Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Living with Less in NYC

The NY Times recently did a great piece on Living with Less - a little something I think we can all learn from (especially in these hard economic times). The video "Inside the Bronx Housing Court" is especially interesting.

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in New York!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Business of Restoring Brokenness

I’m discovering a world that is broken beyond belief, but I have hope in a God big enough to heal all things. This summer has blown me away. I don’t even know where to begin but I will jump right into a story of a man that I met this past week at Harbor Light Salvation Army.
This man was a transient man that just happened to come in for dinner that day. Our group was hard at work running the car wash (washing trays and cups) and on the line (filling up trays with food). I was sitting at the entrance of the room and a man sat down at the table just to my left. I could tell that this man wanted to get in, eat, and leave without much interaction with anyone else, but I decided to give it a shot. So I introduced myself and we exchanged the normal “How are ya’s” and small talk about the hot weather. Then I asked where he was from to which he answered New Mexico. So then came the natural following question, “What brought you to Houston?” He answered, “A car.” Got a laugh out of me. He said, “You asked the wrong question. The question is ‘What did you come to Houston for?’” So I asked him and he said a job. Which he went on to describe was delivering containers that were being unloaded at the port. Then it was my turn to be asked questions. He asked what I was doing there and what the rest of the group was doing. I answered that the group was from a church outside of Dallas. Once he found out that the group was related to a church the tone of the conversation completely changed. He became pretty closed off. It really broke my heart seeing someone who was so turned off by anything to do with God. I’ve had conversations with people who were completely turned off by God, but for some reason this time it cut pretty deep. I could get past this desire from the depth of my being to cry out that this man was God’s beloved creation! However, I knew that anything I would say related to God would be completely shut down. I had been stereotyped as one of those “church people” and there was no breaking through it. But nevertheless, I continued to have a conversation with this man. He asked about what I was doing with my life. I told him I was in college right now and had one more year left. He encouraged me to keep going in school, and he left me with one last piece of advice and that was to live my life in fullness because it’s too short to not soak it up. This is something we hear all the time, right? Live your life to the fullest because you only live once, right? But again, for some reason this man’s words sat heavy and cut to my core. Maybe it was because of his rough kept beard and grimy hair, or maybe his clothes that testified to a long hard days work. I don’t know for sure, but whatever it is, broke through all of my comforts and spoke directly to me. In those short minutes that I had with this man, I felt God break my heart again for those who don’t know what it looks like to be immersed in the love that can only be found in our Creator.
This summer has opened my eyes to a world that is broken beyond belief – from the homeless people on the streets to the children living in broken families or even people who have it all right on the outside but can’t even begin to pick up the pieces on the inside. But brokenness isn’t the end of the story. There have been so many glimpses of God’s Kingdom breaking through all over this city! God is showing up in places I haven’t expected. He never ceases to amaze me. So may my eyes continue to be opened to the brokenness in our world so that my heart may be sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit to help bring the Kingdom of God to the whole world, and may you who read this remember that we can find hope in a God that is in the business of bringing redemption to all things!
-Nate Williams, CSM Houston Summer 2009 City Host

Friday, June 26, 2009

2 Highschoolers, 2 Different Worlds

We always talk about how different LA is just miles and even blocks away from each other. A student from Jefferson High School, a little over 10 blocks away from our housing site and La Canada High School, about 20 miles north of downtown and on the outskirts of the city limits are compared. This LA Times article is a good eye-opener and maybe can even be used as an example for a debrief to talk about the struggles teen face in the surrounding neighborhood.

-Jon Vales, CSM Los Angeles Associate City Director

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moments of Clarity

The city is a busy place and it is easy to get caught up in the speed of traffic or the length of a food line. Then God, in His awesome timing, brings moments of clarity to remind us to stop and know that He is God and that He is good.
Today was one of those days. It was the first full day of serving with a brand new group. I was excited for what God was going to do. He put a little fire under me this morning and then showed up in awesome ways! This whole day was leading up to the prayer tour and God blessed my group with two really neat moments that helped prepare them.

Moment Number 1:
Joe goes to Adult Day Services which is a day center for senior citizens to come and have a safe place to socialize during the day. Our group was hanging out with everyone and pretending like we were musicians as we led a song time. Joe came and sat at my table. He showered me with spit as he told me all sorts of stories that I could only half understand. His words get lost in his mouth and you just can’t understand most of what he says. He tells crazy stories and carries a bag with 9 hand lotions, 11 harmonicas, 6 writing tablets, and 8 packs of gum in it everywhere he goes. He is a little gruff. But every week we bring a group he always wants to pray for them before they leave.
And in the moment that Joe opens his mouth to pray, you can understand every word he says. God blesses us through the prayers of others. He blessed my group today as He showed us His presence through Joe’s moment of clear speech.

Moment Number Two:
My group was circled in a parking lot getting ready to start the prayer tour. The youth in my group were a little hesitant about spending an hour and a half in a prayerful mindset and being asked to pray out loud. So we were praying and I heard a car pull up behind us. As we closed the prayer I turned and saw a lady getting out of her car. She had pulled in just because she saw us praying and said “When I see people praying and holding hands I just have to get some of that love”. She was sad because she had missed it so we invited her over to join our circle and pray some more. Her name was Brenda and she was in town for a conference.

In that moment my group got a clear glimpse of how prayer can affect people. They also got to see what it looked like to yearn for prayer and to love it and our God so much that they desire it.
Colossians 4:2 tells us to “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
We got to see what that looked like today. Two little moments brought clarity to our group to be watchful and persistent in our prayer while being thankful for the blessings and prayers God is doing!
What will your moment of clarity teach you?

-Jody Glazner, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

DC in Shock after Train Wreck

Yesterday's train wreck in Washington DC has left our nation's capital in shock. We've received an email with prayer requests from our Washington DC City Director, Jason Martin. Would you join us in praying for:
THE FAMILIES Please just continue to pray for the families of those who have died, for those injured and for all those impacted by this horrible accident.
THE CITY The spirit of the city is down right now. Lots of people angry with WMATA (who operates metro). There is already a huge disconnect between city residents (especially of ward 7 and 8) and these folks. Many people are angry and frustrated because this could have been avoided.
COMMUTERS Logistically this will cause problems for commuters. Many people rely on Metro to get to work (we have only 570,000 residents in the city but 4-5 million people work here). That coupled with those who travel via Marc rail and who commute through the city will lead to serious commuter problems. The trains are operational today but they are advising people not to take the red line, which is a major commuter line. All of this put together puts one of the worst traffic spots in the US even worse, making things more difficult for our groups as far as getting around.
CSM GROUPS Please also pray for our groups that are currently in the city. Though not directly affected, please pray that they are able to continue to have a good week of service while ministering to a mourning city.

Thanks again for your prayers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

NYC Shelters Closing

In the past year, many shelters in NYC have closed, many of them faith based shelters (in all about 24 in recent months) because of funding issues. NY Daily News writes an article highlighting the one shelter left in Queens. An astounding thirteen other shelters in Queens have closed, leaving this one left - check out the article!

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

3 Minutes

Every day I am faced with opportunities to learn. Nashville is a such a big city yet I see the same people two, three times a week depending on the schedule. This week I was reminded of an important lesson about loving on people…sometimes it only takes 3 minutes to make a difference.
I wish I had a picture of Frank to share with you. I met Frank last week at a ministry site called Isaiah 58. Isaiah 58 is an awesome ministry that loads up a feeding bus and drives to Dickerson Pike (which is infamous for its drugs, prostitution, and violence) and serves a hot meal to the homeless and transient community. It’s one of my favorite spots because our groups really get to focus on serving and building relationships with the guests who come over.
Last week I talked with Frank for about 3 minutes. We had the typical introduction conversation and then I had to go check on someone else. He is a quiet but very kind guy who loves books.
This Thursday I got to take my group to Isaiah 58 and Frank was there again. I went and said “Hi” to him and he responded “Jody? From Missouri? How are you?”
He remembered me. And it made me stop and think of how little it takes to make an impact, positive or negative, in a person’s life.
In three minutes of conversation, Frank and I began to build that relationship. He recognized me and I recognized him.
Christ called us to community and that community starts when we are willing to love on people and build relationship with everyone, even the least of these. These are the people who we are to invite to our banquets and dinners and get to know.
I’m thankful that Frank reminded me of that.
I’m thankful that God is moving in this city and opening doors for relationships to be built.
I’m thankful that in those 3 minutes last week Jesus was present.
And I am thankful that even though Frank does not believe in God, that God believes in Frank!

-Jody, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Compton Man Gives Back Amidst Struggle

This is a really cool story about a man from Compton who has struggled with drugs, alcohol, and marriages that didn't work, but found peace in God amongst all the trials in life. He starts a little league and
coaches a baseball team in Compton, a very under-served community. It's also great to hear stories of success in a place of brokenness!
There's a really cool slideshow too.
-Jon Vales, CSM Los Angeles Associate City Director

Monday, June 15, 2009

How Tim Keller Found Manhattan

Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, has seen his city change and transform right in front of his eyes. Over two decades, he arrived in the "Big Apple" ready to plant an urban church. Little did he know how God would use him in that great city! Keep reading the Christianity Today article...

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

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Human Trafficking in Houston

The trafficking of human beings is becoming more and more prevalent throughout cities nationwide. One city, Houston, has been dealing heavily with this issue. The Houston Chronicle recently put together a video to share the story of a local victim. While you listen to her relay her experience, please be praying for all parties involved - the victims, the traffickers, the government and non-profits helping with aftercare.

Learn more about human trafficking on The Coalition Against Human Trafficking's website: http://www.cahthouston.org/

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Photo Journal: Homeless and Online

The Wall Street Journal recently published an eye-opening photo journal - Homeless and Online in San Francisco. It explores the challenges of being able to access the World Wide Web without a constant energy supply and limited internet connection. Take a look!

Check out a well-known homeless web author thehomelessguy.blogspot.com!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Authentic Compassion

Our first group of kids came in this week and I learned so much from their openness and compassion for the oppressed! Part of our work at CSM is to introduce young people to the concept of injustice by introducing them to different people and places that will hopefully challenge their worldview. One of the ways we do this is by taking them on a "prayer tour" of the city, showing them the privileged places and tourist spots that attract many to Nashville, giving them opportunities to pray for the city and experience historic Nashville which is home to many of the city's housing projects and "slums". We compare and contrast differences between the two "worlds" in an attempt to understand why certain people are allowed luxuries that others are denied. There, it is easy to identify injustice and partiality, but difficult to fully comprehend the good intentions of a society who can so easily ignore such blatancy.

In the evenings, we shared what we saw and experienced that day. As each student spoke, I could definitely tell that they had been affected and disturbed by the knowledge that people could be treated so unfairly. Listening to the stories of the people they met had broken their hearts and made them burdened for those who live in a world without love. A world full of dirty looks and ignorance. A world void of compassion. We learned that compassion embodied a whole lot more than bending from above to reach a hand to the needy below. Compassion is meeting people where they are and becoming a servant to them. Compassion is being Christ to people who haven't seen Him in a while.

-Heather Strange, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host

Monday, June 08, 2009

Debriefing the Mission Trip

By Mike Woodruff

I’m almost 40 years old. I’ve been a Christian over half that time. I have a master’s degree in divinity, more than a dozen years in ministry, and a job that regularly keeps me in touch with missionaries and leading Christian nationals all over the world. I’ve read about missions, written about missions, raised money for missions, and been on more short-term mission trips than I can immediately recall.

However (drum roll please), when it comes to reentry—that two-week period immediately following cross-cultural outreach—I’m a mess. In fact, more often that not I turn into a puddle of goo. One minute I’m happy. The next I’m in serious need of Prozac. At noon I’m planning a return trip to Guatemala, and at 12:15 p.m. I’m promising to never leave the U.S. again. Right is left and up is down (except when it’s up). Which side of the street do we drive on again? Can I drink the water? What time is it in Kenya right now? Did I really just spend a $1.44 for a cup of coffee? While people are starving? I must not be a Christian!

Keep on reading the Youth Specialties...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Stories from Skid Row: Beatriz

This week we've featured some amazing stories of courage and hope - all thanks to the amazing ministry of the Union Rescue Mission (URM) in Los Angeles. They have been vital in providing housing, meals and basic services to men, women and children throughout LA. Many CSM groups have the opportunity to serve at URM. Would you join us?? Learn more!