton, CSM Toronto Summer 2009 City Host

Friday, September 11, 2009


Tonight was the first night of a girl's retreat my friend Brandi planned. She asked me to come and share with her girls and I am so glad Jesus made it possible for me to be here. It is just awesome to see Him already working and challenging these girls and there is still a day and a half left.
To start off the first session I was telling these gals a little bit about my summer and everything God was teaching me when it hit me like a softball to the shoulder blade, quick and unexpected....I miss Nash.
My eyes got teary and my throat clogged as the memories of the people there flooded me in a whole new way. I missed Nashville, specifically Daniel, Andy, Marshall, and Frank. They were treats this summer. As I talked about eating with them and learning how to enact scripture I couldn't help but wonder who ate with them this week. Did anyone talk to them? Are they still doing ok? Did Marshall find a full time job yet?
I am so thankful to be here right now and know it's where God wants me but a huge part of my life is engrained with memories, lessons, and people from Nashville. And I love it. I love that my heart still aches and rejoices with that city. I love that even though I am states and states away I can have breakfast with a group that served in they city alongside me this summer. I am excited to have a chance to share with teenage girls the joy of serving in obedience and the struggles that come along with that joy. It was good to see Nashville come into another part of my life and get that chance to teach and apply what happened in my heart in Nashville in another place.
It is a part of me. And now it's going to spread to some new states and cities and one by one (starting with me) the way we love people is going to change. Thanks Nashville for impacting me. And thanks God for not just stopping in Nashville.
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville City Host Summer 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

God's Love We Deliver

I spent yesterday morning serving at my last ministry site of the summer, but at one of my favorites. We went to an organization called God's Love We Deliver. At no cost the organization delivers nutritious meals terminally ill patients in their homes. It is available to anyone, rich or poor, with any life threatening illness from AIDS to cancer to MS to scleroderma (I just learned about that one yesterday). And so that brings me to Irene who I met on my group's delivery route yesterday. She was the last apartment on the route and normally I let my group go up to the apartment to drop off the food, but for some reason I asked if I could go up with the guy going this time. So we rode the elevator to the 12th floor and found her patiently waiting in the hallway for us. She was the most fragile lady I had ever seen. The scleroderma affects your skin as well as your organs like your kidneys, esophagus, heart and lungs. All of Irene's food has to be pureed and she has a tube in her throat because the food will harden as it goes down her esophagus and she won't be able to eat...So we round the corner and there is this tiny woman, skin and bones, waiting for us. Her eyes light up when she sees us and she gives us the biggest smile. She thanked us profusely and gave each of us a hug, telling us what a blessing the organization was and what a blessing we were for being willing to deliver this food. Irene asked us our names and where we were from and what school I went to and what I was studying. When she heard I was studying theatre she was so excited and that was her passion and she had been part of the Yiddish theatre (she was wearing her head scarf) as well as doing summer stock theatre in Connecticut, but she had also been a registered nurse. She was so interested to know about us and I wish that I had been able to talk to her longer and hear all about her life. But she thanked us once again and said she hope our that God blessed our lives and we said our goodbyes and headed back to the lobby.

We don't always get to see the effect of what it is we are doing, but yesterday I got to see it. I am so glad I asked to deliver this meal and that I got to meet this sweet, precious lady who had such a positive outlook on life. I got to see one last time how God is working here in New York City. He knew just how to perfectly end my summer.

-Jessica Lewis, CSM New York Summer 2009 City Host

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

CSM Trip Participants Respond

In their own words..
“What I really liked about this week was that I had new experiences every day and there were many uncomfortable situations. This made me realize that I’m always comfortable where I’m at and that’s not what I need.”

“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.”

“At times I did get a little aggravated by all of the sadness, but it was God opening my eyes to a whole new world-‘the real world.’”

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM on a urban mission trip!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Good Conversation

As I walk in, I am nervous. It is my first time at the Good Shepard Men's Shelter. Our directors had explained what it was like and what we would be doing. Simply sitting and talking with people at the morning drop in. This did not seem simple to me. Questions started furiously running through my head. Will anyone want to talk to me? What if we don't have anything to talk about? I quickly start praying for strength and courage from God to make this fast. As we went in we each got a cup of coffee or tea and then started looking around. My fellow hosts seemed to fall in easily. The fear starts to run through me again.
I look around quickly and spot an older gentleman sitting alone at a table. I walk up and say hi with a smile and ask if I may sit with him. He reluctantly says yes and looks at me with bewilderment. I am already thinking this was not the table for me. I introduce myself and he follows saying his name is John. I slowly start the conversation thinking to myself how much he looks like my grandfather. His pants are too big and his shirt is much too large.
As the conversation continues it begins to flow. I find out that he has cats and he goes on and on about them. I can see the joy across his face as he tells me their names and what they like to eat. We talk about why I am here and what I am doing in Toronto. We talk about his wife that passed and how he never had any children. And then the hour is up. It has flown by faster than I can imagine and I am wishing that I had another hour to sit and talk with this man.
Little did I know that I would see John again. I see him about once a week at different sites all over the city. We sit and talk about his cats and what he has been doing since the last time I saw him. I have build more relationships just like this that I never would have dreamed of. I know that God placed me at the table to meet John that day, and I know that He gave the strength and courage that has helped me push out of my comfort zone this summer. I am so thankful for this and cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer has to offer.
-Laura Fryman, CSM Toronto Summer 2009 City Host

Friday, September 04, 2009

Time of Lasts

It is that point in summer where, in greeting the new day, after pushing the dreams of last night away, my mind starts and jumps to ponder the question: where have the last two months gone? After exploring, learning, and becoming part of Toronto’s community, this
season of my life has entered its closing time. It is time to start my words of “goodbye” and “see-ya-later”, my words of “I’m going to miss you” and “take care”. Yet, in all the beginnings of these ending thoughts, the fact remains that this group arriving for my period of “lasts” is experiencing its first immersion into Toronto. So, as this week goes by, I hope this group discovers where we as a society have pushed people to the margins, how to break down our stereotypes, how to embrace each other, how to become a part of each others stories, and simply how to serve and love simply. I pray that as all these life lessons challenge them and show how to live out their faith in their lives, I would take these same principles and learn to apply them to life back at university, finishing university and beyond. The things I’ve learned this summer have accumulated week after week, echoing and interconnecting with each other. But also each week, the different
people I’ve encountered and developed relationships with have begun to form a web of common places, experiences, passions and people. I am sad to be leaving the community built this summer, but, with every passing season of my life, I seem to stumble upon new beginnings that emerge out of other beginnings’ endings. So here’s to my last bit of
time in Toronto with CSM. I look forward to the things I’ll learn each new day, but also to where they are going to connect in my next season back home.

-Catherine Campbell, CSM Toronto Summer 2009 City Host

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Houston Man Gets a Second Chance

A Houston man recently received an amazing gift - a second chance at restoring his life. With the help of a local lawyer, Charles was able to secure stable employment and watch his life get back under control. Love this video!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


One of the great things about spending a summer (or a week) with CSM is the awareness you gain from the experiences.
Luke 14:12-14
12Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
To be able to invite someone to a banquet you have to know where they are. You have to know their address to send them an invitation or their e-mail for the e-vite or where they hang out so you can tell them when to meet. An invitation requires interaction of some sort.
Today on our way home from church my friend Jenn and I stopped at Wal-Mart on the poorer side of town. I spotted a man walking along the street with a duffel that was dirty and packed full. We went inside and a dirty man with worn clothes and long hair was using change to buy a 24 pack. We went outside to see a guy packing his meager groceries in a worn, torn suitcase while he hunkered in the shade. We pulled out of the parking lot and watched a guy rummage through the garbage for cans (he had a whole wagon full).
These men may not have been homeless. There is not a tell tale sign to spotting the homeless population. But they visibly had less than I did. They visibly looked worn and tired. And I hate to admit it, but I’m not sure I would have noticed them all the way I did today this time last year.
I felt conflicted when I saw them. Partly because I should have noticed them last year. Partly because I wanted to talk to them. Partly because I didn’t want to talk to them with my church clothes on. Partly because there was no smooth way to approach any of them without it looking like I had pegged them for a homeless person.
This summer can’t just be this summer. It has to make me aware and active where I am now, and talking to these guys whether they are homeless or not is a big part of that. I came into the summer desiring to love a forgotten demographic and I need to go into this school year loving that demographic and inviting others to join me.
So I think Jenn and I are going to go hang out downtown some evening. Have some conversations, find a new Daniel, love the way Jesus would.
I want to invite them to a banquet….even if it’s just a banquet of pb&j.
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Encouraged to talk about it

The LA Times recently ran an article about a priest offering therapy to troubled teens in South Los Angeles. The sessions allow these young adults to release bottled up emotions and experiences. Please pray for this very necessary ministry!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Section 8 Shortfall Could Leave Thousands Waiting

According to a recent article from NPR, Section 8 (housing assistance for those in need) could be drying up soon. Many families could be left out in the cold as we draw near to the end of 2009. Many of the cities CSM works in could be affected. Please pray for these individuals and families!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Jesus the Messiah - “If salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

Today was the day of the Urban Plunge, which is (in my opinion) the most challenging and eye opening experience for the youth group. I assumed this group would be no different, from their hesitancy and fearful questions, as I explained to them that they would be going out into centers of homelessness in DC to eat dinner with a person in need of a meal. And they would do this all on 5 dollars (which was really only 2 dollars after bus fare to the site and back).

After the five hours or so of exposure to lifestyle of a homeless person, all 15 Jr. High students got back together and I proceeded to discuss their experience (which was really easy to do, as every kid had some story about interacting with the homeless, being rejected by the rich who walked by their pan-handling, or how they had managed to share a meal on only 2 dollars.) After hearing several stories of anger and annoyance at being ignored while asking for help getting a meal or seeing people walk by the homeless without acknowledging they even existed, I pressed the question: how often do we walk by the homeless and not even think twice?

In the blink of an eye, I watched as the group began to back pedal their way out of the question. Excuses poured in just as fast as the excited stories had poured out.

“Well, I have met a homeless man who was a professional pan-handler who made hundreds of dollars. These people want to take advantage of those of us with good hearts.”

“Yea, and once my cousin saw a homeless man with a sign that asked for helping getting food. And she offered to buy him some food at the grocery store and he got angry because all he wanted was her money.”

“Besides, there are no homeless people where we live. I don’t walk by homeless people ever.”

I am no different, as my eyes become more and more jaded to the homeless as the weeks of interacting through CSM with the homeless continue. I still wrestle and struggle with what it means to be salt to the homeless: how can I justify doing urban ministry while at the same time going out to eat on my time off, paying 10 dollars for dinner? How many excuses can I make for refusing a man my spare change, saying I have no money, even though I am going to withdraw money from an ATM?

It is often stated that it only takes a little salt to preserve the food it is put on. It would only take a few Christians committed to being salt in their communities to bring flavor and establish the Kingdom. But when salt has lost its saltiness, its commitment to be Jesus to those around it, and keeps the salt on the shelf or uses it as a table centerpiece, it is good for nothing at all.

What would it take for me to be poured out like salt?

-Alex Thompson, CSM Washington DC City Host Summer 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Back when I was a little tiny two year old with eyes too big for my head and little curls, God had a plan.
He had this summer planned. He knew what He had in store for me serving with CSM this summer and what it would take to get me there. He knew I would be in Nashville and not Chicago. He knew I would struggle with leaving and fall in love with this job. He knew the lessons and healing that I had to learn this summer. He knew that others would have to be obedient to His voice.
And I am so thankful that my youth pastor was obedient to God’s call. He knew back when I was only two that he was to take a group to CSM, not just any urban mission but specifically a CSM trip. Due to churches and locations he was never able to go until he came to our church. I was still too young to be in youth group when they took their first trip to Chicago. Then they went to Nashville. And finally when I was in 7th or 8th grade I went on my first CSM trip to Chicago.
It shaped me in ways I didn’t even realize back then. It broke my heart for a population that I felt was forgotten and overlooked. It opened my eyes to things I just didn’t see in my tiny town. And that trip continued to replay and those lessons relearned throughout the years. I knew after that trip that I wanted to do this type of work on day, but I lost sight of that for awhile and left it for others to do. I went on a second CSM trip to Washington D.C. and was reminded of feelings and lessons from Chicago.
This last October my friend Jessica was telling me her heart for inner city kids and ministry and I told her about CSM. We decided to pray and then we applied. And after a period of waiting and relying on God I entered the most beautifully wrecked summer of my life (thus far).
This summer taught me more than I can express right now. God is continuing to mold and shape me. He has a work in me that is not yet complete, but I know He is faithful and will one day complete it. He broke my heart for what breaks His. He took me back to my foundation of faith and strengthened it; not always in easy or pleasant ways but always in love. He gave me glimpses at growth and was there as seeds were sown, watered, and harvested. He showed His sovereignty. He brought people into my life that made a deep impact on me, the way I think, and my heart. He showed up in big ways.
And it’s not that CSM makes God magically appear. It’s that while serving with CSM we are put in situations that require obedience to God’s Word. We are given schedules and days that are modeled after what the Bible says we are to do as Christians. We feed the hungry, we clothe the naked, we visit the orphans and widows, we love. And when we are in obedience with what God says Big things happen and our worlds are rocked ultimately for the better.
So I am thankful for this summer of growth and tears and service.
I am thankful for CSM as an organization and what they stand for as a ministry.
I am thankful for my bosses, Jes and Kristin who pushed me and required that I step up.
I am thankful for my fellow hosts who became my good friends and blessed my life immensely.
And I am thankful for Jerry Bush, my youth pastor, who with patience was obedient in the call God had for Him so that I may be where I am today.
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Greatest Social Need

"THE GREATEST SOCIAL NEED in the world today is not HIV/AIDS outreach. It's not hunger. It's not global warming. Not ending poverty or eliminating malaria or tuberculosis. Not even clean water. Not racial reconciliation. Not sexual trafficking. Not abortion. And it's not peace in the Middle East, and not even world peace... [it] is alienation from God...Of course, this alienation is much more than a social problem. It is fundamentally a spiritual problem that constitutes humanity's greatest crisis: billions of men and women who do not know the love and grace of their Creator."

I read this out of a Christianity Today magazine today. It was sitting on the couch and I have seen the cover many a times as it sits in our common room at the CSM housing site but never read it until just a few minutes said "the #1 social issue". It drew me in because I was curious as to what it said. I opened to the article and read it. I was happy to hear that they signified the importance of the gospel. I think so often, we as Christians seem to give a dollar here and there and call it a day, or even serve weekly at a homeless shelter, but don't tend to say the words of Christ by sharing the gospel. I think social justice is important, in fact Micah 6:8 talks about it, but I can't help but think...sharing the gospel is more important. Fight to get homeless of the street and into houses so that they can live through the night, but also give them the gospel and they can live for eternity. Now this isn't to say that they shouldn't still be fought for to help get them off the street, but just a reminder that their soul is more important when it comes to salvation.
I think that sharing the Gospel is something that we as Christians need to work on. We need to remember we can be his hands and feet only so much before we also need to speak words of our risen Lord and Savior! I am excited for the group to come tomorrow and I look forward to getting to know the people in my group as well as start to form relationships with the people that we work with at different ministry sites. I think that that will be a great opportunity to share the gospel with the people at the ministry sites.

-Jeni Ellis, CSM Houston Summer 2009 City Host

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guitar Lessons

Yesterday my group and I went to a ministry site called Salt and Sea Mission in Coney Island. Salt and Sea ministers to the homeless of Coney Island and was started by a woman who was once herself homeless and living underneath the beach's boardwalk.

One of the boys in our group brought his guitar with him because we had been asked to lead worship for a short church service the mission has each day. And he and the girl that sang did a good job of it. Everyone enjoyed the songs and sang along, as well as played tambourines that had been passed out before the service. It was wonderful to watch as hands were raised, and hallelujahs were called out, and tambourines were played (sometimes not on beat, but it didn't matter). It was a joyful sound to the Lord.

Then after the service we were asked to help with the food pantry and do some cleaning around the building. Danny, the guy who led worship though, was requested for something else. Apparently just a couple days before a little boy, whose name was also Danny, had been saying he wanted to learn to play the guitar and so he and the pastor had prayed that God would send someone to help him get started. Well, suddenly here was big Danny with his guitar willing to do just that and so they sat together and big Danny showed little Danny where to put his fingers and how to hold the guitar. And together they plucked out a few notes and some chords.

After we left big Danny approached me and asked if there was anyway he could possible purchase a beginner's guitar book and have the group going to Salt and Sea take with them to give to little Danny on Thursday. So today since I had the day off I ventured into Manhattan in search of a beginner's guitar book. When I got off the train at the Rockefeller Plaza stop I was greeted by a torrential downpour (funny how you can get on the train with the sun shining and then 45 minutes later make your way above ground to find the weather is not how you left it). I tried waiting at the bottom of the stairs to the sidewalk, hoping that maybe it would slow but no such luck. So I bounded up the stairs and was instantly soaked through, dodging big puddles, practically wiping out a couple times because Old Navy flip flops have zero traction to begin with but are perilous in the rain. But big and little Danny were counting on me and I was on a mission. I finally made it to the music store, cold and thoroughly wet, but determined to find a good guitar book for little Danny. I'm not sure how long I stood there trying to figure out what book would be the best, but I finally picked one out that even my-not-so-musically-inclined self could understand.

So, Lord, please bless little Danny the budding musician. Thank you for big Danny and his love for little Danny and that he will be able to take what he will learn and use it for Your glory. Amen.

-Jessica Lewis, CSM New York Summer 2009 City Host

Monday, August 17, 2009


Sometimes I find myself sitting among 30 six and seven year olds at a movie wondering how their teachers do it day in and day out.
Sometimes I find myself sitting in the shade with a homeless couple wondering how they continue to walk their 30 miles a day.
Sometimes I find myself listening to the same stories I heard the week before and wondering if their minds ever clear.
Sometimes I am stopped by someone waiting in line to eat and silenced by their gratitude for our group being there.
Sometimes I get to watch as young adults and their leaders are stretched and molded.
Sometimes I get to see God light a fire within a generation that will have the opportunity and power to love and create change.
Sometimes I get to see love transform situations.
Sometimes I get to see love fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts.
Sometimes I find myself in continual praise for what God is doing.
Sometimes I find myself asking, ‘Is He really big enough to love on all the brokenness and heal the hurting and save the lost and feed the hungry and remember the silent.’
And then I remember that He is good. That He is sovereign (a word that is taking on a whole new meaning to me this summer). I am reminded that He is creator and omniscient and in control.
Sometimes I just need to remember to rest in His glory and look for ways to glorify Him.
Sometimes I need Him, to remember to just let Him be my all.
Sometimes I need to “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reflections from a Leader

Check out this CSM leader's awesome blog post...
Big thanks to Encounter from Mountain View Church for sharing your city experiences with us!

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